Sunday, 29 April 2012

Helping the Ugandans Understand Acne, Freckles, and Age

So of course living in a foreign country on the other side of the world, we're obviously going to find ourselves in situations that wouldn't usually present themselves in America. For instance, many Ugandans have spent very little time with anyone of lighter-colored skin. However, they can be very blunt and if they have questions they will not hesitate to ask. The first time I ran into this problem was with a man named Henry, and the conversation went something like this:

Henry (gesturing to some pimples on my face): "What are those? Are they bug bites?"

Me (after a few moments hesitation): "" (I decided not to elaborate)

Henry: "Bug bites must be terrible, especially coming from another country. You must be having a lot of trouble with them."

Me: "Um....yup."

I have no idea what he got out of this conversation but he seemed satisfied with my answers. 


Another problem is age confusion, and it runs both ways. They haven't the slightest idea how old we are, and we can never tell how old they are. The first Sunday we attended church, Pastor Joshua had us all come up and Dad introduced each of us by giving our name and age. When he got to my little sister, the youngest Broce, he introduced her just the same, "Annaliese, 12 years old." When the audience heard her age, they all raised their eyebrows and laughed. After the service, Henry explained to us that to everyone there my sister looked at least 16, and the crowd couldn't believe she was only 12. 

Annaliese is on the left, I'm on the right

Unlike my sister, I am often confused for someone younger. During our first month in Uganda, we received a special offer at a gym near our apartment and were able to make it a regular part of our morning schedule. During one such morning, I was doing partner exercises with my sister (who, again, is 12, and I am 18). The trainer came over with two weights, one heavier than the other. Now, in the States, if people are going to confuse my age they assume I'm older. So I was surprised when the trainer had to ask who was the older sister, so he knew who needed the heavier weight. Of course, my little sister thought the idea of being older was just great and still likes to remind me now and again.

When my mom and I walk together, people are often surprised to discover she's my mom, not my sister. They are always telling her how young she looks (which is something she could never hear too often). They are even more surprised to find out she has five children, and have on more than one occasion insisted that she is lying. 


Looks yummy right?
Because we have only been here a short while, we are still trying to understand the culture. Once my mom and I visited a restaurant we hadn't been to yet. There were lots of other people there, including many foreigners, so the place looked promising. We ordered a single coffee shake to split. When it arrived it looked so delicious and refreshing we couldn't wait to devour it. So we stuck our straws in and took a big sip. We stopped mid-slurp, with the most disgusting drink we have ever tasted trapped in our mouths. We unwilling swallowed it, and stared at it. But, this was Africa, and we didn't fully understand the culture. We didn't know if they would be offended if we asked for a different drink, let alone a refund. And so, we drank it. The whole thing. And then quickly made our way over to the grocery store to find something to get rid of the nasty taste stuck to our tongues. 


The other day while searching for souvenirs (I'm such a tourist), one of the saleswomen bent over and rubbed my calf. "You have such beautiful legs," she said to me, referring to their (extremely) light color, "What kind of cream to you use?" I said I didn't use any, and she again complimented me on my lovely white skin. I thought it was funny, though, that here in Uganda my legs are beautiful while back in the States when people see them they usually shield their eyes and tell me to get a tan.


Today at church, Henry (of course) asked me about the freckles and moles on my arms.

Henry: "What are those?"

Me: "Oh they're just freckles. I get them from the sun."

Henry: "Really?? You get those from the sun? Wow. I did not know what they were. I did not know if they are bad or if they cause pain."

Me: "Oh they're normal. They don't hurt."

Henry: "Oh, ok, ok."

Me: "Yes, they're permanent though, they'll never go away."

Henry: "Never?? Wow!! They will never go away?? Oh, wow!" 

Henry is learning new things everyday. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

I Like My Ice Tray

Living in a third world country forces an entirely new perspective on a person. I find myself truly thankful when we have electricity and water. It only takes one day without these utilities to discover how much you had been taking them for granted. You quickly learn to thank God for the little things, like the screens on your windows and the rain. So many people here depend on rainfall to water their crops and therefore sustain their family that having any kind of drought can quickly escalate into a serious problem. 

Take ice cubes for example. In the States you are expected to have them stocked up in your freezer. IN FACT, most people can access these frozen angels at the touch of a button, and they come tumbling out of their very nice freezer. When we first moved to Uganda we quickly discovered that a nice, cool glass of water on a hot day (which is everyday) was almost essential to keep us from melting into human puddles. My slight exaggeration aside, I had never before realized how nice it is to have these on hand. But I was so thankful that we did. 

