Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Favorite Things:

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Dan and Winnie crawling under my mosquito net to braid my hair. 



Right - so clearly we're not under my mosquito net and Winnie's not in the picture... you get the idea. Winnie had to go eat dinner so Dan took on the task alone while I did some work online. (Dan's work is more like dreadlocks than braiding... but very effective!) I LOVE being loved by these kids!!!

In case you're wondering why my room looks like a tornado hit it - it's because it did - sorta. I did three loads of laundry today, they didn't get halfway dry before it started raining, again. So we have a make-shift clothesline situation going on plus a packing situation which seems to have exploded (normal for me). Fun times!

Extremities...

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Honestly - sometimes I look at them and think they must be attached to someone else's body... or maybe an animal's body?





Tuesday, February 28, 2012

more more more...

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I've been writing with an actual pen and paper as electricity's been sparse, but still haven't had time to get anything written on this machine. So frustrating to me.

As my days at the Kyabirwa Primary School come to an end, the people seem to becoming more attached to me (and me to them).

Collin (or Collins - depending on who you ask), the little guy who comes to work with his mama, has finally taken to me. Originally I couldn't decide whether he hated me, was afraid of me (which is VERY common here - kids are afraid of white people, they just never see them) or whether he was embarrassed to be seen with me.  For the last few days he's made it his personal mission to find me somewhere between break time and lunch time, climb on my lap, and have his little face touched until he falls asleep in my arms. I'm not sure who loves it more, me or him...

I've still never heard Colin speak, never seen him smile or even so much as seen an expression from his eyes. I feel so lucky to know that he feels safe with me.

Me and "my boy" as the staff now commonly refers...
Only three more days of working here. I cannot imagine my days without them.

That being said, I am ready to move on. I am just praying I find experiences as rich as this has been as my little adventure continues.
Majid took this picture of me yesterday and said "you look beautiful, but your head is somewhere else."  He's right. I'm so in love with this place but ready for a good night's sleep and a warm shower. (Though, not actually sure when I'm going to find either of those things... :) )

"Church" - Uganda Style

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Don't get me wrong, Ugandan's do church properly. I don't. Instead, I chase butterflies through rain forests on mountain bikes. Perfectly spiritual for a girl like me.

Words cannot describe the beauty - neither can the pictures.


Butterflies as big as my head, no joke. 
I miss my bike something fierce!!!


Strangler figs in action. So wild... 
Dirty girl. When I got home Moses looked at me, laughed, and said "you are a different girl..." I took it as a compliment. 
Suffice to say, a 6 mile run followed by a four hour mountain bike ride (where no other human contact was made, VICTORY for me!) made for a VERY good night's sleep.

PS - Either my mountain bike skills are better in Uganda, or there's no one around to prove otherwise. :) Either way, it was a fantastic day for me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

So much to say...

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And SO little electricity.

Day 4 - nothin'. Going crazy.

Side note - I now understand why people in the African villages have so many kids... THERE'S NOTHING ELSE TO DO!

:-)

Oh, Gods of Electricity, please shine on me...

Monday, February 20, 2012

A (work)day in the life...

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(Posts like these are mostly for me cause I'm afraid I'm gonna forget what all of this was like within a couple of months... Sorry if it's boring to you!)

I haven’t felt like writing in about two months. I can’t believe I left home 51 days ago. Feels like forever and feels like no time at all. What’s changed since I’ve been gone? What hasn’t changed?

I am certain that nothing’s changed in Uganda in the last 100 years. I’m reading The Last King of Scotland while I’m here. It’s a trip to read a depiction of a westerner’s view of Uganda from 1975 and find myself thinking “that’s EXACTLY what it looks like now!!!” The country hasn’t changed in the last 25 years! But then, I look around and realize that the people I live around are still inhabiting mud huts and I realize… it’s been a LONG time since they’ve seen any change in these parts. All of that being said – I appreciate its simplicity.

