Friday, September 19, 2008

This past week was good and relatively uneventful. On Sunday night, I saw the Ndere Troupe with my host brother Chiganda and Kiisa th
e cousin. They are a really talented, traditional music and dance group that has performed internationally and on MTV. It is located in Kampala, but the dancers and musicians are from all over East Africa. They had all the Americans come to the stage and dance! It was really fun! Also one of their dances requires the women to balance clay vases on their heads. One girl was able to sing and dance with a 7 or 8 foot tall tower of vases balancing precariously on her head! (Being able to walk a short distance while balancing something on my head is on my checklist of things to do/try before I leave… It is not as easy as these women make it look).

I also went to mass with my host brother on Sunday. There was plenty of singing and dancing. At the beginning they just had an open invitation to the mic and people passed it around and sang a song for about 20 minutes. They told everyone to “feel free…” to move around and dance and sing. It was much more exciting than our masses.

After school on Monday, children were playing next door, and I went to visit them. At first it was pretty awkward because the only vocabulary we had in common was “Muzungu.” Although I couldn’t understand them, I think they were challenging each other to a game of Who Dares Touch the Muzungu (with something like bonus points for holding my hand and fighting off the other children from claiming the position). It’s funny how many of the children are so curious as to what a white arm or ankle feels like. I knew I had to find a common ground between us or I would just remain a weird novelty to them… so after one of them touched me on the arm… I tapped her arm back and then ran…hoping she would understand the game of tag… she did and I quickly became their friend. I was being chased by a handful of kids and swinging them and giving them piggy back rides (their favorite). They each kept shouting “nange, nange!” (“me too, me too!”) until I got tired. I sat them in a circle and was able to teach them how to play “Duck, Duck, Doose” --for the most part. People around here work all day and into the night, so it was nice for me to have a break to play again.

Tonight Kiisa told me to follow her with the torch (the Ugandan term for flashlight), and she walked out of the compound and into the black night without telling me what we were doing. I followed her through the matooke trees and maize and past neighbors’ homes before I found out that we were in search of medicine because Nalongo (my host mom) had a rough day. We walked into someone else’s gated yard, and then the quest got much less mystical and adventurous. She walked around the house and rang the doorbell and asked for the medicine. A woman gave her the bag of leaves and berries on her porch, and we left. This apparently nameless plant is boiled, and the broth calms the stomach and head.

Interesting fact: I have been asking people here what their favorite American movies are, and everyone in my family said “McGyver and Prison Break.” People here love Chuck Norris for some reason “He’s just so funny and strong.” Arnold Schwarzenegger is also a hit. Bootlegged movies and series are insanely cheap here. They sell DVD disks with anywhere from 1 to 10 movies on them for not much more than 1$. They also love American music (especially hip hop). They keep really current too. Many songs I am hearing for the first time here. Several months ago Akon and Wyclef came, and Rhianna is coming in a month or two. In addition to hip-hop, they just adore Celine Dion, and we have heard her CD’s play in more than one fancy restaurant.

Men hold hands a lot here. It is a sign of friendship though and NOTHING more. They hold hands much more than men and women hold each others' hands (affection of that sort is quite hidden). Homosexuality is illegal and punished by life in prison (where a gay man probably wont last very long).

Lawns are “mowed” here by someone swinging a machete or a stick with a small blade on the bottom. Apparently the entire golf course in Kampala is mowed by a crew of machete-swingers.

Mackerere University is like any college campus in the Midwest... xombined with a farm. While you walk through campus, you can see huge long-horned cattle, goats, chickens, storks, etc standing on the quad. By large classroom buildings are mini shanty towns, which is also weird. It is like a college campus and village on the same property... but people do lounge on the quads!

I probably won’t update the blog next week because I will be traveling all week in Rwanda and Western Uganda. We will be learning about the genocide, visiting the genocide museum and memorial, and going to Queen Elziabeth National Park in Uganda, etc. On Saturday I am going with some other SIT students to help with the building of a school. The Building Tomorrow Club of Notre Dame fundraised all last year and raised $35,000 for this school. I am so excited to actually see it become a physical reality now and to work with the community in the construction.
I will be thankful to get some fresh air outside the city. Kampala is filled with smog and dirt so much so that many of the students I am with complain of nausea from the fumes when they walk around the city, take a taxi, or when the classroom windows are open and there is a breeze. I get a sore throat after a thirty minute walk. The air is very very dirty here.

Also, I am sorry you are hearing so much more about me than about Africa. I will try to rectify that soon!!! There is just so much to tell... I don't know where to begin.

Weraba (goodbye) for now!!! Have a great week everybody! Hopefully you all have electricity (and school) again. At least Columbus is still standing.
Lastly, Go Irish!! I hope you didn’t think I wouldn’t find out that we beat Michigan, Uncle Bill !

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello sweetheart! In talking about your experiences, you are helping us to experience Africa - don't change a thing. It feels like we are by your side ... unsure about what will happen next! Loved the picture of you on the mattress on the floor with mosquito netting - it made me smile. Take care ... all my love, Aunt Rosie

Kevin Mertens said...

Alex,
Don't worry about what you have been writing about. You are doing a wonderful job keeping us updated on both Africa and yourself. If it does tend to drift towards you, that is alright because we all love YOU, learning about Africa is just a cool supplement to hearing about you. I can't wait for you to return it seems like you have been gone for two years (or more). Keep having fun. You make all of us proud!!!
~Kevin Mertens