Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pieces of the Puzzle

2 months in. Uganda is comfortable to me now, but I miss home if I slow down long enough to let the sadness in. Its a good sadness. Sadness that comes from having something really good in life. Something really good to miss. I miss friends, family, my cat, my home, Portland, food I can really get full from. Fresh air, mountains, clean water you can drink.... just like that, right out of the tap.

I'm in Gulu these days. Its 95+ everyday. Dust storms stir by. You don't want to be out much in peak hours. Peak hours being 10 am to 5 pm. You'll exhaust yourself. Dawn is almost cool enough to remind me of home. Dusk is brilliant. Smoke hangs so thick it makes L.A. look like a model green city. Bats swarm this one tree near my street, near the police barracks. I don't think anyone notices them much.

I meet expats here and there. Some seem... so oblivious to the culture their in. As if it didn't even matter where they do their work. I see many Westerners frustrated. It makes me laugh. I get frustrated, but for the same reasons I usually get frustrated. I'm hungry, or I'm not getting my way in my personal life. =) That's not culturally specific. That's just me. I feel fortunate.

You know there is nothing better than putting in a cd you haven't heard for a really long time? It brings you back to another time and place. A whole different era in ones life. Yet, the lyrics are still relevant.

I'm looking for work. You should see how Ugandans laugh when I tell them that. Ok wait, you're American and you came to Uganda to look for work? I have nothing so far. Somehow, it's ok. I know it will come eventually. It has to. I've been to a born again church, a Catholic church, AND a mosque in the last 2 weeks so I've got a couple different versions of God working on my side. Plus it looks like due to some financial help from my mom and her friends, 4 kids I've met will get to attend school this term who otherwise could not afford it. I'm so thankful to them. These kids were going to have to stay home if they were not sponsored.

Maybe the variety of churches made one of the gods angry though, because I got food poisoning and malaria in the same day. Talk about hell! Let's just say I let out a yelp at the clinic which could be heard across the street when they pricked my finger. I'm that much of a wimp. Then after being instructed to take my medication with food, I proceeded to a cafe. Only, the sudden movement crossing the street made my stomach turn, so as I sat down and the server greeted me, I had no choice but to empty my paper bag of medicine and promptly vomit in it in front of the other guests. It was one of my classier moments for sure! I'm all better now.

That pretty much gets us caught up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pine Trees and Apple Seeds

It has been a pleasant couple weeks. I am loving Uganda. Of course at the moment I am sitting at a really posh resort bar, overlooking the Nile River, so its hard to be miserable. This is by far the nicest place I have been in the country. It is a stark contrast to everywhere else I have been. I'm in Jinja, a tourist spot, the source of the Nile which flows from Lake Victoria. The staff here is kind. Bored perhaps, with only 6 guests.

My friend Becky will be returning to the UK next week, and I will be returning to work in Gulu -a hot, dry, dust bowl. So I am resting up and she is celebrating the end of her volunteer job. This is a nice switch from the poorly kept hostels with nasty latrines we've been staying in the past few days! Even though I can't afford to stay here, an afternoon by the pool is an amazing luxury.

I spent the last week with my host family in the Western part of the country. In an mountainous area near the Congo, known for is gorillas. Although we went hiking with armed guards, we didn't see any of the few remaining gorillas. Most of the forest has been cut and made into banana or tea plantations.

Our days there were filled with family meetings and tours of the family's land, to decide what to do with the land. They'd ask my opinion on the matter. They'd ask if I know someone who can give them pine trees to plant. I'm a mazungu. I came here to help. So even if I have no idea who to talk to about free trees, I will figure it out. That's what is expected of me, and it is the least I can do for a family who has shown me such hospitality. Weeks after knowing me, they still insist I eat the goat liver. They best part.

I spent New Years dancing to the local music, which just a few weeks ago I found so loud and annoying. I am starting to enjoy it now. The big supermarket in Kampala where I can get peanut butter and jelly and other expat prizes, closed down the parking lot so we could dance outside beneath the stars and the fireworks. It was really a wonderful time.

The last few days Becky and I stayed at the base of Mt. Elgon a less expensive alternative to Mt. Kilimanjaro, where a young man showed us several waterfalls. As I was about to throw my apple core out, he asked if he could please have the seeds. He hoped to start an apple orchard, so people would buy apples from him... his favorite fruit. He had no idea how to sprout the seeds, or that it would take 10 years for those seeds to bear fruit. I have added him to my list of people I wish to help, eventually, maybe I can connect him to a agriculture project. He had to drop out of high school when his father died because he couldn't pay the fees himself. He works as a guide in hopes to one day finish school. He's 26 now. Hangs out at the backpacker camps to pick up tourists, to show the waterfalls. He works all day, and makes about $6. Much better than most people, but obviously the work is infrequent, and pays little. I am blessed with finding many ways to help, and many good people around to help me.