I am an applied medical anthropologist beginning my PhD in Public Health this fall. For the second summer in a row, I will travel with my research partner, Ginger Mckay, to Kampala, Uganda. Last summer, we evaluated an HIV education program for children developed by the Savannah Sunrise Foundation, which is a non-profit organization. We we will be residing in Kampala from the end of May until the end of July to conduct additional fieldwork. This summer, our colleague Nicole Smith will be joining us as we wrap up our project.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June 15th through June 22nd

Tuesday June 15th
Today the power went out shortly after Grace and Annette arrived around 10 am. We left the dark house after we ate lunch to meet our friend Richard to discuss travel plans for this weekend. He agreed to take us to visit his family in Bulisa, which is in the western part of the country near Lake Albert. We decided we could go to Hoima to observe a few of the schools there, then after spending two nights in Hoima, he would meet up with us on Friday night. Then we would go to Bulisa, and he would go with us to Murchison Falls from there. We also invited our friends Moses and Sonja to accompany us. We are so excited! After lunch we went to his workplace and met his co-workers. When we got home the power was still off and it didn’t come back on until almost 8:30 pm. It was unfortunate because we had to dispose of a few things in the fridge that got moldy.

Wednesday June 16th
Today we found out Sonja and Moses may not be able to come. Poor Sonja broke her toe a few weeks back, but she banged it again last weekend. It is rather painful and difficult for her to walk. We told her we really might not have time to go another weekend for 3-4 days like this, plus we already arranged to meet supervisors, mentors, and students in Hoima. We will be disappointed if she decides not to come. L

We went on an observation with Robert today to another school. The school is in a beautiful area, with scenery that could be out of a movie. There are many trees and flowers, with benches and pastures you have to walk past. There are approximately 4 schools in square across from each other, and they are all on gorgeous land. After the observation, I walked down into the playground area of the school yard and I was swarmed by students. Many of them wanted to see what my skin feels like and they wanted to know all about the US. I asked them what they wanted to be when they grow up and many said doctors, teachers, and pilots. They were so cute.

Then, we went to Mary’s house since she invited us to have our meeting there this week. She is so generous, she even prepared a big meal for us again. We all sat down to eat, and her son Julius told us he’d seen us in town the day before but he was too far away to greet us. I guess we are easy to spot. Mary said she’d learned her lesson about giving us portions that were too large for us to eat, but she still scooped out more food than we could finish. It was delicious. After our dinner, we discussed our upcoming plans to hold meetings to get parental consent for focus groups. It’s an ongoing process. Mary said that parents will come if they know they will be given a little soda and some cake. So we created a budget to feed parents, children, and staff at 4 parental meetings. It’s actually not going to be as expensive as I thought. I suggested buying 2 liters instead of individual glass bottles, but Mary explained that it is culturally inappropriate. Apparently, they don’t do it that way at functions. I would have liked to stay longer to chat, but we really had to go since we were leaving in the morning for Hoima, so we thanked her and said goodbye. We came home and packed excitedly for our trip!

Thursday June 17th
We woke up early, and left for the clinic where we were meeting Andrew. His father lives in Hoima, and so he was accompanying us. He is also works at SAS, so we needed him to come along for the observations. Jude picked us up from our compound so we didn’t have to walk around with our book bags. In the car, he told us that the night before the security guard had slept in his car. Apparently he left it unlocked, and when he got inside the car he checked his phone. It was dark out and the first thing he saw when he looked at his phone was a rifle protruding from the backseat. He was terrified at first, but then he realized it was the security guard. Haha. The guard was “guarding” his car!

When we got to the clinic, Andrew told us one of his sisters, Rachel, was joining us in our journey. People sort of invite themselves places when it sounds like fun, especially relatives. The four of us took a big Link bus to Hoima. We got on, and the air was stagnant as we sat waiting. People climbed on selling stuff and shoving it in your face. One guy dropped a loaf of bread on my head. I was feeling really claustrophobic because they were blocking the aisles and pushing into me and shoving things in my face. It was so hot on the bus, too. We thought that they would all exit the bus, however, once we got started one woman stayed on. She walked up and down trying to sell tooth whitening stuff and mints to the same people over and over. Her voice was soon drowned out by the extremely loud dance music that started to play once we really got going. The bus has around 10 subwoofers and we were booming down the road. I took my headphones off because I couldn’t hear my own music over the music they were playing. It was so loud, but no one complained. In fact, one guy kept singing along really loudly behind me.

The bus hurtled down the road like an extremely fast bullet. I have never been more aware of my own mortality. The potholes and rocks we hit caused all the passengers to lurch forward and bounce around in our seats. It was like a really bad rollercoaster. I completely went airborne, clearing my seat every 5 minutes or so. I thought about those fat burning devices they sell on infomercials late at night that jiggle away stomach fat. I think riding these giant buses might have the same effect.

Somehow, we all managed to half doze as we sped through the country heading towards Hoima. After around three hours, out of nowhere Rachel sat up and said we needed to get off right then. I had trouble pulling my bag down from the overhead compartment, and I was yanking it out really hard because we had to get off so quickly. From there we took bodas to their sister’s house and made calls to the mentors and their father. Rachel and Andrew both have 2 cell phones, as most people here do. There is often a delay before a call can be made, in which they switch out SIM cards and batteries among 2-4 phones. Ginger and I ate a granola bar, the first thing we’d eaten all day. Then, a supervisor walked into the yard. She told us that the place where we were meeting (Meeting Point- an organization for people with HIV/AIDS) ended up being within walking distance to where their sister lived.

Many mentors were eager to meet us, and there were somewhere between 10 and 15 mentors at Meeting Point waiting on us to arrive. We had an impromptu focus group with them immediately after we arrived. We were not prepared to speak formally and ask questions to so many people at the same time. It was the textbook example of how NOT to conduct a focus group. People kept arriving late, we had no audio recorder, no flipchart, no blackboard to write on, no structured questions in logical order, and no leader/rapporteur. Yet, it ended up going extremely well, despite our utter lack of preparation for a focus group. The mentors provided us with so much information, and it was really nice to get to know how the program is working in Hoima, since it is new there. After that, the mentors wanted us to go to all of their schools, despite the fact that the time was approaching 4 p.m. and schools are finished around 5. I was glad to see they all wanted their schools to be observed. We ended up making it to two schools that were in walking distance before school was over for the day.

Then, we all walked back to their sister’s house. There was a mix-up about where we were staying, and then we decided to walk somewhere to eat. We walked to a hotel, and the server had to check if they had food. He came back and said they had chicken, pork, fish or chips (fries). I ordered fish and so did Ginger. Then, a severe thunderstorm started and there was lightning striking in really close proximity to where we sat outside under an awning. We waited for a long time and Rachel made a joke that they must be chasing her pig in the back to slaughter it for her meal. After well over an hour, the food finally came out. The waiter was carrying a plate with an entire deep-fried fish complete with eyes and fins. I grew up on the lake so eating fish with bones is familiar to me, but not usually with the head attached. Right after the waiter brought out Ginger’s whole fish, and the rest of the plates, the power went out. So there we were, trying to eat a whole fish in the dark during a severe thunderstorm. We both were laughing, and Ginger gave up using her fork because she found it easier to pick out bones in the dark with her fingers. Afterwards, we spent the night at Andrew and Rachel’s (Mr. Tibagwa) father’s house. He lives way out in the country in Hoima. They use solar power for their electricity, and it had not been sunny enough for us to charge our phone or camera.

Friday June 18th
Today is my sister Sarah’s birthday. I wish I could call her or email, but I am completely disconnected. We went to a school where Mr. Tibagwa’s wife teaches. It is 100 yards from their backdoor. The school is a nursery school, which is like kindergarten. The students used bottle caps and pencils to form letters, numbers and shapes.

After that, we had breakfast: bread, toasted peanuts, and a boiled egg. They gave us this really delicious tea. There were no tea bags so you just pour the leaves into your cup and they sink to the bottom. When Ginger cracked her egg open, a dead baby chick was inside of it. She tried to cover it back up with her shell and looked around not knowing where to put it. It smelled quite foul, and they brought her another one quickly, taking it away. Since the chickens and roosters roam freely in Uganda, the eggs often get fertilized. We are not used to that in America because of the chicken farms that provide most of our eggs. I hadn’t cracked mine open yet, and I was nervous mine would be fertilized too, but it wasn’t.

