Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The One with the Burial

            A couple of weeks ago, I was having a lazy, rainy day in bed watching movies.  I love rainy days because it means the workday comes to a halt, and everyone just stays inside.  You can’t teach because the vaulted tin roofs make it impossible to hear anything inside of the classrooms.  Plus, most of the students fail to walk to school in the rain.  I was in the middle of watching “Life as a House” when I got a phone call from Sauya.  In Uganda, invitations to events usually come off as orders.  I answered the phone, “Hello?” 
            “Hi.  You come, we go for burial.”
            “Ummm…”  I quickly tried to think of an excuse to not go.  “I am working on applications for grad school.”  This really was not so much of a lie because I should have been working on applications.
            “You come.  It will just be short.”
             I have been to enough burials to know these things are not short, but I knew she was not going to let me off easy.  I asked, “Ok, is it far?  I want to get these applications done.”
            “No, not far.  You come now, now.”  Click.   
            Ugandans usually bypass the whole formality of saying “goodbye” on the phone.  After all, why should one waste their airtime on such a thing?  So I quickly changed into a skirt and headed over to Sauya’s.  When I got to her house, she looked me up and down and said, “Ah!  I wish you had a gomezi [traditional African attire].”  I think that was her roundabout way of saying, “You look like crap.”
            Now, you are probably wondering why I did not want to go to the burial.  I have been to my fair share of them since I have been in Uganda, and they are nothing like funerals in America.  The main reason I do not like to go to burials is because I do not know the deceased, and everyone stares at me throughout the whole service.  I feel uncomfortable being the center of attention at someone else’s funeral.  Burials, however, are almost a sort of social event in Uganda.  Everyone in the village attends, whether or not you know the family.  Hundreds of people attend, so I am not invited just because I am white - it is expected that people attend.  The women dress up in colorful gomezis – forget the dreary all black attire, as is custom back home.  Also, there are “wailers” at burials to express grief.  Women that are close relatives of the family gather and literally wail throughout the whole service.  (A while back, I read an article in a newspaper that said sometimes people hire professional wailers.  No joke).  The wailers definitely caught me off guard the first burial I went to. 
            So, Sauya and I headed to the burial, which was not, in fact, near.  We had to walk about two miles on the muddy road.  I was filthy by the time we got to the burial.  The service lasted about an hour and half, but I had no clue what was going on since the service was in Lugwere.  Afterward, I was invited to stay and eat with Sister Goretti and the rest of the nuns.  Then we stayed and chatted with the family, and they all had me speak Lugwere.  Everyone kept going nuts whenever I greeted them with, “Koyzeo”.  This would be the equivalent of a Spanish speaker going nuts over me saying, “Hola.”  So really, I ended up being at the burial for about 5 hours, not exactly short.  At least that was expected. 
            Two weeks ago, a lot of us went to Jinja to celebrate Halloween.  I am not a big fan of Halloween – I hate thinking of a costume, dressing up and I especially hate other people in costumes.  Masks freak me out more than anything.  But I don’t like to be left out, so of course I went.  Maggie also had my costume made for me while I was in the US, so I really did not have to do that much work.  We stayed at NRE, which grosses me out the more and more we stay there.  All I have to say is, I feel bad for the cleaning ladies.  I want to bathe in Lysol after using the bathroom in the morning.  (Think back to college dorm bathrooms on a Sunday morning after everyone had thrown up everywhere from a night of drinking – that’s NRE in the morning). 
            Once again, I voted in the presidential election from Africa.  The election was not nearly as exciting as it was while I was in Kenya.  There was no party in the street after Obama won and we did not get “Obama Day.”  I was obviously in the wrong country this time around.  Nevertheless, my neighbors were still pumped for the elections and Obama swag was out in full force in Jinja (pictures to follow).  Francis and Pius had a whole conversation with me on Tuesday about why they thought Obama should win – mostly they just kept saying, “He is a good man. Such a nice man.”  Pius asked me who I voted for, and I told him Obama.  He responded, “Ah, but you are smart.  You would say that even if you voted for Romney.  You know not to tell an African you voted for Romney.”  Valid point.  Caroline and I were up at 6am Wednesday morning texting each other “updates” on the election that we were receiving from friends and family back home.  I must say, for being in the middle of nowhere, we were pretty on top of what was going on back home.
            As I am nearing the end of my service, I have noticed that I am starting to slowly lose my patience – especially when it comes to getting ripped off or being called mzungu.  I lost my cool the other day while I was in the taxi on my way home from Mbale, and it was not one of my finer moments.  The price is usually 2,000 shillings, but sometimes they charge 3,000.  Either way, I know what taxis charge which, and I usually watch what other people pay (I know they try to rip off the mzungu).  As we neared Budaka, I paid the conductor 2k because I watched the woman next to me give 2k.  The conductor didn’t try and swindle me for an extra 1k, so I turned back around.  After a few minutes, I heard the conductor say “Mzungu! Mzungu!”  I did not turn around, and I pretended not to hear him over my headphones.  I won’t respond to an adult if they call me “mzungu.”  I don’t mind if children call me mzungu because they don’t know better most of the time.  However, in Ugandan culture, you say “Madame” or “Nyabo” when you want a woman’s attention.  Plus, I knew this guy was going to try and rip me off. 
            The conductor continued to say, “mzungu” over and over again, but faster and louder.  Finally, he tapped my shoulder, and I turned around.  He said, “Mzungu, you add me 1k”.
            “My name is not mzungu.”
            “Ah, but you know here, we just call you whites mzungu.”
            “No, you say Madame.  You are being rude.  Would you like it if I called you mu-Uganda?”
            He laughed and said, “MADAME you add me 1k.”
            “No, the price is 2k.  I just saw her pay 2k.”
            “Ah, the price is 3k.  Ah, you know this fuel.  It is expensive.”
            “Tonsera! [You cheat me].  The price is 2k.”
            “Ah! I am not cheating you.  The price, it is 3k.  Now add me 1k.”
            I finally yelled, “I am not f*cking adding you 1k!  Stop trying to cheat me!”
            After that, he gave me a little “tsk, tsk” and click of his tongue.  He started speaking in Lugwere with the guy next to him, and I am pretty sure they were talking about the mzungu having a foul mouth.  I did not care, I was fuming mad that he was trying to rip me off.  I should probably mention that I was arguing over the equivalent of 40 cents.  There I am, listening to my iPod and playing with my iPhone, and refusing to pay the guy an extra 40 cents.  Most of you are probably wondering why I even bothered arguing - you probably think I should have just paid him the extra 1k.  Maybe I should have, but he let me go with only paying 2k since that was the price.  Next time, however, I will lose the profanity and not yell.  We are all allowed to lose our cool once in a while.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving – by far the best holiday.  Eat a lot of turkey and pie – I know I will.  

