Dear Ice Cubes and Hot Showers,
I miss you.
Uganda, I’ve been in this country almost 3 months now and one thing I can say is that the time I’ve spent here has went so fast. Another thing I can say is that I have learned so much already from its people and the lifestyle that is demanded of you once you cross the border leaving luxuries of the States behind.
First, the people. I’ve learned that anywhere you go there is going to be nice people and there is going to be less nice people. Uganda certainly is no exception to this but seems to always repeat its case to be. Some of the people here are so willing to go out of their way for you it reaffirms your hope for the world. From small acts, such as a man telling the taxi conductor to lower his price for me and not charge me the “mazungu” (white person) price, to larger acts such as an older lady walking my group and I thirty minutes out of her way to help us get to where we were going. One of the most notable is the everyday acts of the nuns I live with, they repainted the outside of the house I moved into then at work when they saw me always sitting down and writing on my lap they cleaned out an old room and made me an office. The best part of this is that they were way more joyful in doing this for me then what I possibly could have been in receiving it. It’s the purest form of evidence that true joy comes from the serving of others. It has been one of my greatest lessons thus far and is not from my own acts, but by observing the acts of others. And another thing I have learned. Ugandans are always full of surprises, but I’ll save those stories for a later blog post. I have to try to keep people coming back somehow.
As for the simple life. I’ve always loved trying to live simple (always failed as well). In America it is both easy and impossible to live simple. It is easy because you can give up one luxury and convince yourself you have simplified your life. But it is hard because with the great infrastructure America has and all the vast amount of resources one has access to in America it is almost impossible to truly live simple, although I believe there is a show about people succeeding on Discovery Channel. But aside from moving into the wilderness and making hats for yourself out of the beaver pelts you recently trapped, America is a pretty complex place. Not that there is anything wrong with it. I even miss it.
But, I am learning the hard way the life wasn’t always as easy as it is currently is in the US. Let me tell you, motivation for doing the dishes goes way down when you first have to go and fetch water first and do them in a basin on the floor. And all my pretty electronics really don’t like how often the power is not available (thank goodness for solar panels and power banks). And don’t get me started on what I would sacrifice for ice cubes and a hot shower… But in the states I spent so little time doing the necessities of life, i.e. cooking, doing laundry, bathing, getting drinking water and making it safe to drink. All of these activities take much more time here. At first it is nice, almost relaxing. Makes you really feel proud and like a true simpleton. A week later you magically become okay with eating off dirty dishes in cloths that need to be washed while smelling like an old shoe (just kidding on that last part!)… But aside from learning how much I loved all the little luxuries in America that I always took for granted, I’ve learned that the people here, and many people elsewhere have it way tougher than I do. While my electricity isn’t always there, I still have access to it and many things that use it. I can’t always get the food I want in my village, but I have money to buy that food, or have access to multivitamins when it is too big of a problem. And that I really dislike washing my cloths by hand, but I have good cloths to wash when others don’t. All in all, by global standards I still have it pretty easy. But prayers are still welcome!
And as for my work here, well the first three months is a lot of observation and contact making. There are several schools in the area that I hope to teach at and unfortunately plenty of patients at the health center that will be forced to listen to me ramble on about nutrition and clean water practices. But as I was stating earlier, I’ve learned that no matter how much I’m able to educate them on foods they need to eat or water they need to boil, they first need the resources for those things. This is going to be the toughest battle. Getting people access to the things they need. Even trying to teach people to grow their own food, they first have to have time to make a garden. And a lot of them already spend copious amounts of time in the fields.
An example of this can be seen in what happened recently when I was teaching nutrition at a health center III. There was a lady there with her baby and was having trouble providing enough breast milk for the baby. She was wanting to supplement it with cow’s milk and was asking if that was okay. The baby was only 5 months old and we try to get them to exclusively breast feed for the first 6 months. After explaining how making sure she eats enough and eating the right things she should be able to produce enough milk for the baby she quickly explained (this all happening through a translator) that she actually had twins and they were born premature and that getting decent food wasn’t always easy, and that the first of the twins only made it 3 weeks. You really become speechless when that happens. Death here is common, to the point of where the people are numb to it.
Forming solutions isn’t easy. And not everything will magically heal. But we have to try.
I’ll try to end on a more upbeat note, I now kinda have internet and I have missed it. The best part is I can now listen to the Royals games. They even were nice enough to delay last nights game so I could wake up and listen to the end of it (staying up till 3am is hard to do). I think one of my favorite things to do is to listen to Kansas City radio stations. It’s weird how that will take me right back home. I used to hate hearing commercials but now when I hear commercials and it is advertising something “Kansas City”, it’s so great. And 610 sports radio helps me stay in touch with all that is going on at home. Sports radio is where most people get their news right? (better than Facebook I guess)
Well, until next time friends…
“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
― Winston S. Churchill
The views expressed in this blog in no way reflect the views of the U.S. government, the Peace Corps, or the Government of Uganda. All opinions are of my own.