Monday, August 2, 2010

Second to last full week at TASO

Ah! Only two weeks left. This week was fun and stressful and anxiety ridden all at once. Monday was uneventful. We both just did some work on our independent projects at work. That night we were going to go to a movie with Martin, but he got called suddenly to move to Tororo. He had gotten a job there a few weeks earlier, but had told them that he would start August 2. On July 26, however, they called him and demanded that he be at work the following morning. We tried to tell him that it was inappropriate for them to demand his presence like that, but I guess things work differently here. No where did he have documentation that he had been offered the job or that he had said he would start the following Monday. All communications had been made over the phone. Instead of seeing a movie, we ended up just walking around town with him and Ronald.

Tuesday Nrupa and I had arranged a volleyball/football (soccer) tournament for TASO. Well, it was more just some games than a tournament. We had been talking about it for a week and even hung posters around the Center. About 30 people had said they would be there, but of course only 6 or so showed up. And within in the first 15 minutes Nrupa accidently popped the volleyball because it was overinflated. We used another beach-type ball for a bit, but then thankfully some random guy showed up and let us use his volleyball. It was so much fun. We played so long by the time we finished we couldn't even see the ball because it was so dark. Our friend Martyn (different from Martin) drove us home. On the way, we bought him a beer for his birthday.

Oh, also on Tuesday--our electricity was shut off. Such a debacle! They disconnected it because we've never paid the bill, but we've never paid the bill because they've never delivered the bill. Because there's no central system here like there is in the us, the electric company, Umeme, sends people called readers to each house that receives electricity. They're supposed to come at least once a month and take the reading directly from the meter. The monthly bill, then, is calculated by multiplying the difference between the current month's reading and the previous month's reading by 385/=, the fee per unit used. Then they come back to the house and personally deliver the bill. Obviously, this system is very flawed. Firstly, if no one is home they can't enter the property to read the meter, so they make estimates regarding the reading and then, if necessary, calculate the bill from the estimate. I'm not sure what calculations they use for making these estimates, but they're obviously not very accurate. Then, if no one is home when they try to deliver the bill, they're supposed to leave it. However, they obviously don't do that since we've never received a bill. In fact, an electricity bill hasn't been delivered to our house since January when the last group of GW fellows lived there. Before they left they had to go to Umeme and personally request their bill.

Anyway, on Tuesday they stopped by our house and Regina, our housekeeper, let them in. They disconnected the electricity and left a bill for 564,000/= shillings, which is around $250. Nrupa and I both almost had heart attacks! School had told us that the electric bill should be around $20/month, so we both had budgeted for about $30/person for the entire time that we were in Uganda. After talking with several people, we realized that there must be some mistake and Umeme must be trying to cheat us in some way because an electric bill that large was almost unheard of.

On Thursday, we went to Umeme with Henry, our landlord's son. He brought all the old bills that he had (which was only once since none are ever delivered). He also told us that the girls who were here in the Spring only paid 57,000/= (~$25) for the electric bill for their entire time at the house. After a 3+ hour conversation with several different people at Umeme, we learned that the electricity bill we received actually dated back to February 17. Apparently between February and now, they had fired a reader so they canceled all of his readings, which delayed the bills. They had also made two estimates at our house, which delayed the bills further. In the end, Nrupa and I paid a total of 150,000/= and left the balance for someone else to deal with. We're obviously not going to pay for electricity for February-May, when we weren't even living in the house. We sent a long, detailed email to school telling them about the situation, so hopefully they're fixing it.

In the meantime, our power is still disconnected since there's an outstanding balance. Well, it's supposed to be disconnected. Tom just plugged it back in for us so we're technically using the electricity illegally. Oh well. I like having light at night and warm showers. We're only in the house for another 10 or so days. This whole fiasco is one thing that's making me ready and excited to go home.

Despite the debacle of the day, Thursday ended up okay. Jessie and Dave came over and cooked us a really good dinner. Pasta with a vegetable and cheese sauce. Then Jessie and I made an amazing dessert. Ice cream with bananas, drizzled chocolate (which actually clumped and was more like brownie bits), and cookies crumbled on top. Yum! They left Mbale Sunday and leave Uganda Wednesday, so that was our last time hanging out with them.

Friday was stress management day. We went with the medical team to Sisiyi Falls, which is about 45 minutes outside of Mbale. It was beautiful and so much fun! We hiked up the falls a bit, but for the most part we just hung out in this little field area. We had lunch and dinner there and played football, frisbee, jump rope, cards. So much fun to just kick back and enjoy the company of our co-workers. We also got to know some people we hadn't met before. Better late then never I guess. By the time we came back we were so exhausted. We met up with the counseling team at Sports Club for a little bit. They were having their stress management there. We danced for about an hour then headed home and passed out.

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