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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Having caught up on sleep...

We arrived eleven days ago. Conventional wisdom says that, after allowing one day for every hour of time difference to adapt, you are as good as new.  Fully acclimated and on a new sleep schedule.  We are eight hours ahead of W. Lafayette, so the magic point was passed on Wednesday. 

We’re still sleepy. Our apartment is next to a busy part of town. Last night, there was what sounded like a revival meeting going on all night.  Music, speeches, amplified noises, plus the normal evening revelers and boda-bodas till all hours. It’s a college town, after all, and this might be what it’s like to live in the student parts of Chauncey Village.   Desperately seeking earplugs…

We had our Embassy briefing in Kampala on Monday. There were a lot of warnings about riding boda-bodas.  Presidential elections are coming up in late February and we also talked about that.  Kampala is an exhausting city for newcomers and we were glad to head home.

Drying dishcloths with the handy panty pegs
We have pretty steady electricity, and a brand new refrigerator and a little gas stove. We are feeling settled in. We have hired a woman named Helen to do the laundry and clean the house. Any clothes hung outside to dry need to be ironed to kill fly larvae. There's a cultural taboo against touching another person's underwear, so we have to wash that ourselves and dry it indoors. I had been going nuts for a week trying to find a piece of cord to hang as a clothesline in the bathroom. It turns out that there's a dandy little gadget called a "panty pegs" that does the job. Followers of Linda Anderson’s excellent blog,  Citizen Green (http://tippecanoegreen.blogspot.com/), know that she features an item she calls Stupid Plastic Crap every month.  Things like banana-shaped “banana keepers” make it to the feature.  The panty pegs definitely is not Stupid Plastic Crap, although it is a plastic square with a hook and clothespins attached. I'm bringing mine home.

Plastic waste is everywhere here. I try to take the one reusable shopping bag that I brought to the stores to avoid using plastic bags. I naively thought that there would be readily available bags made of local materials, like I used in Peace Corps. I have not found these yet, but they must be here. We have two bins nearby for “burnable” and “non-burnable” waste, but they seem to be filled indiscriminately with any type waste.  Plastic falls under the “burnable” category and we smell or see trash fires several times a day. 

It is hard not to compare this experience to our Peace Corps days in the Congo (no one calls it Zaire anymore).  In the villages and towns there, the only burning smell was wood smoke. Many memories of Bukavu, where the Peace Corps Training Center was, are linked to the smell of eucalyptus burning. We rarely smell wood fires here.

David with jackfruit. We have not yet tasted it.
David: This week I began working with colleagues in my department, Science and Technology. I will be co-teaching a health and wholeness class as well as an environmental health class.  These are not exactly my areas of expertise, but I am staying flexible. After all, this is supposed to be a professional development experience for me, too.  This morning, I went to the first lecture for the health and wholeness class (600 students in an outdoor lecture hall that doubles as the location for church services on Sunday morning) only to find myself and the other teacher the only ones there.  The schedule was changed but we didn’t know.  All week long (the first week of classes) the schedule (known as the “timetable” here) has been shifting, with lecturers who don’t like their assigned days and times trying to get things changed.  This has resulted in quite a bit of confusion on the part of both teachers and students.  In principle, things should stabilize this next week.

Red-tailed monkey on the hill above campus
I also attended my first faculty meeting earlier this week.  The program heads and the Dean of Science and Technology met to review the final grades from last semester, discuss borderline cases, and give departmental approval to the “marks” before they are presented to the University Senate, and then to the University registrar for posting on transcripts.  The Dean announced at the start of the meeting that it should last no more than an hour; three hours later we wrapped things up, with a mandatory break for tea and coffee halfway through.  It was very informative for me to see the University policies and faculty personalities in action.  Also, I took some comfort in learning that many of the problems that were discussed regarding students, university resources, staffing issues, etc. are universal.

Unidentified lizard in the backyard
I am still working on developing some ideas for collaborative research with a Purdue science education PhD graduate, Justine Otaala, at his teacher education institute near Kampala, and possible work with other Fulbrighters in Uganda.  The Dean keeps talking about possible visits to the branch campuses in the far eastern and western districts of the country to teach some short courses, but nothing definite has been worked out yet.  I keep reminding myself that we are only 10 days into a six month stay, and that things will be worked out, one way or another.  The Swahili expression, “Pole, pole, ndio mwendo,” (slowly, slowly, is the way to go), is very appropriate.

We hope you have slowly (or quickly) made it to the end of this entry. 

Sunset over Mukono with Lake Victoria just visible
Hopefully by next week, we will have begun Luganda lessons and will at least be able to greet people, although, in fact, everyone speaks  English pretty well.


  1. Sounds like you two are becoming acclimated. Are you and David allowed to wash each others undies? Burning plastic releases toxins. It's a really, really bad thing to do, especially PVC.

  2. Yah, hey there from Ike's Acres in Decorah, IA! We are having fun reading your blog. Cold here, -22 yesterday!! That's colder than it was in the BWCA...Izaak and I joined Mark and his Jterm class for the "Adaptation to Cold and Winter Survival" experience. Izaak has made it clear he's "..in for the full term next time...missed experiences with just a one week stay". OH, Go Packers...in Super B! Stay safe and healthy. By the way, we have the undies hanger in the camper (Mom used it for years of camping). Hugs

  3. Great to read all about your last several weeks and the photos are wonderful. I saw James Makubuya on Sunday and told him I'd send your blog address. That's what I'm doing now, but first I had to read everything first. Stay well! Nancy