Saturday, August 28, 2010

Uganda is an interesting place. The first thing I noticed after traveling for about 26 hours were the boda-bodas. I have never seen such careless disregard for ones own well-being. These motorcycle taxis could weave through a New York City traffic jam while eating a piece of toast and talking on the phone. Or maybe they couldn't, but the point is, they would absolutely try without thinking twice. Their appeal is undeniable, and it is with some relief that Peace Corps has such strict regulations against using them; there is no opportunity for my curiousity to take shape.

The second thing is how interested the people are in you. There hasn't been a single person in the country who wasn't intrigued by me. A man with even a stitch of less confidence that he isn't being a complete idiot during every part of his day would be in trouble. I find myself sub-consciously checking to see if there is something in my teeth, a "kick me" sign on my back, or a cowlick in my hair. No, it turns out I'm just the village Muzungu (whitey), and this is how it works. There is no insult intended; I could imagine seeing the first white person in their lifetime could bring about quite a lot of shock. With that said, I can't say it hasn't begun to wear on my nerves a bit.

The third is just how nice everyone is; not just to you, but in general. Everyone is on "uganda time" (take whatever time you are on currently, then throw it out the window. You are now on Uganda time.) and everyone has no trouble walking you across town towards the nearest pub. "it is not a problem" they say, with the look of "hey, kid, what else have I got to do? Let's just have a chat on the way and we'll call it square". It's the kind of place where where noone actually has change when you buy something that costs 1,000 shillings with a 10,000 shilling bill; luckily, it's also the place where the cashier can get change from the native behind you with a non-spoken agreement that they would pay them back. It's a place where when you go to a restaurant and ask for a drink, if they don't have it they will go around the back, go to the store neighboring their own, buy it and charge you 500 shillings more.

The fourth thing you notice, after you've been around for awhile, is that everyone might JUST be talking about you after all. You start keying in on their local language dialect; not only do you hear the word Muzungu from all of the village children (these kids scream it at you, and you have no question that they are talking to you), but also more sneakily from the adults. They will hide the word amidst a variety of quickly spoken, as-of-now completely nonsensical words to me, and you wonder if they just considered asking you to marry their daughter...or deciding if they felt like slashing your bag and taking whatever falls.

Another thing I immediately started questioning was the definition of development. You start considering all of the things that we have in the US that simply can't be afforded in 95% of the homes in Uganda, and of course at first it seems sad. But if I had to point out one thing that really bothered me after 6 days of living with a family in Uganda, it would be easy. It's the TV and DVD player that sits proudly next to the dining room table, playing philipino soap operas that are dubbed in english and then dubbed over top in Luganda. Everything else is quite nice.
With regard to my family, I have never seen such discipline. The 4,5, and 9 year old children get up at 645 on a Sunday so that they can cook breakfast. After breakfast they are quickly off to washing clothes, where the mother and father have conveniently forgotten to take out a few shillings in their pockets. Then they are eating, laughing, and playing until it is time to start cooking for dinner alongside getting ready for church. Lunch is on the stove before they all leave, and is ready when they get back to be served. The clothes are now dry and need to be brought in, and there are now a stack of dishes from breakfast and lunch that need to be washed in the traditional 3 pot standard.

The kids in my home are creative as hell. My mom will be proud to hear that I gave them a deck of the "house of cards," the same ones that I used to play with as a child and get bored with after 30 minutes, and it looked like they had been given the moon. For the next 4 days, the kitchen table was given the responsibility of displaying trains, bi-planes, skyscrapers, the Rwenzori Mountain Range...and several other engineering feats. I've heard of recruiting Africans for basketball, but if you ask me there should really be some Odyssey of the Mind scouts in the backyard checking these kids out.

0788033477 is my number, i think. text or call anytime.

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