Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Little Things

The little things that make Uganda, Uganda

* "How are you?" "Fine. How are you?" "Fine, and you?" "Fine and how are - wait!"

* Two giant spiders are on a chair. I casually brush them off while I sit down.

* "The program is using an 'import'. What does Uganda import?" [shouts of "BICYCLES!" and "TELEPHONES!"]

* I used to correct people who thought "I biked here" meant I'd taken a boda-boda (which is a motorbike, not a mystical flying creature). Now I correct people who think "I went to Fort Portal" means I pedaled the whole way there.

* The day I was called into the front of the literacy circle by the library teacher. He asks if I need any preparation to translate Spanish. I say I'll do my best. He gives me a page number in "The Color of My Words" (excellent book and perfect for Kasiisi, fyi). There are at least 30 kids waiting silently, hoping I can translate the strange, the foreign, the completely unknown... arroz con pollo. We all had a good laugh about it.

* The days where the chimp researchers and I sat around the table and typed at our computers until past dark. It didn't feel like "Africa" at all. If we had the 3G internet that's available 5 miles north of here, it would be completely unreal.

* Picking up a piece of paper from the printer and feeling a terrible lurch in my stomach. I can't shake it. Seconds later, I realize the paper is too big (A4, the world's 8.5 x 11).

* Also, when you switch the computer to UK English (necessary to keep our spreadsheet from going all wonky), all of Windows's power icons switch to the UK+Uganda plugs. Really.

* Going into stores and having everyone stop so you can announce something, as if I'm going to shout "I NEED 3 DOZEN PAINTBRUSHES". I just want to look if you have some of those cookies with the green box... they're usually on that shelf... how about the chocolate wafers, then.

* Ugandan handshake versus American handshake versus respectful Ugandan wristhold. You never know what you're gonna get. My default is the Ugandan handshake, but I need to unlearn this before going to any interviews in the US.

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