I have had nearly two and a half years living in East Africa now and I can honestly say for much of that time I have had no idea what is going on around me! There are many reasons for this so I will try to explain.
Steve will tell you my hearing is getting worse. I’d say it’s more that my ability to tune out what doesn’t interest me is improving. We have a “shouty man” 500m from us on the Mityana Road who starts up at around quarter to six every morning and I don’t hear him until Steve points out that he’s started. If I bother to listen I hear him, otherwise I remain oblivious. There is dance music broadcast until the early hours most nights and I can successfully tune it out. But I do find the children here speak very softly – they are shy and may not be confident about their understanding of what I am asking so they whisper and I often miss what they are saying. I do lots of nodding and smiling. Some of the new teachers are also very shy but I am sure their confidence will increase and my conversations with them will be more rewarding.
There is also the barrier of language. The medium preferred by most of my work colleagues is Luganda – understandable as for most it is mother tongue and they can be more expressive. It would be hard work to have to speak English just because I am in the room when the discussion is not for me anyway, but it can still be quite isolating and oftentimes jokes are shared and I miss out. Learn Luganda is on my “to do” list but slips down each time I look at the myriad greetings for different classes of people, times of day, etc. There is no “catch all” greeting like the Kiswahili “Salama” or “Habari gani”. I usually can mange a “webale” – thank-you – but currently that’s my limit.
East Africans consider themselves to be very polite people, hence all the greeting that goes on. There is also a strict class system that has women and youngsters bowing and kneeling to those (often men) who consider themselves to be their betters. I suspect I often offend as an egalitarian Australian who rejects all that class nonsense. It’s lucky I’m as old as I am as that mitigates the offending slightly but I certainly do not like it when mothers, coming in to pay fees (or explain why they cannot pay fees yet), kneel on the floor in front of the Head Teacher’s desk. At least finding examples of Gender Discrimination is easy!
|Spot the gender socialisation|
As a consequence of wishing to be polite an East African will want to tell you what you want to hear even if it means presenting what we now know to be “Alternate Facts”. Yesterday we were told that the second delivery of bread to Quality Cuts would be there at 11:30, so we thought early lunch then head home. After a rather nice steak sandwich we went back to Quality Cuts – still no bread! We were assured the delivery had left Kisimenti and was on its way – a distance of 2 or 3 kilometres. It finally arrived at about 12:30 and we had our two sliced seed bread loaves and could head home to Kirimamboga about 1 o’clock. If the shop assistant had said it wouldn’t be there until 12:30 we could have gone up to Kisimenti ourselves to pick it up and been home by 12. The delivery driver must have been side-tracked or stopped somewhere for a chat. Inconveniencing other people never enters anyone’s head. (Mostly shown by inconsiderate – dangerous‼ - drivers and meandering pedestrians, bodaboda (motorbike taxi) riders, stock and herdsmen.) The bread wait followed a ½ hour wait in a queue in the bank to pay a deposit on our holiday in June and a 20 minute wait in Shoprite while a committee decided what to do about the lack of a record on the computer of the bar code on the John West Tuna and, no, knowing the shelf label said 13,200/= was not sufficient information. (I could actually see steam coming out of Steve’s ears as he could feel the tuna slipping out of his grasp).
|The crew at Don's, Lyantonde|
After many weeks of Askari Richard telling us we would soon have neighbours we finally do. Last weekend we returned from Lake Mburo to find people in Number 1 and today a family moved in to Number 3. So far we have the only car but if that changes things will get interesting. I can imagine the chaos trying to get out in the morning will become if we have 5 or more cars in the compound! And so far I’m not convinced on the locals’ average driving prowess and powers of organisation.
The students returned to school on Monday and have settled in nicely over the week. The new teachers have settled in too. We have had the CEO of School for Life visiting from Australia for the past fortnight so it’s all been “go”. Time now for me to get some solid M&E (monitoring and evaluation) strategies in place before we return to Australia for a visit in March /April. I’ll let you know how it goes.
|Doing some teaching|