The following is a journal written by Jenna Comstock, psychology major from Azusa Pacific for
the class, Cross-Cultural Practicum (http://www.bestsemester.com/locations-and-programs/uganda/academics/cross-cultural-practicum). Jenna is at the practicum site, Salaama
School for the Blind, a site that USP has partnered with for over 10 years.
At my internship with Salaama School for the Blind, I am constantly exposed to a group of people whose circumstance I am foreign to. They are blind and I am not. In the early days of my internship, I wondered if I would eventually be able to relate to these students and staff members. An answer came in the form of a bundled bunch of perforated papers bound with string: the language of Braille. Yet, without a local who was willing to invest in me, I would have never arrived at this conclusion.
Without a student who was willing to invest the time to teach me, I would not have found a satisfactory way to relate to my Ugandan friends at Salaama. Titus, a member of the Primary 7 class, has spent much of his free time teaching me how to read, write and type Braille. One day, during our third Braille lesson, Titus instructed me to write a story using the Brailler and to bring it to him when I had finished. I was able to recall certain contractions and letters with such an ease and efficiency that even I was surprised by. Sure, the story was riddled with mistakes, but it was a story written in Braille. It seemed I was approaching literacy. The surprise that turned into delight in Titus’ reaction to my prompt completion of the task filled my heart with much needed measures hope. I could tell how much it meant to Titus that I bothered to learn the language that he communicates with. This is when I understood that Braille is something I can use to bridge the gap between myself and “them.”
Teaching me Braille, Titus was an exemplary manifestation of a Monk. According to Cavanaugh’s Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age (2008), a Monk is someone who remains stable in a host culture. Monks welcome visitors into their homes. Essentially, Monks allow visitors to authentically experience their host culture, to the extent that it is possible. Titus inviting me into his world and culture through teaching me how to read and write in the same way students at Salaama do has prompted an authentic participation in the community than I ever could have created on my own. I am enduringly grateful for the considerate efforts of Titus.
From this experience, I have also gained further insight to the welcoming aspect of
Ugandan culture. Uganda is filled with people who are overtly welcoming. I experienced this from the moment I stepped off of the plane. Not only this, but they are willing to help me better understand their ways of life. Titus teaching me Braille is a paramount example of a Ugandan taking the time to not only get to know me, but to also teach me how to communicate with other Ugandan students and staff members at Salaama. Through learning Braille, I have become more aware of how willing Ugandans are to put in the effort to include and teach visitors in their community. I have learned what it means to welcome someone into your family.
Cavanaugh, William (2008). Migrant, Tourist, Pilgrim, Monk: Mobility and Identity in a Global Age. 340-356.
Salaama supervisors Lawrence Tusiime and Francis Kinubi
Former USP student, Deanna Shaub, learning braille at her USP practicum