Restless Nights

I discovered another house guest. I was laying in bed reading by the light of a little lantern that I keep next to my bed, just as I was about to turn it out and go to sleep I saw a shadow moving along the wall near the ceiling. I looked up and it was a gecko. I watched it walked around for a while and then it found the bathroom door with my towel hanging on a hook from the back side of it and it promptly climbed down and nestled in the towel. I vowed then and there that I would never put on clothes or a towel or anything without checking it first. I am not afraid of it but it does make me a little uneasy and I decided that I would hang my mesquito net first thing in the morning. I think it will make me feel a bit more comfortable.

Today was my first real day here. After a little breakfast Ellen and I walked to the Musana workshop. As we walked up to the shop the doors were wide open and a group of women all sat together working. They started to sing when they saw us, a little song that they learned as children in school. It was set to the music of she’ll be coming round the mountain, only the words were “we are happy to receive you, welcome”

It’s interesting because people will come up to you and shake your hand and say You’re Welcome, and it throws me off because it sound like I should have said thankyou first. Its kind of silly I guess when you think about it that in America we say you’re welcome to someone who has said thankyou. It actually makes more sense as a greeting.

I sat and helped the women sort beads and tried to get to know them a little. They are very friendly and nice but I think English doesn’t come as easily to most of them as I thought it might so they are not as talkative as I wish. Two of the women brought their babies with them and I was shocked when I held one and realized that he had wet through his diaper and nobody seemed to care. Than I realized that, actually since they don’t have disposable diapers or diaper covers to keep the wet from coming through babies are probably all wet like that. As I have noticed other babies, many of them just go naked on the bottom and I can only assume that their mothers find it easier that way.

Again I blessed the hand sanitizer that mother sent.

After working with the women for a few hours I decided that a quick walk back to the house would be good. I had been wanting to see if I trusted myself to find the way alone and since Ellen was busy working I headed out for a little walk. I thought I had a pretty good idea where I was going but before long things started to look unfamiliar and then I came to the sugar cane fields that mark the edge of town and I knew I had gone too far. I retraced my steps looking for a turn that I might have missed. Suddenly I saw a large black sign that said The church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints and I knew right where I was. The church is just around the corner from my house so I was able to find the little alley way between two buildings that I had forgotten and made it home.

To shy to come close

To shy to come close

I gathered a few things and filled my pockets with candy thinking that I might as well start to get to know the kids and what better bribery than pockets full of candy. As I was walking back it wasn’t long before children started waving to me and shouting Mazungu! So I reached in my pocket and pulled out a piece of candy and offered it to them. Soon my pockets where empty and I continued my walk. Several hours later as I sat working in the open doors of the Musana workshop I heard children whispering and I heard Mazungu which has almost started to feel like my name. I looked up and saw a small handful of children lingering by the road next to the workshop, grinning shyly at me. I suspect that word of the Mazungu with pockets full of candy had gone around and they had come looking for me. They sat there giggling shyly at me, for some time but I had nothing to give them so they soon wandered away.

waiting for Mazungu

waiting for Mazungu

I had my first boda boda ride today. Ellen and I had run out of drinkable water so we went to get some. The large jar was heavy so we decided to take a boda on the way home. After dinner I tried to stay awake so that I could sleep through the night but the power had been out all day, the computers where dead and without lights or computers or anything to do and feeling so sleepy I finally gave in and went to bed at about 7.

I was awakened by the sound of drums and shouting, shrill whistles and screams and singing. I lay there wondering what in the world was going on but when the sound continued for about an hour I decided to go check it out. My watch said it was 1:30. I unlocked the pad lock that we use to lock our door and let myself out into the courtyard. I had forgotten about the gate and found it locked with a pad lock as well and since I didn’t have a key to that I stood there trying to decide what to do and how I was going to get out when I heard a sound. One of the men that lives in our little compound was standing at the blanket that serves as a door to his little apartment. He asked if I needed something and I told him that I wanted to go out. He had a key and opened the gate for me. When you come back just knock and I will let you in he told me.

