This weekend was so much fun again! We spent both Saturday and Sunday in different towns visiting two of our co-workers. It was great because we finally got to see true life in Uganda. It obviously wasn't completely day to day because the programs were a bit different since we were there, but it was still nice to meet their families and see their homes.
Saturday in Budaka
On Saturday we met Madoyi, one of the TASO counselors, in the morning and traveled with him to Budaka where his wife and four kids live. His wife is a teacher at a primary school, so they live on the campus of the school. Most schools around here are mixed day and boarding schools, so the staff live on the property to help monitor and care for the students who board there. Madoyi and Alice have four kids--Linda, Lillian, Reagan, and Lynn (yes, Linda and Lynn...). After welcoming us to their home with teach, g-nuts (peanuts), and bananas, Madoyi took us around town a bit. He showed us the plot where he's building his house and took us to a few areas where he owns land. He has about 5.5 acres on which he grows Eucalyptus trees, tomatoes, g-nuts, millet, and a few other crops. I also got a chance to drive Madoyi's motorcycle! He was behind me the entire time and his hands were on the handlebars for most of the time, but I was definitely driving! We didn't change gears at all, which is good because I didn't really understand that system. I think I need more than the 30 second overview he gave me. But I was accelerating and steering around this open field for a few minutes. Nrupa took some good pictures! I want to have a longer lesson. Hopefully I can get someone at TASO to teach me...
On Saturday night, we came back to Mbale and went to our friend Ronald's house to make dinner. He and Martin were supposed to cook for us, but Martin and I actually ended up doing most of it. Though Ronald had made some pretty good dal earlier in the day. We didn't end up eating until about 10:00, despite our original 7pm meeting time. Then all four of us were supposed to go dancing again, but Ronald bailed to do laundry (lame) since he's going to Gulu this week to visit his parents. Martin tried to bail too, but we were able to convince him to come. We met Allan at the club (Oasis). It was so much fun! Oasis is much cleaner than Rendezvous, though of course the shadeballs are still present. At one point Nrupa was dancing with Martin and Allan and I were standing to the side talking. This random dude came up to Allan and asked if he could dance with me. When I said no, I don't dance with people I don't know, the guy then asked if he could dance with Nrupa, even though she wasn't anywhere near this conversation and was clearly dancing with Martin. I again said that no, she wasn't interested, at which point the guy made the money sign with his hand (like he was rubbing bills together), saying that he would pay to dance with us. I immediately shooed him away after that. What a loser! We finally went home around 2:30am, which was bad as we were supposed to be on a bus at 8am to go visit Ogogol in Soroti.
Sunday in Soroti
On Sunday, we ended up sleeping well past when we were supposed to be on the bus to Soroti. We felt bad being late, but neither one of us would have been able to function if we had gotten up earlier enough to catch the first bus. Instead we caught one around 11:30 and got to Soroti around 1. We had such a nice time. Ogogol met us at the bus park and took us via motorcycle to the house that his family rents, which is a bit outside of town. His wife, Mildred (her name does not fit her. It's much too old and dowdy, whereas she's beautiful and vibrant). and two kids, Lea and Albert) greeted us and then we went and sat inside and talked. We had a really good lunch and talked and talked. His kids are adorable! And his wife is so nice. It was really interesting to see them interact. You could tell that they really love each other and their kids. It was so different than with Madoyi and his wife. They barely even spoke, whereas Ogogol and Mildred were kind of affectionate. At one point she reached over and fixed his collar, which I thought was really cute. They showed us pictures of their introduction--the formal traditional ceremony where the woman introduces her intended to her family, and then took us around to the plot of land they own where they grow a bunch of different fruits and vegetables and where they're building a house. The house is gorgeous. Right now it's only brick walls, no roof or doors or windows, but it's HUGE. They've been working on it for 2 years, and expect to take another 3-5 before they're able to move in.
It's bad, but I think I had more fun with Ogogs and Mildred. There children were cuter and much cleaner, and Mildred was a more engaging host than Alice was. She actually had good conversation with us and joked around with all of us, whereas Alice only spoke to us and sat with us when Madoyi wasn't around. I'm sure it all has to do with the culture, but it was just a personal preference. Either way I had an amazing time with both co-workeers. At both we had discussions about how connected Africans are to their food and how disconnected Americans are. Madoyi served us some g-nuts that he had grown and Ogogol served us maize, pineapple, and potatoes from his land. It was also interesting for us to see how common it is for the men to commute during the weekends. Every Friday both of them travel back to the families and then come back to Mbale on Sunday or Monday. I think it's a bit easier for Madoyi because he lives about 30-45 minutes away (which is still too much to commute during the week), whereas Ogogs lives about 2 hours from his family. Unfortunately there's not really a way for Ogogs to get closer. His wife also works for TASO, and company policy states that two people who are involved with each other cannot work at the same center. Since his family lives in Soroti, his wife works at the center there and he works in Mbale, which is the next closer center. And now he's starting school in Kampala, so he's going to be traveling even more. He's spend Monday-Wednesday working in Mbale, Thursday and Friday in Kampala for classes, and Saturday and Sunday in Soroti with his family. It's amazing how dedicated people here are to education. I don't think anyone in the West values education that much because it's so much more of a guarantee there than it is here. One of the doctor's at TASO is about to spend four years away from his family. He's going to spend two doing an ob-gyn rotation in Kampala, than another two completing his MPH in England. It must be so difficult, because I don't think he has the money to travel back and forth from England while he's there, and he has a wife and two young children. But I guess it's all for his children's future...
Anyway, it was a really great weekend. It was nice to finally get to see a much truer and more real side of Africa. Now we're preparing for our final week, winding up our projects. Right now the plan is to leave Mbale next Wednesday and head to Kigali, spend a few days there, then spend one or two days in Kampala before flying out. We'll also have about 5 or so hours in Amsterdam!