Monday, October 02, 2006

Really amazing, difficult first 10 days. Rich experiences, well out of my comfort zone, which I keep reminding myself is exactly what I wanted. We spent a week just outside Kampala staying at a Church of Uganda training centre, and then came down to Mbarara a few days ago. Its so very different here, so UNpolitically correct in a strange way. People shout MUZUNGU (white person) at us all day, in a very friendly way, kids wave all the time and want to talk to us. Greeting is big in Uganda and goes something like -
How are you?
I'm fine. How are you?
I'm good. How is your day?
Its good. How is your day?
Its OK. How is life?
Life is good. How is life?
Life is good.
Then you can get down to the business of buying a loaf of bread, tomatoes or whatever.
The Uganda version of 'Dreckly' is 'now'. If its going to happen soon its 'now now'.
Its expected of us that we'll employ people to clean and do our laundry, and others will employ house boys/girls, gardeners, security guards etc. We're told we should as it will provide local employment but it seems weird to me at the moment. Its very untouristy, and there are very few bazungu (plural) mostly working for NGOs. It seems Uganda is full of NGOs.
The roads are dreadful, mostly dirt track, heavily rutted, even in Kampala, with a few tarmac roads around the place. There are 3 or 4 sets of traffic lights in Kampala and I haven't seen one since. As the electricity is at most alternate days on/off and on the on days is sometimes off the traffic lights are largely ignored anyway, as are roundabouts, junctions etc. The rule is the largest vehicle has priority, with motorbikes and bikes and pedestrians getting out of the way of cars etc.
Already we hear terrible stuff about HIV/AIDS. It seems everyone you speak to has lost most of their family to it and there are a large number of child headed households and elderly headed households. It seems everyone in hospital has HIV and TB and something else. The University hospital, a regional referral centre, has no ECG machine, the ultrasound machine is broken, the chemical analysis machine is broken, so they can do CD4 counts but not sodium levels, and has no insulin. The drugs in the pharmacy are sold on the black market because wages are so poor etc. Not sure what we can achieve in our year here medically...
On the plus side! The light is amazing! The landscape is awesome. There's a feeling of horizon and grandeur in the landscape I've never experienced before. And the noise!! Birds, bats, grasshoppers, all making as much noise as they can. There are these amazing enourmous ugly storks, the equivalent of St Ives seagulls that scavenge around the place. The trees, the flowers, the pineapples, watermelon, pawpaw, passion fruit (1p each). I've so far come across five different words for bananas, green bananas, plantain, sweet bananas generally, long finger sweet bananas and short finger sweet bananas, oh and a different word for cooked green banana! There are also red bananas but I don't know the Runyankore word for them yet.
J 2/10/06

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