Mulembe!
I wrote an email full of the details of daily life in Uganda for my very worried parents and family and I thought that, with a few alterations, it would make a decent blog post. It is a nice departure from the daily narrative style of our recent posts. So here is a modified email for the people who are worried that we will catch malaria:

“I am actually doing really well. I adjusted really quickly. I am sleeping well and the food here is really, really good. I am staying with a Ugandan family in their house. The mother is Rebecca. She is 27 and has 3 beautiful boys, Alan (5), Arthur (3) and Alton (1). She is the nicest and coolest and her English is very good, she is a teacher at a nearby school but school is out until February 4th. Her husband, Sam, was with us the first 2 nights but then went to school. He is a teacher and working towards a better degree while school is in recess. He seemed amazing as well but I did not get to spend a lot of time with him. They live with another man, Rodgers, who is 23 and also a teacher. I believe he is Sam’s cousin. He is wicked smart and his English is amazing. I am sharing a bed with him.

Their house is one floor and has a living room, two bedrooms a storage room and a little foyer. They do their cooking and washing outside and have a shed of sorts for doing that in the rain. They also have a little enclosed area outside for bathing and a latrine. One of the biggest surprises for me was what I missed the most about US life. I thought I would miss showers and plumbing but it is indoor lighting that I miss the most. We eat dinner and hang out at night with just candle light and flashlights. They have electricity but only one lightbulb that is very dim. They do have a TV though and we watch the news in the morning sometimes.

They are much more informed about current events than I anticipated. They know American politics better than many Americans I know. Most nights we chat about life in Uganda and America and swap information about culture, history, politics and geography. It has been a really enlightening experience. I am also picking up the language. “Mulembe” means hello; “Komakhoa” means what is the news (basically how are you) and “Kasila” essentially means everything is good. Now you can greet each other in Lugisu!

Rebecca is also an amazing cook. I like almost everything they serve. My one complaint is that nearly everything is cooked in vegetable oil. But everything is delicious. The food is all fresh and local, especially the produce. My favorite dishes are the cabbage and the beans. I bet you didn’t see that coming. I want to learn how to make some of these dishes so I can recreate them at home.

They are also an incredibly clean community. Rodgers says he bathes twice a day. I feel bad that I only bathe every other day… They also produce almost no waste. Everything is fresh so there is very little plastic or cardboard packaging.”

Living in the community has had incredible positives along with a few negatives. It has certainly hampered our ability to do our work. It is hard for us to find time for just the four of us (Dave arrived the other day!) to talk shop. Being with the community has also added distractions and diversions to make it harder to focus. We persevere through it all and have had a very productive trip. Today we wandered around Mbale checking out mechanic shops, checking the prices and availability of various parts. We also went to Umeme, the power company that runs the electricity in the Mbale region and we got a lot of useful information.

Living in Shilongo has also provided us with information and insight that we could not have gotten any other way. It has given us an opportunity to take a crash course in Lugisu and Ugandan culture. The purpose of this trip is to research the feasibility of our project and the village’s needs and desire. Sleeping in their houses and taking our meals with them has helped us build a deep understanding of their daily lives and needs and truly helps us decide how we can best help them. This understanding goes both ways. Our nightly chats with our hosts has helped create an understanding of our group, who we are and what we do. Our bond with Shilongo has become incredibly strong through this trip and I cant imagine learning this much any other way.

Sadly we only have two full days left in Shilongo. I will be sad to go but I havent been in the US yet this year and I could honestly go for a hamburger right now. Hopefully we can wrap up with a few more meetings in the village and maybe conclude our trip with a hike up a nearby mountain (only if we finish our work!). We will try and post once more before leaving Uganda but this may be our last post.

I hope you are all having a great 2013 and I will see you all soon,

-Kevin