Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dancing in the dark (9/30)

Things to remember: 

- dancing in the dark
- matoke
-Luwero market
talking to my family
Power/water outages
Yvonne Christine

Best chapatis in the whole entire universe.
Yesterday we started the day with breakfast of chapati and pineapple. So far I've had pineapple with every meal and I can't say that I'm sad about that. Luwero's pineapple is the softest, juiciest, ripest pineapple I've ever had and I will be sorely, sorely sad to leave it. Pineapple in the states is very firm, rather tart at times, and the center stalk is often quite woody or hard, and difficult to eat. Here, with a sharp knife, Joann (our care taker) holds the golden yellow pineapple by the leaves and shaves off the peel, and then cuts the pineapple into chunks (still holding the leaves!), no cutting around the center stalk, no cutting board needed. Can you imagine??

One thing that's funny (well, one of many) - coffee grows *everywhere* here. But there is no one here who can roast it or process it, so the Ugandans sell it around the world as their major export. Consequently, there is no ground coffee to be had, and we are all drinking instant coffee. Not too proud to say that Nescafe is my friend. I'm not drinking nearly the amount of coffee here that I would at home, and not becuase it tastes bad (because honestly, it's fine), but just because I have one cup and I'm set. It's nice to have that small comfort of home. I don't even miss triple-grande-white-chocolate-mochas yet.

It's so interesting to me how much I am not missing- television, internet access, electricity, cool weather - not to say that i don't love all of those things, but I'm not miserable here without them. Yesterday I was in the shower and the power went out. Naked, soaking wet and in the pitch black I had to find my way to where my head lamp is hanging so that I could continue my shower- and it didn't even phase me at all. Of course i got back into the bathroom and the power came back on!  This morning I went to the bathroom and then flushed- and nothing happened. Water is off. No big deal. It'll come back on some time and I can flush it then. (I'd rather have a toilet that could only be flushed every few days than have to poop over a latrine hole!!!) Thankfully the blackouts of power and water are temporary for the most part. At the volunteer house they have been without water for 5 days. It makes life a little more challenging because you have to go to the pumping station to get water for cooking/whatever, but it's not a huge deal and is very common here.

Part of my ease in acclimation is that I don't live here, and I don't have to deal with the consequences of these things on my own. I'm sure I'd do just fine doing that, but coming from the luxury of living where I do, it would take some time to adjust and surrender to it. Here, Joann turns on our generator. Here, we do have a flushing toilet and hot water for our showers, breakfast is prepared for us, lunch and dinner is arranged- we aren't cooking dinner over a cooking fire at the hottest part of the day so that it will be ready three hours later, like the women who have hosted us in their homes have done for us. I have a mosquito net and a door that locks, and clothes that I bought brand new. Here, the dress code is amorphous, the children running around are not easily identifiable as boys or girls because the clothing is interchangeable when they are little. As they get older that is less true but the youngest children are all beautiful and unisex until you find out their names.

Yesterday we piled into two cars and Ben and Sadie drove us  on an impromptu visit to the Luwero Safari. 'Safari' is a stretch- there is a beautifully enclosed and well cared for (by one person, it seems!) area tucked well off the road, surrounded by wild growth. A statue of two zebras snuggling each other  greets you as you pull in, and there is a large gazebo, and then a few smaller buildings.

He's playing a traditional instrument.
By 'traditional' I mean, I don't know what it's called.
When we pulled in, some children and a small monkey came out from the gazebo and Muhammad came out to greet us- the owner, our tour guide. Very, very soft spoken, it was often hard to hear him but he took us on a leisurely tour (in the amazing heat- it was so hot yesterday!) of his enterprise. He showed us the traditional buildings he'd constructed, small granaries that families would use, and then some rather random historical items including a gramaphone, a blood letting knife, some kind of neat boxy guitar - it was all laid out on mats on the floor and he would just pick it up at random and tell us about it.

Then we went to the Luwero market- a very serious, intense place with many people. The producers looked very suspiciously at us and I did not feel welcome there at all, so when Sadie suggested that we leave, we hurried to do that. There was dried tilapia (covered in flies), slabs of goat and other meat hanging (covered in flies), many, many tomatoes, cabbages, ginger, potatoes- all quite beautiful but not something I would have felt comfortable purchasing, much less eating. We left and picked up the woman taking care of lunch along with the food, and headed to Shanti to eat and start our workshop.

With Viola still in labor, Melinda and Jane were busy with support so I was able to take on the bulk of the training day- which was totally awesome. We had an energetic day full of practicing laboring positions, pain coping techniques, and laughing a whole lot. I was able to demonstrate to the Ugandan midwives why different positions were helpful to the mother and baby using my cloth pelvis and knitted uterus model, which I am leaving behind for them to use for education.

Last night we had dinner at Yvonne's house. Yvonne is the leader of the beading group and the best at English (I'd say, fluent, almost) and the best beader. She hosted us in her home for supper and put out a wealth of food for us. We arrived in two cars but only a few of us stayed at first, the rest needed to go back to the guest house to freshen up before we sat down to eat. Walking into Yvonne's home, it was a very small room that was curtained off by half or so. The sitting area that we were in was probably at the very most, 12' by 15', by my terrible estimation. A sofa, a larger table and a smaller table was in the room, and in any spare space between them was stuffed a plastic outdoor chair so that we could all fit. We were knees to knees in some cases and there was no walking around. The only place to go would have been back outside. (My camera was dead, I wish I had photos!)

