Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Glimpse of Kampala

On the way to the capital city of Kampala a few weeks ago I snapped a few pictures so you could see and get an idea of what things look like. Below you'll see some parts of the market, Kampala rush hour traffic - complete with boda-bodas and matatus (taxi motorcycles and taxi vans), and the random stationing of members of the Ugandan military. Enjoy!






The Last Lesson

Today’s lesson marked the end of the basic business class in the village of Mpummede and boy did it give me something to remember it by! To start off with, eight women showed up for class and we started the closest we’ve ever been to on time since I got here two months ago. Then, one of the women (whom I had never seen before but later found out was a relative of one of the regular students) reminded me so much of one of my friends I met back in Idaho it was uncanny! Thinking about it a bit more now that may be interpreted as a bad thing, seeing as the friend I’m reminded of is a boy and she is a girl. That’s not to say that she looks especially masculine or he particularly feminine - it’s the facial characteristics that are similar. Anywho, I kept stealing glances at her throughout the whole class, not fully being able to get over the shock of seeing such a familiar looking face, as I’m sure you’ve experienced at one time or another.

The class went on with Julius teaching, Annet translating, students more or less taking notes, and little kids; little kids crying, shrieking, and running around intermittently throughout our four hours together. I didn’t mind this too much because my favorite little tot, who incidentally is quite a hell raiser (but is so cute it almost makes up for it), was there. For the first part of class he and his friend were not-so-quietly playing in the corner, disappearing into the other room every now and again. No one paid them much mind, that is until the little cutie came tottering back into the room wielding a giant knife. No lie, this thing was huge and obviously made with the intention of being used for some serious slicing and dicing. My jaw dropped. And I’m pretty sure it just stayed like that, hanging open stupidly, until his mom had safely managed to get the blade away from him.

My interaction with, for lack of knowing his actual name, Little Cutie, consisting of smiles and stares and eventually progressing to handing random items back and forth and him sometimes sitting on my lap, continues to strengthen our almost non-existent bond at every meeting and today was no exception. However, it was an entirely different form of bonding. Yes, indeed. We started off with some serious staring, and then quickly moved things along to handing an empty pill package he found on the ground along with my phone back and forth. From there he took things to a whole new level. Standing in front of me, hands on my knees we stared at each other and then . . . wet. Why is my foot wet? Little Cutie is peeing, that’s why, and is using my knees to stabilize himself as he does so . . . right next to my foot. Oh look, you can even see the little stream coming right through his little blue shorts. Nice. While it is pretty disgusting and my foot is now covered in urine, how can I be mad at him? He’s SO cute. Plus, in all seriousness it’s hilarious. I’m sure even more so for the Ugandans than for me. I mean, how many of them get to witness a Muzungu (white person) nearly getting peed on by a little kid, in the middle of class?!?

Monday, October 10, 2011

White Water Rafting down the Nile

Well after a day on the river I have two sunburned legs, a crazy obvious farmer’s tan/burn on one arm, noticeably pink forearms and face, a slightly jammed finger, a likely bruised buttocks, and aching muscles all over the rest of my body. So was rafting the Nile River worth it? ABSOLUTELY.

Our next great adventure started out at Backpackers, the hostel/rafting place, where we were given breakfast (score!) and suited up with life jackets and helmets. Soon after we were ushered onto the open air transportation truck and dropped off at the launch point about ½ and hour away. Apparently the company used to start closer to Backpackers but over the past 4 or 5 years a new dam was built, eliminating a good chunk of the rapids they used to raft so they were forced to start their tours further downstream.

After a brief safety overview our group of 11 was split up into 2 rafts and we were soon on the water. But before we could get going we had to practice a few things . . .

Our raft guide, Yo: Everyone get in the water

Everyone in our raft: . . . uh, are you serious? . .

Yo: Get in the water

Everyone: . . ok . . .(thinking: what the heck is he gonna have us do?)

Once in we had to swim for a while then get back in the raft – REALLY hard by the way. Ok probably not, but for me it was a near impossible feat without help. After that exercise I again got to get in the water so Yo could demonstrate how to put someone on the raft with relative “ease.” He pulled me out so strong and fast I nearly flew over the raft and back into the water on the other side – not exaggerating. It was fun though.

Finally we were off and fast approaching our first rapid, all of us eager and nervous with anticipation. Like dutiful servants we followed Yo’s every command, not knowing what to expect.

“Paddle forward”

“Stop”

“Paddle forward strong”

“Stronger!”

“Hold on and get down!!”

Everyone jumped to the bottom of the raft, knees tucked under chin and arms holding onto the rope at the side of the raft. Waves crashed around us, jostling the raft to one side and then the other, one more wave of water crashed over top and then we were out. Our first rapid, a grade 5 – I guess starting out nice and easy is for suckers, and as events would show suckers we were not.

The trip continued on pretty much in this fashion with Yo periodically calling out commands and the raft crew following. After most of the rapids there was always a decent stretch of calm flat water. During these stretches we all ended up talking and joking around – sometimes at other people’s expense. But before you start judging about that last statement let me explain. On the second rapid we went over the other raft ended up flipping while we came out upright. As we looked over to see that everyone was being or had been picked up and was safe and sound back in their raft we discovered that one poor woman had lost her shorts and was now just in her swimming suit. I think it’s safe to say that the collective thought on my raft was first: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” and then “What?! How did that happen?!?” We discussed this a bit on and off throughout the trip, a Kiwi woman named Clem, giving insight onto the sheer stripping force water can have, having completely lost her swimming suit once when water skiing. But the question still remains, how did this lady lose her shorts? If we want to get technical about it, they were capris and from the looks of them on the drive over you would have had to work to get those babies off. It’s still a mystery to me as to how hers could simply disappear while my elastic waist cotton shorts were with me the whole trip. Hmm, interesting . . . . hehehe.

