Friday, May 6, 2011

Day in Reflection

Yesterday, 5th of May, 2011
By the Numbers

Number of hours the Bishop was late: 1.5
Number of hours the Jubilee was late: 2.5
Duration in hours of the Jubilee: 5
Number of couples married: 48
Number of people confirmed: 71
Attendance: ~2000
Number of white people: 2

The Ngora Parish is celebrating it's 100 year anniversary in quite a drawn out fashion. The event itself will take place on May 1st, 2012; it will be the third consecutive year that the event will have been celebrated. To the thousands of people who attended yesterday, it was, well, it was a chance to dress up and be apart of a crowd.

It's no secret to those close to me that I'm less than excited about having big events in the parish. Events means people, which means among other things people eating food, which means cooking in the stand-up shelter located directly adjacent to my house in large quantities, at absurd times of the day/night/time that should never be named because normal people SLEEP. This proximity of food preparation also means that old ladies will be eating off my veranda, spilling beans and posho all over my previously well sweeped concrete, and preventing my entrance/exit of my home without 10 or 11 Yogas & Biai Bos.

Lack of privacy is not a surprise here, but every time an event happens, it's like the microscope over top of me clicks from 5 to 100 multiplication. It's not all a bad thing; sometimes it's quite fun knowing when you say "yoga kere" you'll automatically get an overly enthusiastic "yoga noi!!!" from 200 people you don't know. It also, in some ways, makes it a bit easier on me and mental sanity with regard to showing respect to the community. Not dissimilar to school or dating, if you make the right impression on the moments you know they'll remember, on the key points on the right stage, they will look the other way at less public, conspicuous times. I bathe about twice a week these days for lack of water, and wash my clothes at best twice a month...but make no mistake that at 6:30am I walked out of my room in pressed gray slacks, an immaculate SOLID white button down (dangerous) and a "smartly" tied tie with a cleanly shaven smiling face to greet all the visitors seemingly camping on my front step.

The highlight of any event, especially with white skin which grants instant access to all the high status places, is the food that comes with. Chicken, pork, goat, irish potatoes, dirty rice w/ bull's meat, deep fried bananas, everything is there and slopped on a plate to be eaten. As long as you feel confident handling it with your hands, you can even go for the greens with peanut butter sauce. I was in such a brown-nosing mood yesterday that not only did I offer to say grace at said meal (Knowing that the Parish Priest would do it, but also knowing that in front of the Bishop he'd love that I offered, being HIS muzungu), but I even baked a cake for the occasion, from which both the cake and strawberry flavored pink icing were made from scratch, without even an oven. Opolot "betty crocker" Matthius. Nevermind that it took me two tries, or that my shoes were sporting red strawberry extract from a mishap which occurred that morning, while trying my hand at making icing.

Speaking in generalities, yesterday was like most of my days here in Uganda. I play the game when I have to, bend it to my own advantage when I can for later on, and try and remember the humor in things as much as I can. On a good day I find that in hindsight, probably without realizing it, I've shown something from my culture that I can be fairly proud of. By his own decree, for example, the Bishop of Soroti ate "from the kitchen of a man" for the first time in his life. The gender equality lesson might not have been entirely welcomed, but at worst, it was bitter-sweet.

I have received a lot of response, to my surprise, from my last post. I apologize if it was a bit too graphic in nature, to an extent. My matatu experience is pretty tame to other stories I could tell, especially ones that have happened to other volunteers even in my class. It is my goal through this blog that people get to experience a small bit of Uganda, as I am, but keep in mind that I'd never write anything to intentionally offend anyone.

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