So to start off, sorry for the lack of recent updates. This has been an interesting last few weeks, to say the least. Looking back on the eastern excursion as a whole, I have to say it was a lot less outrageous than the western excursion (aka no dancing with prisoners this time!). The rural homestay was a great experience overall. The living conditions were certainly a little less luxurious than I am used to (pit latrine and bucket showers!), but it was really interesting and pretty fun.
Thinking about our rural homestay experience just makes me smile, because it was sort of absurd in its own way. It started out with all of us piling onto several different buses with our homestay partners, all of us a little nervous about the next three days. We got dropped off two by two, and were told that we would have to find our way back to our meeting place in town in 3 days. My partner, Anna, and I were received by our host parents and led into the main house. We were showed to seats in the living room, and presented with a Visitors Book to sign (people here are obsessed with those things!), then we had some awkward getting-to-know-you chatting. Eventually our host parents just kind of left the room, and we were served tea while a stream of people filtered into the room and introduced themselves, then filtered out again. It was hard to tell which people were part of the family and which were just friends and neighbors who wanted to stop by and see the guests. We basically just sat around all afternoon and talked to various people.
One of my favorite strange moments of the trip happened as Anna and I were sitting outside and chatting before dinner. It had gotten dark, so we didn’t see a figure approaching until it was very near us. He greeted us, and introduced himself as Jerry (again, we had no idea what relation he had to the family), and then said something along the lines of: “May I pose the question?” We both were pretty confused, and asked him to clarify, and we eventually said that he could pose his question, at which point he said, “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you?” We were both a little floored by the question. It just seemed a little early in the conversation to jump into such issues. But I think it’s not that strange in Ugandan culture. People here are generally very religious. Many different religions are practiced, including many branches of Christianity, Islam, and I think Hinduism (there is actually a substantial Indian population here), but I don’t think I’ve met a single Ugandan atheist. In my experience, most people don’t really understand when mzungus say they don’t have a religion.
Anyway, to condense three very long days into a few paragraphs: we spent a lot of the homestay time just hanging out around the homestead and talking to people. We tried to help out as much as we could, because our host mom and siblings were always so busy with tasks to keep the homestead running. Every time we offered to help, our host mom would laugh and laugh, and ask if we were sure, but eventually she would usually give us a task. Anna and I debated a lot about why it was so hilarious that we wanted to help, and there are many possible reasons, but I think that a lot of the laughter was actually just her way of expressing happiness. Our ADs told us at the beginning of the program that people here often show that they are happy through laughter, which is different from the U.S., where we usually don’t laugh out of happiness. We learned how to peel cassava and yams (some of the staple crops in that area), how to collect water from the bore hole, and how to milk the cows! It was actually really fun, and it made us feel like we were helping at least a little bit.
Annnnnnnnnnnd I’m out of time right now. I have to head back to my homestay because I am cooking mzungu food for my host family tonight, and if I don’t leave soon I won’t have it prepared by dinner time (which is like 9PM, for the record). I’ll have to finish this story later. Sorry for the abrupt ending! I promise to finish soon. Hope all is well at home! ~CMK