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.