Hakuna Matata: My (Mostly) Carefree Last Days in Uganda

Jambo!

Well, here I am!  It’s so hard to believe that I’m leaving Uganda tomorrow afternoon!  It’s been an incredible journey, a wonderful learning experience, and yes, I’d even venture to say life-changing.  Of course, I won’t know just how much until I return.  I’m definitely anticipating some reverse-culture-shock, but I have no idea at this point what it will be!  I guess I’ll find out soon enough, and I’ll make sure to write at least one more entry after I’ve returned to the U.S.  It might not be right away, though, as I’ve gotten kind of burned out, and I think my writing has been suffering, too!

But ok, you want to hear about my safari, I’m sure.  Well, we woke up bright and early, just as I told you we would, and lugged all of our bags up to the lobby, where we waited for our guides.  The three girls from UNC who were staying in Kampala until the following day were so sweet and woke up early to say goodbye to us!  Actually, they ended up waiting in the lobby before we were even there!  Apparently, there was another group piling into a van at 6:15, so they rushed out of bed and ran up to the van thinking we were leaving early, only to realize that they had no idea who any of those people were!  Of course, none of us left without hugging them goodbye.  In typical Ugandan fashion, the bus was a bit late, but it didn’t bother us because we were barely awake anyway.  We loaded up one big van with all of our major luggage.  The other one was for our guide, named Twaha and us.  He informed me that I had to pronounce it “TWAAAAAAAAH.”  It’s important to elongate the jaw.  Twaha drove us up to Murchison Falls, which was not a short drive by any means.  To pass the time, I talked to him and the others, read a bit, and took some much-needed naps, since I’d been up so early.  I’m not sure Twaha quite knew what to make of us.  I’m pretty sure he thought we were all really strange (which, I mean, we are, to be fair…).  I think he still liked us, though.  He made an effort to learn all of our names and we invited him to sit and talk with us during our meals, which I guess is something he usually doesn’t get to do.  Twaha told me that most of the groups he’s guided on safaris have been families—almost none are students.  We’re also the only ones who have lived with host families and really made an effort to integrate into the Ugandan communaity, which he seemed to appreciate, so that was nice to hear.

As we drove through the woods, we encountered a bunch of baboons!  Naturally, I had to take some pictures.

 

The first part of the Murchison Falls safari was visiting the falls themselves.  At this point, I’ve seen my fair share of Ugandan waterfalls, but I still appreciated the beauty of this one.  We got to walk all the way to the top, and got sprayed, too, which was fun and a nice way to cool off.

 

We didn’t stay cool for long, though.  This is because during a long stretch of the drive from Murchison Falls to the hostel (another Red Chilli branch) where we had lunch, there were abundant amounts of Tsetse Flies.  Tsetse Flies bite, which can be very painful.  Not only that, but sometimes they’re carriers for a disease called African Sleeping Sickness, which can be deadly if it’s not treated quickly.  To avoid Tsetse Flies, we had to drive with the windows up.  In a crowded, un-air-conditioned van.  On a very sunny day.  In Africa.  This, as you might imagine, was not a very pleasant experience.  I felt like we were in one of those Native American sweat lodges.  Seriously, I kept waiting for someone to have a life-changing hallucination and discover their spirit animal or something.  I sweat A LOT.  I sweat from places I didn’t even know I could sweat from.  I sweat more than I ever have before in my life.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you collected all of the sweat that has ever come off of my body before that car ride, it still would not equal the level of sweat secreted from my glands during that window of time.  I’ve never experienced a breeze that felt quite as good as the one blowing in from the windows when we were finally allowed to open them.  It was disgusting, but quite the memorable experience.

Lunch was actually really nice.  Almost everyone ordered a burger, and they were really good!  They put all kinds of vegetables and spices in the patties.  We were, worried, though that the food would take too long and we would be late for our boat tour.  Luckily, that didn’t happen, and while we were waiting, we got to watch some warthogs hanging out by a tree near our table.

The boat tour was incredible!  We rode on a ferry with two levels, and were free to travel up and down as we pleased.  There were also free water bottles, which is something I always appreciate, especially here.  Of course, as always, the Nile River was beautiful, so I appreciated the chance to gaze at it once more.  Even better, though, was the fact that we got to see ALL OF THE ANIMALS that the tour guide told us we might get a chance to see—even the ones that are rarer.

We saw LOTS of hippos,

 

 

some beautiful birds,

 

 

 

more warthogs,

 

crocodiles,

 

and even some elephants that had made their way down to the riverbank to drink!

 

During some less-eventful parts of the tour, we took a few photos of ourselves, too!

 

The tour ended just as the sun was setting, which was really lovely to watch from the boat.  After that, we had dinner at the hostel with Twaha.  We all shared a bit more about our lives, and taught him a bit more about the United States—like that thousands of our citizens are obese and that everything we eat contains corn.  Luckily, we also worked out some issues with our sleeping situation for the night—we’d be sleeping in tents, but originally the company didn’t give us enough mattresses, and, for some reason, assumed that we’d brought our own sheets and weren’t going to supply us with any.  We mostly got it worked out, though we were still short a few sheets in the end.  Luckily, we worked it out, and no one was sheet-less.  However, there was still cause for concern at the campsite.  During dinner, Twaha casually and cheerfully mentioned that sometimes warthogs, baboons, and even the occasional hippo would wander into the site and sometimes liked to try and get into the tents.  Of course, we made sure that there was no food around, but most of us were still a little nervous about it, myself included.  My poor tent mates were probably the worst—they were afraid to make any noise, and we were startled by even the slightest sound from outside.  Luckily, we survived the night with no attempted break-ins, but we definitely did hear baboons, and there was something walking very close to our tent, that we’re fairly certain was a warthog, so our fears were not completely unjustified.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well.  But it was ok, because we had to be up early, and we had a long drive to Entebbe after the safari, so I got to sleep in the car again.

We were up again at 6:30am, to catch the ferry that shuttled us—and the car to the grounds where we went exploring.  It was still pretty dark when we first headed out, so we got to see the sun rise on the savannah.  It glowed bright red—it was absolutely incredible.  And yes, it did compel some of the others in the van to start singing “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.  I didn’t join in, but I’ll admit that I had the same thought.  The van had one of those pop up roofs so we could stand up and look out from the top.  The safari was so much fun!  It was amazing to be able to see animals in their natural habitats, and many times we actually got really close to them.  It was truly overwhelming (in a good way, of course).  It was difficult to take many pictures, because the van was moving most of the time (as were the animals), but here are a few of my best ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun fact: Cranes are Uganda’s national bird, and the mascot for their soccer team.  There are also cranes on the Ugandan flag.

The one type of animal that we had really been looking forward to seeing that was eluding us was the lion.  We searched for hours, driving through fields and bushes, to no avail.  Twaha was even calling other guides to see if they had encountered any and could give us a location.  We had all but given up, when suddenly, Twaha received a call from another guide, with a safari group who had just seen a lion—right in the area in which we’d spent so much time driving around!  We sped over to the spot, and he and the other guide, Sam pointed out where three were sleeping in the bushes.  We actually drove up REALLY close to them, considering that they were lions, and they even went so far as to make a noise to wake them up so that we could get a better look.  I was lucky enough to get a pretty good photo of one of the lionesses.

Pretty cool, huh?  And as if that all wasn’t exciting enough—I got to have one more incredible experience that morning.  Not only did the roof open up, but there was actually space on the roof of the car for people to sit, so we all took turns riding on top of the car during the safari.  Basically, it was a rack of metal bars, which was pretty uncomfortable at first, but after a few minutes I got used to it.   It was so much fun that I didn’t even mind that the top of the pop-out roof jabbed me in the shoulder blades for most of the ride.  I didn’t get to see any really cool animals while I was up there, like some of the others who saw elephants and giraffes, which I’ll admit I was bummed about, but it was still really cool to be up there with the wind whipping through my hair and the road stretching out in front of me.  It was such a liberating and exhilarating experience, (albeit slightly terrifying at times when the car was moving particularly fast)!  Still incredibly worth it, though.

 

After about 4 or 5 hours in the car, we arrived in Entebbe.  The hostel we’re staying at is pretty nice, though the wifi is terrible.  At first, we thought there was a swimming pool outside, and later when we saw a copy of the hostel’s brochure, we realized that they’d cleverly manipulated the photograph of the grounds so that what, in reality, is a small, shallow fountain that the staff uses for laundry purposes looks like a deep, luxurious swimming pool.  I don’t think any of us were really feeling up to swimming anyway, though.  Actually, the main thought on my mind when we arrived was: WHERE IS THE SHOWER AND WHEN DO I GET TO USE IT?!?!  I did, of course, as soon as we were settled into our dorm room for the night.  Unfortunately, despite the fact that Allison had called the hotel to double check the booking multiple times, they messed up and only booked a room for us for the first night.  Tonight, we’ll be sleeping in tents.  Thankfully, these ones at least have sheets.  I’m not too concerned, and I won’t even mind if I don’t get to sleep all that well, because I’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane!

Our first night in Entebbe wasn’t all that eventful.  We just sort of hung out in the lobby, ate dinner, tried to use the internet, and read instead when that failed.  I finished The Magician’s Guild, by the way, and have been making my way through The End of the World Book, which my wonderful friend Mike so kindly loaned to me.  I also started Fight Club, so hopefully if I finish one, I’ll still have the other left for the plane (or maybe both!  The End of the World Book reads like a dictionary, so it’s easy to read in pieces).  Today was a bit more eventful, because we walked around the town a bit.  We found an Italian restaurant that was actually really good!  It was run by a real, live Italian man, who I’m pretty sure imported a LOT of his materials, which is probably why.  Other than that, we’ve still just been hanging out, and watching some really terrible (American) movies on the TV in the reception area.  Oh yeah, and playing Family Feud on Maria’s computer!  My team won 3/5 times, by the way!

I also made a new friend named Katie, here, who was in Uganda visiting her parents.  They retired and have recently joined the Peace Corps.  She stopped by to visit before flying to Rwanda, where she’s going to be starting a new job!  We had fun sharing our experiences, and she gave us some really great advice.  Apparently, Katie was staying at the hostel because she missed her flight earlier in the day, due to the extremely long amount of time it took her to get to and make it through check in and customs at the airport.  We’ll make sure to leave really early, so that we’ve got plenty of time (11am for our 3pm flight).  She left today, as did Greg, and both seem to have made it, since they didn’t end up back here!  It was so sad to say goodbye to Greg this morning!  It’s always hard to see our tightly-knit group breaking apart, with individuals leaving one by one.  We’ll part ways with Effie at the Dubai airport (she’s going to meet her family in Greece), and of course, once we get to JFK, everyone will be going separate ways.  As sad as it is, though, I really am so excited to be flying home.  I feel that it’s time for me to leave Uganda, I’ve learned all I can here for now, and I’m ready to come home and face the new adventures life has in store for me.  Plus, of course, I’ve been missing all of my family and friends!  That means you! (Probably, anyway, because I’m pretty sure at this point that I’ve been getting random visitors from other countries.  Maybe some from the U.S., too.  And some probably found it by accident…I’m not quite sure why my blog came up in a search for “most beautiful Pakistani girl.”  But hey, if you’re a random person who is actually reading, thanks for the support!  I hope you’re not creepy!).

This will probably be my last blog entry from Uganda.  I might be able to write one from the airport or from Dubai, but I can’t make any promises.  If you want to make sure I’m alive and made my flights and everything, best to check facebook (Mom and Dad—I’ll e-mail you!), because I’ll probably post a status update.  In any case, I’ll definitely write something when I’m back in New York…possibly in the middle of the night when I’m jetlagged and can’t sleep (gotta love that 7 hour time difference)!

Until then,

Mweraba!

Rachel

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“Muzungu, Bye!” Fond Farewells and New Adventures!

Jambo!

Wow, it’s been an eventful couple of days!  So many big changes, so many sad goodbyes, but so many wonderful and exciting things to look forward to, as well!  It’s so hard for me to wrap my head around all of it!

As you know (unless you haven’t read my last blog…in which case, go read it!), Tuesday was my last day of work at St. Elizabeth.  Wednesday, we had to go to the FSD office for our exit interviews.  Basically, we sat at a table and Caroline asked us a bunch of questions about our experiences here.  Pretty standard stuff.  Then we had to fill out one of those online surveys, which basically asked us the same questions.  We had to do one in the middle of the program, too, before Sipi Falls.  They’re useful, but still pretty annoying to fill out—it reminded me a lot of the SOFIs at school.  After the interviews, the site team took us to a really nice hotel, called The Nile Resort for lunch and swimming!

Here are some photos of the grounds:

 

 

The lunch was a buffet style, and it was really exciting because everything was fancy looking and there were so many options.  There were some really lovely salads (still mostly cabbage, though…cabbage goes on the list of things that you should not offer me upon my return, under ANY CIRCUMSTANCE), and some good bread, but overall, it wasn’t really anything special, so I was disappointed.  One particularly disappointing aspect of the meal was the huge selection of desserts that looked misleadingly delicious.  I’ve missed dessert a lot, as you know.  But of course, they were still Ugandan desserts, so they were all bland and dry.  My heart broke a little, but not too much, because it was still a really nice day.

After lunch, a few of us went walking and discovered that the hotel had a playground!  Naturally, we were very excited, as playgrounds have a tendency to bring out one’s inner child.  Our inner children really like swings.

 

 

After that, it was time to go swimming.  I know I’ve gained weight here because that super sexy one-piece bathing suit that I bought just before I left (the ONLY ONE Julia and I could find that even somewhat fit me) that was slightly too big on me ended up fitting pretty perfectly.  I’m not too happy about the weight I’ve gained here, but there really hasn’t been much I could do about it, since I’m often so sedentary and don’t have much control over my diet.  Hopefully I’ll get it off pretty quickly when I get home since I’ll be eating a lot less starch and exercising more (who wants to be my swim/running/workout buddy?), but for now, I’m feeling a bit frustrated.  Another source of self-consciousness for all of us in our swimsuits was that because we’re all so covered up most of the time, we’re all very pale in most places, but have REALLY WEIRD TAN LINES!  One of the other girls actually has a knee tan, from rafting.  Meaning that her knees are much tanner than the rest of her legs, especially her thighs (since none of our thighs ever get to see the light of day.  Lots of farmers’ tans, too.  The good news is that everyone in our group is really nice.  We’re all accepting of each other, and nobody is going to judge anyone for how they look in a bathing suit—especially since we’re all experiencing the same kind of insecurities!  It was overcast at first, and the water in the pool was a bit chilly, but we got used to it pretty quickly, and still had a lot of fun!  Eventually, the sun did come out, too, which was nice.  We had a lot of fun splashing around and playing games like Marco Polo and whatever that one is called where one person stands on the edge of the pool and names items in a category and then if you’ve been thinking of something that’s named, you have to race them to the other end of the pool.

 

Almost everyone went in, but Margaret, Jonan, and Dan didn’t.  I’m pretty sure that Jonan knows how to swim, but I don’t think Margaret or Dan do.  As I’ve mentioned, Ugandans don’t really love water or water-activities.  I think they still had fun watching us from the side, though.

The coolest part, in my opinion, was that there was one of those poolside bars.  The ones where you get to sit on a barstool that’s in the water while you drink your beverage.  I’ve always wanted to use one, and now I finally have!  Esme introduced us all to Pimm’s and Lemonade—a typical British cocktail.  Normally I don’t really go for the fruity stuff, but it was really good!  Plus I felt like I needed to get a fruity cocktail at a poolside bar.

Just as we were finishing our drinks, this huge flock of children showed up at the pool.  I don’t know if it was some kind of field trip or retreat for school or something, but it certainly seemed like it was.  As you might imagine, swimming became somewhat less fun at that point, because they were all rowdy and we didn’t care to get caught in the crossfire.  Instead, we relaxed on some lounge chairs, and tried to even out our tans.  As we sat there talking, and spending time with a few people who I realized that I would be seeing for the last time, at least for awhile, I became so aware of how close I’d grown to everyone here, and how much I would truly miss all of them.  We’ve all vowed to keep in touch (the internet is a wonderful thing), and are hoping to make plans to visit one another at some point soon, so that’s good, but of course it won’t be the same as seeing them every day.  Even with the other students from my school, it’s going to be different, because we’ll no longer be with each other as often as we have been, and we’ve all grown so close and bonded so much with one another.  I’m so grateful that we’ve all got this experience to tie us together, and that we can reminisce about for the rest of our lives.

After we all arrived back in town, we parted ways and I said my final goodbyes to Esme and Kelen.  I also did a bit more last minute shopping before heading back to Kakira.  I bought a really pretty purse, which I’ve been using here in Kampala, as well as a gorgeous traditional African dress.  Later that evening, I found out that Mama Fina had actually gone to the market and ordered two to be made to give to Emma and me as presents.  Unfortunately, they weren’t ready on time, so she is going to mail them to us, instead.  Still, it was an amazingly sweet gesture, which I really appreciated, and I look forward to receiving the present in the mail when I’m home!  I also stopped by Eva’s store one last time to say goodbye to her, and she let me take a picture of her and the store to show you guys!

My last night in Kakira was bittersweet.  I had a lovely dinner (accompanied by another beer) and some wonderful conversations with my host family.  I made sure to get everyone’s contact information and gave all of them mine, too.  We’ve certainly had our ups and downs as a family—I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t constantly frustrated by some of the things members of the family did and said.  However, I have grown very close to them and I’ve loved being able to get to know them and learn from them over the past two months.  It’s probably going to be difficult to keep in touch with everyone—technology here in Uganda is much more limited and less accessible than it is in the U.S. and, as you know, it takes a very long time for mail to travel between the two countries.  I’ll certainly do my best, though.  I’d really hate to fall out of touch with everyone.

