Thursday, October 22, 2009

Expectations

During orientation, we talked about the expectations we had before coming here, and how most of the things we thought or assumed about Africa and this semester would most likely not be.


This summer, I had this idea that everyone I met would be so kind, and would just be the epitome of love. I was reminded by a friend before I left that people are people the world around, and I have found this to be so true. My host family is very nice, but they are a family, and they are human. The siblings argue at times, and like to pick on each other. They watch crazy things on TV. I have only seen a few examples of selfless love, at least the kind that I was envisioning. They are still nice and hospitable though. I like them.


I also had this impression of not having a lot of food to eat, and losing a lot of weight and the weather being super hot all the time. One, Ugandans eat A LOT of food. And it’s mostly carbs, and the food is always piping hot. They say most girls gain weight when they are here. Not surprising. The culture encourages larger women, or at least finds them more beautiful. I know in some homes, the host moms are upset when their daughters do not eat past their limits. Luckily my maama feeds me just the right amount. Usually.


And the weather is so different than what I thought. There are times when I can definitely tell it is really warm, but we have had mini thunderstorms many afternoons which cool the temperature down, and the evenings are cooler. Most of the time the weather is really enjoyable, as long as the rain comes to cool it off the sun a bit. Which relates to another expectation: getting really tan. I am rarely in the sun for long periods of time. Expats who have been living here for years aren’t really tan, so I don’t know why I got the idea that I would be when I left. Oh stereotypes of Africa.


I had not expected to watch as much TV as I do now. I watch more than what I did in America. And it is all things I normally would not watch, like soap operas, televangelists, and music videos. The prosperity gospel is huge here. When I went to get a smoothie today at Canada Ice (a canteen on campus. The smoothies are AMAZING), Joel Olsteen was on TV. The soap operas have become quite addicting, sad to say. One that I enjoy/watch is called La Tormenta (the Storm). It’s pretty ridiculous. It’s Spanish and is dubbed over in English. It’s actually reached the point where I am just ready for some kind of closure with the story, because it’s getting out of control. Hard to believe from a soap, I know. The Amazing Race (a really old season with the people from Survivor) is on. I enjoy it.


I also was expecting some big answer-revelation about where my life is headed. Now I may be more confused than I was before. I guess I just still don’t have answers…but I’m so okay with it. It’s part of the journey, and I am enjoying it. I have plans for the few months after graduation, but after that I hope God will just open some doors. And I’m excited for what’s coming up in my life. This is good.


I didn’t expect to be such a novelty with my white skin. It’s annoying. Kids yell, everyone stares, and men call out. I’m tired of it. We’ve all gotten pretty annoyed and cynical about it. It’s hard to know the motives of Africans who want to be your friend. It’s sad to say, but especially with men, their motives are unclear, or they are TOO clear. Those relationships are avoided.


Yeah, so we’re halfway through the semester. Crazy. The rest of the semester is going to fly by I think. It has so far been a sufficient amount of time though. Life is good here in Africa for Jill. I’m thankful for that.


We leave for Kapchorwa tomorrow! I’m excited, partly just because we get a break from classes (except I have a lot of reading to do), and partly to see the beautiful area and experience a different lifestyle.


Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weekend at Ssese

Best. Weekend. Ever.


This weekend was what bad horror movies are made of. Six college students, studying in another country, decide to take a weekend trip to an island. Insanity ensues. After class Brian, Manny, Sam, Isaiah, Joy, and I grabbed a taxi and went to Kampala to catch our private hire to Entebbe to catch our ferry to Ssese Island, which is in the middle of Lake Victoria.


We were all pretty hopeful about the weekend as we were waiting in Garden City (the mall). Little did we know the bizarre things that would follow. It’s hard now actually to remember all the really weird moments, but here are some highlights…and a rundown of the weekend.


So, we didn’t have any plans for where to stay once we got on the island. A guy came up to us and told us that he had rooms available, so we should just follow him. So we did. We ended up walking into this campsite, where we were greeted by a Polish lady and weird music. And her great Dane. Which was as tall as I was. And it had saddle sore. She showed us a weirdly, colorfully painted building with six beds, and most of us were just going to accept her offer and stay there for the night. Then Manny decided that he wanted to check out other places, which later we were all super thankful for. “No! There is no way I am staying there. The black guy always dies first!” –Manny


We laughed. And then we found a sweet place, where after talking with the people, we ended up in a family room, which had two separate rooms with 2 single beds and then one big bed. For two nights, complete with two breakfasts, it cost us $15 each. After unpacking, we went down to the place where dinner was going to be and decided to play a game.


We played a pirated version of Monopoly that someone bought here. It was copyrighted by the Paker Brothers. Not Parker. The names of the places were all different. I think the chance/community chest cards were the best part. Here are what some of the cards said:

“Go back Belleville”

“Get out of jail tree”

“Bank errorin you favour”

“Amend for intoxi cation”

“Appointment with the Street of Peace”

“Go to Christ Redeemer” –but there was no Christ Redeemer on the board.

