Thursday, August 25, 2011

we are who we are

IST is somehow winding down, and we are getting ready to move on to the next phase of this fantastic vacation on Saturday morning. It has been a little hilarious reconnecting with all of my PC friends, most of whom I had not seen in four months. A large chunk of the girls have some version of the same bracelets, shoes, and purses that we've bought at various markets around the country. Our bracelets are braided leather with seed beads sewn in, our shoes are flat flip-flops with amazing beaded designs across the top of the foot, and our purses are all beautifully colorful cloth hobo bags. We wear scarves and look like peace corps volunteers. It's nothing short of fantastic. All four things I want to buy for everyone I know back home, they're so much fun. We have the same Ugandan phrases that we've picked up, partly from living in the culture and actually picking them up, and partly because we find them funny and are being ironic. We joke about getting back to America and having no one understand that when we say "mzungu, how are you?" in an obnoxious nasally voice, it's actually in the top five funniest phrases ever. I'm so thankful for these people :D

In rebellion of our accommodations, we've been walking and taxiing to delicious restaurants in the surrounding communities. We've had legit pad thai, some sort of heavenly pasta bake, pizza, calzones, burgers with fried eggs on them, a buffet that literally brought tears to some peoples' eyes, red wine, tiramisu, and key lime pie. My bank account is not happy with me.

The actual training has been interesting. All of our counterparts are here, so a lot of what we are talking about is how we're dealing with the differences between our cultures. We have addressed being called "mzungu" when walking around (which I don't think most Ugandans will ever understand why it bothers us), corporal punishment, and who is to blame for HIV transmission in the case studies we're reading (the wife who handed her salary over to her husband who then went and got drunk and slept with prostitutes? apparently yes, she is to blame for not being more responsible with her money... and then obviously the woman who had a drink with a guy, she's definitely to blame.*) Josh and I coordinated the session today on Women and HIV that sparked one of the more heated discussions we've had so far. Several people came up to us afterward and told us how much they appreciated the frank discussion on such a sensitive topic. It's a hard reminder of what we're facing when the honest opinions of our Ugandan friends are shared. That condoms have never been used, that women are to blame for rape if they drink alcohol, that godlessness within a marriage is the main cause of domestic abuse.

*note the sarcasm.


Tija Leigh said...

We just had IST in Botswana and it was very much the same sort of experience. Everything from doting the same purchased products to lavish dining and stark realities of the situation we're dealing with. It's comforting to me to know that we are not alone and that others are facing the same things. Congrats on making it to IST!!!

Emily said...

Hi Liz,

I'm a volunteer in Senegal (also doing the Snapshots of Service project) and I want to do a semi-large scale waste management project. I've been reading a lot of research about a project in Uganda, in the Fort Portal area? I don't know how close you are to that area, but I was wondering if you knew of any volunteers there that I could maybe email with to ask about the progress of that project?? thanks so much-- my email address is