Friday, September 27, 2013

Wish List

Let me first say that I have everything I need living in Mbarara. We are so very blessed to have a variety of shops, services, and local vendors that provide us with so much. I'm thankful to have many necessities and small treats readily available.

That being said, there are always some things from home, those creature comforts and small items that make life just a little bit nicer and easier, that aren't available here. Again, these aren't things any of us need, but they sure are fun and useful to have around.

I know there are some people that express their support by faithfully sending packages and mail our way. If you're one of those (amazing) people and are wondering what might be useful and appreciated, here is a list to get you started :) But by all means, please feel free to stray from this list!
(I've included some Amazon links just for examples.)

Kashi granola bars
chocolate chips
Crystal light drink mixes
vegetable bouillon cubes
dark chocolate...the darker the better!...
Starbucks VIA instant coffee or Freshers packets
almonds, cashews, pine nuts

Papermate Flair pens, Sharpie pens, or your favorite type of pen
3x5 index cards
Crayola markers
colored construction paper or scrapbook paper
AAA batteries

scented candles
photo of yourself/your family to serve as a prayer reminder
Amazon gift cards to purchase books for Kindle
seasonal/holiday items (even if they come late)
ziplock bags

I have some of these items, plus a few others, saved on an Amazon wish list (not necessarily to be purchased there... just to show examples), and I have added a tab to the top of my blog where this list can easily be found.

And before sending anything, please remember to check out this information about mailing things to Uganda.

Friday, September 20, 2013

On Going Green

I've recently come to believe that living in Uganda is a form in-and-of-itself in "being green." My contribution to the world is moving to Uganda for two years. I think that should give me a free pass when it comes to environmental issues, right?*

Let me explain.

Common Suggestions on How to Be Green

Turn off electricity as much as possible.
The Ugandan power supply company does this for us on a regular basis. Not having access to electricity is a great way to conserve and keep your electric bill low.

Conserve water. 
My clothes are hand-washed in a small basin with cold water once a week, and they dry on the clothesline outside (bonus points for saving water AND electricity at once!). I read that line-drying will save you 3-4 kWH/washing cycle. Do I know what that means? No, but it sounds good and green.

Leave the tap running while you brush your teeth? No way. Not here. You don't even turn it on.

And because I live near the top of a hill and have somewhat poor plumbing, my water has gone out three times in the past month (again, not having access to water conserves water) and pressure is often low. No need to install a fancy water-conserving shower head here.

Use public transportation, ride your bike, or walk when possible.
I don't have a bicycle, and considering there are generally more potholes than road, I don't really want one either. That means my only transportation options are walking, public transport, or carpooling with a team mate who owns a vehicle. This usually involves filling every seat in the car and then adding another two people who sit in the trunk. Those people can testify accurately about how many potholes there are here.

Keep your thermostat at a moderate setting.
Thermostats don't exist in homes here. You can open or close windows and doors. That one was easy.

Reuse and recycle.
Frequently, I choose the foods I buy based on the container they come in. The other day my friend called me to let me know that Nakumatt restocked the butter in the containers. This is a big deal, guys. Those cheap, plastic little containers are amazing for freezing leftovers, and this is the only butter in town that doesn't come in a cardboard box or just some foil wrapping (though now that I think about it... reducing on packaging is another great way to be green!). And I always buy the jam and olive oil that come in a glass jar because they make great candle holders when power goes out (more bonus points??).

Buy seasonal foods from local farmers.
Well, this one just seems too easy. Who wouldn't want to purchase all these organic veggies for about $6?

Being so cool has never been so easy.

*I'm kidding. I truly do care about environmental issues, which is why I thought of all this in the first place :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Just Call Me Millet

Two important things to know about our local language, Runyankole:
  1. R's and L's are frequently mixed up and used interchangeably in any word. Often we "play" in church and the children go outside to "pray."
  2. Most Runyankole words end with a vowel. Many English words have been incorporated into the Runyankole language simply by adding a vowel sound, frequently the long /e/ or /oo/, to the end of the word. Town is "towni" (pronounced town-ee), office is "office-ee," and a drinking glass is "glassee" (or "grassee"...see item #1)
While there are many Ugandan names that are quite familiar to us, especially Biblical ones like David; Moses; Esther; and Mary, our American/Western names often don't translate well into this local language.

