I’d like to help you explore my world with a quick blog of fast facts! I’ve finally managed a schedule to get regular postings out to you. Stay tuned for the heart of my work in Africa and a possible video blog to recap each week.
So, here are some interesting facts!
1. I am a muzungu, or white person. When I go into the villages, the children point and yell, “Muzungu!” I’ve even had a few brave souls pet my arms.
Muzungus are very curious to the locals. One morning, I was sitting on a step outside drinking from my water bottle after a long run. As I am recovering, I’m scanning my landscape. All of a sudden, I made awkward eye contact with a woman. Except normally, when you make eye contact the person staring looks away. Nope. She just kept staring. I’m not kidding, a solid two minutes of cold, hard stare. I know because I kept checking to see if she was still staring.
2. The main transportation in Uganda is boda boda (motorbike), matatu (15 passenger van on a scheduled route) or walking. I mainly walk, but to get to the villages I’ve had a taste of all modes of transportation.
Bodas are literally on every street corner and will take you anywhere around town for about 30 cents. They also will take you outside of town for a higher price. The downside is, as a woman, I have to ride sideways (imagine riding sidesaddle on a horse).
Matatus basically run like a city bus. It has a route that it goes on but it isn’t run by time. It runs when the vehicle is full, like 23-people-in-a-15-passenger-van full. It’s almost comical to see how many bodies are pressed up against the walls of the vehicle. It’s less comical when you are one of those bodies.
3. I do my own laundry. And I don’t mean the college student, “Look Mom! I did my own laundry!” I use two buckets of water and a bar of soap. I soak, scrub and ring out my clothes. (I don’t advise anyone to go this route. Believe me, I dream of washing machines.) Then I dry them on a line inside my room because the quatorial sun ruins elastic and bleaches everything.
4. I’m learning to speak with an African accent. Remember when I told you that Uganda is great because everyone speaks English? Yeah. There are more than 40 indigenous languages in Uganda. Luckily, most people in the city can speak a little English but Ugandans have their own dialect. When I teach my lessons in the villages, I always have a translator. Basically, I speak slower and over pronounce vowels. My best guess is that I sound like Sarabi from the Lion King.
5. I’ve become a vegan. Sorry dad. This is not by choice. There is hardly any dairy or meat available. Coming from the dairy state, I have dreams of ice cream and cheese regularly (no joke) but I am managing to live without. The meat that is available has been hanging outside on a stand for days until it is sold. (Yeah, probably a bad choice for my stomach.) So, I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, nuts and rice. Honestly, I have had zero acne, no side aches when running and feel really healthy.
6. You may be thinking, “Why don’t you go to a store and make some of the foods you miss?” Well, for three reasons. A. There are small stores the size of your kitchen that sell groceries. They are ironically called Supermarkets. They are owned and stocked by Indian owners. So, I can buy curry or curry. B. Secondly, Ugandans cook over a charcoal stove the size of one of your stove elements. So anything with an oven or multiple dishes is out. C. Most Ugandans don’t have refrigerators.
7. The fruits of Uganda are sent from Heaven. Seriously. Everything produce-wise is fresh, local and affordable. I’ve eaten sugar cane, pumpkin, pineapple, papaya, passion fruit, star fruit, guava, oranges, avocados, mango, watermelon, ground cherries, lemons and jackfruit. The pineapples are so sweet, you can eat the core and they cost about 43 cents. Ground cherries are a favorite fruit of the cobras and myself. They taste like sour cherry candies. The mangoes have so much flavor that I have to say, “Unless you’ve gone to Uganda, you don’t know what a mango tastes like.” And, my new favorite fruit is jackfruit. It’s a giant, ugly fruit that grows to be the size of an American watermelon and is covered with warts. Inside, the fruit is so full of vitamins, minerals and nourishment that there have been studies about how jackfruit could be the solution to world hunger. Oh, and it tastes like the pink Starbursts. So good!
8. You must haggle for a price. Most muzungus hate this. I LOVE it.
9. Ugandans have a special handshake. Basically, you lightly grab hands (no squeeze or shake!) and then slide your hand around their thumb and then back to a hand hold. Do not let go! The Ugandan will still hold your hand while talking to you. Only after they let go is it ok to let go of your hold.
So there are your fast facts!
I’m sure you all have many more questions. Please send me your questions via email, the blog or Facebook. I’d really love to give you answers for things you are interested in!
Now that I have my feet firmly planted, expect more content. I hope you’ll stay tuned with me!