Wednesday, June 9, 2010--On Wednesday we went on outreach in Ikiiki. Nrupa and I were trying to get some baseline information for our project, though I'm still not sure how well that worked out for us. At the beginning of each outreach, one TASO staff member gives a health talk. The main topic varies, but the point is to relay important information and take general questions from the group. TASO Mbale is testing some new techniques to draw more men in to their services, so this particular health talk covered topics such as why the men came, why others didn't, and why couples didn't come together. It was interesting, but we had to have someone translate for us, so it was difficult to follow and we're not sure about the quality of information we were receiving. Furthermore, there were a few questions we tried to ask, but we're not sure if the translator really understood what we wanted to know or asked the questions properly. It would be so much easier if we knew the language(s).
After the health talk, the clients broke into small groups for group counseling session, and from there received individual counseling sessions. I sat with one counselor, Emma, during the group session. I was hoping that he would translate for me as he went, but he didn't. Instead he told me that he was going to do a lump translation and debrief after the entire outreach had finished. Needless to say, that never actually happened. His method also made it impossible for me to ask questions as he went because I had no idea what was being said or if my questions were even applicable to a specific client.
Finally, realizing that sitting with Emma was of no help, we tracked down Nova. We've started working on another project with Nova, so we thought he might be more helpful. He's also much better at comprehending our questions than some of the other counselors. It turned out to have been a fantastic decision on our part. Nova translated the conversations with the clients as he went along and allowed us to ask questions of the clients. None of the information we gathered was really helpful for our project, but it was very interesting to learn about the predicaments that people are in and how they cope with their situations.
On another note, as I'm sure can be deduced from what I just wrote, the level of confidentiality (or, more accurately, the lack thereof), is appalling. Client files are sorted on the grass with only one person "watching" over them. Individual counseling sessions are conducted about 2 feet away from where the group sits waiting for their turns. Obviously, the atmosphere is going to be different than at the center just because of the available/unavailable facilities, but it seems to me that the individual counseling sessions at least could be conducted in a more private manner. At the Center it's a bit better, but not much. Client's files still sit in cabinets in the main waiting area where anyone could read them. At any location, they let lowly graduate students sit in on the meetings.
Thursday, June 10, 2010--Nothing to exciting happened today. We did a bit more measuring of kids for malnutrition. Learned a few more words in Luganda and Lugisu so that we could ask people what village they're from and how old that are, but that's all.
Friday, June 11, 2010--Friday kind of sucked. On Thursday, the counseling coordinator, Robert, had specifically told me and Nrupa that he was going to take us on outreach to Bukedea on Friday so that we could collect some information for our project, but then when we found him on Friday he told us that the trucks were full so we couldn't go. We ended up doing absolutely nothing all day. In the morning, we sat in an office reading and talking to our UBC friends, who also had nothing to do. After lunch, we just went home. Friday really made us both feel very antsy and useless. It was the end of our 3rd week at TASO and we hadn't done anything useful yet. I didn't come to Uganda to sit in an office and read a book. I could very easily do that at home. Even after almost a month in country, I'm still getting used to the very slow pace of work and life in general. It's so different from the "must always be busy" attitude of the west.
Friday night, however, was wonderful. It was the opening of the World Cup. South Africa versus Mexico. We watched the game at one of the two cinemas in town. We got there at 4pm, one hour before kickoff, and the place was already 3/4 full. I don't think I can do a description of the cinema justice, but I'll try. It's just one large room with a sloped for to simulate stadium seating. The seats are straight out of 1917. I'm glad the lights, when the were working, were very dim because I do not want to know what the chair I was sitting in really looked liked. They were wooden chairs with a semblance of upholstery, though what cushioning was left was very torn and lumpy. Also, most of the chairs seemed like they were about to fall over, yet still managed to support the weight of full grown men. I think that the 5 girls in my group may have been the only women in the entire place, and we were definitely the only muzungus. I absolutely loved watching the game in this atmosphere! Since South African was opening, everyone in the hall was trilled. You could practically feel the excitement in the room. One of the World Cup sponsors, MTN, has this big add campaign about uniting Africa during the games. Five African teams are in the Cup, but they're trying promote African football by portraying them as one team for the continent. Anyway, it was a pretty amazing experience. The only bad part was the BO. Ugandans have a very distinct body odor which, thanks to my deviated septum, I can rarely smell. In this enclosed room with no circulation, however, the concentration of the smell was overwhelming. Then, about 10 minutes into the game, they turned the fans on. This was great because it was so hot and stuffy in there, but awful because it just made the smell worse. Our friends Jessie and Dave call Ugandan BO "the JAB," because of the way it punches you in the face. It's so true! All I can say is: Beware the JAB!
Things I like about Uganda:
- How nice and approachable all the people we've met are
- The predictable weather. On days that it rains (which is most of them), it always rains between 2-4pm, usually for no more than an hour. Also, every rain is preceded by about an hour of darkening sky, so it's very obvious that the rain is coming. Also, it doesn't get too hot here, and when it is hot it usually only lasts for an hour or two before it cools down again. I actually get cold at night with only my windows open (no fan or anything). That never happens at home.
- The relaxed, go at your own pace atmosphere...usually
Things I don't like about Uganda:
- The relaxed, go at your own pace atmosphere when I'm trying to get something done or figure out my project.
- The way people assume that, because I'm muzungu, I have money.
- The JAB (Ugandan BO)