A portrait of day-to-day life in this wonderful place, in no particular order. As Mike Wu so wisely stated, “Life’s full of surprises. If it’s not, go to Africa.” Here are some of my favorite surprises.
Mike and Joe: Fellow interns on the field. Mike’s been working with the nutrition program at the health clinic, Joe’s been working with me doing PR at Christ School. I’ve never had brothers, but I’m assuming this is what it feels like. Can’t live with ’em, can’t imagine Africa without ’em.
Boda: A motorcycle-esque form of public transportation. No rules for the road in these parts, just mere suggestions and/or guidelines. Plenty of honking.
“Olayo”: the beginning of a lubwisi greeting, but mainly my “I don’t have any idea what you’re saying” response. Goes well with a smile and a subtle awkward laugh.
56,798: The number of times Joe has told the story of British Air losing his bag for 3 weeks. Also the number of times he’s referenced the lizard falling onto his head the first time he used the toilet outside.
Spiders: The things I’ve learned to not kill every time I see them inside. Mainly because they eat mosquitos, but also because I gave up. Way too many.
Africa time: “We will meet at 10 am” = “We will meet sometime after 11:30 am”
RMS: Rwenzori Mission School. The place where teammates Molly and Alanna teach preschool/elementary school to 4 of the children on the Bundi team. Also where giant mud pits make for an awesome field day and photo booths make for a festive 4th of July.
Settlers (of Catan): Mike Wu’s favorite board game and pastime. Solid way to turn 3 hours into 5 minutes while competing in the nerdiest way possible against your fellow teammates. If your phone’s ringing and it says “Mike Wu”, he’s asking you to come play Settlers. See also: Dominion.
Dominion: Equally nerdy. More cards, less monopoly-looking pieces. Mike told me that he intentionally took clothes out of his trunk so he could bring both of these games to Africa. The truth came out and nobody’s surprised.
The Amazing Race, Bundi Edition: An interactive (and forced) activity designed by our dear intern coordinator here on the field to acclimate the newest mzungus to Babwisi culture. The clues took us everywhere, had us perform certain tasks, find certain people, etc. I personally think cameras were placed all over the village to forever remember the ways those interns made complete fools of themselves, but what’s done is done.
Pineapple: Uganda’s touch of heaven on earth. If I could leave my belongings and bring back a trunk full of pineapples, I would.
3-5: The number of times a week the power goes out for whatever reason. Goes hand-in-hand with teammate Sarah’s FAVORITE team responsibility: calling the power company to see what the heck is going on. Again.
Goats: They are everywhere and they fear nothing.
“Seriously, I CANNOT wait for you guys to play the expansion pack”: Mike Wu’s catchphrase. We’re not playing the expansion pack, Mike Wu.
Pants: Underwear. Trousers = pants. A mistake that’s rarely repeated.
Chacos: The only way to survive walking anywhere after a rainstorm. Wearing anything else will result in falling down every 25 seconds. No chacos, no chance of gracefulness.
African spray tan: Climb up to the roof rack of the safari van, grab some protective eyewear, and try not to breathe too much because it feels like you’re flying through a Texas dust storm. BUT you’re 2 shades darker when you come out the other side.
Scarves and winter coats: What boda drivers wear when the temperature drops to a record low of 70 degrees. Practically an African ice age.
That heard of elephants running through the African savannah: Nope, just Mike Wu snoring. FROM THE HOUSE BEHIND MINE.
TVA: I tell Ugandans I’m from Tennessee, the immediate response is “Oh! The Tennessee Valley Authority!” …….. Of all the things.
Cocoa (“cuh-COH-uh”): The main cash crop for the district. People harvest the beans and pour them out onto huge pieces of tarp to dry out in the sun. As they dry, they ferment. Joe said it best: “I can’t tell if I’m smelling garbage rotting in the heat or the cocoa beans drying.”
Bat squeaks: what you hear 24/7 when you live in the bat house. The attic is their home, unless they decide to pay the kitchen/living room a visit. In which case there’s a good chance it’ll end up running into you. +10 points if it bounces off your face.
“Ey! Oslahnd!”: Usually means Charity is home from school and is trying to get my attention. He and his siblings live right behind the mission, which means they’re hanging around a lot. Charity and I have a love/hate relationship typically defined by sass, but that boy makes me laugh and I adore his family.
Slasher: Tool used to cut the grass. Except you’re literally swinging a metal blade back and forth. Grass flying everywhere. There’s a man named Ngonji who slashes for the mission grounds every day, and he let me try it once (and only once). It’s something we unofficially agreed to just not talk about. Slashing’s not my thing.
“HOW ARE YOU???”: The first thing primary (elementary) school students learn in their English classes here. They practice roughly 157 times every time they see a mzungu. Shout it back to them to cause a chorus of squeals and giggles because they don’t know what to say after that.
Meat from the village market: The one thing that no one on the team except Mike Wu is brave enough to purchase and consume. He’s also been sick the most times; so I’m taking the liberty to draw some parallels here. Motto for the summer: vegetarians have more fun.
Fish eyeball: What I dared Joe to eat one night. He refused to touch tomatoes or onions when he first came here, but fish eyeballs? Sure, why not.
My hair: I’ve turned into a living, breathing American Girl Doll… except it’s up to me to de-tangle after Ugandan hands have been all over it. They’re obsessed.
Black mamba: The snake the guys claimed to have found and killed in their bedroom. Upon further reflection and research, it was actually a tiny baby burrowing asp. Only one man point was revoked.
Evacuation brain drain: As soon as the adrenaline rush disappears, so does the ability to think. “What day is it? Where are we? Is there something I should be doing right now? WHEN IS THE LAST TIME I SHOWERED.”
Synthesizer: A recent gift to Christ School that ultimately replaced the drums the students once used when worshipping in chapel and Sunday services. Makes for an interesting musical plot twist, especially during the Lubwisi songs.
And my personal favorite…“Here comes the bride, he is full of pride”: The Ugandan rendition of a wedding classic, sung over and over. Lyrics pulled directly from the program I kept from a ceremony last month.