Typed on the 1st of June, right before I slept like a rock. And boy is it a long post:
Today was…. phew. It had some really good times and some really not-good times. Let’s go chronologically, shall we?
I greeted the few that were there before meeting with Yudaya, the resident mom of the office. She sat me down and talked about what we were going to do for the day and explained the custom of never entering someone’s home empty-handed. Then she said we’d head out after she prepared tea for everyone else.
While she prepared tea (and did whatever else) I had enough time to talk with the girls (who had shown up while Yudaya and I were talking) and connect my computer to the internet. I got to talk to Kim and check my e-mail a little, glance over this blog, and chat with some friends in the office. Then it was time to take tea, so I had sugary milk-water, which looks like I added and poured and mixed things but still resembles something I can drink and like. Then Yudaya took me across the street to a little shop, where I bought some rice and sugar for the family I was visiting, and a lollipop for their kid. We walked a total of like ten steps before we got to the house, and it was the house of one of the girls I had met in passing the day before!
Sauda, a 21-year-old girl who is a NACWOLA child (meaning her mother is a member), welcomed me into her home and hung out with me. Her neice was not happy to see me but when I gave her a lollipop she was content with me being there (child bribery ftw). Sauda got her memory book, which is one of the cool things NACWOLA does, and told me all about her family and her history. The memory book was an idea started by NACWOLA years ago, giving women living with HIV/AIDS a chance to record their family history and personal history and leave it for their children. Sauda began to write her own despite her mother being alive, and she is still working on it. She read to me stories of who her mother is, where her family is from, how her father passed, how she liked school. Everything in the book was really interesting and touching, and it was nice to be welcomed into someone’s home. While there I also met her younger sister, Sharifa, and her mom and aunt both stopped by. After we finished going through the book, we watched some TV (it looked like a Ugandan soap opera followed by a short profile of a Spanish actress and then the news) before heading out. Sauda and I went back to NACWOLA for lunch.
When we got back, we hung out with people for a little while before Yudaya had me meet with Emma, a man a little younger than me. I don’t know what we were supposed to actually talk about, but he was filling out applications for university so I talked to him about that. He’s a go-getter, and he made fun of American schools for not starting until 5 years old (nursery starts at age 3 and is equivalent to our kindergarten). In the course of talking we also got to maybe one of my favorite conversations so far. 1. How can America keep a man from having more than one wife? B. But Akon says he has two wives. How does he live in the US? Ultimately, though, we talked about American versus Ugandan school systems until lunch, which Sauda helped prepare. During lunch I chatted with Danielle, a Penn grad, for a bit before it started POURING outside out of nowhere. Suddenly the room filled with everyone who had been outside and we carried on our conversations while it rained.
The original agenda for the Penn group was to meet with a group of women in a microfinance program. Due to the rain, the meeting came inside so I joined in and listened to a lot of good conversation. The thing the girls came to do was to help put together a program in which women can work to make paper out of papyrus and water hyacinth (both found in Lake Victoria) and then turn the paper into books and picture frames. The women who came today were in a microfinance program in which they have taken out a loan as a group (of 17) and they share the money to keep their businesses going. They talked a lot about the woes of loans and low capital, and shared some stories about their jobs and how microfinance does or doesn’t help. It was exactly the type of thing Tomomi (a professor at ASU) would have been interested in!
The meeting went long, but it was really interesting and fine by me. Afterwards I decided to try to walk to Ggaba Road (where the US Embassy is) to A. register with the embassy and II. see how far it was since boda-bodas are expensive and the bus dropped me off on this road. To address the former, I arrived at the back of the embassy and had to go around – which is a long road – and it was closed. To address the latter, it was pretty far, so I’m going to see if I can find a shorter route or suck it up and get there by boda.
That’s pretty much where the day got more and more annoying. I walked a bit passed the embassy to a gas station with hopes of getting on a bus. Several in a row were full, so I figured I’d walk and flag one down. Still full. After a while I just said screw it and walked, making sure I followed the general mass of taxis. After a long walk, and a few misreads of the buses, I found myself in the thick of downtown. This area was muddier and a little more sketchy, so I kept things close and my eyes open as I hopped between roads and through shopping centers (shopping centers that go through to the next street are called arcades, by the way). Eventually I found my way to the bus park that I should have been getting off at. But then I couldn’t find my way to the other bus park, despite getting (conflicting) directions from multiple passers by. Eventually, I made it and I hopped in, relieved to finally be on a bus and know where I was going.
Got to Wandegeya and found my way to the internet cafe where, imagine, I ran into Morris! We headed up and he scanned some things while I was told that the internet wasn’t working. So we were disparaged. They said it should be up soon, so we grabbed a quick bite to eat before returning…. to a closed internet cafe. Guess it didn’t come back? Morris pointed me towards one and I arrived only to find out that it was full. So I headed to one that I had seen in passing, and it didn’t have wi-fi, was also full, and was more ghetto than the others. I had to wait five minutes before I could hop on Windows 95 (or whatever was before XP) and try to get the internet to work. Glad I got to talk to people a little bit before calling it a very late night and navigating through the dark back home. All in all an okay day that started really cool and ran aground for a bit. I think I put in a lot of kilometers today, whatever those are.