* sorry in advance for the grammar and the just the stream of consciousness that this is*
Tuesday September 30, 2014
Happy Birthday Dad! So I’ve been at site about two months now. And in that time two babies have died. The second one died last night and no one knows why. It’s unsettling. I’m drowning my feelings in a cheeseburger and I don’t care. ( “ I wish they would die before I could love them”, one of the caregivers had said)
So I’ve noticed I’ve been chatting a lot on here about my thoughts and feelings and that’s all great. But I really want to use this blog to catch a snap shot of Uganda, for me and for you. So I’m going to try to tell more stories.
So I’ve started taking porridge. Millet porridge to be exact. It’s really just a cup of bread and sugar but I like it. My neighbors think it’s funny that I just make a cup for myself. The babies eat a version of it that’s fortified with sim sim and other things to give it a boost. I don’t understand the aversion to vegetables here. They’re ok with the legumes and the carbs but tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and other things are just unheard of. I suggest them at our nutrition meetings and get shot down every time. It’s weird. We beg kids to eat broccoli and here it’s not even around.
A girl from another organization just arrived in Uganda a few days ago and had the misfortune of having dinner with all of us. We were in a little bit of “here’s what’s wrong with Uganda” chat and when you’re here for 2 days it’s really not what you need to here. Yeah PCVs get really bitter at times, but that’s just because it’s everyday. It’s not just a month, it’s not just a few weeks, and it’s not ever going to drastically change while we’re here. So yeah, people get bitter. But we really should have reigned it in a tad for the poor kid.
Things we struggle with (from that conversation at least) :
the Muzungu price--people always expect that you have more money because you are a muzungu. Which is very true. Middle class Ugandans v. Middle class americans are not the same. So stop trying to act like you are. Generally we don’t mind paying a bit more than the locals but not 10x more like some vendors/carpenters/taxi drivers try.
Sexism: A raging feminist in Uganda is going to have a hell of an adjustment period. Don’t kneel if you don’t want to. But sometimes it’s very awkward not to.
Catcalling: It’s funny, it’s annoying, it’s flattering, it’s gross, all at once. Much like America. I had a Ugandan woman stand up for me when I walked by a construction site.
“Leave the Muzungu alone. Why are you disturbing her?” You go, nneabo, you go.
We did tell the newbie what all the common things men throw at women when they walk by.
“My size!” and the “scratch the palm” thing. UGH
“My size!” and the “scratch the palm” thing. UGH
There’s always dust everywhere. Even in the wet season. I wore lip stick the other day cause I missed it and then immediately regretted it when a thin layer of dust covered my month. Gross. My feet will also never be clean again. Ever.
If I could redo that conversation all over again, I’d have added this section as well.
Things we love about Uganda:
Everyone wants to help you get where you are going. Even if you turn down the boda men ( instead of having taxis all over town, Uganda and much of Africa have motorcycles that will take you wherever. Peace Corps Headquarters does not allow us to take them.) will tell you where to go. It might be “just there” which isn’t extremely helpful but if you’re really confused usually you can get someone to walk you there. Sometimes they ask for money, sometimes they don’t.
Local Food. Local food can be awesome or awful depending on the occasion or the creativeness of the cook. I hate matoke with a passion but it’s there at every meal. Matoke, rice, posho (like mashed rice somehow) irish, that is considered food. Anything else (beans, peas, what) is called the soup. So if they ask me what I had for dinner and I tell them I made cow peas with tomato and onion they will immediately say “Eh! But where is the food?” Highlights of local food is the pillow (fried rice), street chicken (so good, usually at home they roast and then boil but if it’s on the street it’s roasted and salted), samosa ( I stand by my statement that uchumi vegetable samosa is phenomenal, come at me PCVs), cabbage ( I don’t know what they do to this but it’s awesome and I can never recreate it), pork (hell yes to pork), fried Kasava ( another potato like vegetable with salt), ROLEX ( The PCV go to, chiapatti with fried egg, cabbage onion tomato. It’s like a breakfast burrito and if you put mustard on it it’s fantastic).
You are always invited everywhere. Sometimes it’s weird when you’re at a wedding for someone you don’t know or whatever but how many times in America have you been like “Oh, is it ok that I go? Will it be weird? Did I know them well enough?” In uganda you just go. It’s fun and no one questions why you’re there. Like one of the women’s father died and we drove all over god’s green earth looking for the funeral to support her. We stopped at 3 different funerals and none of them was the right one but that’s beside the point. (Side note: if you are planning on using the “my mother died” excuse to get out of work in Uganda, don’t. Your boss will find you.)
People take care of each other. I never worry about my laundry when I go to town and it’s still on the line. If it rains, my neighbors take it and vice versa. I make too much food, I give some to Irene. She makes too much, I get food. If they don’t see me cook, someone passes me a plate. Food is love, people. Food is love.
Jury is still out about how we generally feel about the cleaniness. Some things they over clean and some things they underclean by American standards. Like we mop the floor 35 times a day and have to sit on a mat and not directly on the concrete. Then there’s garbage all over the streets. Handwashing is not really a thing and babies pee everywhere but you have to bathe at least twice a day. I’m just confused most of the time and have come to the conclusion that I will never know. It’s fine.