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Father Claude

As I was saying.....

I embrace the world from my backyard at the University of Portland, January 1, 2018. I again invite you to "clod-hop" with me on my journeys to Latin America via this blog. More...

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SPAWNS FROM HELL -- ET LE 2ième DIMANCHE DE PAQUES (Category: My Everyday Life in Uganda)

Today, the 2nd Sunday in Easter, I chose to join the French Mass at the Missionaries of Africa (French missionaries, founded in 19th century, aka White Fathers). The congregation was mostly composed of French speaking Congolese who live and work in Kampala. The head ministers of the Mass were Father Martin, from Bangui, Central African Rep (CAR), and anther Fr. Martin (a White Father, French Canadian,and the only other "muzungu", white guy, like me. To me, they had me read the intentions --That's like having Mexicans play Mariachi music at a gringo Mass.. I was honored, especially given the context of the Mass -- African rituals and thumping, driving Congolese rhythms.

Next, I offer some framework for what I'm about to describe. First the religious politics, and then, something about the music Fr. Martin, our Central African spoke the homily and Fr. Martin, White Father and Canuck, has served as a missionary in Congo and India. He now works in Jinja, Uganda. Fr. Martin, CAR is visiting Uganda to beg the Catholics of Uganda to put pressure on Museveni (dictator for life of glorious Ugandan democracy) to keep Ugandan soldiers in CAR (yes, that's right, Ugandan SOLDIERS). Last month, rebels overthrew the dictator of CAR in the capital, Bangui. This violent coup has effectively destroyed the last bit of order and hope in that large, land-locked country between the the Ubangi and Chari river basins. However, Fr. Martin's people are being terrorized by another spawn from hell, Joseph Kony and his vicious killers, rapists and boy soldiers. They are supplied by Khartoum (Sudan's government). After Fr. Martin spoke, all was silent. Not a sound, as the Congolese remained paralyzed in their pews since the Congolese come from Goma, capital of Eastern Congo, where rebels are at the door of this one-million- plus city, ready to enter and pillage, rape and burn everything in their path. Ah, yes, The UN just created a contingent of armed peacekeepers. You needn't be a Ph.D in African politics to wonder: What the hell is this all about? Can I tell you that yes, I smell sulfur. President Chavez, where are you, now that we need you?

I turn to a more cheery topic: music. The choir at our Mass, of young men and women and a drum section that would blow the the Oregon Symphony off the stage, lifted us out of our seats and through another divine portal. The congregants were mostly large families with lots of teenagers. Every part of Mass was sung (eat your heart out Maureen Briare) except for the homily and intentions (yours truly). Some of the hymns were in Kirundi language (from Burundi -- a former Belgium colony that borders on the city of Goma, and others were in French. There were high pitched, female thrills at the moments of joy (whenever there was a song of praise or after spoken intentions) These shrill cries shatter the soul and leave it in pieces on the floor. The broken pieces are quickly picked back up by the choir and congregation, swaying and clapping hands. That music I speak of is a combination of modernized plain chant (with harmony), followed by dramatic 3 part hymns, very much in the style of French baroque ( from the time of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a prolific French composer who lived during the time of Louis XIV, late 17th century). For me, this Congolese-Burundi music is much more sophisticated and spiritually uplifting than our own Holy Cross music in Uganda, dominated by the hymnals of the Mill Hill Fathers and their 19th century English Protestant hymns. During the week, at our own community Masses, I imagine myself marching across the River Kwai, fearfully looking down at the Japanese soldiers below -- and hoping that we get to the consecration before reaching the end of the bridge. I returned home exhausted, flopped on my bed. with the brilliant and flashing images of the recent liturgy. Those divine sounds, those heavenly images and encounters were abruptly interrupted by the annoying bzzzzzz of a mosquito. I grabbed my Chinese-made electric mosquito-exterminator, swung it wildly and heard the tell-tale "POP" of one more blessed blood-sucker gone to Mosquito Heaven. I rest my body, and soul.
Permalink | Sunday, April 7, 2013

This is for the birds! (Category: My Everyday Life in Uganda)


I just returned from a wonderful, restaurant experience. The French Bistro is walking-distance from where I live (Nsambya district and hill of Kampala). Last Sunday, Brother Alan and I went for Sunday afternoon lunch at the French Bistro. The food was a good as anything you might find in Portland, a five-star meal, with steak and short ribs nicely cooked to order. The building itself was very Ugandan, thatched roof an d simple furniture. It looked like something you might find described in The Power and the Glory (a Graham Green novel set in Veracruz during the civil war and religious persecution) -- and after our meal, when I stood, I thought of the "whiskey priest" from that same novel...


Earlier, when I visited Kenya, I thought I had found bird-heaven. But Uganda is even more extraordinary than that. Since my arrival, I have been totally distracted by birds of all kinds, with songs I never heard before, small birds and many, many large birds.

If you want more precise information, you might look up the following:

So, allow me to summarize information I have received since my arrival. Uganda is about the size of the UK and has more birds species per square kilometer than any other African country It has a NATIONAL LIST of 1,008 species. There are about 550 species in the Kampala region alone.
Uganda is a unique bird paradise because of the great diversity of geography, from forests, savannas, wetlands, semi-desert regions, rainforests, vulcanos, lakes, rivers (the Nile, in particular). Kampala is about a mile high, but there are mountains as high as Mt Hood!


The beautiful crowned crane is the national bird. But, here in Kampala, it is the shrieking "marabou stork" that is the City Bird. Unlike the elegant crane, the Marabou stork is a huge, ugly, pathetic-looking critter, a scavenger with reddish head, long legs and necks and the mature bird has a wing-span of about 10 feet. When a group of these birds fly overhead, it darkens the sky and conversations are suspended... Frodo comes to mind.
Now, these storks don't rule the roost, by any measure. There are great white hawks that fly overhead in groups of 10 to 20, in random, swooping formations. During this rainy season, especially, you can see shoebills, brown-chested plovers, African green broad bills, African jacanas, booted eagles, hawks, shrikes, finches, thrushes, warblers and starlings of all kinds.

However, the most amazing birds of all (for the musician in me) are the song birds. But, that's for another entry, and for another time, with another tune.
Permalink | Thursday, September 25, 2008