“Aeroports”—what the railroads were called…although there were still pictures of trains on the cards.

On the board:

The majority of the places were foreign, misspelled names. It did have the Champs-Elysées on it though. Hello Paris.

“GTO IN JAIL”

“Collect $2,000”—when you pass go. It should be $200.

“SIMPLE JUST VISITING”—on the jail square


As we were playing Monopoly, waiting for dinner to be served, the lights kept going on and off. The whole game was just ridiculous, and we just put it away when the food came out. It made for a lot of laughs though.


There was a bonfire near the beach that evening, so a few of us went down for a bit, and then we went to bed. Isaiah read some Scripture and he read a bit of The Last Battle (a Narnia book) for us. Then the boys decided to do word association until they fell asleep. Hilarious.


Saturday we woke up and had breakfast, and then we went walking around the island for about 5 hours. We hiked up the hill to find a good view of the lake. We walked through the town and the guys ended up playing soccer with a group of school kids while Joy and I watched and talked to a few girls who came to sit with the mzungus. We also were followed by a dog, which we named Belleville (‘go back Belleville’). There were multiple times as we were walking that other dogs would come and fight with Belleville. He hung out with us all weekend.


We ate lunch in a tiny building on top of the hill and then found our way back to our room. The afternoon was spent relaxing and reading by the water, and then we watched the sun set. We were walking back from the town after eating a not-so-great dinner, and realized how dark it was as we were standing in a grassy field near the beach a bit away from our campsite. It was a clear night, and the stars were so bright. It was beautiful. Joy also saw her first firefly.


Then I decided we should try star-tipping. This is something that I learned at camp. Someone stares up at a star and spins around, and then after a certain amount of time you shine a flashlight in their eyes and they fall over. People love it. So we did this, and Manny and Sam went and it was funny. One time Manny didn’t fall down when the light hit his eyes. He was proud. The funniest by far was Brian though. He just stumbled, and his face was hilarious, and then he fell over. I don’t even know if I can describe how funny it was, but we all were doubled over in laughter. A few minutes later we were still just laughing about things when Brian grabbed us all and looked toward the water and said “I just heard a hippo over there!” He had seen a hippo in the water earlier in the day, and we had been talking about how dangerous hippos were, so needless to say, we RAN. When we reached our campsite, we just laughed some more. Brian and Joy decided to go back to the room and sleep, but the rest of us stayed near the bonfire. We met three girls from Sweden who are teaching at a school in Kampala. They were pretty cool. It started raining, so the Ugandans that were hanging around all went to their rooms, which left Manny, Sam, Isaiah, and I by the fire with Emma and Micah (2 of the girls from Sweden). The girls had done a bike tour on the island, and they had gone to a pineapple farm and had bought a pineapple, which we decided to eat around the fire. We didn’t have a knife or anything, so someone found a sharp rock and we broke open the pineapple, then just ripped pieces off with our hands. And then we just started biting it. This was another horror movie moment. We’re just attacking a pineapple around a fire near a beach on an island, and we can’t see anything beyond where the light from the fire illuminates. But we made it back to our rooms, and after Isaiah read Philippians 2 to us, the guys decided to play word association again, and then they were playing ‘who’d win in a fight?’ and ‘who’d win in a beauty contest’. For example, ‘who’d win in a fight…George Clooney holding a George Foreman grill, or George Foreman just using his head’. They kept waking Manny up, because whenever Manny is woken up, he’s really disoriented for a bit. One time he woke up and made a comment something along the lines of, ‘guys…the thing about Jada Pinkett Smith is..she’s strong…but she’s quiet.’ Again, hilarious.


I didn’t even mention that while the four of us were hanging out near the beach, Joy texted me and said she was sick. So Sunday when we woke up Joy was still puking and feverish, and she kept shaking. We had to get on the ferry by 8, so we headed up there after breakfast. As we were getting onto the ramp we looked to our right and saw a hippo. Joy slept on the 3+ hour ferry ride, while the rest of us read and watched the movies they were showing. They showed the most ridiculous movie ever. I can’t even begin to describe everything that was terrible about it. It was called Sheena, and it was made in 1984, and set in Kenya. She could summon animals by touching her forehead. And she always rode a ‘zebra’, which was just a horse that was painted black and white. One of the taglines for the movie: “Part Animal. Part Legend. All Woman.” Absolutely ridiculous. When we made it back to Kampala, we were dropped off at Garden City, and then our driver drove Joy to The Surgery (the name of the hospital), and the five of us went to find something to eat. We ate pizza, and I did not get sick. It was a good time. But seriously, it felt like the ending of a bad movie. We had lost a person, and we looked like a wreck walking through the mall with all our bags, wearing the same clothes we had on when we left.


It was honestly one of my favorite weekends ever though. I laughed SO much, and got to stay on a beautiful island with cool people and not worry about schoolwork.


