Saturday, March 24, 2012

Culture Club

We are learning a great deal about the culture here in Uganda. Here are some of the things we have learned so far….

Greeting… it is all about a proper greeting.  If you do not properly greet someone you are considered very rude. It the States it is not uncommon to walk into a room full of people and wave and say “hello everyone.”  In Uganda, that is socially unacceptable.  You are expected to greet everyone with a handshake and proper greeting which includes asking how they are doing, how their night was, how things are at home, how are the children, how are the cows/goats.  You get the picture?  Greetings can take a very long time.  Even if you have been sitting right next to someone in class for a couple of hours, if you have not properly greeted them you are expected at the first break to greet them and everyone else in the room you have not spoken to.  It is also not acceptable to just wave to someone as you pass by or to start your greeting before you have reached that person. If you do that it is a sign that you are rude and want to get your greeting over very quickly.  If you are passing someone on the road, you are expected to wait until they completely reach you, stop and go through the whole greeting process. It is also very important to teach your children to properly greet someone, so that you are not offensive to someone because your children won’t greet them.  The kids are catching on, even Pierce says hello and sticks his hand out to greet now.

Crossing your arms when someone is speaking is considered rude and disrespectful. By crossing your arms you are saying this person is boring and does not have anything important to say.   I cross my arms all the time; this is something I have had to be conscious of, especially when Ugandans are teaching.

My cute little monkey; How many times have you said that to your little one?   Kari called Pierce her little monkey for the longest time.  He even had a shirt that says “Mommy’s little monkey.”  Cute and harmless right…WRONG!  A group of westerners was visiting New Hope and was with one of the family groups where a couple of young Ugandan children were being bathed in wash basins outside.  One of the ladies said “Oh, look at those cute little monkeys” just a simple term of endearment.  Well the word spread like wildfire through the community that this group of westerners thinks that Africans are monkeys.  Another example was when a man from the UK was praying for a group of Ugandans.  He began is prayer with Lord bless these folks. What the Ugandans heard was fox, and again they were offended wondering why this man though that the Ugandans were a group of animals.  We are being very cautious in our wording and trying not to make mistakes.  And then there is Everett. Those of you that know Everett will just understand that it is Everett being Everett. The Head Master of the School had a birthday today and Kari made a very cute card for all the staff to sign.  Everett, just being Everett comes running up to Uncle Simon to sing him Happy Birthday. Sweet and harmless right, a 5 year old singing happy birthday; what could go wrong?  So Everett starts in “Happy Birthday to you, you’re 102, you look like a…… which point Kari slaps her hand over his mouth.  Everett keeps trying to sing, muffled by Kari’s hand “You look like a monkey and you smell like one too.”  Thankfully Kari was able to stop E from getting the words out. Can you imagine?  I can see the headlines now “American student calls the Head Master a monkey and thinks he smells like one too.”  Oh Everett you cause me more grey hair each day.   

It is customary in some cultures to fatten the bride up before a wedding because a skinny wife is an unfit wife.  In the States bride’s work hard to lose weight before the big day so they will look good in the wedding gown. Can you imagine in the States “Honey, does this dress make me look fat…..yes dear…..Great!’

If you say “what” in response to someone it is considered rude, your response should be "yes please."  Your conversation would go like this “Kari……….yes please…….can you come over here.”

If someone comes into your home you should invite them in, have them sit down and immediately serve them juice.  You do not ask if they want juice you just bring it to them.  It is rude to ask because it is like you are saying I am asking but I hope that you say no. So when I am back home in the States, I expect “juice” each time I come to your home.

Do you hate when someone drops by the house unannounced?  Not Ugandans! It is considered an honor when someone shows up unannounced. At which point, you guessed it, you need to bring them juice.  It is also expected that if it is near a meal time that you feed them as well. So when we get back to the States our family of six is going to drop by unannounced and expect juice and meals……Is that a problem?

“That’s okay” means yes.  For example do you want more posho (to which your answer should always be NO) if you answer that’s okay, you better move over because there is a heap of posho coming your way. 

