Monday, May 31, 2010

First day in the field--sort of

I thoroughly enjoyed today. Well, the second half of today. The morning was quite boring. Mondays at TASO are staff meeting days, so the first 3 hours of the day was occupied by that. I tried so hard to pay attention in the meeting, but since I'm so new and still getting used to the accents, it was very hard to follow. Even when I understood what was being said, I didn't know what it was pertaining to. Oh well, it ended with cake, snickers, tea, and chipatti, so it was all okay in the end.

We also met some students from the University of British Columbia who will be working with TASO for the next six weeks. It was kind of fund being the "veterans," even though we've only been there for a week. But Nrupa and I are finally starting to learn some names and make some friends, so we were having conversations with some of the staff while the UBC kids were just hanging out talked to one another. I'm sure we'll all become friends in the next few days though, especially since Nrupa and I have already decided that they're going to be our travel buddies. The four of them are doing home-stays while there here, the two guys at one house and the two girls at another. When we were leaving TASO, we met the son of the family with whom the girls are staying, and even he asked if we would all like to go to Sipi Falls (which is on the mountain near our house) together.

I think a home-stay would be fun. It would be nice to really be integrated into the culture like that. On the other hand, I like having the freedom of my own home and really be able to move in, rather than just feeling like I'm visiting someone for 3 months. I guess we'll just have to find otherwise to explore the culture. Hopefully we'll get to go to a wedding...

After the staff meeting, we snuck away to town to go to the bank...again. We happened to return to TASO at just the right time. One of the counselors/field workers was getting on his motorbike and told us that "we would move together." We didn't know what he was talking about, but we hopped on the back of the bike anyway. He took us down the street to a clinic where TASO staff were drawing blood for hemoglobin and CD4 counts and handing out antiretroviral (ARV) medicines to clients. We helped fill out some forms, but once that was finished we just observed. The lab tech, Peter, offered to let me draw blood (they call it bleeding someone), but then it started raining and got too crowded. However, we were talking to him later in the day and he told us to come by the lab tomorrow (Tuesday) and he would teach us how to do it. Nrupa is not so enthused and doesn't want to do it, but I'm really excited! This was only a brief and limited field experience, but it was a great introduction. Hopefully we'll be able to go on outreach this week and delve even deeper into community work.

Something I don't like: How People here assume that, because I'm white/American, I'm wealthy. I knew to expect this, but I don't like how people just come up and tell some story to ask for money. Obviously it happens at home too, but here it's obvious that I'm am targeted because I am white. At the outreach today, this woman took me aside and told me how her husband left her because she had a hermaphroditic child so now she's struggling because she's a single mother with a deformed child and the doctors can do an operation to fix her child but she can't afford it so could I help her. I'm not sure if this story was true or not, but two things struck me about it. 1) It was an awkward situation and I had to explain to this woman that I was not able to help her but she should continue talking about this issue with her TASO counselor and 2) I felt terribly sad. Whether or not this story is true, the fact that this woman approached a total stranger with this proposition kind of broke my heart. It happens at home too, when people approach me in the metro with stories of loss and hardship, but for some reason it seems more poignant here because such situations are so pervasive. In the US, it's relatively easy to hide from and ignore the poverty, but here you see it around every corner. Thankfully, money doesn't bring happiness, so you also see joy and life, especially in the children.

On our way home from work, we stopped by the outdoor market. It's HUGE!!! We almost got lost walking around the stalls. We managed to get a good deal on some fruit, but left the market quickly when we saw the intestines and cows stomachs sitting on the stands, swarmed by flies. If I wasn't already vegetarian, I think that that site and smell would have turned me so.

The evening passed as most do. Sitting at home talking with friends and family on skype and reading. We also had a pretty good conversation with Regina. It was nice to get to know a little more about her, especially since she's in our home every day. Tomorrow we are going to try to meet her at the market so she can show us what to buy and from whom, and how much everything costs. Since we are muzungu, we are liable to be overcharged. But with Regina we will be charged a fair price or she can tell us what price we should be paying for each item. It really is nice having her around. She's going to teach us some Luganda too, one of the four languages she speaks, including English and two other local languages.


  1. Lovin' the blog, Jess! --Lily

  2. Are you going to become a polyglot!? I'm so jealous!