Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Happy Birtday to Me

Wednesday 6/30/10

Today is my birthday, and it has been very pleasant so far. I decided to buy a swim suit and go swimming at the fancy pants club where I had the incident with the vice president last year. I really enjoyed laying out by the pool and reading. I took a dip and swam a few laps, but the pool was cold!

Meagan has gone out to do a few things with the foundation.

We finally posted the pictures from last week. Most them are of the parents meeting that we went to. For those of you who attend or have attended parents meetings, you'll probably find them pretty interesting. We also posted a really cool video of the children singing for us and the parents.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fifth Weekend

I forgot some other things that happened over the weekend. Friday we went out with our friend to watch more football. It's getting really exciting now that it's coming to the end of the tournament and the stakes are high. We went to watch at the rugby club, which was kind of cool. We ran around on the field afterward and I think we embarrassed our friends a little bit. Two white girls running and doing cartwheels.

I'm not going to talk about the U.S./Ghana game

Yesterday I went with our friends Sonja and Moses to watch the Germany/England game, since I needed a new team to cheer for. It was a lot of fun because we went to a restaurant that was German. I always like being in places where everyone is going for the same team. And they won big, which made it even better. We have decided to ask Moses to help us with our research project some. I think it will be a good fit. I'm not sure if I already said or in case you forgot, but Moses and Sonja run an organization that sponsors young kids from the slum to play football and go to school. In case anyone who plays soccer is interested, they could use some sponsors. Their team of slum kids is actually really good. They always beat everyone.

Lastly, my birthday is coming up soon. Meagan is telling everyone, and I'm not used to all of the attention surrounding it. I think it will be fun though, we are going to try to make a rum cake, which will be an adventure. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm not sure what I'm going to do on Wednesday, since that is the actual day of my birthday. We are talking about trying to go and get Thai food. Last year I treated myself to a massage, but I don't know if that's what I want. Got any ideas?

Getting behind on the posts

Sorry everyone, I'm starting to get lax on the posting. Not much of interest has happened. At least I don't think so. We spent the week preparing for Friday since we had a parents meeting to gather consent and a meeting with all of the mentors on Friday. When we went to the school, we were really surprised that when we walked up and they had decorated the school with streamers and fresh flowers. The meeting with the parents itself went really well and the response from the parents was extremely positive overall. Many of them also volunteered for interviews. I'm not sure how we are going to squeeze it all in.

At the mentors meeting, we asked the mentors to pilot a survey for us. I'm not sure how it's going to go, but it's one of those things that has to be addressed. Currently the foundation doesn't really track how much knowledge the children are acquiring over time, so of course to demonstrate whether or not the children are learning, a simple survey is necessary to test their knowledge. It should be really simple, but we didn't get a lot of encouragement on it from the administration, and in my mind I'm thinking "Hmmmmm, I wonder why that is."

Meagan is really spear heading the whole survey which is exciting. Now that we have spent a significant amount of time her, she is really taking charge of the different parts of the project that she enjoys. It's nice to have an equal partner in this thing again to take some of the burden off of my shoulders.

That's sort of a tangent, but anyway, when she was explaining how to administer the survey, all I could think of was an image of a dandelion and us blowing on the seeds to watch them float away. All we can do is hope that it works, and if it doesn't, adjust it until it does. It's amazing how much we make this up as we go along, and it's not that we aren't prepared or that the outcomes aren't quality outcomes, I"m just proud of us for being flexible enough to finesse quality outcomes out of some seriously precarious situations. Such is the nature of research, and we're getting really good at it. Cheers!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finally I can tell you what happened

Our trip. I have tried to include all of the important parts. Looking back now it was a long trip and I still think that I’m trying to get over it. Now some of the pictures may make more sense.

Thursday 6/17/10
Today was the day that we left for Hoima. Many of our friends were worried about us traveling around. I told them I would call them if we were in jail and needed help, but they didn’t think that was very funny. We took a coach bus to Hoima, which was about three hours away. It was hot and cramped, and the guy next to meet kept leaning over to read my paper. The landscape slowly became more hilly and as very charming dotted with banana trees and corn fields. We travel with two of Dr. Muhumuza’s siblings: Andrew and another that I had not met yet called Rachel. They were both very excited to go to Hoima and spend time with their father who resides there.
We almost missed our stop because we all fell asleep. We were all sitting so close together that we were propped up and didn’t have any trouble sleeping upright. Their father came to meet up with us, actually, at an organization called the Meeting Point. The coincidence was not intentional. The Meeting Point is an organization for people with HIV to engage in self help activities. It was a good fit for SAS and Meeting Point to work together since they are looking for sources of income for people who are HIV positive and SAS attempts to recruit people who are HIV positive. At the Meeting Point we got to meet many of the new mentors who had been recruited into SAS. It was really amazing how they were all very comfortable admitting that they were HIV positive and citing it as motivation to become part of SAS. The stigma surrounding HIV here in Uganda seems to be a bit different than that in the United States, but it is often difficult to put my finger exactly what those differences are or why those differences might exist.
The mentors were very eager for us to come and visit their schools. We ended up visiting five schools in a day and half, which by Ugandan standards is a great deal of work. That afternoon we walked to two of the schools. They were both interesting in their own right. I noticed that many of the children were not wearing shoes at any of the schools that we went to, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that since the area is so much cleaner than it is in Kampala, it probably doesn’t matter that much.
By the time we visit both schools, roughly 5:30 pm we were both starving and realized that arrangements had not been made for us to have a place to sleep. That made for a relatively nasty combination. We stayed with the father, but felt bad for imposing on such short notice. He also took us to get something to eat. We each got fish, but it started to rain heavily and we were sitting under an awning. I didn’t realize that in this part of Uganda it is actually the rainy season, unlike in Kampala where it is actually the dry season. So anyway, as soon as they brought us fish, which turned out to be an entire fish with eye balls and everything, the power went out. We were left to attempt to eat a whole fish in the darkness. Eventually I gave up and started using my fingers because it was too difficult to maneuver my fork around the bones in the darkness. That is how most Ugandans eat anyway.
On a tangent, I find myself becoming detached from the need to use utensils to eat. Not that I will have any problem switching back when I get to the US, but now that I’m used to eating with my hands, it feels so much more normal where as utensils seem rather superfluous.
Coming back to the story, Mr. Tibagwa the father had two cars to bring us home in. One of them was a 1960 Toyota Crown. It is truly amazing that he has been able to hold onto something like that through gaining independence as a country, and three coups over the past fifty years. We settled in for the night at his home. It was modest but plenty comfortable.