Daily dress is nicer than most of our church clothes.  Most people dress very nice for their daily attire.  In our class the women are expected to wear skirts everyday that cover their knees.  Men are expected to wear nice pants and at minimum a collared polo shirt. Workers will dress in nice clothes to go to work and take clothes to change into for work.  There was a group of construction workers building a small apartment near our training classroom.  They would come to work dressed in slacks and button up shirts, take them off and change into work clothes, and put on the nice clothes at the end of the day to go home. When it comes to shoes you had better dress to impress.  If your shoes are not nice, you obviously do not know how to take care of your feet. If you have on dress shoes they better be polished or you should just not wear them. Flip-flops are considered shower shoes and you would not be seen out in public with your shower shoes on. So 99% of college students would be considered to have on shower shoes when they go to class in the States. 

Whew, we have a lot to learn.  This is just a few of the things we have learned so far and the list of things we have not learned yet is even longer. Slowly but surely we are learning.

We have a huge praise report;  we got our Visas renewed with no issues!  We have heard reports that this can be a very big hassle and can take hours or even days.  Thankfully I walked right into the immigration office and would have been done in five minutes if I would have had copies of our passports. I went and got copies made, paid money and "Stamp" we were done. No hassle, no worries and we have new 90 day visas. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Week of Firsts...

Week of Firsts…….

This was a week of firsts for me.  First, I rode a Bota bota for the first time.  A bota bota is motorcycle taxi and they are everywhere.  I would say they out number cars on the road at least 10:1.  It was literally the first time in my life I had ever been on a motorcycle, ever. Working as a Paramedic I am not a big fan of motorcycle, but it was either take the motorcycle taxi or walk to our destination.  So I jumped on the back, one hand secured to the handle on the back and one arm wrapped tightly around Kari. It is no uncommon to see 2-3 people on a Bota plus the driver.  We actually saw a bota with three male passengers, plus the driver.  Four grown men on one motorcycle was a crazy sight.  Off we went, white knuckled I clung on for my life.  I said a prayer before, during and after our journey.  I leaned forward during the ride and told Kari not to close her eyes because it made it way worse.  When I finally opened my eyes, I noticed that everyone passing by us was laughing, probably due to the shear terror on my face. However, we survived our journey and made it safely to our destination.

Another first for me was ox plowing; it is a required part of our training here at New Hope.  Growing up in College Station, Texas oddly enough we did not do much Ox plowing.  I had been very anxious to “help” in the fields and prepare them for planting by plowing with oxen.  Imagine a city raised boy behind a plow being drug by two enormous oxen.  After two passes I was out of breath and panting, between drops of sweat I looked back at my lines in the soil and they were none too straight.  I sat down to take a break and allow the men to get some actual work done; I am convinced that one of the oxen kept eyeing my down every time they came by.  After a few minutes of rest they called me back and had me do a couple more passes. It was a little easier this time, but wrestling with the plow to keep it in a straight line was hard work.  I sat back down and one of the experts, a 17 year old boy named John, took over.  I looked up from catching my breath and he was holding the plow with one hand and strolling along behind it like it was a leisurely walk in the park. He told me he had been plowing for about 12 years, so that means he was 5 when he started.  Can you all imagine Everett plowing??  Needless to say, they got a lot more work done once I was done “helping” them.

We also had our first encounter with a Mamba this week.  Our friends we are in training with had the first hand run-in with the Green Mamba. Thankfully nobody was hurt, well except the snake…… can read the whole story complete with pictures at:

I scored my first goal playing Futbol with the Ugandans this past week as well…sorta.  On Sundays the Institute students have been challenging the school teachers in a game.  The first challenge was Volleyball and this past week was soccer, which they take very seriously.  It brought out a large crowd to watch and cheer. I was playing defender and our team made a run to the goal, so I ran with them.  There was a bit of a scrum and the ball shot out towards me, I stopped it and tried to pass it to one of our better players (which was anyone on the team other than me) to shoot.  I kicked it and it ricocheted off one of their defenders and squirted into the goal.  I also stopped one of their better players on a one-on-one match up.  He broke loose and it was me and him between our goal, I stood my ground and pretended to know what I was doing.  As he dribbled up to me and made a soccer move, I just stuck my foot out and the ball actually hit it.  The ball bounced right off my foot and shot between his legs.  I was able to run behind him and kick it back up field, all while pretending I had some clue as to what I was doing.  This came with a huge roar from the crowd that this Muzungo (what Ugandans call white people) stole the ball from a Ugandan. We played a full 90 minutes a came to a 1-1 tie.  It was debatable about whether I was going to be able to get out of bed the next day, but amazingly I felt great.

