Ugandan Observations

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March 3rd 2011
Published: March 5th 2011
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Washing dust off my feet, handwashing, drinking Fanta Pineapple, having cold showers, making beads, riding in matatus....these are the norms of my life in Uganda. It has been an incredibly interesting time so far, and living in a semi-rural area between Kampala and Entebbe has given me a lot of insight into the lives of those Ugandans around me, and how they cope daily with things Westerners may struggle with.

This may not be an issue in all parts of Uganda but where I am living dust invades everything. I have dust on all my clothing, in my hair and I am sorry Al, but also all over our cameras and laptop. It is a daily battle to keep it out of the house, and the compound is swept daily and the floors are wiped by hand. Our buckets of water after washing our clothes are orange as are the insides of my ears and nose. Yet Ugandans (except children) manage to look immaculate, and completely dust free. We are expecting the rainy season to be upon us soon when instead of dust we will be covered in mud.

Creature comforts
Compared to our neighbours, we are living
Mahadi, Giovanni and NakaforiMahadi, Giovanni and NakaforiMahadi, Giovanni and Nakafori

Posing for the camera!
a very luxurious lifestyle. We have running (cold) water and electricity at least fifty percent of the time. We have a TV and a stove. Some of the neighbours may have similar standards of living, but many bring their water in jerry cans from the wells, and don't boil it prior to drinking; they do all their cooking and cleaning in plastic buckets outside and they don't have any electricity. We have constant power cuts and have had no water at some times as well (which is a problem when you think of all the dust!) We don't have a refrigerator which means that any meat or milk must be bought on the day.

Ugandan children are extremely friendly, except for those who are completely terrified of white people and burst into tears immediately on site of me. We have made friends with many of them around the neighbourhood and they love to have their pictures taken and to see videos of themselves. It is not all fun and games for Ugandan children however as after the age of about 4, they are expected to bring water from the well, do washing, clean the floor and pull their wait around the household. They are also extremely well behaved. There is no crying for attention; on long bus trips they can sit quietly on their parent's lap without causing a fuss.

Working life
It is the norm, in many sectors of Ugandan society, for the man to be the main breadwinner. He will go and work and leave his wife and children (when they are not at school) in the house to cook and clean. In our household I have only seen the mother leave the compound twice in the 7 weeks I have been there. She spends her time cooking and cleaning and watching soap operas, which is a favourite Ugandan past time. She seems to think our desire to go for walks in the evenings and explore on the weekends is strange.

We went to see the Ndere Dance Troupe in Kampala a couple of days ago and the MC told a story about a Ugandan fisherman. The fisherman had gone out and caught three fish and come home, and was asked why he had returned with so few. He said "I got one fish for today, one for my neighbour and one for tomorrow". When asked why he didn't catch more he said that he had all he needed and would go out and catch some more later. He was then asked why he didn't catch more and sell them so he could buy a bigger boat and catch more fish and he asked "Why would I do that?", and they said so that he could earn more money, become rich and then be able to relax, and he said "But I am relaxing now." I am not saying that this is true of Ugandans, but this is a story they tell about themselves and there is definitely a lot more waiting and relaxing than goes on at home.

Ugandan food, though quite tasty, can become extremely repetitive. The staple of most Ugandans is matoke (plantain) and the majority of our food is different types of carbohydrates. We eat rice, potatoes and pasta (sometimes all together) and some tomatoes and eggplant and a little meat. Many of our dishes are deep fried and all dishes contain some amount of oil. Fruit is easily accessible and the bananas, mangoes, pineapple, papaya and watermelon that grows locally is delicious.

I know I will have further observations to make as time passes and I will come back and add them. But for now I am picking up Al at the airport and packing in as much as possible into the next week!

Additional photos below
Photos: 29, Displayed: 25



during the process of cutting branches off the eucalyptus trees
Wild crested craneWild crested crane
Wild crested crane

Uganda's national bird


6th March 2011

Another good read
Hi La. Fanta Pineapple set the scene and I could smell the dust. Enjoy Al's visit Love Dad
6th March 2011

Great insight into daily life - there are superficial similarities in the daily routine to those in Australia who struggle from day to day but apart from the gum trees, that's where similarities end ... Australia's national infrastructure is vastly different - we complain about a rare 15 minute electricity outage, we have running water, sewerage, gas, sealed roads etc. Your comment about the dust brought back memories of the unsealed roads we traversed while living in Woomera ... I think there is still about 1Kg of fine red dust in the Volvo. Have a great week showing Alan around.
14th March 2011

I liked your blog but......
those were quite some interesting observations you made about Uganda. I am a Ugandan living in America. I just wanted to correct you alittle bit, your pic of roads and your depiction of Uganda is utterly biased because I have lived in Uganda and not all roads look like that. It has been a trend the world over to think of africa as poor and underdeveloped. I have witnessed the silent and even worse poverty in America and Europe yet nobody talks about it or even takes pics of poverty in America and Europe. My only request to any tourist or visitor to Africa and Uganda in particular is to give the country a fair depiction and wipe out the stigma most westerners hold about Africa, because in actuality, most western economics are filled with high costs of living and unimaginable levels of poverty that go unreported.
16th March 2011

Hi Joseph, thanks for your comments. And believe me when I say that I meant no offense to Uganda or Ugandans in my blog. In fact I love it here! I agree with much of what you have said. Not all roads look like the roads I have taken photos of, and there are tarred roads in Uganda, although they are few are far between where I am living. I also never meant to portray Uganda as underdeveloped. It has malls, banks, petrol stations etc etc of which are no interest to me because I have them at home (hence the lack of photos). I do think that the gap between the rich and poor is greater than in Europe though. Many of the people living around me have no running water or electricity and welfare is non-existent. I agree that there is poverty in the US and Europe, and I also agree that Africa isn't the basket case it has been made out to be....but as a Ugandan living in the US you would be able to see a disparity of living conditions between the two countries. Having said that I would like to add that Ugandans are some of the friendliest people I have come across, and I would strongly encourage people to visit this wonderful country!

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