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, July 29, 2010

July 12th-July 28th

Monday July 12th
Today we tried hard to find out any news about the bombings. Unfortunately, there was a problem with our internet so we had to rely on newspapers (most of which only showed graphic photographs of the deceased) and local news channels on the television. It was difficult to find any information, because people were still being treated at the hospital and officials were really still trying to figure out what happened and why.

We spoke to a few friends, and one friend had a family member, an uncle, who attended the Rugby Club the night before. He never came home and was not answering his phone and the car he drove was still at the Rugby Club. There was no way to know his location or whether he was alive. A few hours later, after searching several hospitals and clinics, he was confirmed dead. Essentially, it was still chaos as families tried desperate to locate loved ones who never came home. At the same time, life resumed as normal throughout the city. We only ventured out to retrieve newspapers from the store.

Tuesday July 13th
We still had no internet today, and people told us one of the bombs disrupted the “Orange” tower. We decided to walk to Mulago Hospital, to use their internet. Unfortunately, it is not an open network so we had to go to an internet café instead. The internet was slow going there too, and it took us an hour to send a few emails to family and to check the BBC/CNN/Embassy websites.

Tonight, we talked to friends many of whom knew someone hospitalized or whose life was cut short on Sunday. I spoke to our friend, whose uncle died in the blast. He was heading to the vigil for his uncle. People bury their dead quickly here, within a day or two. At the vigils, extended families and friends congregate together and celebrate the life of the loved one they lost. They walk through the living room, which has been cleared of furniture to make room for the casket. The family usually has a bonfire, some spirits, porridge or chai, and they laugh as they tell stories and share premonitions they had about the person’s impending death. They stay up all night together. After the funerals, people are not supposed to cry about that person any longer. Someone said people who are truly sad will go to numerous funerals to cry freely about someone they are still mourning whom they are no longer permitted to cry for.

Tuesday July 13th
Friends are still finding out loved ones died in the hospital from injuries and infections resulting from the blasts. I hate terrorism. I made some banana bread to take to Mary, who has cooked for us so many times. She and her housemaid tried a piece while it was still warm and they both loved it. I went to two school observations with Mary, and then a funny thing happened. In America, everyone is familiar with the sound of an ice-cream truck driving through neighborhoods selling treats to children. We’ve heard the music here driving near our house several times, but never saw a truck. We always wondered where the music was coming from. Today, I heard the music as we walked toward a matatu stage, and I saw a man on a bicycle. He had a big wooden crate rigged to the front of his bicycle, with a bright orange cooler inside of it. He was blasting the music and making his way down the crowded street. I asked Mary if he was selling ice-cream, and she said yes. Mystery solved!

Thursday July 15th
There have been numerous hoaxes and false alarms in taxi parks about bombs. People are already making jokes about bombs and I can’t understand the humor in it. I’m afraid of going too deep into the large taxi parks or markets just in case. However, it seems like this was a one-time attack. Today, Ginger was out, and I stayed home to work with Moses. Sonja called to tell us about a bomb in the Nakasero Market. I got nervous because Ginger was near there, and she did not answer the phone when I first called. She came straight home for no reason, though, as the “bomb” was a hoax.

Friday July 16th
We decided if we have to evacuate the country we will go to Kigali Rwanda. We do not even feel threatened at this point, but people keep asking us, so that’s it. Other than that, I worked on our pilot tests, and Ginger went on another observation. The water cut off around 7 pm and did not come back on before bedtime.

Saturday July 17th
Happy Birthday Mike! We walked to Garden City today to buy supplies for our American Meal. We thought it would be fun to do something nice for our friends who lost loved ones because we feel so helpless. When we left the water still was not on.

