by Sascha Nanlohy, Australia

Rather than discussing, as I am sure many will, the amazing training given by Dr. Wanis-St. John and the incisive analysis of Joyce Neu I would like to speak about the Bologna experience outside the classroom. Today was an example of highs and lows.

Although our day began officially at 8am and finished after six there is still a buzz at the end of the day as to what the evening will bring. For me it was a mixture of trying to empty my mind of the academic rigors of the day in order to prepare myself for an emotional experience. Football or for the Americans ‘soccer’ was the best way to empty our minds so through some very quick negotiations a group decided to meet by the hotel lawn to have a kick around.

Following the game and the requisite showers we all joined the group led by summer staff member Lucy Ladira at a screening of the documentary Uganda Rising. The film tells the horrifying and heartbreaking story of the Acholi people of Northern Uganda. Those people who in the traditional African proverb became the grass trampled in the fight between the elephants that were the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda. I shall not explain or summarize the film except to repeat the advice offered to those who missed the screening “watch it, but be prepared to cry”. At the end of the screening nobody moved, or spoke for several minutes.

Being able to watch a film offering the historical narrative of a persons life who is sitting with you in a room is a powerful experience that I value so highly. To have studied the LRA conflict as I have gives you only a fraction of the conflict, it gives us the detailed battle of the elephants, not the grass. And so being able to ask questions and discuss these issues with someone who lives them enriches our learning. Looking ahead to Betty Bigombe tomorrow my mind is buzzing with questions and ideas.

IPSI Bologna does not start at 8 or 9am with classes. It starts with picking any table at breakfast filled with fascinating colleagues. It does not end at 6pm with the breakout groups. It ends with a kick around, a somber and moving story and the permanent availability of someone to accompany you to find a final fix of gelato for the day.