Molly in Africa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

shocks and strikes...

Hello all!

First, I just want to say thank you to all of you who have been reading this, emailing me or posting comments! It is SO nice to know that people are thinking of me here... not just for my ego, haha... but seriously, the support is felt and at times is necessary, so thank you! Also, I will try to respond when I get a chance, but our schedule is kinda tight these days...

Ok, so shocks and strikes...

Shock: On Sunday, I was ironing my shirts (because wrinkles take away from the very nice appearance everyone tries to maintain here) with my host family's iron- which has a pretty shabby cord from the iron to the outlet. I was sitting on the concrete floor in my room and ironing the way I was shown by my host sister and I put the iron down to re-arrange the shirt. When I went to grab the iron, I was slightly electrocuted... my right arm shook, my left leg shook and my eyes closed for a moment. When my eyes re-opened, i was holding my arms and legs very close to my body in a reflexive move and my host sister just laughed and said, "oh sorry- small electric shock!" she promptly removed the iron. Apparently, I had touched a part of the cord that had worn through, but I didn't even really know what had happened at the time...

Strike: the taxis were (and maybe still are) on strike because the governemnt wanted to install speed governors in the taxis. I don't even really know what that means, but I know that yesterday we were told to go straight to the taxi park after class and TRY to get a taxi. There were SO many people in the streets and in the taxi park. I was with two of my classmates and one of them commented that people filled up all the places where there usually are taxis- it was nuts! I made it home just fine because there were still a good number (it may have been half) of the taxis still running despite the strike.

This weekend was less than thrilling for me. I did not get to stay with Rachel in her house of flushing toilets (bummer), I spent a lot of time on Saturday with my host siblings Fred and Gertrude as they showed me a strip mall and then a shopping mall and asked which one was more American. Unfortunately (in my opinion), they were both VERY American... we had lunch at a place where there were only three non-white faces! I wish that they had taken me to Ugandan places, but I didn't have much say... oh well... Each day during the week, my host sister Gertrude has woken me up- even when I've offered to set an alarm she refuses and says that she'll just wake me up. Well, on Sunday, she didn't wake me up. So, when I woke up at 10, I had missed church. For other people in my group that would have made them very happy, but as you all can probably predict- that was not the case for me. So, I was pretty homesick on Sunday as I missed church, had an electric shock, and had spent the previous day doing quasi-American things. It got better by Sunday night when I went with my host family to a birthday party. It felt very similar to Hogan family events, in the ways in which cousins interacted and that I felt fairly comfortable- obviously it had a Ugandan spin which made me at least feel like I was seeing a bit of THEIR culture and I definitely appreciated that. Another little bit of their culture- my host family doesn't have a car. So anytime we went anywhere, we crammed into other people's cars with them. On Sunday there were five adults squished into the backseat of a regular four-door car for a 40 minute drive over Ugandan roads- filled with pot holes! It was hot and uncomfortable and there wasn't much English conversation.

I guess after this weekend, I've finally found the uncomfortable culture shock that so many of my peers found sometime last week. I'm still very happy to be here and am enjoying my time here, but I'm aware that I really am in Uganda and that's VERY different from the states. On the upside, I'm getting more and more used to my pit latrine, I am pretty good at riding the taxis here and I'm participating more in class. :) So, things are good here (despite my complaints).

Next week we're headed to western Uganda and Rwanda. In western Uganda, we'll be trying to lead some focus group discussions with Ugandans (which will be an interesting experience for sure!) and in Rwanda we'll be visiting three genocide memorials as well as talk to a couple NGOs. It'll be nice to spend some time away from our homestays and with the rest of the students for a while before returning to the homestay for another two week period.

New friend of today's blog: Krista. Krista is from Wisconsin and goes to school there too. She's a sweet, quiet girl who is so genuine! Krista and I are in language class together (we have three different sections for our group) and it's so nice to begin each morning talking with her about her night. At the end of our first student-led processing session yesterday evening, after most people had been complaining about different cultural issues they've been dealing with, Krista said, "I just want to say that I'm happy to be here and I think we have a lot to be thankful for here." It is very true. We do have a lot of beauty around us and a lot to be thankful for here and it's nice to have people like Krista around to remind us of that!

Ok, I'm out of time... I'll write more later! Hope you all are well!


At 12:21 PM, September 12, 2006, Anonymous Marybeth O'Mara said...

Send us an address and you'll be flooded with rolls of electrical tape (although probably not for a long, circuitous, while), which will reduce the shock you get from trying to straighten up; ah, the price of beauty. Your descriptions are so vivid, it makes me feel like I have some small understanding of what you are seing and experiencing. It is amazing, isn't it, how ugly American-style strip malls can be? It is rainy here in Chicago, and an autumn nip has been in the air the past few days, although since there has not yet been frost, the grass and all plantings are lush and green.
We are thinking of you, and grateful for the updates. Thanks for taking the time to share.
Love, Marybeth

At 5:45 PM, September 12, 2006, Blogger Janet said...

Hi Molly,

Thanks for another update. I find myself checking each day, just to see if you've written, even though I know that you cannot, of course, write every day. You are certainly on the minds of the Gayes household.

I agree with Marybeth - I so appreciate the vivid descriptions. It helps me imagine a place that I have previously found unimaginable. And the contrasts of Ugandan/American cultures along with the apparent desire to "be like Americans" are all quite striking. It's all hard for me to wrap my mind around and sort through. I so admire your courage and tenacity to wade through these murky culture waters and find your way. And then to share your thoughts and feelings! - I am very grateful.

Love you,

At 9:07 PM, September 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never heard of this website before but it seems to be pretty cool. Hope everything is amazing for you over there. And I am excited to read more about your experience. Keep having fun. Play like a Champion.
Brian Hogan

At 1:23 AM, September 13, 2006, Anonymous Mike Lim said...


I agree w/ what Marybeth said also. It's like I'm right there next to you in the taxi going over those pot holes or in that pit latrine moving that wooden board. HAHAHA. Tell me how the talks go w/ the NGO's and everything else!

I actually talked to Bowen today and he's lovin Hong Kong.

Till your next update, take care and watch that cord!


At 6:30 PM, September 13, 2006, Blogger bridget said...

Hey Molly,
I can't believe I missed this blog until now! Your entries are so interesting and fun to read. I have so much admiration for you, Molly. Very few people could undertake an adventure like this!


At 10:05 PM, September 13, 2006, Anonymous Lauren Balek said...

Molly, you are amazing! :)


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