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.

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!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment