Even More Belated Updates! Make Sure You Read the Other Posts Too!

Jambo, Bassebo ne Bannyabo! (Hello Sirs and Madames…you use these words to show respect and greet people formally)!

Once again, I’m so sorry for the delays! I have not had internet access for a very long time! I thought I would have it at work today, but we didn’t.  I think we should have it by tomorrow.  We will need it to do research and things of that nature!  So hopefully I’ll be able to communicate with everyone more regularly then.  Or at least post blogs on the day that I write them!  This blog will be about my past 2 days—the major points of which have been meeting my host family, moving to Kakira, and my first day of work at St. Eliza!

Oh, but first…guess who ALREADY got sick?  Yup, THIS GIRL.  Actually, I already wasn’t feeling well the night that I posted my blog entry about my flight, but it didn’t seem quite as serious at the time.  My arm was very sore for no reason, and I was very tired (which I assumed was the jetlag and the lack of sleep I’d been getting as a result), but it might have been an additional symptom.  I woke up in the middle of the night (or morning, as it was), feeling very nauseous, and then I got very overheated, probably running a fever.  I called Margaret, the program director immediately (she already knew about my arm and we’d been planning to see a doctor in the morning), and she took me to the hospital where they diagnosed me with malaria.  Now, I know that sounds scary, but don’t be alarmed.  Malaria is very easy to treat and the symptoms go away very quickly if you catch it early on.  Furthermore, there’s a chance that it isn’t even malaria.  Apparently, doctors here can be very quick to diagnose patients with malaria even when it may not be, to avoid the risk that it is malaria, especially with muzungus.  In this case, though, they seemed to take a very long time to check the test and give me a diagnosis.  Still, I would have had to have contracted it immediately, since there is an incubation period.  Either way, I’ve been taking the medication (I just finished my last dose a few minutes ago), just in case, and I started feeling a lot better only a few hours after I started taking it.  I’ve been taking Tylenol, too, to reduce the pain (and the fever, initially, though I haven’t had that since that very first morning.  So don’t freak out! And hey, it makes a very good story.  Especially because either way I’m setting a record as the FSD intern who made the earliest hospital trip, and I’d also have been the fastest to contract malaria by far!  Hopefully, I’ve gotten the major illness over with quickly, and I’ll be healthy for the rest of my time here!

So, later that day, we had a lunch where we met members of our host families for the first time.  Only one member of my host family came to meet us (that is, me and Emma—the other intern living here).  The person who met us was William, my host brother, who some of you might know had sent me a few e-mails before I left.  He is a very outgoing and talkative person, introducing himself to everyone and cracking a lot of jokes.  He does many different types of jobs, and knows a lot of people all over Uganda.  His phone is always ringing!  His personality can be a lot to handle at times, especially since I’m still getting used to Ugandan culture and the way people act here, but I like him a lot and look forward to getting to know him better.  Oh, and he loves Paul Simon, so we bonded over that.  (Dad, he was excited to hear that you had gone to see him in concert—he has, too!).

We weren’t sure how old William was before we met him, because there was such limited information about him on the sheet we received about our host family, so we assumed that he was close to our age, but he’s actually much older, he’s in his late thirties.  Our host mother, Josephine (Mama Fina), is actually fairly old, she’s in her sixties, and has many adult children.  We’re not sure how many are related to her by birth, since family structures are so different here, but it’s clear that she loves all of them, regardless, and has embraced us as daughters, too. 

Mama Fina is originally from Rwanda, actually.  She left in 1954, to escape from the war.  So she speaks Rwandan in addition to Luganda.  She doesn’t speak much English, but she tries, and I’ve been trying very hard to learn more Luganda so that I can communicate better with her.  In the meantime, William and Annette—the other adult daughter who lives with us translate. 

Annette is really nice, too!  She is a teacher and a Pentecostal pastor, and is very smart.  She hasn’t had an easy life, she told us that her husband left her and their two children to live with an American woman in Nebraska (ew.), but she has raised them both and has been very successful.  Her children are now both away at school, one is at a boarding high school and one is at a university in Kampala. 

Then, there are my two younger host sisters, Cecelia, who is 14 and Desire, who is 13.  Cecelia hasn’t been around much, and she seems very shy, so we haven’t really spoken yet, but Desire is very outgoing and really friendly.  She loves to talk to me, and tell me about school and her friends.  We talked for a very long time earlier, and she wants to take me to the market this weekend to meet her friends.  She says on Sundays, you can buy nail polish there, so I think we will buy some and paint each other’s nails.  Maybe Emma and Cecelia will join us.

For some reason, Steven, my other host brother was not listed on the sheet we received!  I met him last night at dinner, though.  Unlike William, he actually IS a brother who is very close to our age.  He’s 22, and will be attending a university in Kampala soon.  For now, he works in a store, where he sells phone plans.  He loves running, and in the past he told us that he’s frequently gone running with the interns from FSD.  I told him I would run with him if he was able to drag me out of bed early enough, and if I could find running shorts in the market to wear—I don’t think long skirts work so well for that kind of thing. 

