Life in Uganda isn’t easy. One of the reasons that Americans can focus so hard on being productive and getting lots of professional work done is that their daily routines are easy. They don’t spend several hours hand-washing their clothes, cooking over firewood or charcoal, or waiting for what could be hours for a car to come by in order to get to the market. I’ve never appreciated washing machines as much as after spending a couple of hours scrubbing away in the hot sun and only getting a few outfits washed. Please viciously shake me if I ever complain about doing laundry in the U.S. ever again – you throw it in a machine, add some soap, hit a button, and come back in an hour. Amazing. My neighbors are all busy harvesting millet, groundnuts (peanuts), maize, etc. There is always something that needs to be done in their fields – thus the life of the subsistence farmer, and here everyone is a subsistence farmer, even the nurse next door and the businessman up the road. I was helping to harvest millet and spread it in the sun to dry, and this simple act threw the groundskeeper into hysterics, especially when I said, “Hati ndi Mukiga” – now I am a Mukiga (person of one of the local tribes, the Bakiga – half of the name of the language I’m learning, Runyankore-Rukiga). That happens a lot – when I was learning how to harvest the millet the other day, people stopped and stared/laughed at the muzungu. Imagine! A white person doing manual labor and working in the fields!
I just met with the local dairy farmers to do a needs assessment, and they have decided to start a cooperative to increase their bargaining power (the middleman who buys their milk just dropped his buying price from 500/- Ugandan shillings (about 23 cents) to only 250/- per liter). I’m going to be helping them form the cooperative, come up with marketing strategies, and I’ll also be teaching them different management systems and husbandry techniques. I want to host a lecture series at their meetings and teach them about such things as hay/silage making for the dry season, zero-grazing systems, cow health and nutrition, breeding, etc. I also found out there is no veterinarian close by, so I might even get to implement the Community Animal Health Worker training program I designed during training (and that I also researched for my Specialization in International Development senior capstone project at Michigan State). I’m so excited!!! I’m finally doing something that I envisioned for myself when I joined Peace Corps.
It’s mango season! The other day, I went for a beautiful walk up to the top of a hill with my neighbors to someone’s house (I still don’t know whose house it was), where we ate our fill of mangoes (and it was a lot of mangoes), took in the views of the distant mountains, then brought home a huge sack of mangoes, which we used to make fresh mango juice! Sooo delicious and no added sugar needed. Too bad we have no refrigerator – the juice is only good for a couple of days.
Making homemade mango juice with the neighbors
Kibo is doing great and getting huge – 4 months old now, probably weighs 25+ pounds, and a little calmer but sometimes still a little terror (especially to the neighbor’s chickens – she loves to chase them). She’s wary of strangers, but in general likes women way more than men. If she doesn’t know a man, she barks viciously before running the other direction. Her latest stunt happened when I was getting water at the stream (the rainwater tank is low so we’re saving that water for drinking only, and water for bathing and washing is coming from the stream). I was standing knee-deep in the water, filling my jerry can. There’s a big rock in the stream, and Kibo was standing on top of it. I was thinking how she looked pretty regal up there, and what a good-looking dog she is in general, when she decided to jump to the opposite bank…except she was about two feet short and came down in a magnificent belly flop right next to me, soaking both of us. Terrorized, she quickly swam/ran out of the stream and back towards the house. I haven’t laughed so hard in days – definitely some much-needed comic relief. She’s a great, affectionate dog (she loves to cuddle and she still follows me everywhere when I’m near the house), and I’m definitely planning to bring her back to the U.S. after service.
The next couple of weeks include Peace Corps workshops in Kampala on language and project design/management – very excited to see people I haven’t seen in a few months. Then, our entire training group is going white water rafting on the Nile!
P.S. Our first patient the other morning, a 1-year-old baby, was named Obama.