So if you get nothing else from this post, just remember to thank God for your ice cubes next time they tumble out of your freezer, because it's the little things we tend to take for granted.

Friday, 13 April 2012

There and Back Again: A Mzungu's Tale

Recently my family and I had the privilege of visiting a school/orphanage that our church here in Uganda (Grace Assembly) created called Grace Education Center. It was an awesome trip down there, fraught with excitement and danger. Excitement being we got to stand on the equator and watch water spin clockwise on one side of the world and spin counterclockwise on the other, and danger being a few of us were in such great need of a restroom we thought we might explode. Okay, that was me. 

We left early Monday morning with the assistance of a member of our church named Godfrey to act as our guide. Not so long into our journey we were stopped by a policeman on the side of the road.

He asked us how fast we were going, to which my dad replied, "75 km." The policeman grinned (I think he enjoyed this a little too much) and proudly showed us his radar gun, displaying 80 km. Godfrey had informed us earlier that the highway speed limit is 80 km, and so he called this into question. The policeman responded, "Ah, but this is not a highway, it is a bypass. And the speed limit on a bypass is 70." He then asked for my dad's identification, and my dad obliged willingly, not looking for any trouble. The reason for this, we later found out, was because the officer wanted to know if my dad was anyone of importance.  
Godfrey brought to the officer's attention that fact that the speed limit had not been displayed anywhere along the road. The officer said this was not his fault. Godfrey tried to reason with him still, "Please sir, I told this man the speed limit was 80. He did not know." Again the officer grinned, pulling out a list of traffic violations and their fees. He showed us where it said we were to pay 100,000 shillings (about $42) for our ticket, and now Godfrey was to receive a ticket as well of 40,000 shillings (about $17) for "giving false information." 

Without losing any patience, Godfrey got out of the vehicle to talk to the officer. Godfrey already knew that the policeman was only trying to cheat us, and that the reading on the radar was probably not even ours. The officer tried to bargain with Godfrey, lowering the fees. Long story short(er), Godfrey was able to reason our way out of a ticket. Thank God for Godfrey.

Later we stopped at the equator to watch spinning water (and so some of us could alleviate our bladders). Water will spin clockwise on one side of the equator when it goes down a drain, counterclockwise on the other side, and if the water is directly on the equator it won't spin at all. The sun was INCREDIBLY intense there, and I was only too happy to go back into the air conditioned van.

We continued on our journey until lunchtime, when we enjoyed some good traditional Ugandan food. Then we drove until Kyotera Town (pronounced "chotera," because "ky" in Lugandan makes a "ch" sound, now you know) in Rakai District, where we planned to stay for the night. After paying for our rooms (6 in total, we each got our own), we traveled about 20 minutes to the orphanage. 

We didn't arrive until almost 5:00 in the evening, which is when the kids get out of school. The school provides an education for over 400 students. We walked into each classroom to introduce ourselves. When they would see us coming, they started a synchronized clap (if that makes sense) until we were all inside. The teacher who introduced us in each classroom would say, "Good afternoon, class. How are you doing?" To which the entire class would reply in unison "We are alright, thank you teacher." Which sounded more like, "We are al-a-right, sank you teachah." We then each introduced ourselves (after each introduction they had a special clap they did) and then moved on to the next classroom. 

Afterwards when school ended for the day, the kids stuck around for quite a while and followed us all over the school grounds. We spent a good amount of time taking their picture and then showing it to them, which they LOVED. 

We walked to some nearby houses, one of which was home to a widow and her seven children. Her husband died last year due to AIDS. 

One of the teachers who had accompanied our group informed us that this was the area most affected by AIDS, and that many of the older girls who attend the school carry it, passed on from their parents. Their outside appearance bears no visible evidence, there is only an inside contamination. Many of the children also suffer from some kind of skin disease. We had asked about this earlier when we noticed some of the kids have white spots on their heads.

The sun began to set and we returned to the hotel, where we enjoyed dinner under some special mood lighting (all of the lights had been turned off except for some black lights placed above the tables). It produced a nice effect but it was kind of hard to see what I was eating. I just had to take their word for it that I was actually eating chicken. 

Each of the kids then went our separate ways into the rooms, but quickly assembled in my room because really, being all by yourself is no fun. I then proceeded to kick their butts in a card game because it's important to remind younger siblings where their place is. 

The next day we returned to the school for a few hours and both of my parents were able to speak to the kids, my dad to the older classes and my mom to the younger classes. I sat in for the message my mom gave. She told them why Jesus died for us, and then about the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. We left that afternoon for the long(ish) journey home. 

