Christmas and Cabbages! (lot’s of cabbages)

Hello!

So the holiday season is behind us now and spending it away from everyone I normally spend it with was weird. In addition to the coldest it has been here is in the high 60s, which I’m not complaining about but it isn’t exactly the Christmas weather I’m used to.

If anyone is curious if they celebrate all the holidays here, they do. It is a pretty religious society so Christmas is very widely celebrated. And living on a parish it was a joy to hear the local church choir practicing Christmas songs in the local language. But overall, while Christmas was certainly different, it was just as joyous. First, due to great Wi-Fi at a place in Rwanda I was able to surprise my family back home and Skype them all on Christmas morning, well, here it was Christmas afternoon. Speaking of, I went to Rwanda over the holidays and got to experience the sights of Kigali, the capital. While in Kigali I was able to walk through the genocide memorial. Going through it was beyond eye-opening. They don’t shy away from showing you just how brutal the genocide was.  It chokes you up the entire time you are there just thinking about what these people went through. It also makes you realize the evil that can be done by powers coming in and determining “winners and losers” and creating an “us verse them” society. It also begs the question of just how much colonization is glossed over in History class due to its often terrible consequences. It wasn’t exactly the romantic times Taylor Swift made it look like in her music video. Here is an article written by two people, one from Uganda and the other from Kenya on it if you are curious. Click here!

For New Years I was with good friends and had the chance to talk with an older pastor at a neighboring parish about the Rwandan genocide after mentioning I had just come from there. In short, he said he has never visited the memorial because he was so close to so many of those involved. It defiantly put a humble perspective on thinking “man, 2016 was a bad year”.

On a different more uplifting note! If anyone is curious what daily life is like here, today I hand washed a bunch of laundry. The best part of which is being out in my front yard, watching passers of the less than 10-year-old category stop and stare, trying to figure out why I’m so different looking and weird. In their defense, I am weird…. and clearly different looking. When lunch time approached I started to cook some noodles as one of the neighbor’s chickens strolled through my door that I had left open, pecking at some food debris he found. He noticed I was preparing lunch and quickly left. After which I glanced at the dishes sitting in my sink/bucket as if I was going to clean them. So far they have called my bluff. Dishes 1, Me 0.

One thing I can positively say is that every day is an adventure here, and I’ve been here almost 8 months now. I tried to provide an example below.

So I ran into the taxi driver that returned my phone to me a few weeks ago. I saw him as I was about to get into a cab full of people just about to leave, but wanting to thank him I proceeded to head to his cab, only to find out that it was empty. Sometimes (most of the time) you can end up waiting an hour or more for a taxi to fill up, and this was no exception.

So as I’m sitting in the front seat of his cab (whose name I know but I won’t attempt to spell, so let’s just call him Geoff) as the sun is piercing through the smudged up, dirt covered and cracked windshield, starting to sweat and wishing this cab would soon fill so we could leave. Geoff is out and trying to get more people to take his cab but having little luck. People often go to the cabs closer to being full first, and this cab only having one person in it, me, the odds of quickly getting more patrons was not in our favor.

20 minutes goes by …. No one yet. (I feel I should mention that I am coming home from traveling all around the country for the last week and am ready to be home)

5 more minutes go by and we get our first passenger, an older man with a walking stick, weathered khaki colored suit, and a pretty fly fedora cap. He sits in the back right seat of the car, silent as a church mouse.

15 minutes go by … Geoff’s friend gets in the driver’s seat and takes the car up the road to try to find passengers. No luck. We go back to the original spot.

10 more minutes go by and we get our second passenger, bringing the total to three now. This man is more talkative and asks me where I’m from. He is wearing a shirt that you could almost describe as Hawaiian, but in a more local looking fabric (think chickens instead of parrots). I want to say I’m from Canada and avoid the trump talk, but I tell him I am from the United States and that I have been in Uganda for the last 6 months. He asked me how I like Uganda and why I’m here over here (deep sigh of relief).

10 minutes goes by and the small talk dies off. Geoff comes into the car and drives us up the street looking for passengers. No luck. We go back to our original spot.

About 7 more minutes goes by. Geoff gets in and turns the car around as we go to the taxi stage on the other side of the road for people going in the opposite direction. The other two passengers get out and I’m left thinking we’re back at square one, but we head off… in the wrong direction. Geoff only speaks broken English and I can only mutter about 2 sentences in Runyankore, but I catch that we are taking a different route to Mitooma, the town that is about the half way point to get to my village from where we are. My first thought is “taking a different route” while in a taxi is how all movies about people who get kidnapped start. But I also know Geoff pretty well and trust him. We turn off the main road and onto this dirt road that seems to run somewhat parallel to the main road, so a good sign I guess.

We drive for about 10 minutes and stop. There is a small house on our right and a soccer pitch to our left, which is currently being occupied by all ages of kids playing soccer (football here). Geoff gets out as I notice we are parked next to a pile of cabbages. A big pile of cabbages. A really big, massive pile of cabbages. He opens the trunk as people come out of the house and start loading the car with cabbages. As this is happening, all of the kids on the soccer pitch take notice of me sitting in the front seat and immediately put a hold on the match and investigate. So as Geoff and the homeowners are loading the cab full of cabbage the car is slowly being surrounded by all these intrigued kids. Lots of them.

Feeling like a zoo animal and being tired from having already traveled most of the day I try to put on a smile and interact with all of them in the best positive way I can. The car slowly becomes stuffed with cabbages, and I mean completely stuffed. The entire trunk is full and the back seat is all but full with the exception of a space left for the owner of the cabbages, an older lady with frown wrinkles that I’m scared to talk to.

We head off full of cabbages, travel for about 5 minutes and meet up with the main road which makes me happy now knowing where I am. We pass through Mitooma town, indicating we are only about 20 minutes from my village. 10 minutes of traveling go by… POP!… the back left tire decided it didn’t like holding air anymore. The spare is in the trunk underneath what is probably enough cabbages to celebrate the next 150 St. Patrick days. I get out and help him unload all of these cabbages so we can get the spare on. As we empty the truck to reach the spare I see the tire that is about to be used… It isn’t looking good… As someone who grew up in a car repair shop and have changed my share of tires, I am not confident that we are in any better position to make it home with 4 tires capable of holding the air. This tire is completely bald and looks as if it has about 87 feet of driving life left in it.

But despite belief, the spare holds up and we make it into town. We stop at the market and unload all the cabbages, I give Geoff a handshake in saying goodbye and thanks, then walk the rest of the dirt road back to my house putting a close to the end of a long day of travel.

All of these words are of my own and do not reflect the views of the United States government, the government of Uganda, or the Peace Corps. 

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