Usually I am long on words. Today not so much. I am hot, tired, not feeling well but also feeling overwhelmed with everything that I am experiencing. Overwhelmed in a good way. I love the people here and I am loving my experience. Before I came I knew I would love the people but then, they didn’t have names.
Names like Davis and Joseph. The two boys who live across from us in the compound and who come by practically every day to see us, they sing for us, they help us with our dishes and they share their food, their lives, their seemingly endless smiles with us. They are like brothers to me and I have truly come to love them.
The other day I was cleaning the new apartment getting it ready for the other girls that are coming soon and both boys just showed up with rags ready to work. Emined came also and together we scrubbed the walls and the floors. It was fun working side by side with them and made a big job a joy. Even little Joshua followed their example and came to help.
We mopped the floor of our little kitchen and when we were finished the water was so dirty. Who knew that such a small space could contain so much dirt!
The other day I made my first solo trip to Kampala. I had a batch of jewelry that needed to be delivered to a customer and everyone was busy so I took it in. I took a taxi to Mukono and then a boda boda to our manager’s house to pick up the shipment. Then I took another taxi to Kampala and met Ashley at a great little restaurant called Dorman’s it was the most “western” place I have eaten at since I got here and it was heaven!
Before I came here a friend who had pretty extensive experience traveling told me to try to get past the initial shock and learn to just enjoy it as quickly as possible. I confess that I wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about. Now I am. I remember my first day in Alaska, being horribly disappointed because when I thought of Alaska I thought of pristine mountain vistas, fishing, and being surrounded by the beauties of nature. That first night there and the first few days that followed all I could see were the drunk homeless people who sat on the curbs and wandered the streets that smelled of beer and urine. However I soon came to see past all of that and when I remember Juneau, I remember the waterfalls cascading off the mountain that I could see from our apartment window. I remember late nights with the sun not ever completely gone down fishing in the channel on the outskirts of town. I remember the fog, the sunshine, the wildlife and the beautiful mountain vistas that often literally took my breath away.
I think it is easy at first to project your own standards of what should be on a community that is so different from your own. I think this must be what my friend was talking about. And so I have decided to look past the things about this place that I don’t understand or don’t like and try to just experience it so that when I leave I will have memories just as treasured as the ones I came home from Alaska with.
I came to this conclusion as I sat in a crowded taxi stuck in traffic in Kampala. I was so frustrated at the apparent lack of a system. The taxis that really function a lot more like busses have no specific route, with no specific time-table. The fare is not set or standardized and I didn’t see one street sign on the whole journey of over two hours to help me determine my location. Since I am trying to familiarize myself with this place so that when Ellen leaves in a few weeks and I need to make these trips myself I can know what I am doing, this was especially frustrating.
We sat in the very back seat of a van filled to capacity and beyond. I couldn’t see around the heads that were blocking my view of the road and in the jerky stop and go traffic I was getting quite sick. The roads here are far from smooth and as we rattled along I often found myself bouncing so far off my seat that several times I almost hit my head on the ceiling. I thought of my dad’s little story he always tells of my great, great, grandparents and their first experience in a car and I couldn’t help but hear his voice saying “Did you raise, Jane?” as I would try to lift myself off the seat a little so as not to get the full impact of the bumps. By the time we arrived in Kampala I was so ready to get off that bus and I didn’t care if I ever saw one again. Kampala is an experience.
We went to a a little coffee shop called 1000 cups and I ordered a plate of fruit and some juice. It was delicious and refreshing. The lounge style dinning room was comfortable and cool and I felt refreshed and ready for this experience.
We went to a market where Ellen was looking for gifts to take home to her friends and family. It was good for me to watch her bargain and talk to these people. I think it will help me in the future when I need to do the same. Ellen is very good at disagreeing with people, expressing differences of opinion, even questioning their honesty and doing it all with a smile, a laugh and leaving with a new friend.
In one shop after a heated debate over whether the jewelry was truly made from cow bone or whether it was wood that was just painted, Ellen and the shop keeper played a game together laughing and talking the whole time. We ended up buying several things from them before going on our way. There was a man walking around with a bucket filled with fried grasshoppers. He was selling them and one of the women offered one to me. I gave her an emphatic no but then Ellen and some of the others encouraged me to try it and I thought why not. After all I am here in Africa I might as well really experience Africa. So I ate one. It wasn’t at all bad as long as you didn’t think too much about it.
On the way home I sat in the very front seat of the taxi and actually found I enjoyed the ride. The country side is beautiful, there is always something interesting to see and the cool air from the open windows, blowing in my face felt wonderful.
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!
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.