Friday 6/11/10
The next morning we met Mr. Tibagwa’s wife, Jannette. She was very nice and very old. She ran a nursery school behind their house. She wanted us to come and see it, and the little children were just so cute. They were arranging colored bottle caps over numbers and letters.
We had a great breakfast minus one issue. We each had a boiled egg, but when I cracked mine open, there was a chicken inside. =? I tried to cover it back up, but it was so stinky. I didn’t know what to do with it. Luckily Janette took it from me and gave me a fresh plate and a fresh egg, and everything was cool. We had freshly roasted peanuts that were delicious, with fresh tea and milk. Of course the milk was boiled first. Here they make tea mostly with milk rather than water. I think it’s pretty good, but I can only drink so much because it’s so heavy. We put butter on our bread and then smashed the peanuts into the bread. Tasted just like toast and peanut butter.
We piled back in the car and rode back to the Meeting Point. Mr. Tibagwa didn’t come with us, so we said our goodbyes to everyone in the home. I told him that we kiss our elders goodbye in America, and so I kissed him once on each cheek and he thought that was pretty funny. I also said goodbye to Janette in the same way. At the Meeting Point, we met with a reporter who is interested in writing an article on the Foundation. I hope it works out well. From there we walked to three more schools. Each one was interesting in it’s own right, but repeated we heard that the Foundation was doing good work and that parents and teachers also wanted to get involved with the Foundation.
We walked a good ways this day and by the time that we got back to the Meeting Point, I was ready for a shower and to rest a while. We got a hotel room where we had gotten food the night before, but luckily this time we didn’t have any problem with the power. The hotel room was simple but comfortable. I don’t think that either of us cared that much at that point. We watched part of the American game on the TV. I was so excited that it was at least a draw.
That evening we met up with our friends, Richard, Sonja, and Moses who were going to be traveling with us up to Bulisa. Richard was from the town of Bulisa right on Lake Albert. We hung out long enough to have a beer and watch the next game. Sonja is an interesting person. She is German and came to Uganda to take an internship for a couple of months, but ended up deciding to stay. She’s now been in the country for over a year.
I was really tired by the end of the day and ready to go to bed. I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep.

Saturday 6/19/10
We woke up pretty early so that we could get an equally early start to Bulisa. We got on a taxi, but had to wait for more people to get on, then pick up a set of tires, and then pick up one more person. Minus all that we were wizzing down the road pretty quickly. It was a dirt road the whole way and extremely scary given the speed that the driver was pushing the taxi. It took us about two and half hours at full capacity to get to the edge of the Rift Valley. When you could finally look out over the valley from the edge it was striking. You could see Lake Albert as well. But we only had a short time to admire the view before we were fearfully focused on coming down into the valley safely. And once we hit the bottom at least ten more people got in the taxi with us. Meagan gave a head count of 25 people including children and some fish. They were all going to Bulisa. Luckily it was only like another hour like that. Along the way we saw lots and lots of baboons, and I was trying to explain to the student next to me what a cactus was. The valley is semi arid, so it was filled with a variety of plants suited for dry weather, including cacti.
I was crazy thankful to make it to town. We were practically spilling out. We went to visit Richard’s family. I already knew one of his uncles because he works with the Foundation as a mentor. He was also visiting at the time. The grandmother was very picturesque in her traditional clothes, cropped grey hair, skin leathery from the sun, sitting on the porch giving advice and direction to people as they passed by. It was like even though her legs were tired, her arms and hands hadn’t lost their enthusiasm for giving orders.
We ate a brief lunch of rice and chicken broth. Sonja and Moses were vegetarian and Richard didn’t understand why they couldn’t eat chicken. Everyone was anxious to get to the park. Time quickly gets eaten up with family. We piled in the car that offered to give us a ride. Getting into the park was extremely frustrating. They charged us a ridiculous amount of money according to Ugandan standards. I felt bad because it was so obvious that normal Ugandans wouldn’t be able to enjoy a park like this. It reminded me of that series about the American park system and how America is unique in that parks are readily available to the public.
We got to the hostel and they didn’t have any rooms. My heart just sunk. Our driver had left us. Tensions were running high. The person running the desk directed us to some people who taking a river tour so we sort of pushed our way into the car with them. I don’t think they minded so much because they offered us some ginger snaps. I think they were Danish or Dutch. We also tagged along on the boat, but it wasn’t a private tour, so I think the people funning the tours were happy because we filled the extra seats and made them more money.
The tour itself was wonderful. We were able to relax and not worry about our troubles for a while. The wildlife and the water falls were beautiful, which I will leave the pictures to describe.
Getting back was another fiasco. When we got back to Richard’s families house, I think we were ready to call it quits for the night and have something to eat. We went through the same issue of chicken not being meat again. I was so hungry I didn’t care. I ate a lot. No utensils. We slept down the road in some huts that were made out of clay with grass thatched roves. It was actually pretty comfortable and I was excited to really be doing what anthropologists do.