Little things pop into my mind during my daily activities and I realize that I NEED to write them down, but they always plop into my head at the worst possible moment! While I have far fewer responsibilities here than I did at home, I am feeling like I have SO much less time. So strange. It’s probably because 1) life revolves around when I have electricity, and 2) life revolves around when it’s raining, or when it’s rained. Both will alter the course of my day. For example, I was supposed to go to Jinja today (I’ve run out of water…) but it rained, POURED this afternoon. When you live in a village of dirt and it POURS, you end up in a village of MUD. Boda’s can’t drive in mud (as I learned on Saturday night when I took one home from town, got stuck, had to jump off the boda in about a FOOT of SUPER SLIMY MUD - didn’t fall!!!-  and help push the thing out. All in the dark, in a skirt, in flip-flops!!! J) Bodas are cheap – it’ll cost me $2.40 to go to town on a boda, whereas taking an actual cab will cost me almost $9!!! I can’t justify spending 20 bucks to go to town and back. So I didn’t. I walked to Bujagali in some AMAZING “wellies” (giant, plastic boots… serious fashion statement) as to avoid an incredibly sticky mud situation on the bottom half of my body.

So, to illustrate “no responsibility” but “super busy," here is what the last 36 hours of my life looked like.

Yesterday:

8:00 AM: Wake up, eat breakfast with all of the kids, in my room. Teach them about hot chocolate. Make them hot chocolate. Enjoy (FUN!!! They like the milk better than the chocolate, weirdoes.)


9:30 AM: Clean room and wash clothes for two hours (only get 1/3 of the clothes washed… oh, well…)


11:45 AM: Cold, dark shower.

12:30 PM: Take a cab to meet Lydia, the family’s second oldest daughter who is away at boarding school between Jinja and Kampala. Stop at the taxi driver’s home for him to “change clothes” (for 30 minutes). Sit, uncomfortably in the car as he piles family members (FIVE of them!) into the car with the four of us who were already there (yes, this is a TAXI, i.e., 1985 Toyota Tercel, no joke - not a bus). Drive around Jinja four 45 minutes while he drops them in their respective destinations. Fume in the back seat with a 7 year old on my lap.

3:00 PM: Get to the school for “visiting day.” Feel awkward as thousands of Ugandan families look at me and wonder what the hell I’m doing there. Meet Lydia who is absolutely FANTASTIC. See the school (sorta), meet some of Lydia’s friends. Fun fun fun.
That storm in the background DID get us about 5 minutes later...  Oh, and that "chicken on a stick" was bought from some dude selling them on the street, from the car window. I didn't even have to open the door. It was SO GOOD!

4:30 PM: Drive home. Stop at the gas station in the middle of nowhere because they owe the cab driver 20 USD. (So odd…)

4:45 PM: Upon arrival at home, see a football match going on at the school. Go watch it with Maureen. Again, the entire village is there – enjoy being the spectacle as the Ugandans wonder why in the world the mzungu is there. (No joke, 1,000 Africans, and me!!! I swear, I GLOW!!!)

5:30 PM: Go home. Walk in my room, see two villagers walk by with a teeny baby. RUN OUT. Hold baby. Fall in love. Find out that her father is dead and her mother is mad (crazy). Feel the weight of the world as I realize that I cannot save this sweet girl. Give her all the love I have in me for two hours as she sleeps on my chest. When I’m forced to give her back, I walk with the heavy heart back to my room and contemplate how to get her to the US. Sadness.
Don't even get me started... 

MINE.

8:15 PM: Eat dinner in my room with Daniel, listening to music. The 7 year old and I talk and laugh about nothing. Love him.

9:30 PM: Close my door to the outside world, allow myself to try to process the day. (Feel a little sad, honestly.) Jump online... blah blah blah...

10:30 PM: Do some yoga and sit-ups on the cement floor.

11:30 PM: Sleep.

6:30 AM: Wake up. Pig outside. Cold, dark shower.  Check email.

