Uganda Week 3

Something I knew:
-when playing football (which I keep calling soccer) with a bunch of Africans, I’m going to be the worst
Something I figured:
-it’s impossible not to end up covered in mud when playing during the rainy season
Something I learned:
-if the field is full of cows, one can clear them off by repeatedly kicking the ball into the herd
Yesterday I organized to play football with the students. I haven’t played in years and the field was wet and uneven but we played for hours and it was a lot of fun. After, we practiced penalty kicks I had them teach me how to kick the ball properly. I had one shot that bent and snuck perfectly under the crossbar, which felt pretty good. Then, on the walk back to school, I started teaching them how to shoot a basketball. I was exhausted and thirsty after playing, so when a friend from the village, Douglas, offered me a ride home on his bodaboda, I couldn’t refuse. He had been coming from the direction I was walking, and turned around just to drive me out of his way. That friendliness is one of the things I love about Uganda.
Cornelius has a guy who drives his car for him sometimes. His name is Jacob, and I’ve always told him he should get a bodaboda and let me ride along. The other day when I got home from school, he came in and said that we were going to town. When I came outside, he was sitting on a bodaboda. Just as I suspected, he drives it much better than everyone else.
In the last transportation-related event of the week, one evening I was walking home from school as it was getting dark. A guy came up on a bike and offered me a ride, and of course I said yes. However, it is fairly unpleasant to sit on a bit of metal on the back of the bike as you ride on the incredibly bumpy “roads.” I think I’ll avoid bikes from now on, but at least the sunset during the ride was nice.
School was great this week. I only teach biology, but many students come to me for help with chemistry. One class has turned half of their lunchtime into a chemistry lesson from me. In the advanced levels, there are only a couple of students in each class. One of these students, Julius, who wants to be a pharmacist, has made me his tutor for organic chemistry. One day during school, a few students came up to my desk to ask about precipitation (when you mix two solutions and a solid forms). I tried explaining it to them, but they weren’t quite getting it. It’s much easier to understand once you see it, so I took them to the laboratory. The lab at school is essentially a storage room. It does have some beakers and test tubes and assorted chemicals, but it lacks microscopes and flame sources and organization. I somehow managed to find the (potentially hazardous) materials we could use to make both sulfate precipitates that were mentioned in a question they showed me. We all wore safety goggles, I successfully made the precipitates, and they understood!
Also this week, Cornelius took me to the primary school that ARCOS runs. As I was signing the visitor’s book (which is a big deal in Uganda apparently, every home and school has one), I saw that a Ugandan government inspector had just been there. Among his comments were “toilets unfit for human use” and “too crowded, move to a new site immediately.” It’s a very bad situation. There’s no government primary school in the village, so Cornelius needed to start this one. He says that if the government won’t build a school, it should at least help this one. Many of the students are orphans or have some other disadvantage. It was so sad because they were so happy. I went around to the different classes and then the whole school sang some songs. Then, in one of the best moments of my life, I was mobbed by about 50 toddlers, all fighting to hold my hand or at least grab some part of my arm. I’ll definitely be going back.
I’ve also started going to get water with the students at my school if I’m still there when they go in the evenings. It’s a 20 minute walk to the “well,” which is really just a dirty pond. It’s unfathomable that that is the village’s drinking water. At home we have a large collection tank for rainwater, but the school and most of the village get their water there. ARCOS is currently working with some engineers from the Netherlands to build new wells at the school and closer to the village, to provide better, more accessible water. Next time you go to the sink and get drinkable water, be thankful!
I ate a Ugandan delicacy this week: grasshoppers. If you don’t look at their little eyes, they aren’t too bad. I was given a huge bowl of them, but I barely made a dent and tapped out at about 30 grasshoppers.
Finally, Cornelius was in Kampala, the capital, today, so we could not go to the ostriches. Now the manager of ARCOS, Uncle Sandy, and I are planning to go on an adventure next Sunday, with or without Cornelius.
Until next week, weeraba!

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One thought on “Uganda Week 3

  1. Ryan! Who knew you were so funny! I really appreciate these reflections on all the various elements of your life in Uganda. I learned about the grasshoppers from our students there last summer. The verdict seems the same–good, if only you can ignore the eyes! I also love this anecdote about being mobbed by the toddlers; that might possibly be my worst nightmare, so I am glad it was a positive experience for you (smiles). I also wanted to echo Joe’s sentiments about how cool it it is that you got to engage with some of these high power Ugandan leaders, especially in only your first week. It sounds like you are really getting a range of experiences and are coming along just fine in your Luganda skills. I hope you get to start the health component of your project soon, but it sounds like you are also doing really good work with the bio (and chem) teaching. Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more of your reflections (it also seems like internet access is working out okay for you, so that’s good). Cheers!

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