We said goodbye, and went on to meet the mentors for more observations. A man from New Vision, a Ugandan newspaper, was waiting for us at Meeting Point. We all spoke to him, and he wants to do an article here about the IBES programs expansion throughout Uganda. I’m stoked! Then we went on for 2 more observations, which required a lot of walking. We decided to rent a hotel room so that we would not impose on Mr. TIbagwa another night, and ended up booking one at the same hotel we ate at the night before. Then, we walked into town to meet Moses, Sonja, and Richard who arrived in the late afternoon. We watched a match, and decided to go to bed and get up early to head to Bulisa.

Saturday June 19th
We met up with Sonja, Moses and Richard early. We were on a matatu by 8:10 a.m. but it kept driving around Hoima trying to pick up people to fill the taxi to the maximum capacity of 14 passengers. Once we were at an uncomfortable number of 19 passengers, I asked how many they would stop at. Sonja said she saw a matatu with 30 children on it before. At one point they tied a bunch of fish to the outside, and you could smell the fish permeating the taxi. I found out later they tie the fish to the matatu to keep them cool in the wind as we speed everywhere. At one point, we stopped to let people on and the driver and conducter disappeared. After a while, we spotted them up the road buying roasted corn. They were just standing there eating it slowly while we sat squished on the taxi. Richard got off to buy some for us to share too, and it was delicious.

We reached the rift valley and it is absolutely beautiful. You could see Lake Albert as we drove down the mountainside. Breathtaking. At the bottom we stopped and I could see a monkey in the trees. I was trying to take its picture, and capture the image of a baboon wandering by, when I realized we were really squeezing people in the matatu. When we started to move again, I counted 25 men, women and children on the bus, many of them carrying large bags with items to sell in (or bring to) Bulisa. Moses joked that next someone would try to bring on a cow. Apparently it’s not uncommon to see a cow tied up in the back seat of cars, but I have not seen that yet. We stopped for a guy trying to bring on a goat, and almost let him on the matatu. But there were 25 of us already. I was grateful they did not let him on.

We met Richards family in Bulisa, and they were very nice. They live without electricity and running water, in a really rural area. It is really beautiful out there. Their homes are made of clay and they have grass thatched roofs. I had never been inside a true grass hut before. They are surprisingly cool in the hot weather. We sat in some chairs in the hut, and chickens came inside to check out the visitors. Then, a goat crawled in the window to look at us. It was so neat. I was getting anxious to go to Murchison Falls National Park, which is around 20 kilometers from where his family lives, but we had to meet his grandmother and mother first. We walked to their house, and met the family. We ate rice and drank warm sodas before we finally left.

The park ended up being somewhat disheartening. DON’T EVER GO TO MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK! We had to pay a driver 50K Ugandan shillings (USh) to drive us around 6 miles to the park from Bulisa. Then, they ripped us off at the entrance gate. It’s 5K USh for a Ugandan, but 66K USh for a tourist. They said it’s $30 US but then tried to give us a poor exchange rate, to charge even more. It’s an additional 35K for the car you come In, even if it is just dropping you off. There is no way to not drive into the park, because it is so far away, and the gate is miles from any of the sites inside the park, which are also spread apart from each other. Plus you have to pay 5K USh for the driver to enter the park.

Later Ginger and I decided we were mostly upset about the cost of the park because it is close to impossible for a Ugandan (many of whom are poor and do not have cars) to actually visit it. The hotels are over $100 US a night, and it costs close to $200 US to go on safaris. If you don’t have relatives in Bulisa, there is nowhere for you to stay outside the park. The boat ride on the Nile to Murchison Falls is $20 US per person. It’s a small fortune for a Ugandan to get there and go in the first place, without all the extra added fees for excursions. While in sum, we did not spend a large amount of money by American standards, it was very pricey by Ugandan standards. Americans are fortunate to have so many accessible and low cost national and state parks preserved for our enjoyment.

We managed to make it onto a pontoon boat, the last ride of the day. From the boat we had a beautiful view of the banks on the Nile. We saw warthogs, water buck, kingfishers and all kinds of birds, hippopotami, African elephants, African buffalo, and Nile Crocodiles. Seeing elephants made my miss my Mom. I also thought of my Sito, who loved elephants so much. The Nile is amazing, and I was already planning my next trip to the river while we were still on the boat! (just not at Murchison!) Of course, one of my dreams has been fulfilled, but it was bittersweet because of the situation. We came back as the sun was setting, and I began to feel so relaxed. I love water.

We finally found a ride back, after asking many different people to drive us. Most wanted 70K USh to take us six miles to Bulisa. We asked a white guy, who ended up being the park manager, and he wanted 100K USh. People were clearly taking advantage of us because they knew we had no other options. We paid the 70K and vowed to never return to Murchison Falls. When we finally got back to Richards mothers house, we ate posho and drank warm milk. I desperately wanted some vegetables. We sat outside in the moonlight talking. It is gorgeous out there. Then, we walked to the grass huts, to find a place to sleep. Ginger and I slept on the same cot. There were three in the small grass hut, and all 5 of us slept there. In the night, a drunk man barged in and asked if there was somewhere to sleep. I vaguely remember it, and it seemed like a dream. The hut was so cool that I got cold in the night.

Sunday June 20th
We woke up to the sound of goats. They must have been hungry because they were mehhh-ing really loud. We sat outside enjoying the cool morning air, and tried to write in our journals because we’d gotten so very behind in the past 3 days. As soon as we took out pens and paper, the small children in the village came over to watch us. They watched us very intently for a while, inching closer until they were sitting with us. I let them draw in the back of my journal. I thought what they drew was interesting: flowers, sunshine, tables, chairs, a garbage truck, a grass hut, matatus, a tree, and numbers. One girl did not want to share the pen to let others draw. I was trying to tell her to share, but they do not speak English so I had to take the pen from her and give it to someone else. In the end, I gave them the pen to keep. I hope they share it.

For breakfast we had chapatti and warm “chai.” All tea is called chai, although this was mostly milk with a few tea leaves at the bottom. After breakfast, we put on sunscreen because it is already painfully hot in the sun by 10 a.m. in Bulisa. Richard and Moses both put asked to use the sunscreen. I thought that was funny. Then, we walked to Lake Albert.

Richard said it was not far, but I am beginning to distrust his sense of time and distance. It seemed really far, and we could not even see the lake for a long while as we walked. Luckily the sun was behind us. I enjoyed the walk because it is so rural out there, and there are only a few huts scattered about. The land is mostly used for herding cattle, and you can see young boys directing them where to go. It was awesome. It occurred to me how in America, the land would be considered prime real estate, but here it is undeveloped and without power lines, running water and paved roads. It’s almost better this way. . I relished taking deep breaths of fresh air, and the quiet afternoon in nature. It made me wish we were not staying in Kampala the whole time we are here. The fumes and traffic are overbearing compared to the way I felt in that field. I am not a city girl.

When we reached the lake, there was not much of a beach. Richard braved the reeds and grasses at the water’s edge, and walked out a bit far. I was praying he would not get bitten by a snake. You can see the Democratic Republic of the Congo across the water. The view is amazing from the water’s edge. We walked toward houses we could see in the distance, looking for a beach. We walked right into a fishing village, which was apparent by the smell before we saw any fish. I was fascinated by the fishing nets. They use the heels off of colorful flip-flops as floaters, and round stones as sinkers. The boats were almost all blue. Many fisherman were gutting fish they retrieved from their nets that morning. We walked through the village, and there were people preparing lunch, and fish to sell in town. I say town, but it’s really just a handful of shops. There were salted fish drying in the sun, and fish smoking over charcoal pits. It was the most remote and isolated place I’ve ever been to.I loved it.

After taking pictures with them, we walked back into Bulisa. We went for lunch at one of the shops, and had matoke, fish, and kalo. Kalo is sticky, almost like silly puddy. It is made from millet and cassava. To eat it, you break of a small chunk, then you roll it into a ball, make an indention in the center and use the tiny “bowl” to scoop soup. It has absolutely no taste. I thought it was interesting, but not very tasty.