My fan club - walking back from town

My fan :)  Ya, I took a picture!

Ugandan feast: Rice, Matoke, Meat, Cabbage, Chicken

Best rice and beans...ever!  Tafiq is my go to restaurant in Mbale

The new thing is start air-punching when I have my camera out.   It's their favorite pose.

Kevin, Emma, and Francis
No dress today - instead, pink short overalls! 

More punching...

Emma in his "my life is so hard" pose. 

Obama swag (photos courtesy of Mary)

Found this lil' guy in my kitchen.  Praying Mantis.

 The library (never got around to putting these up).  The library is made up of three rooms: Textbooks, leisure books and the big hall where students read.  The books were put in the small rooms in order to prevent them from being stolen at night/during breaks.

Textbooks - teachers wanted to keep them all together, so they ran out of room

Sister Goretti wanted to be in the picture

We have more space for books...but teachers want this room for just leisure reading and literature books.  I didn't argue - it's their library, so it's up to them how they want it set up!

The librarian alphabetized all the books though - I was impressed! 

Library - tried to be stealth taking a picture of them reading.  Hence, it's blurry.

Halloween pictures - I took these all from Facebook, so they are blurry.  I've been bad about remembering to take my camera places.  Whoops.

Halloween - Crayons!

Maggie and Me as crayons

Me, Mary, Maggie, Bethany, and Kelsey.  

Caroline kept asking, "How many crayons are in your box?"  Oh, so witty that one!

Caroline as Katniss

Michelle, Joey and me

Joey and me

Helping Maggie and Mary with their library project.  That orange blob was the first attempt at a handprint from a student.  Lots of laughing ensued.  

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