Good Morning Friends!
I write to you this morning from Kanyanja Kampala Uganda - the site of TASO's training centre. They are yet to settle me anywhere (ha ha, no surprise there) so I go from place to place meeting with people and being thrown in a room to fend boredom for myself. Today at least I have been given a computer, so let me fill you in. This post script is about Uganda because I have been thinking lately about the fundamental HUGE differences between here and Canada and I fell that in order for you to really understand and benefit fully from my blog posts, you must be given proper context as to what i am seeing from here.
First off, I am residing in Kasubi Kampala Uganda with my grandmother primarily and many other family members including my cousins, aunts, uncles - there is never les than 7 people in the house which makes for a very fun time. The house is huge with two separate buildings. The main house has 6 rooms, 5 of which are bedrooms, an office, there is a bathroom, a small pantry, a living room, dining room and a garage attached. Walk just across the way and there is another building where the cooking is done, along with another bathroom and bedroom. And THEN there is another small house, where my uncle stays. There is also an outdoor shower - but I don't know who uses it.
So I imagine that many of you envision that I am set up in this luxurious heaven on earth, but this is really not the case.
To the outside world of Western society, I live amongst slums. But you know what ? I do not deny it - it is true. Much of Uganda is slums, but what I've come to realize once again is that is it not the building that makes the home, but the people within. The houses may not be the most beautiful, but the people in it are and that is enough.
I say I live amongst slums because our house has a gate and a very VERY tall fence made of brick which encompasses are compound, so in fact I do not see the slums except when I am travelling. This sets our house apart from others with respect to class - and i suppose shows that my family is perhaps a bit better off than others in the are - but not by much - not. by. much.
And so I continue...
Again, to the outside world, Uganda probably appears to be very dirty. The roads are not covered in "beautiful, black ashpalt" but rather brownish-reddish pottery clay dust. - it is everywhere you go, and when it rains, the combination of it with water creates a sea of red. HA! it's incredible. It rains HARD in Uganda and a man I met yesterday told me that in some places in Africa, when it rains you must stop wherever you are and wait for the rain to stop - it could rain for 48 hours he said, but you stop and wait until the rain is done.
Last week, I was in a car and the rain had covered the tires and you could feel the rain gushing underneath the car - had there been even one tiny little hole, the car would have begun til fill and we would have been swimming in this sea of rain.
This is juxtaposed with the fact the Ugandans and probably the majority of Africans are probably the cleanest people in the world. Even though access to clean water is scarce, we bathe (not shower, bathe) twice a day - yes. twice. In my house, there is not hot water, so it is boiled in a kettle and mized with cold water to one's liking. As I said we bathe, not shower and so the water is placed in a basin and you wash yourself as so.
I've always found it to be so funny that even though in "developed" parts of the world where water (hot and cold) is readily available whenever need be, it is not used for such things as much as here. How many times have I (or you!) gone days without taking a shower because we say we are too busy or tired? Here it does not matter - and heaven forbid if you leave the house without taking a bathe - nuh uh - it is just unheard of.
Next - there is transport - ha! I think this is perhaps my favourite part!
There are three main modes of transport here: walking, taxis (and cars) or boda bodas (the motorcycle!)
Taxis and boda bodas dominate the road and it's quite a sight to watch and then experience. Let me tell you this, as I have already been told - there is NO discipline in Uganda. There are no lines on the ground, no crosswalks, no street signs and no sidewalks for that matter. I have seen only 4 traffic lights since I've arrived and from what I can remember only 2 intersections with stop signs! ha! So with all this in mind, throw hundreds of thousands of taxis and cars on to the roads and give each and every one of them a different destination and tell them to go.
*oh ya, and here they keep left not right and the steering is on the right side of the car, not the left.
fact: it. is . MADNESS!
and yet - i LOVE it.
The taxis hold "14 passengers" and I say "14 passengers" because is the conductor decides he wants to sqeeze in a few more people in order to make some extra money on this trip, he will do so. Children small enough, sit on the laps of their parents and if you have any possessions they sit no your lap as well. As you travel, the taxi will stop wherever along the way if you request it, so a 10 minute drive could actually take 40 and of course there is jam (traffic jam), so thay means an hour!
And then there are the boda bodas - they squeeze in between the cars every which way - they are literally in constant battle with the taxis - In a "normal" society, there should probably only be 2 people on it, the driver and one other person, but it's not uncommon to see a child sitting on the lap of the driver, and the mother in the back, holding a week's worth of groceries. You can also fit two adults in the back - yup. that works just fine too. Boda bodas are seemingly invincible - if you can hold it in your hand, the boda boda will take anything you give it - this includes: chairs, animals, other boda bodas, desks, MOUNDS of food (ie. bunchs of bananas - like hundreds!), long pieces of wood, sheets of metal roofing and every possible thing imaginiable - the list is endless.
One last thing I wish to tell you about in Uganda is time. Ha! Well - there really isn't any concept of it here. It is not unusual to wait an hour or so to see someone (hence, what I'm doing now) and people are just not in a rush to do much. And why so, anyway? Where are we going and why so fast? Let's slow down a bit ya? And if we don't get it done today, there is always tomorrow right? Hmph - I suppose. Coming from the fast paced - bang, bang - world of Canada, this adjustment has been quite difficult, but I'm coping and learning to just go. I've stopped wearing my watch because it's simply unneccessary to imagine that when I'm suppose to meet with someone at 9am that it will really happen. It's just seemingly understood that when you come, you will come...
Ok friends - I think my time is almost up and it may take another 15 minutes to actually load this, so I better start winding down, but I hope the read has been an enjoyable one and gives you a little taste of Uganda from the inside out ya?... and if I'm still here waiting within the next hour, I may just start writinganother post....
Warm greetings from Uganda,
post script: apologies if there are many grammatical errors and spelling mistakes - the speed of the computer is slow and I have thus failed to edit most of what I have written. :)