First, take my friends' names for example:
Cheryl is Sharon, Sharo, Shallow, or Cherie.
Bron is Brown.
Delaney is most often called Doreen. (Delaney>> has the long /e/ sound, so the "real" part of her name must be Delane>> Derane>> Doreen)

Isn't this version of word association fun?? I think so!

Carolyn is difficult because it has both an R and an L. I get many different variations on my name:
Caro. This is, by far, the most common pronunciation/nickname for me.

In Runyankole, caro is the name of a local food made from millet flour and served in these traditional baskets.

Therefore, I have to wonder how many people wonder if my name is actually Millet.

Food for thought.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

By the Numbers

4 |  weeks that I've been in Mbarara since returning

22 |  team members we will have on the ground by the end of this month

7 |  teammates that are children

13 |  minutes it takes me to walk to town from my apartment

2,500 |  Ugandan shillings (UGX) to the American dollar

6 |  passion fruit received for 1,000 UGX

making juice

1,000 | UGX for a boda ride to town

5 |  times a day I hear the Mu$lim call to prayer

100 | percent of the time I can predict if the dark, storm clouds will rain on us or not... our rain always comes from the east.

7 |  o'clock is when the sun sets here... all year round

1 |  airstrip in the area

0 |  planes that land there

2 |  lanterns I have on hand

48 | hours power has been off this weekend (and hopefully not any longer...)

1 | time water has gone out in my apartment (so thankful this number isn't higher)

4 | single ladies in our apartment complex...friends!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Good Eatin'

When people wonder about my life in Uganda, one of the most commonly asked questions is "What do you eat there?"

While some aspects of life in Uganda can be very difficult to get used to, food is not one of them. There are fewer prepackaged, processed foods available here, and fast food chains are virtually non-existent (for which I'm thankful). It's very easy to eat almost entirely locally-sourced food if you so desire.


While I buy bread, eggs, and dry & canned items at one of the small supermarkets in town, I do the majority of my produce shopping at the central market. I feel fortunate that we have year-round access to fresh, locally-grown produce.

the fastest food available

Once a week, a very hard-working man also comes by our homes with a large crate attached to his bicycle. It's always overflowing with organic produce: collard greens, lettuce, parsley, cilantro, fennel, basil, cucumbers, celery, etc. We're blessed by his hard work!

true drive-through convenience

Prepping and washing produce is an important step in preparing good food here and staying healthy. There are a variety of methods to cleaning your produce, but I choose to soak anything I won't be cooking or peeling in a highly diluted bleach-water solution. This kills any bacteria, amoebas, or anything else that might be lingering.

Another commonly asked question is "Do you like the local food?" I'm very thankful to say that I do.

When eating at a Ugandan friend's home or when dining at a local restaurant, more commonly known as "hotels" (though there is no lodging involved), you'll receive one or multiple of the following:
matooke (cooked, green bananas),
white potatoes (known as Irish potatoes),
sweet potatoes (also white in color),
millet bread (think brown, sticky play dough),
posho (maize flour cooked in water until it has a dough-like consistency),
or pumpkin.
These items are known "food." Your food will also be served with a sauce: meat sauce, g-nut sauce, or beans. Occasionally, some vegetables can also be mixed into the sauce, and a shredded cabbage salad or a slice of avocado might be served on the side.

Photo: So much matoke! Yum.
mashed matooke for 60

pumpkin and g-nut sauce... my favorites!

rolex: fried egg wrapped in a chapati

Finally, living in Uganda is great motivation to make things from scratch that I normally wouldn't bother with back home. And because my stove runs on gas, I'm still able to prepare meals even when power is out for long periods of time. Cooking by candlelight isn't ideal, but it's doable!

granola and a new batch of vanilla extract that should
be ready for use in about two months
crepes with passion fruit syrup
passion fruit juice...
i love everything passion fruit

I promise this won't turn into a food blog.