Monthly Archives: July 2009


since we’ve gotten back, there are a few questions we’ve been asked numerous times.  as such, this post is dedicated to Q&A, in no order at all.  And we’ll add to this as the questions keep coming in.

Q: What did you eat?

A: A lot of rice.  A lot.  We really liked the cabbage, mandaz, chapat (chapati), G.nut sauce (i.e. sauce made of groundnuts), and tomato sauce on the rice.  Shira makes a really good omelet with tomato and onion–it’s a shakshuka sort of thing, but a good one–not like what we got in Migdal Oz.  Maize is good–boiled is fine, but roasted is absolutely delicious.  Fried G.nuts are so freakin good that one morning when I woke up super early, I just finished our whole bowl of them (sorry guys) while reading Heschel before the others woke up and it was a perfect morning start.  Beans were fine too, sometimes.  We liked less the poshu (maize flour, hot water, and “mingle”), and millet bread Shira didn’t even try to feed us (millet flour, cassava flour, hot water, and “mingle”).  And Mindy and I really couldn’t handle the cassava, but Aryeh liked it.  Matoke was another machloket.  Sometimes we had spaghetti also.

Q: So how did they become Jewish?

A: In the early 1900’s, the British wanted to expand their rule eastward from Kampala, so they had this man, Kakungulu, a collaborator, help them out.  Anyway, he succeeded in so doing, and, as a prize, he got what all people who succeeded in doing stuff like this got–a piece of land and the Christian Bible.  Anyway, he read the Bible, but only liked the Old Testament, i.e. the Tanach.  Anyway, they told him that people who only believe in the Old Testament are called Jews, so he said he’ll be a Jew.  Anyway, he converted in 1919 and ordered a mass circumcision in 1920 and from then on, his followers and descendents were Jews.

We’re not quite sure how much of Jewish practice stemmed from Kakungulu’s days and how much was from when people came to visit later.  Probably a combo.

Much much later, people started visiting the Jewish community (communities) and taught them and spread awareness about them.  Kulanu got involved and organized a conversion through the Conservative movement a bunch of years back.  Now Putti is seeking an Orthodox giur.

Q: So did you contract diseases?

A: M and I each got a pretty bad cold at some point, probably due to lack of air circulation while we slept and lots of dust storms, but short of that, I think we’re okay, bli ayin hara be’ezrat Hashem.  We’re still (supposed to be) taking malaria pills, so time will tell on that front, but so far so good.

Q: How was?

A: Really incredible, just so different, such an experience of its own.  Look at pictures to get some sense of it maybe?

Q: Was it absolutely amazing?

A: Yup.


a little bit more on what mindy touched upon regarding the environment

mindy talked about climate change in africa and environmentalism.  for some reason, i’d been thinking about this a lot today also:

in africa, we produced so little trash, and still produced much more than the residents of the village.  almost everything we used was either reusable or biodegradable.  the only trash we produced was pretty much from tissues and face wipes and empty tuna packets.  we probably filled up about a gallon sized ziploc once a week.  and still, it felt like a ton.  they burn the garbage–we’ve watched plastic bags get burned–and so we became very conscious of the garbage we created.  plus, it was so much more than they created.  they don’t have so many things, and they keep what they have.  water bottles get reused again and again, for holding salt or oil or just to have.  i’ve been home now for two days and i’ve become so aware of trash.  in those two days, i’ve produced a lot less trash than i otherwise might, but still, it’s a lot.  every time i throw out a napkin, every time i use a bag, i’m very aware of it.  this is sort of a double-sided awareness.  on the one hand, i’ve begun to realize how big this issue is.  a few napkins a day is absolutely nothing compared to what gets wasted all around.  and even a few napkins is so much more garbage than we should be producing.  but on the other hand, consciousness is crucial to change.  when i was little, i knew lashon hara was bad, but i wouldn’t feel bad speaking it, so i wouldn’t be aware of it.  and i recognized this problem–i recognized that the lack of awareness/lack of guilt would hold me back from bettering myself.  and at some point, i started feeling bad.  if i spoke badly about someone, i felt guilty.  and little by little, we work on ourselves.  but i know that for myself, i only really work on something once i’m aware of it.  and i can only feel bad once i’m aware or be aware once i feel bad (i haven’t quite worked out that directionality yet).  so i hope that in recognizing this garbage problem, i work on it.  i already have a bit, and i hope to a lot more.  which leads me to my second thought process:

the environment.  mindy and i both have had the unique opportunity of riding long bus rides squished between two people–one on either side of us.  one such ride was our last bus ride, which was to jinja, where my head was practically in the newspaper of the guy next to me.  as this was the case, i kind of glanced over at what he was reading.  there was an article by a columnist who was writing about how since women wear pants and even mini-skirts these days (this is pretty radical for parts of africa–in the cities, women wear pants, but it’s unacceptable in most villages), why can’t men wear skirts.  and so the author goes around a city (kampala maybe?) wearing a skirt.  anyway, he reports some of the feedback he got, which mostly was along the lines of people thinking he was nuts.  but one response particularly interested me because of its implications.  two religious men saw him and blamed him for causing the problems in the world like climate change.  now the reason this struck me as particularly interesting is that climate change is completely a given to these people.  in america, it’s not a given to many, and it often happens to be that religious people fall into the same categories as the people who deny climate change.  we saw it with “the youth,” i.e. our friends/students who are finishing secondary school and are about our age–they would talk about climate change also.

