Saturday, December 5, 2009

One last post for today...

Hi All,

  Just one last post for today!

So today is my last day in Uganda.  I am SUPER sad about this.  It's bizarre to know that I'm leaving this country that's been my home for the past three months, where I have friends, even a family, and understand the taxi system and some cultural norms.  Uganda has taught me so much and I am leaving here a smarter, slightly tanner and definitely more mature person.  I will always hold a bit of Uganda in my heart and definitely look forward to reliving my experiences through sharing pictures and stories with all my friends and family when I get home!  So get excited!!  :)

Now...KENYA!  Cait and I are leaving tomorrow at 630AM and will be traveling for 12 or 13 hours to get to Nairobi.  We'll be staying in Nairobi for two nights and then onto Mombasa and then we're going to work our way up north to Lamu.  Then back to Mombasa...back to Nairobi...and we'll fly out of Africa (hehe) on Dec 21st (i think) for London...then a WONDERFUL and full day in London with my good friend from school, Serena!  I am incredibly excited about my 22 hours in London!  :)  And then....HOME!  That word that I have treated like a four-letter word in my thoughts because it's hard to think about without wanting to home and missing everyone!  But yep...I'm starting to think about it more and more and am DEFINITELY excited to get home!

So I hope you all are having a wonderful December!  Sooon...Christmas!!  :)


Some Lessons- Uganda Style

            The Wednesday before Thanksgivng, I got to Skype with Mom, Dad and Meag for a FULL HOUR!  It was fabulous and absolutely amazing!  So during our chat, Mom asked me what I had learned and so I decided to make a bit of a list to share.