Sunday 6/20/10
We woke up to the sound of goats. In the middle of the night a drunk guy came in and was looking for a place to sleep. Richard directed him to another place, but I was in such a deep sleep it was like a dream until he told me about it until the next morning. We got ready that morning and played with Richard’s little cousins. They would just sit and watch us write. Eventually we started drawing pictures for them, and then gave them pens and notebooks so that they could draw some pictures for us.
We decided instead of trying to go back to the park, we would walk to Lake Albert and try to put our feet in the water. It was a long walk, but it wasn’t hot yet. When we got there we saw the crested cranes and went to the fishing village. It was right out of a movie. The people were too shy to come and talk to us. They just stared. The Lake itself was just as beautiful up close as it was from far away. You could see the shores of the Congo across the lake. I loved the tons of periwinkle shells all along the ground.
We walked back and by this time it was pretty hot. I was thankful to get back to the village and rest under a tree in the shade. Some of the people came and started talking to us. One of them wanted to give Meagan a cow so that we would take him out drinking. Luckily we escaped the situation by going to get some lunch. At luch time we got to try a new food called calow, which is a sticky substance made out of millet. It didn’t taste like anything, but the texture of it was so interesting that I couldn’t stop eating it. We also had some fresh fish that was pretty good.
Then I couldn’t find my money to pay, I had left it at the house. Even then it took me a while to find it, and even though I was sure that it hadn’t been stolen I was getting really upset really quickly. Meagan found it for me. As soon as we packed up our things, the taxi arrived. We really didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, but we couldn’t miss the taxi because we weren’t sure when it would come again that day. This time we took a different route back to Kampala. Along the way the driver ran out of gas in the middle of a sugar cane field. He said that someone had stolen his gas. I was worried that we weren’t going to make it back to Kampala that day. Luckily someone walked back to the previous village to get a jerry can full of gas. Meagan had to volunteer a water bottle which became a funnel. Luckily we made it to the town where we had to make our connection with only a few minutes to spare.
We took another large bus back to Kampala, but right as we were coming to the city we had to get off early. We were stuck in a jam and I had to go to the bathroom so badly. Once we got off I had to go so bad that I used the men’s room on accident. Luckily no one saw me. Our friend Jude came and picked us up and dropped us off at home so that we wouldn’t have to find another sort of transport to get to the city. We crashed when we got home.

Monday 6/21/10 Tuesday 6/22/10
Not much happened on these days except that we tried grasshoppers, which tasted like soft shell crabs so we ate them with ketchup and called it a day. We can actually get Heinz ketchup here but the writing is all in Arabic. Pretty cool. The other thing that happened is that we went out with some friends to watch the world cup. Afterwards we tried to get something to eat. We stopped by a roadside stand, and I order what I thought was a Chinese egg roll, but instead I pulled something that looked and felt like a fried soft ball. Turns out that a Ugandan egg roll is a whole boiled egg rolled up in mashed potatoes and then deep fried. I think we embarrassed our friends a little because we couldn’t stop laughing and they couldn’t understand why we were laughing in the first place.

Monday, June 21, 2010


We have posted some pictures from our trip. Use the same link as before. There are some really great ones in there. Enjoy!


Just wanted to let everyone know that we arrived safely back home in Kampala although we had many adventures along the way. I will give a more thorough recounting later when I have had time to write it all up myself, but on a short note thanks so much for the prayers. I can tell because I saw so many hippos and tons of other wildlife too! Miss everyone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bout to Leave

I thought that I was going to have more time to give a full update, but it just isn't possible. Of course the day before we are trying to leave town, everyone wants something out of us. We left the house this morning at 10:30 and didn't get back until 8:30. Makes for a long day. Now we're frantically trying to get cleaned up, pack, and monitor the South Africa/Uraguay game. Can't get behind on what's happening. Will let you know how it goes on Sunday or Monday when we get back. Wish us luck and include hippo sightings in your prayers.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Third Weekend

Saturday 6/12/10

Had a blast watching the World Cup. We went to a place where they projected the game onto a wall between two giant palms. It’s exciting to be in Africa while everyone is experiencing something new. It’s the first time that the World Cup has ever been held in Africa and people are pretty excited about it. Mostly it’s a man’s sport, so a lot of the men in the city are being let off work early during the week to watch the games and no one seems upset about it. Everyone expects it. We were two of very few women watching the games.
After the game they also took us to a bachelor party. I think they could tell that the idea made us uncomfortable, but they kept insisting that it was different from American Bachelor parties. We got there we were surprised to see the entire family of the groom, and friends of the family all dancing and getting down. It’s funny to see even the fat old men dance to the rap music.
We went to watch the US play today. We went with Jude and his cousin Derrick to Entebee to have a “change of scenery” as they said. The game went all right, but afterwards we went to the beach to see Lake Victoria up close. It was a lot of fun and the water was nice and warm. I couldn’t see the color of it so hopefully it wasn’t neon green or something like that. I had to fuss as Derrick because he was driving like a crazy person down the road.

Sunday 6/13/10

Not much going on, just catching up. We had a guest over, who was supposed to arrive sometime after lunch, but didn’t show up till 8:30 at night. Then we gave them something to eat, but it had cashews in it, which they had never had before and didn’t like. =) all smiles.

Monday 6/14/10
Today we actually got finished early, and that never happens. I didn’t even know what we should do. We are planning a trip to Hoima at the end of the week and then will continue to Mysinde to see the Nile. I’m so excited because I think that we will get to see the Muhumuza’s parents again and stay with them. Another friend will meet us in Hoima and then travel with us to Mysinde because his family is from there and he knows the area. There is a park that surrounds the falls and the Nile, There is also supposed to be hippos and crocodiles, elephants and buffalo, etc. Hippos here I come!

