Thursday 2nd April 2015 – Listening to the past echoing into the future

Rosco and myself were up early to see if we could add some further distance onto the route that we ran together on Tuesday morning. I’m happy to say that we succeeded to do so. As we ran past the throngs of children who were making their journey to school, I had the chance to practice some of my Lango greetings. The children responded to my efforts with warm-hearted giggles.

Rosco and myself discussed plans for the day over breakfast. We needed to get some documents printed that will be utilized in Phase 2 of the research that will be commenced at the start of next week. Rosco kindly agreed to use contacts that he has in Lira to print out the documents and then to take them to have them photocopied in Lira city centre. Following breakfast, I set aside time to review plans for analyzing the Phase 1 data. Our team of research interviewers and recorders had set out early to visit members of the community to conduct the 2nd round of interviews. They were not expected to return to base until 3pm.

Prior to me leaving Glasgow, Prof Alison Phipps (who is Principal Investigator on the ‘Researching Multilingually…’ project) had drawn my attention to the upcoming MAGic2015 conference that is scheduled for 9th-11th September 2015 at the University of Sussex. The title of the conference is ‘Anthropology and Global Health: Interrogating theory, policy and practice’. As part of the conference, two colleagues Dr Sumeet Jain (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Sushrut Jadhav (University College London) are organizing a panel that is inviting submissions relating to the theme: ‘Mental health and anthropology: local challenges to ‘global mental health’. I had been thinking that this would be a great opportunity for Richard and myself to collaborate and to submit an abstract for the panel relating to our complementing areas of interest. We spent some time discussing ideas and drafting the outline of a provisional draft for the abstract. I have very much enjoyed engaging with Richard on themes and topics that are mutually relevant for our respective fields.

The morning seemed to go in very quickly (in keeping with our time in Uganda in general!). The arrival of the interview pairs back to base in mid-afternoon led to a flurry of activity. Each pair met with the supervisors (Patrick and Elizabeth) to review the notes that they had made form their interviews and to receive guidance if required on how the information could be gathered and recorded more appropriately. I had the opportunity to sit in on these sessions. It was pleasing to see how responsive the interviewing pairs were to the feedback and comments that they received. The supervisors were happy that the input that they had provided after the initial interviews yesterday had been acted upon and that data collection process was proceeding well.

It was a warm afternoon and as the research team rested in the shade, they chatted and swapped stories of how their day had gone. It is difficult to believe that many of them did not know each other before they commenced work on the project. I took the opportunity to chat with many of them to learn more about their backgrounds and their hopes and aspirations for the future. Many of the team are psychology bachelor degree graduates. Unfortunately, job opportunities following graduation are limited at the current time. There was frustration among the group about jobs being dependent on what was referred to ‘technical know who’ (as opposed to ‘technical know how’). It seems that nepotism is an issue that many have to contend with. Due to the limited availability of funds it can be difficult for people to be mobile in Uganda, with many young people having to remain close to their families. This can serve to reduce the job opportunities still further. It is a frustrating bind.

Some of the discussions with the researchers provided an insight into the difficult stories that participants had shared with them. Many of the women who were abducted during the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) continue to be ostracized by the communities in which they live – some nine years after the end of the conflict. This is in spite of the fact that these same women experienced pronounced losses themselves during the conflict, which have served to restrict the resources and sources of support available to them. It is clear that the project is serving to identify people in the community who could benefit from support, and is helping to signpost these people to organisations such as Caritas who can provide much needed assistance and guidance. Making time for the research team to debrief after the interviews has been an important feature of both yesterday evening and this afternoon.

This evening we walked into Lira to have dinner at Sankofa Café. We enjoyed having access to the WIFI that was on offer there. Alas the food was not quite as good as what Gloria and the team at the Pauline Hotel have been serving up to us. We walked home along the unlit streets, lightening forking through distant clouds, with occasional drops of rain threatening to fall as something heavier.

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