And then, of course, I had to pack.  I absolutely hate packing.  It stresses me out and I always feel an acute sense of dread whenever I anticipate having to do it.  I think part of this is because it means that I’m going to be leaving wherever I am and going through changes, which is something I struggle a lot with.  As a result, I tend to put it off until basically the last minute.  So I was folding clothes and smushing things into my suitcase from about 10pm-12:30am last night.  To be fair, I was also uploading photos to my blog and talking to a few people online, so that held up the process quite a bit.  Admittedly, I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit everything in my suitcase, since I’ve bought so many souvenirs, but I did it!  The next time you’re packing for a big trip, I highly recommend getting yourself some Space Bags.  They’re those ziplock bags that you pack and then squeeze the air out of them, so that they’re vacuum-sealed and everything takes up way less space.  I put all of my clothes in them, and I think I’m going to use them for a lot of medications and pharmaceuticals on the way back, too.  I realized that I’m going to have to re-pack my suitcase and my carry on when I’m in Entebbe, because I had to pack certain things for Kampala and the safari that I won’t need on the airplane in my backpack, and certain things I WILL need on the airplane that didn’t make sense to try and fit in my backpack for the next few days in my larger suitcase.  I’m not really looking forward to that part, but I’m sure that once I just sit down and do it, it won’t be so bad.  It certainly wasn’t when I did it on Wednesday night.

Thursday morning was pretty crazy.  I was caught in a whirlwind of activity—finishing up last minute packing, running to St. Eliza with a form that Joseph had forgotten to sign (he was ON TIME for once!  It was unbelievable!), eating breakfast (we finally made pancakes from the mix that Emma had brought as a present for the family…they turned out pretty well, despite the initial problems.  I guess following recipes isn’t something many Ugandans are used to doing), and of course, saying our final goodbyes.  It all sort of happened in a blur, and then all of a sudden, the coaster arrived and we were loading our suitcases into the back and driving away to pick up the next set of students at their host family.  The ride to Kampala was pretty nice.  I took a nap and chatted with the others.  Jonan and Margaret accompanied us as far as Jinja and then said goodbye to us.  We all bid Caroline farewell when we arrived at the hostel, called Red Chilli.  We tried to get her to stay with us, but she wanted to get back (now I can see why…Jinja is a way nicer city than Kampala is, in my opinion).  I think those have been the most difficult goodbyes so far.  The site team has been such an immense part of our experience, and such a source of support and guidance.  I’m so grateful to them for all they’ve taught me and done to help me, and I’m going to miss them immensely.  We also had to say goodbye to Sandra!  She’s not coming on the safari with us, because she booked an earlier flight.  She has family friends in Kampala, so she’s going to stay with them until she flies home.  I’ve been having a lot of trouble really processing the fact that my time in Uganda is rapidly coming to an end, but saying goodbye to all of these people is certainly making it all feel much more real.

The hostel is pretty nice, for what it is.  It’s very similar to Backpackers.  They seem to be very popular.  Last night I slept in one of the bigger dormitories.  It was really crowded.  I think there were about 40 beds, total, and my mattress wasn’t very comfortable, but I still slept well because I took a Benadryl and knocked myself out.  Tonight, I’m staying in a cabin, which is a little bit nicer.  There’s a lot more space, and the beds seem more comfortable, too.  I’m going to try and get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow we have to leave at 6:30am for the safari!  It’s early, but I’m sure it will be worth it in the end.  Hopefully the nicer accommodations will help with that, too!

As it turns out, Kampala isn’t the easiest city to explore.  It’s not very pedestrian-friendly, and it’s very expensive to hire private transportation (which you do, because boda bodas aren’t safe at all here).  We had wanted to walk around it and explore it today, but once we did the price calculations and some research about what was around, we decided that it wasn’t really worth it, so instead we’ve been hanging out at the hostel most of the day.  They have grills here, so we might do our own barbeque tonight.  If not, they’ve got some good group meal rates, so we’ll probably order a few pizzas or something like that.  Last night, though, we went out to dinner in the city, which was fun.  We went to a Turkish restaurant called Efendy’s.  It was nice, but I still prefer Turkish food back home.

The restaurant also had a hookah lounge so we all hung out there for a bit and shared hookahs, too.  It was really nice.  There was a huge projector screen right where we were sitting, which was playing a lot of top 40 music videos—American and Ugandan.  Most Ugandan music videos, by the way, are just as misogynistic and offensive as American ones, just with smaller budgets and lots of green screens.  I did, however, really appreciate the opportunity I got to see the music video for LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It.”  I’d never seen it and I’d always misjudged the song, thinking it was really obnoxious, but now that I’ve seen the video, I understand that it’s not intended to be serious and appreciate it—and the band a lot more.  And, if you’ve seen the video, I’m sure you understand how much funnier it was to watch it on a very large screen.

A big chunk of tomorrow’s safari will be spent in transit to Murchison Falls.  Once we get there, though, we get to check out the waterfall (probably not as amazing as Sipi, but It’ll still be cool) and go on a boat tour, where I’m told we’ll get the chance to see baboons, hippos, and crocodiles!  The next day is when we get to drive around and see the other big animals—lions, elephants, giraffes…but no zebras.  I am so excited, I can’t even properly articulate it!  It’s like a dream to me!  Going on safari is something you read about people doing in books.  I never in my life thought I’d actually be going on one!  I’d even joke about it, initially, when talking to friends about my study abroad trip, but now it’s really happening.  And the thought of seeing all of those amazing animals in their natural habitats rather than in an enclosed area at the zoo is pretty mind blowing!  I promise to take lots of pictures and write a new entry as soon as I can…though it might not be until I’m on the plane!

Mweraba!

Rachel

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Just an Average Day in Uganda…

Jambo!

Well, I officially have one week left in Uganda.  This time next Tuesday, I’ll already be flying through the air, headed to Dubai.  It’s so hard to believe how fast the time has gone by!  I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.  It simultaneously feels like I’ve been here forever, since I’ve gotten so used to the way of life here and for hardly any time at all, since each day seems to fly by so quickly!  Today was my last day of work, tomorrow will be my last day with FSD, and I leave my host family and Kakira on Thursday morning!   I’m so excited for the new adventures that await, and of course to come home and see everyone I’ve been missing so much, but of course, it’s also very difficult to say goodbye to Uganda and everyone I’ve grown close to, here!

Ok, I promised a day in the life blog entry, so here it is!

First of all, here’s where I live.  My house is on a dirt road that runs perpendicular to the ones that lead to the marketplace and the bottom of the town (you’ll see pictures of those later).  It’s definitely one of the nicer ones in town.  It’ pretty big, and it’s within a compound, so there are walls and a gate behind the house that fence in the rest of the structure.

Here’s what the inside looks like!

Now, I spend the majority of my time at home in the bedroom I share with Emma.  It’s pretty big, but there’s not a lot of space to move around, because of the two large beds (another thing I won’t miss—foam mattresses and pillows!  They are not very comfortable.) and our suitcases, which we have to live out of because we don’t have shelves or a closet.  I do my best to keep things neat and organized, but it’s pretty difficult given the circumstances.  We’re also lucky enough to have a fan in our room—it’s not very strong, but it definitely makes a big difference to have it on!

 

The first thing I do after I wake up in the morning is head to the bathroom, where I take one of those infamous bucket showers (only 1 or 2 more left!).

Here’s the basin that I use.  That yellow pitcher thing is called a gerry can.  That contains the hot water.  I pour the water into the basin and then pour the basin over my body, so that I can better control the direction of the water and how much I use at any given moment.

Usually, once I’m done showering and getting dressed and whatnot, my breakfast is waiting for me on the table.  There’s always tea, but the food varied from day to day.  This morning, I had an omelette, chapatti, and tiny bananas (they’re the best kind, they’re sweeter than the bigger ones!).  I forgot to mention that I also really like the eggs here.  They always put good stuff like peppers and tomatoes in them.  And normally, the fact that Ugandans overcook food and make it very dry is something I really don’t appreciate, but for eggs, it’s perfect!  As you know, if you’ve ever seen me make or order eggs anywhere, I like my eggs to be REALLY WELL DONE, almost burned.  Some of the other interns don’t feel the same way as I do, though, so they have to wait until we’re home for their fluffy eggs (ew).  The one problem that occurs with breakfast is that often the food won’t be served to us right away and will have been sitting out and gotten cold by the time we start to eat.  Today, though, I got lucky, and it was still pretty warm!

 

Now, it’s time for me to walk to work.  Care to join me?

 

 

Here we are, at St. Elizabeth!  This is the side entrance to the building, where our office is.  I’m sure you recognize it from some of my other pictures.  Joseph’s is there, too!

Right next door to our office, in the same building is a small store.  They sell some basic things like sodas, toothpicks, and toilet paper (all essentials!) as well as access to a computer and the internet.  The four of us interns spend a lot of time there.  The owner is named Charles.  He and his wife Mary take turns working in the store.  I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned her and her adorable baby daughter (we actually like her better than Charles…shh!).  Only Charles was there today, though, so I’ve got a picture of him.  Hopefully I can get one of Mary before we leave!