there has been a drought in much of uganda for awhile.  the north has been terribly afflicted.  famine reigns, and fundraising campaigns have been set up to counter the damage done.  but it got worse and worse and hit our area as well.  they cut down the maize plants in putti because they were too dry to produce viable fruit.

climate change is a given in uganda because they don’t have the luxury to deny its existence.  climate change is a given because when we in america produce garbage and carbon emissions and burn all sorts of things and waste all sorts of things, the villages in africa don’t have rain.  in america, we afford ourselves the luxury not to be environmentally sound because we don’t see the effects of our actions–not till so much later that we don’t see in an obvious way what their cause was.  but in the villages in africa, in the arctic, in so very many poor regions, they do see the effects, and it hurts them so much more than it would hurt us because they don’t have the resources to outsource.

sometimes we see things happening and we just want to shake everyone around us.  this has been one of those things for us.  if you didn’t recycle before, if you always took plastic bags at the grocery store, if you didn’t pay attention to the garbage you produced, please please, for the sake of our children and our children’s children, but also for the sake of the world right now–maybe not here, but in a community not so different from our own–please make some changes.

Lots and lots of pictures!

For those who have a lot of time in their life.  415 photos.  i have to add some captions but you can start w/ these…

reflections upon returning home

it’s hard to believe i’ve been back home for 2 days now.  (also this post may be slightly incohernet b/c it’s about 20 minutes before teh end of tisha b’av.  so i apoligze in advance).  sometimes, it seems like the past month didnt happen.   but then i have all the photos, stories and memories to prove that it did.  this morning, i went to hear rabbi jacob j. schachter speak about tisha b’av in my shul.  he spoke for many, many hours (quite a feat), but at one point he spoke about how tisha b’av is one of the only days in the year when we have the license to challenge the way god has allowed events in the world to occur.  it’s the day when we are allowed to ask “eicha” about all of the tragedies that have happened.  he spoke about the tragedy of the 8 young men who were killed at yeshivat mercaz harav, about the jews in france who have been victimized.  but i couldnt help thinking about putti.  about how my friends are suffering because of a terrible drought, and about how actions here in america play into that (those of you who know me know that i’m a hardcore environmentalist.  but everyone in uganda who is somewhat educated speaks about climate change and its direct effect on their country).  and how one of the babies in the community was terribly sick w/ malaria before we left (i don’t know how he’s doing now).  now of course the difference b/w putti and the exampels that rabbi schachter cited is that the jews in putti are not being targetted b/c they are jews, but that they are merely suffering teh same calamities as others in uganda.  that doesnt mean that we can’t challenge god for the way the world is today.

we said goodbye to putti village on sunday.  it really felt like leaving home.  i will truly miss everyone in the commmunity.  it’s hard to say that i will see many of the people in putti again, though i sincerely hope and pray to see some of them in israel one day, which is their dream. it was also hard to leave b/c in many ways, it felt like we had just scratched the surface.  the kids literally just started reading hebrew a week ago, adn now we have left.  many of them experienced a huge breakthrough  when they finally started reading words and short sentences.  the boys promised us that they would continue teaching them, and i really hope that they do.

our last day in putti was a  busy and exciting one.  in the morning, we organized and labelled the library.  we all brought a lot of books, so we wanted to make sure that everything will be utilized.  we realized that they probably dont use 90% of the books in their library (donated by people around the wrold) because they dont even know what they have.  so we created labels like “beginner’s chumashim,” “learning hebrew,” “jewish philosophy,” etc.  everyone was very excited about all the organizing.  the room looked great by the end, especially when we hung up our aleph bet chart and other posters.  it felt like quite an accomplishment.

we then had a “community meeting” with uri, the community chairman, enosh, his wife shira, and the boys.  it was cute how seriously they took themselves.  uri gave us a complete briefing of the community’s projects (poultry farm, coffee fields, electric water pump), and then everyone took a few minutes to personally thank us for all that we did for them.  moshe galandi, who is usually quiet, was unusually expressive, said, “we have a saying in uganda that in order to really know a person, you have to eat with him, live with him and work with him.  that’s what you’ve come here to do, and we are truly grateful for that.”  it was gratifying to hear all them express their thanks to us.

we spetn the rest of the day hanging out, and then as our taxi pulled up bru and i planted some beans.  the whole community then gathered together in a big circle to sing “shalom aleichem” (really “shalom chaverim,” but the sentiment was cute).  we hugged everyone, expressed our thanks and gratitude, got in the car and drove away.  it was a hard goodbye, but as bru said in her post, its not the end of our relationship with putti.

ok time to break the fast.  keep checking the blog for photos and videos.  i promise to upload some soon!

berries at 5.19 am

currently, i (bru) am sitting at the computer with a bowl of honey bunches and cherries and blueberries.  i pray to God that one of us at least (i.e. mindy) is asleep.

the only reason i feel that this is at all relevant is that, aside from being awake due to intense jetlag, even though we worked out sleeping on the flight in the best way to minimize jetlag, i’m eating fresh fruit for the first time in a long time (aside from mangoes).



These are only a start, but enjoy until we get them all up.

We’re back, but this is just the beginning

Baruch Hashem, we have landed safely and soundly and are now back in our respective homes.
But this is just the beginning, both of our blog, and of our involvement in the Putti Jewish community.
Since we now have stable internet connection, we hope to share our many many many pictures and stories with you so you can actually get a bit of a taste of our very rich experience.
We have much more thinking to do about how we want to continue to be involved with Putti, but all of us are sure that we do want to be involved.
We encourage you to keep reading to see our pictures, hear some stories. But even more, we encourage you–if you are interested–to get involved.