Thursday, May 15, 2008

Life in Entebbe

A fellow expatriate told me when I first arrived in Entebbe that living here was 'not really [the] Africa' that fills western imagination. There are paved roads, ATM's, small grocery stores, and even washing machines in particular households. As I've considered her statement, I've realized that Entebbe is more comfortable than many parts of Uganda, but it still takes a while to adjust to. Every day I'm confronted with sights and experiences that are unique to this part of the world.

On Monday, I cleaned mold off of several pairs of shoes that had sat in our closet for just a couple of weeks. I don't mind this chore, but it is certainly something I never had to do in Florida.

On Tuesday I went grocery shopping at an open-air market with my Ugandan momma (Jennifer). I was buying in bulk that day to stock up for our trip to Kaabong. I purchased 7 pounds of popcorn from a vendor who was selling an assortment of dry goods from large burlap sacks. After buying my popcorn and waiting for my change, I looked down at the sack and realized the popcorn had weevils in it. Not only that, but half the popcorn kernels had holes in them. I showed Jennifer, who promptly complained and tried to advocate for me getting my money back. The vendor would not budge, but stood firmly beside the quality of his popcorn. I had to swallow my pride and walk away, but Jennifer has recently informed me that we're still taking that popcorn back and asking for an exchange of something else. She says I don't have to stand for this kind of treatment. Nobody else here would.

Something interesting I've thought about...although we live on African time here and things tend to go slower...when you're driving, this principle does not apply. People are always in a hurry and will pass on either side of you. Pedestrians and bike riders pull out into traffic and walk/move along at their leisure. It seems that we cater to them. I won't even start on the driving habits of people here, but let me assure you that it's different than how Floridians drive.

On Wednesday we headed to Kampala to do errands and get down to business. A routine oil change turned into a six-hour ordeal and more money than we were willing to part with. The dealership had taken it upon themselves to do a routine servicing without our permission. They did not give us a quote or ask for our consent on anything they did....they just did it and charged us. I don't remember the last time I was this frustrated with someone. Thank God for a patient husband who helps me to cool down and extend grace. My life will get a whole lot less stressful when I familiarize myself with the way they do things here and...just accept it. This is part of the transition from western thinking to African thinking that I'm approaching at a slower pace.

Today, I swept ants and lake flies off the floor, toilet, bath tub, outlets, couch and any other surface they may have landed. I soaked and cleaned potatoes, green onions, and green beans before cooking them. I peeled a pineapple. I cooked a green leafy vegetable that I don't even know the name for (not an English name). I handwashed a towel and hung it out to dry. I filled our Katadyn water filter with tap water, so we would have a nice return of clean water. I rode a 'boda' (motorcycle) to a friend's house for a baby shower and paid the guy 50 cents. Along the way, I spotted people on bikes carrying loads three times their size. Tonight we will go to bed and pull down a mosquito net, hoping for a breeze to cool us off. Yes, Entebbe is a comfy life...but it still has its challenges.

As I finish this post, I hear multiple gunshots a mile or so away. I wonder to myself, 'Am I still in Entebbe'?


The Reeds said...

Yeah!!! I'm so glad to 'read you' on here. And I'm really sorry I haven't written. I've been really really stressed- which is not a good excuse. I want to do e-mails tomorrow.. I am really feeling "you" now as you're about to head up. I'm sad we're not going too.. I know that's odd. But I'm sad. I want to call this weekend so badly- but as I still have NO JOB I think our call will take a few weeks longer...

You're totally right- Entebbe is still Africa.. But after a month or two of Karamoja it feels more like America. Maybe I'm wrong- let me know you're take on it.

I've had headaches every day we've been here.. I think it's so much to do and everything going so quickly.

we've bought a used car,
gotten a post office box,
got two cell phones,
and I've been interviewing for jobs.....

We miss y'all!!! Keep the stories coming.. You have one very avid and happy reader. ;)

The Reeds said...

Hey! Is my mind made of rubber or what? I just read a blog about your tires- then clicked here to see it and make a comment and it's gone! How did you do that?! I thought it was hillarious! Only now you just HAVE to blog a picture of the "Lifeguard" billboard... I mean... worker's boots???