We bought supplies to make burgers, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries with Rosemary, and baked apples. The amount of cheddar cheese we bought cost almost $25 because it was from Ireland. We laughed about how some things are so cheap here that are expensive in America, like fresh produce. Cheddar cheese, however, is exorbitantly expensive. We wondered if the water would be back on when we returned, and what we would do if it wasn’t.
When we came back home, the water was, of course, not on. Gerald helped us fill up jerry cans from the rainwater storage containers in our compound. They are so heavy when they are full of water. We washed dishes, and I showered with one of the jerry cans. Then, as I began to prepare the macaroni, the water came on. Dinner was a success and I think everyone had a great time. They loved the macaroni. They all thought it was bizarre that we eat raw green peppers. They were reticent to try even a bite of one, but with some prodding they finally did. People do not try to hide their displeasure with the taste of unfamiliar foodstuffs here. Haha.

Sunday July 18th
Today I walked to the supermarket for milk and airtime, but I stopped at the DVD stand outside before I went in. They sell movies for 3,000 USh. That’s like $1.25. I cannot resist this temptation, and a few weeks back I purchased two movies. One of them did not work. The saleswoman told me I could return the film, so I came back a while later with it. I was so excited that I was going to get my money’s worth for a movie. Everyone told me there was no way I could exchange it since she was not selling movies in a store. I walked home so happy with myself, and honesty in business transactions. I’d exchanged the exact same movie, too! When I got home, it didn’t work either. I guess the DVD they are copying from has an error. Shtoof.

Later, three friends came over to share their plans to develop an NGO in Katakwi. I’ve come to realize how common it is in Uganda to see social activists and people here uniting to fight for a social cause. Many people want to start social programs and organizations to help others. They want to create one that empowers women, people with disabilities, and generates a functioning economy in impoverished areas. People seem to care about each other immensely in this country. Even strangers.

Joan came over tonight and we played scrabble. It was so much fun. We gave her some leftovers from the American Meal and she seemed to like them. Minus the apple. When we walked her to the road to say goodbye, I recalled the first time I met her. It was also the first time I left the compound at night. My perceptions of my surrounding are radically different now. I remember being so scared with my mace in my hand and constantly looking over my shoulder. Now walking around just feels so normal.

Monday July 19th
Not much. I worked on the tests and read today. Everyone should read The Invisible Cure by Helen Epstein. It’s fantastic.

Tuesday July 20th
Nothing from the UNCST or President’s office. We are not going to be able to conduct focus groups and I want to scream. I cannot believe the bureaucracy here. Ginger and I are considering writing an article about practicing anthropology in Uganda and the loopholes and hoops you have to finagle. Ugh.

We went on an observation today, and it seems the rains are back. The sky fell out right when we arrived. Afterwards we met up with Sonja and Moses to plan our trip to Jinja. We are going horseback riding on the Nile!! We saw Joan and Rose’s family today as well. I love their coffee and their company.

Wednesday July 21st
I completed the pilot test, and compiled the results for the foundation and for each individual mentor. It actually worked, and the results are revealing about the nature of the program. Ginger and I found our way back to a school we had been to once, by ourselves. The entire time we walked a storm was brewing and the electricity in the air made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. By the time we reached, a serious downpour and thunderstorm ensued. It was difficult to conduct an observation while the rain leaked through the schoolhouse roof. The rain and thunder were loud, and the students had to shift around the room to avoid getting wet. Plus the students were unusually rowdy and we couldn’t even see the board. “Things go kerflooey.” Fortunately the mentor had a long session, so after a while the rain settled down and we could hear better. Tonight we invited a few friends over, including a British woman who lives in our compound. I made spaghetti with homemade sauce from scratch. It was only so-so, but the company was great.

Thursday July 22nd
There was no observation for us to go to today, so we went shopping with Sonja. We had lunch at the same Indian place we went to last time. In the craft market, I had two vendors tell me that I am good at bargaining. I got an acrylic painting on canvas that the artist wanted 120,000 USh for. I ended up paying 55,000 USh. I enjoy bargaining, and I have mastered the body language, teeth clicking, head shaking, and looking/walking away that it takes to reduce prices. If only I could bargain in America.

Friday-Sunday July 23-25
It is my birthday. I am somehow 26 years old.

