Melancholy Visit to a Batwa Pigmy Community in Southern Uganda

While the rest of my group was enjoying a gorilla trek in Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest, I decided to visit a Batwa pigmy community.  The Batwa were moved out of the rain forest to help protect the gorillas and their habitat.  Some consider them an oppressed minority.

I paid the $10 visit fee and picked up a guide.  After first visiting the local school, we headed down toward a few small homes.  A small group of Batwa was quickly assembled to put on a couple of demonstrations.

The first activity was building a fire without matches, the old Boy Scout trick.  After this skill was demonstrated, one of the Batwa successfully lit a hand-rolled cigarette using the small flame.

Batwa Starting a Matchless Fire

Lighting a Cigarette from the Matchless Flame

The next activity was dancing.  They demonstrated a few lively numbers.  It was all in good fun.  The highlight was a soliloquy by a woman they described as being a centenarian.  She was a lively stepper with a great deal of enthusiasm.  They then placed a hat in front of me.  And lastly, we all posed for photographs.

Batwa Centenarian Demonstrating Her Dance Moves

Batwa and I Posing for Photographs

Afterwards, my guide and I walked down to the abode of the elderly woman.  She introduced me to her 72-year-old daughter.  I started to believe that maybe she was 100-years-old.  She was smoking a pipe.  I just had to have photograph of myself and new girl friend.

Posing with My New Girl Friend

I know this isn’t very PC, but she reminded me of the Lil Abner character, Mammy Okum.  I mean this as a compliment, I hope.

Mammy Yokum

It was a fun side trip.  But in the end, a sad one.  Modern society has destroyed the traditional culture of the Batwa and other pigmy communities.  They are now reduced to subsistence farming and entertaining visitors.  This is truly unfortunate, the downside of globalization.

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Uganda’s Adventure Park

On our way south to Kabale, Uganda, I noticed what appeared to be an interesting development on the side of a mountain near the Great Lakes Resort.  Returning back toward Kampala, we stopped.  To our surprise, behind the resort we discovered a large, fairly intense adventure park.  A course which included 2 short ziplines.

Adventure Park at Great Lakes Resort near Kabale, Uganda

This peaked the interest of my grandson Rees.  So we checked in at the resort and got him a guide and safety equipment.  He spent the next 30 minutes traversing the course.  He found it challenging and fun.  But ended up with blisters on his hands; he needed gloves.

My Grandson Enjoying the Adventure Park Course

Great Lakes Resort Adventure Park in Uganda

The Great Lakes park joins other Ugandan adventure activities like whitewater rafting on the Nile and bungee jumping.  Both of these activities happen near Jinja.

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So Why Can’t the Mormon Church React Faster?

The LDS Church leadership keeps getting blindsided by issues.  When they do make changes, they are frequently late in arriving and tone deaf to member’s concerns.

Possible reasons for this deafness are (1) the geriatric nature of the oligarchy in charge; (2) poor advice from the PR department; (3) poor understanding of church history; (4) poor understanding of science; and (5) the apparent need for unanimity among the top church echelon.

The issues that are either unnecessarily delayed or just mishandled are frequently discussed ad naseum, occasionally for years.

Elder [Neal A.] Maxwell [LDS Apostle at the time] said, “the church is like an aircraft carrier, and it takes a while to get it turned. If you turn too sharply, all the members fall off.”

My rejoinder to Elder Maxwell is:  Unfortunately, because the ship takes to long to make pronouncements or decisions, members are jumping off the aircraft carrier.

Is the LDS Church an Aircraft Carrier?

One of the reasons for this delay is a desire not to offend the conservative base of the Church.  How to address change with conservative members is a tough one.   But one that needs to be dealt with.  It is imperative that the leadership respond to issues in a less tone-deaf and more timely fashion.

The LDS Church leadership needs to consider:

  • developing a less tone-deaf PR department;
  • having a more inclusive decision-making process;
  • abandoning the current process which allows the minority to rule; and
  • giving more thought to Christ’s example, and less to the corporate image.


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My Personal Concept of God

I’m not much of a theist, I’m more of an agnostic.  But if there is a God, this is a description I could believe in:

[Prominent Process Theologian] John B. Cobb Jr. has not shied away even from re-imaging what is now regarded as the “traditional” Christian notion of God. He does not believe that God is omnipotent in the sense of having unilateral control over all events, since Cobb sees reconciling total coercive power with love and goodness to be an impossible task. Instead, all creatures are viewed as having some degree of freedom that God cannot override. Cobb solves the problem of evil by denying God’s omnipotence, stressing instead that God’s power is persuasive rather than coercive, that God can influence creatures but not determine what they become or do. For Cobb, God’s role is to liberate and empower.