The kids were so adorable, I loved the whole trip! And to wrap up our little adventure, just before we pulled up to our apartment, we saw our first monkey in Uganda.

P.S. Nope, I didn't take this picture, so this isn't the same monkey. But it's the same kind of monkey, which I figure is pretty much the same thing. Just wanted to help you visualize.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Learning to Survive in the Kitchen

The culinary arts have never been produced with any kind of ease in the Broce kitchen, but rather, we find that the construction of a meal is something of a struggle. Our hands do not seem to be blessed with the kind of skill necessary to create delicious masterpieces, or even edible mediocrity. So moving to a country that does not sell the foods we are accustomed to presented a much larger challenge to our family than it might to an American family that is more comfortable in the kitchen. However, we were determined (but mostly forced) to push past our boundaries and try something new.

One of the most common foods consumed here in East Africa is called chapati. It originally came from India but because the ingredients are so simple and relatively inexpensive it has entered the homes of most Ugandans. Chapati can be compared to a tortilla, with thicker, more dense qualities. My parents first encountered this dish on their short-term mission trips to Kenya six years ago when it was served with nearly every meal, which is also common routine here in Uganda.

Of course moving to Uganda meant mom had to try it in our own kitchen, so she quickly put me to work. Turning to the internet for assistance, I found a YouTube video made by an Australian name Kurma who explains the chapati process in detail. So I tried it with my own hands and produced what you see here.

Then we brought in the professionals.

Maria, Dorothy and Jeanne, three ladies who attend our church, were kind enough to come over for dinner and teach us how to prepare a typical Ugandan meal. We had posho (a sort of tasteless, thick cream of wheat, if you will, that can be molded with the fingers), beef stew, and chapati. 

This is Dorothy. She is incredibly friendly and loves to laugh. Plus she makes awesome food.


The entire process took about two and a half hours, but I'm sure they slowed it down immensely for our sake. The beef stew, which we used to flavor the posho, was easily the most amazing stew I have ever had the privilege to taste. I meant to take pictures of the finished product, really I did, but by the time it was actually finished I was so incredibly hungry I couldn't be bothered to remember. 

My apologies.

When the meal was over it was already dark and so my parents took them home. These ladies always look very nice and obviously care about and put effort into their appearance. So when my parents arrived at their house they were surprised to see the living conditions. 

There are five women living here. The door on the left belongs to them; the right side of the building belongs to another family. It's nothing more than one small room. There is no electricity or running water and they cook outside over coals.

Once again we were reminded that we are living in a third world country. Sometimes we forget; we live in such a nice part of the city and have a great apartment. However, while in our eyes these people have so little, they still thank God for what they do have. But poverty is still running rampant, and Uganda still needs help. Please don't forget this country in your prayers.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Ever-Aging Man

Living in a third world country and having Snow White's skin guarantees visits from the less fortunate, as many Ugandans live under the assumption that people with white skin are rolling in money. Our hearts break for the small children that are sent by their parents to beg on the sidewalks and the men without legs who have been propped up under shade umbrellas. When someone comes up to you to beg for money it is difficult to send them away. At the same time, we don't want to reinforce the poverty mentality which tells them "You can't do any better." When people give them money it tells them, "You don't need to do better, so don't even try!" 

Sometimes, as with one particular man, the experience can be interesting, to say the least. 

We first encountered this man a few days ago on our way home from Nakumatt, a grocery store that we frequent on account of its proximity. We had almost reached our apartment when this man stopped us. He told us that he had seen us in Nakumatt (which means that he had been following us for at least 10 minutes) and that he wanted to speak to my mom "as a mother." He then went on to explain that he was 39 and born again. He asked us where we went to church and then told us he attends Faith Fellowship. He is an elder of his church, but things are getting difficult, and droned on and on.

Now, we noticed a few things while listening to his speech (which was lengthy due to his repetition of nearly everything he said - at least three times). First, that this man was probably in his late 20's or early 30's - there was no possible way he was almost 40. Second, that this entire monologue was memorized. There was not a flicker of truth in his eyes, and his face didn't register any real emotion. 

After a while of this, I watched my mom tune out as she set her mind to work, formulating a polite way to say, "bug off please." Finally, she stopped him and said curtly, "I'm sorry, but we don't give out money." She then turned and continued walking. Thankfully the man went his separate way.

Alas, our parting was not final.