Both the observation and mentor evaluation meeting were cancelled unbeknownst to us. Ginger went to the observation, and we went to the foundation together after lunch. They basically told us that the meeting was rescheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) and that they “didn’t think of you people.” It would have been nice to know, since we were going to Jinja in the afternoon, but nonetheless, I got the chance to interview the administrators about some of the questions I have about the foundation.

We left for Jinja around 5 on Friday for the weekend. See pictures to appreciate how fantastic our weekend was. We went horseback riding on the Nile, visited Bujagali Falls, had a picnic at the source of the Nile, and explored Ssezibwa Falls. I had the best birthday weekend ever.

Monday July 26th
We are so tired. We tried to write but mostly kept laughing and reliving our weekend. I am going to miss Uganda.

Tuesday July 27th
Ginger and I are talking seriously about coming back. We will leave our proposal to do its thing at the president’s office and try to come back next summer. At the very least, I will be more prepared and comfortable doing fieldwork now that I have experience here. It takes almost a month to adjust.

Wednesday July 28th
We are busy coming up with preliminary recommendations for the foundation before we leave next week. Then I worked on transferring files, and uploading pictures and music onto Ginger’s computer. I was going to buy a flash drive here, but a 4G flash drive is 120,000 USh. That’s like 60 dollars. I argued with the salesman, and told him in America it would cost $15. The Indian salesman at the Uchumi Supermarket told me, “In India, it would cost $10. But this is Uganda.” I should have said, “the jerk store called and they’re running out of YOU!”

I am looking for a flash drive, or a way to save my music files because I decided to leave my PC for Moses to use when he starts his NGO with Sonja. His birthday was Monday and it seems like a great present and something he really needs. They came over for dinner, and I made stuffed green peppers. He was so excited when I told him I was giving him my computer. We tried to go bowling afterward, but the lanes were closed by 9pm. I asked they guy if we could at least have a beverage before we left, but he said no. I said, “Do you just not want our money?” And he said, “No, we don’t.” But it wasn’t malicious, he was just being honest.

Instead we went to a Japanese restaurant in Centenary Park, and smoked a melon and apple flavored hookahs. It was so funny to watch Richard smoke it, because he has never smoked tobacco before. He was blowing the smoke out of his nose rapidly like a bull. We had a great time there, and it was actually more fun than we would have had bowling.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I don't want to leave.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 2nd - July 11th: The last days of the World Cup

July 2nd, Friday
Today we did not do very much. We graded the tests that we got back from the mentors, and they turned out to be a good indication of how the program is going, with very few hang-ups. I am so pleased that I developed an instrument that actually worked. We went to Obbligato’s with Rachel to celebrate (the place I really liked with the traditional music and dancers). We watched Ghana lose and were so sad that there will be no African country in the final matches of the World Cup.

July 3rd, Saturday
I went to Garden City today to buy something to wear to church tomorrow. Then, we met up with Richard at the coffee shop. Joan was not working; she is in Entebbe training servers at the new café they built there. We decided to meet Moses, Sonja, Richard, Deo, Jude, and Silas at the BBQ Lounge, a German restaurant, to watch Germany play Argentina. It was a very exciting match, and Germany obliterated Argentina (4-0). Sonja (who is German) was ecstatic, and her mom predicted the score, too! Afterwards we had dinner (Chinese food) at this hotel/restaurant. It was amazing, and we shared a feast. It was such a fun way to spend Saturday.

July 4th, Sunday
Happy Fourth of July!!! It’s amazing how you do not think about American holidays after awhile. We meant to bring something “American” (i.e. red, white and blue) to Mary’s house before church, but we completely forgot. We ate cassava and sweet potato for breakfast at Mary’s and they gave us sugar cane for desert. Desert for breakfast is new to me.

Church lasted over 3 hours. We went to a Pentecostal church in Mary’s neighborhood. The whole thing was very similar to the services I’ve been to when my grandfather was a preacher for the Assembly of God, with a few slight variations. The biggest differences were the amount of time (3 hours long), the fact that two people preached at the same time (one who translated English/Luganda back and forth), and it was somewhat more tame than the services I’ve been to in Greenville, South Carolina. In all, it was a neat experience. I can see why Ugandans easily adopted and indigenized this denomination of Christianity. They incorporate many songs and dance along to them, something that is already a huge part of their culture. It was really fun.

