Just to give you an idea of what my life in Uganda entails…
Cooking is challenging without running water and electricity but I feel as if that is what makes it so fun for me (probably won’t be saying that after two years of it…). I think there should be a cooking competition/reality show where chefs have to cook by candlelight, without electricity and running water. I usually try to finish cooking supper before the sun goes down but sometimes, when I’m feeling especially dangerous, I like to push it and race against the sun to finish cooking. Cooking by candlelight is kind of scary in the sense that I almost burn down the house/myself each time – key word being almost.
Breakfast in the states consisted of a cup (or two) of coffee at work but here it’s my favorite part of the day. Mornings are mine. There’s a certain stillness and anticipation that comes with the start of a new day; it’s cleansing. I wake up around 7:30 a.m. (sleeping past 8 is highly unusual for Uganda-Tahrima) and if I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I put my milk pan on the doorstep for the milk man so I can make myself a mocha to go with my breakfast.
Supper is usually the same as lunch except there’s alcohol involved and instead of reading, I put on some music or watch a movie/tv show on my laptop (I’m currently on the 4th season of Arrested Development). Once I made steak and mashed potatoes, put on some slow jams and treated myself to the “good” wine. It was divine. I’m basically dating myself. I’m okay with that.
I hate washing dishes.
My supervisor keeps trying to convince me to find some “friends” (aka village girls) to help me with the housework. Her latest reasoning: “Tahrima, your body is not used to this work. If you continue working so hard, you will hurt your back and you won’t be able to produce [aka have a baby] and I really want to be a grandmother someday.” This was actually really sweet….in a twisted sort of way.
How I Bathe:
Collecting water when it rains
What I’m Currently Working On
- Literacy. As a Literacy Specialist, my job for the first term of school, which runs from January – May, is to administer a test called EGRA (Early Grade Reading Assessment) to pupils in P4. The reason we focus on P4 is because it is the grade that children transition from learning in the local language to learning in English.*** This test helps me gauge the reading ability of the pupils so that I can determine what to focus my lessons on once I doing reading interventions. ****
- School Family Initiative. My school is part of a USAID funded program called the school family initiative. Basically, every teacher is assigned a group of kids, called our “family,” that we meet with once a week to discuss issues relating to health, safe sex and education. So far, I’ve covered topics like HIV, AIDS, positive living and the magic that is condoms.
- School Library. My school has a dusty locked room that constitutes as a library. Apparently “some American” came to the school a couple years ago, donated a bunch of books and [unvarnished] shelves and promptly left….because throwing money and materials at a problem without any guidance or follow up constitutes as adequate problem solving. Currently, I’m working on cleaning and organizing the books. Once I have it organized, I want to form a library club and recruit pupils in the upper classes to help me manage the library, come up with a borrowing system and act as librarians. Yay for sustainable work!
- Child Protective Rights. I’ve talked about this in previous blog posts (here and here) but basically I am working with World Education/Bantwana Initiative to work against child abuse. One of my projects with the organization is the Child’s Rights Club (CRC), which I will be starting at my school next week. The aim of the club is to empower children through education, self-awareness and esteem building and encourage them to report abuse. This is something I am deeply passionate about and can connect with on a personal level but it’s probably going to be my toughest job.
- Things I want to do in the future: Girls Education – From P1 to P4, girls outnumber and outperform boys in every subject area but from P4 to P7, their attendance drops drastically. The most common reason for this is the start of menstruation and thus, an increase of responsibilities at home. In my head teacher’s words “Once a girl gets her period, the parents think she is an old girl so they give her more and more work. You take care of the kids! You cook the meals! You fetch the water!” Some girls choose not to come to school because they don’t have the proper sanitation methods (i.e. pads, tampons) and would rather stay at home during their period to avoid embarrassment. My school also lacks a washing station for girls. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to tackle this problem but I really want to start by getting involved with RUMPs, a program that teaches girls how to make reusable menstrual pads.
What I Do In My Free Time
- Day dream about cats, cuddles and hot cheetos
- Read. I am fortunate enough to live near a town that has an actual public library (funded by USAID!).
- Hang out with my coworkers. This usually involves girl’s nights at my house (with wine and care-package chocolate, of course), a trip to the village bar or just sitting on the porch talking until the sun goes down.
- On the weekends, I bask in the company of Americans and relish in the fact that I can speak normal English for three days. I live near my best friends so it’s always a good time. Also, weekends are usually the only time I have meat so that’s a pretty big deal.
The room I hang out in the most/my favorite room in the house.
*Speaking of food, I have this recurring dream where I realize that I still have half a bag of Hot Cheetos left and I eat them and it is magical and I almost die from happiness. Someone please put me out of my misery.
**Fun Fact: Schools in Uganda are “ordered” to do a lot of things but there’s hardly any follow through.
***Fun Fact: Uganda’s national language is English.
****A typical EGRA session goes like this:
Hi! Oraire ota? [How was the night?]
Ah, Kale. [Ah, okay.]
Do you like to read?
Ah, that is very good. Today, I just want to see how much you can read.
This is not a test so do not be worried.
*raises eyebrows* [Cultural sign of acknowledgement]
Okay. Do you know the English alphabet?
Do you know the letter sounds?
Can you tell me what is the letter sound of this one?
*avoids eye contact and gazes around the room*
Do you know the name of the letter?
Yes. *pause* E
Very good! Now you tell me the sound. If you do not know, it is okay.
Okay, let’s move on.
Can you read for me this word?
Yes. *avoids eye contact*
Can you read?
You tell me the word.
*stares at testing paper for eternity*
Ah, Kale. Webale Kusoma. [Ah, okay. Thank you for reading]
You can go back to class.
REPEAT FOREVER. Just kidding, I only have to do it 91 times