Monday, June 24, 2013

The First Day

This was our first official day in the village and it was quite somber – we spent a good part of the day at a burial. As part of UVP policy, we do not hold a normal working day because it is customary for us to attend the burial (which I will get to). After a nice breakfast of bread and Nutella (a nice reminder of home), we headed out to our first VHT (village health team) meeting. We walked about 20-30 minutes to Kasambika 1’s house where the meeting was set. We met most of the VHTs and got to see some familiar muzungu faces. After setting up a community-wide meeting for this coming Wednesday and learning about the expectations from both the UVP teams and the VHTs, we stepped outside for a quick picture! All the VHTs are so excited and extremely kind. But in all honesty, I think our VHT team is truly the best so far. After the VHT meeting, we took a different path back to our house, visiting some houses and compounds of local leaders. Let me just say, oh my God the African sun!! It was scorching.

Once back at our place, we took lunch and hung around for a little bit. Then we headed to the burial. It was about a 10 minute walk. As we walked up, it looked as though 100+ people were there. Numerous heads turned towards us and the usual murmuring began about muzungus. The casket had been brought out and a priest was talking. We took some seats under the shade of a coffee tree and sat through the entire burial. Team members from Kasambika 1 said a speech, introducing us muzungus and giving our condolences. There was singing, speeches, and food. It was the first burial/funeral I had ever been to. It was very experiential. All of the speech was in the local language so I could not understand much of it, but it was nice to see an entire community come out to see the man off.

After the burial, we came back and set the rules of our living contract, surrounded by curious children. I really love my team. They’re so funny and chill!! Our living contract was half a page hand-written as we all felt the same way about common sense issues. Hopefully, by the end of this week, I will be able to introduce them to you all!

As we took our tea outside on the front lawn, an interesting thing happened. One of the VHTs who had been hanging around with our cooks asked how much the tea bags we bought were. After hearing the price of about 5000 Ugandan shillings (the equivalent of $2.50), she asked if we could have our used bags. Immediately, all of us were surprised. We all wanted to get up and give her the box of tea bags. Yet, as part of UVP policy, we can’t give things away and that broke my heart. It was a small reminder of the state of poverty this village is in. I tend to forget that sometimes as I walk around and take in the beautiful scenery. Yet, I am also always ashamed and shocked at myself for when I do remember because it is visible in the tattered clothes many children wear, the run-down mud brick houses, and the borehole where villagers get their unsafe water. I hope to be able to cope this as the days go by. The giant smiles of the children help a lot.

After a very salty dinner and a cooling shower in the dark with only a headlamp, we all had a nice meeting out in the back of our house to brush our teeth together and use the latrine. Maybe I’ll get to that another day, but the gist of it is a hole in the ground.

With the crickets chirping and the threat of a mouse skittering around the house, I am headed to bed. Tomorrow, we will head to Buvule, another UVP village for an obstetric fistula talk. If any of you are eager to have a life changing experience, look obstetric fistula up.