·         Ugandans Prize Cleanliness:  I thought I was going to be dirty this whole time, but Ugandans really do demand cleanliness.  I had a mental picture of what personal hygiene would be like here and it was definitely different from what it turned out to be.
·         Being Disabled in a Developing Country Sucks: Damn… it’s not easy.  At home, there is a structure in place to assist people with disabilities.  You can play sports, take public transportation, access buildings, pretty much anything, but here it’s completely different.  There is no structure to assist people with disabilities and many times they are not given the same access to education as others, so that limits their prospects.  Also, the only housing a lot of them can afford is in the slums, and let me tell you, those slums are not ADA-approved by any means!  They are difficult to navigate for a person with two working legs, much less someone in a wheelchair or on cruches. 
·         There are different levels of ‘muzungus’: Some people are here for business and never both to leave the nice, cushy hotels of Entebbe.  Others are here to “save the world” but only on their terms.  Most don’t bother to learn basic words, like thank you or please (I will never underestimate the value of a couple of words ever again).  Some people talk down to Ugandans and you can feel this bubble of perceived superiority.  A lot of people dress like muzungus and look very out of place in this society (think shorts and crazy ‘safari’ outfits). Most muzungus won’t even acknowledge other muzungus (this has left me extremely frustrated at many events where I just wanted to learn about their backgrounds to see what works and what didn’t and then to apply those lessons to my own- but some people just don’t care to interact at all).  Some don’t even care to understand what’s going on around them—they exasperate me!  But while those aren’t necessarily the best levels of muzungu-hood…there are some really nice people that we have met!  Like the communications director at Invisible Children who gave us some awesome suggestions of places to see in Gulu and the surrounding areas or the Peace Corps volunteer who chatted with us at the Halloween party or the nice South Africans who provided a barrel of laughs and some great barbeque! 
·         Never Underestimate the Power of a Greeting:  When I get home, I’m going to miraculously be the most polite person in the world after living for four months in a society that expects extensive greetings before any business can be discussed. 
·         You can have wonderful laws, but still have so many kinks:  Uganda has an amazing Constitution!  Seriously, it covers every single base possible!  But it lacks follow-through!  Enforcement is a joke here as 80% of the population lives in the rural areas and the police still expect “sodas” (bribes) for a lot of things.  Also, it’s just hard to enact some of these laws when there are basic structures missing and even enforcement among the enforcers.  Aye.  Out of everything, this has been one of the most frustrating parts of this country! 
·         People become Jaded:  Ugandans have become jaded about democracy and I think I would too after a bunch of crazy dictators, 26 years of the same president and no end in sight.  Sure, there’s peace and I think that’s why people are okay with the status quos because peace is the ultimate when your young country has already lived through so much.  But democracy sure isn’t like what it is at home.  I have heard countless people say that they won’t vote in the 2011 presidnetial elections as they can already tell you Museveni will be reelected.  Damn.
·         Research is tough:  I haven’t written much about my research probably subconsciously on purpose.  But here is what I have learned about research: it is tough.  Nothing goes as planned, especially in a developing country like Uganda.  You meet some people who are amazing and help you in so many different ways and then you meet others who speak to you like you’re a child who knows nothing or you have the stupidest idea in the world.  I’ve been looking at it as just a big character-building project.
·         They know our president- but for most it ends there:  Ugandans LOVE to ask about Obama!  “How is he doing?”  “Do people just love him, ah because we love him!”  While it has been fun to have a very popular president here, there is a part of me that wants to ask them what they know about Obama.  Sure, his father was Kenyan- but Obama was not born in Africa, as I have seen some posters claim and some believe.  Sure, he was elected and had a historic campaign- but the presidency goes beyond a campaign and election.  People’s love for him seems to be stuck on election day levels and if you try to explain to a Ugandan that, sure people love him, but right now he has a LOT on his plate to deal with and some people are worried- they look at you like you’re crazy.  I’m sure they’re thinking: “How could anyone not love Obama?” 
·         Uganda is Young:  Oye, there are some days that I just want to scream: THIS WOULDN’T HAPPEN IN THE U.S.!!!  At first, I compared a lot of things to home: the government, education system, social hierarchy, etc.  But then I realized Uganda is still young.  They only recently severed their connection to its colonial mother, Britain.  While the U.S. was a British colony too (although Uganda was only ever a protectorate), we severed those links SOOO long ago, whereas a lot of Ugandans still remember Independence Day.  Damn.  So I try to shake those things that bother me off and just focus on the fact that Uganda has a long time to perfect its independence!
·         You Can Live Life without a Whole Lot of Baggage: Yep. I survived four months with one suitcase and a duffle bag.  Not gonna lie, I’m pretty proud of myself on that one!  At home, I have a lot of stuff and while some things, like my comforter, perfume and TV, I miss…there is a lot that I realized I can live without.  Ugandans live very simple lives.  There are very minimal extraneous things in their homes.  Everything has a purpose and then there are a few decorative touches, but nothing overwhelming.  While I have mean shopping-streak running through my veins, hopefully I will take what I have learned here back home and resist being swept up into the crazy materialism that our society has pushed on us 
·         Access to Information is Not Something to be Taken Lightly:  If computer to people ratios were anything like what they are like at home, then Uganda would be absolutely amazing!!!  If farmers were simply able to Google the fungus growing on their plants, then they could understand what was going on around them a lot more.  We are so blessed to be exposed to so much at home, through TV, newspapers, other print media, the internet, etc.
·         This World of Ours is SMALL:
·         Sometimes “Bambi” is Enough: When I fell in the hole at the gas station, there were suddenly a lot of gas attendants surrounding me all saying, “Oh…bambiii (sorry).”  Nothing else.  No one offered to get me ice (wishful thinking) or a bottle of water (heck, I was passing out). Nada.  Looking back on it, I got kind of upset.  If this had been America, they would have been hurrying to cover their tails because that could have been the quickest lawsuit ever!  But nope… those sorts of things don’t fly in Uganda and to everyone involved, it was just an accident with no one to blame.  So it’s been nice living in a country that doesn’t have the luxury of fretting about lawsuits or insurance or anything of the sort and is okay to just offer a “bambi” and then move on.
·         There are more Questions in this World than Answers: Why do I have my whole life ahead of me, full of potential while my Ugandan-peer is already saddled with two kids, a household, and no chance of attaining much more than a bunch more children?  Why do some government officials drive Mercedes Benzes here while the rest of the population is trying to eek out even the most basic living?  Why do mosquitoes insist on being evil and spreading malaria?  Why do people die of malaria, diahrea, and other diseases that can easily be treated?  Why do people have such HUGE families?  Why is polygamy okay?  Why? Why? Why???
·         Mosquito Nets are NOT Romantic: Yep, sorry to bust that myth, but they really aren’t romantic at all!  They’re hot and a pain in the butt and annoying…but they offer a shred of protection against malaria and you gotta take what you can get!  I can’t wait to not have to tuck this baby in at night come December 23rd!
·         What an amazing thing an American passport is: Sometimes I just remember I have an American passport and can’t help but smile knowing that that baby is gold.  Then I think about what it means to have a Ugandan passport and how difficult it is for some people to leave and I just sigh at the lack of freedom to travel.
·         There are a lot more lessons to be learned!!

