Traditional Marriage Ceremony
Raelee is the only one of us that I don’t really think has experienced any culture shock. She goes about her merry days in freedom and in song, playing with whoever she happens to come upon. Doesn’t matter if they speak the same language, or if they are her age or 50, she is going to be their friend. She has the friends she plays with everyday, and then, those who are just passing by become friends pretty quickly. Usually she has her pal Smoky under her arm like a rag doll or bouncing him around in the air. This morning she had the baby in her room and when I went to check on them, she was trying to dress HIM in girl clothes! He wasn’t having it, even though here it is very hard to tell girls from boys when they are babies because their mothers put on whatever is available. Boys in pink glittery shirts!
Here is just a little glimpse in the day of a future queen!
We are learning so many things about the culture here, but still there is so much we don’t understand. Most seem to be very pushy, and sometimes it is tough to get them to understand No! I try to remember, this country has been through so much over the years, and I think many see the white people as their salvation. Where we want to try and figure out ways we can help them to ultimately help themselves to a better future, all that they can see is today and what we can give them today. Of course, that is not the case with all the people we have come in contact with, but a large percentage. Looking ahead of getting through today is not something they are used to doing. One boy was cutting down a young fruit tree and when asked why doesn’t he let that grow so that one day it would bear fruit, he said that would take too long, the idea of having something for your kids or your kids’ kids is not a common concept. Mostly because for many, it is just a struggle to get through this day. And because of past history of the country, there just isn’t much hope for a better future. Our friends in Kampala left Western Uganda with it’s beauty, mountains and lakes because they couldn’t make a living there, but have to live in the slums of Kampala to scrape a living. Even so, they were very gracious, and loving and happy – with hope of better days to come.
I’ve talked about the time issue! Time is not measured as we measure it. I really don’t know how it’s measured here! There is usually no hurry to get anywhere or do anything. We have learned that they have different words for the same numbers – our 11 is their 3? It is more about the event than what time it starts or ends. We were invited to a birthday party on Saturday from 4-5. I was told it never starts on time so let’s leave our house at 5-5:30, so we tell our driver 5:30. Then we fin
d out it is just going to be cake and coke so maybe we should leave at 5, but our driver wasn’t here yet, he actually didn’t arrive to pick us up until 6. At about 7 pm the party started! It lasted a couple hours and was great fun, but I am so glad we didn’t get there at 4! It has been very hard for me, I never like to be late, but here being early means for a very boring wait for the real fun to begin!
You do not get in a hurry to ask questions. If you need directions, first you must ask “How is here”, “how is there”, “Welcome Back” “Thanks for coming”? Funny! Even to buy something, don’t get
in a hurry, you have to go through a few greetings first! People are all about relationship here. Shaking hands may take 4-5 minutes, and sometimes longer if they are not in a hurry to let go of your hand! Some hug, like the french do, left side then right side. Sometimes the 2-3 word greetings can go back and forth and back and forth and then got your seperate ways! On the whole, I don’t think they talk as much as Americans do. And if they want something, it is almost always just hinted at and not directly asked.
We’ve had to get used to the staring. Well, I haven’t really gotten used to it, it still freaks me out a little! At the birthday party last weekend, there was a boy about 12, who stared and I mean stared for a very long time. It’s not so bad if they aren’t sitting almost on top of you, but when they are sitting close or in front of you and they just stare, never smile, hardly blink, it just makes me very uncomfortable. But it is not rude here to stare, especially at the white people. I made a group of kids laugh because they kept saying “Mazungu” and I said “My name is Rhonda – not Mazungu!” They thought that was pretty funny.
We were invited to a home for lunch – at 4 pm, which we didn’t actually eat until about 6 so that made it right on time for our supper! Here, lunch is around 1 and supper is 8 or 9 pm. But we were invited for lunch at 4 because they said their home was so hot at lunchtime. When you go to someones house to eat, the women are outside cooking, and I am not supposed to even go out there. I sit with the men inside. Then the women (or woman) serves the food, and she and the host do not eat until everyone has eaten, the women eating outside also. Kind of weird, coming from our culture where it is polite to try and help or at the very least talk to the women cooking! I broke the rules, went outside and sat with them anyway. I told them I need to learn how to cook here so watching them was good. They were thrilled!
The thing that has made the most impact on me is that no matter what their circumstances, most have a healthy sense of humor and love to laugh (many times at my mazungu expense) and are gracious and willing to help in anyway they can. Everyday we are here, I love it a little bit more.
Raelee has a buddy, a big brother of sorts, Chimuli Ivan. Around here, most people give you their name with the last name first, and are called by the last name. Ivan’s last name means flower, so everyone loves to call him Chimuli and tease him. Most of the time I call him Ivan. Raelee calls him Chimuli, Dr. Ivan, Flower and sometimes just Ivan. He is our day guard, and he pumps water for me, and for some of the older ladies that come to the well in the day. He is a hard worker, always cleaning up, always keeping busy, besides playing with Raelee. They play hide and seek, and I think he aggravates her as much as she can boss him around! I missed a photo opportunity the other day, Raelee had a bucket with water and soap and was washing Chimuli’s socks. I asked her later, “Why would you wash his socks?” She looked at me like I was so dumb and said “Because they were filthy!” He helped her hang them on the line. Other times, he keeps an eye out on Smokey, bringing him back if he runs too far off. Christian said he heard him give Raelee a swat for doing something. One day I heard him telling her no, and I looked out and she had the machete he had just used to cut bananas down, swinging it like a golf club.
