Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Payless Produce Dept has nothing on me

Recently, I’ve been working on consulting for an NGO. It has been so much fun. It has also meant that I have received a lot of food. Unfortunately, all my partners have decided this week I need to eat more. And have been feeding me. A lot. Here is the meal count for the past week.

1) One lunch at NEGOWA Vocational Training Institute. We were served a chunk of posho (a dish made from corn; think cream of wheat but with less flavor and more dense) that was larger than my head. Melissa was luckily with me and we managed to eat most of it. In addition to that they gave us delicious egg plant and greens. I don’t like the greens. Neither does Melissa. I got away initially with seconds by lying and saying, “my Mother wouldn’t let me have seconds until I cleared my plate,” and then eating slowly, slowly. So Melissa got most of the seconds, then stopped the cook, pointed to my plate, and said, “oh she would like more too.” We haven’t spoken sense.
2) We ran like our team on chapatti night out of there. Only to be called back in for “something special.” Have you ever heard of jackfruit? It’s huge. People have to be careful when they are in season because if they fall on your head, you die. No laughing matter. It is massive and looks like a giant green brain. The fruit is actually pretty tasty, but I could barely eat it I was so full and there was a lot of it.
3) Just when we thought we were really done… the catering class finished their chapatti lessons. Guess who was given the chapatti to eat? And the roasted ears of corn? Luckily, we ate the corn incorrectly which caused the three old women at the school to laugh and mock us for about twenty minutes. Which gave us more time to digest the other food and force down the corn.
4) We were then loaded down with two po-pos? I honestly don’t know if that was the name of the fruit. Two more roasted ears of corn, two unroasted, and the remaining chapatti which we begged them to pack for us. We gave a lot of the food to people on the taxi home. See my entry on taxis next. I made Melissa carry my backpack because it was so heavy. When she opened it and saw that I had brought four books she was rather upset though. I personally think The Two Koreas the most comprehensive modern history of the Korean peninsula is necessary for any consulting trip.
5) I help teach a new business class. I was dumb and ate breakfast before going to the class. I was then given the most massive banana I have ever seen in my life. It took two bites to eat the while circumference of it. I was then given the entire bunch of bananas; this easily ways more than my cat Precious. They were delicious though.
6) I went to another consulting meeting. Again I was stupid and ate breakfast. I was given posho in porridge form. A couple chapattis and several sweet bananas. Sweet bananas are tiny. That does not mean trying to eat four is easy though. I was sent home with several.
7) I forgot to mention that Angie (our country director) and I were gifted a rooster a few weeks ago. She was recently killed and eaten. She was a rooster and woke everyone up very early. Like 4 am early. Even the most vehement vegetarians offered to slaughter her.
8) Today I was fed breakfast at class before I was permitted to attend. Breakfast=probably 5 eggs and tomatoes. And bread. And two sodas. I was only able to finish the sprite, don’t worry they let me take the krest home with me.

In summary, I will soon be the size of a sumo wrestler and the team has come to expect food on my arrival. It is now no longer surprising to greet me at the gate and be handed several bananas, chickens, or po-po. I still don’t think that’s actually the name of it. This has been excellent training for the mission. I’m comforted by the fact that Korea isn’t capable of growing as much produce as Uganda-so the odds of them unloading it all on me are slim.


Let me paint a picture for you of riding in a public taxi in Uganda. I have given you a list of instructions so you can re-create the experience.
1. Find a standard sized mini-van.
2. Break the air conditioner.
3.Remove most of the gas so that when you’re going up-hill the taxi starts to clunk and shake in a most alarming manner.
4. Put a Ugandan man at the wheel-he probably hasn’t had driving lessons. Driving schools here have the most calming ads. “Learn defensive driving techniques-DON’T PLAY CHICKEN WITH TRUCKS AND TRAINS!” I personally would think avoiding driving on train tracks in the first place would be a good lesson as well.
5. Put an 18 year old boy in charge of opening and closing the door and yelling out the window, KAMPALA, KAMPALA!
6. Cram the political science department at BYU into it-there’s about 20 of them right? We had 23 people in a taxi. I am not exaggerating, we counted.
7. Oh yeah; not one of those 23 people has showered recently. Ask me about deodorant.
8. Hahaha deodorant.
9. Place several chickens under your seat. They are very much alive. They do not like being put under the seat. Do you know what it is like having a chicken start flapping and freaking out under your skirt? Oh it is pleasant.
10. Drive at 10 mph to minimize wind flow in the very hot and crowded taxi.
11. Pass people while staring down an on-coming bus. They don’t teach “Don’t play chicken with busses” at the driving schools so you really can’t blame them.