7:30 AM: Breakfast, COFFEE, ask again about my orphan baby… try not to cry. 

8:15 AM: Walk to school. PE with the mass of 7 year olds (120 of them!) Teach them how to relay race. LAUGH A LOT!


10:30 AM: Break time! Porridge, MMMMM…
Yes, porridge in the cup. I love it. Africans are shocked. So am I.

 11:15 AM: Teach the parts of the car in English to 150 11 year olds. Show off my AWFUL art skills.

12:50 PM: Lunch time, eat with the teachers (sweet potatoes and beans). Usually I walk home for lunch, today was an exception. Teach the teachers the art of the “mocha” – laugh inside at the fact that every single African I’ve introduced the mocha to HATES it, but pretends they like it.

2:00 PM: Finish art project with Majid – the flag of the East African Community (I’m not sure WHY they think I’m an artist! I AM NOT!!!) Laugh inside again (hysterically) when he tells me that there is no glue, but that we can use the porridge!!! (Yes, the porridge I just poured into my body…)
"Porridging" the white stripes to the flag. It worked!

No scissors either - pocket-knife to the rescue!

3:00 PM: Help with installing the new TV/DVD player that one of the Brits donated. Pretty fancy!


3:30 PM: Realize I might be settling into this place as I try to sneak out of school early – forgetting that I’m GLOWING WHITE. Get caught. Stay till it’s time to leave. Ha! Dangit!

4:30 PM: Walk to Bujagali with 7 children attached to my arm. Tell those that ask for money that they are “RUDE!” Feel better even though they don’t understand what I’m saying. Enjoy having them hold onto me, no matter how dirty their hands are or what their motive is. 

5:00 PM: Arrive at Bujagali. 

PS - Upon arrival at home tonight I was greeted by a few of the fam in the "kitchen." When I asked how their day was, John (12 years old) responded "Not good." When I asked why he said "It was Danny's birthday today!!!" Yep, today was Dan's 7th birthday and EVERYONE (including the KID and his parents) forgot!!! Dan wasn't bummed, he sat there giggling. I told him I would do a proper birthday song and dance for him tomorrow (when we have some light). I freakin' LOVE Uganda!!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

14 Reasons to Fall in Love with Kyabirwa...

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Collins - too young for school, but comes with his mama, one of our teachers. He's not upset. He just looks like this. 
Yes, I have a favorite. I can't help it. Don't judge.

The boda - my favorite form of transportation EVER - I was going to town from school - people just kept piling on! SO MUCH FUN. I am getting a vespa FOR SURE when I get home. 

So beautiful to me. Collecting wood for porridge. 

Again, collecting wood for porridge. Every single kid showed up with one of these sticks on my first day and I didn't know why. I seriously thought they were planning a coup.

My dear friend, Magid - learning to use the computer and doing SO WELL!!!

I walked by this every day for two weeks and didn't realize what it was...  duh. 

Joy. (Enough said...)

Mary, Rhona, and Joy - some of the best people in the world. 

Jackfruit, as viewed from the inside!

Shaffik

Again, Shaffik. I couldn't decide which picture was cuter. 

Sanitation at its best... 

Where I am right now - In Jinja, watching the thunderstorms pass me by, sipping wine, writing - loving life. 

Uncharted (well, sorta...)

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Here I sit at the Source CafĂ© in Jinjatown. I’ve got what I’ve appropriately deemed the best treat in Africa to my right, the iced latte, as well as fizzy water (the addiction lives on). The $10 African phone sits to my left, replacing the iPhone that I was certain I would die without.

A bus just pulled up outside and let 50 Americans off to come use the restroom and get coffee. I’m annoyed. I don’t know why… they are just so… touristy. They don’t know this place – I’m almost offended by their voyeurism. But then, they’re nice. They’re just like me, happy to see someone they can relate with. They stop and ask me what I’m drinking, they say hello… kinda nice, actually.