Soon we were approaching our 3rd rapid and with a name like “The Bad Place” we all knew it was going to be a doozy. The Bad Place marked our first flip and a near traumatizing experience for many on my raft. Once the raft flipped a few people got stuck underneath it for a brief time, me included. However, I managed to get up to the surface relatively quickly and was just floating along waiting for a raft to get near enough to pull me in. Others like Katie however, were stuck under water for much longer, so their experience seemed to be much scarier than mine. Once we had all been towed, pulled, and situated back in our raft we broke for a lunch snack of pineapple and biscuits, mmm.

After our break we prepared for the next rapid. Seeing that many in my raft were a bit fearful of what the next rapid would hold Yo announced that anyone who absolutely did not want to flip should get into the other raft and those who didn’t mind flipping should stay or get into his raft. Well once the swaps were finished I was still in my original raft with Yo and only 2 others. I was the only girl. I was surprised more people didn’t come over, but I guess I had a much better flipping experience than the rest of them.

Another set of rapids brought another flip for my raft and more excitement in my book. After the four of us were once again hauled aboard one of the rafts we separated yet again to our original groups to finish out the course. Of the two remaining rapids we flipped once more, redeeming the trip for everyone no longer so sure of their rafting decision and by the end made it to shore happy and ready to eat.

We were greeted by a delicious bbq meal and after looking over pictures of the trip headed home. For me, this was an awesome experience that I would definitely do again, oh yeah and then there’s the added bonus that I can brag about rafting on the NILE RIVER!! The End.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rat Attack!!!

Alright, the title is a bit misleading, but if you didn’t already gather we’ve been having a bit of a rat problem as of late. It’s mostly just finding droppings randomly in the kitchen and Katie hearing movement in the night, but still. A rat is a rat and you don’t want one in your house! I had my first rat sighting about 4 or 5 weeks ago while Katie and I were in the living room. After that the signs of rodent inhabitants became more and more frequent.

Last week Lori and Katie set up a few different types of rat traps in attempts to increase our chances of catching something. Method 1was a live trap that looked like a round birdcage with an inverted tea spout and the second method was rat glue, smeared all over various cardboard pieces. We thought for sure we’d be awaken during the night by loud rattling or some sort of disturbance but we woke up the next morning realizing not a single thing had happened. The following night however was a different story. Rat traps set up once again, we all went to bed. Around 1 in the morning I heard a racket coming from the kitchen. I freeze. ‘Ew, I think we caught a rat . . .’ more sounds ‘I KNOW we caught a rat. I do NOT want to go out there first’ so I didn’t. I curled up in my bed and pretended I didn’t hear anything – like Katie who was somehow fast asleep.

Lucky for me I didn’t have to fain oblivion for very long because Lori soon took care of the situation, calling the scari (night guard) to take care of it. Since that night we haven’t had any more rat sightings or disturbances. Hooray!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

When Attempts at being Nice and Polite Backfire . . .

On numerous occasions I have been told how important greetings are in Ugandan culture. Even if you’re in a hurry and don’t really have time to talk you should still stop to respond to a greeting then state you’re in a hurry rather than just rush past without. I’ve been trying to keep this tidbit in the front of my mind, attempting to figure out when to follow the protocol and when to ignore it as some people see Westerners as just a means to ask for things they want (of course this isn’t true of all people here, but it definitely isn’t an uncommon practice).

What started out as just a normal Tuesday walk into town quickly turned into a series of ‘interesting’ encounters, marking the start of what I’m sure will prove to be a very interesting next 5 months. In true Sarah style I was ready to give everyone the benefit of the doubt on my way to the office when I hear “Hello, sister. Come talk with me.” I decide to take the polite road and detour towards the voice. I walk up to the front of what I later find out is a car/house rental business to find a mustached man, Fred, sitting on a chair outside. We exchange greetings and then he quickly starts peppering me with questions about how long I’ve been in Uganda, how long I’m staying, and how I like it, casually easing in that if I was looking for a car to rent he could help me out. “Come, come inside, I’ll give you my card.”

“Um, ok,” was my response and I follow him into his office where my eyes immediately fall on what appears to be a giant framed modeling picture of himself. Wow. This random meeting just got really good; I wonder what the rest of the day will be like . . . ? Too bad it started getting creepy from there, Fred asking for my email and phone number so we can stay in touch because ‘we’re now friends.’ Hmm, yeah, not so much . . . so I try ‘sorry, I can only use my cell phone for work’ . . . ‘I was actually on my way to the office so I should really get going,’ and hightail it back to the road where it has now started to sprinkle.

As a light rain begins to fall I approach Main Street, ready to continue the second half of my journey to the office. Cue next encounter. “Hey, come over! Come in, I ask you every day and you never do.” It’s a guy sitting next to a restaurant and little store I pass every time I go into town. For whatever reason I think to myself, ‘sure why not? Maybe if I humor him this one time it will be over with and he won’t call out to me everyday anymore,’ and cross to his side of the street. It didn’t take long before I realized that this probably wasn’t the best idea. Not only did he continue to ask me to see him in the evening but I had to keep thinking up and lying about reasons I couldn’t. Now in the US dodging a slightly creepy person wouldn’t be much of a problem, but being in a foreign country it’s a bit trickier, especially when you don’t want to offend.

After a few minutes I was able to get away, thinking (well more like hoping) that this would be the end of things. Too bad it wasn’t. The next day as Katie and I were walking to town what should I hear as we approached Main Street? Someone calling my name. And who was it? The guy from the other day. Hmm, it’s going to be interesting to see how this whole ordeal plays out . . .