When we first got here, he barely spoke any English and to be honest, he kind of scared me. He never smiled, and barely made a noise when I gave him something, but now I know it was just that he is shy and he really didn’t speak any English. Now that Raelee is his constant companion in the mornings, he has really picked up alot of English. I’m just waiting for him to start talking with her southern twang!
I give him tea and biscuits every morning because I do appreciate all the work he does around here, especially pumping and filling my cans of water!
Everytime we go to Kampala, we stop in the rain forest for chicken or beef on a stick. The car gets mobbed with people trying to sell what they have – meat, bananas, avocados, drinks – all competing for you to buy theirs! We usually roll the back windows up so that they aren’t pushing things in our faces, I’m always afraid Raelee will take something they are pushing and then we will be buying it whether we wanted it or not! It’s a lot faster and cheaper to get food this way – in a restaurant it could take 30-40 minutes minimum to get your food!
Last time we were there, I didn’t wake Raelee up in time, and she opened her eyes to people laying over every inch of the car. Was a little disconcerting to say the least, until she realized where we were! She loves chicken on a stick!
Christian and I have been sick since we got back from our get-a-way weekend so I haven’t posted the rest of the pictures. We had such a good time seeing our new friends, one of them we got to visit at his home; he, his wife and family were so gracious to us, served us tea and samosa’s (which are similar to our meat pies). Raelee went outside and immediately made friends and started instructing everyone on what she wanted them to do!
We then went to Church where Samuel and Sibenda go. Christian was asked if he wanted to speak for 15-20 minutes and he said yes, but when we got there, they announced he was bringing the message for the morning! He was ready, and did a good job, even with an interpreter. I have tried to upload the video unsuccessfully, but I will keep trying. It was a very good day!
On Monday evening our third friend, Innocent, came to our hotel to visit us. We had cake and coffee for him and had a very good visit.
We got to take a break over the past weekend, went to Kampala hoping to stay in a nice, but economical, hotel with A/C and a swimming pool. Easier said than done! We had looked online and thought we found something, but a friend told us he had stayed in a nice one with a pool and he would let us know where it was. We got to Kampala at about 11 am, I thought the hotel I saw online was close in the area we were, so we decided to follow the google map and go there
. It took us to an empty lot, 20 minutes later in heavy traffic. Okay. Call friend. Friend doesn’t know the name of the hotel but he does remember the vicinity. He tells our driver, our driver has to stop twice to ask boda boda drivers for directions. Their answer was usually “You don’t know the name of the hotel?” Like we were crazy! Finally, we actually found the hotel. It would be an hour before a room would be available, time now is 12:30, so we go eat. Then the fun really begins. I was a little stressed on top of the stress we were trying to relax from, and we get to a shopping center that has a food court. Now, I know you are envisioning your local mall and food court – stop – this was nothing like that. Can’t even tell if restaurants are open, so we sit at a table and a guy pushes menus in our faces. All I see is Goat this and Goat that. No thank you. I get up and walk to one doorway that has pictures of Chinese food on the door, specifically eggrolls and rice. So I ask, could I get eggrolls and point at the picture. The lady is confused, “you want eggs in chipotte bread”, uh no, the picture, eggrolls and rice? She is still looking very confused and says can I wait 5 minutes for the man? I told her no thank you, I didn’t want one. I sit down and am brought another menu, open it up and it says Burgers. Okay, cheeseburger please.
The waitress sat this down in front of me, and I looked at Chris and he looked at me and with a serious face said “I bet there’s an egg in that roll” We both burst out laughing and so i cut it open
and guess what? There was, an egg in the middle! But the outside wasn’t a roll or biscuit, it was mashed potatoes. And it was REALLY good! I have to learn how to make this! I didn’t realize I actually ordered this, but was glad I got it!
Then, as I was finishing up the delicious Egg Roll and coleslaw, a waitress sat another plate in front of me. My cheeseburger…well, a bun and lettuce and tomato and cheese but the burger was missing. More laughter! I wait and wait and finally the waitress comes back and I ask here where the burger is. She looks at me – now I AM the crazy mazungu – and says, “You ordered the cheeseburger” Yes, I did, I just didn’t realize that was different than the Beef Burger with cheese! I told her I didn’t want it because anyway I got an eggroll that I didn’t think I ordered and was full anyway. Yes, we still paid for it, and honestly it wasn’t much cheaper than the beef burger!
Back to the hotel. Our driver said goodbye and headed back to Iganga. We went in to the room and guess what? No A/C. I cried. Raelee put on her suit and said she was going swimming. We went to the pool, it was filthy all around it, I cried. Christian called for a taxi and we left. He took us to hotel #2, it looked beautiful on the internet, and actually on the outside was beautiful. It was a bed and breakfast. It was filthier than the first, again no A/C, this time no pool. The crying got a little out of hand. Poor Christian, he is on his little phone that barely has internet trying to find another place. Another taxi called, the lady was very understanding and thankfully neither place had charged us anything. (The taxi’s on the other hand were a little expensive). They say third time is a charm and in this case it was. Beautiful hotel, reminded me of the French Quarter and I finally quit crying and felt a little less homesick for our old way of life! We had a great time, stayed an extra day because it was after 6pm by the time we found this hotel. Got to relax, rest and get a little more perspective on our experiences here and going forward. We visited our new friends (which will be another post because this one has gotten a little long!), a not so new friend who is there at school and had steak dinners – real steak! It ended up being a more expensive weekend getaway than we planned, but I think it was worth it for the refreshing and renewal, and probably won’t happen again anytime soon!