Hello America. For those that did not see my status update on Facebook, I MADE IT. At this very moment, I am sitting in a small room with 5 other Uganda Studies Program students talking about fanny packs. We call this place IMME headquarters and the eleven students who are doing homestays share this room when we are at the University. Home sweet home, you might say.
I arrived 3 days ago (thought it has felt like a month) in Entebbe, Uganda. We boarded a bus from the airport and made the 2 hour trek to the University. You’ll be proud to know I rode on the bucket seat in the middle of the two actual seats, acquiring the nickname “Buckets.” Apparently those seats aren’t even called bucket seats, but whatever.
Everyone spent the first night in the dorms, where I encountered my first American-African culture clash. Upon my mattress sat a mosquito net, which was to be expected. However, I was on the top bunk and the ceiling was about fifteen feet above my head, with no hooks to attach the net. I looked to my roommate AJ for help, who had no idea how to work one of these nets either. So, we banded together and decided to just sleep inside of them. Picture me in a white mesh cocoon and that’s about right. It was pretty sweet actually, and when I got up to get something out of my bag, I just left it on and mosey-d around my room. Suddenly I realized the purpose of America’s latest popular invention: the SNUGGIE. If my mosquito net had sleeves on it, I’d be set for life. I think I may have just stumbled across something brilliant.
The next day we were sent to our homestays. We packed up our essentials (sheets, basin, medical kit, water) and headed out. To be honest, I have never been more nervous in my entire life. As the IMME students left four by four, my time got closer. I hopped in the van and drove to my home, located right on the main road going from Kampala all the way to Jinja. As we pulled up to the house (yes, a legitimate house), I was instantly greeted by Mama Margaret, my mother for the next four months and beyond. She took me into her arms and said, “You are my son. I am your mother.” What a great start to this experience.
However, from that moment on, things weren’t all that easy. It has actually been very difficult to adjust to a completely new culture. This isn’t a trip where you get to watch something cultural from afar. I got dropped off and spent the next 48 hours with them, alone. Most members of my family (and there are MANY) speak some sort of English, but when talking to each other they speak in Luganda. They love to laugh and talk and spend time with each other, but I’m definitely on the outside looking in. I would love to joke and laugh too, but Luganda is something I haven’t quite mastered yet…
So to be completely honest, things aren’t exactly as I expected. In a sense, I feel like I’m not doing as well as I should be. It shouldn’t be hard to connect with my family, right? Yet somehow it is. I know that in time this will completely change and it is only my 3rd day living with them. Pretty soon, I will be cooking matoke, pooping in a hole, and cracking jokes in Luganda with the best of them. But for now, I am still in the transition period.
I’ve been missing home like crazy, but trying not to think about any of you (hopefully that doesn’t make me sound heartless). If I dwell on how much I miss hugging Matt Deans or dancing with the roommates or annoying Broccoli Head, I’ll definitely lose it. So know that you all are being thought of and missed. Please keep me in your prayers, specifically in my adjustment to my new family. I don’t want to waste a moment of this amazing experience.
P.S. I have a phone! My number is 784716247, which actually means nothing. In order to call or text me, you would dial 011-256-784716247. I have no idea how much that costs, though I think texts aren’t very expensive at all. I think going through Skype would be the cheapest. So if you ever feel so led, give me a call! Remember, I am 8 hours ahead of you.