After 2 days of travel I arrived safely and in fairly good shape in Entebbe on Saturday, Sept 15th. As pre-arranged I was met at the airport by a driver from the NGO I’ll be worng with here and driven to Kampala, the capitol city. There, I was introduced to the woman with whom I have been billeted for my first week in Uganda. We were driven through Kampala, a very busy, noisey, and severely air polluted city to a district about 25k outside of the city called Mukono. We drove a little further ending up in a village called Kirowooza.
Here my hostess, a single mother, lives with her 3 children along with 4 other children in her care, all ranging in age from 3 to 24. Including me, there are 9 of us sharing her home. Her house, a work in progress, is built on a concrete foundation with painted concrete interior walls and red bricks made locally from the clay earth, on the exterior walls. There are metal bars on every window that opens. There are 7 rooms including a kitchen, combined livrm/dinrm and 5 bedrooms, maybe a total of 800 sq ft. I have been given one of the rooms for my own use. Each room has a ‘breather window’ up close near the ceiling that is open all the time, about 6 inches wide and a few feet long, covered with screen to keep the mosquitoes out.
Electricity is sporatic due to ‘load sharing’…one night her lights turn on, the next night someone else’s do and her’s do not. Rain is collected in a 10,000 ltr galvanized tank and is her only source of water. She has never run out of water. It is used as is for cooking and cleaning, boiled for drinking. There is no fridge or plumbing, the toilet in a separate building is a ‘pit’style…basically a rectangular hole, maybe 8” x 5”, in a concrete floor that one squats above, with a large pit dug out beneath. I am aiming to please, and can happily report, so far so good!
Cooking is done outdoors for the most part on 2 small barbeques that have compartments below the grill for coal +/or wood, the main fuel sources. There is a one burner gas hotplate indoors that is used for quick cooking such as boiling water. My hostess assures me we are eating the way she and her family always eat and I have been enjoying tasting some traditional dishes. Matooke is plantains boiled then steamed in banana leaves, posho is maize meal combined with water and some spices, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed; yams, sweet and ‘irish’ potatoes as well as rice and beans are staples. We drink local tea with tea masala, and local instant coffee. The sugar is raw, the milk powdered. I am drinking bottled water… My tummy is coping perfectly!
The local village is very beautiful to my senses. The air is clean, the sounds are gentle, the earth is red and orange, the trees, grasses and bushes wonderfully lush and green. Tonight as the sun was setting, the sky lit gently with pink, purple and some blue, I could see the silhouette of a monkey with a very long tail sitting in a tree out back….very beautiful, very African! The rolling hills are covered with some crops, bushes and trees, red brick homes are scattered here and there, a few cattle, chickens running free range wherever….The second and lesser of the 2 rainy seasons has come later than usual this year. In this district, August has been the traditional month for these rains to come, but apparently they have just started most recently. At least once a day, the skies cloud over and it absolutely pours…maybe for about an hour or so. Many streams form and run along the top of the clay soil. The sun comes out, dries the surface and everything gets warm and humid again. The evenings are pleasant usually around 16C or so.
I have learned quickly that the children here are taught respect for their elders from the moment they stop breastfeeding. All children kneel when meeting, greeting, serving and conversing with an adult in the home. They are very responsible for themselves in terms of keeping themselves clean, making their beds, even washing their own clothes as soon as able. Starting with washing their own socks and underwear they progress on to larger items as their little hands allow. I do not see any toys here. The small children play outdoors together using nature’s toys or can be found doing chores like sweeping around the ‘compound’.
The local language is Luganda. The first word I have learned is one that I have heard several times already…’muzungu’…’white one’… usually accompanied with a huge smile, waving, pointing, and laughter! Most adults and many of the children speak English very well and have greeted me by saying ‘You are welcome’ and things like ‘How do you like your life?’ and ‘Do you like Uganda?’ One hears ‘Thank you’ or ‘Welcome’ after just about every sentence. People in general have been very warm and friendly, seeming quite curious, sometimes very shy, other times eager to say hello and share a moment. Most people speak quietly using hushed tones, and a most gentle and polite manner.
People make it around by walking and riding bike or if needed, taxi and boda boda
( a small motorcycle that you double on the back of… ) as there is no public transportation at present. Frustrating to the consumer, supply and demand determines the fluctuating cost which at present is about $6,000 Ugandan Shillings for a return journey from this village into Kampala. This converts to around $4.00 Cdn, which is VERY expensive for locals here. I am told a person working in a service job in a clothing store in the city can expect to earn about $300,000 USh per month, that’s about $$175.00Cdn, so would likely live much closer to their job to afford other expenses. Surprising to me, almost everyone has a cell phone!
School has started today and 4 of the children I am staying with have returned to classes. One of the others is awaiting college entrance, another has completed a University degree and is currently looking for work. The youngest is 3 and will wait a couple more years before starting. All of the children in primary and secondary school wear uniforms and the girls shave their heads so that they are not pre-occupied with distractions that will take them away from their studies…like hair.
Today, I enjoyed a wonderful visit with my hostess and one of her close friends, another single mom. We spent a lot of time talking about why I am here, and about HIV/AIDS orphans, the number of which they assure me is far greater in Uganda than the UN stats stated on my ‘about page’ here on the website…They say…’those numbers are only the children who were counted…there are many more’. We also discussed other related topics that I will start to talk about next posting…maybe a few days from now. Both women are very welcoming and supportive of me being here and have expressed their heartfelt thankfulness at the opportunity to have help from me, and you, in caring for the parentless children here in their country.
I was also introduced to and welcomed by the local Secretary of Defense for this village. It is customary to let him know when one has a guest staying in their home, so he can always knows who is in the community he is responsible for. He was very pleasant, thanking me for being here, extending his wishes to my friends, family and community back home…that’s you!
Hopefully I’ve given you a decent picture of where I am! I will likely be moving on from here in another 3 or 4 days.
Hopefully this finds you well and happy!
Thanks for sharing this… please know that your happy thoughts and uplifting prayers are certainly finding me and influencing the circumstances in which I find myself. I don’t think I could have hoped to be in a safer, more friendly, warm and supportive environment as I am right now! It is the perfect and most wonderful place to begin to become aware of and accustomed to the local ways of the beautiful people here while I move ever closer to the little ones I have specifically come here to meet and Love.
ps…The internet connection, amazing as it is to even have one this close to the village where I am staying, is very slow and I am having some trouble uploading photos here…I will be trying to post some as soon as possible, maybe sending them to Erynn ( my website designer and manager ) and she’ll get them on here… xoxo C