Afterwards, we met more family, and we looked at wedding photos of Judith’s recent ceremonies. She had an introduction (traditional ceremony where the two families meet and discuss the dowry/brideprice and celebrate) as well as a Christian wedding in a church. Each ceremony was highly elaborate and I would have been exhausted after having essentially TWO huge weddings in a row. She was a gorgeous bride, though, and did not look stressed out about the events in the least. After photos, we had lunch at Mary’s with all three of her children: Judith, Julian, and Julius. It was a huge feast, again. This time she added kalo to the list of items we had for lunch. I decided I really do not like kalo, no matter how interesting it is as a food source. Halfway through, Ginger got up to use the restroom, and instead of walking all the way around where we were eating, she jumped over the plates on the ground. No one reprimanded her, but I felt everyone inhale sharply like she did something wrong. Oops. The only thing we got corrected for was not eating enough food, again. Once we finished, we took photographs outside and said goodbye. We told Mary how people laugh at us on the matatus when we say “masau” in Luganda. She laughed so hard I thought she might faint. We told her that’s exactly why we do not like to say it. J Haha. After we got on the taxi, we got off early in Ntinda to walk home, we were SO FULL.

July 5th, Monday
Today we went to the foundation early to work on the UNCST papers and figure out where the President’s Office is located. No one seems to know. I am becoming really frustrated with the lack of progress and I am so worried we will not be able to talk to the children at all before it’s time to leave. Oh, bureaucracy! We finished that part of work at the foundation, resolving to come back tomorrow once we have more assistance from a member of parliament. I decided to go home and Ginger stuck around to interview some staff at the foundation. I got all the way home and realized Ginger had the keys. “Shtoof!” In other news, Ginger set fire to the toaster today. I think some of the broken off crumbs at the bottom got a little too hot. At first, I thought it was just someone burning trash, because we often smell smoke. It was controlled, though, and she put it out quickly. It was actually pretty funny.

July 6th, Tuesday
Today we went to Parliament. We met an MP who is going to try to help us by figuring out exactly which President’s office we need to go to, and what other steps we need to take to track the progress of our application. I am getting really discouraged.

We went to the coffee shop to wait until it was close to 5 p.m. because we were meeting Rachel to have dinner at her mother’s house. Ginger decided to go home to get the camera, since we forgot it, and I waited for her at the coffee shop. She came back close to an hour later, and told me she got all the way there before she realized she did not have the keys. Shtoof!!!!

We went to Rachel’s house and her mother, grandmother, sister, two children and a cousin were there to greet us. Her brother, Andrew, came a bit later. Her mother and grandmother are very kind, and immediately showed us photographs of their large family. Rachel’s mother had 10 children, including her, and I recognized many of them in the photos. For dinner, her mother had cooked a huge meal. She had an entire chicken stuffed with onions, tomatoes, peppers, rice, and potatoes which was wrapped inside of banana leaves. This form of cooking is known as “Luwambo,” wherein the food is boiled inside of banana leaves in a pot. She had luwambo chicken stew, matoke, g-nut sauce, more rice, cucumbers, and pineapple. It was the one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It’s hard to rival my Mom’s cooking, and most of the women in my family, but this was absolutely delicious. I was proud of myself for eating so much of it, but apparently the amount I consumed was still not enough. Rachel translated when her Mom asked if there was not enough sugar in the juice because we only drank one glass. I never eat enough to please people, which is amazing to me because I really like food. Rachel’s Mom gave each of us presents before we parted ways. She made us handwoven mats, small enough to be table runners, but the same kind of mats people use to sit on the floor or outside. I LOVE mine so much.

