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, May 31, 2011

5/28-30; Days 3-5

In the middle of the night, Ginger hit her head on our headboard and it was so loud that I heard it through my earplugs. Soon after the power came back on and Nicole got up to turn off the lights. Ginger yelled out to turn off the light in the bathroom, I think she thought she was in the room she stayed in last year. I told her that was the kitchen and she said, “Oh, I’m disoriented.”

When we woke up we ate breakfast outside: toast and tea. It was a beautiful morning. We finally started to get moving and I noticed some activity in our compound: the Eritreans were decorating their cars with orange banners and they were holding elaborate flower bouquets. I called to Ginger and Nicole to come look because I thought it was a wedding party. Soon we saw the bride and her bridesmaids who wore orange dresses. We got brave enough to go outside and see if we knew anyone because we didn’t recognize anyone yet. After a while I went inside, which is when Ginger saw Rose, and she invited all three of us to the wedding reception for her niece. We were so excited to be invited to the reception. I love how serendipitous invitations to events are in Uganda, you just end up seeing someone and they invite you places you wouldn’t otherwise go.

Afterwards we went to the supermarket, which has really evolved since last summer. On the way home, Nicole slipped on the loose dirt road. She split her pants at the knee and scraped her hand. I felt bad, but it was sort of funny because she fell in extremely slow motion and I saw it happen. We only lost one egg, a quart of milk, and soy sauce, but Nicole was carrying much more than that. I’m glad she didn’t fall on the bag directly and cut herself on the broken glass.

I went all over the place to find internet before someone told me I can upload it on the SIM card in our phone. In moments like those, I remember that there is still so much I have yet to learn. Ginger and Nicole bought a wedding gift: a glass pitcher, glasses and some homemade peach preserves Ginger brought from her mom’s cupboard.

The wedding reception was awesome! The Eritreans were wearing western dresses or their traditional gowns which are white, with hoods, and made out of some almost see-through fabric that looks like it would be light and soft to the touch. I wanted to feel the fabric, but didn’t. They have elaborate colors and embroidery on the arms and down the center. I love the traditional hairdo for women. I want to do my hair like that sometime. Nicole mentioned how their flowy dresses are individualized with embroidery yet maintain their traditional custom of group identity. She pointed out that they allow the female body and image to be beautiful without being form fitting and revealing, like western dress. She's right and they are absolutely gorgeous women. See photos!

Despite the fact the bride and groom were Pentecostal converts, the rest of the guests danced after the cake was cut. We laughed because Rose warned us there would be no dancing. Because they are immigrants from Eritrea, at celebrations like weddings here in Uganda anyone of Eritrean descent is invited. It reminds me of Hafli’s in America that I’ve gone to. Actually, they also make the “yee-yee-yee-yee…” sound in unison, like I’ve heard at many Lebanese/Arabic functions, which made it seem more familiar. We ate too much, because the food is delicious. It's very similar to Ethiopian food. In retrospect we should have shared a plate. Kitufu!

I’ve been having extremely vivid nightmares, which I attribute to the anti-malarials. I hope they stop soon. Today we walked to town and we were stopped by the police after Nicole took a picture of a round-about. Nothing too serious came of it, and I really feel like they were just stopping us to exercise their power and probably wanted to talk to muzungus. The guard was smiling the whole time and his body language did not suggest that we were in trouble. I think it scared Nicole the most because it was her first venture to town and he was holding a large rifle. We are used to police officers with small guns, although to me it’s a gun either way. I think it’s also more intimidating because the guns are in their hands instead of strapped in a holster. It feels a little ominous to walk past armored trucks that hold tear gas, and see so many more officers with large rifles as they are much more prevalent this year.

We walked to 1000 Cups where we were reunited with Joan and shared some lunch. I already want to buy gifts. Please let me know what you might want me to bring back for you! We talked to some students from the University of Michigan. They have a mandatory 3 week cultural awareness class for undergrads, which I think is fantastic.

Moses and Richard came over for dinner. It’s Moses and Sonja’s 2 year anniversary on Tuesday, so they skyped and he opened the presents I brought from her when we met in Amsterdam. I don’t think they’d seen each other in real time since February so it was really special. After dinner, we gave Richard and Moses the baseball t-shirts Mom helped me find for them. They loved them so much and argued over who should get red or blue. I was so glad we found those for them.

Not much today. We walked to the post-office and Nicole is having problems with her debit card. Since it’s Memorial Day we can’t do much to address the issue until tomorrow. We ate at an Indian restaurant, where the three of us shared one plate. It was still enough to make us all full and I forgot how large the portions are here. Nicole took her first boda, which was during a high period of traffic. The drivers, in true form, went the wrong way on the round-abouts. I think Nicole is adjusting very well, and she seems to be much more confident than I was in the first week. I’m glad to see that she already is falling in love with being here. I am really happy to be here with both Nicole and Ginger.

Last night, Ginger drafted a letter of complaint with KLM/Delta and I only made a few changes before we sent it. The letter was actually pretty tame, despite how annoyed we were with our service. In other news, we joked about Nicole needing a full body cast because she has so many scrapes and unidentifiable bites, and we have been counting our mosquito bites (which are easy to identify). I have 10 so far. One funny story, in conclusion: There are over 1000 species of birds here, which is amazing for such a small country. As a result, we see and hear all kinds of birds in our compound. Nicole has been similarly fascinated about this fact since we arrived, and we both love the one that sounds like it’s laughing. So she often asks about what kind of birds are here. In the middle of the day, she said, “What kind of bird is that!?” to which I replied, “That’s actually a baby.”


1 comment:

  1. Birds, babies, bugs, who can tell really? I'm so glad you all are having fun thus far. The wedding sounds like it was beautiful. I wish you would have touched the dress, like "Oh hello there, this is beautiful, may I touch you, just a quick one?"

    I laughed when I read about Nicole's fall. I love her dearly, but everything is funny in slow motion. When we spoke I thought her pants rip was in a different location. I am glad to know it was the knee!

    I can't wait to hear more about your adventures. I like how I can triangulate stories with all your blogs now! love and miss you always.