Another week down, more adventures under my belt, Volunteer Life, Uganda

Uganda - The Volunteer Life - By Karen Graaff:

Another week down, more adventures under my belt, Volunteer Life, Uganda

"Go slow - fast finish construction at work"

(Actual sign seen at construction site next to the road – hope they were instructing the drivers to go slow, rather than the construction workers!)

Another week down, more adventures under my belt: I celebrated Cinco de Maya with our new Peace Corps volunteer, purely for the joy of having Mexican food and beer!; taught a class on family planning to a room full of mothers (better late than never, right?); had to put mosquito nets over my windows to stop a pair of birds from flying into my room and nesting in my cupboard (who loves duct-tape? I do!); took my boys swimming again (whole way across the width of the pool in something almost entirely resembling crawl!); and went partying in a shwanky club in Kampala until some godawful hour of the morning, with a late-night (and very cold!) boda trip home thrown in.

The big adjustment since I got back from Mbarara is that I have the volunteer room to myself for the first time in 2 months. For a while, there were 4 of us sharing the room, so it’s quite a different experience having all of it to myself! It’s both pretty cool having space and some quiet, but also pretty lonely!

My aussie roomie Tara moved to a new project in Kampala, so have been missing the company big-time! L But our new Peace Corps volunteer – Jeanette – arrived. She gets triple points for really enjoying cooking (and sharing the spoils of said cooking), and of having an actual gas-stove. We still haven’t got more gas for ours, so un-cooked food is still a very real possibility…But, those fine attributes notwithstanding, she is actually an awesome chick, and it’s been cool having her around to hang out with! Makes it slightly less quiet around here! She’s also started running with me, which has been good, since my NZ running mate moved out while I was in Mbarara – they’re falling thick and fast here! What has been quite cool is that I’ve ended up learning a lot more Luganda in the past few days now that Jeanette’s here – she’s been in the country a year already, so has learnt quite a lot – she then speaks in Luganda to the locals, so I kinda need to up my game to be able to follow what’s going on! I’m learning all sorts of useful phrases, like “you have bad manners”, ”I like cheese”, and “you are lazy” (oli munafu – I like that one best!)

The family planning class at the health centre was quite an experience too. Again, what cracked me up was a room of grown women and men being unable to even look at me while I’m demonstrating how to put condoms onto our infamous Mr Mingo-Mingo (the fake penis we use for condom demonstrations). You’d think that, since they’re all mothers, they’ve surely come into contact with something resembling it before! But seriously, most of them (including the aged clinic officer who’s worked at the clinic for over 20yrs!) got all embarrassed! The guy who does translation for me – a trained HIV counselor – also got so embarrassed, he couldn’t even say some of the words. Hmm, wonder why there could be some problems with HIV spreading in Uganda.

The fitness coaching has also been really fun, with the boys at the field actually voluntarily asking to do fitness on a day when their coach didn’t arrive (I was at the field, expecting to just bugger off home without doing anything, when one of the boys came over and asked me if we could run!) Needless to say, I don’t need much encouragement to submit others to physical exertion, so I put them through their paces. They get quite a kick out of it if I join them in the running. I got them doing some sprints across the field, and they were all dragging ass big time, so I told them I was going to chase them, and if I caught them, there would be problems. The boys all kinda scoffed at the thought of the mzungu girl running after them. That day, I also hadn’t even got as far as putting on shorts or running shoes – I was in a skirt and flip-flops. But I gained some street cred by beating most of them home, barefoot (my days in Boland-barefoot-athletics clearly paying off!) I think passersby also got quite a giggle out of seeing the crazy mzungu girl running across the field chasing after a group of schoolboys shouting “I’m catching you!! Run faster!” Karen mulalu (Karen is crazy – another useful phrase!) After that, they even asked me to come back on Wednesdays (one of the days I don’t go to the field). So it’s been kinda validating J

Saturday was good fun – went back to the pool with Joel and Simon, the two guys I’m teaching to swim. I think I get more of a kick out of the whole thing than they do – was super excited to see them both getting across the pool in pretty passable crawl (though the whole breathing aspect is still flummoxing them both…baby steps!)

We then went partying Saturday night at one of the shwanky clubs in Kampala – Ange Noir – and it’s even more shwanky upstairs, Ange Mystique (if it’s French, it must be smart, right?) Me and Joel got a boda into town from the village. Shady as most bodas and boda-drivers are, I really love boda rides, cuz it gives you time to really look around at the places you drive past, unlike in taxis when most of the time you can’t even see out the windows. It is also just kinda fun driving round on the back of a motorbike! That said, at 11pm at night, it is also damn cold – we drive through the swamp, which is a good 3 degrees colder than the rest of the trip!

We met up with some mates there – really fun club, and I always enjoy watching other people dancing. There was one chick standing next to me at one stage who just spent the whole time watching herself dancing in the mirror. You also get the usual slimy guys just wandering up and attempting to fondle you on the dance-floor. So nice. I used Joel as my body-guard! So got my white-girl groove on for a while (at the very least, there was no mass hysteria at the white-ness of my dancing, so it can’t have been TOO bad) – but then my old-lady legs kicked in, and we called it a night. Again, cool (and COLD) to get a boda ride home – had to keep waking Joel up, cuz he was falling asleep behind me! I was a bit worried he was gonna fall off and I’d have to try to find a functional health clinic at 4am (not easy at the best of times….)

This week, the usual bits and bobs of teaching and coaching. Heading out to Jinja on Saturday for the half-marathon on Sunday morning; then meeting up with my folks (yay!) for a week of traveling. Also attempting to convince Tara and Jeanette to do some rafting with me on the Nile, which should be awesome! (even though my legs may not be up to it the day after a half-marathon…then again, I’ll just be sitting in a boat all day, right…?)

Lots of love to everyone, and thanks to those who’ve sent me updates!

Written and contributed by Karen Graaff via Global Volunteer Network
www.volunteer.org.nz