Now, at work today, of course we did the usual sitting around and waiting for Joseph, but the morning was actually far more productive than most!  I had taken a bunch of photos (some of which you’ve seen) from the days where we were constructing the goat structures and when the representative from the town council came to visit and we had that odd little ceremony.  I wanted to print out copies and give them to the community members—which was no small feat with the outdated equipment (including an incredibly frustrating broken mouse) in Joseph’s office.  Eventually I did it, but the quality was pretty poor because there was some kind of problem with the printer and the ink in it.  Instead, I had to create a folder on Joseph’s desk top and put the photos from the USB drive in it (once again, no small feat because of that stupid mouse!  I may or may not have thrown it on the floor in frustration at one point).  In the end, though, it all worked out.  And Joseph had the finished constitutions for us to give to the villagers today!  He called a meeting for after lunch at St. Eliza so that we could give them the constitution, discuss some future plans, and say goodbye.

Speaking of lunch, here’s what I had today: matooke, beans, rice, and avocado!  I’m getting pretty sick of all of the above, since I eat them so often, but they’re still good!  It’s best to mix the beans in really thoroughly with the matooke and rice, because they’re pretty bland tasting on their own.  This is a typical serving size that I’d eat, but a typical Ugandan portion would be about double the size.

 

After we returned to work, all the villagers showed up.  We went over the basic stuff—showing them the constitution and discussing future plans (they ended up with extra wood, so they’re going to start building two new goat structures!), and they thanked us for our help.  We, in turn, of course thanked them for accepting our program and us into their community so enthusiastically, and for affording us the privilege of working with them and getting to know them.  Then, of course, we had to say goodbye to everyone.  That was really sad for me, but it was so lovely that I got to see everyone one last time.  The villagers were so sweet, and I’m really going to miss them!  I attempted to have a conversation with one of the older women, who neither speaks not understands much English (and of course, as we know, I’m good at Ugandan greetings, but that’s pretty much it).  So we’re both trying to communicate with one another in two completely different languages, basically conveying our meaning merely with the inflections in the tones of our voices in order to convey the emotions behind our words, which, at least in my case were things like: “I’m so glad to have worked with you,” “Thank you for everything,” and “I will miss you!”  It was such a cool and beautiful moment.  It was then that  it really hit me that I’m going to be leaving Kakira and the program behind, and that my time in Uganda is almost over.  This has become such a part of me, this program has been my life for the past two months, and now it’s ending.  It’s affecting me more than I’d been anticipating it woud for the past few weeks, considering all the challenges and frustrations that have gone along with this project.  I’m going to miss Joseph a lot, too.  Despite his faults, he really is an incredible kind, sweet man, who shows such devotion to the program and really believes in the power of sustainable development.  We gave him our contact information, which he promised to pass on to the villagers, so that we can continue to communicate and they can send us updates on the project as it progresses, which is something I’m really looking forward to doing.

After work, the other interns and I often walk around town, and wandered through the markets, which look a little something like this.

 

 

Sometimes, we even walk down to the supermarket, where I go to buy chocolate, biscuits (cookies…I’m probably going to call them that when I get home, because I’ve been conditioned to, here, don’t get mad.  Fries may also be chips and chips may be crisps on occasion.), chocolate bars, and these really good crunchy, Indian-spiced g nuts (they’re like peanuts except smaller, rounder, and more purple).

The supermarket is at the bottom of a long hill, just outside the gates of the part of town where I live and work.

It’s right by the post office.  For those of you who received post cards from me, this is where I went to mail them!

If you turn right at the gates (or let one of the boda drivers clamoring for you in the queue drive you that way), you’ll be going down me main road, right next to the sugar cane fields, the one I talked about in my list blog, with the gorgeous view.  This, of course, leads to the mataatus, which take people into Jinja (or “Kampala! Kampala!” as the drivers and conductors always yell).

 

Anyway, today when we went into the market, we were searching for snacks.  Greg and Emma wanted to buy samosas (they’re not anywhere near as good as Indian ones, in my opinion, and I don’t care for them), but the usual vendor we go to wasn’t there, so instead we all visited our favorite chapatti stand.

The guy standing in front is the owner of the stand.  The other is his friend or brother, who sometimes works for him.  He sells chapatti to earn money that he wants to use to pay for University.  He hopes to someday become an engineer.

We always go back to St. Eliza to eat our snacks, because it’s impolite to eat while walking in Uganda.  This is usually a daily routine, and we all felt a little sad realizing that it would be our last time doing it, though most of the conversation still centered upon excitement for the days to come and for returning home and the foods we wanted to eat (though there was also some scintillating discussion about politics and prostitutes)!

After the snack, we parted ways and went home, where I proceeded to sit on my bed, laptop in tow, and begin writing this blog entry, while simultaneously talking to some friends on facebook, answering e-mails, and listening to music, as I typically do.  I took a break when we were served tea at about 6:30 (I didn’t take pictures because you saw the tea at breakfast).  To my chagrin, it turned out that we also had chapatti for a tea snack, and I was still pretty full from the one I ate earlier.  But hey, this could be my last chapatti, at least in Kakira, so I figured I might as well take some of it (oh, there’s another one! You’ll probably catch me saying “take” instead of “eat” or “drink” sometimes), and I watched a bit of a Spanish soap opera, which had been dubbed over in English and then dubbed over AGAIN in Lugandan…which frankly just pisses me off.

This picture was actually taken at dinner time last night, but this felt like a good spot to include it. because I’m talking about the TV.  Watching TV is a typical evening pastime in which most of the family participates.

I then returned to my previous activities until dinner time.  We had beans, matooke, and rice again, but with a new addition—pork!  This is something I haven’t been served before by my host family.  I think it’s fairly expensive and they wanted to serve it since it’s one of our last days and in honor of Mama Fina’s daughter’s birthday…though she lives in Nigeria and wasn’t at the house.  I also was given a beer for the occasion, which was very nice.  They wanted to get me another one, which was really sweet, but I really wasn’t feeling so great so I tried my best to politely decline (something I probably would never have done under any other circumstance).  In the end, I think they ended up buying another one, but I really wasn’t feeling well at all, so I went to go lie down before they could give it to me.  Pepto Bismol is my friend.

And here I am!  Writing this blog entry.  Which is now finished.  Oh, except I wanted to show you guys some pictures of my host family.

Here are my host sisters.  Left to right: Desire, Zahara, and Cecelia

Steven (And Desire)

Mama Fina’s son Goffrey and his wife, Ruth.  They don’t live here but they visit often.

Annette

Our old maid, Weeman.  She left a few weeks ago and is now living in her own place in the village.

She’s been replaced by Fina, our new maid.  Here she is cooking dinner!

And, of course, Emma and me with Mama Fina.

One big family.

Oh, and of course, I had to include a few of these:

 

 

You’re welcome.

So yeah, that’s basically an average day for me in Kakira.  It just so happened to be my last full one.  I hope you all enjoyed reading about it!  I’ll have some new blog entries soon about my last day with FSD and my post-program adventures (SAFARI! GET EXCITED!)

Mweraba!

Rachel

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My Last Weekend in Jinja

Jambo!

Good news, everyone! (Imagine my best Professor Farnsworth impression).  It turns out Greg doesn’t have malaria after all (also, I apologize, because apparently he didn’t skip his antimalarial as often as I thought he did)!  Whatever doctor or hospital FSD originally took him to misdiagnosed him and gave him some kind of random mystery medicine that didn’t treat his symptoms and actually may have made him feel worse.  But now, he’s got a correct diagnosis and better medication, so he’s on the mend!  There’s still a lesson to be learned, here: when sick in Uganda, always go to Dr. Debbie!  And get yourself a malaria test kit, too, so if you’re diagnosed with it, you can check for yourself.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do much with us this weekend, though he did share some meals with us, and he won’t be at work tomorrow, but hopefully he’ll be well enough to enjoy our last days in Kakira/Jinja, as well as our time in Kampala and on safari—all of which I’m very excited about!

So, I spent the weekend in Jinja, just like I said I would.  It was fairly standard as far as my less-adventurous weekends go.  However, there’s still some notable stuff to report.

First off, on Friday evening, I had my first skype session in Uganda (made possible by the fact that barely anyone was using the wifi at Backpackers at the time…which doesn’t happen too often there or anywhere.), with my good friend Vince who doesn’t read my blog.  This is a pretty big deal, since originally he had wanted to communicate solely via snail mail when I was away, as he’s done with some of our other friends who have gone abroad.  Upon learning that mail could take 3 weeks (or more, as it’s turned out) to travel between the U.S. and Uganda, he decided talking online would be acceptable.  I’m sure he’s still getting lots of use out of his typewriter, so no tears need be shed.  In any case, it was really nice to be able to actually see the face and hear the voice of someone who I’ve been missing from home.  Writing is great, but you just can’t beat real human interaction.

But the excitement didn’t end there!  We went out for Indian food at Caroline(the program coordinator)’s favorite restaurant!  And on the way…I fell off a boda.  Yeah…not my proudest or most graceful moment.  I was sitting side saddle and not holding on as tightly as I should have been considering the abundance of speed bumps and potholes on the particular road.  We hit a pretty big one, and I sort of popped up off of it.  At that point, I knew I was going to fall, so I did my best to try and put my feet on the road and get off so that the boda wouldn’t drag me, but I wasn’t quite fast enough and the boda was still moving, so I basically toppled over sideways, right into the dirt.  Luckily, the driver had been going pretty slowly, so it really wasn’t such a big deal.  It’s just that I went down in a pretty ridiculous and scary-looking fashion.  I scraped my arm a little, but wasn’t in any kind of pain.  Honestly, the biggest wound I suffered was to my pride…because of course, it WOULD happen in front of ALL MY FRIENDS and some other random Ugandan men who must have just thought I was a dumb tourist muzungu….hard to maintain my dignity under those circumstances!  But the other interns were pretty cool about it.  Some of the others have also had boda mishaps, too, though I think mine was probably the least graceful of them all!

