A Peace Corps tradition during the first three months after swearing in is for the older volunteers in your region to throw a welcome weekend for the newbies to meet everyone around. The east is blessed to have Sipi Falls nearby, so to follow tradition, our welcome weekend was located there to hike the waterfalls.
Traveling from nearly a week at work in the Central region all the way east to Mbale for the welcome weekend felt exhausting yet exhilarating. Perhaps there is an adrenalin kick that makes constant movement exciting, or the joy of seeing new places and new people each day, or perhaps even the movement itself creates the energy, but being constantly on the move is somehow both exhausting and exhilarating.
Continue reading “East Welcome Weekend – Sipi Falls”
Jinja Trip – Busoga College Visitation
After my first weekend in Iganga, Maureen asked if I wanted to head to neighboring Jinja to see the city and visit Joel at his boarding school. I jumped on the offer to join primarily to shake things up in my daily routine but also to get a glimpse of Jinja, which I had been hearing about from current volunteers since arriving in country. After class ended early on Saturday, Maureen met me at school and we headed to the taxi stand to hitch a 45 minute ride out to Jinja.
In Uganda, a taxi is a public transit carrier van, called a mutatu, that shuttles people all around the country with usually 12+ people filling the van. There are no scheduled departures for taxis between major cities, but the constant flow of vehicles creeping by taxi stages with the conductor hollering the destination out the open door while simultaneously ushering on and off passengers creates a near on demand service.
A taxi stage is a stretch of road along side the main transit roads where taxis stop to drop off and pick up customers. In larger cities there are taxi stands located in different areas for different departure destinations, whereas between destinations there are marked areas along the road where people commonly get on and off the vehicles.
Each taxi is operated by two individuals, a driver and a conductor. The driver is the core operational component of the service and is responsible for safely or quickly driving passengers from their pick up stand to their drop off stand along the taxi route. On the other hand, the conductor is the finance, sales, marketing, and customer service team all in one. He is responsible for collecting payment, fielding complaints, hollering the destination out the door to attract more business, and ushering clients on and off as the taxi stops at its many stages along its route.
Each ride in a taxi is a new adventure. You never know what a customer is bringing with them, nor how many clients the conductor will boldly try to squeeze into the vehicle. For this reason, my sister, Maureen, did not want to be squished four across in a back row so we jumped into the front of an empty taxi and waited for the van to slowly fill before taking off.
Continue reading “Homestay Part III – Family Bonding”
Fortunately, we received the Fourth of July off and managed to celebrate the only way we knew how, a BBQ. Peace Corps provided us the day off and the funds to create the meal, but finding, bargaining, and purchasing the food within the given budget was our lesson for the day.
At this point we were still getting used to Iganda town and definitely did not know enough Lusoga to bargain properly, so finding what we needed as well as receiving a fair price was quite the challenge. Even with help indicating approximate prices to pay from our instructors and family, some of us received the Muzungu discount more often than not.
Since I worked too create and divvy up the ingredient list for our 25+ person feast I left myself and a few others that live near me the task of picking up the meat the morning of the feast. In addition to all foods requiring refrigeration storage, we picked up a couple of chickens and 4kg of meat from the butcher at the market.
I managed to pay the appropriate price without negotiation for the beef. The butcher even asked me to point to which parts I wanted him to hack up to constitute the 4kgs, which gave me the courage needed to approach the cages of live chickens. I walked into the chicken coup on the outskirts of the market until someone grabbed me and pulled me to their cages to sell me their chickens. The first man I spoke to told me that I could buy the local chickens for fifteen thousand Ugandan shillings ($4/$5) per chicken, which was exactly the price and item my family told me was fair and to purchase. With my adrenaline pumping I happily handed over the thirty thousand in exchange for the two chickens. When asked if I would like the chickens killed or tied together I happily announced tied just so I could walk into the party fulfilling my word to provide live chickens.
Not until I strutted into the volunteer’s homestay that was hosting the BBQ with chickens happily in hand and after I took a few deep breathes to let the heart rate cool down and adrenaline fade from my face was I informed that I got swindled on the chickens. The host mother was holding and inspecting the birds inquisitively as she scowled over the festivities asking how much I paid and from whom I purchased the chickens. She then enquired why I purchased female chickens, to which a shoulder shrug and tooth gritting smile was all I could muster as a response. I had received female birds rather than male birds. Not only did I have no idea that I needed to buy male instead of female, but even the ability to identify the difference is not a skill I possess. We all laughed about how confident (cocky) I was about paying the fair price for all my items, when in reality I also had no idea what I was doing. I also was boasting the day before about how I intended to fully buy and prepare the birds, which I too backed out of. Something that finds its way into conversation still today!
Continue reading “Lusoga Lesson Intermission”