I hadn’t thought to bring a light with me so I took my time walking carefully down the road toward the sound of the music and voices, Soon I came to some kind of a warehouse. People were standing near the doorways watching and I joined them. Inside was a born again Christian revival meeting. I had never seen anything like that before. The preacher was shouting, people where wailing and whistling and the music was blaring. People would get up and walk to the front of the room shaking their hips in ways I didn’t know hips were capable of moving and holding their hands in the air they would dance, their eyes closed and their faces turned toward the sky.

I stood in the door way and a man offered me his seat. I declined saying I was only going to watch for a minute. Then a women came and took my hand and led to me to front of the room and offered me a chair on the second row. I sat and watched entranced by the strangeness of these people’s worship. At one point the preacher started to speak somewhat in English. I could only make out a few words here and there but he was looking right at me and I gathered that he wanted me to come up on the platform. He came down and offered me his hand and I pretended shyness and refused to get up. Honestly I just had no idea what it was that they wanted me to do. After watching for an hour or so I went back home and knocked quietly on the gate. The man let me in and I went back to bed but the noise continued until the sun came up so I didn’t sleep much.

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Introduction to our home…and it’s guests.

Ellen showed up to pick me up from the hostel this morning. I had tried to reach her by phone and not had a lot of luck. I was sitting on the patio outside the dormitory reading a book and having some bread and cheese with Nimrod when I saw her blond hair and big smile walk through the door. I was so happy to see her that I gave her a big hug. I think she wasn’t expecting that from me and I certainly don’t often hug strangers that readily. ’Fred was the driver. He is married to Tina the manager at Musana, When I got in the car Fred asked me if I was a Latter Day Saint. I assured him that I was and asked if he was, as well. He gave me an enthusiastic yes with a little fist pump to accompany it. It made me think that we should all be so open with our enthusiasm. He told me that he knew several people from Utah and he started giving me various first names as though I should know these people. “Do you know Grace?” he asked. I told him I didn’t know her. “Grace is a man,” he answered with a laugh He told me that he served a mission in Johannesburg. I thought it was a long shot but I asked him if he knew Sundy. His face lit up and he answered, “Sister Peterson? She sings like an angel and she married a doctor?”

He told me that they served together in the mission As he talked about her sunny disposition and beautiful voice I knew we had the right Sundy, As if there could be another. It made me so happy to know that he knew and loved her too. I thought how strange life is that through a twist of fate I had met Sundy by giving her a ride somewhere and now this man had come to my rescue to give me a ride. Even after that long flight I could laugh at what a small world we live in.

Traveling by car through Kampala is taking your life in your hands I have never seen anything like it. So many times I thought that we were going to hit another car or a person. I couldn’t see any rhyme or reason to how or where people were driving. There were no lanes and cars just squeeze in wherever there is room and sometimes when there really isnt. The people just walk in and out among the cars as though they were not even moving. I was already feeling rather sick and by the time we arrived in Lugazi I felt as though I would lose my stomach.

Ellen took me out to eat. As we walked through the streets I marveled at this place that is so different from anything I have ever experienced. It’s hard to imagine that I will ever get used to it here. The food tasted good but my stomach would not let me eat much.

 

As Ellen and I walked several people shouted Mazungu! (Foreigner) as we passed. The children ran up to us and held Ellen’s hands and walked with us. They acted a little shy with me and at Ellen’s encouragement attempted to pronounce my name. It’s hard to know what to say about this place. I felt so lost and sick and afraid to touch anything for fear of germs. We went back to the house and I began to settle in. The house is part of a small compound surrounded by a wall and topped with barbed wire. Its much nicer than most in the neighborhood and even recently got running water!