Today, we went grocery shopping at a store we hadn't yet perused called Capital, which was too far to walk so we drove. For us, shopping is quite the undertaking on account of my brothers, whose stomachs can easily be compared to black holes (but I'm sure anyone who has ever sat down to eat with a teenage boy understands this completely). 

While purchasing our two cart loads of groceries, we were again approached by the same man. This time looking for pity in my dad, he told him that he wanted to talk to my dad "as a brother in Christ." Having apparently aged rapidly in the last few days, he was now 43. He was still an elder of the church, but he still needed money. My dad inquired if he had asked his church for help, and he had, but the senior pastor was out of town for two more months and his approval was needed to release money. Seemingly having grown older even as we stood there, he now informed my dad that he was a 47 year old man and he just needed a little help. 

My dad said something along the lines of, "I'm sorry but our policy is not to give out money, but you are welcome to visit our church and see what they can do for you."  

On the not-so-slight chance we meet again, I think we shall turn things around on him a little. I am absolutely curious as to how he will react to a 72-year-old woman and her 40-year-old daughters asking him for money.

Monday, 20 February 2012

"Don't Urinate Here"

Last week, after our daily slave routine (some may be more familiar with the term "workout") I noticed a sign hanging crooked on a tree that reads, "DON'T URINATE HERE, FINE 10000." It seemed sort of comical, and I decided it had photographic potential. I took the photo and was surprised to have a nearby security guard stop me. *Note: the entertainment qualities of this dialogue are dramatically increased when read with an African accent.

Guard: "Why are you taking a picture of my sign?"

Me: "Well…I think it's kind of funny."

"I will arrest your camera."

"You're gonna arrest my camera?"

"I will arrest your camera."

"Well, how about I just delete the picture instead? See look, I'll delete it."

He then gets up from the plastic chair he so dutifully guards his sign from and stands over me, ruining any plan I had to secretly keep the picture. I delete it, and he seems pleased. We then part ways; I to my house and he to his chair. 

Not long after, we see him again in passing (we walk that way quite often) and he breaks out a huge grin as we wave to each other. 

The next day on our way to the store, which of course follows the same path, like it seems nearly everything does, we run into each other again and greet each other with big smiles and handshakes. 

Mom: "Sebo (sir), what is your name?" 

Guard: "Sebi."

Mom and I: "Sebi?"

Guard: "Yes, S-E- ….. you can call me Charles. Now that we are friends, you may take a picture."

Fast as lightning we whip out our cameras, which we always keep on hand. Then mom asks the question I was already thinking, both of us obviously mentally preparing a new blog post. 

"Can we take a picture of you with the sign?"

Charles grins, "If you pay me."

"Aw, but I thought we were friends??" There was some laughter, followed by some debating, and then finally consent. 

And that is how we met Charles the security guard, who now grins ear to ear and waves happily every time we say hello.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

New Beginnings

     Having moved to Uganda two weeks ago, changes are of course to be expected; drastically increased temperatures, the daily war between human and mosquito, frequent losses in electricity, water, internet, etc., culture shock, jet lag and so on. But as prepared as you may think you are, it still takes some getting used to. I had heard of the insane traffic that Kampala faces on a regular (and also irregular) basis, but I was apparently still unprepared. Cars are packed in so tightly that you could simply reach your hand out of your window, through your neighbor's window and pat them on the head. Motorcycles (here, referred to as "boda bodas") zip in and out of the traffic like flies, and while that is the fastest mode of transportation, it is also the most dangerous. For the moment we are still confined to mere "pedestrian status," as we are still without a car, and therefore do not have to worry so much about how bad traffic is. However it's still a little unnerving to feel the gust of wind cars throw at you as the speed past, and of course, crossing the street is an experience in and of itself. 

The heat is still hard to endure at times, although that may have something to do with jumping from Colorado in the peak of winter to Uganda in its warmest season. Running out of water mid-shower is less than desirable, and not having electricity when you would like to use the toaster is slightly irritating. But there were many happy surprises too. Our particular apartment owes a good portion of its electricity to solar power. This means that when the electricity is out, while everyone else is having to make do with candles, we can enjoy our lights and three of our outlets, one of which connects to the fridge, keeping our food nice and cold. We are situated in the heart of Kololo (a busy district inside of Kampala) and can walk to the store or mall easily (of course when I say "mall," it's not the kind of mall America is used to). Nature here is beautiful, and I find myself trying to capture its beauty in a photograph almost every time we walk. 

But the most enjoyable change is the people. A passing "hello" brings out the biggest smile and lights up their eyes. They are a kind and polite people. And I am quickly growing to love them.