Thursday, February 24, 2011

Random Snippets

Elections were remarkably peaceful (a few isolated incidents around the country with some injuries and a few deaths, but nothing major). A bit anti-climactic for all the hype we were giving it. Looks like I won’t be leaving Uganda soon after all. Friends and family, that means you should start planning to visit me here. ;)

There are some things here I’ll never get used to, like how people will turn up at my front door, we clearly can’t understand each other (language barrier), but they continue to just stand there, saying nothing. Or when I’m walking down the street and people not only stare, they stop whatever they’re doing and stare. They almost never smile, not even when I clearly see them staring. Sooo awkward. Sometimes if I wave, it snaps them out of their “Look at the strange muzungu” trance and they might smile or continue on their way.

This is a conservative society (I’m not even really supposed to show my knees!) but I come home the other night after dark and there’s a full-grown woman bathing in the front yard. Stark naked. She lives next door, and I know there’s an indoor bathroom just like mine where she could be bathing.

I found a black widow spider in my house last week. Gave me the heebie jeebies for a few nights. I keep checking corners to see if I find any more – none so far.

I was at a big market the other day shopping for clothes (I’m SO sick of wearing the same 5 outfits all the time) and one man goes, “Muzungu, you come back, I want to eat on your money.” It’s actually funny to see the clothes in the market – half of them still have Goodwill price tags on them, and a good portion are t-shirts from American sports camps or church retreats which you know the participants wore a few times and then realized they no longer wanted a shirt from a retreat 7 years ago. A good chunk of those clothes you donated to charity last year? They wound up in Africa, being sold for $1.

One of my friends in the village, Chief (his nickname, he’s not a chief), owns a bar where I sometimes go for milk tea or to buy bread. I usually end up talking to him, and he keeps asking me why I don’t buy land here and stay in Uganda forever. There are so many answers I could give him (family, a general creepy factor from Ugandan men, sushi, my career, lack of infrastructure of any kind, etc.) but I usually just say, “We’ll see.” Sometimes I want to tell him that I occasionally doubt my ability to even stay here for 2 years.

The other day, I was walking about 1-2km to one of the primary schools, and one of my neighbors sees me and says, “Eh! Noomanya kutambura?” You know how to walk? Why yes, yes I do. Been doing it about 22 years now. I think they’re just surprised whenever they see me doing something that requires exercise, like walking, fetching water, or doing laundry.

Speaking of water – what a disaster! I never knew what the dry season really meant until now. Our rainwater tank continues to be pretty much empty (although it has been raining more often lately, hopefully rainy season is soon here!), and the stream where I was getting bathing/washing water finally got stagnant, gross, and very low. I found a shallow well, and when I pumped the water into my jerrycan it looked clear, but when I poured water for my bath later that night, it was a gross reddish color. Not really sure what happened there. I told myself it just had a lot of iron in it and still bathed. I had no other option, and already had been procrastinating on a bath. Makes me think about all of my neighbors, and the majority of people across Africa and the developing world, who don’t have a rainwater tank, so are always getting their water from unsafe sources that could dry up at any time. In America, we use drinkable water to wash clothes, bathe the dog, and even power-spray the house.

I’m learning to just sit and do nothing, and sometimes that worries me. One of my Life Skills students asked me to come to her house. She speaks very little English, and I speak very little Runyankore-Rukiga. Therefore, I sat for about 3 hours at her house saying almost nothing and staring at pictures on the walls. I was good enough at procrastinating before Peace Corps – now will I procrastinate by just sitting and staring at a wall? I’m also picking up the bad habit of tuning people out, a product of not understanding conversations about 90% of the time.

Kibo is doing great – she’s now 5+ months old (and when I told my neighbor when she turned 5 months old, he sang “Happy Birthday to Kibo”, in his limited English, for the rest of the day). She continues to be pretty afraid of strangers and strange places, but is getting a little better and a little braver, probably because she’s proud to be sporting a fashionable collar and leash from the U.S. (thanks, Mom!). I try to take her into the trading center any chance I get, and she’s going on an excursion to another PCV’s site soon – a little tough love to get her outside of her shell. I’m going to have her spayed soon by a vet who will drive to my house from Mbarara.

Things have been emotionally hard in the past few days – I think I was watching too much Grey’s Anatomy, which made me realize how much I want to practice medicine, which made me question why I’m here doing work I didn’t really sign up to do (NGO capacity-building and community health, not animal husbandry), which made me actually want to be studying my ass off in vet school right now, etc. I’ll find things to keep me busy for a few days, then be faced once again with not enough work. Can I do this for 19 more months? The one thing that makes me want to stay during these low times is remembering the amazing friendships I’ve formed, both with other PCVs and with Ugandans.

Watching the sunrise after an early morning hike with friends

Sunset in my village. No matter how my day went, this sight brightens my mood and warms my heart.

1 comment:

Sandra Nauwelaerts said...

Hi Britt,

I find your blog really interesting. Thanks for talking about your experience so openly and honest. I think although you will never get used to certain things in the Ugandan society (and you certainly don't have to), you will find at some point that these things don't matter to you anymore cause you will have noticed other things you really like. The first year is tough. After coming back to Belgium after 6 years in the US, I found myself describing the way things work in the US and getting annoyed at the fact that they are different here (and the first two years in the US it was the reversed there). My suggestion is to focus on the good and try to ignore the rest (although people staring at me in Sri Lanka supercreeped me out as well!).

Have fun with and hopefully you will be able to do more animal-related things soon!

Take care,