Molly in Africa

Friday, September 29, 2006

western Uganda, gender studies and more!

So much has happened since my last entry that I'm going to try to talk about it all briefly... for more details send a private email.

Last week, the SIT program went to western Uganda and Rwanda for an excursion. We left last Sunday and went to Mbarara, Uganda, which meant we crossed the equator! So, last week, I was in the southwestern quadrant of the world… it was kinda cool.

We stayed in Mbarara (which is 4 hours away from Kampala) on Sunday night and Monday night. I really liked Mbarara. It's smaller than Kampala but still offers a lot. I had my first rolex there... no, not the watch, but it's a chappati rolled with an egg and tomatoes...mmmm, it was really delicious! On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, we were in Rwanda and then we returned to Mbarara for a night before going to QE National Park. It was really nice to have so much bonding time with the group in the van rides from place to place. :)

At Queen Elizabeth National Park, we got to see allllllll kinds of animals, which was really cool! On the road into the park we were greeted by baboons! Then we went on a boat ride and saw all kinds of birds and we saw hippos!!! After the boat ride, we went on a game drive and saw even more animals, closer up that were way cooler. First of all, when I saw game drive on the schedule, I thought that meant safari style game drive in one of those land rovers or something, but no, that was not the case. We went on our safari style game drive (I was right about that) in our taxi-vans! Hahah, it was kind of a sight to see all on its own! It was unbelievable though- we saw lions (they were kinda far away though), warthogs, ELEPHANTS (!!!!), more buffalo, antelope, hyenas, lots of different birds, and more that I can’t even think of right now. So, if you couldn’t tell, the elephants were my favorite part. We saw about ten of them at one point and then we turned around the path and were able to wait for them to cross our path again. During this little turn around, our driver, Godfrey (sp?), told us that we don’t have to worry about the elephants unless they flap their ears because that’s their sign that they’re about to charge. When the elephants came past us for the second time, we saw the biggest one first- the one with the big tusks which was so cool. It was about thirty feet away from us and headed right in our direction. Everyone was taking pictures (except me because my camera was out of batteries) until all of a sudden, the elephant starts flapping its ears! One of the other girls and I started telling Godfrey that we needed to back up pronto and it was a very very funny moment of two of us speaking really quickly and talking about the fact that ears were “definitely flapping, definitely flapping.” In the morning, we went for an early game drive and were able to see the lions up close- two were about five feet from the car!!! Other than that, we just saw the same animals and had no exciting elephant stories.

Now that I’m back in Kampala, we have started the in-depth study part of my semester. This is a two week program where our group is split into three and we each study something that we get to learn more about one topic in a more intimate setting. I’m studying gender and it has been wonderful so far! It’s amazing to see how much gender roles are different here than in the States and to see how much they play a role in different aspects of life here… like politics (which I found fascinating)! I had a great lecture on gender and conflict areas- specifically northern Uganda and that too was fascinating. I also had some non-interesting lectures this week- micro-financing (which I already knew about), poverty (just a poor presentation), and health (which wasn’t specific enough for me, so it wasn’t very engaging). The last lecture we had was about gender and law, which was interesting but so frustrating. My lecturer was talking about how gender sensitive he is and yet, the whole time he kept making sexist comments about how women can’t function at the same intellectual level of men and about how women don’t have the same level of reasonableness that men do. Oh, I was so frustrated about it and it definitely made me glad that I am a woman living in America!

I've now ridden a boda boda twice...once I was NOT breaking rules because we are allowed to ride them when we're outside the city and it was really fun. The second time I broke rules because I was late and needed to cross the city quickly to make it to an appointment with world vision in time. I will not make a habit of that, but it really was helpful timing wise.

This week has been really up and down for me. In soooo many ways I feel like I've finally hit my stride and I feel really good about being here- comfortable in my environment and feel like I'm learning about things that I'm interested in and just feeling excited about my practicum (internship) time that's rapidly approaching. On the other hand, I've had a lot of stressful and/or frustrating moments where I've just missed home a TON and it's really hard to be so far away from my support network. Thank you very much to people who have sent encouraging, thoughtful emails. You have no idea how helpful it is to receive those!

So, after a hard afternoon yesterday, I went with two friends to listen to music- a blend of african and jazz and it was AMAZING! The music was great and we got to dance too! A woman there taught me some of the traditional moves and I'm actually not too bad at it... she kept commenting at how good I was at shaking my butt (apparently most mzugu girls aren't!) hahah. It was really fun and makes me want to learn more dance moves here. We'll see what I can do about that...

I guess that’s all from here… oh I should tell you about another friend since I haven’t done that lately…

Friend of this blog entry: Sharon. Sharon is actually the girl that I met before coming because she’s from Wheaton, IL and we had lunch the Saturday before leaving for Uganda. Sharon is in my Luganda class, so I’ve gotten a chance to spend some more time with her and she’s really cool. She knows a TON about eastern Africa, which can be a little intimidating, but I’ve been able to learn a lot from her and her contributions to class lectures. Her host family here calls her Sharoni which has become a source of amusement for the rest of us and she has a good sense of humor about it.

Small note:
Jeff, Jen, Ali and Peter: I was totally thinking of you guys when I was seeing the elephants and, even though my camera wasn’t working, I did get someone to take a picture of elephant dung for you! J hahaha, I hope you appreciate it!


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