Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shanti Uganda, Boda-Bodas, Matoke - Day 2

Breakfast. Salt loaf is bread, salted chips, papaya, bananas and tea.
Too much has happened today. I'm not sure I can write it all. I had a hard time sleeping- I crashed for a few hours and then bolted awake in the middle of the night with crushing darkness all around me. I started to feel that "wishing I was home" sensation and started feeling panicky, like in the Redwoods. I realized that letting myself go down that line of thinking was surely going to put me into an unmanageable panic attack, and hell... why indulge it?? So I breathed and listened to the sounds of Africa.

Africa! There are bats outside that chirp like birds - not the sort of weak pinging of the bats where I live, but several kinds of bats that all sound different, making the night time sound as vibrant as the day.

Our courtyard. The doors are rooms.
 I got back to sleep for a few more hours and got up and over a fine breakfast of salt-loaf (bread), baby food (peanut butter), fresh pineapple and watermelon, worked with Jane and Melinda to get our handouts organized and try to polish off the plan for the day.

It's interesting trying with two people I don't know well- we each have our own styles, our own priorities, and different things to offer, and to top it off, a difference in our approaches. I think today was a good breakdown of testing the water and really getting to see where each of us fit.  Back to the day...

Cooking stove.

Sadie (Project Coordinator for Shanti) came by and alerted us that we'd be riding boda-boda to Shanti. Boda boda is a motorcycle and there are TONS of them. Everywhere. Tons! I was nervous but you know, it can't be scarier than it was to walk away from Randy and getting on that plane to Africa, I figure. We went outside when Sadie said the drivers had arrived and while we chatted one of the men said, "The big one, you ride with me." Well, ladies and gents, he was talking to me. I'm 'the big one'. I checked in with myself and thought, "Am I offended?" I wasn't, not at all. We all had a really good laugh and then we had a sweet ride over to Shanti. Turns out that a chubby white girl is what's on the menu in Uganda, after mentioning it to a few people- it's desirable because we're seen as prosperous. I still laugh when I think about that! Who knew I had to go all the way to Africa to have my womanly charms appreciated by the larger public? ;)

The ride from the airport to the guest house was in the dark so I couldn't see a whole lot, but from the guest house to Shanti, we got a little taste of what is around us. The ground is a rusty red color, and it's a hard pack of dirt. There are deep ridges and pot holes and the boda boda drivers navigate it pretty smoothly. The road is traveled by people walking- and walking- and walking. There are people everywhere, walking a slow, sure pace. As we drive by, every person stops and turns and watches us go past, many smile, and some wave and yell out, "hellooooo!!!" with big smiles.
Boda-bodas and drivers to take us to Shanti Uganda.

We've all seen photos of children walking together, little girls holding babies as they walked with dusty, bare feet without adults in sight. Well, this is accurate, except there are adults everywhere. I mean, everywhere! I was stunned by how many people are out at night, sitting around and eating and talking. I haven't seen more than a couple of people smoking, which is interesting.

Flanking the hard, deep roads is a lush, green cascade of plants and trees. Banana, mango, avocado, coffee, papaya, guava - these all grow wild all around. There are many types of banana and the locals can tell you which ones are edible, and which ones must be  cooked and mashed before you can eat them.

We made it! Shanti Uganda! Front gates.
Periodically and with no apparent rhythm, there are houses. Some houses are brick (the local red bricks that are handmade by the villagers here), they are all small. The yards often have chickens, goats, perhaps a cow, and sweet potato or some other kind of crop growing. They don't eat a lot of meat here, it's probably too expensive, so the meals are all vegetarian just because that's what they have.

If it's not a standalone structure, it looks like a long building with doors. It looks like there is a roll up door, like a garage door, but narrower, next to the door to the entrance, and there may be 3 or 4 entrances to a stretch of the building. A long cement slab makes up the 'porch' and you'll see women with bowls, wearing traditional clothing, or long skirts with shirts, or very fancy dresses with tall shoulders - cooking and tending the children, or sitting down and staring as we drive by. I've never seen anything like the structures here, how people run businesses and live in the building that are around.

They capture rainwater and store it here.
There are also the giant, empty buildings, nothing left but the bricks that still stand- all glass, all wood, all contents stripped away. I'd like to ask questions and know more but in Uganda,the people here do not want to revisit the past. It isn't that it's too painful to do (or maybe it is), but a sort of national 'Why would we talk about it, when it is over?" perspective. There isn't a huge drive to process the past, the Idi Amin time and all that came of it. So the empty buildings stand empty and quiet, and I just wonder what led them to be that way.

I have had to get over any bug issues I've had pretty quickly and I feel like I'm doing a good job on that front. I came here with a goal of not getting bitten by any mosquitos- and so far I haven't but I'm less concerned. I'm taking good precautions, I wear bug spray, and I spray my mosquito net with citronella and tea tree oil before I go to bed. I can only stand to be sprayed with the chemical bug spray once so I just keep freshening up with the spray I made instead.

Placenta pit.
My feet are still quite swollen from the flight and while right this minute, at 1:30am, I can actually see the veins and bones in my feet again, my ankles are still so swollen they pit deeply when I indent them with my finger. I'm sleeping with my feet raised up on the folded blanket (I love that I'm offered a blanket when it's a million degrees and practically dewy with humidity in here at night!) and I think it's helping.

Water - I'm drinking a lot of water. Lots of bottled water, and I still don't think it's enough. I'm a little constipated- we're not eating fresh greens and the food is heavy and dense. We are getting fresh fruit but there just isn't a lot of it, and matoke is made from mashed plantains or bananas, which is quite binding as well. Whatever anxieties I have in the middle of the night, waking up in a dark room alone, I'm sure glad I can sit on the toilet without worrying about someone needing to use it or all the little things we worry about when we need to poop with people around!

Proof I actually made it. ;)
One of the people that volunteers at Shanti is named Sarah, a beautiful dark haired fairy with this sword carrying ferocity about her. She came and did yoga with us in the morning which I had a few concerns about but it was a sweet session that actually allowed me to let go. In the morning I was feeling very resistant to the flow of things, and wishing more than anything that I was home, and realizing that it will be many days before that's going to feel close at hand. I was hanging on and thus, I was between the worlds. I couldn't be home, but I wasn't letting myself be in Africa either- I wasn't grounded.

The meditations we did allowed me to see this and I cut a cord that bound me to home. I need to let go deeply because otherwise I am suffering, and why would I allow myself to suffer? I can miss my family without pining for them, and I can learn to feel safe and comfortable in this new environment without feeling that the only safety is at home. This is a great experience and it makes me laugh, these realizations! We are such complicated, interesting beings!

I started this post at about 8pm and not long after, I had to stop and go to sleep. It's 1:30am now and I woke up to pee, and just because I needed to wake up- and alas, I'm tired again. I still have so much to say and document but it's time for sleep. More tomorrow.

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