July 7th, Wednesday
Today Moses accompanied us to our second parent’s meeting. He turns out to be a great fit for our project, and he is more than qualified to work with us. He helped us out immensely by translating for parents, because the supervisors and mentors from the foundation did not speak language. We received consent from all the parents, so now we have 2 schools we can use as case studies. We are just waiting for the go-ahead from the president’s office…

Afterwards, we agreed to meet Moses and Sonja at the BBQ Lounge to watch the Germany vs Uruguay match. Silas and Jude came over beforehand and we played cards. I was surprised at how fast they have both learned to play Gin Rummy. Jude even beats us now; he is really good at the game. Germany ended up losing the match, but it was still fun to hang out with friends.

July 8th, Thursday
They are paving roads in Ntinda, which is necessary and it’s nice that the potholes are being filled in, but it means we can’t keep time very well. As we traveled to meet Mary at the taxi park for a parents meeting, and I was really nervous we were going to be super late and upset Mary, who is ALWAYS on time. But we were all stuck in the same jam, so we were all a bit late.

We had our third parent’s meeting, also a success, and figured out where to board a taxi to take us for the fourth (and final) parent’s meeting on Saturday. Then, Sonja, Moses, and Richard came over to our house for dinner and to exchange pictures. We had a nice time talking about the non-profit organization Sonja and Moses hope to establish in Kampala. I wish I had money to donate to their cause because they are both so motivated, and they are caring, intelligent people who I know will go far once they get started. It’s exciting to see someone develop plans for an NGO from the grassroots level. Ginger cooked dinner, which was rice and vegetables, but she used her “Tony Chachere’s Creole Spice” that she brought from home. Everyone enjoyed it, and it was really delicious.

July 9th, Friday
Today we split up again, and Ginger went to an observation while I stayed home working with Moses. We worked on coding, grading tests, organizing consent forms and assent forms, and entering information into a database. We are really running out of time quickly now and I am starting to get sad that my time here is almost finished. How has so much time passed so quickly??

We had girl’s night with Sonja and Joan. We all met at the coffee shop, while Joan was still working. We had sandwiches there, and then we walked to the Grand Imperial Hotel to see live music. The musicians were really talented, but every now and then they sing a really old hokey song like Bette Midler’s song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” The power went out a few times, but the band kept singing and playing the drums and tambourine. Keeping the beat in the darkness. It was awesome and tons of fun.

July 10th, Saturday
Today we got up early and went to our fourth and final parent’s meeting. In retrospect, we were lucky that the first three went swimmingly, because this one was a letdown. Only one parent came and all the students said they were boarders, so they never go home until it’s a holiday, and thus they could not possibly take the invitations home to their parents. I’m not sure how this mix-up occurred but it was not very encouraging. Plus, we spent money on cakes and sodas for 80 people. We could not return the cakes, but we successfully returned the sodas to the local store. We gave the mentor and supervisors the surplus cakes to take home to their families. It’s actually not a complete catastrophe, because we have so little time left that 3 schools might be all we can handle. I just feel bad for the students who thought they were going to be a part of the case study and now might feel let down. They get so excited when we visit them, and this school was particularly great. Maybe next year? J We went to watch the conciliatory soccer match between Germany and Uruguay with some friends at “Just Kicking” then came home.

July 11th, Sunday
For breakfast, Ginger made biscuits in the oven, but it is close to impossible to control the temperature so they did not rise properly. Instead they were round balls, which tasted good but did not look like biscuits at all. We referred to them as biscuit-balls. A friend, Pharouk, stopped by for awhile. He is currently studying in Tampa, Florida, and home for summer break. He went to Dubai for a month recently, and I am jealous.

