So I taught my first English class on Tuesday and it went pretty well. I have to speak extremely slow and get strict now and then to restrict the giggling, but other than that I really enjoyed it. Leslie and I also held our first sanitation club meeting this week at two schools. At the first one we concentrated on washing your hands and body and at the second we also discussed washing hands in addition to composting. The school already had a box, so we asked them to bring worms to the meeting and we officially started a compost box for the school. We explained how composting works and the benefits of composting for the environment. The amount of trash in Uganda amazes me. There is no such thing as a trashcan here (in the house or out), so the citizens either throw their trash on the ground or burn it. Both of which are terrible for the environment and the overall sanitation of the city. I have seen a few signs that read “keep or country clean”, but I have no idea where people are supposed to put their trash. I have to admit that Leslie and I have a bag of trash in our room and it is almost full and we may have to burn it because there really are no alternatives unless we start composting ourselves. Anyways, all three classes we taught were great and I am really excited to finish the sanitation guide I have been working on. I want all of our sanitation clubs to have a binder with my information guide and a notebook so they can take the minutes at each meeting. In addition, I would also like to make some hands on activities that will reinforce healthy sanitation practices. I was thinking about laminating different pictures of good and bad practices or pictures you have to put in order etc. that the kids can piece together in groups. From what I have seen so far the schools have good teachers and the material is on par with the United States, but due to the lack of money there are absolutely no hands on activities. The teacher writes on the board and the kids copy. So I would love to have some hands on activities to mix it up and really get the kid’s attention. On a slightly different note, it has been really refreshing to not be called “Mzungu” for the past couple of days. “Mzungu” means “white person” in Luganda (the local language) and I swear we get called that word one thousand times a day. However, now that we have been working with the schools a lot of the students know my Luganda name, which is Babirye. So I am actually being called by my name now (sort of) and I love that all of the children are taking the time to remember it instead of saying “Mzungu”. It is funny though how a lot of the younger children cling to Leslie and I like white on rice. They fight to hold our hands and touch our skin. They are so interested in examining our skin because they don’t understand how the color is so different. I think a lot of them think that it isn’t skin or something. We went to play with a pre-school class yesterday afternoon, but we made the mistake of going an hour before school was over. We played with them and sang some songs, which was great, but when school was over they all followed us home. I think about one hundred kids were walking with us so we intentionally went to a store because we were worried that the children would come to our house later if they knew where we were staying. It was great and they all went home when we went in the store, but it just gives you an idea of how rare white people are. I think the fascination is a combination of wanting to see how and why we look different, coupled with the stereotype that white people are rich. We have already been asked to take people to the U.S. in addition to a few marriage proposals etc. Basically, it is absolutely impossible to be inconspicuous and stay under the radar here. I struggled with that for the first few days, but now that I am more comfortable with my surroundings and know the village it is not so bad.
This is certainly a very different place compared to the United States though. One thing that strikes me is the way people carry themselves. It is very important here to be dressed well and appear professional. Everyone has a cell phone and they go off all the time just like they do in the U.S. These two things were very odd to me, however, since only 4% of the population in Uganda has electricity. Where do they charge their phones? In addition, almost everyone works outside since all of the shops and stores are open to the street. The streets are paved here and there and trash is all over the place. I guess what I am trying to say is that the people don’t match the setting in my mind. To put it in perspective, I attended one of the group meetings for the women’s center I am interning for. The meeting was outside of one of the member’s homes (a rundown brick home) and we were all sitting outside on grass mats to avoid the red clay that covers everything. The home stood alone with the forest behind it and the dirt road in front. In the middle of the meeting, one of the members phones went off and she went into the woods to answer it. It definitely caught me by surprise. I guess it makes sense that they have phones in order to get in touch with people, but I was shocked that so many people had them and I am still confused as to where they charge them. I think that it is wonderful that the citizens take pride in their appearance, but it was definitely something that I had expected to be different. I guess I thought the clothing would also be a bit cooler, but all of the men wear suits and the women wear long skirts. However, I came to Africa to learn about the culture and I have already dispelled a few stereotypes like this one. Live and learn. Thanks!