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“THIS IS AFRICA”

May 30, 2011

           Week two is almost over!! I can’t believe that it has been that long already! So far this trip has not only taught me a lot about Ugandan culture, but a lot about myself. The first week here was very difficult in terms of adjusting to a host family and realizing that this is a whole two-month experience. After the second night, by family “officially” inducted me into the family claiming that I no longer possess the last name Stluka, but I’m now a Juuko. The same night I gave the presents I brought to my family. I have never seen anyone so excited about glow sticks and bubbles, it was so much fun! The night consisted of my host mom running around making everyone smell her new lotions and teaching my seven-year-old host sisters how to use a yo-yo. (She also now sleeps with her blown-up beach ball).

            One of the most difficult things to take is being constantly stared and called MUZUNGU! Just today I had about five children out of nowhere come up and hug me. They wouldn’t let go until I listened to their English. Those are the interactions I love, but those when adults ask me for money or laugh at me is different. I feel that the same actions in America would be deemed racists, but I know it is not meant in that way. All of the other interns and I have been struggling with trying to keep the Ugandan culture in perspective. I know that this specific issue will be constant mainly because I will be traveling to new villages every other day were muzungus are rare.

On to the food… SO MUCH MATOOKE! Matooke is like a mashed/steamed banana dish, that isn’t sweet, which I promise is served with rice at every single meal. It is good, but already a little tough to force down sometimes. Other than that, the food is great!! I am still working on eating meat that I saw live 20 minutes before.

              My favorite part of my trip so far was this past weekend. My host family had to go to an introduction, a kind of extremely extravagant engagement part with a dowry and many beautiful Muslim cultural traditions. We stayed in the village for the night, and had the ceremony on Sunday. The women go the day before to perform “community work”. I saw about 80 women, dressed in colorful scarves and gomezes (traditional Ugandan dress), sitting on the ground organizing rice, chopping fresh meat (the horns of the once living cow next to them) and making matooke. It smelled of salt, sweat, cooking beef and mud. It was the most amazing sight. When I arrived I sat on the porch talking to my host sisters cousin about music, Hollywood and Obama (they call him the hero). I looked up at one point and counted 27 children standing right in front of me just starring. They took turns running over and touching my skin and hair, and then ran off laughing. They helped me with my Luganda and sang me all of their English songs from school. After a night of TONS of food and my first, and last, experience eating liver, the night was filled with dancing and music.

           The next day I woke up assuming I would simply put on a Gomez that my host mom had fitted to me the day before, and watch the ceremony. NOT TRUE! They actually put me in the ceremony! I had to speak in front of a crowd of about 250 people; present presents the husband’s family and walking the bride down the aisle. Everybody laughed at me, but in an adoring way. Whenever the announcer was talking I never knew what he was saying, but he would always say the muzongu in every other sentence, I still wonder what he was saying! I had 3 outfit changes!!! I stayed in the room as the bride and all her aunts got her dressed and I had about 4 women help me get into each outfit when I was finished with the first! There were about 9 aunts that I could count, my host mom being one of them, because her father has a total of 5 wives, but they all called each other sister. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, and I it helped me remember why I decided to come to Africa.

          Today was my first day with my organization. I really hope that it will improve, as it wasn’t too great. For one thing, I am becoming a true patriot. I will never take America for granted again…. Or it’s showers.

Sorry for such a long post! I will report with sooner that last time! My family has been out of power for 4 days now, so hopefully I will be able to charge again soon! Miss you all!!!!! 

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