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We Had The What? Success.

July 7, 2011

PROGRESS. It’s when all the frustrations you previously had lift away if but for a moment and you feel like Rocky ascending the Philly Museum of Art steps. This last week we made it happen. After weeks of confusion, absences and unclarity we found a community that were completely down to work on a rain water harvesting project. Although it felt like I was presenting a project without collaborating with the community, one has to realize that the rules can always bend. This project was made with the community needs in mind and after a conversation with the community, they were all for it. Communication is the key to this stuff.

On Tuesday, we ran a workshop on clean water and the importance of sanitation for HIV clients. We then settled on who was contributing what, and who was to receive the tank. A woman named Namuwulya was decided on. She wasn’t even at the meeting because she was too weak. I promise you she has a heart of gold and lack of any running water. Numuwulya has an interesting condition that is prominent in the public health world. HIV/TB is the combination of Tuberculosis and HIV. Many in this region of East Africa are living with TB. However, with an intact immune system the body can suppress TB and live normally. Since HIV lowers strength of the immune system, TB can be very common and spreads rapidly. I am confident that her recovery will be swifter if she has regular access to water. Save the date, we’re constructing next week.

What the best way to explore a city? Just go. Well, that’s probably not the best idea, but is a great way make things exciting. This weekend I decided I wanted to get my taste of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. On Saturday morning, my friend Chantel and I decided to hop on a coaster. To describe a coaster, think Chinatown bus – just as sketchy with whole row of fire hazardous seats that fold up. Surprisingly, these are the safest vehicles to Kampala (taxis to Kampala are a death trap and who wants to ride on a boda motorcycle for three hours?) Fun note about Uganda transport: the buses don’t leave at a set time. When they fill, they leave. After waiting for the bus to fill up we had a great cast of characters. There was the woman next to me with three live chickens flapping away, a woman with the fattest baby I’ve ever seen, some british muzungus and about 30 others crammed into the coaster.

Three hours later we arrived in Kampala taxi park. It is basically a game of Tetris gone completely wrong. Somehow there is some secret system that allows the hundreds of taxis to somehow exit this hive of public transport. After escaping we decided that we had no idea where we were. Earlier in the trip (2nd day) we had gone to a mall that had Western things. We went there. We found it somehow. I’m going to just describe with single words: pizza, marbel, supermarket, cheese, bathrooms, pizza, other foreigners, awesome, pizza, delightful…Reverse. Culture. Shock. I don’t know if I have been living in Masaka for too long, but the mass amounts of people, modern buildings and supermarket gave me a headache. Chantel and I were happy but absolutely overwhelmed. I am still in Uganda. What is going to happen when I come home? It is so interesting how it hits you, but I’ll describe to you what a culture shocked person looks like: slight smile, eye brows raised, minor tone of concern, slow walking, and jaw slacked faintly. At least that’s what I looked like. Later we went to the market and got some Ugandan craft swag. After we decided it was too late to go home and had to find a hotel. We had no choice but to use a boda in Kampala. I think I’ve found that there is a semi-universal way of telling that someone is lying to the question, are you sure you know where you’re going? They reveal a slight smirk, one to two reassurances and a “let’s just go”. Well we just went, and got totally lost. While swerving the wrong way though intersections I thought, “It’s been a good run Uganda.”

Somehow we got to the hotel, ate hummus and got to shower. Definitely a good day. The next day we hung around, got cheap massages and went back to the supermarket to get some sandwiches. I hate to say it here but I think I miss good ol’ Bullet Hole.

 

Fun Language Fact: When people talk here you may sometimes feel like you are in a children’s education show. You know how kids show pause and ask you questions? When you were a kid, you were like a robot responding right back to the TV (best example is Dora the Explorer). Here that concept is embedded in the language. Because many peoples’ first language is Luganda, the speech has a different structure. Most defining to the language is the placement of the ‘what’. For example take the phrase “What are you doing?” is “Okola ki (chi)?” but directly translated it means “You are doing, what?” This has been integrated into everything. I see it especially during TASO lectures on health. The whole audience will also answer when people are asked the what? The questions. (See what I did there?) Interns have been having fun with it. Here is an example conversation between my friend Elana and I:

 

Text Message Approx. 10PM

Elana: Can you explain the what thing? Mom one min ago, “and sometimes the police they what? They beat the people. They beat them up. But don’t they do that at your place?”

Mike: I’ll try to explain soon, but apparently tomorrow we’re stuck at home as a result of the what? The riots.

Elana: If dinner doesn’t come soon I am going to what? To faint or cry? Kale (okay)?

 

 

Cheers,

Agabba Mike

 

P.S. By the time I finish this and have power and internet, this post will most likely be out-of-date. Expect another post very soon!!

P.P.S. Happy Birthday America!

 

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