Now that we have been here for a month, we have decided to look back on some of the moments of culture shock and the funny things that have happened to us during our time here. We hope you enjoy some of our personal stories from our Uganda experience!
Emily: On our first day in Nkokonjeru, Scott decided to take us up the hill to Stella Maris boarding school to show us around. We entered the gates without anything remarkable happening, and I was under the impression that this was going to be a typical school tour. As we started walking around, we saw many girls doing chores, running for gym class or just outside to play. Everyone was very friendly, but there was the usual shyness that is present the first time you meet someone. Then, out of nowhere a girl comes running at me. Instinct told me to spread my arms wide, and this girl and I shared a movie-worthy run, leap, catch, and hug greeting combination. Now I was feeling pretty good about myself and my abilities to fit in and make friends with these girls until…the girl cried “SAMANTHA, you’re back!” Unfortunately, I felt compelled to share the news that I was not Samantha, and we both parted feeling slightly confused and wondering what on earth just happened. I am proud to report that now all the girls who come flying at me recognize me as Teacher Emily!
“Teacher Emily” and the Girls!
Amber: Nearly every day Emily and I head up the hill to Stella Maris to play with the girls during their break before dinner. Some days we watch a movie, other days we play with the beach balls and some days their girls simply want to play with our hair all day! The girls love to pet our hair, braid our hair, twist our hair and unfortunately sometimes even knot our hair. One day in particular, Emily and I were sitting out in the field that the girls play in and we had a mob of girls around us, all trying to touch and play with a piece of our hair. For the most part the girls are very gentle, but when they get a little over excited they tend to pull! But, no worries, there is always someone there to say, “Girls! You are paining teacher!” I clearly remember relaxing in the field that afternoon getting my hair done when suddenly all of the little girl hands stop moving, a P1 girl behind me flattens my hair down, looks at the part in my hair and says, “Teacher, your head is SO WHITE!” Emily and I just laughed and said, “Yea…our whole body is white.”
“Teacher Amber” Getting a Stella Maris Makeover
Emily: Mr. Kkonde (Joseph) is our African Dad here in Uganda. He makes sure we are taken care of, and comes to join us for Skype meetings with CARITAS. One evening at our house, Mr. Kkonde and Flavia (our friend and housekeeper) were talking about how cold the night air was. Amber and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes because everyone here believes that they are going to freeze to death (only a slight exaggeration) when the temperature drops below 75ºF. We began to explain Wisconsin winter conditions, and as true Badgers, we bragged that we could never be cold in Uganda because we know what true cold really is. Well the conversation twisted as conversations tend to do, and soon Mr. Kkonde was inquiring as to whether a Muzungu (white person) has different fats in their body to deal with cold. Now, you must understand that the Ugandan pronunciation of “a” sounds like a Bostonian pronunciation of “ar” (think of how people from Boston say “car”). The “a” sound (as in fat) comes out as an “ah” sound (as in hot). This has the unfortunate result of making it seem that a word like fat has an “r” in it. You can imagine our confusion and the hilarity that ensued as we thought Mr. Kkonde was suggesting that we had more farts in our bodies to keep us warm!! Because Mr. Kkonde is headed to America in the next few weeks, we have become his advisors on any words that may be confused because of his accent (we never fail to get a kick out of some of the mix-ups…truly hilarious!).
Amber: During our first week in our house here in Nkokonjeru I was feeling rather confident at my ability to adapt to the culture, weather, people and animals of Uganda. Unfortunately all of my confidence came to a screeching halt when I walked into my room one night and saw a lizard on my wall! The lizard was only about three inches long, but I was terrified. I panicked, jumped, screamed and ran out of my room. The first person I saw on my run through house was Emily, so I dragged her in my room to save me from the lizard (who I have now named Bert)! Emily was so confident that she could simply trap Bert in the garbage can and release him outside. I thought she was going to be my savior….but her confidence quickly melted away the second Bert skittered across the wall. I soon realized Emily was not going to save me and I was going to need back-up! So, like the scared little girls we were, we jumped on the bed and screamed for Flavia to come save us! Flavia arrived with a broom and bug spray to paralyze and squish Bert with. Luckily for us Flavia is not afraid of tiny lizards! Now, nearly five weeks later, whenever I see a lizard my heart still speeds up and I have urge to run, but I take a deep breath and tell the lizard that if they stay on the wall, far away from my bed, then they can stay and we can be friends.
Emily: Running is one of my favorite hobbies, and I am fortunate enough to be able to run here in Uganda. On my routes, I get to meet new people (if only for long enough for them to yell “Hi Muzungu” to me as I pass), and I have amassed what I like to think of as my own personal fan club. One day on my way back home, a man in the road gestured at me to come talk to him. I swung over to his side of the road, and he gave me some sugar cane to bring home to eat and share with the children (at least that’s how I interpreted our conversation). The gesture was very sweet (no pun intended), but the slight catch was that the cane was about 8ft tall. I dutifully carried it the last ten minutes (all up hill, no exaggeration) of my run. This caused quite the sensation…not only was the Muzungu running, but she also was carrying a ridiculously large piece of sugar cane! It might be my imagination, but (unless I am very much mistaken) my fan club has since doubled in size.
We hope these stories brought a smile to you face, because they sure brought a smile to ours!