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The First Fortnight (is that all it is…?)

Mar 8 • 2159 views • 2 Comments on The First Fortnight (is that all it is…?) Africa, Diary of a Muzungu, East Africa, Kampala, Travel tips and advice, Uganda, Volunteering

Random notes from the Muzungu’s Diary

  • First night under a mosquito net and I thought of Holly in Johannesburg, tucking hers in around her every night. Holly and I were flatmates in London many moons ago, she did VSO too.
  • Monkeys! Before breakfast! A group of them play in the trees below the canteen.
  • “Muzungu! Muzungu!” two boys shout out as they see us pass in our minibus. Was totally captivated first time I was called mzungu. It refers to a white person (and strangers generally) and isn’t derogatory (unless someone already knows your name, apparently). Little kids love calling out Muzungu and waving. I join in, it’s fun.
  • Nature seems so much closer. A pair of Brown Kites cartwheeled over my head, so close by and unafraid of me. One settled 20 feet away to drink from a puddle.

Learning Luganda

  • Struggled to get my ‘frame of reference’ with Luganda, tho recognised a couple of imported Arabic words. Had lessons in the banda (round but open covered traditional construction) with Isla, who arrived a couple of months ago. (We get on really well, and she introduced me to two other VSOs near me so social life looking good already!)
  • We sang a Luganda nursery rhyme to teach us numbers 1 – 10. Our teacher Julie is so open and adorable, it was all very natural and I felt like a schoolgirl again. None of us were confident singers but we all chimed in.
  • As soon as I get confident and ask for another word, out comes a really long one, e.g. obuntongulu (onions).
  • Isla’s favourite phrase is Tulabagane olulala meaning ‘see you soon.’
  • We thanked Julie for being such a great teacher. She replied, “no thank you for being such great students and having such a great attitude.” Isla and I plan to have more lessons with Julie but Rose (at VSO) says we need to wait eight weeks to check that Luganda is the most appropriate language for us / our work. A dozen languages are spoken here in Uganda.
  • VSO induction week was brilliant, a holiday in some respects (couldn’t stay awake after 9.30pm any night), an opportunity to bond with the other new volunteers and a time to learn more about:·

Ugandan culture Do’s and Don’ts.

  • Don’t expect meetings to start on time.
  • Do take time to stop and greet everyone every morning and ask after them and their families.
  • VSO Uganda’s strategic objectives (addressing Education, Disability, Participation and Governance)
  • Luganda language (a few hours of lessons)
  • Child protection issues (abuse, negligence, denial of education, forced early marriage, even sacrifice). This was really shocking.
  • There are so many interesting people on the induction, I wish I had more time to know everyone, e.g. Dutch couple Jan and Freddie are in their 60s and have done VSO (2 years a throw) in Namibia, Botswana and Kenya. Stephen is ex World Wildlife Fund and living in mud house with corrugated iron roof and rats running across his mozzie net at night! He lives near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (where the gorillas are).
  • Stormy weather! We took a real battering last night, storm with v heavy rain went on for hours but very cosy under net. It does give a real sense of security. Could not sleep on several occasions pre-departure (“the lists! the lists”), great to be able to sleep again. Chill.

Final day of induction and due to meet our employers (in my case Patrick from the Uganda Conservation Foundation). Employers are due to arrive from 9.10 am.

9.50 a.m. Patrick’s not here yet

11.10 a.m. Patrick finally walks in!

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2 Responses to The First Fortnight (is that all it is…?)

  1. lizziema says:

    Safely back from Africa! The VSO office was just down the road from out hotel! It was lovely to hear your voice while we were there. It’s now midday and I am still in my dressing gown as we didn’t get home till 3am. Dad is at a car show and somehow got up at 7.45am. I’d like you to keep a list of the language you are leaning so that I know the basics when we visit. x x

  2. Charlie says:

    osiibye otya nnabo! (good afternoon ma’am) – am getting comments on the fluency of my Luganda (I know 3 phrases so far!) Shows how little people normally learn. Having such fun with it, people openly laugh in your face when they hear you.

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