Sharing last week with the visiting team was a blast! I enjoyed hanging out with them
around the clinic and getting to know them, sharing laughs playing Cards Against Humanity, and swapping travel stories. Last week Dr. Kathy, my internship mentor, helped me get to know the area by visiting the local health clinics, the nearest town, Kinoni, and the nearest city, Masaka. She graciously answered my endless questions about the basics of life here. Some aspects of life here are really not self-explanatory. Simple things are important to learn: where do I put my garbage, how to get a taxi and what I should expect to pay for certain distances, where to buy laundry detergent, how do I show respect to elders, ect. Navigating life here is so much easier when you have a guide! I’m thankful to have had company for the first week of this summer to help me adjust.
On Saturday morning the team and Dr. Kathy headed back to the states. I did some work at the clinic (I’ll explain more of what I’m actually doing in a later post). At lunch some of the staff here asked me if I was going to “The Introduction” later that day. Now, I had heard rumors of this “introduction” all week, everyone was excited for a big community party. In this culture an engagement is celebrated by an “introduction”, a party hosted by the bride’s family to welcome a groom and his family into the community.
I had plans to meet a peace corps volunteer who is staying in the area that night so I was hesitant to say yes to the introduction, but the staff insisted I go. They also insisted I was a “gomezi” or traditional dress. There were lots of giggles as I figured out how to put one on, and they helped me get the outfit on correctly. It was fun to be part of the excitement as all the girls got ready.
I thought we were just walking down the road to the party, but it turns out we were actually taking “transport” in the form of “bodas” (motorcycles or dirt bikes). Typically, men drive and their passengers ride on the back, if you’re a lady you are expected to ride sidesaddle, balanced with both legs on one side of the bike. To put it mildly I was scared. I was wearing this fancy borrowed dress (that I was not completely convinced would stay on appropriately), getting on to the back of a dirt bike sidesaddle, about to ride some unknown distance down a pitted dirt road with a stranger driving. And it was awesome!
Riding sidesaddle really isn’t hard at all, and once you get going you don’t have to worry about keeping your balance. The driver did well avoiding people and potholes, and the ride was really only a couple minutes. It was a new and exhilarating experience, and thankfully the gomezi traveled just fine!
The Introduction was a huge party, with I’d guess a few hundred people gathered. There was dancing and food and the wedding parties and both sides of the family, and gifts exchanged. The bride and the wedding party were dressed in beautiful gomezis, and there were traditional Ugandan dancers who were incredible.
The party was long! We got there a little late, around 2:30, and by the time the sun went down around 7:00 I was exhausted. They hadn’t even gotten to the cake yet! I decided I should head home as I had forgotten to bring bug spray and a flashlight. (I won’t be forgetting those things ever again, even if I don’t think I’ll be out long!). I rode a boda back home and settled in for the night.
Sunday morning I went with my friend Sylvia (who works at the clinic) to church in Kinoni. Kinoni is the nearest town, just a few minutes ride down the main road. We took a car/taxi that was the size of a five-seater Camry, with a total of 11 people crammed into it! Well, 10 really, because 5 year old Maria is pretty small, and she was sitting on my lap.
We went to the Catholic mass in Kinoni, as we were walking up to the building I was struck by it’s unique design. I have only been to a Catholic service a few times, but it was a cool experience. The service was in Lugandan, so I didn’t understand anything, but I loved to hear the beautiful singing!
Sunday afternoon was spent getting more unpacked and talking with friends. Sundays the clinic is closed and things are pretty quiet. It’s a good day for catching up on things and relaxing. I played a little guitar and read a book!