The restaurant was nice.  The food was good, and I got to catch up with the other interns and get to know a few of the ones from Northwestern, there.  Caroline also showed up, which was pretty cool.  She even came back to Backpackers with us after the meal, which I was glad for, because we don’t have much time left to spend with her!  It’s so much fun hanging out with Caroline outside of official FSD activities.  She’s such an interesting and cool person (not that the others aren’t…because, really, everyone doing this program is!), and she’s had so many wonderful experiences all over the world  (She reminds me a lot of you, Justine!  I hope you’re still having fun in Ghana!).  Backpackers actually was kind of hopping on Friday night.  I think we got back around 9pm and there were already a bunch of drunk people singing Bohemian Rhapsody!  It was a fun night.  We all hung out, had some drinks, and made a few new friends.  Our second night was pretty similar, though we had two of the girls from UNC instead of Caroline, there were less people, and no Bohemian Rhapsody.  Both nights, however, we did have our good buddy Nash by our sides.  He’s the manager of the hostel.  He’s been very good to us—he gives us discounts and calls us taxis and things like that, but he’s also VERY FLIRTY.  It’s actually pretty funny, though it’s probably funnier for me than for some of the other girls, who he hits on a lot more often.  Still, it was sad to say goodbye to him and to Backpackers after spending so much time there.  We’ve promised to come back and visit soon, as Nash told us we must do so before he ends up getting married (I guess his “engagement” to Allison is off, now.  The two of THEM were supposed to get married on Saturday night.)

During the day, I did a lot of shopping and hanging out in internet cafés.  I’ve discovered that I love haggling.  It’s a big part of the culture here, and I think I’m pretty good at it!  I got a lot of great stuff, and I didn’t pay full price for any of it!  There’s one store where I ended up making most of my purchases, who was run by a really sweet woman, named Eva.  She has a three year old daughter who is also named Rachel, so she liked me a lot and said that I was her daughter, too.  We talked about our similarities (I don’t throw tantrums anymore, but I used to!) and I told her a bit about my family, too! I promised to come back and visit her again, soon, and referred her to all of my friends.

On Sunday morning, we had a pretty frustrating breakfast experience.  We went to a new place, which had opened very recently (you could tell).  Noam and Kellen had been there a few times, and had given it very high praise.  The owner, they said, was really sweet, the food was great, and she had been taking all kind of suggestions they had made about how to get lots of muzungu customers (moist baked goods, fresh fruit, background music, etc.).  Naturally, we were really excited to try it out.  Almost everyone ordered egg, bacon, and avocado sandwiches.  Two others ordered bacon, egg, and cheese, and Noam ordered toast and a fruit salad.  Greg also ordered a cup of tea.  I know that was boring information, but you’re going to want to keep it in mind.  First off, it took about an hour before anything arrived.  This is annoying, but does tend to happen sometimes at restaurants, what with Uganda time (another thing that I will NOT miss…I forgot to include it on the list!), but it was a bit strange, since we were the only customers in the restaurant.  However, we thought we’d give them a break, since we were probably the largest crowd they’d had so far.  For some inexplicable reason (actually, there’s a reason, and it was that our waitress was completely incompetent), they brought us a large pitcher of coffee and several cups, even though no one had ordered it.  We explained that no one had ordered coffee and that one person had ordered tea.  They came back with tea, but again, it was a huge pot of tea, with way more than one cup.  At that point, some of the girls felt bad and decided to take some, anyway (though the regretted it when they were charged 3,500 shillings for it!  That’s really expensive for black tea.  It’s usually considered pricey at 2,500).  After waiting for an additional 20 minutes or so, they finally started bringing out food.  Now, you recall that we all ordered pretty much the same thing—egg, bacon, and avocado sandwiches, with two bacon egg and cheese sandwiches.  But that is not, in fact, what they brought us.  What they did bring us were a number of ridiculous variations with some sort of combination of those ingredients, plus lettuce and sausage, which no one had asked for.  Almost none of the sandwiches included eggs.  In the end, they pretty much gave everyone what they ordered, but it took forever, and the waitress was perpetually far too blasé and obnoxious about all of it.  And poor Noam’s fruit salad came last of all.  She didn’t even want to eat it at that point.  They took it off the bill though, which was nice.  What wasn’t nice was the price of the sandwiches, which we hadn’t known about beforehand, because they don’t have menus yet and prices aren’t listed anywhere.  The owner was very apologetic and offered us some free baked goods, but at that point, we just wanted to get the hell out of the restaurant.  I really have no idea why they had so much trouble with our orders.  It just made absolutely no sense.  Sure, there were 8 of us, but only 3 separate orders.  How do you come up with different sandwiches for everyone, some of which have completely irrelevant ingredients that no one ever mentioned wanting?  Though I’ll admit, it was pretty funny to see what they’d bring out next.  Sort of like a probability problem in math class (If 7 people order sandwiches, and the ingredients available are bacon, egg, avocado, cheese, lettuce and sausage, how many different combinations of sandwiches can be made, and what is the probability that they’ll actually be served what they ordered?).  I’m sure once they get on their feet (and hopefully fire that waitress!), it’s going to be a lovely place.  Too bad I won’t be around to see it!

It was so strange to be visiting most of these places in Jinja for the last time.  I spent my first few days in the country in that town; it was my first real introduction to Uganda and its culture.  Jinja is where I go to escape from the monotony of Kakira, it’s a place I’ve always looked forward to visiting.  It’s been a constant source of muzungu culture and reminders of home, to the degree that any place here can be.  It’s also the home of the FSD office, of course, another place with people who I’ll miss dearly.  I’ll go in once more on Wednesday for the exit interview, lunch, and swimming with the site team and all the interns I’ve gotten to know so well, here.  I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll admit I’m ready to move on, but at the same time, it’s going to be bittersweet, and so difficult to leave these people and places behind.  Still, I can’t wait for the real vacation part of this trip, and of course to come home and see all of you!

Stay tuned for my typical day in Kakira entry, and for some very cool pictures!

Mweraba!

Rachel

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List All of the Things!

Jambo!

Ok, as if I wasn’t impressed enough by my international fan base, I’ve now had readers in The U.K., Israel Korea, Thailand, and Ghana, in addition to the good old U.S.A.!  Thanks to all of you for making me feel so popular! I think I named everyone I knew who was reading internationally, except for you, Justine!  Oh, and the lovely Hannah Becker, who I forgot to mention had been reading from Argentina and Columbia a few weeks ago!  I actually just checked my top views history from now back to when I first started my blog, and I’ve also had readers in Cambodia, Georgia, and the United Arab Emirates (though that last one might actually have been me, not-signed-in at the airport!).  Really cool stuff!  Seriously, though, would those of you reading from Asia fess up already?  I’m very curious as to who you are!

Ok, so once again, I don’t have many updates, except to say that we’re finished with our project report, and that yesterday we saw a whole bunch of baby animals.  I guess a lot of animals are giving birth around this time of year.  We saw kids, piglets, puppies, and a kitten!   Definitely the highlight of my day!  Especially since Joseph didn’t show up to work until 3:45 and the villagers had made absolutely no progress.  But hey, This is Africa!  Speaking of which, I’m sad to report that Greg has malaria!  But let this be a lesson to us all—DON’T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR ANTIMALARIAL PILLS IF YOU GO SOMEWHERE WHERE THE DISEASE IS COMMON!  Although if the illness I contracted during week one here was, in fact, malaria, it may not make as much difference as it’s supposed to!  But still, just take the antimalarial.  You’ll be better off.  Oh, and also, some random school children know my name!  I’m not sure how, exactly, but yesterday when I walked past the school, a girl called out my name and waved at me, and then today a boy from the same school (I could tell by the uniform) past me in the market and did the same thing!  I really am a bit confused, because none of my host sisters go to the school, nor do any of the other children (friends, other relatives, etc.) who have come to the house.  Oh well, it’s a nice change from “muzungu,” anyway!

So ok, I promised you lists, and here they are.  Now, they’re not just random lists, or boring ones, either.  They’re interesting and funny (they have parenthesis!) and serve as an outlet for me to reflect on my experiences here!  So you’ll like reading them (…right?).

Things I Will Miss Most About Uganda:

-The FSD site team (they have all been so kind and wonderful, and have helped me so much during my time here!  I really hope I’ll be able to keep in touch with all of them after I leave!).

-My host sisters (I’m going to miss our evening talks about school, literature, and boys, sharing tv and movies with them, and of course our dance parties.  I’ve never had a real younger sister—though I have a few close friends who I’d count.  This is the closest I’ve ever gotten before, and it’s been really nice.  They really do feel like my little sisters, and I hope to continue my relationship with them even when I’m back in New York.  I want to keep being their big sister and to be there for them as they grow up, in whatever ways I can be).