After lunch, we took a matatu headed toward Masindi. After a coupld of hours, the matatu sputtered to a stop in the middle of a sugar cane field. Apparently, someone siphoned gas out of the tank where the driver parks at night. A passenger walked toward a gas station a ways back. So there we sat, in the middle of nowhere. I was getting agitated because it was approaching 3 p.m. and we had to get on a Link bus by 4 in Masindi to take to Kampala. Finally the guy came back with the gas in a small jeri can of gas. It did not look like enough gas to me, and I thought we might run out again, but it got us to Masindi where we stopped for more gas. Even in the city, matatus will pull off to get gas, or put air in their tires, while you sit there waiting. It’s bothersome when you are in a hurry.

The Link bus was much more comfortable than a matatu, although still uncomfortable by American standards. By the time we reached Kampala three hours later, Ginger really had to “make a short call” (go to the bathroom). So we got off the bus, not knowing where we were at all. I felt a wave of relief wash over me because we had been cramped for close to 6 hours in speeding, bumpy, scary transportation. The relief immediately faded, however, as I stepped directly into sewage. It was dark and I could not see it before it was too late. My foot felt warm and I could smell the odor. I was praying that I did not have a scab from a mosquito bite anywhere near the area on my foot with waste on it. We walked to a gas station, but could not find the bathroom for Ginger. The moment was becoming crucial that she relieve herself, so she used the drainage urinal for men. I guarded the open wall. Then, our friend Jude called and came to pick us up from where we were. He said it was not safe to walk from there. When we got home I skyped Mike and my Dad to tell them Happy Father’s Day. It’s funny how you forget about Hallmark Holidays when you visit isolated fishing villages and sleep in grass huts.

Monday June 21
Today we ate nsenene. Ugandans call them grasshoppers, but online it says they are actually bush crickets. They taste like soft shelled crap shells after they’ve been deep-fried. I believe I would enjoy them more if they were sautéed with garlic or onions. We dipped them in ketchup to add some flavor. I want to try them with barbeque or cocktail sauce. After lunch, we wrote for hours trying to catch up.

Later we met Jude and Augustin to watch the game. We laughed and talked about Youtube clips. They have not seen many of them, and Ginger and I could hardly control our laughter as we described “The whistles go wooo,” “I wanna know where the gold at,” and “the grape stompers.” They have seen “David goes to the dentist.” Then, we were hungry because we never ate dinner. They walked us to a fast food place called “I feel like Chicken Tonight.” The name prompted me to sing the commercial jingle, which Jude and Augustin have never heard before.

Then, Jude ordered Ginger an eggroll. I saw the employee pick up a golden softball sized lump and place it in the bag. I said, “Ginger I think you are actually getting some sort of bread roll.” The bag was really heavy. Ginger asked, “What is this?” as she peered down into the bag. Jude said, “It’s an eggroll.” We immediately began laughing. She pulled it out and it was huge, I mean almost as big as her face. She bit into it, with some difficulty because it is so large, and said, “it’s potato.” I could not believe my eyes. I tried it, and it was a fried ball of potato. I said, “is there an egg in there?” Jude started looking annoyed that we found this so amusing, but he said, “Yes.” I asked if it had a shell, and he said it did not. Ginger then said, “I wanna get to the egg!” And we both started to eat it trying desperately to reach the egg. Ginger said it was like “how many licks to get to the center of a lollipop,” except it was us eating potato. Jude asked us if we were “just going to stand there and eat it,” because they think it is bizarre to eat standing up. I guess that’s an American thing. Sure enough, there was a boiled egg in the middle, which had us rolling with laughter even harder. So, eggrolls in Uganda are potatoes smashed around a boiled egg, and deep fried. I wonder what else we think is familiar is in actually something completely different. You never know until you try.

Monday, June 14, 2010

June 10th through June 14th

Thursday June 10th
Today I received confirmation of my Teaching Assistant position at the University of Memphis! I will be teaching Introduction to Cultural Anthropology in the fall! I am so excited and Ginger has been giving me advice, because she taught last year. It’s hard for me to concentrate on everything here, because I am making plans for next semester already. This morning I was working on my CV resume because I want to apply for doctoral programs in the fall. Things are happening so fast!

After Ginger and I got ready, we met Mary, a supervisor, an hour earlier than planned at the Nakawa Taxi Park. I think Ginger is feeling pretty ill because she gave the wrong change to the conductor and seems a bit out of it, which is unlike her. We went to a school that integrates children with learning disabilities with the rest of the students in classes. They have a teacher who uses sign language in class, and the student to teacher ratio is 3:1. It’s impressive. I feel like this is a much more lucrative way for all students to learn. Instead of sectioning off students who have difficulty into different classes, they tweaked the curriculum for the mutual benefit of each kind of student. This way, children learn to interact and work together at a young age. It makes sense to me, but American public education is so different. I remember stigmatized “challenge” classes and short-buses. It’s like institutionalizing people instead of giving them a fair chance to survive in the real world. I really think they have a great school. They also have a pool where they provide physical therapy, and exercise for students. A few of them went to the Special Olympics for swimming. They asked us to stay for lunch, posho and beans, but Mary invited us to her house.

We walked a long way before we got to her house, and we were quite sweaty. She offered for us to rinse off in the bathroom. I was confused and I didn’t know if I was supposed to completely disrobe and shower. She brought a huge towel and laid it on the bed. There is no door to the bathroom and I was scared I was doing the wrong thing and she would walk in and ask me why I was naked. So I whispered loudly for Ginger and she said to just take a shower. So I did. I felt much better afterward, even though we put the same clothes back on.

Mary was fixing fresh juice when I came out. Her housemaid prepared posho, pumpkin, sweet potato, beef stew, g-nut sauce, greens (mixed with beets?), and matoke. It was a feast. Her son, Julius, came home to meet us and have lunch, and we sat on the floor on beautifully colorful straw mats. Mary sat with her legs fully outstretched in front of her, scooping out massive portions for our plates. I sat “Indian-style” and Julius told me I sit like a Muslim. We said that in America, people call it “Indian-style” and he said, “Yeah, Indians sit like that too.” Haha. Ginger tried to explain what we meant, but I'm not certain he understood.

We could not possibly eat it all. After we were served, her housemaid, Jova, sat on the floor with her legs bent and to the side (properly) beside us. Occasionally Mary would tell her to bring something else, and Jova would get up to bring out items like sliced tomato, onion and chili peppers. Mary squished the peppers with a spoon. She only mashed up four of them, and they are quite small. I used my finger to get a little bit to put on my posho, which is like a hardened lump of grits. She told me the peppers are hot, which is why she only broke open a few of them. Even though she warned me, I wasn’t expecting it to be as hot as it was. They were crazy-hot, and I accidentally got some of it on my face even though I wiped my fingers off with a napkin. Since I had to use my fingers to pick up, it was unavoidable. My face stung for an hour.

Afterwards, we enjoyed the fresh juice and looked at hundreds of photographs of their family. Julius thoroughly explained the details of each photo as we went through so many albums. It took a couple of hours. Afterwards, we took pictures with them, and they were curious about pictures of our families. Ginger only had one of her Mom on her camera to share. They walked us to the road, after giving us a papaya and peppers to take home with us. Along the way, Julius stopped to buy us each a “rolex” from a roadside vendor. They are basically omelets on top of a flat bread like pita bread. They roll them up, hence the name. The vendor mixed cabbage, tomato, and onion to make the omelet. I could see dirt on the eggs as he cracked them open. He was very skilled with his knife, and even used it to flip the omelet. We ate them when we got home, and they are so delicious. We weren’t even hungry!

Friday June 11th
Not much today. Grace made chicken tandoori, a traditional Indian dish. She also made “avocado ice cream” which was avocado blended with lemon juice and whipping cream. It was strange, but good. We wrote almost all day, then we watched the opening ceremonies of the World Cup on the tv. The networks made it possible for anyone to watch who has a tv and antennae in Uganda. It’s a huge deal because it’s the first time that the World Cup has been held on this continent. Africans love football (soccer). And, so many lesser-known countries participate in the World Cup. It’s neat to feel the energy and excitement. Even Grace was excited. The opening ceremony was very cool. Grace asked me in a roundabout way to turn on the first game, Mexico vs South Africa. She watched as she finished our laundry. After the first game, we went out with Jude and Sylas to watch Uruguay play France. It was really fun. There were next to no females out, and they kept saying that wives KNOW their husbands are going to be out late watching the games. I thought it was interesting that they do not go out together.

