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?).
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
-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
-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
-Shellfish (lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp)
-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!)
-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!