-The rest of my host family (While we’ve had our ups and downs, I’m really grateful to them, for all they’ve taught me.  I’ve learned so much from them—about Ugandan culture and their own experiences, as well as about myself.  I’ve impressed myself at times with the levels of patience, resilience, assertiveness, and adaptability that I’ve exhibited, here.  If you’d asked me before the trip, I don’t think I’d have believed I’d be as capable by any means.  And I really have enjoyed getting to know them and spend time with them, too.  I’ll certainly never forget them and the ways in which they welcomed me into their home as family).

-Chapatti, mendazzi (the doughnuts), and Ugandan mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and pineapples (My favorite foods, here.  I am going to miss not being able to buy chapatti or mendazzi on the street for 25 cents whenever I want it…I’ll miss not being able to buy them ANYWHERE!  Hopefully I’ll be able to learn how to make them before I leave, so that I can at least prepare them myself, at home.  As for the fruits, of course I’ll be able to get them back home, but they won’t be quite as sweet and fresh as they are in Uganda…I’ve definitely been spoiled, here.  I’m sure I’ll get over it.  And there are plenty of foods from the U.S. that I’ve been really missing, too…but that’s a whole separate list, as you’ll soon see).

-Boda rides (I don’t think there’s a cooler mode of public transportation than motorcycle taxi.  It’s really badass, wouldn’t you agree?  I’m going to miss whizzing down the street with the wind whipping my hair, feeling like an accomplished world traveler, and the farthest thing from a tourist as I can get here.  Especially when I get the chance to demonstrate that I know the true price of a boda ride to anyone who tries to rip me off with a muzungu price.  Plus, there’s this big long stretch of hilly road right at the edge of Kakira that you have to take to get to and from the mataatus, and it’s just so beautiful to ride a boda up it in the evening, just as the sun is beginning to set.  I’m really going to miss that view).

-The landscapes (Uganda remains incredibly beautiful to me.  I fell in love with the country as soon as I saw it from the window of the plain.  Even the dirt here is pretty.  I’ll miss the beautiful, green trees, the Nile River, even the buildings—the run down looking shops and houses, the brightly colored advertisements, fabrics and crafts hanging from windows and roofs.  It’s all been such a huge part of my experience here, and never ceases to take my breath away and leave me in awe.  It also has served as one of the biggest reminders each day that all of my experiences have been real).

-Sodas in glass bottles (Sodas just taste better in glass bottles, period.  They’re more fun to drink out of.  And here, ALL sodas come in glass bottles—Coke, Sprite, Fanta, even Mountain Dew!  There’s also this really good ginger soda called Stoney, which they don’t make in the U.S. that I’ll miss.  Plus, the sodas also taste better because they’re made with real sugar—probably manufactured right here in Kakira.  They don’t have all of those artificial preservatives that U.S. sodas have).

-The prices (Everything here is so inexpensive compared to the cost of living in the U.S.!  Plus, like I said, in the markets, I can usually talk merchants down at least a little from their marked up tourist prices for most items!  You can’t live anywhere near as cheaply in the U.S.).

Things I Will Not Miss AT ALL About Uganda:

-All the unwanted attention I get because I’m white (It can be very trying to get stared at wherever you go.  The kids are cute, but you can only hear “muzungu, bye!” so many times before you want to scream.  I still don’t mind it so much when children do it, because they’re little, but when adults do it, it feels pretty rude.  Especially when I know for a fact that they actually know my name.  Sometimes when people yell “MUZUNGU! MUZUNGU!” and point at me, I just want to point back and yell “BLACK PERSON! BLACK PERSON!”  Worse, though, is this high-pitched voice people (adults) often use when talking to muzungus.  It’s like a voice people would use to talk to a baby or an animal.  I don’t understand why they do it, if it’s because they think muzungus sound like that or if it’s because they think we’re really delicate and fragile (which they do), or something like that, or if they even know where it came from.  Either way, I find it incredibly irritating and disrespectful.  I actually have spoken to some Ugandans who have used the voice when talking to me, and asked why they do it.  They always get kind of confused and embarrassed and tend to stop, at least temporarily.  It can be difficult, though, because it’s always different people, and I don’t often see the same people I’ve spoken to again.  However, there is one shopkeeper whose store I frequent, who has definitely gotten the message after I spoke to him about it the other day.  He now greets me with “Hello, my friend!”—in a normally-pitched voice.  Of course people also assume that because I’m white I have a lot of money.  With that, I get the issue of people trying to rip me off and overcharge me all the time, but I also am constantly asked for money or favors, like getting people jobs in the U.S. or sending someone’s child to school.  It can be very difficult, sometimes.  It’s hard to say no to hungry children begging on the street, or a woman who can’t afford medicine for her sick baby.  I’m often plagued with guilt over the nice things and money that I do have.  I feel terrible going out to eat and leaving food on my plate.  However, this program has really served to reinforce for me the fact that giving donations and handouts is really not helpful—on both organizational and personal levels.  It makes people dependent on outsiders for help and doesn’t encourage action to improve their situation on their own.  If you give a child on the street 100 shillings, the child will come back and beg on the street again the next day, because he or she has learned that behavior of this type yields a reward and that maybe today he or she will get 500 shillings, rather than 100.  It’s a complicated situation, of course, but keeping that sort of thing in perspective makes it much easier not to be swayed by requests.  One experience that’s really stuck with me was when I was walking in Jinja one day and encountered a boy sitting on the sidewalk, eating a mango.  As I was passing him, he just stuck out his hand expectantly.  He didn’t even speak to me or look up from the mango, just stuck out his hand for me to put money in.  That, to me, absolutely epitomizes the reason why I won’t ever give out a donation, and furthermore, the reason why I’m HERE and doing the work that I am).

-All the rest of the foods that I didn’t list above (It gets very boring eating the same food all the time.  Plus, none of the other food is particularly good.  I don’t mind some of it, but there are definitely many foods I’d rather be eating—many of which are less starchy and bland.  And please understand how serious I am when I say that I cannot be held responsible for my actions toward anyone who tries to serve me rice and beans for the next 2 months.  So help me, this is not a joke.  There’s no telling what I might do).

-Mataatus (My least favorite form of transportation.  They’re crowded and dirty and bumpy.  I’d venture to say they’re even worse than the NYC subway system during a heatwave.  I’d choose the subway any day.  There’s a much smaller percentage of encountering a live chicken on one of those).

-Ugandans’ lack of hygiene (Some Ugandans are pretty good, but most of them don’t use deodorant.  As you might imagine, people sweat a lot here, which means that a lot of them smell pretty bad—which, let me tell you, does not enhance any mataatu experience.  Also, I cannot attest to how often many people use toilet paper or how frequently they wash their hands.  This may be due to poverty, to some degree, and again, I really can’t say for sure, but yeah, there’s a reason why I’ve gone through so many bottles of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes (thanks, Mom!)—especially when I have to shake hands with villagers and children.  Seriously, I feel like Adrian Monk, here.  I don’t think he’d enjoy Uganda at all, especially if the way he handled that trip to Mexico was any indication!).

-How fixated on religion everyone is here (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with religion.  I think it can be really wonderful and a great as a source of comfort to many and to foster community development and support.  It’s just that it’s so huge here, and people are so pushy about it.  People will walk up to me on the street and ask if I’ve been saved.  I’m always getting questioned about my religion, and people are always eager to tell me all about their own, and how great it is.  Most Ugandans are paranoid about demons and things like that, too, and genuinely believe all kinds of scientifically impossible things that have to do with demons and magic.  For example, Erica’s host mother told her that there’s an entire demon village underneath Lake Victoria that villagers have visited and come back possessed from.  My host brother William tried in vain to convince me that a university student in Kampala had been turned into a snake by her Sudanese boyfriend.  His reasoning for why it had to be true?  There was a youtube video!  There’s an exorcism at the churches pretty much every other weekend.  What’s more, many Ugandans really don’t have much of an understanding of their own religions, at least in the area I live in.  I mean, I’m Jewish and I know more about Jesus’s teachings and what he preached than several Ugandans I’ve spoken to about it.  Plus, a lot of the ideas that people have here that religion has helped to nurture, at times (ex. If you sit around and do nothing but pray for money, Jesus will give it to you) create the same level of dependence on outside aid and a lack of motivation in communities to do their own work to improve their situations as handing out change on the street.  In any case, I’m looking forward to getting back to the U.S., where there’s more religious diversity and at least less people who will try to convert you or beat you over the head with their theologies.  And again, I want to reiterate that I have NOTHING AGAINST RELIGION IN GENERAL).

-All the little bugs and pesky critters lurking about (It’s going to be nice not having to sleep with a mosquito net or constantly worry that a new bite might have given me malaria or some other unpleasant disease.  I’m not particularly a fan of any of the other flying insects that are always lurking about.  The only ones I don’t mind so much are the spiders, since they catch and eat the others—but only when they’re not huge, scary, and IN MY SHOWER!  I’m also not a huge fan of the lizards or mice that tend to scuttle about either.  And yes, I have seen some in the house.  I’m also looking forward to the day where I no longer have to wear eu de bug spray…not the nicest smelling substance in the world).