P.S. We have posted the pictures from week three. It is the same like that is posted, but when you arrive at picasa, there should be another folder. Cheers!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wednesday 6/9/10

Woke up this morning feeling a tremendous amount better. We went to the coffee shop to have lunch and see Joan. We had an interesting conversation with her because her ex husband’s parents had died recently and they had kept her children with then in the village to go to school, so they were very involved. She attended the funeral was showing us pictures from the funeral. We asked her about how people were buried, and it sounded pretty normal until she said that it was a bad omen for people who hung themselves. People would just dig a hole underneath, cut the body down, let the body fall directly in the hole, and cover the body as it lay. No one would touch the body at all. A little melancholy but interesting.
Stopped at the market to buy a fake red Juicy Couture purse. I’m pretty excited, mostly because it’s red. We went home afterwards because my body just isn’t up to par yet.

Thursday 6/10/10

For the life of me, I could not get out of bed this morning. Meagan had to come and wake me up because Mary wanted us to meet her an hour earlier for a school observation. The observation itself went really well. We went to a school that used an integrated learning model for children with learning disabilities. The classroom was mixed with two regular children for every disabled child in the classroom. The classes were very small, and everyone worked under the philosophy that everyone had something to learn from each other. The idea really appealed to me, using school purposely to teach compassion for people who are different by learning to work together. It is so different from the American model, which is often critiqued for segregating “special ed” students because they never learn how to integrate into normal society and people never learn how to interact with people how have special needs.
The mentor was really good with the children. He told me that he had been walking seven miles each day to work with the children in this part of Kampala. Mary had us over to her house after the observation. We had a fantastic time and stayed for the remainder of the afternoon. My favorite part was probably watching her make juice by hand and listening to her tell stories about her children and her late husband. Later her son stopped by to meet us, named Julius. He seemed to be pretty nice.
For lunch we had most of the typical dishes, with the addition of posho and pumpkin. Posho is something like grits, but with a lot less water. I ate until I felt like I was going to pop, but still not to the satisfaction of Mary. She commented that I didn’t eat enough, and Meagan, jumping to my aid, said that I ate more at home. I also said that I wasn’t thin after all, and Mary agreed, saying that I had “big legs” (smile).
After lunch we drank the delicious juice that she had made herself and looked at pictures of her family. We sat and looked at pictures for at least two hours and had every picture explained to us in detail. I didn’t think that we were ever going to get out of there. They sent us home with some chilies, a papaya, and on the street the bought each of us what is called a rolex. Clearly it is not a watch, but something comparable to a breakfast burrito. In the evenings vendors stand by the road side and make fresh chapatti, which is an type of Indian bread that is flat and round and dense by cooking them on a hot flat skillet. Then they crack two eggs, mix them with onions and tomatoes. And pour it on the skillet to make like an omelet. The man who was doing it was very good, he could use his knife to both cut things and as a spatula. Then they place the chapati on top, lifted and flipped the whole thing and then wrapped it over on itself. Then you ate it just like that. We waited till we got home to eat them, and even though we weren’t hungry we each ate the whole thing. I feel like I’ve eaten enough for three days.

Friday 6/11/10

Spent the whole day trying to catch up on writing. Grace is here and I almost can’t stand it because she pecks at me continuously. Looking forward to tonight, we are meeting some friends to watch the next world cup game. We have been watching the opening ceremonies and the Mexico/South African game as we have been working. Think it’s going to be a blast!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Feeling Better

Just to let everyone know, I'm feeling much better. Although I'm a medical anthropologist and love the traditional stuff, when it comes down to it, I'm not going to snub my nose at some good old fashioned antibiotics. Both the nose and the stomach are better. Kinda cool to be killing two infectious birds with one stone. Not something we really consider in medical anthropology.

First Observation

Monday 6/7/10
I thought that I would be feeling better today, but I don’t. I’m worried that I might have a sinus infection. I was sure that I was going to be feeling better today. Anyway, we decided that instead of going to the clinic and then the foundation we would go to the foundation and then the clinic, thus giving me another hour of sleep.
At the foundation we had a very long meeting with Rev Obed. We told him about our research registration predicament, and it made him extremely upset. I was actually a little surprise about how adamant he was about finding out why it is taking so long and helping us along in the process. I was glad that I found someone else to deal with the secretaries so that I don’t have to anymore. The meeting went well, and afterwards we went to the SAS clinic.
We happened to meet Dr. Muhumuza’s father, which was actually a little intimidating because he’s lived through so much turmoil and managed to raise so many successful children. He turned out to be really funny and charming. He would start to talk about his different children, at about the fifth one he would get distracted and loose track of what he was talking about and start another conversation. I suppose remembering five out of ten is pretty good. I was able to give him the razor blades that I brought from the U.S. I accidentally broke the dispenser in CVS trying to get them out, but I think it was worth it. He said a blessing over us as he left. It was very sweet of him. I then took a nap, wrote a little and went to sleep. My cold is still bothering me and I seem to be acquiring an intestinal issue on top of it. P.S. it was my mom’s birthday today

