Saturday, June 6, 2009

The "Real" Africa--Kate at KWDT

WOW. One week through at Katosi and it continues to surprise me everyday…this is the real deal. Its tough, but this is the Africa from the movies and we are living it. Its been neat to see and experience first hand a lot of the things I learned about in classes this year about the developing world…I’m going to give just a few examples from the first week.

1.Gender differences and the burden of domestic work on women. Its clear now just how difficult life is for everyone here, but especially women. Domestic tasks that we complain about in the US are like a million times more time consuming here…there might not be power, and even so, theres no dishwashers, washing machines, or even sinks—everything is done by hand. The nurse Esther that lives next door is also a house keeper and she is literally ALWAYS working because theres always something else that needs to be done. She told us she sleeps from 12-5 every night and then works the rest of the time. That’s why I think its great that Katosi Women’s Development Trust is focused on generating an income for women. With just a small amount of money coming in (about $1.50 a day) they can make their daily life just a little bit easier.

2. Secondly, is the different conception of time. You always hear about how Americans are the only ones tied to a schedule but Ugandan’s have literally NO concept of time or efficiency (such as what should be accomplished in a work day). Which is kind of tough for me, but I’m adjusting and that’s just how life is…I think my parents would agree that a lesson in patience is probably a good thing for me  To give you an example, on Friday, we were supposed to go visit a school that Fred, our boss, said was “some distance” away. Well, “some distance” ended up being an hour and a half walk both ways through the jungle…it wasn’t that the walk was bad because it was really pretty, but when we got to the school, the man that we were supposed to meet with about sanitation and hygiene wasn’t even there! So we just looked around and walked back…he didn’t seem phased and he could totally have called the man since he had his contact info, but that’s not now business is done here. But that also means they are a lot more laid back and always ready to strike up a great conversation, which is nice. Another example of the time thing is that the taxis here are really 14 passenger vans and the will NOT move until all seats are filled, and by all seats filled, I mean at least 25 passengers on board. The more passengers, the more money for the driver so they will wait until there is absolutely no room left. Like I said, on our way to Mukono yesterday, Rhea and I counted 25 people! It was pretty crazy flying down the bumpy, dusty road with that many people and it made me really glad that I wasn’t driving

3.Another thing I’m experiencing first hand is how much we use as westerners in terms of resources. I mean I know you always see those charts where Americans use like a hundred times more water than everyone else but I’ve never been able to visualize or conceptualize that until now. In our compound, there are 3 rain water cisterns...the community can use them when they are full, but once the get low they get locked and people have to buy their water elsewhere. Since we live on site we get to use them all the time, but I’m paranoid that they will actually run out! If they do, we get our water from a pump down town and it costs about 200 shillings per jerry can (20 liters) of water. I’ve never had to think so much about conserving…I’ve even mastered taking a bucket shower with less than a bucket of water which is crazy when I think about how many gallons even a 5 minute shower takes! Its also really disheartening to see children not in school because they must collect the water for their families. Every day I see kids no older than 4 or 5 toting jerry cans back and forth from their house to the pump so that their families have enough water to bathe, wash, cook, and drink.

4.We also had been warned by the interns last year that we would stick out with light skin but its way more overwhelming than I thought. Walking into the street, everyone literally stops what they’re doingdoing to stare, and then the children start shouting MUZUNGU! Which means white person, which is pretty funny because Rhea’s Indian…Kids chase after you and want to touch your hair and a lot of time their mothers just let them while they stare. Its not like their being rude, but its just a lot to get used to. For me, they also shout “DEBORAH”, who was the name of the Peace corps volunteer before me at KWDT—I guess we look a lot alike since we’re both white  I don’t correct them and just wave anyway most of the time.

Anyway, that’s just a glimpse into the “Real Africa”…its been a crazy week but we’re adjusting well and I’m sure I’ll have more stories next time!

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