I have just finished my first full week at my new address. I'm in Tororo which is a 40,000-ish town very close to the Uganda/Kenya border. The town is big enough to have a decent internet cafe, but small enough that there is NO movie theater. It is a nice little place with most everything I need. My new house has electricity, but not water....more about Tororo later. So much has happened in the last month!
OK, I'll get this out of the way right now. I did NOT pass my language test, BUT I did improve. I went from Novice Intermediate to Novice-High (high meaning above intermediate, not high HIGH). But I was sworn in as an official United States Peace Corps Volunteer anyway. I have to re-take the test in 3-months, and at that time I need to be at Intermediate-Low. So, there you have it.
I have decided that Uganda is a land of B's--Bikes, Babies, Birds, Boda bodas, Blisters, and BUCKETS. Now about bikes. If you are going to get from point A to point B, you ride a bike--or walk (see BLISTERS below). In Tororo there are bike boda-bodas, BUT as a Peace Corps volunteer, I must wear my bike helmet if I ride on one. It's not like I stand out at all as it is--one white face among 40,000 dark Ugandans--but to wear a bike helmet as I sit on the rear fender of a barely-in-one-piece bicycle is the last straw. I haven't ridden one yet. I do intend to get a bike before too long, so stay tuned for my personal bike tales.
BABIES: All babies are cute. But the babies of Uganda are heartbreakingly cute. Everyday when I would walk to our training site in Wakiso, there would be at least 25 little ones from 12 months to three or four years who would run out of their houses an holler, "Hi, Mazungu, I see you." I was sort of like the "Today Show," I came on at the same time every morning and they never missed watching me go by. I made it my mission to teach them my name. So, at the end of my time in Wakiso when I walked by, they would holler, "Hi Maria, I see you!" I was very flattered until I found out that they were calling all of the white female Volunteers who walked by "Maria," thereby substituting Maria for Mazungu! Oh well, I find my humility lessons in the oddest places. But they were certainly cute, and they had the most beautiful smiles. They never failed to make me laugh, even on the roughest days.
BIRDS: Uganda has over 1200 different species of birds--more species than any other country in the world. In Wakiso I would sit out on the front porch early in the morning and at night, and study my language (fat lot of good that DID--but I digress). On many ocassions there would be at least 15 different types of birds in the yard at the same time. On the way to Raco Conference Center, the location of our training, there was a large tree--at least 50-feet high--that was home to a colony of weaver birds. The male weaver would build a nest shaped like a basket, and work on improving it very day (sort of like my brother, Bill). The males with the best nests got the best females (sort of like my brother, Bill). Every night the males and females would come home from wherever they'd been all day, and the party would begin. There were literally hundreds of birds visiting, rehashing their day, and preening for the opposite sex. Quite a spectical. Maybe we have them in the US, but I have never seen them.
Boda-Bodas: Well, I've written about these before. Boda Bodas are motorcycle taxis that whiz in and out of traffic faster than a speeding bullet. They don't stop for stop lights--those are just for motor-cars; they have never seen a lane that they couldn't breach; no truck is too big or too small to cut in front of; AND they are the most popular form of transport in many of the cities and towns I've been to. I am sooo happy that the Peace Corps forbids us to ride them. This is one rule that I'll obey!
BLISTERS: Gone are the days of grabbing an armload of whatever and jumping in the car. Now, wherever I go I walk. It is very interesting to observe how this one change in lifestyle can effect the whole. For one thing, I see my surroundings. I notice the people, and speak to them and they speak back. (an aside: Ugandans are very big on greeting each other. A young man sitting next to me in the I-cafe just now asked me for the time in America. I told him, and then he apologized for not greeting me.) I buy only the amount of stuff I can carry. I try to go early to wherever when it isn't so hot, and come back from wherever when it's cool. I walk to meet friends, to work, to shop, to go to church, etc. AND, sisters and brothers, that can cause blisters on a "tender-foot's" feet.
BUCKETS: This is truly the land of buckets. My list of bucket uses has expanded since I first observed this Ugandan phenomenom. Now I've told you about my bathing buckets (2), and my dishwashing buckets (2). I also personally own a footbath bucket (because I'm very rich and a princess-strike that--Queen), a garbage bucket, and a night "short call" bucket (when it's dark and raining and NO I WON'T GO TO THE PIT LATRINE NOW).
My favorite bucket has to be the Holy Water bucket Father used on Palm Sunday to bless us all. It was a light blue plastic bucket with a handle--sort of like my night bucket. In the US I have only seen sterling silver buckets with sterling silver sprinkler thingys for Holy Water. The sprinkler thingy was a grass handheld broom available in all the markets for 200 Schillings. I would like to report that it worked just fine!
OK-now that I have better access to the internet, I plan to add more to this soon. I'll tell you more about our training, our trip to Jinga and the source of the Nile, and about my new job and home.
Be well, email me, know that I love you and miss you like crazy! mbj-