Dear friends and family, I am living proof that you CAN in fact, tan even while wearing sunscreen. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Don’t believe me? Ask to see my farmer’s tan. After the surprise sunburn incident of March 2012 (recap: my first ever sunburn – After spending the day in the sun, I saw that my nose and cheeks were red, assumed I had overdone my makeup, and then, while wincing in pain, wondered why (a) the red wouldn’t come off, (b) why the red splotches stung so badly), I’ve been religious about wearing sunscreen in Kampala. But alas, one little jaunt around town in the afternoon sun has left my face and neck significantly browner, marked by a neat line of demarcation between the bloused and exposed.
In college, before you embark on study abroad programs, the study abroad offices overwhelm you with literature about adjusting, how to make the most of your experience, homesickness, etc. It wasn’t relevant back then, when I actually studied abroad. Or maybe I’m so far removed from my year at LSE that I forgot was the initial adjustment phase was like. Either way, all that seems to make more sense now. Maybe it’s because I’m somewhere a little more foreign, maybe it’s because I’m living with a family (making this more of a homestay experience than a “running-wild-in-Uganda!” type deal), or maybe because the Cleveland I left behind this time around genuinely felt like home. But this week, I’ve been terribly homesick and frustrated with life here.
I’m frustrated that my boda-boda driver is inconsistent and arrives late. This is completely fixable, I know. My supervisor at ILI gave me a number of a new boda-boda guy, recommended because of his reliability. But I’m uncomfortable with haggling, uncomfortable with waiting in a new city with my laptop, uncomfortable with hopping on a motorcycle with a stranger. Kololo is a rather posh part of town, and public transport (buses and packed minibuses called ‘mutatus’) doesn’t make it up here. And if they did, I’m fairly certain that I’d be frustrated about being packed with 20 others in a van meant for 7.
I’m frustrated that everything gets dusty. Dust in my face, my hair, my laptop. Everything I own has a thin film of red-and-pink dust glazed over it. And no antiperspirant seems strong enough for the midday heat, meaning that there’s always a faint sourness hanging in the air, and often coming from me. I’m frustrated with the water that won’t come intermittently, the electricity that comes and goes (possibly due to the construction happening around us?) and my hair falling out from the hard water.
I’m frustrated that I’m having nightmares, partially due to the anxiety of adjusting and the vortex of things swirling through my head at night, partially due to the music from the clubs ROARING, making even the walls of our quiet little compound vibrate well past my bedtime.
For example, at my internship, I’m researching anti-money laundering practices/legislation, and cybercrime legislation in East Africa (best practices regionally and globally). THIS is cool stuff. But it also left me with nightmares about a criminal ring that infected the ESAAMLG (Eastern & Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group)’s website with a virus so that anyone who tried to work on anti-money laundering efforts would have their computer destroyed. In this dream, my laptop melted down, as in physically melted into a jumble of hot metal and plastic, I was somehow kicked out of my internship, failed the Evidence exam I took before coming here, and ended up lost in Kampala with a bounty on my head. Errr….
BUT there have been fun parts too! Like, this week, some of the interns from ILI and a friend from law school all went to Kenya Night at the Serena Gardens, swankest hotel in town. Complete with traditional Kenyan dancers, music, and this fantastic (but slightly creeper) performer who kept singing “Hakuna Matata!” and interjecting verses with “Webale webale” (thank you, in Luganda). I maybe had a little bit of the Lion King running through my head…
And today! Today the interns and I went exploring. The plan was downtown, but we ended up at a cool little place called Mish-Mash, an expat magnet but worth it — part art gallery, part coffee shop, I was sold on the free wireless and TREEHOUSE. This was followed by a walk to the Uganda Museum, where I found a LIBRARY full of old books and maps, delightfully dusty, and a small but interesting museum on Ugandan history with all sorts of interesting artifacts: bark-cloth, telephone services, canoes, hunting equipment, pre-historic skeletons, Buganda warrior artifacts, etc.
I think maybe I needed some tourist-time first. Happy weekend! And here’s to a better week 3.