Thursday, 3 May 2012

Becoming More Settled

How are you all doing this morning? I guess that it is about 4 AM for you while I am writing this... 

I am currently at the SFM headquarters using the USB internet modem so nicely provided by Carol. The guest house also has wi-fi so internet access is great for the next couple of days until I head out to Tata and Dwaniro on Saturday morning and things are thrown up in the air again.

I was just picked up from Emmaus by Fred and dropped off at SFM. The original plan was to let me out at the end of the road and I would walk (more like hike) up to the SFM office. This plan had one major flaw: I couldn't remember the exact route to take. Well, it started to rain and Fred informed me he would drop me off at the end of the pathway so I wouldn't get wet (isn't that nice of him?). So I moseyed along the dirt path to the gate. Lining the right side of the path was a garden with plants that smelled like basil. I rang the doorbell at the CRWRC gate and here I am. 

Yesterday, I spent the day here at SFM getting acquainted with the staff and chatting with Carol. We swapped stories comparing the education systems of Uganda and Canada. I learned that, although it is required for all teachers here to have completed a form of teacher's college, Tata may not have qualified teachers. This is due to its remote location; few teachers want to teach that far from "civilization". I was also informed that teachers are one of the three most respected professions. This is quite a difference from our situation in North America, I think. The school day runs from 7:30 to 4:30; Carol was shocked to hear how short our school days are in comparison. "What do you teach in such a short time," Carol asked. It will be a good experience to see what it taught in Ugandan schools.

Last night I was dropped off at the guest house about 4 PM where I then headed out to the common meeting area in hopes of finding someone to talk to. A young man joined me soon after and we struck up a conversation. His name is Andrew and is from London, England. He's here for a month volunteering with an NGO. I am learning that when one sees a fellow white person, it is automatically like you are the best of friends. Even if you have nothing in common, you will find something to talk about. It is the same with Andrew. Nice chap, likes English football and enjoys travelling. I learned some things about English football and he was shocked to learn that the Toronto Maple Leafs have the largest fan base and haven't won in years. 

In Africa nighttime does not mean quiet time. There are people outside at all hours. I went to bed around 9:30 absolutely exhausted, fell asleep immediately, and woke up wide awake at 2:40. Whether it was from the change in time zones or from the apparent party happening just outside my window I don't know, but sleep became impossible. It seems that once you let the mind start working and thinking, it will not shut off. After a couple of hours I must have dozed of because I nearly had a heart attack when my alarm blared at 8. Remember how I said I am technologically challenged? Well, I had not yet taken the time to figure out how to lower the volume. So, when the alarm goes off, it has a volume similar to that of an air raid siren. Need less to say, this morning I made figuring out the volume on the phone a top priority and I am pleased to announce that my alarm clock is now set to vibrate. 

Uganda seems to have an unspoken way of operating that works extremely well for natives, but leaves the newcomer feeling off balance and confused. For example, last night I learned that in order to get supper at the guest house, you have to ask for it that morning at breakfast. So, faced with the dilemma of sleeping on an empty stomach,  I asked around to see if there was a way to get supper. And yes, I did not have to wander around Kampala looking for a place to eat; the guest house had enough! The meal was delicious however, I am rapidly learning that portion sizes, as I have experienced so far, are huge! Even though I enjoyed every bite, there was no way I could finish my plate. My Dutch heritage was grieved at this occurrence. 

Dinner was a huge heap of rice, a couple of boiled potatoes, and a kind of fried pita. A bowl of sauce caused some confusion as it could have passed for soup, but the question of its purpose was quickly cleared up. To be shared with your dining partner was a bowl of boiled carrots and beans as well as a bowl containing four chunks of beef. To top it all off, each guest received a plate of pineapple for desert. This pineapple was the best I've ever tasted! Absolutely fantastic.  Let me clear the air here. I am well aware that I am being spoiled at this guest house, that the accommodations are far above par and that, in general, things are far to comfortable to expect them to last. But, I plan to take each days as it comes.

Now I have to explain something that I find fascinating. One would think that because Kampala is a capital city the roads would be in great order, right? Well that is true for the few main roads in existence however, once you turn off onto a side road, the scenery transforms. The road becomes a hard-packed dirt path with a beautiful reddish tinge to it. Driving on these roads is a treacherous business and I am so thankful to be a mere passenger in the vehicle. Along both sides run two foot deep ditches that carry rain water away. Just beside these ditches flow people on foot; one, two, three and sometimes four people on motorcycles; children running about; and street vendors. You drive in the middle, weaving in and out, dodging this person and that motorcycle, changing lanes constantly and all the while avoiding a head on collision with on-coming traffic. A feature of these road that you quickly observe are the speed hills. Not speed bumps. Speed hills. Often, a speed hill will blend into a large pothole creating an even greater mound for the vehicle to climb over all the while trying to not bottom out. 

Yesterday, Fred took a short cut up to the top of Tank Hill when I was dropped off at Emmaus. This short cut consists of a single lane of red dirt climbing continuously upward at a ridiculous grade. It is so steep and riddled with ditches and gullies that it is a workout to stay upright in your seat as you are driven. Hitting your head on the roof is a very real reality- one I have narrowly avoided.

It is beautiful weather here today. Overcast and cool. The task for today is to shop for anything that I will need while in Tata as it may not be available there.

Thank you for your prayers and may you all be richly blessed today!

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