On one trip to Jinja we had all of these lovely experiences. Our taxi took 45 minutes getting out of the taxi park. We switched taxis in Lugazi; our new one leaked. The taxi didn’t have enough gas. It died on the side of the road. We walked for a while before finding a new one. Oh yes, when the taxi broke down there was almost a fist fight when they wouldn’t let us off. Very exciting. Our taxi that picked us up only took us part way to Jinja. We then had a very expensive boda ride.

Our taxi home from Jinja took 50 minutes to fill up with ppl. We spent those 50 minutes tooling around Jinja trying to pick up passengers-they were unsuccessful. It probably didn’t help that I kept trying to gage if I could climb out the window. I tried bribing the guy to let us out. When that didn’t work I started yelling. Finally, the driver started driving us to Mukono. We picked up passengers on the way. I think the driver was afraid I would hit him. It was a possibility. I was also going to try vomiting in the taxi. I feel like they would have let me out after that. Hurray for public transport in Uganda.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spelling Means Yelling

I apologize for the lack of updates, we've been pretty busy. The title of this post refers to our adventures at Crane School. I will admit that after my first interaction I have avoided returning. The school is crazy. This is how spelling class works.
Students: UNDER!!!!
Students: UNDER!!!!
Teacher: WHAT???!!
Students: UNDER!!!!!!!!!

It is a little ridiculous-there are 50 or so students to a classroom and I really don't know how they get anything done...except the teacher hits them when they aren't paying attention so I guess that's pretty effective. The students are really excited when we visit. We were waiting calmly in the office to do some extracurriculars (spell check says I spelled that wrong, I can't spell any more sorry).

As we were waiting we heard a low roar. Then we heard the headmaster bellow-IS THAT HOW YOU GREET YOUR TEACHERS??!!! We then heard a roar comparable to the huns as they cascade down that snowy mountain in Mulan. We were overrun. We had to sacrifice Scott but the rest of us made it. Just kidding. But we were then completely mobbed children throwing themselves up against us and cheering-they have very violent welcoming customs that I feel like we should adopt in the United States. Anyway so that is where a lot of our group spends time. I haven't gone back since I was asked to do reading club and the twelve students I had left after I turned my back to get books (I started with 20) decided to read on poultry keeping and bees. It was bad. I should not be allowed to interact with children.

Here is how I've mostly spent my time-these are in no particular order:
1) Riding a boda with Freddie in the sugar cane fields and jungles of Uganda

2) Going to Szebwa Falls and eating with a witch doctor. As we were asking some questions they offered me a skewer of meat, I decided it was best to eat it as opposed to being cursed by them later. I'm pretty sure it was beef.

3) Taking pictures of the gorgeous jungle around the falls

4) Crashing an ICC convention and getting to stay for lunch. Technically we missed the ICC convention by a week and this was a convention of parliamentarians about the ICC from around the world, but it was still fun and we enjoyed our lunch with the Barroness from the House of Lords and parliamentarians from Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. The Baroness is the least diplomatic person I've ever met, but hilarious. For example, asking the Argentinian when their currency crashed and they sank into financial crisis probs isn't a very kind thing to do. "Remember that time your currency failed and your whole country's economy collapsed? When was that again?

5) Frantically chasing down street vendors and trading watches for belts with boda drivers to try and look more presentable for when we were trying to get into the convention. We did quite well and looked semi-presentable.

6) White water rafting the Nile. Doing one rapid with no boat-so fun. Getting flipped in two other rapids and taking them partly with no boat. Going down an 8 foot waterfall-did not flip thankfully.