Sara Bareilles serenades me “…my burden to bear is a love I can’t carry anymore.”

I’m happy. Here. Now.

As is standard, a million questions plague my mind. Where have I been? What have I done? Where am I going? What will I do? Who will be there with me? How will I make money? And then, almost as quickly as they’ve entered my mind, they’re gone again. They don’t linger, they don’t press on me. There is no fear. Instead, wonder swirls around me like fairy dust. I’m so excited.

I can say a few things for sure. I love Jinja. I love Kyabirwa Village and the school and the teachers. I love the children and their mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters. I love the family I live with. I could not be more grateful for the experiences, the lessons they’ve taught me. Mostly, I could not be more grateful for how much and how well they love me. I can’t imagine leaving them. But then, I can’t imagine not leaving them.

One of the 4 million gifts I’ve been granted by some higher power with this journey is the ability to truly follow my gut. My gut says, “Go, see what else is out there.” So I will. I’ve only been here for a little over two weeks. I will leave my new little family in two weeks with a very heavy heart. I’m telling myself I’ll be back someday. Ohhhh, I hope I am. These people, this place have taught me so much.

So you want to know where I’m going?

Next weekend (assuming the nasty little cut on my knee has healed) I will raft The Nile (which I’ve been staring at for the last two weeks). I’ll teach my last week of school and then head up to Sipi Falls – a series of waterfalls at the base of Mt Elgon. Side note: Mt Elgon is on the border of Uganda and Kenya – from the summit you can be in Uganda and Kenya at the same time! Yes, I want to climb it but was told the Ugandan side isn’t safe – both because of gorillas and guerillas (UGH!).

From Sipi Falls I will travel through south Uganda to Rwanda (MY DREAM!!!!!!!). I will visit Kigali for as long as I feel like being there, then head by ground transportation (still haven’t really figured this out yet…) to Arusha. I plan on spending anywhere from three days to three weeks in Arusha (seeing more of the city and visiting friends I made there) before heading to Nairobi.

I will spend as little time as possible in Nairobi before hopping on a plane bound for Delhi, India. YES – INDIA!!! I’ve been doing research, but still feel totally unsure of what I will encounter once I’m there. I plan on doing the traditional tourist “golden triangle” of Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra – maybe more depending on who I meet and what they’re doing. I want to head north to Rishikesh – the yoga capital of the world near the Himalayas (maybe a yoga retreat is in order???). 

I am guessing I will be in India for two to three weeks, unless I find a school to volunteer in – or a reason to stay longer. After India, I will head to Nepal. I will NOT be climbing Everest Base Camp, seeing as I’ve sent all my climbing gear home. I WILL be doing whatever trekking I can do with running clothes and a pair of trail runners. I have heard only the most amazing things about Nepal. I would like to be there for my 34th birthday, but won’t rush to get there.

I will stay in Nepal as long as I feel like being there. I would LOVE to find a place to volunteer for a while. From there, I’ll fly to Thailand. I have very little idea of what I’ll do or how long I’ll actually be there. I plan on spending time in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam and would really like to find a place to live/volunteer (similar to what I’m doing here, in Kyabirwa) to try to dig my heels into the ground and get to know locals again in any of the three countries. (I’m doing research on this now…)

The goal is to take ground transport through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, then to fly from Vietnam to BALI (where, if I get MY WAY, I will meet Virginia and we will finally open our coffee shop!!!). By this time it will probably be mid-summer (I’m totally guessing…).

The obvious next stop? Australia. (MY AUSSIES!!! If you read this before I send the email… I’m planning on visiting you – dead of winter. Brilliant, I know. I’ll try to push it back if I can…) I have no idea where I’ll go in Australia, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have at least two stops to make (two or three weeks?) before I head to the mecca:

New Zealand.

I have no idea what to expect of it (especially since, again – it will be winter…), but I know that I want to spend some time there – both as a tourist and a local, if I can. Every person I know who’s visited New Zealand has told me that I will never want to leave. As the time gets closer, I’ll know more details about what I will do there.