Tuesday 6/8/10
Woke up in the night with a killer sinus headache and nausea on top. So I’m not feeling better today. I took some cold medicine and felt better for a while. Meagan got up and we made a heavier than usual breakfast because I knew that we wouldn’t be back to the house till pretty late in the afternoon. We left in time to make it across the city in an hour and a half, and we actually made it on time. We met with the supervisor, Mary, to do our first observation at a school. Mary is really cute in a grandmother sort of way. Today in particular she was reminding me of Mary Poppins because she had on a stiff dress and a large bag, and she used an umbrella like a parasol for shade while we were walking. The only thing she was missing was the hat.
Doing the observation was a lot of fun, and has been the best part of the week so far. We caused a huge commotion when we showed up with our whitness. The children were very smart and asked a lot of good questions. Towards the end though, the cold medicine was starting to wear off, and I was glad that we didn’t go to two schools like we had originally planned. On the way home, Mary helped us bargain for a pineapple. The mentor as well, was exceptionally sweet. We asked her why she decided to be a mentor, she said because she had a “sympathetic heart”. Also because she was HIV positive it was something she wanted to join in.
I knew I was going to get fussed at when we got back by Grace for going out, and she didn’t fail me. She also wouldn’t let me have any juice because she said it wasn’t good to drink cold things when you had the flu. She also fussed at me because we spend so much time walking and breathing in dust and that is why I was sick. I decided to start taking antibiotics. Between the nose and the stomach, I’m really having a difficult time, and I’m pretty sure that I’m grossing Meagan out. Fortunately tomorrow is another public holiday, so we don’t have to go anywhere. I’m not sure I would be able to anyway. However, I’m optimistic that I will start feeling better tomorrow.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Second Weekend

Thursday 6/3/10
Today was a public holiday, Martyr’s Day. So there wasn’t much to be done because nothing was open.

Friday 6/4/10
Went to catch up with another friend. She has been managing a health club. She was the one who took me to the market last summer to buy clothes. Hopefully we will get to go again this time. Grace made her Thai chicken for us today. It was soo good, just as good as I remember it from last time. It rained again today. It seems to be raining a lot more than last summer. I took Meagan to this BBQ restaurant today. It is funny because we have been having this ongoing conversation of exactly was gristle means. I thought it was the stuff left in the pan after you fry something. She thinks of it as the occasional rubbery piece that you get when you bite into a piece of meat. Anyway, she doesn’t like it, so I wasn’t sure how this adventure was going to go. The BBQ is different from what we think of as smoked meat with sauce. The bring out piece of meat that has been roasted on skewers with salt and this hot chili paste. I love it and think that it’s great, especially because you eat with your fingers and they bring sides of tomatoes, avocados, bananas, ect. So she didn’t like it too much.
From there we went to another place that I knew about where you could get fast food, burgers, milkshakes, pizza, etc. We had better luck while we were there ordering a pizza. I’m pretty sure that pizza has been my saving grace on several occasions since I have been coming here. It is just so nice to be able to order something, and you know approximately of what it is going to taste like, but since pizza is pretty versatile, it tastes good no matter what you put on it (for the most part).
From there we went out with some of our friends for the night. Ugandans really like to stay out late, so they we pretty surprised when we wanted to go home around one or so.

Saturday 6/5/10
Feel like I’m coming down with a cold. I spent a lot of time sleeping today and hanging around the house. Meagan wanted to go to a movie, so we made plans to go see “Sex and the City” at the shopping mall here. I really like how the shopping mall is arranged. It is an open air mall, but it gives you the feeling that it is enclosed because it has several floors and ramps to get from one floor to the next. It just has several points where windows would normally be, but are just left open. There was a lot of white people there too. I still can’t find anything in my size in the stores.
We went to the food court to get some food. I had never been to a food court here before. I should have known that it wasn’t going to be like what I expected. Immediately we were bombarded by restaurants that would have people standing out front trying to get us to take a look at their menu, i.e. trying to sell their food to us. They had a lot of ethnic food, but out of curiosity we went to the Lebanese restaurant because Meagan has a Lebanese heritage. We took and ordered the hummus, and it was actually really good, with fabulous pita bread. Ugandans aren’t really particular about their bread. I think that they eat bread that to me is almost stale. They don’t think the softness is important. So it was a pleasant surprise to have pita bread that was actually soft and malleable. We bought some to take home with us =).
We went to the movie next. A friend met us to see it. The line at the ticket booth was a free frall, like all other kinds of lines. I had to push my way to the front. When we went in the theater they screened us for weapons. The guard felt my purse and told me that I had a lot of “gadgets” in there. They didn’t look it it. They might have found my pocket knife and mace, but I suppose I couldn’t only do so much with that anyway. The theater was air conditioned! Weird. By now I’m accustomed to not having it. I was cold through most of the movie, but Meagan somehow managed to fit a sweater in her bag. I didn’t care for the movie that much. People were talking through the whole thing anyway, and our friend Jude kept answering his phone in the middle of the movie. Cell phone etiquette is one of my things, and it’s hard to set it aside. We always talk in anthropology about cultural relativism, which is the idea that you can’t pass judgment on other culture’s customs because those customs are the result of different historical processes and value systems. So I can tolerate all kinds of customs in Uganda, like polygamy and traditional healers, and all of the beliefs that people have surrounding HIV and AIDS that would bother most Americans, but I just can’t set aside the cell phone etiquette.
Our friend Jude took us home. He tends to pay for us a lot, which makes me uncomfortable at times, but when I buy something for him, like the movie ticket. It clearly makes him uncomfortable. Not sure what to do, might have to come to a compromise somewhere along the way. He really looks after us though. He wanted us to go out again that night, but we were both wiped out, and my throat was getting worse along with my mood. So he took us home. I think though his friends were disappointed when we went home. They seem to think that we are a lot of fun.

Sunday 6/6/10
The cold is better today. Staying in was a good idea. I’ve just been writing and sleeping through most of the day. I know that tomorrow will be busy, so trying to relax and enjoy the down time. I realized that we can even download music on the internet =).


