The film crew has changed a bit since the new year, so I thought it would be helpful to introduce the next generation of our team.
Though John and Meredith had to return home in December, I was able to sign Akra up for another couple of months as car captain extraordinaire. With our 4x4 fully fixed, he has found a new joy in navigating the rural roads of Northern Uganda. He also has begun sharpening his videographic skills serving as a backup cameraman when needed. Despite being far from his native Buganda, Akra has made quite a home for himself with a small group of other central kingdom transplants now living just outside Gulu town. As always, he gets us where we need to be, and offers the deciding vote when consensus can't be found.
The newest member on the crew is Joella, a budding anthropologist who hails from the great state of Texas. Joella first came to Uganda as an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame. Since 2009, she has been teaching at a secondary school in Jinja and spending her free time doing ethnographic work in Acholiland. Besides being our audio maestro, she also serves as the team's linguistic and cultural liaison. Her skill set includes a proficiency of the local language that always gets a laugh from the market vendors as well as a mastery of the Ugandan accent and grammar when speaking to locals in English. At first, I was completely weirded out by the sight of a mzungu girl speaking English that sounds like it's been literally converted on some free translation website, as well as emphasizing her words in a pseudo-sing-songy inflection. I didn't fully appreciate the value of this talent until after 3 failed attempts to have a phone conversation with the assistant District Health Officer in Gulu which ended with "I'm not picking your accent. Can you come meet me to talk?" At the referral hospital earlier this week, a nurse stared blankly at me as I asked for directions to the GYN outpatient department, but then asked Joella why she spoke so clearly. For 3 months, Akra had no idea why we used Purell, even though I had plainly stated in my American cadence that the liquid-gel kills germs and he happily rubbed it into his hands before each Ethiopian meal we ate together. Yesterday, capitalizing on Joella's rare gift, he had her explain the power of the little bottles. The Texan is no stranger to Gulu either, and since she arrived, I have found myself in corners of this town that I never knew existed.
The next generation crew is already off to a good start filming in and out of health centers for the past couple of weeks. We got a lot more to explore, but the big picture is already taking shape.