From NZ, I plan on flying home (unless I still have money left, in which case I’ll go touch South America… J J J)

So… this puts me home sometime before 2013! I continue to try to be true to this journey in trying not to set expectations either on the places that I see, the people that I meet, my timeline, or myself. The points are plotted… Here we go!!!


To be clear – Africa has not let me down. I am not leaving because I don’t want to stay; I’m leaving because the draw to see more of the world is stronger than the draw to stay. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My work...

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For those of you who wonder how it's going...

It gives new meaning to the word "love"...

Teaching the Primary 2 class how to play "Duck, duck, goose" today... they LOVED it! There are 120 kids in the class. HILARIOUS!!!




PS - THESE KIDS ARE RIPPED! And they're freakin' FAST! And I love them so... wait, did I already say that???

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A day in the life...

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At Kyabirwa:

I woke up around 7:30. Not optional. I have set my alarm every day during the week without need. The rooster wakes me up. No joke. On the weekends, I lay in bed for half an hour or so… no need to rush. If there’s power I’ll get up and check my mail. Otherwise I just lay under the blue net and think for ½ an hour. I build lists of things I need to do (i.e., figure out where to go next, what to be when I grow up, where I’m going to live when I return to the US… figure out when I’m going to return to the US… little things.) I write my ideas and thoughts down.

I get ready for the day – put on my clothes, brush my teeth, etc… When I’m ready to enter the world (and I really need to be sure I’m ready), I open my door. When my door is open, visitors are fair game – and are likely. Breakfast is on the front porch and is the same thing every single day – without fail: a hard-boiled egg, two pieces of bread (I put butter and jam on them) and a banana. It used to include some kind of Ugandan tea until I bought myself some coffee (yeah, I went 10 day without coffee, and that was ENOUGH.) I love breakfast. It’s more than I ever ate at home for breakfast!

I run on the weekends after breakfast. Today was interesting. I’m already bored of my usual route to Bujagali (despite a couple attempts to get lost), so I asked Moses for a new place to go – the opposite direction. He gave me directions to the dam. Run down the road, past the church, past the other church, turn right, see the dam. Ok…

The problem with running in a new direction is that the villagers don’t know me in that direction… thus, a parade. I’m not sure if I was particularly annoyed this morning, or if the people were worse than usual… but I’m pretty sure I didn’t go more than 1/8th a mile without being asked for money, or for my water bottle, or for my bracelets. The thing is, they’re not even NICE.

Village kid: “Give me money”
Me: “Ummmm, I have no money, I’m running!” (They have no idea what I’ve just said.)
VK: “Give me water”
Me: “No, I need this water it’s HOT out here!”
VK: “Why don’t you give me your bracelet?”
ME: “No, I LOVE this bracelet!”

GRRRRRRRRR… Seriously!!!!  The time I got to myself was spent trying to figure out if I was just a big jerk, or whether I was justified in my frustration. To be totally honest, in my head my response was more like “LISTEN KID, I CAME HERE TO HELP YOU!!! To give you my time. I could have stayed home and sent the money. I left a WHOLE LIFE to be here… a job, a home, a REFRIGERATOR, washer, dryer… dammit, I even had GRANITE COUNTERTOPS… Oh, and FRIENDS!!!”

Ok I’m a jerk.

It’s not their fault. This is what they know. What they’ve been taught. They live in a kind of poverty I wouldn’t have realized was possible before I saw it with my own eyes. They are used to mzungus coming here and passing out stuff – money, food, water, toys, and apparently bracelets. (The funny thing is, no one asked for one of my three necklaces, my watch, or my shoes – the five of the most important items to me.) Most adults won’t ask for anything. They call for the children when they see me and the children run, chasing me down the street not asking, not begging, but demanding something.

