Moving from the US to Uganda has its joys and challenges. To provide a better picture for you of what it means to us, I thought I would share some of the changes we are experiencing. We are enjoying some of the changes and taking others in stride and handling things relatively well. The kids are doing fantastic, though Josh has had a bout with gastroenteritis a couple days this past week.
Electricity – The World Bank reports that in 2009-10 about 12% of households in Uganda use electricity for lighting. I’m sure the rate is much higher in Jinja and higher now, three to four years later. Our Equip team member Chris Sperling, hooked his house up to the grid one week before we arrived here. It’s a very nice gift. He had used only limited solar power prior to that – mainly for lights, a couple outlets to run a computer, charge a cell phone, etc. The electricity does go out about once or twice every few days for a few hours, but the only real challenge with that is that the city water is dirty afterwards (looks like milk).
The house we are in is nice. As far as American essentials however, it’s a change. Not bad, just a change. There is a small butane cook stove, but no oven. There is no hot water, no crockpot, no washer, no dryer, no microwave, no toaster, and no air conditioning (although there is a wonderful breeze off the lake). We do have fans. We bought a small fridge (a bit larger than a dorm fridge) this week and we think we have moved up in life – we have a way of storing leftovers and cooling our water now. Most food is normally cooked outside over fire (see photo for picture of our outside kitchen – looking closely you can see the two fire cookers on the floor). We have come to appreciate all the appliances in the US. But in place of the appliances and of much greater value are the two workers who worked with the Sperlings, Ruth and Kate.
These two ladies work hard keeping the house in order: cooking, cleaning and doing laundry. We pay them the salary the Sperlings paid and they receive room and board, along with their needs being met. They cook daily for 8 – 11 people here at the house. Michelle and the kids assist with shopping at the market or grocery store, doing dishes, cleaning, some cooking (since cooking on fire is not our forte) and other tasks.
Washing clothes is an adjustment. We hand wash, air-dry and iron our own personal items. Ruth and Kate iron the majority of the clothes to kill mango worms – the mango fly can lay eggs in the clothes, which then hatch and the larvae burrows into a person’s body as a parasite – not good and very gross (videos of mango worm extraction are on Youtube)!
Showers are cold (no hot water) and are usually taken in the afternoon or at night since the water will warm during the day and is therefore more tolerable. Mosquito nets serve as protection to reduce the chances of malaria, as well as keep the various critters off of us at night (photo of one of our rooms, beds with mosquito nets). We plan to install mosquito screens on most windows by the end of this month.
Water is always filtered, which I take care of. We go through about 10 – 20 liters (3 – 5 gallons) of filtered water a day. The Sperlings cleaned their water with chlorine tablets, which works well. We prefer to use a slow filtering system that I bought from Equip before leaving the US. It does not leave a strong chlorine taste. The water from the tap starts in the clear container on the counter to the right, then filters to the container on the floor, and then I pour the clean water into the clear container on the counter to the left – the one with the white & lime green hand pump. Extra containers of water are in yellow jugs on the floor – sometimes we will chlorinate those if we are delayed on the filtering.
Meals here differ somewhat from our regular American diet. Breakfast normally consists of a combination of two to three fresh fruits: either apples, bananas, pineapples, mangos, or papaya; toast, margarine, fruit jam, peanut butter and tea or coffee. The kids drink hot tea for breakfast since juice is expensive. Occasionally French toast is substituted for the toast and about once a week we eat hard boiled eggs.
Lunch almost always (except on Sundays) consists of: rice, flavored with hints of carrots, peppers and onion; posho (ground white corn that tastes a bit like grits and looks like cold grits); pinto beans with a bit of tomato; greens and/or a cabbage mixture, fresh avocado, and lukewarm water to drink. This week we “broke bad” (Southern colloquialism meaning “to go wrong”) and ate mac and cheese and tuna on a dinner roll!!
Dinner consists of more variety such as African food like matooke (cooking bananas) with peanut sauce, rice, posho, breaded cassava (the third largest source of carbs in the world), Irish potatoes, French fries, greens, green beans, eggplant, guacamole, cabbage mixture, small portions of pork, home made spaghetti, fried eggs, chapatti wraps and water, soda (Coke products are readily available) or freshly squeezed passion fruit juice. Dessert, when we have it, consists of 2 – 3 cookies per person, bought in a small pack at a grocery store. On Sunday evenings, we have snacks at our Bible study or pancakes at home! We did have chicken one night, which we bought alive for $7.00. Ruth butchered it and prepared it for us, but there is not much meat on the bird. On rare occasions ground beef can have bits of gravel in it to weight it down – amazing what some people will do for a little bit of more money.
Food (before we got the fridge this week) was left sitting out until it was all eaten. Leftovers are not normally given to animals as that is culturally a “no-no.”
We have limited our intake of milk due to storage before we got the fridge. We may start getting milk from a cow and boiling it. Before this past Saturday we had ice once or twice since arriving here two months ago – that’s friends or when our pastor and his wife from Virginia had us over for homemade pizza and southern iced tea. They have a large house, which hosts short-term mission teams.
One of our supporters sent us a DVD player with movies in a care package!!! They FedEx’d it and it arrived in 5 days. We love it. All movies here in the stores and on the streets are pirated, whether rentals or for sale. Missionaries can bring their own movies, swap or sell them.
More Lifestyle Changes will be presented in future posts.