Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 11:30 AM--Introduction Ceremony

On Saturday I attended an introduction ceremony for Juliet’s “sister”.  I had originally thought it was her actual sister and later found out that it was actually her cousin whom she calls her sister.  That is a very common thing here in Uganda to refer to all of your cousins as your brothers and sisters.  In fact, as she was introducing me to her family members, I noticed she had a lot of brothers.  So I asked her how many brothers she had.  She told me that she only had one actual brother and the rest were her cousins.  It’s also common for them to call their aunts their mothers and their uncles their fathers.  There are a few reasons that they do this.  Partly, because they live in large extended families.  So they don’t differentiate between their cousins and their siblings.  It can also be because if their parents die it is understood that their aunts and uncles will take care of them like they were their parents.  I’m also pretty sure that in most Bantu languages, they don’t have different words for sibling and cousins, as well as aunts and uncles and parents.

Anyway, I initially thought that an introduction ceremony was kind of like a bridal shower, where they introduce the bride.  However, I found out that it is actually more like an actual wedding for the bride’s side of the family where the bride is introducing her family to the groom’s family.  I was told that most of the bride’s family will not attend the actual wedding ceremony, so for them this is the wedding.

Juliet was in the ceremony because she is a close relative of the bride, so I ended up sitting by myself and therefore I had no one to really explain anything to me.  However, even though the entire ceremony was in Lugandan (the groom’s family is from Buganda), I was actually able to figure out a lot of what was going on.  So the bride has all of her female relatives in different groups depending on their age.  And each group is introduced to the groom’s family.  Then the groom’s family gives them all small gifts.  At the very end of the ceremony, almost the entire groom’s family got up and left and they each came back with gifts for the bride’s family.  The women were all carrying baskets of food on their heads and the men brought in a large bunch of matooke, some chickens, cases of beer, soda and water, and even some furniture (a couch and two chairs).  I think this is supposed to represent a dowry.

Overall, I enjoyed the ceremony and I really liked going to Juliet’s village and meeting her entire family.  They kept telling me that I needed to come back and visit them sometime.  Her village was very close to Mbarara town.  Even though it is very close to town, it was somehow still deep in the village, so it was very nice to get to see.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

September 22, 2011 4:15 PM

Ugandans use a lot of different phrases.  Some of this is British English and some of it is Uganglish.  Sometimes I wonder if they really understand what they are saying.  Here are some examples of some commonly used words and phrases.

a. Trousers
What we call pants they call trousers.  I’m not sure if this is British English or just a Ugandan thing.

b. Pants
Pants is what they call men’s underwear.  So if you ask someone about their pants they may get embarrassed or offended, because you are asking about their underwear, which, even in the U.S., someone would think is kind of strange.

c.  Knickers
Knickers is what they call women’s underwear.

d. Pick
This one has a couple different meanings.  The one that is most easily understood is that people will say “Can you pick me some sugar?” or “I will come pick you.”  This is the same as using the phrase “pick up”.  They simply just drop the “up”.  The other way they use it is to say “Are you picking me?”  When someone says this they mean “Do you understand me?”  They are literally asking if you are able to pick out the words they are saying.  I’m pretty sure this is Uganglish.  It is their interpretation of English.

e.  Chips
This is British English for French Fries.

f.   Boot
This is British English for the trunk of a car.

g.  Sir/Sebo and Madam
The word for sir in all Bantu languages is Sebo, so they tend to use this even when they are speaking English.  They typically don’t use the word sir very much.  They usually say “sebo” if they want a man’s attention.  On the other hand, for women they say “Madam”.  For example, all of my students will greet me in class by saying “Good Morning Madam”.

h.  Balance
This is the word they use for “change”.  For example, if you are buying something and you want your change, you would ask for your balance.  This is basic Uganglish.

i.  Toilet
Instead of saying bathroom or restroom, they say toilet.  I find this interesting because most of the time they are not talking about an actual toilet.  They are talking about a pit latrine.

j. Bathroom
Bathroom is what they call their bathing area.  So if you said you were going to the bathroom, a Ugandan might be a little confused because they think you are going to bath or shower.

k. Dodging
This is British English for “avoiding”.  So they will say, for example, that some of the teachers have been dodging their lessons, meaning they haven’t been going to their lessons.

