Thursday, November 1, 2012

Shot@Life Uganda Trip Blog: Where are the flies?

I'm going to take a moment and address a question I've been getting from some folks about the images of the children I've presented in this blog so far. It can probably be boiled down to a single question: "Where are the flies?"

Some readers have noticed that the pictures that Shot@Life and the volunteers have been posting are of happy, beautiful children. I've heard surprise that the kids look so lovely and that they don't look very miserable at all. We haven't been posting pictures of kids looking woefully at the camera with flies in their eyes. That is the image of Africa that Americans have grown used to seeing over the years. So...where are those flies?

What I can tell you, is that there is indeed a choice that I'm making to show you the joy and the beauty I found in Uganda. I'm portraying the people in the way that I think they themselves would want me to present them: with respect and courtesy. I do this much in the same spirit that I'd ask you to delete a picture of me that made me look sickly or made my butt look big.

Some of the places we saw people - where the Family Health Care programs were held - were in settings where folks were showing looking their absolute best. An Eid celebration at a mosque is much like Christmas at a church. They dress to show respect for God and maybe even impress each other a bit. Sunday church was much the same way. At school, I'm told children come presenting their best because they are happy to be there...especially to escape their home situations, which might indeed reveal some of the destitution we expected to see. Regardless of where I was, I did see a range of emotions - sometimes even on the very same people within the hours we visited them. That range gives me a choice of how I tell you the stories of what I saw.

For instance, let's take a look at this picture from my last post...

photo by Stephanie Geddes

Here, I'm smiling and laughing with kids while their mother waits in line for HIV testing. Now in the next photo, we have the same kids about 20 minutes later, waiting in the hot equatorial sun after I wandered away to play with their peers on the other side of the churchyard.

photo by Stephanie Geddes

This may be the kind of expression that we are more used to seeing on the UNICEF and Save the Children ads when they are looking for a donations from us. It gives the impression of children who are miserable with their lot in life. Yet if you take it in context of what was happening at the moment, you might consider that they kind of look like American kids after an hour in line at Disney World waiting for Toy Story Mania. Kids + waiting + hot = grumpy face.

Uganda has a lot of extreme poverty, but it is also a country of variations. They have a growing wealth gap in their country, too. And while they may not have a lot of Oprahs and Trumps at the top of their food chain, there are people living good lives.

There are schools that look like this from the entrance...

And schools that look like this....

There are lots of buildings that look like this...

And there are some that look like this...

Sometimes, it's true, there were swarms of flies in my shot. They're so small but they make it look like my lens was dirty and we had to wave them from our faces. 

In fact, I did meet a little boy with a cut on this ankle and flies were gathered on it. But rather than take a picture of it, I did what any American mom with a purse full of wipes and Band Aids would do. I scooped him up and took him to an aid workers table where we could clean it up and put a bandage on it. I honestly didn't even think about documenting that with my camera.

In the same church setting, I did capture some the following pictures. Perhaps these are more of what we Americans have grown to expect? 


Please keep in mind those kids were standing right beside these cheeky gigglers...

Children anywhere in the world are entitled to share their feeling with us in their faces and words. The kids in Uganda were no different in that regard. I'm here to say that I saw both the positive and the negative, but overwhelmingly the emotions that I felt from them was curiosity and joy. And that's mostly what I want to show you in my pictures. that I've shared a few unflattering pictures of Ugandans not in the best light, it's probably only fair that I show a picture of myself that makes my butt look big. Thanks, Stephanie Geddes, for using your enormous photo talent to capture it.

photo by Stephanie Geddes

1 comment:

Julie Marsh said...

Gah. "Why do they look so good?" Really?

Because they *are* beautiful and happy children. And yes, they live in a tropical region where bugs abound, but that's frankly irrelevant to the images captured by you and Stephanie and the rest of our group. What counts are the points you made about the same variations in appearance and outlook that we all experience, with the emphasis on the overwhelming positivity we found in Uganda.

Thanks for this post, Cyn. Your butt is fine by me.