Sometimes I think about that Dr. Seuss book And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and I think I should write my own about here! I’ve seen motorcycles carrying couches or beds, people standing crammed in a pickup truck, cows walking across a major road, and lots of other surprising things. It’s always entertaining to drive here!
We’ve been busy at school lately! Here’s a quick look into my classroom:
Each term at the Amazima school, we have a Visitation Day. The parents come to spend time with their students, meet with the teachers, and enjoy a program put together by the students. Recently we had our Term 3 Visitation Day on a Saturday. Then, on the Sunday after, I went to our friend’s daughters’ visitation day. Our friend, Mary, has two sweet twin daughters, Nakato and Babirye, who invited us to their special day (basically the equivalent of kindergarten graduation for them).
Their visitation day was very different from ours at the Amazima school. One difference is that their program was 6 hours long! Plus we waited two hours for it to start. So all in all it was a LONG day. But the opportunity to send the day with them at their school was so special! And 3, 4, and 5 year olds doing traditional dances all day? I’m in.
Here’s a video and some pictures from the day!
Last weekend I got to attend my friend Stella’s introduction, or “kwanjula.” An introduction is a traditional part of the marriage process in Uganda. When arranged marriages were still a thing here, this was when the bride and groom were first introduced to each other. Arranged marriages aren’t the practice anymore, but they still have an introduction at some point before the wedding ceremony.
We were asked to wear a “gomesi,” the traditional dress of the Baganda tribe. Those things are no joke–a Ugandan friend had to dress us and fold all the many layers of fabric correctly. There’s even an extra fabric underneath called the “kikoy”…it’s purpose is to make your hips look bigger! Here are a couple teacher friends and I in all our glory!
As with everything in Uganda, an introduction is never rushed! We arrived at the bride’s father’s home at 11:30, along with the rest of the bride’s family. The groom’s family arrived at 2:00. During the beginning of the introduction, people (especially young women) from the bride’s friends and family dance out and speak to the groom’s family. Then the auntie of the bride (who is responsible for overseeing the introduction and wedding) dances through the groom’s family and finds the groom, who has been hiding among his family. Then the groom, the auntie, and the other members of the family went in the house to discuss the bride price, while the rest of us had a traditional Ugandan meal. Finally, the bride came out for the first time at 6:00. She came out in four different beautiful (and fancy!) gomesis. During her costume changes, the grooms family brought in all the gifts that are part of the bride price–this time there was a water tank, two couches, huge bags of flour, live chickens, and all sorts of fruit! Then we had cake, and the introduction came to a close at 7:45.
While the whole process is a LONG one, and although I couldn’t understand most of it since it was all in Luganda (and although I didn’t have a chance to pee from 8 am until 9 pm), it is one of my favorite things to be so immersed in the culture of the country I live in!
I’ve continued to take lessons in Luganda, the local language of the Baganda tribe. Let me tell you, it is a complicated language! There are 10 different classes of nouns, and the beginnings of basically every word in the sentence changes based on the class. But I think its really fun–its like a puzzle (and I love puzzles)!
Here’s some of my favorite words:
- The word for yeast literally means “the one who exaggerates” (which I guess makes sense!): ekizimbulukusa
- The word for fish means “of the lake”: kyenyanja
- The name of the city where Uganda’s airport is located means “chair”: Entebbe
Here’s some sentences to show you what it’s like:
- The students need food: Abayizi neetaaga emeere.
- The teacher plays with her children: Omusomesa azanya ne abaana be.
- She sprinkles sugar on her bread: Amansira sukaali ku mugaati we.
So wish me luck, because I’ve got a long ways to go…I’ve only learned two noun classes so far!
As I lay in bed last night, I was thinking about what I’m grateful for. Some of them are very different from what I’d be grateful for in the states, but others are about the same:
- Being able to see the stars so well during the national power outage yesterday.
- Power that came back on right before we went to bed. This made me grateful for two reasons: I could sleep with my fan on (so that mosquitoes won’t bite and I won’t get malaria), and our milk wouldn’t go bad in the fridge.
- A comfortable bed (I brought a mattress topper from the states because mattresses here are way different here).
- Our car, even though it breaks down just about every other week.
- That rainy season has come back (goodbye dust).
- Friends who I get to do life with.
- Our friend Mary, who invited us over to our house and made us a huge Ugandan meal yesterday (had to force myself to eat it all to be polite) even though she has very little.
I’m learning to be quick with gratefulness (even for small things)–you have to be when you see how much you’ve been given.
This weekend I had the chance to visit the places I stayed at/worked at with the team from JBU five years ago! My previous visit was a big reason for why I ended up here in the first place, and visiting these places again gave me such a nostalgic feeling. This visit was long overdue!
On Saturday, we took a drive up to the top of Bugembe Hill, which has a beautiful view of Lake Victoria and the city. While we were at the top of the hill, I began to recognize the places I had been before. My roommate and I then drove around and saw the school where I worked for two weeks, the church we were connected with, and the streets around the area where we stayed.
The view from the top of Bugembe Hill. The school is the long building towards the right of the screen.
