Saturday, July 03, 2010
The last couple of weeks I’ve spent reflecting. I’ve settled into the routine of the day to day and have more time and energy to think about the big picture. Here is some insight into my favorites here in Namungalwe...
My runs…I haven’t been as consistent as I am at home, when greenlake is right outside my door, an easy 3 mile loop, but I have made an effort to try to run 3 days a week here. I’ve been saving them toward the end of the day when I’m already hot and sticky. It takes a bit of effort to put on the spandex capris, sports bra and running shoes (that are now encrusted in Ugandan dirt). However, that effort is well worth it when I start out on the dirt path and wind my way through the village. Children on their way home from school sometimes join me. Of course, their feet aren’t protected by cushioned soles from the pounding on the gravel/dirt roads. They don’t care…or even seem to notice, but instead run right behind you smiling…huge smiles. Sometimes people ask me, “Madame, where are you running?” And I say, “nowhere, just running.” You start to feel guilty when you don’t respond to every call…”mzungu, mzungu, how are you?” “jambo, rebekah!” It’s flattering they remember my name, even though I will probably never remember theirs. I’ve started into the habit of jumping into the occasional soccer match in a front yard, stopping to chat and giggle with some teenage girls, or pump water at the well. It’s always an adventure, a somehow calm release from the work we’re doing.
My showers…yes, it would make sense that this favorite would follow the first. I make my way back to the house, enjoying the sunset. I take off my socks and running shoes and put on my flip-flops, grab my night clothes (loose pants and ¾ sleeve shirt) and fill the basin with water. I try not to use too much, as we only have 3 jerricans among the six of us living in the house. We’ve designated a cup to use for showering and I love the feel of pouring a full cup of water over my head and the coolness as it trails down my body. I feel exposed in the bathing area. It is a small cubicle on the other side of 2 latrines with eye-level cement walls. I could be in and out in less than a couple of minutes, but I enjoy taking my time to feel clean, to shampoo and condition my hair and to slough away the dirt from my feet with a washcloth that I end up cleaning almost daily. My running clothes make their way to the line to dry for the next day…the sweat accumulating over the week until I do laundry. Feeling fresh and clean is a momentary pleasure here, and I relish it.
My host family…I say host family, but really that isn’t their official title. We live in the home of Dr. Lukandwa. He works in Kampala, about a 3 hour drive away. The compound has two houses a kitchen and a building for the animals (not quite a barn though). The yard is huge and has a prominent mango tree in the front which the village uses as its main gathering place. It is private, set far from the street, although occasionally in the morning and afternoon as children walk by to and from school, I’ll see bright orange, pink or blue uniforms with arms waving from them at us. Our house is situated in front and the sister of the doctor runs the household that occupies the second house. She is definitely the in-charge and maintains the property. The property includes three cows (ente), a handful of goats (mbuzi)…the kids laugh at my goat impression, chickens…including the baby chicks in different stages of growth from cute fresh chick to awkward, almost ugly adolescent, and of course the rooster…he reminds me of his presence or should I say dominance every morning well before the sun is up and then constantly throughout the day whenever he feels is necessary. But of course the highlight is not really the animals, although I do love them and love the scene of the yard when the cow is laying lazily chewing its cud at that perfect time in the early evening when the light is just right, but even more so I love Mutesi (sister of the doctor, who runs the household), Joy, Nicholas, Helen and Lilian (the younger children 11-16 years who are all somehow or another connected to the family). You never know who belongs to who, but it doesn’t matter here. The family isn’t an isolated unit of mother, father and children. It consists of sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces, grandmothers, aunts…some of who are not even blood related. Everyone has their role that keeps the compound alive and running. Lillian leads the goats in at nightfall, Joy fetches the water and helps with dinner, Nicholas kills the chicken and works on laundry, Helen waters the cows and everyone helps in the garden…filled with matooke, groundnuts, potatoes, cassava, papayas, and coffee beans. Overseeing all of this is Mutesi, who has become a good friend and protector. She is always looking out for us and helps me with my lusoga and always appreciates when I come out to help with dinner or in the field. My favorite was when she told me I was a “good girl” because I was off to shower. She works hard, all day. She is a strong woman, but has a limp from a hip problem…she walks slowly but deliberately and I love her. The kids are all off to school by the time I’ve finished my morning coffee, so most of my interactions with them are in the evening when I go to help peel potatoes or dice cassava. Language is a barrier. Some speak better English than others. They try to teach me Lusoga…my favorites are stars – munyenye and moon – omwezi…probably because it is at night when my lessons begin and we are sitting out under the expanse of dark sky filled with the brightest stars and moon. The laugh at my accent and attempted pronunciations of the long words filled with an unusual number of vowels. Soon we’re taking turns singing songs in English and lusoga and maybe Helen or Lilian will even dance. Mutesi is quick to correct them when they fumble in translation and I know she loves it as much as they do. There are others that live at the house, whose relation I do not know, but everyone is so polite and generous. Granted, most of Ugandans are…a signature of their culture, one of long greetings and generosity. I will miss my family here.