10 days left, 10 memorable moments…

Left in July, returning in June. For nearly a year I’ll have lived in a third-world country. Uganda has been everything I hoped it would be, and yet it’s been nothing like I imagined. I am forever changed, and I am returning to the United States a totally different person.

I have ten days until I return to the United States. I’m sure there will be plenty of memorable moments in the coming days, including a safari with the 12th graders, and I had some amazing moments in my two trips to Kenya, but right now I want to reflect on 10 of the most memorable moments from the past year in the Pearl of Africa. These are the silly moments, the moments that are behind the scenes in the lives of expats living in Uganda.

Going Raw1546282_10151849897326573_2063871615_n

My roommate Ashlie and I were psyched. We are going to eat raw for one week. We would lose a good amount of weight and use it as a jumping off point for eating healthier overall.  Our great adventure was kicked off with a trip to Ggaba Market. Our arms literally ached from the many bags of fruits and vegetables we collected and carried back to our apartment.

The night before the big day (our first day eating raw), we chopped and sliced like crazy. We even found lots of great raw recipes online. Eating raw was going to be amazing!

Monday came. I had a delicious smoothie for breakfast. For lunch I munched on carrots. Come 3 p.m., I was starving. I remember walking into our apartment. Ashlie sat on the couch with Analeigh and said, “Do you want to eat at Little Donkey tonight?” My stomach rumbled as I thought of my favorite shredded beef burrito and guacamole. “Yes!” I replied with enthusiasm.

We were officially failures. Eating raw lasted approximately 12 hours, and many of our co-workers loved making fun of us when we failed. But Ashlie and I will never forget the 12 hours we went raw!

IMG_20140518_113900Stoney. Period.

Every Stoney I’ve had is memorable. Stoney is a heavenly drink that Coca-Cola has for some reason decided should not be available in the United States. It’s a refreshing blend of ginger and soda, so strong that sometimes one sip will make you cough.

I have had Stoney’s at dinner, at school, at the beach, by the pool, and just lounging on the front porch. Every moment with a Stoney is memorable.

The Detour

It was December, and a group of ladies had gone Christmas shopping downtown. My car was loaded with me, Ashlie, Abbey, and Tiffany. About halfway home, the road we typically take was closed. This forced us to take a detour.

This wasn’t just any detour. This was a detour that movies are made of, like when the Americans get lost in a third-world country and never again see the light of day. The detour through a super sketchy neighborhood gave us all sorts of interesting sights: cats who looked like they were on meth, boda drivers who smelled like meat and cheese, nuns, and beggars who didn’t even want our G-nuts for a snack.

It had been a long day, and we were downright delirious. I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed and cried as much as we did on our detour. You definitely had to be there, but it was a moment I will never, ever forget from my time in Kampala.

The Acrobatic Cockroach

I screamed my head off. A giant African cockroach was crawling around our kitchen counter.

“Ashlie! Bring the Doom!” I yelled.

She knew what that meant. She grabbed the can of Doom, Uganda’s version of Raid, and ran in the kitchen. Ashlie chased the giant bug as it crawled around the counter. She doused it in Doom, but it was resilient. It wasn’t going to die.

Somehow, the roach made its way into a big pot on the counter. We were afraid to look and see if he was alive or not. As we slowly approached the pot to peer inside, the roach catapulted itself out of the pot and back onto the counter. Our screams echoed throughout all of Kampala, but after a few more minutes of spraying, the roach was finally dead.

Morning Surprise

It was Sunday morning, and we were headed to church. As I rounded the corner of our second-story apartment porch, I looked down the stairs and saw a kitten.10155465_603901271423_936196015706335090_n

I started to say, “Awww!” when my eyes were drawn to something further down the stairs.

“O….M…G….” I screamed, loud enough that the neighbors heard.

Ashlie walked around the corner and saw the kitten.

“It’s just a kitten!” she said.

“No! Look!” I pointed.

There on the steps was a dead baby chicken. How a chicken even got on our compound is a mystery, but he clearly didn’t last long!

Crazy Caterpillars

It started off almost as a pimple, but after a few days, it had grown. And it looked nasty.

The disgusting sore on my arm changed shape and size every day, and it was growing new blisters by the minute. Finally, I went to the doctor to have it checked out. As usual, the doctors didn’t have much of an answer, except that it might be a caterpillar burn.

IMG_4723A what? Yup. Many of the caterpillars here in Uganda are poisonous. Just brushing up against the wrong kind of caterpillar can literally burn your skin.

To fix me, they popped all the blisters, drained out some nasty stuff, and then packed it with honey and gauze. Yes, honey, the apparent fix-all for any skin problem in Uganda. Sure enough, after a few days they took off the gauze, cleaned off the honey, and I was good to go!

I do, however, have a scar from my caterpillar burn. I’m quite proud of it. How many people can say they have a scar from an encounter with an evil caterpillar?

Solar Eclipse

Living on the equator means getting burnt after only a few minutes in the sun. It’s a pain, but living on the equator also means experiencing awesome, once-in-a-lifetime things like a solar eclipse.eclipse2

In November we observed a solar eclipse here in Kampala. It happened in the evening, and while it did get darker than usual, it was not a full eclipse that darkened everything. Still, I’ll never forget viewing it through the solar shades the school provided everyone. It was an event I’ll always remember.

IMG_20131217_185925KFC Crazy

I thought there was a McDonald’s in every country. Or maybe even a Taco Bell. There had to be SOME sort of Western fast food restaurant in Uganda that would cure our cravings when we missed home.