I went through the whole scenario in my head, wondering what good it would do for me to give one of those kids my $2 bracelet, 30 cent bottle of water, or money… even a lot of money. Where would it have gone? What good would it have done? I decided today that while I want to help VERY MUCH, I am not interested in perpetuating a situation where children think that every white person on the street is going to give them money. It is not a sustainable answer. (And it’s REALLY annoying!!!)

Funny thing – having kids chase me makes me run faster… so I guess from a training aspect, it’s really good!

I was so happy to return home. I showered (showers are cold, which most of the time presents zero issue since it’s AFRICA hot out here!). A side note, Jinja is DUSTY and the earth here is ORANGE. I’ve had several people say that it is exactly what they expected Africa to look like. I’m not sure what I expected of Africa… Anyway, all of my clothes, my shoes, and my feet are covered in this orange dirt (as is everything else in this village).

A main road... where I sometimes run, and my route to Bujagali. 

Showering includes scrubbing – SCRUBBING (like, I need sandpaper...). Note to anyone who decides to come visit (cause THAT’S gonna happen!) bring a washcloth. I’ve resorted to using the one wool cap that wasn’t sent home as a washcloth. Even with all the scrubbing, I still come out of the shower looking a little bit more like a carrot every day.
That's not a tan line... that there is orange DIRT!
Today was special. I needed to wash clothes. This is my first time actually washing a load (ok, THREE loads) of laundry by hand. I didn’t really know how to do it. Winnie was an AWESOME help. Five hours and a LOT of effort later, 100% of my clothes were (sort-of) clean!!! I could have paid Florence, the mama of the family to do this… but it just didn’t seem right to me. There is NO amount of money worth that work! (I will compensate by paying her extra for all of the amazing meals she’s created for me…)

Winnie-Kins getting water. We are one of VERY FEW lucky ones in the village that don't have to go fetch water... 
Yours truly- hand washing expert. 
Clothes drying, maize drying, chickens pecking, kitchen in the background.
Lunch is always starchy. A potato, some kind of (amazing) banana creation, rice, or ugali. It’s usually accompanied by a peanut sauce or some kind of other sauce. (Clearly, I don’t really know what I’m eating. But seriously – the food is GOOD.) I’ve also become a total fruit mongrel since I’ve been here. If there is fruit in front of me, I will eat it. All of it. I swear I ate an entire pineapple today.

After lunch/washing extravaganza, I walked to Bujagali (the name of the former falls, before a dam was built). I have found myself a cool little hang out about a mile and a half from home. I can eat here for a whopping 3 bucks, plus I get free wifi and (drumroll… ) ELECTRICITY!!! It’s become my backup in case power is out at home (which, I’ve found – it usually is). It’s also packed with Americans, Europeans and Australians – most of them traveling or also volunteering in Africa. It’s a haven to me… just to have people to speak English with.  
Anna - my new Brit friend... and me with a strange looking arm. The Nile behind us. 
When I'm not at Bujagali for dinner, dinner at the house is much the same as lunch. Starchy yumminess. 

When I’m done with Bujagali in a couple of hours, I will catch a boda (a little motor scooter/taxi) home for about $1.45. I was told it’s not super safe for me to travel through the village alone at night on feet. I am the only white girl in the village. People assume that the white girl has money (little do they know that she also has a laptop, a couple of phones, and a camera – all of which fit in my little knapsack). I have started carrying pepper spray and my pocketknife, just in case. (For those of you who might worry… ) It might take me about 7 minutes to get home. I’ll wash my feet (for the fifteenth time today), charge anything that can be charged (if there’s power), brush my teeth, slip into my jimjams and crawl back into the blue cave for what will prove to be a restless night of sleep! 

Where I live: Moses, the father of the family I'm staying with, is the head teacher at the primary school I'm working at. A few years ago he decided to build barrack type rooms for volunteers to come stay in when they wanted to work at the school. He makes a pretty good living with it, and honestly - the accommodations are great (except for being too far away from civilization).  I took a bit of video on my way to school on Friday. Once I get it uploaded, I'll post it. It provides a pretty good idea of where I am.

