How would I describe Uganda thus far? I haven’t even a clue. There’s been so much to digest, so much to see, and so much to experience. It’s taken the entirety of this first week to even process the fact that I’m IN Africa.
Being in a foreign country means that literally everything is different…from crossing the street, taking a taxi (14 passenger vans), or a boda-boda, and driving along the bumpiest roads rivaling the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.
Orange Petrol Station, Taxi, and Goats | Kajjansi
I was initially nervous and hesitant to walk along the local street markets. There was an overwhelming amount of people, vendors, and attention. I am now able to recognize the little square rooms along the street as a community…there are churches, pharmacies, petrol stations, restaurants, and you can buy fruit and clothes.
FRUIT MARKET AND BODA BODA
The children here are so friendly and joyful. We walk anywhere, or even from the car, and children will be waving at us, shouting “hi mzungu” (their term for white person). Today, I was walking towards a local market and one of the children came up and held my hand along the way. The children are so willing to love, and it is so simple to be able to love them.
They are also very tough. I spend my days at an orphanage and it amazes me how self-capable these children are. Even the one-year-olds are able to hold their own cup of porridge, no lid, and feed themselves. Or sometimes they even eat popcorn! The babies will cry, but a scolding from one of the caregivers is all it takes to quiet them down; they are so obedient. The older kids, around six and seven, know when to help with the babies without even being asked. There is an apparent culture of care for one another.
One of the hardest differences, surprise surprise, has been hygiene. Soap is hard to come by, toilets (if it’s not a hole) rarely flush, and it’s common to have no toilet paper available outside of the volunteer house. Earlier this week, I found myself saying, “the toilet flushed, it’s a good day!” I’m also getting used to taking cold showers and doing my laundry by hand outside…these basic tasks at home are no longer quite so basic, and I appreciate the experience to understand life in Uganda on a more personal level.
The country itself is beautiful…incredibly dusty, but beautiful and so, so green. There’s an abundance of banana trees and sugar cane. The fruit here is so sweet, and the food is good – a lot of rice, potatoes, cabbage, fruit, and chapati.
VIEW OF LAKE VICTORIA | MUTUNGO
The house that I’m staying in is located in Mutungo, up a hill. It’s quite large and can fit 50 people which is about the number of volunteers staying in the house the first two weeks! It’s such a unique opportunity to meet people from all across the globe – United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Poland, Germany, Bulgaria, Australia, Spain, Singapore, Ireland, and more. All of our meals are prepared by a local woman, Betty, who also lives in the house.
Every morning, we squish into a van and start the bumpy ride down to the orange petrol station in Kajjansi. From there, we disburse into pairs and head to our placements, either by taxi or walking.
More to come on what placement is like, and the rest of my African adventure!
WALKING DOWN THE HILL FROM THE HOUSE | MUTUNGO