This is our kitchen

This is our kitchen

I pulled out my computer and attempted to access the internet. As I sat on the floor in our kitchen messing with the computer I though I saw something run under the shelf against the wall. It moved so fast I wasn’t sure so I kept working. A few minutes passes and I thought I saw something about two inches long and an inch or so wide run across the wall, again it went so fast I wasn’t sure. I asked Ellen who was just laying down for a nap and she told me that is was probably a cockroach. I didn’t think I was afraid of them but I didn’t like the way I was feeling about the thought of that thing in the house while I sleep. She told me that there is a rat living in the house with us as well. She said that she allows it because he helps with the roaches and she thinks he is kind of cute… I don’t know what she is thinking We have a small refrigerator and a table and a little gas burner. My room consists of a squeaky bed and a shelf. Nails on the walls give me some place to hang some clothes and my towel. The bathroom ha a toilet of sorts and a showed head that allows for a cold shower. I should feel blessed as I know it is much more than many others have.

My first night in a strange place usually leaves me feeling homesick and wondering why I have come. I didn’t feel that way last night but as I sat in our little house feeling hot and sweaty, dirty and sick, I felt it. For just a second I wished I was at home where I could take a nice bath in a clean tub, and familiar food to calm my stomach. I decided now was as good a time as any to to out the shower. As I stood underneath it wearing my sandals for fear of having bare feet on that floor and letting the cool water run down my body the smell of the clean soap and the feel of clean hair made me feel as though I could face the rest  of the day. I put on clean clothes and lay down on the bed. I had just put my fresh clean sheet on it and sprayed the whole room down with Lemon oil. It felt so good that I soon fell asleep.

When I woke it was dark outside. Davis a neighbor boy who is a friend of Ellen’s was helping Ellen cook us some dinner. They were cooking Catoga (no idea if I spelled that right) It is basically a type of stew with beans, onions, green peppers, and a root comparable to maybe a turnip or potato that is called Casova. It was warm and delicious. I think my stomach is settling. After dinner, Ellen and I went for a walk and she showed me around the village a bit and I got to meet several of the Musana women. As we walked a man shouted at us and asked where were were going. She answered “We are here” I was confused what she meant by that and she explained that the boda boda drivers will ask where you are going to see if you want a ride, If you answer we are here the know that you are where you want to be and are not looking for a ride. I feel as though I will never learn all the strange words and how to do things here, I remember feeling like a child in Japan because there was so much I didn’t know and I felt a little helpless but it was nothing compared to this. I hope I can be as comfortable and confident as Ellen is before long.

A view from my bedroom window.

A view from my bedroom window.

First Night

DSC00193I am in Entebbe, Uganda. It seems like just yesterday that I randomly saw a post from a friend on facebook about an Internship in Uganda, and thought “would I be crazy to consider going there for the summer?” I had plans to go to DC for to do a paid internship and to get some great business experience, while possibly learning more about how our government is run. Yet here I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I left Salt Lake City two days ago. I flew to New York where I caught a plane for Amsterdam. I have always dreamed of going to Europe and especially to Holland during the tulip festival. It killed me to be there at this time of year and see nothing outside the airport. I did take this picture, as I was thinking of my mom and her love of tulips. She would have loved these beautiful boxes filled with tulips that line the hallways of the airport in Amsterdam.

I found the gate where my plane would leave for Rwanda. Two black ladies were sitting chatting and when I sat near them they struck up a conversation with me, asking me where I was going and giving me lots of friendly, helpful advise. I left my bags where I could see them and ordered a sprite. When I returned the ladies gave me a little lecture about how I should never leave my bags even for a second. They told me that in Uganda I would meet many people like them who would be friendly and kind and I would be tempted to trust them, but “If you do and you leave your things where you can’t touch them, even for a second, you will come back and they will be gone!” they told me.

I had to go through another security check leaving Amsterdam but the plane ride to Rwanda was not as uncomfortable as the others had been since the plane was not full so I had the whole row to myself. The armrests did not move so I had to try to maneuver around them to sleep. I decided that plane rides are neither here nor there, the seats are almost comfortable, they allow you to almost fall asleep, the food is almost tasty and the drinks almost enough. There is almost enough room for me to stretch my legs, and I almost feel sick the whole time.

