Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Help if you can!

So my sister hooked me up with this UK group who is sending a shipment of mosquito nets to Uganda in 2-3 weeks. They are will to throw some more on for my community and for the last week we have been working like crazy to make it happen. My organization mobilized local leaders to collect lists of everyone in Kakoro Sub County that is a child under 15 or a woman. 2 people from every village (38 in S/C) worked super hard and got a list of 12,390 women and children to me that I'm now trying to send in with the official proposal. I personally met the Minister of Health who assured us that the nets would get to our site free and fast. We are ready to go, we just need some help on your end. My sister has set up a donation site to help pay the group, Against Malaria, for the nets. Each net is $5. Please help if you can. Thanks,

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Unwanted Attention

Ok, it's something that has to come up sometime. It is impossible to truly portray what it is like to be a complete outsider who cannot leave your house without being stared at, talked to, and judged. Now this isn't bad all the time, but if the right circumstances arise, it can test the patience of even the most calm person. Most of the time, I handle it well, but I've cracked a couple of times and yelled at people and told kids to get away.

All this stems from being totally different from everyone here. Because of the lack of transportation and communication, most people have never seen anyone outside of their own race. Seeing a white person or an American is cause for curiosity. Most people are curious about a.) what you are (some people deep in the country think you're a ghost), why you are there (why is this rich white person here in our village), and what can you do for them (give me money!).

I don't mind the curious children or the people who want to talk to someone new and find out about what America is like, but there are certain things that can really get on my nerves: means white person in just about every language spoken in country. People refer and classify you by that. This bothers me, cause in America, you'd never be like "hey black guy" or "hey Asian guy", but people do that here. They call out muzungu to get your attention because you are different and they want to talk to you. I don't mind if they describe me to someone else as "the white guy", cause sometimes that's the easiest way to tell someone about you (just like "he's a man"). What bothers me, is when it becomes my name. If you want my attention say "ssebo (sir)" or "hey you" or anything but that classification. If people don't call that out, they just stop and stare. All the time. Literally stop what they were doing or where they were going and stare. Coming from a place where staring is rude and people generally leave each other alone, this is tough to deal with.

I also get tired of people asking for money. I sometimes get mean which is not like me and not something i'm proud of. The thing is, people are REALLY poor with not a lot of opportunities. I don't mind people trying to better there lives in a desperate attempt, that's understandable, but the fact that they assume that since I'm white I have tons of money to just give them, is unfair and annoying. It is true that many international donors have flown in, thrown some money around and then left, but that's not why I'm here. I'm way more receptive when people pump me for info about going or studying in the US. I give them some info and then promptly tell them that they can make their own country better by staying here and fighting for change. I never get a fair price either. I always get the "muzungu" price which is inflated based on skin color. I'm learning to fight for the right price but it's disconcerting sometimes because you realize that you're fighting with someone making under a dollar a day over mere cents. It's the fairness factor that let's me do this. Plus, I'm a volunteer and on a budget.

I know that frustration with people's attitudes are a normal phase of my experience. Some people get really bitter but I don't think I will go down that road. I understand why people do what they do and most people are really friendly and open. It's just about sometimes you have a bad day and want to be left alone. This post is just some venting and I want people to keep in mind that I'm having a great time and have met so many amazing, caring people that the unwanted attention is just something that comes with the job. Take care...and don't call me Muzungu!! :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Food and Transport

Ok, let me tell you a little about the topics mentioned in the title. Cause hey, it's interesting!

I talked in an earlier blog about what i eat, but that's not what the locals eat and what i eat when i'm at someone's house or an event. The locals eat the most carb heavy diet you can imagine. And they eat a lot of it. Rice, pasta, matoke (smashed up plantains), posho (maize bread), wita (millet bread), cassava, sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, beans, and random bitter greens. They grow so many vegetables in this country, but people hardly eat it unless they are put into a broth for meat. Part of it is that they are expensive, and also because they are not as filling as other food. The meats consist of mainly chicken, beef and goat and are served like a stew in broth. The food is good and not scary, but however, there is also not a lot of variety and flavor. People usually just eat a small combo of above listed items every day for lunch and dinner. Coming from a place where I can have any style of food any day, it's a bit of an adjustment.

Transport is a huge problem here. The roads are dilapidated or dirt and dilapidated and with the high price of vehicles and fuel, getting around is not easy. There are 4 main options:
Taxi, called a Matatu is the main source on busy routes. What they are is a minivan, usually a Toyota Hiace, that is licensed to carry 14 passengers (4 rows of 3 plus 2 up front with the driver). However, this never happens. They always cram at least 20 people in there. The most I've had is about 25, but one volunteer had 28 plus a guy on the roof! They will not leave the station until it is completely full. So sometimes you can be sitting in a hot crammed taxi for an hour before you even start driving. These taxis also transport chickens and other animals. On the ride in today a chicken went the bathroom on the lady next to me. I gave her some water to clean up. I'm such a hero! :) Getting from my place, there is about 1 taxi every 2 hours. More in the morning and evening hours when everyone travels. there are no set stops, just whoever is on the side of the road. These can be, and often are extremely unsafe and frightening. The drivers drive like maniacs down these potholed filled dirt roads. It is also kinda fun!
There are also buses and private hire cars. Buses just run from the main cities and are usually more comfortable...barely, than taxis. Private hires are just some guy with a toyota sedan that you pay to drive you places. Pretty expensive but useful.
Third and Fourth option is the Boda Boda's. The bicycle boda consists of a guy on a bike with a pad on a rack in the back that you sit on. Women have to sit side-saddle because of the skirt issue (clothes on another blog). As PCV's we can only ride on bike bodas if we wear our bike helmets. Because of safty issues, we are not allowed to ride motorcycle bodas at all. Sitting on the back of some guys motorcycle is dangerous even in the US so they don't want us doing it here. We get sent home if we do.
Of course there is walking and personal bikes which is utilized quite a bit. The thing about transport here is that everyone has to cram into these packed taxis unless you own a car. Guys with suits and women with nice dresses on get smashed in with the rest of us. If it rains, often times, the dirt roads (which is most of them), get muddy and you can't travel down them.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Ok, this is the post where I tell you my PO Box number so you can send me stuff!

It's PO Box 1916 Mbale, Uganda...that's it. No Zip code or anything. Now you are asking: what do I send Wes? Well, I'll take anything... :) Any snack food including cheese and dehydrated meat products. Magazines, books, batteries (all types), hand sanitizer, anything else. Mail is awesome and I enjoy it. That's all...