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.

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.

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