We have four days of classes this week, and then we leave for rural homestays for ten days. So from Friday until the next Friday, IMME will be in Kapchorwa, and USE will be in Soroti. We’ll be staying with families in a rural village, most likely doing a lot of farming and stuff. Kapchorwa is supposed to be beautiful. It’s up in the mountains. Then we’ll all be going to Sipi Falls for the 30th through the 1st to debrief. I’m excited. Nervous about not really being able to communicate, but it will be good.



Thanks for reading. Hope you all have a wonderful week. :)







Manny, Sam, Brian, Isaiah, and Belleville watching the sun set.



Monday, October 12, 2009

House

Here are some pictures from my house. Welcome to life in Africa.


I have been wondering how to express the stench of the latrines. Then we read this in African Literature. I apologize if it’s crude.


From Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol by Okot p’Bitek pg 46


The stench from the urinal is thick!

It hits your nose

Like a blow,

Like the horn of a bull rhino!

You choke

Your throat pains sharply

You get out quick

And shout a curse!


The stench from the latrine

Knocks you down, from afar!

You enter;

It is as if you have entered

Into a lion’s mouth.

The smell of Jeyes

And the smell of dung

Rise to the roof.


I don’t think it is as bad as described here. The stench can be pretty intense at times though. Luckily the latrine isn’t really a fully closed in area (there are cracks in the walls and door—and ventilation), so air can move through. We have two latrine stalls at our house.





This is the lovely latrine. The piece of wood sits over the hole when not in use. Although the handle is broken now, so moving it is tricky. And kind of gross. If you look closely you can see my little friend the cockroach hanging out near the bottom left corner of the hole. We had no electricity that evening (which happens often) and so there was no light coming from anywhere (because I also had my flashlight off so I could take the picture) so it was a pleasant surprise that the cockroach decided to join the photo. It just made for a more authentic latrine picture I think. There are hundreds of them that crawl around inside the latrine. I don't know why this one decided to venture out of his stinky home and join me. I think right after I took the picture I kicked him into the hole anyway. He got his 5 minutes of fame.





This is my bathing room. Also where I brush my teeth. The drain just goes through to a pvc pipe outside into a plastic jar called a jerrycan. I use the water bottle to the left to rinse my hair. And the green basin is also used when I do laundry. We have an inside and outside bathing room, but I always choose the inside one.




Here's a little lizard. The other evening there were about 5 of them hanging out on a wall in our house. They like to scurry around and eat bugs. Usually there is at least one on the wall every evening.




This is my bed, with my green mosquito net. At the foot of my bed is a shelf structure that holds the trunk they gave me for my valuables. To the left of that along the wall are where my clothes hang, and on the floor to the right of my pillow is where my suitcase is that has some extra clothes and my shower things. The other part of the room has a 3-bed bunk bed where my sisters will sleep if they are home on the weekend, and their clothes are hanging along the other wall.



I made chocolate chip cookies one evening. They tasted kind of like pancakes, but were very good. They were cooked on a frying pan.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hair/Luweero

Chalk up Friday as one of the most frustrating days in Africa so far.

-Spent Thursday night at Holly & Joy’s. Woke up at 4. Needed to use the latrine. Badly. Didn’t go out until 5:40. Terrible.

-Went with Holly to get our hair braided. Started at around 8 a.m. 13 ½ hours (of sitting on the floor and being uncomfortable) later…I was done. Poor Holly still isn’t finished. I still had to trim the ends and twist some strands. Terrible.

-As we were leaving the salon, I slipped and scraped my ankle. Ouch.

-When I was dropped off at my house, I fell down my driveway. Double ouch.

Overall, it was just a LONG day. And unexpected. Other girls had gotten their hair braided and it took them 8 hours. And we heard of others who it only took them 4 hours. Apparently we went to the wrong place. Luckily my head does not hurt. It’s a bit uncomfortable to sleep on, and it’s heavy, but I’ll get used to it. And I can do a lot with it, which is nice.





I think at this point I have a few strands done in the back. Holly is looking good though.




Finally finished.



Saturday and Sunday we went to Luweero. We listened to two Ugandans; a Catholic Priest and an Anglican Bishop. They both had good things to say about helping the poor and wrestling with all the oppression, suffering, HIV/AIDS, and death they see in their congregations and communities.


Saturday afternoon we went to a Compassion site, where we played and sang with the kids and got drenched in a rainstorm. Most of the kids and other IMME students went into the building, but a few of us ran onto our bus and waited out the rain there. We had a few kids with us, and one little girl was passing by and stopped and stared at the bus, so they motioned for her to come on, but she wasn’t one of the Compassion kids. She sat on my lap and just stared and was kind of frightened the whole time, which was understandable—being on a bus with mzungus and other people she has never seen before. After the rain was no longer a torrential downpour, we had the kids go back to the building (and some went and played soccer in the mud) and we went back to the Luweero Diocese Guesthouse (where we were staying).


I got to room with Hanna. It was a good time. And Sunday we went to a Catholic service. It was interesting, and lively, and there was a lot of singing. It was also all in Luganda. It was a fun weekend.


It’s almost the halfway point of this semester. Crazy. I should be writing papers right now. I have a significant amount of things due this week.


Have a good week :)