Day 1 was not so swell. I had flown overnight TWICE. My mind nor my stomach knew what time it was and my whole body just wanted to collapse. We were, of course, greeted by the introduction from the USP (Uganda Studies Program) staff that their goal for the day was to keep us awake and active. This was supposedly so we could sleep tightly that evening in either our dorms or home-stays, but I honestly could have slept that morning and afternoon and still passed out that night. So Day 1 included a hike. It was actually a tour of campus, but it turns out they are one in the same. Orientation in classrooms was also an event. I felt bad for constantly dozing off, but I was literally unable to do otherwise. Toward the end of the afternoon, we IMME students were dropped off at our homes. We were all so nervous and exhausted. The combination can easily make for a wreck of a student. I was the first to be dropped because my home is closest to campus. A 10 minute walk- thank the Lord! As I unloaded my things, my host mom came out saying “Emily! Emily! Aawww Emily. You are welcome here!” and gave me the biggest African mama hug ever. Oh boy did I need that hug.
In Uganda, you call your Mom, “Mama” and your Dad “Tata”. I don’t have a Tata, but I have a mama. She introduced herself like so: “My name is Harriet, but I prefer you call me Mama Harriet.” She has three children…grown up children. I was pretty disappointed that there were not little children to dwell among me, but the Lord gave me blessings in a different form…a roommate! A girl, Jenna, from Tennessee is here visiting. She was a USP student back in Spring 2010 and is staying with her family once again…a graduation gift from her parents. Oh what a joy to have her around giving me tips and hints and showing me the utmost grace, right along with the rest of the family, as I adjust to the environment.
Mama Harriet is such a sweetheart. I am her 12th USP student and it was obvious that handling my arrival was as natural to her as a mama holding her newborn baby. She is a school teacher to ages 10 and her English is great. Many Ugandans speak good English. It is the national language. It’s the accent that typically throws all of us newbies off. Her daughter is grown up and has a young son named Mark. I haven’t met him yet, but I heard he is a wonderful kid. Mama’s niece, Lillian, and mama’s two sons, Jonah and Joshua, all go to high school. In Uganda, about 90% of kids who receive an education, starting in elementary, live at their school. So normally, Jonah, Joshua and Lillian are not at home.
So back to Day 1…. It was a crack up for both me and Jenna watching me get adjusted to the little things, the main home difference being the latrine. Throughout Uganda, the main form of toilets are not bowls, but holes. They call them “Squatty Potties”. As different as it may seem, it’s amazing how quickly one can adjust! Adjusting to the latrine outside my home, though, was a different story. It was dark out and I had to use a flash light. Jenna light-heartedly warned me about the lizards. LIZARDS?!?! Oh I hate lizards like Indiana Jones hates snacks…or like my sister Hannah hates spiders. Shout out to you, sis. I have to admit I was as freaked out as you get about those dumb minuscule spiders in your room at night. It took me forever and a day to get myself to use that latrine, but I had to. That took care of my fear once and for all. Oh Africa.
There are really so many things I could write about… I am living in a different world. Food, for example, rice beans and all sorts of new African food. But it’s all starches and carbs, which I cannot say I’m looking forward to. Jenna said she gained 20 pounds while she lived with our family. I have no idea how that’s going to work. All I know is I am dying for fresh fruit and salads and it’s only day 3.
Life on campus thus far has only been an array of orientation, nothing too special. Tomorrow we leave for Rwanda…5 a.m. bright and early. It’s a 16 hour drive. Gross. But it will surely be worth it! We’ll be there for 10 days experiencing the people, the culture, the genocide museum, community projects and the alike. It will surely be challenging.
Wish I could write more…pictures and more to come when we return from Rwanda!