Saturday June 12th
Today we set out to find a pump for the 18.9L jug of water we purchased. We are afraid if we try to pour it we will just end up spilling it everywhere. We went to four stores before we finally found a pump. The one Rose has acts as a lever, and we were having a difficult time describing it. I’m sure people thought we were crazy when we described it using our hands to press up and down. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to find the simplest things. For example, two of the four stores sold the machines that serve the water hot and cold (like you see in offices) but not a pump. The employees would tell us they are too expensive and they discontinued them because no one purchased them, yet they have these high priced water systems. We were going to give up and just buy a funnel and hope for the best when we finally found one at the fourth store.

Afterwards we drove to Entebbe with Jude and Derrick to watch America play England. They said they wanted to show us the lake, too. We went to this bar/club where people do karaoke, dance, and watch sports. I say “karaoke” tentatively because it is not the same karaoke as practiced in the US. Instead, people go up on stage to lip-sync and perform dance routines they choreograph at home. People take it very seriously. At first I thought that’s what was going on, but Jude explained that sometimes after karaoke, the hired performers who are employed at the club will come on and dance. These guys were such good dancers, and I was so impressed. The choreography was like a mix between hip-hop and jazz. What an interesting job the dancers have. I am not sure if America has dance clubs quite like that, but perhaps I’ve just never been to them. Of course, I was more interested in watching them dance, than the game. After they were finished, many people got up and danced. There were some women there who were dressed very scantily and watched themselves dance (provocatively) in the mirrors. Jude explained that they were prostitutes. You can tell because they give you inviting looks, even to women. One woman had HUGE hair, and she was quite tall already but she wore really high heels with very short shorts and a tank top. She was really pretty and looked like a girl out of a rap video. I couldn’t look away, and she was dancing right in front of us. I hope my face didn’t show what I was thinking. Sometimes my facial expressions give me away. Ginger and Jude told me that there was a strip club up stairs, but we did not go up there.

After the game, we went to Lake Victoria. It was pretty late (around 11 pm), and I was nervous about crocodiles and hippos. Derrick told me I was being paranoid, and we don’t have anything to worry about since they cut all the grass and the snakes are gone. I thought, “Great, I hadn’t even thought of snakes!” Our visit to the lake turned out to not be very scary after all. Ginger has a tiny light on her keys that is used to shine light when you unlock a door. There was not much of a moon and the night was very dark. We pointed her small light out toward the open water, and Derrick said if the crocodiles were out there we would see their eyes reflecting off the light. The light did not extend very far, since it is so small anyway, which made me doubt its reliability as a crocodile detector.

I took pictures with my camera using the flash, imagining that I could see their eyes that way in the resulting photographs. Nothing, just blackness. In the end, I took my shoes off and put my feet in the edge of the water. The water was warm and the sand had a bunch of crushed up shells in it. I looked for a shell but there weren’t any. The waves splashed on my ankles and I decided that was good enough for me and stepped away from the water. It was just so dark out there, if there was a crocodile, you would never see it coming. Derrick pointed to an island he used to swim to when he was in college. I thought it was close, but he said it’s farther than it looks. We looked up and saw so many stars in the sky it was beautiful. Ginger tried to find a constellation, but we couldn’t. Then, we went home.

Sunday June 13th
Today we rested. Sunday has truly become the day that we don’t really leave the house. It’s nice. We wrote all day and at one point we were both working really hard when something odd happened. I thought I was going to faint and I felt disoriented like my balance was off even though I was sitting down on the couch. In the exact same instant, I looked around to see if the walls were shaking. I took my headphones off and Ginger and I looked at each other and simultaneously asked if the other had felt the same way. We both felt it, which was a relief because I thought something was wrong with me. We never figured out what it was. I guess some sort of tremor, like an earthquake? It was an unsettling feeling, and I hope it doesn’t happen again.

We expected to have Roger and his friend over in the early afternoon (they said after lunch) to visit, but they never called. We met Roger last week in Kyengera, he is one of the coaches of the soccer team we watched with Richard. He was bringing the team captain of one of the soccer teams he coaches to visit us. We knew we had to speak to them, to give them directions to the house, so it wasn’t like they could “pop in.” We figured they might expect dinner so Ginger made guacamole and I helped chop vegetables to go over rice. We waited and waited, but they did not have their phone, and we couldn’t get in touch with them. Finally we decided we were hungry since it was around 7:30 and they still weren’t here. We decided just go ahead and eat, and we each helped cook. As soon as I took out the bowls to serve our dinner, they called.

It’s hard to explain how to get to our compound in the first place because cell phone service is quirky, and Roger has a thick accent so Ginger had a hard time trying to tell him where we live. We decided to meet them at a landmark nearby, a fancy country club, and just walk back with them. We somehow got there before them, and after we waited for a while in front of the Kabira Country Club they finally showed up and we walked back home together. We gave them some of the food when we got back. I added some cashews on top of the rice and veggies, because it’s so good that way. They thought it was so weird, and did not like it. Roger said the cashews taste like chocolate. He was squinting and making a face like it was unbearable to eat. I saw him swallow a bite with a cashew without even chewing! I don’t understand how he’s never eaten them before since they are sold in the grocery store. In the end, they wasted the whole bowl of rice and vegetables! I was annoyed, but Ginger ate their cashews off the top of their bowls. At least they weren’t wasted. We listened to some American music, and they wanted us to dance but we were too tired. They love R Kelly, Rhianna, LL Cool J, and other older bands. It’s funny, sometimes when we go out we will hear the oldest songs, and outdated artists but everyone loves them.

Monday June 14
Today we went to use an internet café because we already used our 1G of internet. We printed out some important documents and then we went to the SAS Clinic to talk to the accounting personnel again. We found out we have to pay an additional $300 US for our application to conduct research. It never ends!! When we were there we saw Andrew, and made some plans to work out our trip to Hoima this weekend. We want to do an observation of a school there, then travel on to Masindi afterward. We are going to go to Murchison Falls. I’m so excited! After that, we felt like we got a lot done in a short time, so we had lunch at this place called the Crocodile. We keep finding restaurants and stores with tons of white people. It’s odd because I never see them walking around or even in the matatus. I don’t understand where they come from! It also annoys me. Like the other day when we went to look for the water pump, we saw these 3 English people. They had on hats, hiking boots, sunglasses, bookbags, and water canteens. They looked like they were going on safari, and they were in the middle of the most urban area there is here. It’s a MALL. Tonight our friend David is stopping by, and we are going to watch a movie Ginger broug

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I fixed the comments setting. I had inadvertently turned it off! Oops!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 6th to June 9th

Sunday 6th
Today we respected the Sabbath. Other than updating our blogs, uploading more pictures and doing some reading, we basically rested. Ginger is sick and I am just tired. It’s amazing how much time goes by so quickly. I made pasta today, and Ginger fixed a really great vegetarian sauce to go with it. We bought some local mozzarella which is not a mild cheese, and is fact funky. It’s growing on me, but it is much stronger than the mozzarella in the states.

This evening Joan came over. She went camping on an island at Lake Victoria with some friends over the weekend. I really think that sounds like fun, and totally want to do it. I doubt we will have time unfortunately. Joan ate her first Oreo tonight, provided by Ginger, and we looked at photographs on Ginger’s computer from last summer. Joan is in many of the pictures, and she was surprised to see they’d taken so many of her. Then, Jude came over too and we all played Gin Rummy. We had so much fun, and they learned pretty quickly. Then, they showed us a traditional game here, which is really just like UNO. We had so much fun playing cards. It reminded me of college, learning and playing cards with Karen to all hours of the night. :)

Monday 7th
Today Ginger napped some before we went to the foundation. We planned to go to the clinic before our meeting with Reverend, but decided against it. When we left, we saw a friend, Asha, driving toward her home on her lunch break. She invited us to a cookout at her house this weekend. Yay!