l.  A program
Program is what they say instead of plans.  They will ask if you have a program on a specific day or are you free.  This simply means “do you have any plans or are you free?”

m.You are most welcome
When they want to greet you and welcome you, they will say “you are most welcome”.  Whereas we would say more simply “Welcome”.  I guess they feel the need to emphasize it a little

n. Somehow far/somehow near
Ugandans use the word “somehow” different than we would.  When they say something is “somehow near”, what they mean is that it is kind of close.  And if something is said to be “somehow far”, they mean that it is not really that close.  So if you are arguing the price of a taxi ride, you might be saying it is somehow near and that it should not cost that much money.

o. You are lost
Like I’ve said before, if they say “you are lost”, they mean that you haven’t been around.

p. Now Now
Ugandans are never very timely, so when they say now, they may mean in a few hours.  They use the phrase “now now” in order to emphasize that they are actually talking about now.  So if you want to know if a taxi or a bus is leaving now, you have to ask if they are leaving “now now”.

q.  Extend
This is a word they use if you are in a taxi and they want you to move over so they can squeeze more people in.  You can try to explain to them that if you extend you will actually be taking up more space, not less, but this is one thing that I think Ugandans will never understand.

r.  Tomorrow
I told one of my neighbors today that my mom was coming to visit in two weeks and that she would be here on October 7th.  In response to that he said “oh she will be here tomorrow!”  After arguing with him for a few minutes, trying to explain that October 7th is not tomorrow, he explained to me that “tomorrow” is an expression they use to mean that she is coming very soon.  This one makes no sense to me.  They say tomorrow, but they don’t mean tomorrow…

I don’ think there are any Ugandans who have learned English as a first language.  And they typically learn English from other Ugandans who are not native English speakers.  I think this is part of the reason they speak the way they do and not the way we would in America.  They do use some British English, but a lot of their phrases and words are straight up Uganglish.  It’s almost as if they have their own syntax.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2011 7:30 AM

After living here for a short time, you start to think in foreign currency instead of converting it into U.S. Dollars.  Part of this probably has to do with the fact that we get paid in Ugandan shillings and not U.S. Dollars.  I find that when I tell people in the U.S. how much something costs, they can’t imagine that I would even need to think about something so inexpensive.  But for us volunteers and the people who live here, everything is somewhat reasonably priced.  However, I guess this whole idea can go both ways.  Ugandans will ask me how much money people make in the U.S. and they think that all Americans are rich, but then when you explain to them that everything in the U.S. costs so much more and that the cost of living is much higher, they don’t want to believe you.  I guess they like to think that Americans are rich, because it fits their preconceived stereotype.

Friday, September 16, 2011

September 16, 2011 6:00 PM

Today I was invited to a Ugandan introduction ceremony.  An introduction ceremony can be closest compared to an American bridal shower.  I don’t really know how similar they really are (I’ll tell you after I go).  It is where they introduce the woman to be married.  I was invited by Juliet, the school secretary.  It’s her sister’s introduction ceremony next Saturday.  It should be an interesting cultural experience.  I’m sure I’ll get asked a million times to compare American wedding rituals and Ugandan wedding rituals.  Kind of like how at school (almost every day) I’m asked to compare the American school system with the Ugandan school system.

I’m also in the process of applying and nominating girls to go to Camp GLOW.  Camp GLOW is a girls empowerment camp put on by Peace Corps volunteers.  GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World.  I applied to go myself (they’re only taking 15 volunteers) and I’m allowed to nominate 5 girls from my school to apply to go.  The girls have to be between 13 and 15 years old, so after talking to my headmaster, I think I’m going to nominate 5 girls from Senior 1, 2, and 3.  The camp is going to be in December right after the term ends, but I should know who is going (including myself) within the next month.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14, 2011 7:00 AM--Ugandan Speak

