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! 

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