Against traditional theism, Cobb has also denied the idea that God is immutable and impassible. Instead, he stresses that God is affected and changed by the actions of creatures, both human and otherwise. For Cobb, the idea that God experiences and changes does not mean that God is imperfect—quite the  contrary. Instead, God is seen as experiencing with all beings, and hence understanding and empathizing with all beings, becoming “the fellow sufferer who understands.” Cobb argues that this idea of God is more compatible with the Bible, in which Jesus suffers and dies.

I don’t know if this version of God is compatible with LDS doctrine, but it seems close.  Like Cobb, I would deny that God is immutable (unchanging) and impassible (incapable of suffering or feeling pain).  I would also deny 3 of the 4 omnis:  omniscient (knows everything), omnipotent (has unlimited power) and omnipresent (is widely or commonly present).  I can go along with omnibenevolent (all-loving/infinitely good).

Mormons used to believe that man was progressing toward godhood.  I think that is still the case.  They also believe in eternal progression, and that used to include God.  At least I taught that as a missionary in the 1960’s.  And that God was what man now is.  Every sentient being is progressing.

This description of eternal life works for me.  I see no other viable options out there.  Now if I could only develop a belief in God, in my personal progressing deity.

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Andean Quechua World Organization

The Andean Quechua World Organization is a Peruvian NGO that was founded by the Cardenas-Torres family.  Wilfredo (aka Willow) is the President and his 3-generation family members are all important supporters, including his mother and father.

The Cardenas-Torres Family

The NGO’s principal activity is installing school playground equipment in very remote locations in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley region.  Getting to locations is frequently half the fun, traveling long distances on steep gravel roads into the surrounding mountains.

David C-T and Son Fabricating Playground Equipment

David, Willow’s brother, is an excellent welder and the principal fabricator of the playground equipment.  He is assisted by his friend Jhon plus assorted relatives.  The actual installation work is a family activity.

Willow C-T Mixing Concrete to Be Used to Anchor Playground Equipment

David and Villager Digging Holes

Willow and his sister Marcia also work as guides in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley area.  So if you are interested in hiring an experienced local guide (or even building playgrounds), contact Willow at  Or you can contact me.

Willow with My Grandson at Machu Picchu

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Playgrounds Move Higher as We near the Andes Mountains

In the mountains 3 hours east of Cuzco, we have been moving higher and higher with our school playground installations.  We started in Ccolcca, situated 12,000 fsl.  The Cardenas-Torres family, my grandson, and I first visited the village preschool 1-1/2 years ago.  At that time, we installed an outdoor xylophone-style instrument manufactured by FreeNotes Harmony Park.

Young Quechua Children Enjoying Their New Playground Activity

That Christmas, the C-T family returned and installed a swing set, climbing tower, and monkey bars.  They also brought Christmas gifts and played Santa for the village kids.

Playground Equipment Installed at Ccolcaa

Santa Enjoying the New Swing Set at Ccolcca

Then last fall, the C-T family installed playground equipment (swing set and monkey bars) at a Lauramarca preschool.  This village, located at 12,200 fsl, is above Ccolcaa, even higher in the mountains.

Swing Set at Lauramarca Preschool

At Christmas time, the C-T family returned to Ccolcca and added a second playground at a school adjacent to the Ccolcca preschool.  They also played Santa at Lauramarca.

Monkey Bars at Ccolcca Primary School

Swing Set at Ccolcca Primary School; Preschool Swing Can Be Seen on the Other Side of Rock Wall

Santa Entertaining the Children at Lauramarca

The next village above Lauramarca (and Ccolcca) is Accocuna.  Their school is on the schedule for a playground.

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Assisting a Quechua Village Preschool near Machu Picchu

The Torres-Cardenas family recently installed playground equipment at a preschool in the Quechua Indian village of Pataccancha, located in the mountains above Ollantaytambo (the entry point to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail).

Transporting Playground Equipment to a Village above Ollantaytambo

At the Peruvian village preschool, the C-T family installed a 4-seat swing set, monkey bars, and a climbing tower.  The local teachers and villagers assisted with the playground installations.

Playground Equipment Installed at Patacancha Preschool.

Many of the young Quechua children at the preschool were all very colorfully attired.  And check out the dog.

Children at the Patacancha Preschool

After the installation at Patacancha, the C-T family took a 9-k hike down a section of the Inca Trail.

The Cardenas-Torres Family Taking a Break from Their Hike on the Inca Trail.

Two of the C-T members are official guides to the Cuzco/Sacred Valley area.  Another is a welder and fabricates the playground equipment.  Installations are always a family activity, frequently involving 3 generations.  They are a great family to work with.

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