We were very tired but we really wanted to go to the final match to watch Spain play the Netherlands. We decided to go somewhere we’d never been, the Rock Catalina. We had great seats because we got there early and we sat right in front of the big projector screen. The air was electric with excitement from the crowd, and I felt connected to everyone there. It has been really neat to be in Africa for the World Cup games because it’s the first time the World Cup has been held on African soil. People were betting, badgering each other, blowing their vuvuzela’s and having a great time. Two minutes toward the end of the match, everyone around us starting getting text messages saying there was a bomb at the Rugby Club. At first no one believed it, but then the texts got more frantic. The game was almost over, but people began leaving, when they heard news of the second bomb at the Ethiopian Village. I was uncertain what was going on, all I knew was we probably needed to leave because it likely was not safe if someone bombed the Rugby Club. I could not believe it because we have watched at least 2 matches at the Rugby Club and it just did not seem possible that something like that could happen there. On the way home, people were scurrying home from all the restaurants along the way. When we got home we could hear the emergency sirens and ambulances reverberating throughout the city. I was exhausted, and somewhat rattled so I went straight to bed without knowing exactly what happened.

Friday, July 2, 2010

June 22-July 1: Ginger's Birthday Week!!

Tuesday June 22nd
Nothing much today. We worked and wrote all day about our weekend, went to the store, and worked on finances. Surprisingly, we are spending well within our budget.

Wednesday June 23rd
We split up today because writing is taking us so very long. Ginger went to an evaluation and I stayed home working. Later, I traveled into town alone, and met Ginger at a Chinese restaurant. I decided to be brave and order meat. I like the atmosphere of the restaurant, but the food was gross. I felt bad because Ginger was so excited, but I did not like mine. It was like fake, processed, rubbery chicken. And the meals don’t come with rice. I thought all Chinese food comes with rice? How bizarre, right? From now on I will stick to ordering vegetarian.

When we got home we divided up tasks. I worked on the test we are piloting for the foundation. I really like constructing surveys. Who knew? We are going to have measurable data soon, and we will be able to provide the foundation with an evaluation tool. Hopefully the test will go smoothly!!

Thursday June 24th
I finally finished writing, and was preparing to leave for a school evaluation when the supervisor called and cancelled. Instead, I went to Mulago Hospital to use the printer/copier at the School of Public Health. At some internet cafes, if you want to print, the employees access your flash drive for you. The same is true at the Mulago printing services. It’s frustrating to try to explain what you want to print (what folder/title) sometimes. When I came home, I prepared envelopes for the mentors to give out the pilot test, and organized parental, adult, and child consent forms for our parents meeting in the morning.

Our friends Jude and Peter came over, and we watched Hot Tub Time Machine. I realized there are lots of homosexual scenes that are “funny” in American comedies. It really is not that funny. Afterwards we played cards, Gin Rummy, and Jude and I conspired to throw a surprise party for Ginger on Wednesday with a cake, instead of celebrating on Friday. She has no idea!!!
P.S. I am so thankful that my step-dad, Mike, handed me a deck of cards as I walked out the door to the airport. They are such a hit here! Yay for serendipity!

Friday June 25th
This morning we got on the wrong matatu and realized it once we failed to recognize our surroundings. I was on some other planet, thinking about the parents meeting we were on our way to conduct, and the mentor meeting after. It seemed like a lot to try to do in one day.
We took a boda to meet Mary, and another boda to the school. Most women sit sidesaddle on their bodas here, in an effort to maintain their dignity. Women almost all wear skirts, too. Mary is comfortable with herself, and therefore, hikes up her skirt to straddle her boda for safety’s sake. She will ask the driver to lean the bike way over, so she doesn’t have to lift her leg up very high. I think it’s great. She is also as afraid of riding them as I am. Haha.

The parents meeting went surprisingly well. The students decorated the school with bouquets of fresh cut flowers, signs welcoming us, and toilet-paper-streamers were hung from the trees and windows. I felt so honored. I am not used to being treated so formally and welcomed like royalty. The students had songs with accompanying dance moves that they sang and danced for us. The first song welcomed the visitors, the second was about unity in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the last was asking for help in the fight. The performance brought tears to my eyes. I was so moved, as we stood there in what I like to the call the firing squad line. We stand against the wall of a school house in a line, facing the students and staff to introduce ourselves at most observations we go to. We often end up answering questions in such a line, but today we were just observing their welcoming ceremony.