After our meeting with Reverend, we went to the clinic. We tried three different doors before someone told us it was the second door, and you have to push, not pull, to enter. Once inside, we took care of some financial business, and we met Dr. Muhumza’s father. He was very nice, and offered to take us home since his driver was just outside. I thought he offered to take us to lunch, but I must have misunderstood because soon we were pulling into our compound. He came inside, and asked us about our trip and our project. He wanted to make sure we were comfortable in the compound, and asked us many questions. He told us about his 10 children, several of whom live in the US. Then, he asked us if he could say a prayer.

I am not the most religious person, but sometimes people ask me to join in prayer. I was raised Catholic, and many of the prayers people say are familiar to me. When I was growing up, you knew a prayer was over once everyone said “Amen.” Dr. Muhumza’s father is a very nice older gentleman who wanted to say a special prayer for us, so we bowed our heads. He said one of the kindest and sweetest prayers I’ve ever heard about making sure we are safe in our home, in the environment and society of Uganda, etc. and then we all said “Amen.” However, as soon as we’d finished, he kept going. I thought, “Wait – he said Amen. The prayer is over, right?” But apparently it was not over. I was trying not to smile because I felt like a little girl in church when I’m not supposed to laugh. Plus, the second prayer was even kinder than the first. Finally, he got to the end, and we once again we all three said “Amen.” In that second, I felt sure the prayer was finished, but I was wrong yet again. He went on to give a third, and final, prayer for us. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing. I guess I felt that it was such a serious moment and he was genuinely being kind, but that put the pressure on for me to do anything but laugh. I tried so hard to suppress my laughter, but I continued to feel the giggle wiggling its way up my throat. I could hardly contain myself, but I made it through without laughing out loud. He was so nice, and I would have felt really bad if I had started laughing. After that, he said goodbye, and we finished writing for the day.

Tuesday 8th
Today we went to our first school observation. It was a private school and we traveled with one of the supervisors. In Kampala, people call traveling “moving.” So we moved to this school, which has no electricity or running water. The bathroom is a pit latrine, and is covered with spider webs. After signing in with the headmaster, we went into a classroom. The class we observed is a Primary 6 class, which is basically sixth grade. The students were seated at desks that look like small picnic tables cut in half. The desks seat two or three students and they face the blackboard, but they were sort of pushed together forming U’s.

The school is a boarding school, as many of the schools here are, where children live throughout the school term. I am still learning about the school system but I think the school terms begin in February with a break after Easter, and a break in August. Then the school year ends in December, so there are a total of 3 terms. During breaks, children living in the boarding schools go home to their families. It seems like the students in government schools go home daily, since we see them walking home all the time. Both public and private school students wear uniforms.

The students stood up and greeted us in unison as we entered the classroom. We introduced ourselves, and the teacher asked them to welcome us. I introduced myself first and in response they said , “Welcome Maggie.” I guess I will start calling myself Maggie, since Ginger calls herself “Jinja” like the town here. After our introduction, two students gave up their desks for us and they carried it over for us to sit. I at first thought we would be a distraction, but the students faced the front and answered questions like we weren’t even there. I loved hearing them answer questions, and I was impressed with their answers. They stand up to answer questions, which is really a great way to learn public speaking at such young ages. I know college students who would be intimidated by that! The school observation was very interesting and I learned so much about how different school is here in Uganda.

Tonight I had cassava for the first time. Grace also cooked sweet potatoes and beans. The sweet potatoes here have green veins and they are white instead of orange and they have a much chalkier texture. They are still really good, just different. After lunch/dinner Ginger went to bed early since she is still feeling poorly. A short while later I heard her yelling for me. There was a cockroach on her mosquito net. Earlier in the day we talked about how the poison must be working, but apparently we were wrong. It was flying around in her room. Have I mentioned how gargantuan these roaches are? To reiterate: she’s pleading for me to come in and spray it through her shut door, and I am on the otherside of the door trying to develop enough courage for the task. I took three deep breaths and went in spraying and screaming. He ran around to the other side of the bed and I chased him, and he started to limp around. I thought the worst was over, but we never found him. Ginger thinks he must be in her suitcase. Great!


Today is another public holiday, Heroes Day, and Ginger is feeling a lot better. I feel bad for her, but I didn’t realize how bad she actually was feeling until she told me she was beginning to think she had malaria. Thankfully, she is feeling better, and I guess I should be glad to know that if she says she feels really bad, it means it’s really bad. She isn’t whiny at all, like I am when I am sick. Since everything is closed today, we can’t go to schools or the foundation. So, we rested some, then traveled to the coffee shop. Joan was working, and she showed us some pictures of her family. One of them was a funeral for her children's grandparents. No one wore black in the photographs. We asked her many questions about funerals and preparations that take place after people die. Somehow we got on the topic of suicides.

She told us how people who hang themselves are buried differently. She described suicidal hangings as "bad omens" and people who do that are not to be touched by anyone. Therefore, they dig a large hole underneath the body as it hangs, wherever it is, and cut the rope. The body falls haphazardly into the hole, but no one is allowed to fix the position of the body. Whichever way the body lands after the fall is how they are buried. She asked us about American burials. I told her about our caskets, cremations, mausoleums, and bodies donated to science. Ginger brought up people being buried in above ground tombs in New Orleans. I think it's interesting to talk about, although it is a rather morbid conversation to have.

After we decided to leave, we walked past the market. I bought some handmade earrings and a bag stitched together with different colorful fabrics that I will use to carry papers in when we go for observations at schools. Ginger got a really cool imitation Juicy Couture (sp?) purse that is red. Afterwards, we went home and caught up on all of our writing. We are going to bed early because we have two more school observations this week and the World Cup starts on Friday. It is in South Africa this year so everyone here is really excited!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

June 2nd - June 5th

Today we traveled back to the UNCST to speak to a secretary about our research proposal. We are hoping it may not take the entire six WEEKS to complete. We fixed a few of the forms that were unclear, and left. Apparently they have a stack of applications so it’s the sheer volume of applications that takes so long. Afterwards we had time for lunch before our meeting at the foundation so we were walking towards the pizza place. We walked past an Indian Restaurant on Kampala Road. There is a large Indian population in Kampala and earlier in the week we talked about eating at one of their restaurants. Since we intended to eat pizza, we were torn. We couldn’t make a decision, so I suggest we flip for it on a 100 shilling coin (they are the largest like quarters). It was between the bull (Italian) and ram/crane/crest (Indian). The bull won. That’s how we make some decisions!

After our pizza, we walked to the foundation. Ginger quizzed me on one of the road names along the way and I got it wrong. I guess I haven’t absorbed it quite yet. But in my defense, there are very few street signs! Our meeting was successful and we have quite a lot of work cut out for us. It’s doable, though. Funny thing about our meeting: there were only 3 chairs, and 4 of us were meeting. I decided I would sit on the floor, which I honestly didn’t mind because:

1. I sit on the floor all the time, and
2. It was cool on the floor and I was quite hot from our walk.

However, soon after I sat on the floor it upset people. They kept asking me why I was sitting on the floor, because “floors are dirty.” One of the supervisors wanted to know why, and then a lab technician walked by and asked me why. The other supervisor, who was a bit late to the meeting, looked shocked to see me on the floor when she entered. Another passerby stared at me like I was crazy. After I said I was fine, that I preferred to sit on the floor, and Ginger explained that we do it all the time at home, we finally began our meeting. Two minutes later the phone rang. I heard the supervisor say into the phone, “I don’t know, but I think she prefers it. I will ask her.” When she hung up she asked me if I wanted to stay sitting on the floor! I guess it would have been easier to find a chair somewhere. Once again I explained that I was fine. After the floor-seating issue was settled, we had a very productive meeting!

We took a boda home because the fumes get so bad during rush hour that it is hard to walk and breathe them in. I think it is what made me so nauseous the other day. There is so much beautiful vegetation growing all around us despite the polluted air and soil.
When we entered our compound, we were greeted by Rose. Her family is from Eritrea and she lives in the first unit in our compound with her daughter, Delina, and their dog Dee-Dee. She invited us in, and we ended up having a traditional Eritrean dinner with them. Her brother and two sisters are visitng. I love serendipity! They were just sitting down to eat the meal they’d finished preparing when we came inside the compound. The meal is centered around a giant round piece of njarra which is a spongy bread. The bread was placed on a large round platter on the center of their coffee table. The family members sat around the L-shaped couch. In two separate bowls they’d prepared chicken in a spicy sauce and a variety of mixed vegetables. The chicken was attached to the bone, and there was a lot of spicy brown sauce in the bowl with it. After we washed our hands in their bathroom, we all sat around their coffee table on the couch. Rose said, “We eat,” and one of her sisters began to use a ladle to dish out the chicken and its sauce onto the large, round, njarra.