The plane only stopped briefly in Rwanda and then we were off for Uganda. As I exited the plane the air was thick with the sickly sweet smell of many bodies, rain water, and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I went through immigrations and got my visa and then gathered my bags from baggage claim. I was told that someone from a hostel called “Backpackers” would be meeting me and to look for a sign with my name on it. I scanned the line of people holding signs, but didn’t see one, someone suggested trying outside. I stepped outside the door and almost immediately spotted my name on a sign. The man holding the sign wore a blue coat with the hood on and his head down. When he looked up, in the darkness I saw only his eyes. It frightened me for a moment and for just a second, I thought of Harry Potter and the Dementors. The man’s name was Collin and he helped me load my luggage into his car and laughed when I attempted to get in the wrong side of the car, since apparently in Africa the driver’s side is on the right.

We talked a little as we drove. Soon we came to a tall wooden gate, which was opened after a few seconds by another man. Collin led me into a small living room where I signed in and was taken to the dormitory.

DSC00200Inside the dormitory there were four sets of bunk beds. One of them was already occupied by an Israeli man named Nimrod. He told me his name with a chuckle and explained that someone had already told him that in America Nimrod means basically the same as Dork. We were told to keep the door locked from the inside and that if one of us left early we were to wake the other so that they could lock it again after us. We were both cautioned not to go outside of the gates alone as there were often people waiting in the bushes to jump you.

I guess I had slept enough on the plane, and since my bodies clock thought it was morning I wasn’t tired at all. I wondered how many before me had slept on the sheets and if they had been washed. Nimrod showed me outside to the shower and toilets. I had seen better in camp sites and I hoped I wouldn’t need to use it until morning.

Nimrod was friendly enough and we lay in our beds talking for several hours. He told me about his life in Israel, and answered my many questions about Judaism. Finally I thought since he had already been in bed when I got there I should let him sleep. After a few moments of silence, he whispered, “Vilate, are you asleep?” I told him that I wasn’t and didn’t expect that I would sleep much that night. “Tell me what it means to be a Mormon.” He asked.  I stumbled a little as I struggled where to begin and what to say to this man who did not even believe in Jesus Christ.

I decided to start with God. I explained how we believe that he is literally the Father of our spirits and how we refer to him as Heavenly Father. I explained that we believe that Jesus Christ is his son and that when we die,, we have the opportunity to become Gods like them.

He asked about marriage and if we could marry outside of our religion. I explained to him that we can, but that because of our beliefs in our ability to progress eternally and because we believe that the best kind of marriage starts with a temple ceremony that will seal us together for all eternity, it only makes sense to marry someone who also believes those same things and can participate fully with us in the temple.

We talked about our similar beliefs about the Sabbath, the word of wisdom, and saving sex for marriage. Finally we fell silent and after a few moments he whispered again. “Goodnight Vilate.”

I lay there trying to sleep aDSC00197nd pretending that I didn’t feel the need to visit the outdoor bathroom. But after a while I couldn’t deny it any longer and I slipped from underneath the mosquito netting, pulled my dress over my head and headed outside. The door is reinforced with bars, like what you might imagine to see in a prison and it took me a little while to figure out how to unlock the door. I eased it open, careful not to wake Nimrod and stepped out into the darkness. The bathroom door wouldn’t lock and there was no light so I hoped for the best, did what I came to do and went back inside. I couldn’t find anywhere to wash my hands so I made a mental note to make good use of the hand sanitizer I had brought with me.

I woke this morning early, surprised that I had indeed slept. It was raining quite hard and yet there were so many birds twittering outside the window that I couldn’t begin to distinguish between their many sounds. I am quite sure that some of the sounds I heard were monkeys. Nimrod is still sleeping and I am not sure what I am expected to do at this point. I understand that someone will be picking me up today, but I am not sure when or if I should try to call someone. I hear voices so I may go inside and see what I can find out. So until next time…DSC00199