I had to leave my Wakiso homestay family behind on April 19 and that was difficult. It was almost like leaving members of my real family. I'm not sure why I felt so close to them, but I suppose it is partly because they supported me during a critical transition. At any rate, they were very sweet and gave me gifts to remember them by--a beautiful carving of giraffes and a bark cloth purse. I have them displayed on my bookcase in my new home. Speaking of home...
MY HOUSE: I live in a building that has 7 other units. It is located about two blocks from the market and the center of town. It has electricity sometimes, and was advertised by the PC staff as having a flush toilet. That is technically true. However, in order to flush it, I have to carry a 5-gallon bucket (yes, another bucket) out to the facilities with me. What it really is, is a porcelain "throne" bolted over a pit latrine.
When we drove up to my new home and stopped, I nearly cried I was so upset. At one end of the block is a collection of "guest houses" that are attached to bars and rent by the half-hour. They attract a crowd very much like the inhabitants of the Bowery in NYC. There is a party going on day and night. At the other end is a furniture making establishment with hammering and sawing going on from 7 am til dark. In between and across the street is "Expert Motors" which is hidden behind a 40-foot wall of concrete. The street is dirt/mud/a river--depending on the weather, and the collection of individuals passing by rivals any Greyhound bus station in the US.
I have a "sitting room," a kitchen area, and a bedroom. There are big metal doors with impressive locks both front and back. My two windows are barred. The place came furnished with a table, three chairs and a bed frame. Floors are concrete. In the US when there is an old dilapidated building in a rundown, iffy part of town like this, investors come in and install an elevator and some metal doors just like mine; throw in a stool and a shower, sub-divide the space, call it a loft, and charge $500,000 for each unit. So, I've decided that I'm living in a loft in Africa.
Funny thing is, I've built shelves, had curtains made, bought pots/pans/dishes, etc. and now I call this place home. It even feels cozy and I'm on speaking terms with many of the characters who pass by.
Some of the logistics of living here are:
- I pay John 200 Schillings per 20-liter Jeri Can to bring me water from the tap which is about two blocks away. (About 2000 Schillings to each US dollar so 200 Sch is about 10-cents) He brings 3 cans every two or three days--depending on whether it rains or not. I use the rain water I collect in some of my infamous buckets for mopping floors, flushing the toilet, laundry, etc.
- I have a two burner gas cook top. I also have a dorm-size refrigerator that works when I have electricity. It really works out well, because I can't regulate the temperature in the fridge, so everything sort of freezes. BUT, the power goes off often enough that things stay about the perfect temperature all the time.
- I bathe using cold water in my private cement stall that locks and is located out back with the "flush" toilet.
- I go to the market about everyday. Yesterday I made beans and rice for myself for the first time. I have a few things to learn about cleaning the stones out of the rice, and picking both stones and bad beans out of the beans. Another Ugandan skill I need to learn.
- Out my back door is a walled in area that all 7 tenants here use to cook, do and hang laundry, chat, and traverse to and from the latrine/bathing room/and the alley. At night the back gate is bolted an no one can enter the compound.
- PCVs cannot ride boda bodas so I walk most places. I'm seriously thinking about getting a bike.
OK--that's enough for now. I'll try to write more this evening about my job, the people here, mob justice, and the health care system.
Love you all, and miss you everyday--mbj