In addition to the established family that lives here, there are many other family members and friends that stop by at any given time.  There are always people coming in and out of the house.  I love how open and friendly Mama Fina and, really, everyone here seems to be.  It lends a different sort of warmth and feeling of family and community to this house than I’m used to at home.  Not that I don’t love and miss my home and my family in New York, because I definitely do.  In fact, pretty much the only person I’ve been communicating with every chance I’ve gotten to use the internet is my mom (Jambo, Maama wange!), who I’m sure passes on messages to the rest of the family, too, and has been keeping me updated about what’s been going on at home.

The house I’m living in here is very nice, too.  It’s what Ugandans consider to be upper-middle class.  We’ve got tiled floors and an indoor bathroom with a standing toilet, which is a pretty big deal.  Unfortunately, we don’t have running water right now, but people carry water, I think from a well somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure.  In the bathroom there is a large barrel filled with cold water, and we use a pitcher to pour water into the toilet filter to flush the toilet.  There is always boiled water for drinking and for taking bucket showers (I took my first one this morning, it actually wasn’t bad at all!  This was nice, since I had been really dreading that part.  Turns out that shaving your legs is pretty difficult, though).  In the back of the main house, are some smaller quarters.  I know Steven lives there, and our maid (she is also from Rwanda, she only speaks a little Luganda and no English.  I think I’ll have to learn the Rwandan language, too, because I want to be able to communicate with her!).  I’m still not exactly sure who lives where in this house, because it’s very big. 

Between the buildings is a small garden, from which we get some vegetables and spices.  There is fresh ginger, which they mix into hot water, and combine with tea.  It’s delicious!  I never would have thought to do that, but I think it’s something I’ll bring back with me to New York!  We drink a lot of tea here.  Sometimes we just take it with sugar, but commonly, there is also a traditional African drink called “milk tea,” or “African tea.”  This is half milk, half tea.  The milk here is unpasteurized, so it takes some getting used to.  At first I didn’t like it, but it’s growing on me.  And I’ve had to drink a lot of milk with the malaria medication, because it’s supposed to be taken with dairy.  Mama Fina LOVES to feed us.  She always tries to get us to put more food on our plates: “Rachel, you have taken little!  Take more matoke!”  All of the food they serve us is very starchy, so it’s very filling and difficult to eat a lot of.  As a result, they are always concerned that we don’t like the food, or that we are sick.  My strategy is to put an amount of food on my plate that I can mostly finish, and then just eat it very slowly, so people don’t realize that I haven’t taken more. 

My first day of work at St. Eliza was really great! I’ve definitely gained an understanding of “Uganda time!”  Our supervisor, Joseph, arrived very late to work, and we had many long breaks where we were waiting around.  It can be a bit frustrating, but then again, it’s not such a bad thing to slow down and take it easy, either.  At the beginning of the day, Joseph talked to us about some of the recent programs St. Eliza had developed, sometimes with the help of other interns from FSD.  These included the implementation of a reproductive health education program in Kakira High School, developing personal businesses for people living with HIV/AIDS, and the creation of a sustainable farm and clean water system at one of the schools, so that the children would be able to eat at lunchtime.  The programs all sounded fantastic, and I’m looking forward to choosing the one my group will work on.  Next, Joseph gave us a tour of St. Eliza, and introduced us to the people who work here.  We also went around the village and met many people in the community, who we will be speaking with in order to get feedback as to what the major needs and resources of the community are as we work together to create the program.  Everyone was very friendly to us, and very welcoming.  They all seemed excited to see muzungus, and got quite a kick out of us greeting them in Lugandan.  There are many children around, who are also very excited to see us: “Jambo, muzungu!” “Muzungu bye!”  They giggle and wave to us a lot.  I think they’re very intrigued by us.  And they’re pretty cute. 

After work, the four people in my group went to the market together.  We bought some snacks (doughnuts are smaller and more savory here) and visited an internet café, where they charge you by the minute to use the internet.  It’s pretty inexpensive, but I’d still prefer one where there isn’t a time limit.  It’s frustrating to get bumped offline when you’re in the middle of something.  I thought we were going to have wifi at work, but now I’m not sure.  We’re all going to Jinja on Friday though, to get rabies vaccines and celebrate the birthday of one of the interns in the group.  There’s a hostel in Jinja that offers a discount to FSD interns that we’ll stay at if it gets too late.  So hopefully I can buy an internet plug-in then, or at least upload some blogs at a café where you don’t have to pay by the minute for wifi.  I do miss you all and I’d like to be able to keep in touch better.  I wish I could give you more details about my life here and what I’ve been doing! Please, feel free to send me e-mails or to comment on these blog posts, and I’ll get back to you when I can!

Mweraba!

-Rachel

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About racheltamarin

I'm a college student, studying abroad in Jinja, Uganda this summer. Through this blog, I will share stories and thoughts about my journey (and make sure my family and friends know that I'm still alive!).
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2 Responses to Even More Belated Updates! Make Sure You Read the Other Posts Too!

  1. Sean Conner says:

    Rachel! It sounds like your time in Uganda is already a life-changing experience, and I’m sure it will only get better. I can’t wait to hear about it in person! I’m so jealous that I can’t be there too, but I’m super happy for you. Love you and miss you!

    Sean Conner

    • Thanks so much, Sean! I look forward to seeing you in person, finally, and sharing stories about our time abroad! I wish you could be here, too, I know you’d love Uganda! Maybe someday we can go together! I hope you’re still having an amazing summer! I love you and miss you, too! 🙂

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