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Published: March 5th 2011
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. Dust
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
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. Children
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. Food
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!
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