7) Finding the Evil Kneival of boda drivers in Kampala. Six inches of air as we hit every pot hole (keep in mind I was riding side-saddle per cultural norms). I should have been tipped off by his sunglasses-one only needs glasses that large if you're going 100 miles an hour.

8) Eating our way through Kampala. We really miss cheeseburgers. and milkshakes. and brownies. and pizza. good thing we ate all of it on Saturday.

9) Getting a random NGO to pay for a private taxi to drive us to a sustainable agricultural school-so beautiful. Unfortunately, empty.

10) Spending all day with our partner Jasper. We attended a corruption court to bail out his friend. It took all day. The judge was funny though and had sweet robes. We then chilled in several different mechanics parking lots as we waited for his friend Robert's lorry to be finished. We had a lovely meal of chips chicken (and no I did not forget an 'and') at 10:30 pm in downtown Kampala which was hopping.

I feel like this post is somewhat sporadic and very long, I apologize but at least I have updated you my loyal followers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's like popcorn, but with eyes

So I ate a grasshopper this week. It was pretty good, as Blythe puts it, it tastes like popcorn but with eyes. I also got to ride a boda boda...twice. unfortunately I am expected to ride side saddle-this is nerve-wracking as I've never ridden anything side saddle before but you know a first for everything. we also built adobe stoves. this involved a lot of furious mud throwing for the foundation-this was fun, but very messy. I also was kicked out of the mud throwing job, apparently my throwing skills were inadequate. I think my supervisor was just mad because I kept splattering him.

I hopefully start teaching on Tuesday, so we'll see how that goes. Today I will be learning how to wash my laundry by hand. I have to go I only have two minutes, but yay Uganda. Mom thanks for doubling my followers. For a shout out I will tell you that I ate three samosas yesterday-so delicious.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mazungo Mazungo!

That is what is shouted as we walk down the streets. Usually by small children, sometimes by their parents. It pretty much means white person. So far Uganda is hugely successful as I have not yet been hit by a boda boda (motorbike taxis).

Yesterday we spent the day "helping" one of our partners. I was first in the garden. Or small farm as I would more accurately describe it. I began work with the hoe. I did about three holes and then the poor teenager boy who was assigned to help us took it from me and handed me the bag of seeds. I planted seeds in the holes he made and then did hole covering duty. This is the bottom rung on the totem pole of garden tasks as you essentially just kick dirt into the hole filled with seeds. I also helped sort rocks for a clinic. They were using them for the floor. I didn't ask questions. I also helped pour water to mix cement. At one point the rocks I was standing on gave out and I slipped in cement. Graceful. The crowd of 10 boys aged 5-9ish laughed as though I was the Arrested Development Episode where Buster gets his hand bitten off by a sea lion (Kerstin I noted that you were my only official follower so that reference is for you).

The drive to the farm where we were working was gorgeous. Uganda is literally a jungle. The people are so kind and not as used to seeing mazungos as the people in Mukono are. We usually get one of three reactions. 1) Shy waving and smiling. 2) Frantic waving with shouts of mazungos mazungos! 3) Jaw dropped frozen in place staring. When we were at the farm one of our group members wanted to take pictures of some children playing. He was afraid the three elderly women would be annoyed with him taking the kids picture. The old women proceeded to wave the children out of the way so they could have their picture taken. It was funny.

Today we are having meetings with partners that I'll be working more with. In 15 minutes I'm leaving to meet with the headmaster of a vocational school where I'll be teaching business courses. We just had a meeting with a prep school where we'll be doing after school activities. They said we'll play basketball against their strongest team (12-15 year olds) so I'm getting excited for that match-up. I would bet 10,000 Ugandan shillings ($5) that they've never seen a mazungo girl play basketball-so the shock factor should give us an advantage at first. Also, I apologize for the lack of attention paid to grammar or spelling.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Packing packing packing

I am about to start the packing process. Of course it is beautiful weather outside and I have zero interest in packing at present. Also, the only reason I am putting this worthless post up is because I felt like my blog should have at least one post if it is in existence. Sorry this one is fairly uninteresting. Hopefully the Uganda ones will be much more exciting.