Meagan has uploaded some pictures from our first two weeks here. Here is the link, But I will also post the link on the right had side of the blog for future use.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Round Two and Three

Monday 5/31/10
I woke up tense because I knew that I would have to see the secretary at the UNCST again. First we stopped at the hospital to meet with Dr. Bagenda. Meeting him was actually very nice. He is always so helpful to us and has a good sense of humor. I think at some point we will go have dinner with him and his family. He married an American physician and have a daughter that’s 21 months. He always introduces me to interesting people. This time was the person who was the principle investigator for the Rakai project, which is a major HIV surveillance project that began because this is the area of Uganda where HIV originally emerged. He was one of the first doctors to distinguish HIV as a unique collection of symptoms, i.e. he is one of the people to first recognize HIV. How cool is that?
We talked for a long time, and Meagan was anxious to get down to the UNCST as well. It was funny because as we walked out of the building she said, “We’re taking a boda!” And I laughed because they frighten her so much, but given our time frame we really needed to get there. We did take a boda, and sat down with the secretary for round two. Some of our paperwork was wrong, so we had to fill it out again, and then I was so relieved because we had finally gotten it all together, and then I asked how long it was going to take to process the paperwork, and she said SIX WEEKS. I was so upset, I could barely speak. So I went outside and called Dr. Bagenda right away. He had the same reaction, but tried to encourage us and offering to call the different people that he knew who might could help. We found a place to have lunch. We mostly sat in silence because I was still too angry to speak. And the we proceeded to walk the rest of the way home.

Tuesday 6/1/10
This morning we went directly to purchase an internet modem. The thing is so cool. It works anywhere, and on any computer that you plug it into. You just pay by the month. It makes me wish that we had something like that in the U.S. Grace and Anette came today. Grace cooked lunch for us and it was delicious. She also made some fresh juice. While we were eating it started to rain and then hail. I was mostly impressed that the power stayed on the whole time. We got a call from Dr. Bagenda that was encouraging, he said that the paperwork at the UNCST was already processed and that it would be sent to the president’s office, which was four weeks at the most. Lastly he told us to go by the UNCST again and meet the person who was helping us (round three).
David came by in the evening. David, you might recall, was the student who had been sneaking into school because he couldn’t pay his school fees, and mom and I decided that we would give him the additional money that he needed to finish school. He sat for his exams and did very well. I think he did better than most students that passed. He said that 40% of the students didn’t even pass their exams. What a bummer. Now he is in the process of applying for college. He wants to go to the one in Kampala, Makerere is the name of it.

Wednesday 6/2/10
Meagan got an email from someone at the University of Memphis saying that they would like to do a write up on our project for the Memphis magazine. It was pretty exciting to get some good news. I assumed that they would just want Meagan in it since she is a current student, but they said that they were also interested in alumni, so I’ll get to be in it too. Generally things are starting to look on the up and up.
We went to see the lady, Leah, who had helped us. It wasn’t the one we had been talking to all this time, but their desks were adjacent. We tried to be as polite as possible, but even still she had the attitude of “why are you here again”. Turns out she needed a few things from us anyway, so it was good that we dropped by. That means four more weeks at the most, so it seems that things are becoming a little more manageable. I wish that I could come back in the middle of the year and do some more observations.
From there we had our Wednesday pizza lunch. Always relaxing. The restaurant is really nice because it is all open air, but completely shaded by all kinds of different plants. It makes it really nice and cool. It also blocks out the sound of the street, so it is quiet and relaxing. The only thing is that they play really bad soft jazz. We had another person ask us for our number so that when they got to America, we could help them get a job. I it s so interesting how we don’t even think about how easy it is for us to move to another place to visit or to work if we want to, and it is so difficult for so many people. I know it is important to control the inflow of people, so that the system isn’t overwhelmed, but it makes me appreciate my privileged position.
We had a good meeting at the Foundation. Things are starting to move in the direction. The biggest thing is that we are working with children and that requires parental consent. And they won’t let us send the forms home with the children. So we have to gather the parents together. If we pull it off it will be quite an accomplishment and make the information we gather very uncommon.
When we came home we happened so see the lady Rose, who is our neighbor. Turns out that she is Eritrean, not Ethiopian. I was so embarrassed upon the discovery. Anyway she invited us in, and it turns out that she and her family we just sitting down to dinner. I was so excited to eat with them. They eat very similar to Ethiopians with the njara (njaara?) that looks like a giant spongy crepe. They had cooked chicken that had a thick spicy sauce with it and they just dumped the whole thing in the middle of the njara. We also got served a portion of cooked vegetables on our portion of the giant plate. It was so fun to eat with our hand and pinch some of the bread and then grab some of the chicken. They kept telling us that we weren’t eating enough, but I felt like we had already eaten so much. They asked us a lot of questions about what we have been doing, and America. Rose has a daughter that speaks fantastic English and is extremely social, so we answered a lot of questions from her. They gave us lots of compliments on our hair since it was so much lighter than theirs. Rose’s husband works for the UN in Liberia, but she lives here in Uganda with her daughter, two sisters, and brother. We spoke with all of them on different topics. We were having a lot of fun. The really cute white dog belongs to them, named Dede.
After dinner we had coffee. Rose showed me how she makes it from the raw bean. She showed me how she roasts the beans in a ban over the gas stove. When they are ready you are supposed to bring them out and let people smell the beans. The guests are then supposed to waft the steam coming from the beans and remark at how delicious they smell. So we smelled the beans and they really did smell so good. Then she let them cool and ground them using a modern coffee grinder. Boiled water. Added the grinds. They put the coffee in a special pot that looked something like a gourd that was carved for pouring and sat in a round basket. In the end of the spout she put this confetti looking stuff that was supposed to filter out the remaining grounds that didn’t fall to the bottom. The coffee was super strong, but delicious. I could only have two cups. We drank out of these really small cups that look like what you drink sake out of or sometime green tea. Just a little bigger. After two cups I was already wired.
We graciously thanked them for the coffee and then went to another social engagement with some friends that we hadn’t had a chance to catch up with yet. We ended up doing so much more than we had originally planned for the day.

