Claire’s trip week 10
That was a new experience as I have never washed my feet in a public loo before!
10th November to 1th November, 2013.
Last week I explained something of the culture and how it is a two way process – me learning their ways and the Ugandans learning U.K ways. It seems that I have so much more to learn because I am living it day-to-day whereas they do not have to apply what I tell them. However, there are very often some funny misunderstandings and language differences as you will see. It has been cold, dull and rainy here for a few days and so I said to Donald, the driver, it was like being in England except that there it now got dark at about 4.30pm and not 7.00 like here, since the clocks went back. He wanted to know where the clocks went back to and so I tried to explain our funny rules about time in the spring. He laughed as he thought it was daylight for most of the day and night. I wish! I would love it to be daylight most of the time although I do like to sit cuddled up in front of a fire on a wintery afternoon with a cup of nice hot chocolate.
To continue my learning of the culture I asked Donald why there are no lady boda boda drivers and he was quite taken aback and I think was quite surprised I should ask such a question. He said that it was not dignified for a lady to sit like this, indicating with his arms, and not saying ‘with their legs apart’. He said it was wrong and that he was not in favour of the new ways, ‘it would have no good come to the people!’
I asked him whether women had to be taught to carry things of their heads or whether it was a natural skill, although I have seen lots of men carry great loads on their heads too, and he said that they have to be taught from a young age. I asked him if he was teaching his young daughter (she is 3 I think) and he said ‘of course how will I know if she is old enough to marry?’ I was not sure of the connection and so he explained that you teach young girls to carry water pots on their heads and then ‘when one day they come back all wet then you know they are old enough to marry because the boys have been throwing stones at her water pot which then breaks and then you know that the boys have been disturbing her.’ This is sometime between the ages of 14 and 18 and leads to much rejoicing and celebration. It must be awful not to have your water pot broken, so public!!!
I have also learned this week how roads are made and it makes so much sense as some roads are in such weird places. Like I said it has been very rainy here for a few days and things really are getting a bit more than squelchy under foot, (more about this later). A big articulated lorry, which they call a trailer, got stuck across the entrance to work and so we had to go another way. We normally just go through the university campus, but we turned off and went through the Secondary school into an access road which leads to the technical workshops underneath our building. I thought Donald was going to ask me to get out and walk which would have been fine as I just had to go into the workshops and up the stairs, no problem, but no! he sighed, revved up the engine, went up over the kerb, across the grass and into the car park where he wanted to be and where we normally arrived. Over the next couple of days lots of other cars and vehicles followed suit and now there is a road across the grass joining the access road to the car park. I will be interested to see if continues to be used now it has stopped raining and the trailer has gone. Poor grass!
Today is the first day of sunshine for about 5 days and this morning was lovely, it was misty and beautiful just like an UK autumnal morning and now it is sunny and like proper Africa again. However, due to the rain and the walk from my house down very muddy dirt tracks to ‘Tuskeys’ the supermarket where I meet Donald in the NCDC mini bus, my shoes get incredibly muddy. Last night, one my way to get a boda to choir practice, I stepped off what is recognised as a path to let a lady pass, the place looked solid because it looked crusty but the mud was so deep it went over and into my shoes turning me brown and making me slip about in my shoes. The shoes I was wearing I bought here, no not the ones from the fridge but from Batas a proper shop: the shoes are blue plastic look a bit like a ballet pump but also like the jelly bean shoes you buy children to wear on the beach; anyway they are covered in millions of little holes about the diameter of a small sequin. These make the shoes look sort of pretty until you are sliding into mud which results in being ankle deep, and then as you sink into the mud it squelches through the holes turning itself into little worms which side around your feet and between your toes. I then had to negotiate my way back on the ‘path’ later finding somewhere to stand so I could use my precious water and tissues to wipe my feet which I had to wash in the sink in the loo when I reached the Kampala Music School.
That was a new experience as I have never washed my feet in a public loo before, and as I put my first muddy foot into the basin under a running cold tap, as there are no plugs as you will remember, I nearly pulled the basin off the wall. I was then jumping about on my right leg trying not to put any pressure on the basin while trying to wash my foot. I then repeated the ‘dance’ for my other foot I was, however, successful you will be glad to hear! I frequently do jumping for one reason or another and so you would think I would lose weight, but no! I blame it on the carbohydrates!
The ‘muzungu tax’ this week really got out of hand but I was strong and walked away having said thank you first. I bought a gas hob which is too big to really fit by the sink and so two little button feet have to be unsupported or two have to be over the edge of the sink still unsupported, so I have been trying to find a thin table or piece of furniture to put it on. I plucked up courage to go to a second hand furniture ‘shop’ on the way home and there was the most hideous three pieces of joined wood you ever saw, but as I seem to be getting through money at a rate of knots, as it is cheaper to eat out than cook for yourself at home! Weird I know! I thought I would buy it. Anyway, I asked the men who sit around in scowling groups, how much it was. Well, he said 110,000 shillings (£27.50) I was astounded and asked what his ‘final’ price was. He said 110,000 shillings so I asked for a ‘final final’ price and he said the same so I thanked him and walked away, so we still cook on a slant but one day this muzungu will find a thin afford table which won’t take 5 hours to buy!!!!!
Talking of cooking if anyone has any recipes that only uses a toaster, a kettle and a two ring gas hob please can you let me know. I am not the most inventive or interested cook in the world but it would be good. My repertoire so far consists of scrambled eggs, omelettes, and eggy bread, cheese on toast which is cheese in mayonnaise as I don’t have a grill, stew, rice and pasta with vegetables and stir fry gratefully received. I don’t mind if it is savoury or sweet as in puddings, but there must be more you can do in a saucepan and frying pan. Thank you.