I have also been working in the clinic in the afternoons, which I will blog about more soon.  However, I had another first there last week.  I worker came in with a big splinter deep into his thumb, no problem, nothing some Lidocaine and a big needle can’t cure. We injected his thumb with Lidocaine to numb it up and dug the big splinter out with an 18 gauge needle.  Can’t say I have ever done that in the US.

This is only a few of the things I am doing for the first time in Africa, but these were some of the highlights.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Spider Man

So I woke up last night about 1:30 am to go comfort Hadlee who was crying out. This is not unusual since at least one kid is up at least once a night since arriving here in Uganda. I tucked her back in and half asleep I walked back to our room ready to climb back under the mosquito net and cuddle up in bed. That’s when the adventure began……..  There perched on the wall about 10 inches from where my head lays on the pillow each night was the largest, creepiest, ugliest, keep going with your own description, spider I have ever seen.  It was about as big around as lemon including its legs.  It had huge pincers that it kept clicking together when it saw me and realized we would have a confrontation and hairy legs.  At this point Kari was awake, probably due to me freaking out.  So the showdown was on…… after a carefully concocted plan that included a piece of orange construction paper and a Tupperware container, I made my move.  Now Kari might say that it took a long time for me to work up the courage and that there was a bit of hesitation on my part, but don’t believe her since I am the one telling the story. I made an attempt to trap the giant beast against the wall in the Tupperware container, I then planned to slide the construction paper along the wall and collect the spider in the container.  The spider must have read my mind because as soon as I slammed the container against the wall the spider side stepped and just stared at me.  It then dropped down off the wall onto the night table onto my shirt.  With great bravery I came up with a new plan……. This plan was to get a giant plastic box, the ones we packed in, push the shirt with the spider into the tub and run it outside.  Again, the spider must have read my mind because it leisurely climbed back onto the wall.  Back to square one….  So we did the whole Tupperware plan over again, you guessed it, same result.  This time the enormous spider jumped down onto the floor and began to scurry away.  Now at this point Kari is huddle under the mosquito net, which provided a false sense of security, she was yelling to get it or she would never be able to go back to sleep.  With all our combined bravery, which would have filled up a thimble, Kari moved the night table and found the beast crouched down.  I actually thought it was a different one that was dead; however the spider was just playing possum.  At this point I had enough; I went and got the all powerful Doom.  Doom is the Ugandan version of Raid, just a lot less powerful and smells a lot worse.  I sprayed the spider down with a fog that would have grounded the most seasoned airline pilot.   After the fog cleared literally, the beast had the audacity to move again and run behind the cabinet.  I then proceeded to let loose another fog that would have made an NBA arena proud.  At this point the spider was shriveled up and dying, for good measure I gave it another blast.  After this great adventure, I tucked the mosquito net into the mattress and crawled back in bed.  Kari reached over with her hand to say good night and grabbed my hand, at which point I freaked out and smashed her hand thinking somehow the giant spider had survived the assault of Doom and had crawled in bed to ambush me.  Once I was assured it was just Kari’s hand, I settled in to go back to sleep.  I only lay awake for an hour or so thinking everything that moved or touched me was the revenge of the spider.   I can deal with broken bones and bleeding wound, but a giant spider is not my forte.

Giant spiders were not part of the deal when we moved to Africa.  I can handle the poverty conditions we encounter and the sickness and injuries people come to the clinic with, but come on man spiders?

Karson’s Kreepy Korner will be posted today if we can get the pictures to upload.  The enormous spider would have been a great addition, but it met its demise when it met with the Spider whisperer or spider screamer depending on who it telling the story.