Her sister used the ladle to spread around the meat and sauce all over the center of the bread, then she spooned out individual portions of vegetables in front of each of us, on our section of the bread. As she scooped our vegetables, Rose broke the meat away from the bone and tossed it near our “areas” on the bread. We used our hands to break the spongy bread apart, and ate with our fingers. There were no napkins so our hands were pretty messy . I immediately accidentally dropped some food, but no one got upset or went to clean it up. It was so delicious, and much like the food I had at the Ethiopian restaurant in Memphis, but so much better. Apparently Ethiopia and Eritrea are similar in culture and food, according to Rose. Afterward we had dessert of pineapple and jackfruit. I’d never had jackfruit before. It looks like little, yellow, stubby toes, with a big seed in the middle that resembles a large smooth almond. It was really good, and has an interested texture. After that, Rose made coffee from scratch.

She roasted the raw coffee beans in a small skillet over high heat until they smoked and turned black. She wafted the smoke toward us, and said that is the custom for us to smell it during preparation. Then, she ground the beans up in a grinder. Delina described how it’s traditionally ground with a mortar and pestle. Next, she took a grey, ceramic vessel and she poured in the ground coffee and added hot water. The vessel has a rounded bottom, a handle, and is decorated with relief etchings on its sides. We both want one. They use a piece of thick fabric that is woven in a circle to hold the vessel upright in place, and strips of colored confetti-like fabric are stuck into the spout, which act as a filter. We use small cups, much like sake cups, and identical to the kind we drink Turkish coffee from at both Mom and Fudwa’s house. The coffee is really good, but different. It is much more bitter, and no one reads the dregs at the bottom to tell my fortune after I finish my coffee like they would at home. As we sat with them, we dipped saltines in the coffee, and talked about straightening our hair. They were all really impressed that we don’t color our hair, and let it air dry without chemicals. They spend lots of time in the salon, dealing with their hair. It pays off though, because they all have very long and beautiful hair. We had so much fun with them. I loved it.

Today is a public holiday: Martyrs Day. The day is dedicated to pay respect to 3 Christian men who were burned at the stake for their religious beliefs. School is out, and many places are closed, so we decided to go to the grocery store to see if it was open and get a few items. We really needed water, and of course we walked out of the store without it. Ginger realized we forgot it when we walked out, I decided to go back in and buy it. I told Ginger to go ahead home without me, which she did, and then I walked back by myself. I wasn’t scared at all. In fact, it felt great to be out walking around and being independent. It’s probably a good thing, since next week we will be traveling to schools alone to conduct observations. Start small. When I returned, we spent the rest of the quiet day at home writing in our journals. We also made a calendar of observations days and created our invitations for a parent’s day.

Today we were going to go to the clinic but there was a storm. Instead, we hung around the house while Annette and Grace worked. It rained AGAIN while our clothes were outside drying. I typed out a response to several questions posed by a man from the University of Memphis magazine. They are going to publish a 1-2 page article about our project! Ginger and I are so excited that our project and the foundation will be recognized!!!!!!!

We walked down to a little BBQ place for dinner. The waiters bring around a kettle with warm water inside of a large plastic bowl with a bar of soap. We washed our hands, and then the food came out. BBQ is not like BBQ in the US. It is pieces of salted pork, on skewers. I was not a fan, but we only got one stick with “accompaniments” to share. Ginger knows me pretty well now, especially my weirdness about meat. She ordered only one because we’ve had many discussions about “gristle and fat.” She doesn’t quite understand what I mean by gristle, which I explain as the surprise bite that has a chewy, knotted, ligament-esque quality. To her gristle means something off the grill. Either way, she knows what I mean by now, and she was right that I wouldn’t like the BBQ. I did, however, try it. Afterward, we went to a “fast food” place where I could get something to eat. They sell food that requires a fork and knife like Indian plates, as well as burgers and pizza. Most “fast food” in Kampala requires a fork. I got a small veggie pizza and we watched customers drink coffee with their burgers. It’s an odd combination I’m not sure I’ve seen before.

Today we napped during a storm, and I called Mom using Skype when we woke up. It was nice to talk to her, since we usually talk almost daily and it had been nearly 2 whole weeks. I uploaded a bunch of photos; there are now 2 weeks worth. The links are on the right. Then, we decided to go see a movie. While we know where the Cineplex in Kampala is located, there is no phone number to be found online or movie show times. So we decided we’d walk around the “mall” at Garden City if we got there early. On the matatu into town, the driver didn’t stop at Park Square where we needed to get off. I yelled, “massau” which means stop. It was the first time I had told them to stop in Luganda, in fact, the first time I’d said to stop at all on a matatu. Everyone looked at me (because of my accent/pronunciation I’m sure) but they stopped. I felt good.

We were going to see the new Sex and the City film, which is advertised everywhere in Kampala. We invited Jude, a friend who mentioned wanting to see it earlier in the week. The mall at Garden City has a bunch of shops, and it is indoor/outdoor. Basically, it is open air, as the center opens up to the sky, and the food court and children’s playground are open to the outside where there would be giant windows in America. There are no stairs, only a winding ramp up that goes up 4 or more floors. I thought it was for people with handicaps but there are also elevators. I can’t figure out why there are no stairs. The fountains inside the mall have no pennies in them, or any change at all. Ginger said people would probably take them out. Before the movie started, we went into a few shops. Then we bought hummus and vegetables at a Lebanese restaurant in the food court overlooking the golf course. It was really good, and we bought some Pita bread to-go, which we will use for guacamole. It was interesting to see a Lebanese restaurant in a mall, which would be unlikely in the US.

When we entered the movie theatre, a guard scanned us for weapons with his wand. He also felt the outside of our purses. It was sort of weird because we were already INSIDE the mall. The popcorn Jude bought came in a very small bag compared to American theatres, but I don’t know what, if any, the other size options are available. When we got inside, the theatre was FREEZING. I am already not used to A.C. apparently, and it reminded me of how I am usually cold in American theatres too. There was only one preview, unlike the 12-15 minutes of preview we experience at movies in America. Other than that, the movie-going experience was the same. The film was pretty good, but I didn’t know before we saw it that it was set in Abu Dhabi. It was kind of interesting that we are in another culture learning and experiencing the differences between Uganda and America, and in the film the characters are in another culture experiencing culture shock in the United Arab Emirates. How bizarre. When we came home, Ginger was preparing to bathe when the power went out. Instead, she boiled water on the gas stove, and took her bath old fashioned style.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Please note the new link for pictures on the right! until i can get the slideshow to work I will be placing them there. I have many many more to upload, but this is a start! :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

May 28th through June 1st

This weekend was fantastic. Sorry for the delayed postings, but we still didn’t have our own internet until Tuesday, June 1st. As a result, here are the last 4 days! –Cheers!

We got up early Saturday and had banana bread and tea for breakfast. We had a mix-up with our tea pot and I think I may have inadvertently boiled a bug. I also think I drank bits of said bug in my subsequent two cups of morning tea, as did Ginger. He must have crawled in through the spout. After breakfast we sprinkled roach poison in the garage. It was like sprinkling cayenne pepper for ghosts or some sort of voodoo. Ginger made a remark like we were preventing vampires from entering our house and it really was funny.

Then we went to the 1000 Cups of Coffee shop, where Joan was working. We had a fabulous time browsing the crafts (there are some nice items) and chatted with some female South Carolinians, who were visiting Masindi to build a hospital with Palmetto Medical out of Charleston. Small world. Ginger might be able to find a job with them, which would be so cool.

We walked through the market and I tried my hand and haggling. I successfully talked a vender into letting me pay half of what she was asking, but it was hard. I don’t like confrontation. I also feel bad since it’s ultimately not that much money, which they need. When we came home we tried to write. Then Ginger made guacamole and it was the best guacamole I’ve ever eaten.

