On Friday, Nathan and I had the privilege of attending a graduation ceremony for our friend, Evelyn, who was graduating from her vocational course in hotel management and catering. We are so proud of her for persevering through her studies and training. There were many difficulties for her including fickle supervisors, constant demands for more school fees, higher living costs in town, and of course the hard work of studying and learning new things. But she stuck it out, passed very well, and has several job opportunities before her.
Not only did we enjoy celebrating this time with our friend, but we also enjoyed the cultural experience of the day. The invitation had said that the graduation would begin at 8:00, but we found out when we arrived that 8:00 was the time for people to BEGIN arriving and being seated. Later the official guests would arrive and finally the real ceremony would begin around 10 or 10:30. We were welcomed to the "equation" (I think they meant "occasion") and told that the "procession would proceed" as planned. Between each part of the program, we listened to painfully loud music, sometimes with two songs being played at the same time.
While we smiled (and sometimes cringed) at these different cultural elements, our favorite observations involved the relational nature of the Ugandan culture. Each important guest who got up to give a speech made sure to greet everyone present including the graduates, the parents, the faculty, the board of directors, important people from other schools, etc. During the "music interludes," it was so refreshing to look out and see everyone conversing with their neighbors instead of checking their phones. One father who's daughter had received a special award was so overjoyed that he danced with her all the way back to her seat. And those moments reminded us of one of the things we love about living here, the importance of relationships.