Friday, February 17, 2012


So it rained yesterday. No big deal, you say? HUGE deal! It hasn't rained since I came back from Christmas vacation, and it's been hot and dusty and just plain miserable the whole time! Yesterday when the clouds started brewing, I asked my neighbor if it would rain (she's usually right about these things). She said no, but that I should just pray. Then, when the winds started to blow, my neighbor said "the wind is blowing away the rain." I screamed at the rain to come back. I jumped up and down around my house in a desperate attempt to lure the rain to me. AND IT WORKED. The rains came. I danced in the rain with my neighbor until she said it was too much and left me to dance alone. It was the most magical 20 minutes EVER.

Unfortunately, the rain water tank never got "fixed" after the party (my landlady was worried about running out of water, so she paid two men to carry jerrycans of water from the borehole and pour them in the tank until it was full. It took them two solid days to do it, and they took out the pipes from the gutters so they could easily pour the water inside), so the water flowed uselessly on top of the tank instead of inside it.

The kicker? Just the day before I had told my landlady to fix the tank in case it rains. Her response? Eh, does it look like it will rain anytime soon? IN YOUR FACE LANDLADY. So of course I had to call her and scream IT'S RAINING!!! Until she hung up on me.

So it rained, and it was glorious, but there's still no water in the tank. SIGH.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Graduation party, Ugandan-style

This past weekend I was invited to a “function” being held in the compound where I live. My supervisor/landlady’s daughter just graduated from Makerere University, and so a party was necessary to celebrate the occasion (sidenote: graduations here are in Jan/Feb, even though classes end in July/Aug. No one really knows why…)

So, the function was scheduled for Sunday, and I expected a typical Ugandan function: large tents, lots of speeches, a late lunch, and then dancing through the night. What I did not expect was a pre-party the night BEFORE the actual party. But of course, we had a pre-party on Saturday. Slowly throughout the night, relatives and friends arrived to enjoy/prepare for the function. Around 9:00 pm we had break tea, with milk tea and bread. About 10:30 pm we had an appetizer course of cow liver. At around midnight we had roasted cow meat (sticks from the trees were widdled down and stuffed with hunks of meat and roasted over a bonfire constructed in front of my house). Finally, around 1:30 am we had dinner (rice, matooke, and cow intestine soup). I’m pretty sure we consumed an entire cow that night. I even watched people cutting this whole cow throughout the evening. Even though they had hooked up a generator for the night, the kitchen was (of course) the only room in the compound without power lines strung through it, so the pieces of meat were laid on top of banana leaves outside on the dirt and hacked into pieces with an ax and machete. (Another sidenote: it was really weird to have generator power for once. My whole house was lit up at night! Crazy!)

Hacking away at the meat

They really wanted to pose with the meat :)

After all the food was consumed, the party continued with dancing and booze. Many beers were drunk, many hips were shaken (chisoga dance!), and lots of loud music was played. Of course, I was told this was not a “serious” party, since the REAL sound system and music would be coming tomorrow. Nevertheless, the party continued the whole night, the generator finally going quiet around dawn.

The next day I emerged from my house around 9:00 am (relatively late for me, but I figured it was justified given the late nature of the party the night before). As soon as I appeared, my landlady’s husband told me he was so worried that I slept so late that he was about to come and check on me to make sure I was still alive. By that time, the tents were already set up and the caterers were already beginning to cook the huge pots of rice, matooke, and meat for the party.

Giant pot of rice and giant spoon (kind of looks like a boat paddle...)

The function actually started around 1pm, and as I expected, it consisted of a lot of speeches, traditional dancers (including a very cute little girl, see below), and prayers. It also included 10 cakes, each in the form of a letter, which spelled out CONCS FIFIN. I assumed this was some sort of lusoga code for graduates (or that I was still tired from the night before and couldn’t read properly), until someone told me it was just an abbreviation for “Congratulations Fiona.”

The graduates (Fiona and her friends)!

After a speech declared to be a “mini skirt” by a local leader (not quite so mini, since he had 8 elaborate points to go through), we finally had lunch around 5 pm. After eating, the tents were taken down, and the dancing began. While everyone was still mingling about, an older woman stopped me as I was walking, wishing to talk to me. Someone had apparently told her I was a doctor (this happens way too much), and she wanted me to fix her “sick breast.” Before I could protest and tell her I’m not at all a doctor, she whips out her breast and starts waving it in my face. Now, I’ve seen a lot of Ugandan breasts since I’ve been here (breastfeeding is quite common), but I’ve never had one waved in my face so insistently at a function with hundreds of people around. It took about 10 minutes to convince this woman that I’m not a health care professional, and that she should probably talk to the (at least) 2 ACTUAL doctors and 3 nurses attending the party.

As the official guests left, the villagers streamed in to take advantage of the generator and music. As the night wore on, the numbers of strangers dancing in the compound grew, and I was told kids were coming all the way from Bufuulubi! (I know this means nothing to you, but it’s a really far village, maybe 20 minutes by taxi, and definitely crazy-far to come from for dancing). Dinner was at a more-reasonable 11 pm that night, but the dancing again continued until dawn.

The next morning was for cleaning up and saying good-bye to the few remaining visitors (and eating the rest of the cow, of course). By Monday night, it was back to life as usual in the village: me and my 4 neighbors, no power, and the peaceful quiet of the night, generator free.

ttfn :)