The best day I’ve had here yet. I absolutely felt like I am a real anthropologist today. We met up with Richard, who was quite late to our appointed time to meet at the square due to a severe traffic jam. We were on our way to an orphanage in Kynergera. We went through the old taxi park to find a taxi there and it was chaotic and dirty. People are everywhere and cars really almost ran us over. Ginger told me to hang on tight to my purse. People are just squished together down there, looking for transportation and going to the adjacent market. Once we found a matatu (I have NO idea how we found the right one, or how to repeat the process accurately) we made our way there.

We were driving out of Kampala and into a more rural area known as Kyengera. The countryside is breathtaking and I tried to take as many pictures from the back of the matatu as I could. We got off the matatu around a half hour later at a gas station and caught a boda to our destination. I had to sit sideways since I was wearing a skirt. Have you ever tried to sit sideways on a motorcycle? It does not feel very safe. To make matters worse, we drove up a dirt road which was in terrible condition. It looked more like a drainage ditch down a steep hill (which we were going UP) with numerous rocks jutting out all over. There was a brick wall to our left, and at one point my boda almost fell over and into the wall, but the driver put his feet down to stop us from crashing. We made it safely to the top of the hill to see a soccer match.

They call it football here, and it was the “orphans” playing another team. I put orphans in quotations because we later discovered most of them have extended family helping to take care of them, but 3 have no parents or family. That’s where we met Sonya, Moses, Roger and many other awesome folks. Sonya is from Germany, and she studies social work. She helped create an orphanage to help care for almost 20 children who are poor and have lost a parent. She coaches their soccer team in the hopes of finding athletic scholarships for these disadvantaged children so they can receive education. Her primary goal is education. Her boyfriend, Moses (a Ugandan and one of Richards best friends) helps her with the children. Roger is another friend in the community who also helps coach soccer.

I saw a woman selling sugar cane who must have walked up the hill to try to sell to everyone during the game. Sonya had purchased one, and I was intrigued because I’ve never seen anyone eat it before. You peel the bark back with your teeth and bite of pieces of the cane. Then, you chew it until the juice is gone, and spit out the chewed cane. She looked like an expert.

We sat there under a tree, watching the game, and it was beautiful out. Richard asked me lots of questions about America. We were talking about things we’d never done. He has never seen snow, never eaten a grape, and never eaten McDonalds. I told him I had never eaten Jackfruit. Then he asked me if I ever ate sugar cane. I told him I hadn’t and he jumped up and went over to the lady. I told him I could pay for it (and so did Ginger) but he purchased three 2 foot long cuts of sugar cane for us.

I tried to bite it and I thought my tooth would break. He went back and got the woman’s knife to cut away the bark for me. Then he showed me how to eat it, by biting down with your back teeth. I tried it, and the juice ran down my chin and arms, but I couldn’t break off any of the cane! The juice was so sweet, it tastes amazing. I kept trying, and I was essentially gnawing at it which made me feel sort of like a koala bear eating bamboo. I strategized that I could just suck the juice out, but that did not work. It requires chewing. The bark had dirt on it and when the juice dripped down it turned to mud and our hands got so dirty. We took photos of our experience.

After the game we walked toward their houses. To get there we had to walk over the hill and we passed many different kinds of fruits and vegetables. As I was walking along with Richard and Roger, they both pointed out the following plants they eat in the village: cassava, sweet potato, avocado, jackfruit, sugarcane, papaya, banana, maize, coffee, yam, Irish potato, and pineapple. There are no clear fences or barriers surrounding all these plants. They were so proud of them and encouraged me to take pictures of them, which I did. I will upload them shortly.

We walked through the fruit trees into an open space with small houses. There were 3 goats tied to small posts in the ground and toddlers were walking up to them feeding them grass and leaves. A hen walked around proudly with 5 little chicks, and a rooster roamed the grassy area crowing. There was a large ceramic pot that Roger lead me up to- it was the dinner he’d cooked for everyone. He calls the food pilawo and it looked like it contained rice and onions. It was a massive pot of rice and onions. All around us people were getting ready for dinner. In front of the ceramic pot there was a large kiln for firing bricks. We went into Moses and Sonya’s house, after we took our shoes off at the door. The first room was 8X10 ft, and had a twin size mattress on the back left corner. Directly in front of it was a plastic shelf that held different items like games and books and eating utensils. There was some African art on canvas on the wall. The other room of the same size was their bedroom. It had a full size mattress on the floor and a wooden structure where their clothes hung. Sonya has many beautiful bright colored scarves and flowing skirts hanging there. They had a small stand with a TV, DVD player, iPod and it looked like they had a small satellite dish on top of their TV. They had a few movies and books (one of which was a scrapbook of their adventures). There was a single light from one of the 2X4 beams in the exposed attic. They have no indoor plumbing, kitchen, or running water. Everything takes place outside in nature. They live quite modestly.

Outside, Sonya cooked on the small charcoal stoves called sigili. She made soup out of zucchini, carrots, and green beans in one pot. When the children saw her add sugar to the soup, they all said it was gross because “sugar does not belong in food.” In another sigili she made potatoes, and the fourth contained mystery meat. I’m not sure what it was, perhaps goat or lamb. As she cooked, Roger was helping me write down Luganda words for everything in my field notebook, but then he just took it away. He walked around looking at what people were doing for inspiration on which words to include in his dictionary. At the same time, Richard was perusing through the photos on my camera and I told him to take some with the camera. So right then in that moment, all forms of recording other than relying on my own memory were taken from me. I liked it. I was interested in what images from this scene Richard would want to capture in a photograph, and what Luganda words Roger felt were imperative for a muzungo to learn. It felt like collaboration. Is that a stretch?

I really was having the best time. I watched young boys play cards, and another traditional African game called mweeso that is played with black beads on a wooden board with saucers cut out of it. They were having a blast. Some of them washed up outside with the collected rainwater. They collect rainwater from the gutters of their houses into a giant cistern with a spout. It looked like 2 houses share one. But soon dinner was ready, and a metal plate was used to cut out massive portions of the rice. The plates were piled extremely high with rice, it would have been like 3-4 portions in America. Then, the soup was poured on top of the rice, next potatoes, and finally meat. I told Sonya that Ginger and I could share one (minus meat), since it was just so much food. Ginger, Richard, and I used forks, but everyone else ate with their hands. It was delicious.

After dinner, they cleaned up while we watched part of a disturbing documentary about Idi Amin. Soon, it was time to walk to the main road for the party for the children. We walked through the trees in the darkness. Since their team, the Spartans, are undefeated, Moses and Sonya threw a party to celebrate. They rented out a 10X20 foot room with a DJ. It was so much fun. They held speeches, and even thanked us for coming to their celebration in the speeches. The kids were so happy. They sang mock-karaoke, where they held the microphone and performed the songs. And there was dancing into the night. They even had a dance contest between a girl and two boys. I got video footage. They asked us to dance the traditional Bagenda dance, which Ginger and I tried desperately to mimic. It was quite hot and sweaty in that small space, but honestly the most fun I’ve had in a really long time.

After the evening drew to a close for the children and they went home, we sat next door enjoying a refreshing beer outside. It was so interesting to talk to Sonya and Moses. They work hard for these children in Kyengera. After all the food and drinks of the evening, I really needed to use the restroom, but there was not one there. Sonya led me to the back of the building to an outhouse. The building has a series of stalls that only contain holes in the floor. There is some mess where people have missed the hole, and no light inside of the stall. When you shut the door it’s just you, the hole, and the spiders. I was glad that I wore a skirt and brought my own hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Then, we made the long journey home.

I couldn’t stop smiling. If you think this blog is long, I wrote over 20 pages about the whole experience in my journal. It’s impossible to describe Sunday in a brief paragraph. It was fantastic. Poverty is relative, as Ginger says.