The way people here speak can be an adjustment in and of itself sometimes.  And I’m not just talking about the words they may use (because they do speak in British English), but actually the way they phrase certain things.  One thing that many of them do that I can’t seem to understand a reason for is they ask and answer their own questions.  Instead of just stating a fact, they will pose it in a question and then answer the question themselves.  For example, they may be talking about going to Gulu and in the conversation they might say “Gulu is what?  It is far.”  It can be a very confusing mannerism at first, because they usually hesitate in between the question and the answer.  So you may have a tendency to respond to their question before they answer it themselves.  Another example might be if they are talking about lunch they might say “For lunch we are having what?  Matooke.”  You may have noticed that their questions are kind of phrased backwards, with the inquisitive word at the end.  And that I think I can actually explain.  In the local languages, the question word (or the “what”) always comes at the end of the sentence.  But why they ask and answer their own question, I can’t really explain.  I can only think that maybe they do it for emphasis.  But it can seem strange if you aren’t used to it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12, 2011 8:00 PM--Kinoni's Weekly Market

Every Monday I go to the local weekly market in Kinoni.  Every time I go there is a little old woman who always insists on giving me something.  She doesn’t speak any English, so I don’t really know why she wants to give me stuff and I can’t easily tell her I don’t need anything.  Apparently when I don’t go to the market she asks for me and sometimes she even sends something for me with someone else.  Today I went to the market and I didn’t see her there.  And then later today one of the teachers from school came to my house with two avocados for me from this old woman.  I think sometimes there are people here who just like foreigners way too much.  It’s one of the amusing parts of being here and it’s not a bad perk either.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8, 2011 9:00 AM--Foreign Aid

Many Americans and people in other developed countries often give aid and send money to developing countries like Uganda.  These people think they are helping those who are less fortunate than them.  But what they don’t know is that they are not really helping anyone.  In fact, they are destroying the economies of these developing countries.  All of this aid also gives the wrong stereotypical image of white people (or foreigners in general).  For example, many missionaries have come to Uganda since it became a country fifty years ago.  They give a lot of money, build schools and churches and then two weeks or a month later they are gone, feeling like they did this great thing for the world.  What they don’t know is that they are just giving them money and not helping the local people help themselves.  Developing economies get used to having money just given to them and if foreign aid wasn’t there, the economy might fall apart.  Also, in many communities, if any foreigners come in to try to help, they are expected to bring money.  Many other Peace Corps volunteers have a hard time accomplishing anything in their communities, because they are seen as nothing other than a bank.  Peace Corps volunteers are not here to give money.  We are here to make things sustainable.  But the last fifty years of missionaries can make this a challenging task.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September 6, 2011 8:15 AM--"You Are Lost"

Ugandans tend to use the word “lost” in a way that we don’t always necessarily understand.  For instance, now that I’m back from my three week trip they say to me “oh you have been lost.”  They don’t mean that I’ve actually been lost or unknowingly missing.  They just mean that I haven’t been around.  I also feel like they use this term too often.  They don’t only use it if I’m away for the weekend, but they also will use it if I sleep in and miss morning tea.  They like to be around people all the time.  They can’t understand that I would want to be by myself sometimes.  I think as time goes on they begin to understand it more and more, but it is probably something they will never fully comprehend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 5, 2011 7:00 AM--Staff Meeting


Staff meetings are notorious here.  They are typically started a few hours late, last for anywhere from 5 to 7 hours, and are incredibly useless.  Yesterday I had my beginning of term staff meeting and I don’t know if I will ever have such an easy staff meeting.  It only started 45 minutes late.  It also only lasted for about three hours and that is including a break in the middle for lunch.  I also found it to actually be somewhat useful.  Obviously a large part of it was useless for me because they were talking about the teachers strike and money.  But I was impressed that the other computer teacher brought up the issue of the non-teaching staff eating their lunch in the computer lab.  They say we have a solution.  We will see if it actually happens, but now they are going to have them take lunch in the library.  I don’t know if that is better than the computer lab, but now it is no longer my problem.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

September 3, 2011 10:30 AM

So I just got back to site yesterday.  My vacation was pretty amazing despite getting a little sick towards the end.  It was kind of hard to come back.  I went from being around Americans all the time back to being by myself most of the time.  I’ll get used to it but it might take me a few days.  After getting back I noticed that my house is pretty disgusting and not because I left it that way but because it just accumulates dirt and some bugs over time.  So I guess I’m gonna be pretty busy for at least a week or so because I have to clean my house and the term technically starts today.