It was so interesting to see these places but from a very different viewpoint–I remember being afraid to ride on a boda or walk around the streets, thinking that a certain strip of shops was the middle of Jinja (it definitely is not), and feeling like it was a completely different world from what I knew (which it was at that point). But now, these places are home! They are familiar and I am comfortable in them…and love them. I love the freeing feeling of riding a boda, the store fronts and potholed roads, and the contrast of red dirt and growing green. I also more deeply feel the frustrations of boda drivers who try to charge me extra, constantly driving on potholed roads, and red dirt that tracks in our house and gets my clothes dirty. But in the end I think understanding the frustrations just makes me love it more. After a year of living here, this place is feeling like home.
The gate of the place we stayed.
The church that is connected with the ministry we worked with.
The school we taught at.
Today the kids at Amazima put together a cultural fair. Different teams shared about different tribes that are represented at our school–mostly from Uganda but also from Rwanda…and America! The group that shared about America asked us to come up and do a traditional American dance with them…the Electric Slide!
Each group shared their greetings and their traditional dress, food, marriage traditions, and dance. It was interesting to hear about the diversity of tribes around Uganda.
Here are some clips of the dances! The first is from the Baganda tribe, which is from where our school is located. The second is actually the traditional circumcision dance from the Bagisu tribe which is located in eastern Uganda.
I’m sitting here with the Red class, 24 of our Senior 1 students here at The Amazima School. I’m supervising preps, which is like study hall. This is great because I can actually accomplish some of the things that I need to get done while they are working, and I have internet that actually works since I’m at school. Wow! It seems like every night has been busy, and we haven’t even fully gotten back into the routine of things.
I have been thinking lately about how in a way we shape our own memories. I’ve been reading a book by Madeleine L’Engle called Two Part Invention, and she talks about how when we write things, we remember them better. After reading that I thought about how much I want to remember certain small things from my time here in Uganda, and I decided I would try to get in the habit of journaling a few minutes each night so that I can remember those small things.
Then I thought—why not share some of these on the blog? So here you go.
The other day my roommates and I were driving into town to meet a friend and do some shopping. We were driving down a generally quiet road when we began to notice a few cars zooming past us now and then. As we kept going we began to wonder if we were in the middle of a car race. Then we turned a corner and found ourselves in the middle of a crowd, and a race car (ish) came whipping around the corner and almost ran into us! We drove through one more street full of spectators, laughing about how no one had blocked off the road that would be part of the race—only here would that ever happen to me. I can now proudly say that I have driven in a car race (although that may be stretching the truth a little bit).
January and February were extremely hot and dry months. One day I said, “I just hope the rain will come back soon!” and the next day it began to POUR during the last 30 minutes of our school day. It continued to pour for the next hour after that. My kids were in awe of all the erosion (which we’d just been talking about in class), we found a giant frog watching the rain with us from our shelter, and we ended up taking off our shoes and running through the rain to get to our car. They say these crazy torrential rains are the “mango rains” because this is when mangoes become ripe and when rainy season starts.
The other day one of the parents of my kids stopped me and told me that the other night they had a bunch of white ants fly into their house. White ants are big, flying things with huge white wings—eventually they drop those wings when they die, and the students will pick up the ant bodies and fry them and eat them (what a treat)! She told me that when the ants flew in they panicked and were running around trying to find a way to get them all out. Adam (my student) told his parents, “Don’t worry! Miss Kirstin said that God is always with us!” If nothing else, I’m glad my students are learning that!
Someday I hope that I’ll remember all the little things along with the big things…it is such a blessing to be able to experience daily life here.
Today I replaced 4 lightbulbs in my house!!! (Insert dancing and excitement). I’m very proud of myself! I can actually see while I’m sitting in my living room! I know, I know, replacing a lightbulb doesn’t seem that exciting. But to me, this is a BIG DEAL.
Some of you already know about my lightbulb dilemma. I’ve shared it as a way of explaining why life is just a bit harder here. Let me explain.
If my lightbulb burned out when I was living in Northwest Arkansas, I would:
- Take out the old lightbulb and drive 5 minutes down the street.
- Walk into Walmart, pick up a lightbulb (see below), and go through self-checkout.
- Drive home and put it in.
But here, the process went something like this:
- Put off buying the lightbulb for two months.
- Finally ask my neighbor where to find lightbulbs, how to get there, what kind to buy, and how much to pay.
- Stack a chair on a table and climb up to take down the old lightbulb and find out what kind to get (pin or screw?).
- Drive to town and make a few laps around the area that my neighbor described trying to find the stall where I can buy lightbulbs. Finally get out, ask someone where to get lightbulbs, and follow their directions to the place.
- Stand there for 15 minutes while 3 men search the shelves for the right kind of lightbulb, test the bulbs to see whether they are warm or cool light, and convince me to buy a different kind than planned.
- Ask the men to give me a fair price and hope that they did.
- Drive home and put the lightbulb in (and clean some spider webs and dirt off the ceiling while I’m at it).
So needless to say, I’m pretty proud of myself for replacing our lightbulbs. Things take a few more steps here, and it seems like everyday there is something new to figure out. But the good news is that the next time one of our lightbulbs burns out, I’ll know just what to do!