Today we walked to the hospital where the Makerere University School of Public Health is located. They have a crafts room and café for women with children who have HIV where they can sell goods and use the money to help support themselves. Dr. Bagenda teaches at the Makerere University School of Public Health and conducts research on mother to child transmission of HIV. He is fascinating and helps us out immensely. I really like him. He introduced us to his colleague Dr. John Ssempebwa who coined the phrase “slim disease” in the early stages of the epidemic here in Uganda, before people knew what HIV/AIDS was. Dr. Ssempebwa told me he was glad I didn’t have a southern accent because he does not like the way it sounds. He was very funny. Once we had the forms, we travelled to UNCST to submit them, but they told us we would have to wait up to 6 weeks for approval. We were stunned. Ginger called Dr. Bagenda and he said he would see what he could do. We felt defeated. We already have IRB approval from the Makerere University and University of Memphis. Because our proposal has been reviewed twice, we all thought it was a formality, and even Dr. Bagenda was surprised that they told us it would be that long. Hopefully better news tomorrow.

Today we went to get our own internet through Orange, a 3G internet service in Uganda. We are so happy to not have to rely on internet cafés any longer. Hooray! Ginger did not eat anything before we left, and when we returned home she drank some juice because she was starving. Grace scolded her because, “juice is wrong to drink before you eat. You will lose your appetite.” She was cooking fish, matoke, nakate (greens with cabbage) for our lunch. She is the best cook. She talked to us about how hard it is to get a Visa to go to America. Americans often don’t realize how easy it is for us to travel abroad. It’s much harder for other nationalities. She said when Ugandans go to America the motto is “no sleeping, work hard, make money.” They do not want to stay there and live. They want to just visit, make money and come home. 23 hours a day. In fact, her family there is doing very well, but she can’t get a Visa to visit them. After lunch, we kept writing up our Journals for Sunday. It was taking FOREVER and we were upset about the bad news we’d received the day before. Dr. Bagenda called and said he spoke with a contact he has there who will submit the paperwork to the President’s office by the end of the week, but that still leaves 4 weeks.
Tonight David came over. He is the guy that Ginger and her Mom helped with school fees last summer. He is really nice, and excited to see Ginger again. Now we are all sitting here drinking tea, reading and writing. Ginger and I talked about doing our traveling to the Nile, Murchison Falls, and Hoima before we planned, if we have to wait four weeks to collect data. I also really want to do a coffee tour. We will try to set out a calendar tomorrow after our meeting with the foundation. Keep your fingers crossed for us!!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Friday 28th May

Friday 28th May
Today we meant to wake up early. It ended up being after 9:30 that we actually got up. We purposefully stayed awake until 2 a.m. so that we might sleep through the night (for once). At first it seemed like a great idea, but at 3:30 I was still wide awake. I took the opportunity to start reading my new book. O’Conner is very funny and his writing is liberal and bold. I like reading the book so far. I recommend it.
Annette stopped by early, even though we weren’t expecting anyone until Saturday. She helped wake us up though, so that’s good. Then, Grace came too. Grace was upset that we haven’t yet finished the food she prepared for us on Wednesday. She keeps telling us we don’t eat enough. Even though as she fussed at us, we were currently eating the breakfast we made ourselves: fresh eggs with garlic, onion, tomato and toast with Blue Ban. They are sold individually, not in cartons. They taste way better than the free range “organic” eggs in the US. After breakfast, we went to the store to get a few items we needed.
There are two grocery stores right up the road, and this time we went to a new one. You have to leave your bags at the door in a cubby hole, and there is a guard who watches you walk through the gate. Then you can shop. The shopping carts are half the size of the ones in America. The isles are full of packaged goods, vegetables, and foodstuffs. Some I’ve seen before, and others I haven’t. If you leave your cart alone too long, an employee will commandeer it and help you shop. We bought a Phillips blender so we can make juice/smoothies. We also bought a new frying pan because all of the ones in our apartment have their handles burnt off on account of the heat from the gas stove. The grocery also has an upstairs, with a zigzag ramp you take the cart up. Downstairs was more of the grocery, and upstairs reminded me of a discount store with knickknacks. They even sell cribs with mosquito nets. We also saw these neat vases that are made out of bull horns. I sorta want one, but I’m waiting. Ginger and I are not going to buy any souvenirs for a while, so we can shop around for the best prices and items.
It was really hot today, and carrying the water was easier this time because we each carried one. They are 5 liters. Our bookbags helped us carry the groceries back instead of the flimsy cardboard box. We have to walk down dirt hills that become slick and are easy to fall on. This way was much better. After we unpacked our items, we left to go to the foundation. We are still working on the paperwork for UNCST, which is taking a bit longer than we hoped. Everything here takes way longer than it does in America. We walked up to the main road to catch a boda. This time we shared one.
I was sandwiched in the middle of the driver and Ginger. Ginger suggested I tell the driver, “Please drive safe,” when we got on. I told him, and he drove extremely carefully. People are so nice here. I was so glad because I didn’t have anything to hang on to but my knees if we got in a jam. We pulled up right at the foundation. The foundation has a clinic where they provide health services people with HIV/AIDS and they also have the mentorship in the back. We walk past the clinic, to the open air offices in the back where the supervisors and administrators work. We had access to the computer and printer there, but the experience was still frustratingly slow. But much better than in the internet cafes. Of course, the printer was out of ink, and the internet kept cutting us off, but we got to read our emails after a while. We completed our paperwork, and will bring it back to UNCST on Monday.
One thing about the clinic: there are cats there. They follow people around who are eating (we arrived at lunch time). They are so cute, and since the doors and windows are open you can see and hear everything going on. I kept seeing the cat walking alongside someone on their lunch break, meowing. Funny. That’s the thing about our compound too. Our windows have screens, but they are always “open.” The top part of the window is a metal screen. It stays pretty cool with the breeze in the house, so I’m now used to no air conditioning. However, you can hear (and smell) everything: people coughing across the street, babies crying, children playing, cats screeching, dogs barking, people laughing, people cooking. In the early mornings, you can hear roosters and they are loud. So are the dogs. There is a pack of dogs that consistently start howling around 5 a.m. They remind me of Disney Movie the 101 Dalmatians when all the dogs communicate to each other throughout the city. It’s like sleeping outside really. I’ve made good use of my ear plugs.
The people here throw trash on the ground everywhere. There are drainage ditches full of trash, and sometimes you walk past a pile that has a particularly ripe smell. There are seriously are no trashcans. I think I’ve seen two, and they were overflowing with garbage. If they aren’t littering, they burn their trash in their yards outside. You can smell the smoke wafting in through the open windows. The first few days I was here, I thought something was burning in the house until I realized it was our neighbors burning trash. The smoke doesn’t smell as bad as the piles and ditches do. It smells more like a gas heater, in the early winter when you first turn it on and the dust burns off.
The animals are interesting here. There will be goats, chickens, dogs, cats just walking around the city. They have no clear owners, they are just hanging out. The goats and chicken eat the trash. We were thinking maybe all the city needs is a massive influx of bats and goats. I would add stoplights and trashcans. When we were headed toward the foundation the other day there was a giant bull and cow lounging in the grassy median on the really busy Kampala Road. The bull had huge horns, and looked like he must be worth money. Cars, bodas and matatus are just zooming by, and the cows are just hanging out. Who do they belong to? It looks so odd. Today after we finished at the foundation, we walked the whole way home. On my new map, we measured with string and it says it’s two miles. We both agree the map is wrong and it is more like 3 or 4. There are several places mis-marked on the map, so we are probably correct.
After dinner, the sun was setting and I went to the door to take a photo from our porch. But the door was already open, which we didn’t realize all through dinner. I know I shut it when I saw it was getting dark, but I guess not all the way. The mosquitoes were buzzing inside and outside, but I didn’t realize it until I came back in. They are so terrible. We sprayed the room and ourselves.
Tonight we made banana bread after dinner. The gas oven takes some focused thought. You have to convert Fahrenheit from the recipe into Celsius to cook at the proper temperature. Then, you have to stick the lit match precariously into the oven into a hole and simultaneously turn the know to let the gas out. It’s really a two person job. Lighting it seems dangerous, but we are up for the challenge. Halfway through baking the banana bread, Ginger checked on it and a mosquito was stuck to the outside edge of the oven. It was like it tried to fly in there at the last second. Luckily it didn’t get on the bread. I’m excited for Grace to try the bread, she calls it, “Banana cake.” Tomorrow is reading day and we are going to the coffee shop to visit Joan!