Thursday 6/3/10

Not much going on, just trying to catch up on the writing and start getting prepared to start doing observations in schools. I can’t wait to work with the children.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yay we have Internet at the house!

We did so many things today it is hard to know where to begin. We made a point to make coffee this morning with the coffee we bought from the coffee shop. I was excited because I ran of the coffee that I brought back in December, so I hadn’t had any since then. It was as good as I expected it to be, and really cheered me up. Meagan had two cups.
From there we left to go to town. Our friend Richard invited us to a party that was being thrown by some friends of his that run a nonprofit that sponsors children to play soccer. The party was for the team because they had a good season and won all of their tournaments. On the taxi someone starting talking to Meagan. They asked her if she voted for Obama. Lots of people have been asking us about Obama. They like him because of his Kenyan heritage. They always want to know if we voted for him.
Once we got into town we walked to a hotel that I was pretty sure would have a business center. We stopped for the bathroom. I went just fine, but Meagan got suck in the bathroom stall because the door wouldn’t unlock. She kept turning the key, but the lock wouldn’t turn. Finally just as things were starting to get panicky it unlocked. It was a good thing too. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get her out of there if she was truly stuck, and I’m sure that being in that little stall would be horrible. It is like another room, not like the kind that you can just crawl out from underneath the divider.
We walked to the place we were going to meet Richard. From there we went to the old taxi park to take a taxi. You many remember from my description last year what the taxi park looks like. If not you can look at the pictures. It is just an open space where they squeeze as many taxis as possible for people to travel in and out of town from the “suburbs”. Some how everyone has the locations memorized of where each taxi is in the park that is going to be traveling to the different locations. We also passed by a lot of vendors who are trying to sell us all kinds of trinkets and candy. At times it was sort of difficult to keep up with Richard who could weave through the crowd so easily. He often asks about what things are like in America. It is surprisingly difficult to describe. He’ll ask something like, “do you have potholes in America? Do you have dirt roads like this in America?”
And the answer is always yes and no. Yes we have dirt roads and potholes, but not in the middle of the city. Unless maybe you are in New Orleans where the roads are horrible anyway because the water table is so high. There are dirt roads but you have to get out in the rural parts a bit before you see one. I try to explain that we also get bad sink holes like the one at the end of our drive way that Mrs. Freddie drove into, and several family members have stepped in. So the answer is yes, but it is different in situation and extent. Difficult to communicate.
We took a taxi out of the city. It was nice to get out of the city for a while. Once we got to our stop we had to take a boda to the top of one of the hills close by. At the top of the hill they had leveled out part of one side into a soccer field. There the boys team that we were supporting was playing a match. Although in Uganda they call it a pitch. We met some of Richards friends. They were all very nice. One of them was a young German woman. She had to have been around Meagan and I’s age. She had come for three months originally and decided to stay. She had now been there for fourteen months. It was really interesting to meet someone who had really gone native. She lived and worked like most other Ugandans.
While we were watching we had some sugar cane. It was nice to have as a snack although it makes your hands filthy and sticky as the juice runs out of the stalk all over everything. Meagan had a big time with it. I was lucky in that I’ve had sugar cane before, although Ugandans just peel off the bark with their teeth. I definitely had trouble with that, but the men that were standing around were laughing at Meagan when she was trying to bite it. I could only get through two joints of it before I got tired of it. Richard was so efficient - it was amazing. He made short work of his and the rest of Meagan’s. I passed mine off to someone else.
The boys ended up winning the match. They didn’t seem to be surprised about their victory. One even said that he was tired of winning. At this point they were very shy and didn’t want to talk to us very much. From there we walked down the hill to the village. It was a beautiful view to be able to look out over the rolling hills. All along the hill you can see where people have been planting their crops. They were trying to tell us the different kinds of plants, but I could remember some of them. I remembered how they grew their tubers in small mounds that they had built up so that when they went to harvest them, they would be easy to recover. I always thought that was clever. We also saw all of the common garden items closer to the house.
To get to the houses we had to weave through all kinds of houses and gardens along a little dirt foot path. You would have to know exactly where you were going to know how to get there. I like that there are no fences that keep people from walking through. Nobody worries about stealing. Everyone has a garden and so it isn’t necessary to worry about stealing because everyone has the same stuff. The only thing that might cause trouble is if someone’s livestock got into another’s garden. When we got to the house it was a simple small house. The woman, Sonja, and her Ugandan boyfriend, Moses lived there together. It was a two room concrete house. They had electricity but no running water. Minimal material items. A rack for clothes, a set of shelves in the front room for cooking materials, and a bed on the floor with a mosquito net. However, they did have a few things that indicated modernity. They had a satellite TV, a DVD player, and an ipod to listen to music. Although I suppose that none of those things would be useable if the power went out, as it does on occasion.
Along the way we made a new friend named Roger. He was one of the coaches of the boy’s team. He was asking us many of the typical questions. Where were we from, what state, how long had we been in Uganda, etc. They were going to prepare a meal for the boys and he was in charge of the rice and he showed it to us. He had cooked the rice in an enormous pot with onions. He called it “pilawo”. I told him that we had something similar called rice pilaf. We agreed that I would try his cooking and he would try mine and we would decide who’s was better. After trying it, I think it would be a pretty tight race. He also started us on a vocabulary of Luganda words.
Anyway, Ugandans eat enormous meals because they tend to eat only one meal a day. Hopefully we will have some pictures up soon so that you can see. Meagan and I had to share one plate. In addition to rice we had potatoes, and cooked vegetables. Even between the two of us we couldn’t finish it.
I didn’t realize that everyone was going to eat with their hands until Richard happened to offer us a fork. Richard himself used a fork. Either way I was ok. I would have eaten with my fingers. There wasn’t anything that was too messy, although I’m not sure how people would eat matoke with peanut sauce with their fingers. It would be like trying to eat mashed potatoes and gravy with your fingers. Not even any bread to soak up the juice. Anyhow the meal was great, and everyone ate their fill. Afterwards the boys got up and stretched their stomachs because they were so full. Even some of the neighbors came by to get a plate. It was funny because they didn’t ask, they just took, and they brought their plates with them. It seemed like a common occurrence, so no one in the group thought anything about it.
The boys left for the dance party while the adult cleaned up. They wanted us to watch a documentary about Ida Amin. So we sat and watched while they cleaned. I felt sort of bad about it, but the documentary itself was very interesting. It isn’t that different from the movie The Last King of Scotland, but less graphic. The guy who plays him in the movie is just like he was in real life. We didn’t get to watch the whole thing because they wanted to join the boys at the dance party. By this time it was dark so we all walked with a flashlight as our guide.
When we got to the party we danced and danced. All of the people thought that we were so funny. The music was in Luganda, but it had a good rhythm to it. The boys themselves could dance so well. We had so much fun, and I was glad that we went. I was reminded of why I liked coming here so much in the first place. I could write a lot more about the night, but I can’t be spending all of my time blogging. You’ll have to look at the pictures when we get them up to get an idea of what it was like.