My room is HUGE. It is supposed to be a double room, but since I'm the only volunteer here right now, I get a LOT of space to myself. LOVING IT!!!

Words cannot describe how happy I am to have my stuff out of the giant yellow bag, on a shelf, and findable! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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There are about 100 more like this... I would post all of them if I could! 


Tonight...

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I have electricity!

I walked my way out of the village tonight to a mzungu restaurant close to the Nile and was graced with easy conversation, decent food, and this stunning sunset. 


On my way home - walking in darkness, but with a full moon that rivaled the sunset for beauty, I called my parents (and proceeded to get disconnected about 9 times - awesome Ugandan phone!). As I walked I passed at least 5 or 6 of my students, also walking in the darkness, without shoes, or lights... most of them carrying a child on their back or a bucket of water on their heads... 

Mom - the one with the kid on her back is the one you talked to... :) So stinkin' cute!
As far as teaching goes... I have a newfound respect for teachers. I am loving it though. The education system is VERY different in Uganda (I will have a post on this, if not a dissertation). I am teaching English in the P5 class (11ish year olds, 130 in the class), the P1 class (5ish year olds, 105 in the class) and PE for P2 (7ish year olds) and P3 (9ish year olds). I have absolutely fallen in love with the kids. Especially the little ones. They don't have a clue what I'm saying, but they're faces are so bright and happy. (Yes, I have selected a few that I will be stealing to come home with me...) 

Things are going well here. I'm starting to figure out relationships, understanding what people are saying when they talk to me, and finding my groove... 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Coming into camp...

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Each day we were greeted by our "A Team" of porters, guides, and camp manager by some amazing song...

This is an example. More to come because I can't get enough. ;-)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

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Simba, Peter, and Daniel singing my favorite Swahili song...
Kuimba nimeimba lakini sina raha
Kucheze nimecheza lakini sina raha
Namkumbuka mpenzi wangu

Tucheze, tucheze sote
Kuimba nimeimba lakini sina raha
Kucheze nimecheze lakini sina raha
Namkumbuka mpenzi wangu

(Truth, I miss these guys so much it makes me cry...)

Kyabirwa

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I arrived on Thursday afternoon and since my arrival, I’ve been writing and re-writing this blog, making lists, collecting photos and trying to remember every single second so that I can get it down correctly. The truth is, I won’t get it down correctly. It’s impossible to describe, but here is my best shot.

I’ll start with this: I am living in a village. I am probably 6-8 miles outside of town. It is VERY DIFFERENT HERE than from any other place I’ve ever lived, or visited. I’ve composed a list of things that make it different…
  • They speak Lusoga (Swahili is spoken in Kenya and Tanzania); I’m picking up words here and there…
  •  They use Ugandan Shillings instead of US Dollars (2,300 shillings to a dollar)
  • There is no concrete, no pavement. Mostly dirt.
  • They live in huts or very small structures (Homes? Sorta…) There are no kitchens. They do all the cooking in a hut outside the home.
  • There is no electricity - with rare exception – I am one of them. Electricity is sparse at best – I’d say 15% of the time, we have it...
  • There are no refrigerators.
  • There are no cars.
  • There are no other white people or native English speakers.
  • We sleep under mosquito nets.
  • We walk to get anywhere, then – if necessary- we take some form of public transportation. Yesterday I hopped in the back of an open cargo truck, then on the back of a motorcycle to get into Jinja. (That’s public transportation, right???)
  • There is plumbing (YAY FOR TOILETS) but no hot water.
  • People hang out. A lot. Sometimes they talk to each other. Other times they just sit there and stare out. So strange to me. 
  • There’s livestock, everywhere. Chickens, goats, cows, pigs – literally within 25 feet of where I am right now (I’m in my bed…)
  • People (except for the fact that they assume that I’m going to give them money because I am white) are incredibly warm and gentle.
  • The kids here are about 100 time cuter and more friendly than American kids.  (Not YOUR American kids… the other ones. ;-)

 I’ll be honest, I’ve been complaining and feeling sorry for myself since I arrived. Best said, every single thing I knew about life has changed. I’ve been trying to accurately figure out how to describe it… but pretty basically it’s a lot like you would imagine village life in Africa to be like, except there’s a giant white woman living in this one.

