Week 1

Remember that one scene from The Namesake movie where Kal Penn’s character goes for a run somewhere in archetypal India, and runs into a cow or a holy man or something and then gets chased by a bunch of confused Indians?

Yeah. Color that me. Kind of.

I mean, yes, yeah, I don’t run often, but I felt like getting out and getting some air. Plus, it was a good excuse to get some “me” time, away from my head and everything, and just get myself acclimated with this whole, “hey I’m in Kampala!” thing. On way out, the neighbors stopped me and asked if I needed a ride somewhere – err no, I’m just going out for a run.

“What?!”

Going running.

“Huh?”

Err, going for a walk. Just up the hill and down. On one side of Kololo hill, the guards from all the UN Agencies and USAID laughed at me and told me how fit I was (“ahhh exercise! Need a ride somewhere? Ah, so fit!”) On the other side of the hill, a truck full of men in uniforms of some sort carrying shovels (gardeners?) whistled, called after me, and yelled at me to run a little slower.

Back home, this would have totally freaked me out. I hate being heckled, I don’t like talking to strangers, and at least around the Case campus, I’m genuinely terrified that someone’s going to whack me over the head and knock me unconscious, and run off with my worldly possessions. Here, no idea if I’m being heckled or people are just being friendly (Ugandans, generally, are SUPER friendly, super social).

So, first week in Kampala complete!

Ugandan food –

I can fairly say I’m really not big on Ugandan food. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that… I’m that lady who would probably carry around a tiny bottle of hot sauce. Not because I particularly like spicy, but because I just… prefer my food with a little kick to it. And in general, I found, at least the vegetarian stuff, in Ugandan food to be heavy and a little on the blander side.

One day, we stopped at a roadside café for lunch, where I had matoke and Groundnut sauce. G.nut sauce me any day. Like the sauce. It’s kind of like… East African Pad Thai. Except instead of pad thai, think a savory peanut sauce, with mushrooms, served with a kind of… gluey stuff called Matoke. I forgot what matoke is (I think mashed plantains or bananas), and I’m probably doing it disservice by calling it goo but I’m pretty sure that people with more refined palettes than I would like it. It’s kind of sweet, a little potato-like texture. And this other stuff called “po-she” or something like that? Which looks like mashed potatoes but it’s made out of corn and water, and I guess made into a paste? IT has no flavor on its own, but tastes nice with G.nut sauce. And the rest of my plate was covered in a variety of steamed roots, sweet potato and yams.

So, delicious stuff, I’m sure. Just um, not really my taste. Or maybe my stomach just really doesn’t like being a foreign country – it’s a problem whenever I visit India, but I guess I never ate enough in Hong Kong to remember.

I have to say my first weekend here is was maybe slightly on the dull side – because I’m staying with a family, staying out late isn’t really an option. That being said, the other interns and I joined a few of the lawyers who were at ILI for an oil and gas contracting tutorial for drinks on Friday night = SUPER fun. Ugandans love to dance, and the music was kind of bizarre, but AWESOME. Take the best terrible 80s pop, then find the South Africa and Nigerian versions of it, then mix in some Will Smith. The result is kind of epicly terrible but wonderful. That, and they use the word “fake” to say something’s stupid, or crap. As in, “you should have left the bar while they were playing that fake song, yeah.”

Mmm dancing. Gotta find a way to get out a little more!

And I made some new Indian friends, who took me out to Mbira Forest and Kakira Sugar refinery yesterday! It’s weird though, I feel like Indians here generally keep to themselves. A little kid got in my face one day, saying, “Muzungu! Muzungu!” (that’s the word for foreigner) before another kid dragged him away. But my closest friends growing up (and even now!) are a mixed bag of a bunch of cultures and I’m totally lost as to how to act among groups of Indian people, especially non-American Indian people. Weird, right? This is not the kind of cultural adjustment I thought I’d be doing…

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One comment

  1. Stella · · Reply

    People in Romania would totally do that too!! When I lived in Bucharest the other girl I was living with and I would go running in the mornings and people would ALWAYS honk, yell at us “why are you in such a hurry?” and other stupid stuff. I guess we Americans are weird for wanting to be healthy…

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