Then, they sang the national anthem. Their beautiful voices were interrupted by the sound of an angry chicken, and I looked to my right to see two young men wrestling a chicken to the ground. Ginger said, “Don’t look they’re probably going to slaughter it.” Despite her warning, I could not look away. I even got my camera ready. After the song, they carried the chicken hanging upside down my its talons. It was alive, but not struggling, just clucking away. I thought, “are they seriously about to slaughter a chicken in front of all of us without a bucket to catch the blood?” Then, I thought, “Why are they only going to slaughter one, there are over 70 people here! That won’t be enough meat. Is the chicken just for us?!” My mind was running wild, and I had the camera ready, but the director of the school explained that the school generates income by raising chickens, making paper necklaces, and signs. They use the chickens as a learning exercise as well. Oh. Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

The parents meeting went extremely well. We walked around and assisted the parents, answering their questions. Many asked to me to help them come to America, send their children to America, or with help paying their school fees. So many people here need money or assistance just sending their children to school. One man who is a guardian of 5 children asked me how the ones he can’t pay for will benefit from SAS. I told him we are hoping to see whether or not students in the program are sharing the knowledge with children who are not in school. It’s sad. Then, we had a meeting with all the mentors. Ginger described my speech explaining how to proctor the test like “blowing a dandelion in the wind.” It felt like that to me to, as they are not very active listeners and I spoke to a sea of blank faces. I hope it works. Either way, the ball is rolling on interviews, parental consent for focus groups, and our pilot test. Woo-hoo!

Saturday June 26th
Today we went shopping. I really needed some jeans to protect me from mosquitoes, and we both needed a break from work. We went to the grocery store to buy cake mix and cheese afterward. They take your bag from you at the entrance, and at nice grocery stores they give you a number for the cubby hole your stuff is in. It’ good that they do that, because otherwise I would walk out and forget my bag.

Later, I went out with Rachel and she took me to the coolest place. I think the place is called Abracadabra, and they have a dance floor in front of a stage. The curtain was pulled-to and they had a projector showing the USA vs. Ghana match. The game was particularly intense, and I felt odd being the only American, so I cheered for Ghana. I honestly would prefer if Ghana won, since the World Cup is in Africa for the first time. Ghana was the only African country still in the running. After they won, the live music began. They have traditional dancers, and songs, but they have a huge band with people playing a multitude of instruments: brass, drums, guitar, keyboard, bongos, tambourines, flutes, etc. It was so much fun. I was the only muzungu there, and I danced anyway. You cannot come to Africa and not dance. They had specific traditional dances for each tribe, and the dancers changed outfits accordingly. You can tell who belongs to which tribe, because people who are not members of the tribe leave the dance floor for that song. As far as the Ugandan night scene goes, this was the most fun night I have had. So many other places play rap songs and booty-dance. This place was awesome, and I loved it. My friend Rachel kept telling people I was a Ugandan who traveled away for school, so that is why I have such a funny accent. Haha

Sunday June 27th
Today Ginger went out to watch Germany play with Sonja and Moses. Before she left I texted all of our friends to invite them to her surprise party on Wednesday. I stayed home and made banana bread, which burnt on the bottom. You cannot maintain temperature easily with our gas stove. The bread was really good, though, minus the bottoms. Sort of like muffin tops!

Monday June 28th
I am so excited about Ginger’s birthday. I think everyone is going to come! Today, we stopped by Roses house to ask her to take our water cistern to fill it at the store. She offered to do it when we bought it, with her car. We decided to bring her some banana bread, and I think she liked it. She would break of a piece, and toss it underhand to various family members to try. Her mother-in-law was visiting from Eritrea.

