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.