There were none.

Until December. Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its doors to the people of Uganda, and we were some of the first in line to experience the awesomeness.

Did I eat a lot of KFC when I lived in America? Not at all. Hardly ever, actually. But just to have a taste of home was something we were dying for by our fifth month here. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in Uganda, simply because it was a small reminder of home.

Power Outage Party

It happens here. A lot. The power goes out and you never know if it will come back on within a few minutes or a few days. We quickly learned, however, that you just have to make the best of it.

There was one night we were particularly excited because we had purchased bread, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese at the store. (Cheese can be next-to-impossible to find around here.) We were going to make one of our favorite dinners- pizza bites.IMG_0485

But the power went out.

Being the awesome gals we are, we didn’t let the lack of electricity cramp our style. Me, Ashlie, Stephanie, Elise and Nyenhial and her two boys packed ourselves into the kitchen, made our dinner by candlelight, and sang the hits of the 90’s. It was most definitely one of my favorite Africa memories!

Frozen with Florence

Florence, our dayguard’s daughter, is quite possibly one of the cutest four year olds on the planet. It’s such a blessing to be greeted by her each day, and sometimes we like to hang out. Florence knows very little English, but that doesn’t stop us from having fun. Sometimes we just play on the porch, sometimes I paint her fingernails and toenails, and the other day we watched Frozen.

IMG_20140517_071757Her reaction to everything was priceless. Throughout most of the movie she just pointed at my laptop screen and smiled. And the icing on the cake was after the movie when she looked at me and began to sing, “Let it Go.” The only words she knew were, “Let it go,” and that was fine. OK, it was amazing.

Every moment with Florence this year has been special, but one of my favorites was definitely watching Frozen together.

So many memories here in Uganda! I’ll never forget the faces and places from my year in the Pearl of Africa.


“Sorry!” and other things we say in Uganda…

I had only been living in Uganda for about a day when the strangest thing happened. I dropped something in the kitchen in front of my Dutch roommates, and they both said, “Sorry!”

Uganda has been my home now for nine months. I've picked up some interesting verbal habits since arriving!
Uganda has been my home now for nine months. I’ve picked up some interesting verbal habits since arriving!

It was my fault I dropped it. I was just clumsy. They weren’t in my way. They didn’t cause me to drop it. But still, they said, “Sorry!”

I chalked it up to being a Dutch thing, but it didn’t take long for me to discover that it’s a Uganda thing. And while I found it so strange, so unnecessary, so ridiculous… I find myself saying it all the time now. It’s one of the many words or phrases that we expats have picked up since living in Uganda.

Did you stub your toe? “Sorry!”

Had a bad day? “Sorry!”

Trip and fall? “Sorry! Sorry!” (some situations warrant two)

Here are a few more things you might catch an expat saying when they return to the U.S. after living in Uganda:

“Now now”

Although the very definition of “now” suggests that it means, well… now, here in Uganda there is something you say when you want something even quicker. “Now now.”

The other day I called for a boda. The conversation went like this:

“Hello Frank! I need picked up and taken to Italian Supermarket. Can you come now?”

Call for a boda and he will ask if he should come "now now!"
Call for a boda and he will ask if he should come “now now!”

“Yes. Now now?”

“Now now.”

“OK I am on my way!”

I guess “now now” has a greater sense of urgency than just “now.” So you must be very clear here about when you want something. Do you want it “now,” or do you want it “now now?”

“You are welcome!”

The first time we went to Friday Market, I approached someone’s shop and said hello. The lady said to me, “You are welcome!” I froze. Was she being smart? Did she say that because I was supposed to say, “Thank you” for something, but I hadn’t?

It took me weeks to realize that when you enter a store or even someone’s home here, they will say, “You are welcome!” It is not a response to “Thank you,” like it is in the U.S., it literally means, “You are welcome here, please come in!”

“It is paining me.”

One day I asked our house help how she was doing. “Terrible,” she said. “My tooth is paining me.” In other words, she had a toothache.

I’ve yet to hear anyone here say that something hurts. It’s always “paining” them.

“I won you!”

My elementary teacher friends hear this all the time on the playground at school. “I beat you!” or even, “I won!” aren’t phrases often muttered from children. Instead, if you win a game or are victorious in a race, children say, “I won you!”

“Just put it in the boot.”

The trunk. The back. I’ve never once heard of the storage portion of the car referred to as “the boot” until I moved to Uganda. I’m not even sure how it makes any sense. It doesn’t look like a boot. I don’t see people carrying boots in the backs of their cars. But nonetheless, here it is called “the boot.”

“Hello! How are you doing today?”

Clearly that’s a phrase we all know in America, but how often do we say it to strangers? In Uganda, it’s pretty much flat out rude not to ask how someone’s day is going. I was taught early on here to always ask how cashiers are doing, shop owners, support staff at school, and others I encounter. 1965021_10203543500770823_1566835692986534743_n

What a friendly concept though! I can only imagine some of the strange looks I might get when I return to the U.S. in June and ask the cashier at Target how her day is going. But honestly, I love it! I think being here has made me an overall friendlier person to strangers.

I might say some strange things when I get back to the US in 25 days, but it’s all part of the experience. I’m glad to know that my experience will continue long after I get back to the states. My friends and family will just have to adjust to my constant replies of “sorry” and wanting something “now now.”