More pics!!! :)

My room...CLEAN...before I left

Paula being a ham at the party!

Crevi and her host-sister, who was HILARIOUS!

Cait (left) and Ambreen (right) with blue hair! hahaha! CRAZY!!!

cutie- he was eating everyone's fruit!

My host-mom got me a matching moo mooo- so we were TWINS!

i love the way Ugandans eat! hahahhaha

Preston (left) with Cait's host-sister...we decided they should marry!  <3

End of Program... :(

End of the Program…
            Damn.  This week has been absolutely crazy!  I finished my final paper—it feels super good to be done with!!  YIPEEE!!  On Sunday we had our homestay party!  It was held at the Uganda National Museum and was so nice!  We got there at five and there were only two other families there.  Over the next hour, everyone showed up and it was so good to see all of my friends who had been gone during practicum period and to get to meet their families!  We had dinner and then DANCING!  Snap- there were some crazy awesome dancers!  It was fantabulous!
            That night, we all went back to Jeliza.  The place where it all started!  The next morning, we set off for Jinja.  Crevi and I watched “How I Met Your Mother” on the way there and it was so much fun!  A little slice of home!  The Kingfisher Safari Resort is BEAUTIFUL!  It was awesome and we got a five-person hut and so comfortable!  We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday presenting.  There were some really great presentations and everyone did an awesome job!  It was fun to learn about what everyone did. 
            In the morning, we would have a delicious breakfast of omelet, bread, pineapple and COFFFEEE!  Yes. Delicious coffee- not instant!  Then on to presentations!  When we got out, we would go straight to the pool and all hang out!  Then tea time at 5- AKA: MORE COFFFEEEE for me!!  Dinner at 7 and then more chillin’, How I Met Your Mother and more chillin’!!  Overall, an incredibly relaxing time! 
            Thursday, after we finished, a bunch of us went off to Bugagali Falls to see some rapids from the Nile.  It was pretty sweet!  Then we got chipati with nutella, peanut butter and banana.  DELICIOUS!  We had dinner together and after, we all sat around with beers and chattin’ about all our experiences!  It was fun!  After, Marissa, Crevi, Cait, Gayle, Mia and I went to “Viewers Spot Club”—haha, I think it sounds like a stripclub, but it wasn’t—and we just DANCED!  So much dancing and it was wonderful!  We truly had a wonderful night!
            Friday…back to Kampala.  It was sad to leave.  Sad to pick up our passports today.  Sad to finish up the program.  Sad to know that everyone else is gonna see their families in two days while Cait and I have two and a half weeks.  Ugh.  BUT…we have KENYA and it’s gonna be a BLAST!!!
            Okay…hope you all are having a blast!

Thanksgiving- only a bit late! :)

View of "Paradise"- that's the name of the restaurant!

this was a headline! pretty funny!

