Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Cautionary Tale (with a very happy ending)

I got a call from my friend Sarah this afternoon saying that she was at the hospital and was in labor. I told her I would come as soon as I could and asked if I could bring anything for her (The hospitals here don't provide anything apart from medical care. You must bring your own food, bedding, tp, etc.). She said something to drink would be nice, so I stopped at a grocery store on my way to the local hospital to pick up some juice and small snacks for her.

I arrived at the hospital, a place I've been less than five times in total. I made my way to the maternity ward, and found it without too much trouble, thanks to good directions given by a friend. She told me I would find women sitting on benches in the hallway, and I did. Now I just had to find Sarah.

I first looked around for a nurse or someone to ask where she might be. No one in sight, and I figured that ladies on the bench wouldn't know either. I decided to enter the ward on my own and see if I could spot her. It was tricky, though, because the room was jam packed. Every single bed was full and every spot on the floor between the beds was full, as well. It's pretty much BYOM (bring your own mattress) here, so they squeeze patients in where ever they can find room. And this ward was packed.

I slowly wandered down the aisle, painfully aware every eye in the room watching me. I glanced briefly at each bed hoping to see a familiar face. I got to the end without seeing Sarah, so I decided to head back out and attempt to find a nurse again. Just as I was about to exit, though, an older women waved and smiled at me like she might know me. I certainly didn't know this woman, but I knew that Sarah's mom was with her, and I knew that her mom, who is an older women from the village who doesn't speak any English, was expecting me to come. This women greeting me and pulling me aside seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

I greeted her and asked if she was Sarah's mother. She grinned and laughed and gave me a hug. I took this as a good sign. I conversed with her briefly in my basic Runyankole, which she appreciated very much. She seemed like a very lovely women!

The only problem at this point was that I couldn't actually see Sarah. The patient laying on the bed was completely covered, head to toe, in multiple heavy blankets (about five of them, in a typical Ugandan fashion). I asked if Sarah was sleeping, and the mother said yes and motioned toward the bed.

I was still carrying the few small items I brought at Sarah's request, so I gave them to the mother. She was so happy, gave me another hug, and tucked them away with their other belongings under the bed. Then the patient under the blankets began to stir. The mother reached over and pulled them away from her face slightly. I peeked around to say "hello" and greet my friend, and you can guess where this is going, right?

Yep. It most definitely wasn't Sarah under there.

That was not my friend under all those blankets, and that woman was not Sarah's mother.

I politely greeted this stranger on the bed (who very well could also be named Sarah), asked how she was feeling, and then made my excuses to leave to go find The Real Sarah.

Moral of this story: Make sure you correctly identify the patient before attaching yourself to them and giving away your gifts. 

I hope Fake Sarah and her mom enjoyed their juice and g-nuts.

I found this incident hilarious, if not slightly defeating, but I told you this story has a happy ending. And it does!

I found Sarah (for real), who turned out to be in the ward on the other side of the Ladies On The Benches, and I was able to be there for the birth of her lovely baby girl!

meet Mahoro
Dec. 17th  7:45pm  2.7 kilos

her name means peace 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

You know you've been in Uganda for a long time when...

…seeing someone speeding towards you in the wrong lane seems completely normal.

…you find yourself pointing with your lips and saying "yes" by raising both eyebrows.

…you can masterfully employ a variety of "Eh!" and "Eh eh!" noises to convey a range of meanings.

…you know "Come back tomorrow at 10:00 a.m." means whatever you're trying to get done is NEVER going to happen.

…you start using the words "even" and "ever" in places you never would have ("Even me, I'm feeling hungry," or "I have ever done that").

…you start referring to people as "this one" or "that one."

…you willingly drive into oncoming traffic just to avoid the potholes.

…you can speak Uglish so well that - you talk with a Ugandan accent; use words like 'shocked,' 'fearing,' 'extend,' 'balance,' 'somehow,' 'even me,' and 'can you imagine' and 'are you sure?' far too often...

…you know the load shedding schedule by heart.

…someone calls out your name and your reply is: "Yes, please."

…you end the conversation with "Ok please"

…you start sentences with "As for me, I …."

…you get "Am Fine" as a reply to your "Hi."

…clothes becomes a two-syllable word. Clo - thes.

…you know the man asking for Lose actually refers to Rose. And when someone says "let's play" you should stay seated for a prayer.

…your handshakes last an entire conversation.

…your home does not have an address.

…people walk into your house and you say "You are all most welcome!"

…you think "eh" in a high pitch tone is the correct way to respond when a boda driver's price suggestion is too high.

(Full disclosure: I didn't write this, but I can attest to the accuracy of these statements that have been circulating around the internet.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Beginning to Look Somewhat Like Christmas

deck the halls

things with wings
it's the little things

sweet, baby, banana-fiber Jesus
just kidding... this one isn't Christmas.
It's everyday life.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


(originally posted on 2/1/12, with some additions)

Here are some very commonly used Ugandan-English words and phrases... also known as Uglish.

Nice time. = Have a nice time/Have a good day.
Long time! = It's been a long time since I've seen you!
You’ve been lost./ You are lost. = I haven't seen you in awhile. Where have you been?
Disturbing me = bothering me
Pick = get (pick him from school, pick the phone) 
Are you having…? = Do you have…?
Such a… = a compliment (“He’s such a guy,” …the adjectives are left out)
Short call = going to the bathroom (#1)
Balance = your change from a purchase
Move = walk
Shift = move from one living accommodation to another
Where do you stay? = Where do you live?
Extend = Move over, make room
I am used. = I am used to it. It's normal for me.
Let me come./I’m coming. = I’m leaving now, but I will be back. 
Smart = put together, well-dressed, good-looking
They are over/finished. = Something is gone or out of stock (“The eggs are over for today.”)
She/he =  interchangeable pronouns used for either gender
You are fat. = it's a compliment…
She is called… = Her name is…
Digging = farming and gardening
Vernacular = local language
Big man = rich, important person
Somehow = slightly, occasionally, can imply doubt (“The water heater is working somehow.”)
A push = to walk with someone for some distance (“I will give you a push to the road.”)
Ehhhh =  yes, okay
Beep me. = let the phone ring once or twice before hanging up to signal that you want the person to call you back
Maids = bridesmaids
Snaps = photos
Slippers = flip flops
Chips = fries
Crisps = chips
Sweet = candy; can also mean "tasty" or "delicious" ("The meat and rice are sweet.")
Ka = small or trivial ("Where is my ka pen?") (comes from the Runyankole word kakye, which means "small.")
My stomach is paining. = My stomach hurts.
I am reaching. = I am almost there.
Sure?! = Really? Is it true?!
Are we together? = Do you understand?
I am fearing them. = I am afraid of them.
I'm leaving now now. = I'm leaving right now.
Slope = turn ("Slope left at the corner.")
Just here = right here ("Slope left just here.")
Assist me. = Give me. ("Assist me with 5,000.")
I have ever... = I have... ("I have ever been there.")
Keep = to put away ("Keep your sweater in your desk.")
He can always win me at that game. = He can always beat me at that game. ("Beat" is only used in a very literal way to mean physical abuse.)
We go. = Let's go.
It's okay. = Yes.