Uganda, The Volunteer Life, Week 2

Uganda - The Volunteer Life - By Karen Graaff:

Uganda, The Volunteer Life, Week 2

Hi all again

So it’s the end of week two – more crazy times in the Bulenga hood. Again, here’s the shortened version, for those of you in a hurry!

This week, I started teaching lifeskills in a couple of local schools, saw an ice-cream bodaboda (like an ice-cream truck, complete with cheesy music playing!), spotted some unknown mzungus which shocked me about as much as the locals, got involved in chicken turf wars, signed up for a triathlon, ate roasted pork (SO good!), had drinks with a government spy, got to watch the Stormers win (booyah!) and had a ripper of a party in an Irish pub in Kampala.

For those of you with more time (and hopefully it’ll be shorter than the last installment!), here goes…

So yup, I started teaching this week, in a couple of schools nearby. We do lifeskills classes, so anything from peer pressure to HIV transmission, avoiding early pregnancy and gender roles in the community. I was pretty nervous going into it – as many of you know, I go bright red speaking in front of even small groups of people, and I’d pretty much promised myself I’d always keep far away from teaching. Locals here find it pretty funny that mzungus go red in the sun, and it’s even more difficult to explain why we blush, so I was just imagining myself in front of a class full of teenagers, trying to reassure them that I wasn’t dying, just a little embarrassed! But, surprisingly, it all went pretty well. A lot less intimidating than I expected! I’ve already caught myself pulling out a bunch of cheesy teacher tricks, as well as crapping on the kids who’re talking. I now feel infinite amounts of respect for all my teachers ever!

It’s a pretty mixed bag of classes – ranging in age from 10 to about 18 (one of the schools is a vocational college, and a lot of the students are already in their 20s or 30s, but my class there got cancelled this week, so we’ll see what happens next time I try go). Some of the classes are super involved, asking lots of questions, responding, discussing etc; others are just full of teenagers with too much attitude! There’s also a huge range in class size – some of the classes are about 50 kids, others only 7. So it’s pretty varied. I get some great questions though. One kid asked if I was Sudanese or European (ie. Because I’m white); another girl asked if it’s true that people burn dead bodies in other countries (as in cremation – no one gets cremated here); and a bunch of boys asked for my phone number so that they could ask for money or tickets to SA (they apparently want to go there to find girlfriends…) Again, what’s striking is that the kids know all the facts about the different lifeskills off by heart, and can recite their ABC (Abstain, Be Faithful, Condomise) with their eyes closed, but the actual understanding and internalizing of it is pretty lacking. I start a class by asking if there’s a cure for HIV, and they all dutifully chant “No”. But then I’ll get about 100 questions about whether different things will cure it. One kid asked if you could just get a full blood transfusion, and have all your infected blood replaced with uninfected blood. I also get a lot of boys asking if they can just use plastic bags or balloons if they don’t have condoms available! A bit scary…

Otherwise, I’m slowly finding my feet a bit here. We’ve been doing a lot of running, which is helping me get my bearings in the village a bit better, and me and my running mate signed up for a triathlon next weekend in Entebbe. Our cyclist pulled out though, so we had to track down someone new, and ended up drafting in some guy’s gardener who apparently cycles a lot. Good times! We went into Kampala for supper on Thursday night (the roast pork evening), and then stopped off in a pub in the village on the way home. There was a dude there who kept going on about how he works for the Ugandan government, and we were later told he’s actually a government spy. Apparently they’re sent into pubs to listen to people talking, and to see if anyone’s planning any revolutionary activity against the government. We thought that was kinda cool! ;)

I spent Saturday in Kampala, meeting up with some mates, which was good fun. We did have to do a load of tramping around, which is pretty exhausting in all the heat and bustle (and a brief downpour and thunderstorm), but otherwise I may even be getting some form of bearings in the city as well (which is pretty freaking amazing!) Though it’s a pretty shaky set of bearings, I’ll have to admit!

I also got to watch the Stormers caning the Lions in some Super 14 rugby – met up with some peeps in an Irish pub that was showing all the rugby – bit of a weird experience, because the place was filled with South Africans who live in Uganda, so it was a bit like sitting in Forries watching a game back home! But good times were had by all, and I scored a new t-shirt off the DJ! And, just to add to the success of the weekend, I even managed to find my way back to Bulenga all by myself this morning (if you’ve never seen the Kampala taxi parks, you won’t understand why that’s an achievement, but trust me, it is!) I also got to sit and watch the most amazing thunderstorm last night – the power went out in the pub, and we were sitting outside under an awning watching the lightning – so awesome J

One of our volunteers, Mia, left today, so our room is feeling a bit empty with only two of us. But there’s a new volunteer coming in next weekend, and another arriving on 1 April, so things should fill up again soon!

OK, so that’s enough from my end for now.

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