-Frequent power outages (Except for that one four-day stretch towards the beginning of my trip, they haven’t lasted for very long, but it’s still pretty frustrating not to have electricity.  It’s DARK here, at night, and you can only get so far with a headlamp and some paraffin lanterns—which, by the way, smell bad and really aren’t very good for humans’ health, either.  Plus, it sucks not being able to charge my phone or computer when the battery is dying.  It significantly limits the amount of options I have with which to entertain myself.  The worst part, though, about power outages is that I can’t use the fan.  It gets really hot, here, and the fan is the only thing I’ve got to give some relief (even if it’s still fairly minimal).  I can’t open the windows at night, because of the bugs, so without the fan, I’m pretty much melting).

Things I Miss Most About Home:

-My family and friends (yes, that means you!  Of course, this is the biggest and most important thing that I’ve been missing.  Please, let’s make some plans to see one another, if it’s convenient!  I’m so eager to spend time with loved ones, and I really won’t have much to do for the summer when I’m back home.  Call me, maybe?).

-The food!

Ok, now, here, I need to have a sub-category, entitled: “Foods I Miss Most From Home.”  Let me preface this by saying that these are in no particular order, they’re just sort of as I think of them.  You might want to take some notes, if you’re planning on spending some time with me when I get back, this summer.

-Any kind of dessert option or breakfast pastry, particularly if it’s chocolate (Ugandans don’t put sugar in anything, it seems.  They never have dessert or sweets.  The muzungu desserts I’ve encountered are, for the most part, average at best.)

-Steak!  (I could use some nice, rare, red meat.  As I believe I’ve mentioned, all the meat here is dry and overcooked.  It’s awful.)

-Actually, let me amend this to any meat that’s not dry, overcooked, and pretty much impossible to eat.  Especially chicken that I don’t have to try and pry off the bone with my teeth.

-Fresh vegetables (NO CABBAGE!)

-Fresh fruit (Especially berries and grapes!  There are no berries here, it’s so sad!  I’ve also really been missing that summer watermelon.  But seriously, I could subsist on fresh fruits and vegetables, after eating so much overcooked everything, here)

-Cheese (especially mozzarella) and any dish that incorporates cheese.

-Pasteurized, 0% fat dairy products

-Tofu

-Ethnic foods of all kinds (Thai, Indian, Mexican, Italian, Japenese, Chinese, Greek….I could go on…)

-Spices in general (but salt only in moderation)

-Bread that isn’t really dry and crusty (I want to especially indicate bagels, sourdough, and multigrain/whole wheat bread)

-Things to put on my bread that aren’t Blue Band Medium Fat Spread (jam, peanut butter, cream cheese, etc.)

-Pasta in various sauces

-Salsa/guacamole

-Ketchup and Mustard (here, instead of ketchup they have this weird tomato gel called Top Up)

-Kosher hot dogs

-Burgers (meat and veggie)

-Potato and tortilla chips

-Hummus

-Shellfish (lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp)

-Scallops

-Pizza (I know I said Italian food and any dish that incorporates cheese, but pizza deserves its own category)

-Food from Club 41 (especially the fried vegetables)

-Better quality/better tasting alcohol than they commonly sell here (but don’t worry, I’ll bring back some bags, too!)

-Drinks with ice in them (no parasites to worry about!)

-Bacon

-REAL sweet potatoes (The ones here are different and nowhere near as good.  They’re greyish, harder, and not very sweet at all)

Ok, that about wraps it up for the moment.  Back to the big list of Things I Miss Most About Home!

-Running water (Let me tell you, this is something I will never take for granted ever again.  I’ve certainly gotten used to living without running water, and I don’t mind it, but I’d certainly much rather have it.  It’s still definitely an inconvenience.  As soon as I get home and hug my family, I will be running upstairs to my bathroom to take a long, hot shower.  I’m fairly certain this will be the best shower I’ll have ever taken in my life.  Even better than that really cool one at the spa in Rochester I got to use when I went for my 18th birthday.  And that one had like 4 shower heads that all shot at me from different angles.  I haven’t really felt 100% clean since the shower I took in the Dubai hotel, and I’m looking forward to scrubbing the African dirt that gets everywhere off of me once and for all!).

-Not having to worry about whether or not the water in my glass is safe to drink (I can drink right from the tap if I want to!  I don’t have to worry about parasites or any other diseases!  And I certainly don’t have to boil everything unless I want to!).

-Revealing clothing (after that shower I take, I’m going to change into a bikini and some short shorts…or maybe an above-the-knee skirt and I will remain in that clothing for the duration of the day.  My knees and shoulders need to see the light of day!  And what’s more, I’m going to go out in public in clothing that’s low cut and short and has thin straps, and nobody is going to be scandalized.  Plus, I won’t be so hot all the time, and can stop getting really weird tan lines).

-Media/News/Pop culture (I have pretty much no connection to the outside world here.  There are no newspapers in Kakira.  Most of the ones in Jinja are not in English, and the ones that are in English are very outdated).  Until yesterday, the TV only played dvds…we JUST got a satellite dish, but there are still a very limited amount of channels, and the family still tends to monopolize the tv with programs that are dubbed over in Lugandan.  I’m hoping I can still start watching “Beautiful But Unlucky” and find out what all the fuss is about.  But yeah, with the exception of stuff I see you guys post on facebook, I pretty much have no clue what has been going on.  And the dvds I’ve rented only give me a tiny U.S. culture fix.  While the media and American culture can be pretty annoying sometimes, I really am looking forward to being immersed in it again, at least at this moment.  And I really do prefer most American/English entertainment to the stuff Ugandans have here).

-Going out after dark (It’s really not safe to do that, here, especially in Kakira, since it’s more rural and isolated.  Since I am a tiny white woman, the chances of me getting robbed/raped/injured/kidnapped are fairly high, comparatively.  If I am out at night, I don’t ever go out alone.  Naturally, this gets frustrating.  It takes away from my sense of freedom and often causes me to worry more than I’d like to.  Also, it can get pretty boring sitting around the house from 7:30 (at the latest) on.  Nighttime walks at home can be relaxing, and I do a lot of it at school, especially when I’m going to or from friends’ houses and things like that.  I get a lot of good thinking done, during them, and often a lot of good talking, too, if I’m with friends).

-Being online/awake at the same time everyone else is! (This 7 hour time difference is so frustrating!  It’s exciting when I’ve got internet access, but it sucks when I’m finally able to be on facebook or skype and then nobody is around because it’s 4am in New York.  Even if I can’t see you when I’m home because you’re too busy or far away, we’ll at least be able to talk to each other more than we do now!)

Ok, I think I’ve exhausted myself.  Making lists is hard work, you know!  Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them.  This weekend, I’ll be in Jinja again, and I’m going to take an exciting hike up to the top of the big hill in Kakira, so hopefully I’ll have some fun stories and some nice pictures for my next entry.  Also, I’m planning on doing sort of a photo diary day-in-the-life sort of blog entry at some point soon, to give you a better glimpse of my life here in Kakira on a daily basis.  Whether that’s a separate entry or combined with my weekend stories, I don’t yet know.  But keep checking the blog to find out!

Mweraba!

Rachel

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Nothing Exciting Has Happened, But I’m Writing Anyway!

Jambo!

It’s become apparent that not only do I have more readers on this blog than I ever expected to have, it seems that my blog’s popularity spans oceans and continents.  WordPress tells me that I’ve got friends reading from Israel, the U.K., and even Korea!  That pretty much blew my mind.  To you, world travelers, or residents abroad (I don’t know who some of you are!), I say “Thank you.”  You guys are the best!  And if you wouldn’t mind identifying yourselves if you hadn’t already (like Hannah, Mike, and Jon have!), I’d love to be able to thank you in person.  Also, because I’m really damn curious as to who I know that’s currently in Korea.  And if you’re a random person who I’ve never met, thank you so much for taking an interest in my travels!  I’d still love to talk to you and find out how you located this blog.  And, of course, thank you again to all of my readers from the U.S., as well!  You all make me feel so special and popular.  Kind of like what I’m saying is actually interesting!  Seriously, it means a lot to me.

So, like the title of this entry states—nothing very exciting or eventful has been going on, here lately.  It’s pretty much been business as usual.  This past weekend, I hung out in Jinja, did some shopping (haggling is a big part of the culture, by the way, and I’ve been pretty good at it so far!  Let’s hope I can keep it up!), and of course, took full advantage of the wifi and hot showers at Backpackers.  Almost everyone went rafting, but I opted not to (I didn’t have proper attire anyway).  Apparently they had a lot of fun, despite the fact that some nearly drowned, got sunburned, and in one case, even sustained a sprained thumb!  I was proud of myself for being able to navigate Jinja and get home to Kakira all by myself…but some of that pride went away when I realized I’d accidentally locked myself out of my room.  I had to wait about 3 hours for Emma to get back with the key!  Oops!

