When I came to Uganda I made it my mission to integrate as much as possible. This includes to fully commit to the Ugandan time keeping, to get off my lazy ass, dig in the gardens like Ugandan women do and to keep myself away from too much technical development.
The moment I arrived I left my iPhone in my backpack, hopefully it is still in there, instead I bought a Nokia *no number*, well those Nokia’s with a black and white screen only able to send messages and even calling is sometimes too difficult but they never seem to break.
Nowadays I made it a habit of coming two hours too late as so do some African leaders, who I see as my examples for keeping time. Digging in the garden proved heavier than I could manage so I satisfied myself, and many others including my Ugandan mummy, with pealing matoke, which also seemed not that easy and results until today in a lot of loss even though I’m getting better at it. In only six months I managed to speak some basic Luganda, which is the language of the biggest tribe of Uganda and I am able to find my way in as well the country side as the capital Kampala. Cooking on charcoal is, apparently, in my nature, and I became quite good at it. Actually I’m better at cooking on charcoal then cooking on gas. Still can’t do it without a nice cold beverage on the side though.
Internet is a luxury and so is watching movies. Many of my friends would consider it impossible for me to let those two things go so easily but after being in the village for only a couple of days I already forgot my laptop, didn’t remember what Facebook looked like and lost my ability to type a story while watching a movie. My wonderful, qualitative camera: Nikon D5100 stayed at home more often, instead I used my very cheap (2nd hand) lousy Sony camera to shoot future memories. Food? Local food please. Instead of paying 7 Euro’s for a dinner, which indeed is not much, I use to pay 1 Euro, which is really nothing, for an equally satisfying dinner. My parents would agree with me when saying that I had no idea about the value of money. My bank-accounts were mostly empty and I would lie if I would tell you it is different now. Nonetheless in all this time I have been here I managed to buy only one new top even though all my tops now have the same colour, which is the colour of the road – red/orange like. I completely lost my vanity, if any, make-up, combing my hair and looking stylish seems to be completely waisted on me. Let alone that I haven’t looked in a mirror for many months now, I almost forgot how I look. I managed and actually got used to washing my hair twice a week instead of every day.
Integrating is fun and hard at the same time. The skin on my hands never looked the same after washing 100 kilo’s of laundry by hand, in the meantime I had grown like a hunchback and that all when my white top will never be white again and the others are still smelling of sweat. Practice makes perfect? Please no… Sweeping the compound with a broom that doesn’t even reach my knee, and I am wondering how it is that the hunchback comes from the Notre Dame and not from Kampala. Sleeping on a mattress on the ground (when I’m lucky), walking for 1 hour in the African heat searching for water or fighting with pigs who try to escape their death, battles I fought, fears I overcame and lessons I have learned. But most of all I can say: mission accomplished!
In many ways I surprised myself and with that I’m sure to have surprised family and friends by adjusting so easily to the -hard- African way of life. I always saw myself fit as a world traveller and one who was able to go further than other travellers. Having warm showers every day, sleeping in oversized hotel beds or travelling by hired 4-wheel drive is not for me. Travelling the off the beaten track is not only about the “new” place you travel to but also about stepping out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn’t have thought of being possible. Make the impossible possible as nothing truly is impossible.
“You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
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