The relationship between garlic and HIV 8/11/09

Caitie Goddard in Uganda:

The relationship between garlic and HIV 8/11/09

Memorable. That word best describes my day today. I woke up and had my routine cup of coffee where I boil water and then put in what I can only describe as “flakes” of coffee that I believe are supposed to be filtered into my cup. After pouring the water in and letting it sit for about 2 minutes, it is drinkable. The flakes sink to the bottom and form a murky brown pool that clumps together in the bottom of my cup enabling me to drink what I pretend is coffee. After this delicious drink I helped Sam, an employee at Kaccad write out 30 signs on white poster paper in Luganda, the native language in this part of Uganda. The signs indicate we are having another free testing for HIV this Thursday and the time and location for the event.

Today was also the last day for Melissa, a volunteer who had been here for a month. We decided to "go into town" and get an amazing breakfast rather than our standard 2 hard boiled eggs and toast. We walked on the dirt path towards the main road where there is a stand selling an incredible concoction called a Rolex. A rolex is a chapatti with an omelet rolled up inside or the chapatti is cooked between a layer of eggs, depending on the stand. It usually includes diced cabbage, tomato and onion as well and costs 700 USH (less than a dollar.) The taste is amazing! It was my first one and I will definitely be back for more!

Following breakfast, I went out to deliver the signs we made around Bulenga, the village I live in and also Kuwuuzi, where the testing will be. This is where my day became memorable. I am pretty used to the regular call of “Mzungu” (pronounced ma-zoon-goo and meaning foreigner or more specifically, white person) and the children following me down the street yelling “SEE YOU MZUNGU.” I think they believe it means hello. There are also the kids who manage to warble out “MIJOONGOOO.” This from the babies who probably can’t even formulate 10 words in Luganda yet. This really happens…every day. Today was no different and because it gets old really quickly and kind of annoying to have kids saying “Hello white person” everywhere you go, I usually only acknowledge the little ones or the kids who ask “how are you?” instead of screaming after me. The difference today was the intensity of the Mzungu greeting. Walking around with Nicholas, another employee at Kaccad, I heard a group of 10 kids (you always here the “Mzungu” cry before you spot ‘em.) Suddenly, I have 10 kids following us chanting “A Ma-zoon-goo, A Ma-zoon-goo” over and over. It probably took us 5 minutes to get the sign up and walk away before they stopped. It was…outrageous. I actually had Nicholas tell them in Luganda that my name was not Mzungu but Caitie to which the adults nearby laughed and the kids accepted by responding cheerfully with “See you Mzungu!” Fine. I accept it. Mzungu will likely be my name for another month and a half.

This was not my only memorable event of the day. I also had a man aggressively pointing at me and speaking in rapid Luganda which is very rare (the word rapid does not seem to exist in Luganda, it is a very slow and smooth language). Nicholas translated and told me he was saying to him how no white person like me (thus the finger pointing and the word Mzungu sprinkled through the conversation) dies of HIV and no one in the US suffers from AIDS. Of course, I told him it wasn’t true but his gaze was certainly not one of confidence.

Photos: Some of the "Mzungu" repeat offenders greeting me with the official "See you Mzungu!"

Third, we were stopped by a group of 4 guys probably in their 20’s who proceeded to have a long conversation with Nicholas. Upon leaving he remarked, “young men, they have so many questions.” Apparently they wanted to know if the rumor was true about getting tested. You are probably as curious as I was; Uh, what rumor? Oooooh that one. The one where if you have garlic before the test, you will always show up negative. That surprised me a little. I have seen a lot in a week and had so many new experiences but finding grown men with serious questions equating garlic to HIV testing was a little scary. I have been struggling to decide my opinion recently on international aid and its benefits and how it can be abused. I guess in a way, this helped me a little bit with my belief that aid IS important and the number one way aid can assist impoverished countries is by providing money for education. This idea continues to be reinforced by what I have seen and experienced.

The rest of my day involved reading more of a really great and informative book on the kidnapped Aboke girls during the late 90’s. Joseph Kony, head of the LRA and Museveni, the current and at that time president of Uganda were fighting for control of both Uganda and areas in Sudan. Joseph Kony's army, commonly referred to as the "children's army" kidnapped, indoctrined and used thousands of children to fight the Ugandan military. In order to "toughen" his soldiers as young as 5 or 6 years old, many were forced to kill members of their own family or friends in order to save their own lives. Anyone who tried to escape was killed by other child soldiers to “strengthen their emotional state”. Atrocities like this occurred frequently and with brutality all throughout the north of Uganda and Sudan.

The rest of my night will involve me researching and completing my presentation on antenatal and postnatal care for the pregnant women and young mothers at the Bbiri clinic tomorrow. If only the power would go back on so I could read without flickering candles…

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