P.S. I’m not always sure what to write about so feel free to post questions. Also thanks for all of the posts and keeping me updated on what is happening in the U.S. We now have an Internet modem, so we will be able to communicate a lot more effectively now.

Catching up

Friday 5/28/10
I’m looking forward to having a relaxing weekend of reading and writing and drinking coffee. Today we went to the supermarket (again) and the Foundation. At the supermarket we got a blender, which Grace has been requesting for the second summer now to make juice. I’m hoping that we will be able to make smoothies too.
We went to the Foundation to use their printer, and realized that they had wireless internet as well. So that was a bonus. At the very least we can go there to use the internet until we get something at home. And all of the equipment works properly for the most part. Rev. Obed’s computer is a bit slow. I was trying to educate him about things he can do to speed up the processing, like removing files from his desk top, and it sort of reminded me of being a home. We laughed because he said that he always got his son, Michael, to be close by to help him when he had problems. Sounded familiar.
So although it is frustrating to me to get all of this paper work sorted out, things seem to be looking better and moving forward. Monday will be our next attempt to turn in paper work, and again take up the ongoing feud that I have with secretaries in Uganda.
We walked all the way back to the apartment from the foundation. When we were measuring it out on the map it only said that it was two miles, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t write. The map also says that things are at locations where they aren’t. So I’m approximating between three and four miles. What I like about walking on this particular road, is that there are many schools in the area. The children walk along the side walk to go home in the afternoon. They are very cute in their uniforms walking home. Sometimes there are siblings together and the older with hold the younger’s hand. In fact Meagan got a picture of this type of pair while we were walking behind them. Hopefully soon we will be able to post pictures so that you can see for yourself.
We were pretty hot and sweaty when we got home. It is the type of hot where you just can’t eat until you cool off after a while even though you haven’t eaten very much that whole day. Today we are attempting to make banana bread for the first time. As I’m typing I can smell it in the oven. Hopefully it will be a success…

Saturday 5/29/10
We put out some roach poison today. Hopefully the poison will work. I felt like we were trying to protect ourselves from vampires by putting out lines of this powder that they can’t cross. We picked up a taxi and went to our old haunt, 1000 Cups of Coffee to see Joan, read, and have some coffee. She was very happy to see us when we arrived, and she helped Meagan order a drink so that she wouldn’t end up with another cold curer like she did the last time. We mostly ended up talking with people while we were at the shop rather than doing any reading. First we spoke with one of Joan’s regular customers who was a landscaper. Ugandans are very much entrepreneurs. He was telling me how he wanted to start exporting hides to Italy to be made into leather and then having the leather shipped back to be manufactured into different products to sell on the Ugandan market. We also spoke with two women who were alumni of the College of Charleston. They were leading missions for medical students and nurses in a town in the north western part of the country called Mysinde. They were working for a non-profit out of Charleston, so I asked them if they knew if there were any job openings. =). It will definitely be something that I follow up with eventually. I also took the time to talk with the owner of the coffee shop. I remember him from the last time. He was asking about the book I was reading, and coffee, and the different types of customers that he gets. I think that we will try to do the coffee tour again because it was so much fun when I did it last year.
After we were all hopped up on caffeine from delicious coffee, we walked across the street to the market so that Meagan could see the different crafts and things that they had. I knew that we weren’t going to make it out there without buying something, so I bought a pair of earrings and Meagan also go some paper beads. I also found a store that had fake designer bags. They claim that they are real, but I don’t believe it because they are only selling them for like 30-45 dollars. But… they are nice leather bags, so I think that at some point I’ll get one anyway.
We walked home and stopped along the way to pick up something that we could use for chips. We choose pita bread and we ended up buying some fresh goat cheese in the process. Our plan was to make pita chips for guacamole and use whole pitas for pizza crusts. I made a simple guacamole with just lemon, onion, salt, and tomatoes, and Meagan said that it was the best guacamole that she’d ever had. The avocados were perfect.
All in all today was a really nice day. I knew that I needed a day to relax and unwind after the long week, and do something for fun.