Monday, January 24, 2011

Muzungu Central

The past week and a half has been quite a change of pace from village life. We had a 10 day in service training (IST) with the other volunteers from our training group at a nice hotel near Kampala. I’ve gotten so used to the electricity, hot showers, and so many muzungu that I’m worried it will be hard to adjust to life in my village! As for IST itself, it was really great to catch up with the other volunteers, most of whom I hadn’t seen in three months. We also got to reunite the fabulous team Lusoga for some extra language class! This past week was also the first time I went to a Ugandan comedy show. Let’s just say that Ugandan comedy is a LOT different than American comedy, and a lot of it involves people dressing up and lip-synching to various songs. A fellow volunteer went on stage himself to introduce American stand up to Uganda – much miscommunication ensued. For example, a joke about asthma was translated as malaria. Whether or not the Ugandans understood, we all found the night very amusing.

As a small aside, I realize I never blogged about a somewhat traumatic experience I had at site about 6 weeks ago – I had not one, not two, but three mango flies. On my butt. What are mango flies you might ask? You can try googling them for more details, but basically they are flies that lay their eggs in your wet clothes. When you wear these clothes the eggs hatch in your skin and develop into maggots. Yes, I removed three maggots from my butt. Only 6 weeks later can I actually appreciate the humor in this. At the time, I was pretty grossed out. It also helps that at IST I found that another volunteer currently had three mango flies himself. Since I was the only person in our group who had experience in this department, it was up to me to remove them. You might wonder how you remove a mango fly? Well, you squeeze it like you’re popping a zit and the maggot just pops out. Yup, fabulous. I have now extracting 6 mango flies and am the resident expert. Great title to hold.

On a more uplifting note, after IST I joined the majority of our training group on a rafting trip on the Nile. Now, you might think this is a silly thing to do since I can’t swim and this all day trip involves several class 5 rapids…I also am completely useless as a raft-mate since my single handedness prevents me from paddling…but I didn’t want to miss out on the fun! Instead, I rode down the Nile on the safety raft – the goal of the safety raft is to NOT flip and spill me into the Nile, and I fully supported that goal. Therefore, I got to enjoy my own private raft, rowed by a great guide/rafter, have the front seat on all the rapids, and head down all the rapids before all the other rafts and watch them come tumbling after. AND I didn’t flip. YES. My local Busoga name in my village is Nangobi, which means princess (it’s the name of the Busoga royal line). My fellow volunteers thought it was a fitting name for me on my private raft hehe. 

That's me under all that water

SO much water

My princess wave to the camera

Monday, January 10, 2011

The cat fell in the toilet

Now, this might seem like an amusing but relatively harmful anecdote if it happened in America – the cat fell into the toilet, meowed pitifully, then was rescued and returned to the comforts of home. Well, in Uganda this story goes a little differently…

Here, the “toilet” is a 10-foot deep pit latrine. And yes, one of the cats that live on our compound/farm fell in one night. The next day as I was squatting to do my business I heard the pitiful wail of a cat. I assumed the cat was outside the latrine door or maybe behind the building, but I noticed that its wails turned rather indignant when I relieved myself. Surely, I thought, the cat COULDN’T have fallen in the latrine! I got my flashlight and tried to find the cat down below. My Ugandan neighbors noticed me peering inside the latrine and laughed hysterically. It turns out they had already discovered that the cat was indeed inside the latrine and had tried, but failed, to rescue him. All I could discern about their rescue attempt was that they had lowered a rope into the latrine and the cat “refused” to grab on. My thoughts on this: he’s a cat! Do you really expect him to grab on to a rope for the 10-foot ascent!? So I executed a second cat rescue attempt.

My first idea was to lower a bucket into the latrine, but the bucket was too big to fit down the hole. My second idea was to tie a loop in the rope, grab a hold of the cat’s leg, and pull him up, but it turns out that you can’t really distinguish between different cat body parts from 10 feet up. My third idea was to lower a plastic bag into the hole and hope that the cat got inside – so we jimmy rigged a bag into a bowl-shape, used sticks to keep the shape intact, and added some leftover rice to attract the cat’s attention. Well, the cat “refused” to get inside, so my neighbors told me we must “just forgot about him and pray.”

Now, this story wouldn’t be nearly as tragic if the cat had died upon impact or within the first few hours or even days, but instead the cat is slowly perishing in a 10-foot deep toilet that several people still use on a daily basis…what a way to go. A colleague told me she once had a chicken fall into the pit latrine and survive for three months! Only time will tell how long a cat can survive in a pit latrine – hopefully it’s less that three months. RIP mukwano gwange (my friend).

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Isuka Omwaka!

Happy New Year from Uganda!

I rang in this New Year from the shores of the Nile in Jinja. I met up with some other volunteers, and we celebrated in town and along the river. We visited the source of the Nile, enjoyed delicious food, watched fireworks from a rooftop, and relaxed on a beautiful beach island on the Nile. In summary, it was a pretty fabulous holiday! I think pictures can communicate the experience much better than I can: 

At the source of the Nile River

At the Nile

We took these boats to reach a beautiful island on the Nile

Our over-filled boat

The Ugandans carried us weak-mzungus off the boats

View from the beach on the island

Sunrise over the Nile

Our fabulous new years group!

Funny asides:

I recently bought a few mugs in the market in town. It took me a while to find ones that I liked and that weren’t the same three mug designs found all over the country. I happily went home, glad that I had found some pretty, unique mugs, only to discover that I had just purchased Starbucks mugs, circa 2008. There may not be an actually Starbucks in Uganda, but its influence seems to permeate everywhere!

I was eating dinner outside one evening when a lizard jumped on my chest and tried to crawl down my shirt. Needless to say, this was unexpected, and I spent several seconds frantically expelling the lizard from my shirt. Out of a table of six people, only one noticed this exchange at all. Either my encounter was not as frantic as I imagined, or my friends are really unobservant…

ttfn - ta ta for now!