Snapshot of Ugandan Life

Dancing in Uganda is very different than in the US.  It is very rhythmic based and the movements usually represent some type of action that you can find in real Ugandan life: cutting grass or something in the field, rooster’s fighting, depicting cows with long horns via arm movements, or even courtship and engagements.  The movements change based on what region of the country you are in and what type of employment/farming/tribal culture is around.  With the movements being fairly prescribed, the men have important footwork and the women have important waist work, a la hip movements.  I tell you, even the men here can shake their hips in ways I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master!

You know how they say, “Everything is bigger in Texas?”  Those people must not have been to Uganda.  But then again, I suppose it is just similar because it is a warmer climate.  The tree leaves are bigger, the fruit is bigger and…the bugs are bigger.  Now that we are out in the village, we are using different types of sanitation, including a bucket shower and a latrine, aka outhouse, but not with a seat, with just a hole instead.  But, there are some large cockroaches that just hang around everywhere.  Well, they really like warm dark places.  Can you guess where there are always warm dark places?  Not in our rooms – thank you God!  Yes.  The latrine.  So, yesterday I was trying to show Michelle that there was a strange fog/smoke/mist looking thing coming out of the latrine and shined my flashlight down the hole.  Bad plan.  There was a cockroach just sitting there.  I jumped slightly and backed up a bit.  But as it moved out of sight, I breathed a sigh of relief.  However, I shone the light there again and this time I just saw antennae.  That’s right, there was a cockroach just out of sight but close enough for the antennae to stick out.  And we still had to use the latrine.  The hole-in-the-ground-that-we-have-to-squat-over latrine.  Oh man, Michelle had to talk me into that!  I don’t think I have ever peed so fast in my life.  Note to self: do not look down the hole before using it.

Rain.  There are two seasons here in Uganda.  Rainy season and slightly-less-rainy season-that-is-also-sometimes-damp.  🙂 No really, sometimes they go a while without rain and the water tanks go dry, the fields turn brownish, the cows get skinnier because there isn’t as much grass.  But I haven’t experienced the type of rain that they have here in the US.  Michelle has, in New Orleans.  I have experienced it in Papua New Guinea.  Deluge I think is a proper descriptor.  But the thing that is crazy about the rain is that many of the buildings here have tin roofs, so the rain is SO LOUD!!!  However, today as we sat and watched/listened to it rain, we were thinking, “if only there were water tanks on all sides of these buildings!  Then there wouldn’t be any water issues!  Even with the water tanks, they still can run out of water during the dry season.  It’s better than without the tank, but there is so much rain, I wish we could capture more of it!

Funny language and culture things.  Tonight at dinner, we were sitting on a mat on the floor eating our meal with some Ugandan friends Rogers and Maureen.  I, Liz, commented that this is a new thing for me, to eat every meal sitting on the floor.  (The reason we are doing that here is that it costs extra money to purchase furniture, table, chairs, etc.  No one sits at a table or uses chairs.  We are being honored by being able to sit inside and use the mat.)  Michelle explained that when we eat on the ground at home we call it a picnic.  Here’s how the rest of the conversation went.

Liz:  Hey Boo Boo!  I’ve got a pic-a-nic a-basket!  Hahaha.

Slight pause.

Liz: That’s a quote from this…uh [turns to Michelle] was that from Yogi Bear, or Yogi Berra?

Michelle: Yogi Bear.

Liz: [to Ugandan friends] …do you know what a cartoon is?

Rogers: No.

Maureen: No.

Liz to Michelle: Michelle?  Can you explain.

Michelle: It’s like a TV show, but it is not with real people.  Instead it has drawings that are animated.

Maureen: Oh!  I’ve seen that.

Liz to Rogers: Do you know what that is now?

Rogers: No…

Liz: Ok, well it is like a story on TV that is drawn.  It’s usually for kids.  Anyway, there was this baseball player, do you know what baseball is?

Rogers and Maureen: Yes

Liz: And his name was Yogi Berra.  And [to Michelle] was the cartoon made after him?

Michelle: I’m not sure.

Liz: Well anyway, there was this cartoon that was made with a bear…do you know what a bear is?

Rogers and Maureen: No

Liz: Michelle?

Michelle: [blank stare for a second while thinking]

Liz: It’s kind of like…a cow sized dog….ish.

Michelle: Yeah, sort of.  They are cold weather animals.  And they have lots of fur.

Liz: Yeah.  So this is now a really long story that isn’t that interesting, but the bear was named Yogi Bear and he would say, “Hey Boo Boo, I’ve got a pic-a-nic a-basket!”

Michelle: Yes, because he was a big bear and he had a smaller bear as a friend named Boo Boo.  They would roam around a park and make trouble for people.

Liz: And sometimes take their picnic baskets!

This whole interaction was particularly funny for Michelle and me.  How do you describe a bear to someone who has never seen one?  Or a cartoon?  These are some of the great intercultural interactions that have been happening so far on our trip.  It’s a great thing to have a good laugh over it too!

One thought on “Snapshot of Ugandan Life

  1. That’s a really, uh, brave of you to use the latrine with the antenna.

    But the Yogi Bear thing is hilarious!! What crazy cultural differences (that happen everywhere.) I was talking with a kid once about kayaking… but he didn’t know what a kayak was, so I asked if he knew what a canoe was, no, or a boat? he got the boat.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!!

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