So in a better moment I tell myself, “Buck UP girl! This is what you chose! You wanted this! So freakin’ choose it!” And so I did. Sort of. At least, I chose to go running, conducting my own parade through the village, literally.

If you can imagine walking or running down the street and having every single person turn to look at you; children screaming at you “Hey, WHITE PERSON” and running to the edge of their properties, waving. Parents and other adults either smiling or staring at you, trying to figure out why the heck you would be here. It’s DAUNTING. I haven’t seen a woman in pants since I’ve been here. They all wear long skirts or dresses. It’s weird enough to see a white woman here, weirder to see her in pants, but then – to see the white woman running down the road in her Nike running shorts, 1978 Barry Manilow concert tour T-shirt, and Solomon’s with her hair piled on top of her head like a rat’s nest… THAT is something to stare at (apparently).

I wish I’d had my video camera. It started light and fluffy… running by a couple little huts, saying “Jambo!” so they don’t think I’m a jerk, a slight wave, and then moving on. Then to the “main road” where I couldn’t take two breaths without someone yelling at me, and having to yell back niceties between my gasps. Then a child decides it’s fun to run with me, and then another, then 5 or 6 kids are running with me. The kids that aren’t running with me are on the side of the road yelling “MZUNGU!!!!” Even the little teeny kids that can barely walk or form their words were yelling at me “UUUUUNGU, UUUUNGU!!!!” A grown man even started running with me. I was like a chubby Forest Gump!!! I could not stop laughing. SO FUNNY!!!

I figure, at least I’ve connected with the village now, even if I am the lady that runs from nothing. Oh, and I made sure to teach the kiddos their first bit of English – “RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN!!!” They picked it up pretty quick. Really though – it was great. For the first time, I feel like I can belong here. (Thank god for RUNNING!!!) I came back with renewed energy – life.

I start teaching tomorrow morning – English to the P5 class (12-ish year olds). Last year the P5 class had 125 students in it. Seeing as I have so much experience teaching (NOT), this could be REALLY interesting. I figure, worst-case scenario I’ll teach them a couple of English songs and make them sing really loud. That’s effective, right? Wish me luck!!!

So, other than being REALLY dirty, being frustrated with the very unstable electricity, and feeling slightly isolated – all is well!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Zanzibar!

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The beginning of what I'm SURE was going to be an amazing career in scuba diving for me was cut short when a seriously choppy ocean induced a new ailment to my world - sea sickness. After throwing up at least 8 times on the way to our destination (which DID NOT include being on land) I oped out of trying to scuba for the first time and went for the snorkel instead.
Sexy snorkel beast
Even with the snorkel, I was sicky sickerson... The second I stepped back on the boat I thought I was going to yack again. Luckily, the guys leading our tour found another boat to send me back on (Christie was also feeling a bit woozy, so they let her come with).
Refugees! I was not acting, that look is REAL!
I've bounced back (sorta) today! We parasailed! It was great, WAY more pleasant than being on a boat! Literally like floating in the air... kinda like being a bird, but without actually having to exude any effort. Again, the second I stepped foot on the boat, I felt sick again.


Since we were feeling so great on the water (NOT) - we thought it would be fun to do the fly raft thingie... see below. It was... CRAZY, and hilarious, and Christie and I only lasted about two minutes.



We couldn't even manage getting in the boat without falling all over the place.

Yeah, and here we are on the other side of the raft holding on for DEAR LIFE!!!