Jambo once again, everyone!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures that I was finally able to put up! I was able to do some on Wednesday when I was in Jinja, and finished the rest at home, since I bought an additional gigabyte for my modem! I’m going to try not to use the modem for photos too regularly, though, because they do take up a lot of megabytes. So as usual, keep checking back for the most recent photo additions for each blog post (weekends are usually a pretty good bet, since I often go into Jinja. I’ll definitely be there on Saturday.)
So, pretty much all of my recent news and stories concern goats. More specifically, how I, the other interns, and the members of the community have been preparing for the arrival of the ones that are going to kickoff our goat-rearing project! First, a bit of information on the goats. Those of you who know a bit about goats (anyone? I do know some people who do, believe it or not, but I’m pretty sure they don’t read this blog) might be wondering whether the goats we’re rearing are going to be ones that are used for their milk or for their meat (yes, there are two types, which not everyone realizes). The answer is that we’re using meat goats. Something new that I learned on our goat farm field trip (more on that later) is that meat goats can be identified by the fact that they all have white fur with brown patches. Goats of any other color are milk goats. Throw that one out at your next dinner party, I bet you’ll impress everyone.
On Monday, we loaded up a mataatu full of villagers and embarked on a field trip to visit existing goat farms that were relatively close by (fyi: a 45 minute drive in a mataatu that’s packed to the gills and happens to be falling apart more than the average ones are is not the easiest of rides). The bumpy ride was worth it, though. It was cool to see what our project has the potential to become, and all of the villagers we visited were really friendly! The women from Kakira particularly bonded with the women on the last farm we visited, which was a lot of fun to see. The villagers there were particularly generous to us, too. They gave us a snack, seeds to plant that will grow into a source of goat food, and a large sack of maize (corn) to take back as a gift. Normally, I don’t like Ugandan maize (they either boil it and it’s gummy or roast it and it’s dry and hard…both ways it tends to be tasteless), but my host family roasted it that evening and it was actually pretty good, probably because it was extremely fresh—not that almost all the food I eat here isn’t. In any case, I think the trip got everyone really excited, and even more enthusiastic about getting started with our actual work!
Just before we went back to Kakira, we took a detour and stopped at a local attraction—a beautiful waterfall, the name of which I cannot recall! But it’s the opposite and less-well-known bank of Kalagala Falls. Now that there’s a dam at Bujugali, it is Uganda’s most powerful waterfall.
(by the way, I found out, it’s called Itanda Falls!)
On Tuesday, we held another meeting for everyone to attend—this time in a classroom at St. Eliza. The purpose of the meeting was to draft a legal document—a constitution, essentially, to outline and specify the group’s commitment to this project and to address the responsibilities of the goat owners and the members of the community, as well as to provide guidelines for any issues that might arise in the future. I think we all did a great job, and everyone seems to be on the same page. The one problem we ran into was actually that the legal representative who was supposed to help us out never showed up. This was apparently due to a combination of Uganda time and overbooking. It was ok, though. We just wrote everything down and Joseph brought it to his office, so that he can properly format it and modify it as needed. We also had the group determine who would receive the first few goats (I was excited because Monica—one of the women I like the best, whose help and support have so far been invaluable is going to get the first male goat and goat structure), and to tell us what resources they already had and what we’d need to purchase.
Which brings me, of course, to Wednesday, when we traveled to Jinja town to purchase materials for the goat structures. And when I say “we,” I mean that Joseph and Monica made the purchases while we stood off to the side and tried to look inconspicuous. When you’re trying to get the best possible deal in a marketplace, it’s really not helpful to have a muzungu present, because they’ll assume that you’ll have lots of money and try to overcharge you. It was during this time in which I had what I’m fairly certain is my worst experience so far in Uganda. I was debating including this story, since I have a fairly wide audience and I’ve been somewhat hesitant for certain people to know, but I’ve decided that I’m ok with it. I’m certainly not ashamed, and honestly, it does make a good story and, while it’s no laughing matter, is kind of funny anyway.
