After a barrage of tech issues, including my MacBook crashing, my internet dongle (here in Uganda, as in much of the world, internet access is acquired through a USB device that you add data to…pretty cheap, relatively speaking…and can we all take a minute to laugh at how ridiculous the word dongle is please? Just me? Fine…), my MTN network deciding that my registration process wasn’t enough for them and cutting off my data, my external hard drives failing to be recognized by the computers I need to do my work, constant power outages at the office, no power at home (they say we’ll have some electricity by…someday…), glacial internet at the local wifi access spots, and of course a schedule full of visiting women’s groups, health officials, health centers, traditional birthing attendants, swimming in the Nile, spending time with friends, traveling to Kampala, eating, laughing, dancing, standing in random places with my jaw literally hanging open at how unbelievable my life is…I’ve found it a bit difficult to add to this blog.
But alas! The issues have been resolved (mostly), the jaw is not hanging open or full of food (right this second), and I have a moment to update you all on my life here. At the end of our last recap, I believe I was getting off a plane…
I didn’t sleep more than 10 hours over the course of 4 days. From Yale to JFK to Dubai to Entebbe airport, where we all stood in line for 3 hours for our visas while Heather and I baffled everyone around us with our inability to stop laughing at an automatic door that tried with all it’s might to close but just couldn’t manage it due to a busted frame, I was pretty delirious upon my first official meeting with SOUL Project Manager Allison and Volunteer Coordinator Safa, who were both, and are both, AMAZING. So sweet, so genuine, so dedicated to the work SOUL is doing here. We spent the day on the beach of Lake Victoria waiting to pick up a new SOUL volunteer at the airport later that night. I arrived in my new home (see first blog post) too excited to sleep, too emotionally exhausted to make sense of the world around me, and so incredibly blessed to be where I was in the world.
The two weeks that followed in Kyabirwa village were filled with village exploration, meeting the local women that partner with SOUL through their tailoring groups, fish and chicken farm projects, and educational support programmes, getting to know all the projects and the wonderful staff and volunteers, swimming in and canoeing on the Nile river, sitting at my old favorite backpacker’s camp Nile River Explorers to take advantage of the wifi that my office does not have, eating dinner with different families, learning how to cook here at home with Viola, digging in the gardens, playing with kids all over the village, and getting to know Buja, our new dog.
Since this is Eastern Uganda and part of the Basoga kingdom, I’m learning Lusoga, and I love it. Ndi kwega mpola mpola. It’s very similar to Luganda, which I never really learned anyway. It’s really heartwarming to walk to work every morning, walk through the village throughout the day, and walk home each night being able to greet everyone around me, much to their endless amusement. There’s a certain sound nearly every adult will make following each interaction with me (when they’re not laughing) that I can’t explain – it’s the most genuinely appreciative and heartfelt expression of gratitude for a mzungu taking the time to learn the language I could have hoped for. I have a language notebook in my pocket that I try to reference and add to at all times.
It’s been a crazy three weeks (have I really only been here THREE WEEKS), so a solid recap is difficult at this point especially if I expect anyone to actually read this. But the important thing is, I am truly, truly grateful for this opportunity. I am genuinely blown away by how ideal an “upcountry” placement is for me (I hesitate to say rural, because I’m 20 minutes from Jinja and there’s three huge tourist camps a stone’s throw away from my work – so I use the term that the Ugandan GHC fellows use to describe any placement that’s not Kampala). I am surrounded by tropical forest every day, banana trees as far as the eye can see in any direction, the Nile river is in my backyard, every walk to work feels like a hike thanks to the condition of the roads, it’s peaceful and provides unlimited space for meditation and reflection, the people are abundantly kind and welcoming, I get the opportunity to live in a manner that is at least comparable to those I work alongside in this community, I get immersed in a language and am actually motivated to learn it, I breathe nothing but fresh air, and the food is THE BEST THING EVER.
Omutiere (rice), ebidandare (beans), matooke (smashed bananas), g-nut sauce (like peanut sauce but more addictive and good on everything), more bananas, a plethora of meats, potato dishes and vegetables, the freshest mangos, avocados, pineapple and jack fruit anywhere, and not to mention CHAPATI CHAPATI CHAPATI. I never stop eating, and locals are tickled when they see how much I drool over their food and never leave a scrap on my plate (or anyone else’s around me for that matter).
This is absolutely where I belong (cue Blink-182 here). I worked long and hard for this placement, and my foot is well placed in this beautiful Ugandan door. I am home. More to come soon…
Me and my ever-wonderful cofellow and roommate, Violette, aka Viola, aka Taya, aka V
The S.O.U.L. Foundation offices!
Viola teaches me how to cook each night. And takes pictures.
Adorable walk to the latrine…less adorable when I have to go at 3am
And adorable inside! Depending on your definition of adorable…
The original S.O.U.L. Shack (yes, it’s a nod to Shake Shack). Now houses the pre-primary program. We have these SOUL t-shirts for every day of the week by the way.
Life’s a garden. Roll up your khakis and dig it.
Kitchen is constantly stocked with fresh-from-the-market goodness!
Hanging on a swing overlooking the Nile with Viola and SOUL volunteer Kath.
Mandaazi. The real reason I came to Uganda.