On the way to work the other day I saw a really lovely bird. I sort of recognised it but was not sure of its name so asked Donald. He said he did not know the English name only the Ugandan name but he would do studying and tell me later which he did the day after. He said it was a ‘gin (g is in goat) fall’ and asked if we had them in the UK, I said no but they did seem familiar, and then I realised he was saying guinea fowl. Oh the trials of language!
I said that I been given a bird book for my birthday which was great as now I could look them up. Donald said that the other English person who worked at NCDC was sent a bird book. ’What is with the books for birthdays, always books, always birds, birds, birds. Why the English always sending birds? U! (which is sort of sound that is made when bewildered!). I should be saying U! all the time in that case!
Last Saturday I went to Jinja with my boss Mathias and his three children and Donald. I had a great day and was going to tell you about my adventures but it will these notes too long so will tell you about it next week. Other than to say that the road to Jinja is tarmacked as it is the main road joining Kampala to Kenya and so all traffic goes along this road and there is often ’jam’. The Ugandans are obsessed with ‘jam’ and they constantly say we have to go early ‘cos of ‘jam’ and look there is ‘jam everywhere’, ‘we will be late ’cos of jam’. I have never been late because of jam before, it’s quite exciting because I like jam, it’s nicer than marmalade!
Yesterday, when I got in the van to go home Donald asked if I had had this fruit before. I thought it was a lemon but it turned out to a yellow orange. Apparently there are four types of orange, an orange coloured orange, a yellow orange, a green orange and a small orange with no pips, I assume like a Satsuma? It was quite bitter but refreshing. Donald says he is going ‘to make sure you eat all the fruit and vegetables here before you go back ‘cos they are healthy and good. This why Ugandans are healthy and strong.’ I wonder what I’ll get today, if anything!
All over Kampala, and probably all over Uganda there are women, and sometimes men but not often, who sweep the sides of the roads with a broom that looks like a witches broomstick. I thought how boring and dusty it must be and what a waste of time but I now love these workers, they keep people safe. The dirt and grit collects at the sides of the road and they sweep it either into the drainage ditch where they sweep it up using a piece of cardboard and their broom and put it back on the side of the road, presumably so they can sweep it up again tomorrow, or they sweep it up and put it in a sack. I’m not sure what happens to this next. When you are on a boda and have to travel so close to the edge of the road then if it was gritty and slidy there would be so many more accidents. Thank you sweeping people!
(Today is Friday and the road I spoke about earlier on Tuesday is now a proper road used regularly so even the grass which was between the tyres lines has now gone, and so another road has been made.)
Over the last few weeks I have been watching a church be built. It was half way through when I first saw it, but it is amazing. It is called St. Andrews, in a place called Bukoto and is I think an Anglican church. Anyway, the church is round and is three storeys high, but on the top storey there are 6 points like the points on a Bishops hat. They are curved and sort of semi-circular so not flat as it follows the shape of the circle. One of these points is over the entrance facing the road and at the bottom of this shape where it joins the circle are three arches one larger one in the middle and two smaller ones, one each side. It is going to be a big church when it is finished, but I can’t at the moment see how the roof will fit unless it will be a dome or pointed.
The scaffolding and ladders they use are made of tree trunks and the rungs are smaller branches secured by rubber from old tyres or sisal. They are not straight or have the same length legs most of the time and look really rickety but they shin up them really fast. They smooth concrete with a piece of rough board but the end result is brilliant. They are so skilled. I’ll let you how the work progresses.
I have much better at riding bodas now you will glad to hear, if fact I have got a bit lazy. When you are sitting on a boda there is a bar behind you which you can hang onto and up until very recently I have been gripping this bar like grim death, but I found myself the other day resting my thumbs on top of the bar with the rest of my fingers round the bar. This is a silly idea I realised to my cost because when they go over a bump or down a hole, of which there are many every few feet it seems, you get jolted and your thumbs take the pressure and feel as if they are going to break off – and as you know if that happens they never grow again! So I must stop doing this and hold on properly.
For a while now I have been worried about my glasses as although I can generally see without them I can’t read as my arms are long enough! The reason for this is because my crash helmet is too big and every jolt sends my helmet crashing down onto my glasses, putting additional pressure on them. I used to move the helmet by using my shoulder but now I am brave enough to use a hand! So I haven’t been wearing my sun glasses for a bit as they are the same as my everyday glasses and I thought I could have the lenses transferred from one pair to another. Just in case I needed to do this I have been looking out for an optician, there are loads of them they say ’glasses sold here’. I thought it was strange because there are so many and no one wears glasses, and then realised when I was reading some suggestions students had made on how to improve their school when a few of them said ‘I would put glasses in the frames’. I then realised that glasses meant windows! Silly me! I have now found an optician and it is called an ‘eye care centre’ so all is well! I think I have also solved the problem of my crash helmet being too big. The other day I was on a boda and was very lost and Anya, a VSO friend was trying to help me by phoning with the directions. So I let go and rummaged around in my bag and answered my phone which I jammed inside my helmet so I could hear what she said. So now my helmet doesn’t move and bang on my glasses and if I could only teach my right ear to answer my phone the whole problem would be solved!
Life here never ceases to amaze and astound me, but everyone is good natured and we laugh about things which is good.
I hope everyone is well and I think about you all often; and as always I send lots of love and thank you for your love, prayers and continuing support.
PS. On my travels the other day I passed a fire station called the ‘House of fire fighting equipments’. I thought that was nice.