I was sexually harassed by a madman. And when I say madman, I mean REALLY mentally unbalanced. Like, glazed eyes, disheveled, missing several teeth, wearing an infant’s bib and some kind of undergarment thing over his clothing. I’ve seen equivalent looking individuals on occasion in New York City, but it’s very rare that I’ve encountered one on par with this man. It’s not uncommon here in for mentally impaired individuals to wander the streets in Uganda, there are a few regulars in the Kakira marketplace, but for the most part they’re fairly harmless, so it’s sort of a live and let live situation. To be fair, because of his state, I really have no way to be certain that his gesture was even intended in a sexual manner. He could have just been trying to get my attention or trying to play a game with me or something of that nature…though I’m pretty sure he had some idea of what he was doing and where he was touching me, because it seemed pretty deliberate. In any case, yes, it was absolutely revolting and it did really freak me out, but I really am ok, and it could have been a lot worse. I was never really in any danger, I was standing with all of the other interns and Joseph, Monica, and the shopkeeper (who yelled at him and chased him away—though he’d already been running—once she realized what had happened) were very close by, as were many other nice people in the marketplace. Not to mention, I was within reach of an entire box of machetes. The only reason I didn’t want to grab one was that I was standing right next to Erica and would have slashed her when I turned around to face the man, like I had to. There really wasn’t anything anyone could have done to prevent it, he snuck up on us and acted really quickly. He really did have to be very sneaky to get his arm around my back and between me and Erica the way he did—kind of like an incredibly disturbing ninja. The fact that he was so weird and gross definitely added to how freaked out I was, but the severity of what he did was fairly small, comparatively, which is actually somewhat comforting. I mean, worse things happen at the IB every weekend, I’m sure (though I hate the IB and never go, so I can’t speak from experience). Plus, if the worst threat to my body that I encounter in Uganda—where, let’s face it, both sexual and non-sexual violence can be very real risks—is that (if you’ll excuse me for being a bit crass) a crazy man poked my boob…I think I can live with it. Of course, it’s unacceptable and should never have happened, but I don’t live in a bubble, and I need to pick my battles. And being able to say that a crazy Ugandan man poked my boob is kind of hilarious. Come on, you have to admit it’s a pretty ridiculous situation. As my dear friend Miles (who happened to be online when I was freaking out shortly after the incident in an internet café…thank you so much, by the way, for talking me through that. You too, Nate!) so eloquently stated: “well, that was the most awkward sexual harassment story I’ve heard.” Me too, Miles. And don’t worry, I totally yelled at him and everything. But I’m not sure how much I really got through to him, because, you know…he’s a madman. And I still had a pretty good day. Pizza, a brownie, and the opportunity to upload photos of monkeys onto my blog made up for it.
On to Thursday, when we started construction on the goat houses. And again, when I say “we”…it means that mostly the muzungus were watching off to the side. Now, this isn’t because we didn’t want to or try to help. It’s just that for the most part, we were completely unknowledgeable and incompetent, and with the limited number of tools and time, we really just slowed people down, so we left it to the villagers who all had much more experience. Today, we returned to the site, where construction is continuing. We should be finished in no time! Things are going really well so far! See for yourselves:
This is what the site looked like Thursday morning, when we first arrived. These are holes that people were digging, for the poles that hold up the structure to go in:
I tried to help dig one….
But I was bested by a woman in her 60s…
Just as well. I was getting blisters, anyway. And I was too short to help with the poles…
The man in the plaid is Joseph, by the way! By the time we left the field at 4pm on Thursday, here’s what the villagers had accomplished (Monica is the one in the orange dress):
And here’s what it looked like this morning!
Oh, and there’s a big hill on the outside of this part of the village, which we found when we went exploring. We walked partway up and discovered a pretty gorgeous view of the sugar fields…
Jealous? You should be. And I’m sure you can see now why the goats we’re bringing to the town next week are going to be the luckiest in all of Kakira. I wasn’t kidding (see what I did there? That pun was for you, Dad).
Tomorrow we’re heading into Jinja, and on Sunday I get to have lunch with some brand-new FSD interns, coming from Northwestern University. Oh yeah, and I’m probably going bungee jumping.