Monday, August 13, 2007

Living in a mud hut

The plans are set. Later this week I’ll spend 3 night in a mud hut with a very poor African family. I specifically chose this family. They have 9 kids and live in a small 2 room mud hut. When the Purdue group came we bought them mattresses, blankets and a variety of cooking and eating utensils. The father came this morning and we explained that I was coming and that we didn’t want them doing anything extra or out of the ordinary for my arrival. Japheth, my director, even advised me to just show up and not tell them I was coming because they would automatically make preparations for me. The father insisted that they didn’t have anywhere to put me when I came, but that’s why I’m going. I hide myself away in my pseudo-dorm room where I have everything I need. I can successfully shut out Africa and watch movies, listen to music and read books that take me away from this place. Even though I live here I can’t know what it’s like to live as a villager, so for the next few days I’ll be finding out. I’ll take along a mattress, blanket, pillow, bottled water, a notebook and a camera. While there I want to fetch firewood, fetch water, eat matooke and beans (which I’m not all that crazy for) and do any work I can around the place. They have 9 kids, so I’m sure there won’t be a dull moment. And if this is successful I’d like to do it again next month. We’ll see.

“So, how’s the climate in America”

I HATE being asked this question. I get it all the time when I’m first talking to a Ugandan. I hate it because there’s never really a good answer for it. When you tell them that, yes, we have warm weather in America. They’re shocked. They must think we all live in the snow covered tundra and sleep in igloos, I’m not sure. It’s between 60-85 Fahrenheit all year here. They think that’s hot. For them to comprehend temperature extremes of sub zero temperatures with several feet of snow as well as temperatures in triple digets with 100% humidity boggles their minds. They automatically think I’m lying to them. And of course, America is a HUGE country so then I have to go into the explanation that in southern California (the only state most of them know due to Schwartzeneger being the governor) it’s nice most of the year but that in Maine it’s much colder… it turns into an hour long conversation with anyone who asks.

Early Morning Call

One great advantage to living in Africa, as well as one major disadvantage, is the concept of time. I can show up to work 30 minutes early or 2 hours late. No problems. I was planning on having one of my late days when I received a phone call. I rarely answer a call from a number I don’t know because it’s usually a wrong number and it takes the person on the other end of the line a minute or so before they realize that the person they’re talking to not only has a grossly different accent than they have but is also speaking another language. But this time I answered the phone and the man said he was waiting on me at my office. So I got around to bathing and heading over there.

When I arrived there was a well dressed man in his early forties there with a nice looking bag in his hand. He had a serious dimple on his chin which made him remind me of a black John Travolta the entire time I was talking to him. He started in on how he heard that I was staying there and wanted to ask me to help him. He and his wife both had HIV and the wife was suffering from paralysis on her left side and needed to go to the hospital and he wanted me to help. Now anybody who knows me knows that I love to help people. It’s one reason that I’m even here. But when random people show up on my door step asking for money… it’s another thing entirely. And the fact is that I had just dropped half my salary on that Frisbee tourney and I was broke. I told the man that I was sorry but that I couldn’t help him.

I’ve never in my life experienced what it’s like to be viewed as being wealthy before. I’m helping to pay for Bruno’s school fees for him to study tourism and the weekend of the Frisbee tourney he was here and he helped out with it. I almost felt that he was helping out of obligation. I mean, here we’re paying his school fees, he must feel a certain sense of having to do whatever we ask of him. Now Bruno has been a friend of Jacob and I for a year but I feel that I am more of a benefactor who hold some kind of clout over him. It’s just a strange feeling and I’m not sure what to do with it.

Japheth’s home

My director is asking me to donate some money to him to help him build a house. I’m glad to help him, he’s one of my best friends here and he’s not asking for much money, but I was questioning his need for a house.

He owns land near his birthplace on the complete other side of Uganda from here. It’s possible that he’ll take a good job in Kampala some day and have to live there for his work, but nonetheless, he says he needs to build a house even if he never lives there. He says it’s important for a man who is in his early 30s to own a house. For starters, when he gets married he has to have a house to take his wife to. Secondly, when he dies he has to be buried on his own plot of land where his house is. Apparently they don’t believe in cemeteries here. Of course I couldn’t convince him that it’s illogical to build a house that he may never live in, so I told him that I would certainly be willing to help him.

Flying saucer?

I’ve been hearing stories lately that kids all over have been throwing their plates, lids, anything that’s flat and will fly. After our Frisbee tourney I guess there’s been an onslaught of flying saucers. Even at Compassion this Saturday kids were throwing trash can lids back and forth. I’ve created a monster…


Post a Comment

<< Home