Friday, September 2, 2011

Under your skin and into your heart

So, here we are again, and I’m overdue for another blog post! The time, although it a little bit feels like vacation because we don’t start until Monday, goes pretty quickly! We manage to definitely keep busy! I have done all sorts of things with my time. I am starting to find my way around the town and around Jinja and the surrounding areas a bit (although my sense of direction is as bad as ever… luckily Jinja is really just a main street and then another one just one street off of it, so I can never be TOO too lost… I hope.) I’ve been working on learning the local language of Lusoga (it’s a bantu language—so it’s pretty related to Swahili and most of the other languages in this area). 

Taking language classes here, when I sit back and think about it, is pretty comical. The teacher is giving us lessons about the general tenses and such—so present, present perfect, future, etc etc, but the vocabulary words… well let’s just say they’re not the same vocab words we learned in French in high school, or Italian in college. The way our teacher, Mr. Ben, teaches is through writing out sentences on the board “because we only can learn in context, not from memorization.” I’m not sure, but maybe he should have a good heart to heart with some Jesuit educators about that one. But anyways, the sentences he gives us are ones like, “I am going to the market to buy a goat.” And “I would like to cook the meat of a rabbit for dinner tonight” (a delicacy) and “The seminarians are going to wash the car of the priest tonight,” and “Have you finished washing the clothes of the children?”  And then the funny thing beyond that is… I have used all of these sentences (no, I haven’t bought a goat, but I have asked someone else if he did, and I heard someone else use the rabbit one. As far as I know, I haven’t eaten any rabbit).

Another thing I have learned how to do is to do all my laundry by hand. I’m certainly glad that I decided to live simply this year and so that ideology plus my limited luggage space means there is not a whole lot of laundry to do. Yet, that doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t take all morning to do, a fact which my neighbors laugh at. It does not take them nearly so long, but I rationalize it because they’ve been doing it for their whole lives. But all the women here (chores are done by the women, it’s still at that place in the social relations in Uganda) STAND while doing all their chores—the cooking (which most do over small charcoal grill-like things which sit on the ground), the cleaning, the laundry. My neighbors ask if I am feeling tired and lazy when I am doing the laundry, because I sit down. Meanwhile, I’m just feeling extra productive, because hey, I’m doing the laundry! It takes soaking the clothes in a basin for a few hours, then washing out the soap and scrubbing the clothes over another two or three basins, depending on how dirty the clothes are. And clothes certainly can get dirty here! Maybe it’s the fact that I’m always walking on these red dirt roads, but the orange-red dirt gets into EVERYTHING. In fact, I am almost always looking like I am fake tanning, because I always have a slightly darker orangeish tint. It’s funny to see it all come off in the shower. 

Also, I have been spending a lot of time with my neighbors, and down the street, at an orphanage. The “neighbors” are actually 2 families, living in the same building. There are three doors in the building, and each family has one door, which leads to two rooms, and then they share the two rooms in the middle. The parents and the girls sleep in the back room, the boys in the front room. But the kids, oh my goodness the kids, are ADORABLE. And the most loving and caring people I have ever met. There are many little ones, from probably around about a year, and the oldest is in 7th grade. I have spent a lot of time with them. They come over to our porch pretty much constantly… if we are ever around, they are there too. They have learned to love the game UNO, and are the most daredevil kids I have ever met—they’re constantly climbing on everything, jumping off things, running all over the place. Things that little kids are doing which would SO not be ok in America. But they all manage to stay safe, and they think I’m an idiot for spraining my ankle! Haha go figure. I just never thought I’d see a one and a half year old boy who cannot even yet say words wielding a butcher knife with such capability. For that matter, I never expected to see a one and a half year boy with a butcher knife no matter what. But, such things are pretty normal here. No big deal. And it’s funny, one thing that I’ve definitely come to realize, is the idea of the entire village raises a child. Kids are constantly running around all the time without supervision (what a first world thing of me to say). And parents are totally fine with other people punishing their kid or taking care of them for a while. It doesn’t bother them if they don’t see their own child for a day or two. And it’s amusing, because when random kids find mzungus, they do nothing but follow us and stare. 

There are no cultural issues around staring here. Kids, adults, older people—all the time, I am being stared at. At first it made me slightly uncomfortable, because they all look like they are super angry, but I’ve since realized that it’s just because I’m such an attraction. But if I just smile and wave, their faces all break out, without fail, into the most beautiful smiles in the history of ever. A certain Megan told me before coming here that the smiles of the Ugandans would get under my skin and touch my heart. I think that is absolutely the most perfect way of putting it. 

Anyways, the older sister, who is in 7th grade, has kind of “taken me under her wing” to a certain extent. She does all of the household chores—she does the cooking, cleaning, washing, taking care of the children—she does it all. AT SEVENTH GRADE! It’s so easy to forget people’s ages here because they take on so many responsibilities so early. When I was in 7th grade, I was thinking about how much I didn’t like my braces and all of my worry went into how I was fitting in or not in Junior High. This girl takes care of a family of 7. And that’s typical here. It’s truly amazing. But every time she has cooked any traditional food, bought any fruit or anything of the type, I hear a yelling from my front door, “NANANA!” (because for some reason, Anna is a difficult name for them to say? But Nanana is not. Go figure. But it’s really cute so I don’t mind. The other name which I get a lot –aside from Maria, who is the other girl here, because it’s hard for them to tell white people apart… Apparently we all look the same. Nevermind the fact that Maria is Peruvian. And we actually look quite different—is Ann. I’ve chalked it up to that they get lazy and just don’t finish my name. Because I know that they all know my name is Anna (or Maria) but they just shorten it.) and then Ida! (which means “Come” in Lusoga) and I walk over and they share with me. (Ugandan generosity and welcomingness is another thing which I will share for another blog post because this one is getting long) Because of this, I have gotten to taste sugar cane (often), posho, millet, rice and beans, (cuz I’ve never had THAT one before… oh wait, that’s the most common meal here) bananas, jackfruit, starfruit, papayas, mangoes, and even this morning, porridge, Ugandan style. Even though I had had some of these things before, no is not an acceptable answer when offered food by someone here! I’m just incredibly grateful that I’ve liked most of the food, and it’s not like I’m eating something that totally disgusts me!

So anyways, this post is getting long, and is quite unorganized (sorry for that! It’s a little stream of consciousness) and so I’m going to sign off for now. I’m headed back to the house—we’re figuring out how to make chips out of posho that might be similar to tortilla chips so we can have chips and guac for the big game tomorrow! We’re all going to watch ND take on USF with a vengeance on Matt’s computer (he has a modem that will work we hope!) I miss you all tons and hope you are all doing well! Next post will be more organized, I promise!


  1. Love this. Love you. Can I can you nanana from now on too?

  2. Anna, don't worry about organization - Stream of Consciousness style makes it seem like I'm sitting here talking with you, which is AWESOME!

  3. I still think your explanation of
    the word 'computer' in Lusoga is the
    most amazingly accurate and funny translation
    I've heard, 'the know it all machine'!
    I'm grateful for that know it all machine now
    for the way it helps us get a glimpse of you!
    thanks for taking time to write!

  4. I agree with Tim, Nanana. I like your flow of thoughts and it comes through in your writing. Love talking to you, thanks for giving us another medium to feel like we are doing so.

  5. Anna, the little girl who only ate ketchup and noodles is trying mysterious foreign foods without knowing what they are?! I'm shocked.. :-p Love you!