There was a bit of drama at work, with the goat project.  Apparently, Monica, the villager who had built the larger structure and was supposed to receive the male goat decided that she no longer wanted it, because she had expected the goat to be bigger (they’re still very young, as you saw, and of course it will grow bigger over time).  The villagers were pretty annoyed at her, Joseph didn’t even want to tell us, initially, because he knew we would be, too, and he set up a meeting with the villagers, to sort things out (one of them asked if we were attending the meeting, which is how we learned about it,).  Joseph was great!  He really does come through for us, despite his lateness every day!  There was another villager who was really excited about the project, had worked very hard to build the structures, and was capable of housing the goats, so if Monica didn’t come around, we were going to build a new structure on his property, recycling the materials from Monica’s structure.  However, in the end, Monica did come around, so things will go as planned.  That’s basically the most eventful thing that’s happened so far.  Otherwise, things have been going smoothly.  We’re going to check on the villagers and goats again tomorrow (today we went to Jinja, where I’ve been doing more shopping, and hanging out in internet cafes).  Other than that, we’ve been working on our project report, which we have to hand in to FSD by the end of the week.  We’re almost done with it, too, and probably will be by tomorrow afternoon.

I’ve been reading some good books, too—The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and I just started the first in a fantasy trilogy called The Magician’s Guild.  I’m pretty sure I’m almost done with the second season of “The West Wing,” but after that, I’ve still got some dvds that I can watch—I can always re-watch them, as well!  I tried to buy ones that I wouldn’t get tired of.  Plus, I can still swap with the other interns, too.  Greg, in particular has been building quite a collection, and I’ve got my eye on his copy of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.”

Fun fact: Did you know that Ugandans are afraid of rain?  They really don’t like getting wet.  Yesterday, there was a huge thunderstorm (we lost electricity for most of the late afternoon and night, which sucks, but not as much as that 4 day power outage did!).  We started hearing rumbles of thunder and seeing flashes of lightning while we were still at work, so we started to head home.  As soon as the first clap of thunder sounded, people literally were running for cover and freaking out!  Poor Erica lives pretty far away from St. Eliza, and couldn’t get a boda driver to take her home, because it was about to rain and they didn’t want to be in it when it started (if they had taken her, they would have arrived before the rain started, by the way).  Instead, she got stuck standing under the awning of a store in the market with 40 other people for half an hour, before she decided to walk home (the rain had turned into a drizzle by that point).  I didn’t envy her.  For the record, Emma and I had offered to take her to our house, but she refused.  But yeah, it’s funny.  I could understand if they panicked about the potential for flooding, the lightning, or even the thunder (which was of biblical proportions, yesterday, by the way.  I thought there was going to be some smiting, for sure!).  But the rain itself?  That just seems silly.  Especially because there’s so much dangerous stuff here that Ugandans don’t fear in the slightest!

The only other eventful thing I’ve got to report is that I’ve been given an African name.  It was initially suggested by some random guy who I guess is a friend of the family, and was visiting Mama Fina on Sunday, but the family really liked it, and has somewhat adopted it (thought mostly I’m still Rachel).  Anyway, the name is Nangobi, which means princess.  It’s a name that is typically given to people from a royal lineage.  But don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head—much.  Don’t be surprised if I start walking around with a tiara from now on and expect you all to bow and curtsy when you see me.

I’ve also had the pleasure of talking to a lot of friends and family online!  Please, continue (or start) to send me e-mails, facebook messages, and comments on my blog!  I really do treasure them, and it’s always nice to be able to spend my free time reading and answering them!  In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve got a lot of it, so really, keep them coming!  I’ll be as prompt as I can!

Stay tuned for my latest blog entry…maybe something crazy will happen to break up the monotony!  You never know!  But if not, I’m going to make some very entertaining lists.

Mweraba!

H.R.H. Nangobi

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Well, We Were Both British Colonies at Some Point…

Jambo!

I’ve got about 2 weeks left here, now, can you believe it?  I certainly can’t.  It’s funny, the first 2 weeks or so seemed like forever, but the rest of the time has absolutely flown by!  Most days seem pretty long (especially in Kakira, waiting around for Joseph to show up), but when I add them all up, I wonder where the time went!  Especially when I’m having fun adventures on the weekends or hanging out in Jinja!  Before you know it, I’ll be back in New York to hang out with all of you!  I’m excited to come home, but I know I’m going to miss Uganda so much, too!

So, as you know, Wednesday was a national holiday in the U.S.  Now, as you might imagine, celebrating American independence from British colonization is not something people really do in other countries.  As such, there were no typical festivities in Uganda.  No fireworks, barbeques or red, white, and blue.  So we had to make our own fun and represent the good old U.S.A. the best we could!  Caroline, the FSD program coordinator was nice enough to offer to host a party at her apartment.

A bunch of us met up there, with a variety of snacks.  We made smoothies, with ice cream, frozen bananas, oreos (yes, they exist in some supermarkets, here!), and a generic form of nutella, called “nutkao.”  Yes, nutkao.

The smoothies were delicious.

 

Also, to our extreme surprise and delight, we found marshmallows. Marshmallows!  In Uganda!  They were at one of the supermarkets.  This was a huge deal.  Granted, they were multicolored and made in Pakistan, but they were marshmallows nonetheless, and so we bought them and roasted them over a charcoal fire.

 

(Here’s your proof, they were definitely Pakistani marshmallows!)

 

They actually tasted really good, despite their appearance.  Just like marshmallows you’d get in the U.S.!  It was wonderful, and definitely an unexpected surprise!  We tried to make s’mores, too.  They were fairly nontraditional, as we used ginger snaps (there were only enough for each of us to have one, though) and nutkao, instead of graham crackers and chocolate bars.  Still good, but not quite the same.

The charcoal stove proved quite useful.  We made grilled cheese…sort of, and hotdogs!  We didn’t have ketchup, mustard, or buns, though, so we had to settle for avocado as a topping (still really good!) and slices of white bread as buns.  Just like home…almost.

 

And of course, as with many celebrations, you’ve got to have some drinks.  Ours came in bag form.  I know I’ve mentioned to some of you that in Uganda, they sell bags of alcohol in the markets (they sell bags of other things, too, like milk and water, but obviously, alcohol is the most fun to talk about).  So far, I’ve seen gin, vodka, coffee liqueur, pineapple gin, and cane spirits—which were what we were drinking on the Fourth of July.  Basically cane spirits are gin with sugar cane squeezed in there for flavor (possibly even Kakira’s own).  You can mix them, and eventually we did, with pineapple juice and banana, but I certainly wasn’t afraid to drink it straight out of the bag, either—strong and cheap-nasty as it might have been.  I guess I’ve got Sean and Chandra (and a couple of other brothers and sisters) to thank for my immunity to bad, cheap alcohol.  Anyway, here’s how most people looked after drinking the cane spirits:

And here’s my reaction:

 

Aren’t you all so proud?  (Especially you, Seandra?)  Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and definitely a nice way to spend a holiday away from home.  Particularly with a holiday like Independence Day, it could have easily been an opportunity for me to feel extremely homesick and frustrated about all of the things that I’ve been missing here, but instead, it turned out to be a really lovely evening, and a great bonding experience with friends.

Since a lot of you really liked my story about dancing with my host sisters, I’ve got another one for you!  Last night, the family was talking about traditional Ugandan dances, so I begged Zahara to teach me some moves.  She did, and of course, I was terrible at it.  The dance steps involve a lot of dragging of the feet, which is something I’m really not used to.  In every other type of dance I’ve done, that’s basically the exact opposite of what I’ve been taught to do.  Tap dancing is the only remotely similar But I’ll keep practicing, and maybe by the time I leave, I’ll have gotten the hang of it, at least a little bit.  Mama Fina was around this time, too, and even she got into it, singing the traditional songs with the girls and even joining in the dance, in the end!  Later in the evening, Zahara and I were talking, and I was telling her about the different types of dances I know how to do.  I now have to try and track down a copy of Singin’ in the Rain on dvd (or at least find a clip online of the very famous scene…if you don’t know the one I’m talking about, you should probably crawl out from under that rock and check yourself into a hospital).  Maybe the store I like in Jinja will have a copy.  Later, she asked me how long it would take her to learn ballet.  I told her that I wasn’t sure, but that we could start right now, and gave her an impromptu lesson.  !).  I taught her the five basic positions, tendues, releves, and plies, as well as some basic arm-work.  Turns out, ballet is as difficult and comes as unnaturally to her as the Ugandan dance does to me.  I told her to practice standing with her legs straight and her feet turned out, in her free time, at school, pretty much whenever she can.  I, in turn, will start dragging my feet everywhere I go (not really…I’d wear out the soles of my shoes even faster than I already have been).  I’m sure we’ll both be experts by the time we leave.  And don’t worry, I promise to teach anyone the moves who wants to learn.  I can’t, however, promise that I’ll be able to teach them well.  And we’ll probably look ridiculous.

This weekend, I’m just hanging out in Jinja, hopefully doing some dancing at the clubs, shopping (for souvenirs…maybe for YOU!) and watching my friends go rafting on the Nile!  So stay tuned!

Mweraba!

Rachel

 

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