I made it! I am currently in Uganda, sitting in a little gazebo pagoda, with the sounds of hundreds of chirping and squawking birds filling the air. It's so nice to be here! The weather is not nearly as bad as we feared it would be--it's actually quite pleasant in the shade with a nice breeze blowing. It's not too humid... DEFINITELY much less than South Bend. So coming from the heat last week, it's actually QUITE a relief!
The training week was good: we had 15 hours of teaching instruction, so while it's no grad school education on teaching, it's a lot more than I had before, and hopefully it'll be enough! We also learned a little about the culture and the program, but as we can kind of already tell, you can't really know anything much until you get here!
The flights went well, too, with no problems. The first flight was a little funny, though, I have to say, because we were served dinner at about midnight Chicago time, then breakfast around 8 or 9 or something Chicago time, but then we landed two hours later... and it was 6pm in Istanbul. Which just threw all of us off. The time change TOTALLY confused everything. I felt like it was all one big day from the 29th to the 31st.
We landed in Entebbe around 1AM Uganda-time, and were picked up by David, the taxi driver for almost all of the Holy Cross transportation. He took us to a nun's complex in Kampala, where we stayed the night. The woman who greeted us at 3 in the morning took each of our hands intimately into hers and welcomed us as if we were the dearest of old friends just come back to see her. On our way up to the rooms, there was a gecko that couldn't have been longer than an inch and a half shimmying its way up the wall. Already we knew we were someplace new!
The morning (which came a mere 4 hours later) brought a trip to the Holy Cross house in Kampala, where we met many wonderful welcoming priests. The car ride to Jinja then was about two or three hours, and I was captivated the entire time. It was like a smorgashboard for the senses--the air had a slightly sweet smell to it, perhaps it is all the sugar cane they grow here? or maybe something else, but it's very nice actually. When you get a nice breeze blowing, it's very heartening. (as long as the breeze is not coming from the direction of the compost heaps or bathrooms). The women were all wearing brightly colored, boldly patterned clothing and the men were all dressed very "smart" as they say here, wearing slacks and oxfords. The houses are often more one room brick buildings it seems, which have colorful laundry lines hanging from the windows and are often painted bright colors and seem to be advertisements for different products, particularly those houses facing the street. They're painted for different mobile phone companies or candy or coca cola or all sorts of things. I'll have to add pictures later! And then some of the people were carryign such loads on top of their heads! I think my favorite was a basket of bananas (the chiquita banana lady!) but we saw someone carrying even a mattress! our driver told us that was nothing, Ugandans are strong enough to carry 12 on their head at once! And then the sounds were all wonderful--the music, the people selling their stuff, the birds, the other cars adn people shouting out the windows to each other.
Once we arrived at our house, Damien welcomed us with the words "welcome home!" and a big hug, and we all moved in! My room is actually quite nice--I've got a bed with a foam mattress that's actually quite comfortable, a bookcase doubling as a dresser, a desk, and even a sink in my room! I'm truly living the good life!
We got a sense for the town, the red dirt roads and the fact that there are always, ALWAYS people walking around. There are just so many people! The boda bodas (moped taxis) drive around and can take you by surprise. There are tons of loose chickens that just wander the streets, and some roosters too (such as the couple that had a fight this morning, taking the liberty to wake me up at 5AM), and then some goats and cows. I have no idea how they tell who belongs to who, but somehow they must? I suppose?
Then last night we joined the seminarians for evening prayer (they sing SO beautifully here), a "social" and dinner. The dinner was rice, cabbage, fried potatoes, some sort of mystery sauce, and some sort of meat. I didn't ask what kind... I was too nervous. It was all delicious though! Which is really what matters.
The boys were all really nice and we had some good conversation, and they laughed about many of my cultural misunderstandings, but in a very goodnatured way. About halfway through dinner, the power shut off. I guess the government owes the power company some trillions of shillings, and so they are shutting the power off at night to get back at the government. So we walked back across the street to our house in the dark, played a few games of bananagrams (I even won one!), and headed to bed. It was remarkably dark in my room--it's interesting how when the electricity is out, there is NO light that comes in from anywhere.
This morning we went to Jinja town and experienced the supermarket, all of which are owned by Indians. This is apparently a remnant of the colonization situation, where the British brought Indians in to build the rail lines, and apparently trusted them more than Ugandans, so gave them more money and invested more in them, which means that even to this day, they have more capital and ability within the country. The Ugandans really don't like this scenario (understandably) and so there is a little animosity there when they talk about it, but they don't act on it at all, from what I can tell from the first two days here.
We got our phones, and had our first experiences of having to deal with people trying to give us the "Mzungu price" (Mzungu means white person). So we had to haggle with them, and eventually they brought out the phones that were half the price as the first ones. I can tell this will be something I'll have to figure out how to do while I'm here, but luckily they seem really good natured about it. It's like as soon as you call them out on it, they laugh a big laugh, knowing they were caught, and ease up a little.
So that's all for now, my computer needs to get recharged! But it's been so much fun so far, and such a great adventure! The people are all truly SO warm and welcoming, and are very friendly. The house is great, and my housemates are all really nice! I'm excited to get to find out more in the coming days!
Sorry if this was long... just a lot to say at first! Miss you all and love you all tons! Thanks for all your love and prayers!