Her mother-in-law is very interesting. She has long curly black hair, and the most interesting hairstyle. The way it is braided reminds me of the way we used to wear our hair for dance competitions. Instead of French braids, however, she has twists that are raised up. Beside the large twists are a series of 3 tiny braids. The braids/twists stop halfway up by rubberbands, and the rest of her hair flows in big wavy curls down past her shoulders. She is striking and exotic looking. I enjoyed talking to them and we had coffee again, which is so delicious. Ginger and I realized we do not know much about Eritrean etiquette and we were uncertain if we overstayed our welcome. It is hard to leave Rose’s house quickly. They gave us finger-food she brought from Eritrea. We tried some toasted oat-type thing, and another dried fruit with an enormous seed in the middle. I put the whole thing in my mouth without realizing it had a seed, and Rose told me not to bite down. I probably would have broken a tooth. It’s funny, they just throw the seeds on the table, without placing them on a plate. I like that.

We went to Mulago hospital to make copies again, because the parents requested copies of the consent forms. We went by the craft shop that supports patients with HIV and others receiving various care at the hospital. I bought lots of presents. J Then, we went to the café, which also helps support patients. I like to try to support them by purchasing crafts and food in the café. We had bagels, too! (Bagels are non-existent in most places, including the grocery).

Tuesday June 29th
Today we met with Moses for a training session. He is going to work with us on our project. I think he is going to be a great fit, and I am really excited to have a male research partner who is informed about Ugandan culture. His perspective is imperative to our work here.

Later, we all met up to go to the Ugandan National Theatre to celebrate his new employment. Sonja, Moses, Ginger, Richard and I all met for dinner beforehand. We ate at this great Indian place, and we all got vegetarian plates (minus Richard). We shared like we were family. We all dug in to try everyone else’s food. It was delicious. None of us finished, except for Richard, and I honestly do not know how he fit all that rice inside of him. We asked him if he had a food baby, and then Ginger had to explain what that phrase means again. Haha. Afterwards we saw live music outside at the Theatre. The band (Percussion Discussion) was pretty good, but nowhere near as talented and vibrant as the band I saw with Rachel.

Wednesday June 30th
Happy Birthday Ginger! I left with the phone to work with the foundation. I made a series of phone calls and ran out of airtime, so I had to buy more. I am not used to having to constantly pay for a phone. There is no way to do it online, so you buy scratch off cards with minutes at booths on the road. It looks like the surprise party is a go! Jude is picking up some Black Forrest cake from the Sheraton Hotel. I am going to take her to dinner, then suggest we meet up with him when he calls. Everyone will be waiting at Fatboyz, this bar down the street from our house.
Work-wise, I got a lot done today. I interviewed an administrator at the foundation, and went to two schools with Robert. We have successfully planned 3 more parent meetings. Now all we need is for the UNCST to approve our project so we can conduct focus groups with children!
The Thai place we went to for her birthday dinner was excellent. It had gorgeous landscaping and swift service. The food was outstanding. I was so happy it went so well. Ginger had a mango-martini to celebrate and it was out of this world tasty! A few people kept calling asking where we were, and one guy sent a text saying he couldn’t make it, which Ginger read. I turned off the phone completely, so that she would not be totally aware of what was going on. I tried to pretend like I did not know they were up to. I told her we should leave to unravel the mystery! Then, we went to Fatboyz. Everyone came, minus a few people who were sick. It was so much fun. The DJ played Ginger the happy birthday song, we ate cake, and danced. Several people brought her presents, and even people we know have very little money came with gifts. It was so nice. One guy said he bought her something to remember him by, when she opened it there was a wooden carving of a gorilla inside the bag. We laughed and laughed. I’m so very glad she had a great birthday and that she was surprised. You can tell how great a friend she is and how many people love her, even after they’ve only known her a short while.

Thursday July 1st
How is it already July!? I worked today in the field, and Ginger stayed home to work on job applications. We are running out of time!

I went to the foundation, made more copies of invitations, and picked up some of the pilot tests. Four mentors turned them in early (they are due tomorrow). I flipped through them, and it looks like they are filled out properly. Some of the seeds from our “dandelion” made it safely!! After work, I went to the National Theatre and bought more presents. As soon as our research project gets approved to interview children, we are going to be working non-stop and I want to be sure I have stuff to bring home before it is too late for leisure activities. We worked all night writing and I feel so hopeful that we will get everything done on time.