Jane, Kelli, and Madelyn, one of the volunteers, sat outside on the long cement porch. The children saw us inside Yvonne's house and began to gather and make silly faces, and would laugh hysterically if I waved or made faces back at them. When we went outside, the children started to multiply and there were probably 20 kids of young ages (the oldest was probably 9 or 10) all dancing to make us laugh and clap. They danced and danced and Madelyn, who is a trained dancer, went out with them and got them to copy some silly dances she made up. We laughed and marveled at each other for a good 20 minutes. People walking by would stop and watch, or stare, or smile. Everyone seemed very curious about the muzungus on Yvonne's porch!

Then the rest of the group arrived and we filed in to the small space and Yvonne set out matoke, g-nut (ground nut, like peanuts) sauce, greens (these three things have made up most of our meals here - I love the greens but I'm going to admit that I won't miss matoke and g-nut sauce!)

The children started to file in and touch us by shaking hands and then holding our hands while staring at us with huge smiles. We met Yvonne's grandchildren who were just incredibly sweet and beautiful. One of her granddaughters came to greet me and I asked her name, and she said, "Christine." I said, "My name is Kristina!" and her face lit right up and she was so excited! We had almost the same name! She attached herself to me and later she and her friend walked us back to our guest house.

We got back to our guest house and the first thing I did was shower- it was the hottest day we've had so far (no clue on temp) and I was literally wet with sweat, down to my underwear. I peeled everything off and stood in the nice cold shower and hoping that someone else was using up the hot water that I didn't need. The lights went out, and then came back on, I finished my shower and visited in the common area for a while.

The nights are interesting here. We rush back to our rooms and we take time to breathe for a few minutes before we continually find ways to get back together. We play games or sit around the table and drink water and laugh and review the day, or we share the one phone we have between us. Then it's time to go back to our rooms and I continue to be grateful that I spoke up when we arrived and asked for a private room. I'm getting so much out of being able to reflect and write, confront my anxieties about being so far away from my family, and to do what I need to do to sleep, or get up early (lately it's 5:30am. Ugh!) and not worry that I'm bothering someone else.

This group is really fantastic and given that we largely didn't know each other before we came here, it's a really great thing. Ildiko is from Toronto and has traveled internationally. She is soaking up every bit from our training which is very exciting and fun to see. Bobbi is a yoga instructor/childbirth educator from Newfoundland and has an amazingly calm, gentle presence and a quick sense of humor. Melinda is the introvert- the other person with her own room and who is enjoying the trip very much and yet, missing the comforts of home a lot. Jane has been here before a year ago and this is home to her, and she is a very fast thinker, fast talker, and fast to believe that ideas that we generate will happen. Kelli is a doula from Seattle and she reminds me of a friend back home that I care about a lot. She's very funny and warm and saucy - I love saucy!

I got to talk to my whole family last night, the first time since I left. It's interesting to not talk to my family daily- we're so busy that it would be hard to make it happen even if I had the ability to do so. Down here, you buy an unlocked phone for $30 or so, and then you buy cards with minutes. Jane bought a large number of minutes for us all to share so we're doing our best to talk briefly but as often as needed. My family knew I wouldn't be able to call much and I'm trying to call when I can - there just hasn't been a lot of time. I have texted my husband a few times, and at $0.50 per text (send/receive), it will add up quickly so I'm trying not to do that too much.

It was sweet to talk to my kids and I wish that I had some kind of awesome gift for them. Interestingly I think the neatest thing I could bring home for Niall would be some of the very quartzy rocks. He could take them to school and show them off if he wanted and rocks are very much his thing. I bought a bracelet for Eidie that I keep wearing- so I'm thinking I need to find her something else. I have no clue what to get my husband and I don't think an embroidered, brightly colored African shirt would be his style. Just a hunch. And for Dryden - he's so much his own guy, I also do not know what I could possibly get him. There aren't touristy shops in Kasana, not truly, so you won't find posters of Kasana, or spoons or shot glasses or postcards. I could bring back some African soda for everyone which I probably will do (glad I remembered to do that!) and hope that it doesn't explode in my bags on the way.  I miss my family, and when I talked to them they sounded so glad to hear from me, and my husband sounds so proud - I'll take it!

Bless you, Ildiko!!!
This morning I woke up again at 5:30 and I took that time to separate out the laundry that I will need to hand wash tonight, to clean up my desk, to put away the things that I brought 'just in case' but have not needed - wow, I brought a lot of stuff I didn't need, and I know that's just what happens when you go somewhere new, but it's still funny to me. I think if the apocalypse happened while I was here, I'd be prepared for it!

Drying laundry. Stay away, mango flies!!
Today we're going to Florence's house to hear about traditional midwifery/birth attendants in Uganda (which are now illegal) and her 30 years of supporting Kasana families. She is very well respected here, as a health officer she would visit families and gather information about census, illness, births, deaths- etc. and so interacted with the families here intimately. Shanti is so lucky to have someone with her knowledge and community connections! She's rather soft spoken when she is speaking English so I'm hopeful that the exchange is one that feels complete to her, and is something we can take away good information and ideas, and understanding. I'm not sure yet what the rest of the day holds but I believe it includes a little internet! I hope so!  

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