My Thanksgiving
            Ah, what a wonderful Thanksgiving I had!  Cait’s Mom got her a room at the Sheraton for two nights, which she graciously shared with us!  It was a little slice of America, with wireless, hot showers and water pressure, a huge bed and elevators!  We didn’t even have a mosquito net because the damned mosquitoes couldn’t reach us on the 7th floor!!  Wednesday night, Cait and I just reveled in the wonderfulness of the room and wireless.  Thursday, we had a lazy morning and it was fantastic!  Then Crevi, Gayle and Mia showed up and we had a wonderful day together!  Then, Cait, Gayle and I went back to Lotus Mexicana Cantina for Happy Hour!  Yep, my Thanksgiving was anything but traditional as I spent it at a Mexican restaurant in the middle of Kampala.  We had margaritas and mojitos with bean burritos!!  Then we haggled with boda-men until we found one that would take us for 500 shilings each, but we had three and most of the time you only do two passengers per boda.  Well…we decided to just go for it and the three of us climbed onto this one boda!  Oh boy, part of me wished it were light outside so people could really appreciate how RIDICULOUS we looked!  It was hilarious and we didn’t stop laughing for the five-minute ride back to the Sheraton!!  HILARIOUS!!  Then when we went through security, the man asked to look into my little wallet/pouch thingy.  When he noticed it only held money and a phone, he motioned with his hands around his stomach and asked me, “What do you have there?”  HAHAHAHAHA, I could only laugh and say MATOKE and CHIPATI!  Yep, Ugandans like their women fat, but when it comes time to muzungu with love handles going into the Sheraton, security thinks it’s a bomb or something!  Too funny!
            There was something amazing about being in a nice hotel after living here for three months.  That shower was hot and had water pressure….heck, it was a SHOWER instead of a bucket bath!  But we all kept on thinking to ourselves, “what if this was the only part of Kampala you experienced?  Worse, what if this was the only part of Uganda you experienced?”  For that, I will forever be thankful for my home stay experience!!!  I am a part of a family in Uganda and have been such for three whole months!  They have welcomed me with open arms and given me a taste of their daily lives.  When people ask me where I stay, I can say “Ntinda” instead of “The Sheraton,” sending my street-cred sky high!  But I can also say that I have traveled through the country.  I’ve been to a refugee settlement, toured a Millennium Village, talked to small farmers in Kapchorwa, visited a landfill in Kampala, seen Murchison Falls, danced with a bar full of men in Gulu, and lived with a family in Busia.  The Sheraton cleaned me up, but what it ended up showing me was a lesson I’ve learned many times this semester: that I was lucky to have come to Uganda with SIT and a program that showed me so many parts of this country.  That I was lucky to come here as a student, with open eyes and ears (and even nose)—open to soaking EVERYTHING up!  That I was lucky to live with an incredible family and to learn so many things from them!  And most of all, that I was lucky to be able to come for four months of non-stop learning!
            I am truly thankful!

So on that note, thank you Mama O’Donnell…it was truly a WONDERFUL stay and the view was amazing!  And I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of family, friends, turkey, pie and (real) football!  I’ll be home for next year’s!



the view from the 7th floor of the poooll!

Gorgeous skyline!

Kampala Casino- yes, I went!!!  And it was FANTASTIC!  Just one small room! haha!

beautiful sunset!

Pretty Sheraton grounds


View from the room

Gayle!  In the HUGE and WONDERFUl bed!!!


The huge bathroom ballroom!

THe bathroom at Lotus! I love that shower curtain!


Cheers and Pictures!

MMore pictures!

Preston was soo cute- he pointed out that the rainbow was reflecting in the window!

Rainbow in the backyard.  Beautiful sunset in the front!  :)

Lotus!  Crevi (left) and Cait (Right!)  These two are TOOO FUNNNNAY!

MARGARITAS!!  Delicious!

And they have BUNNIES!!  Later on, we 'bunny-wrangled" and helped them catch all the bunnies.  It was HILARIOUS to the max!

I went shopping for Crevi! hehe!

Yuck the "Lotus Pink Martini" not good...don't order it when you go!

hehe we take lots of pictures!!!