Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One time in Uganda, a toilet fell on Amelia!

As Amelia departs from her two-month adventure in Uganda, I think it is appropriate to share some of our greatest moments. Of course, there were dozens more, but if we tell you everything in a blog post, you won't be as excited to hear her stories in person! Enjoy!! 

One time, in Uganda…

…a toilet fell on Amelia...
We had finished eating at a restaurant just outside of our town. George (the organization’s General Manager and a friend of mine) was antsy to go and so were we after barely eating any food, (the chicken was tough as rubber and had black hairs fried into it) we wanted to get back to make another lunch. Of course, we had to use the toilet before getting back in the car, so Amelia and I went to the (fairly well kept) squat-flush toilets at the back of the restaurant. I finished before her, and while I was washing my hands I heard a loud crashing sound come from Amelia’s stall followed by the whoosh of water and a very loud, “OH F***!” I was freaked---“AMELIA! What is it?! Are you okay?!”

She came out of the stall; her pants, legs, and shoes were completely drenched. She says, “It…fell…on me…” As she stepped aside, I was able to see that the tank no longer attached to the wall above the toilet; instead, it was dangling back and forth and spilling water everywhere. Apparently, when she pulled the chain to flush, the tank decided it would come too—bottoms up! Poor thing. Did I mention this was during her first week? 

All in all, not a great introduction to one of the best places to eat in town…

…Amelia and I went to a re-wedding mass…
George got married in October. Since his wedding went against tradition and did not take place at the house of his father, George and his wife Esther had to have another Catholic mass/wedding celebration at the house a few weeks later. Very interesting culturally…the bride cannot cross the threshold of her father in-law’s home (it would risk tempting a relationship to start between the groom’s father and the bride), so part of the celebration involved her stepping foot into his garage for the first time. That is the furthest she can enter his house until the dad slaughters a goat and offers it to her in another celebration—which sometimes never happens. As the only Bzungu, we were automatically the VIPs and Esther invited us to sit beside her to eat lunch on the floor of her father in-law’s garage with all of her aunts, cousins, and sisters. All women in the room were Mamba clan like us, so it was a special moment to share. Our legs were totally numb from sitting on them for an hour, but at least I had the foresight to pack forks in my purse. (Experience pays off yet again!)

…then we sacrificed our pride to use the toilet… 
At the same event, we both had to use the toilet real bad. After we finished eating, we sat down with a friend of mine, Reverend Godfrey, who is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. I politely whispered to him, “Do you think it would be appropriate and/or not rude to use the toilet?” He gave me a dreadful look and said, “Are you sure?” I looked at Amelia whose face looked the way I felt; as if she was not going to take no for an answer and I turned to the Reverend, “Yes, I am very sure.” He replied, “Okay, let me first go see where it is.” 

He left for a minute or so, and when he came back he said, “Okay, I’ve found it. You are going to use it?” Me, “Well, that was the idea…”Reverend, “Hmm…let me first go see what condition it is in….”
He left for a few minutes and when he returned with a concerned look on his face, “Uhhh….I don’t know. I think you maybe don’t have to use it so bad? Maybe you can wait? You maybe aren’t able to use a toilet like that…” I replied as patiently as my bladder (now full of two bottles of water and a soda) would allow, “Reverend, we will use anything at this point!” Reverend, “Okay. Let me first see from George if you can use the neighbor’s toilet instead.” 

Reverend goes searching for George. After the two have a very serious looking discussion at the edge of the house, he beckons us to join him at the edge of the yard.…We crossed in front of the 75 or so people as they finish their lunch—all eyes on us. We walk across the front of the tent, then along the side towards the back—all eyes still on us. We walk across the small road to the neighbor’s house—I look behind me, all eyes still on us as we continue walking to the back of the neighbor’s house…
Reverend asked the group of people sitting on the back veranda of the house something in Luganda (I can only assume it was something to the extent of, “Please let these helpless Bzungu use your toilet. They are weak and unable to cope with the slight possibility of getting the bottom of their shoes dirty with human wastes!” …to be honest, that is not far from the truth.) 

They laughed and pointed the way towards the latrine. We did our business, and embarrassingly walked back across the yard, then along the crowd, then in front of the crowd, then back to our seats—all eyes back on us; they totally knew exactly what had happened. 

…we taught some kids how to use computers…
It was so sweet. One of the older boys from Rapha House asked Amelia to teach him how to use the computer. Of course, she agreed and we all arranged for him to have a lesson later that week. He invited a few more kids and we both set out our computers and gave the four of them a semi-superficial lesson on computers. Mac (Amelia) vs. PC (Kristen) of course. I wish we could do that for all of the kids, just so they can have some basic knowledge/exposure to technology. However, typing four letters to sponsors took almost 2 hours—so we would need a lot more techno-power if we were to take that task on for 400+ kids! 

…we lost a few Puffs…
One of my students, Phillip sat by me at the beginning of one Child to Child lesson. I instantly noticed that he was picking at a gross wound on the back of his arm that had begun bleeding. Amelia and I went all First Aid on him and busted out our travel med-kits with alcohol wipes, Neosporin, and Band-Aids. I wanted to clean the wound because it was open and he had been picking at it with dirty fingers. I wiped it with the alcohol swab, looked away for 30 seconds, and looked back to find a thick mucus puss oozing from the now very open wound. Oops. 

Thankfully for Phillip, my bag resembles that of Mary Poppins’ and I was able to find some Puffs Brand tissues to soak up the ooze that continued in a slow-moving stream for several minutes. When the nasty ooze stopped, we put antiseptic cream on it, covered it with a Band-Aid, and then I began that day’s lesson. After class was over, as most of the children filed out of the classroom, I felt a tug at the bottom of my shirt. I turned to find Goldah, a very small girl for whom I always have to lean my ear down to her mouth to hear her when she speaks. That day she whispered, “Can I have some Puffs please?” just like Oliver Twist askin’ “Please sir, can I have some more?” In my head, I was like, “What in God’s name is she talking about?!” Amelia started laughing and informed me that Puffs was the brand of tissues we used to clean Phillip’s arm. My goodness, she must have been watching that whole time thinking, “Man, I just…gotta…have…some….PUFFS!” The request was so cute and sort of funny that I couldn’t say no.        

…we flushed an old friend down the toilet…
During my time in Uganda, I spent several months feeling lonely and isolated from the world as soon as 7 pm rolled in and I had to close my door to prevent mosquitos and unwanted male visitors from swarming my apartment. During the months that I was the only Mzungu, I would often sit alone in my apartment and the only company I enjoyed was my friend, Mr. Gecko. He was great; always ate bugs and sang songs with his tail. Occasionally, he invited Mrs. Gecko over and the two of them did a funny little dance that ended with him on top of her and their tails singing away... He was not always the most respectful roommate, but he was good company.  

Well, one day I went to lift my 18 L water jug to pour myself a drink, and I saw Mr. Gecko resting there, wedged between the wall and the bottle in a pile of white powder. It was strange that he didn’t scurry away when I moved the jug, because he always gets flighty when I get too close. Then I realized, he wasn’t moving at all…then I really realized, that white powder bed he lay atop was boric acid—the insanely poisonous tool I use to kill cockroaches. When I mix it with flour and sugar, the cockroaches eat it, and then live just long enough to make it back to their families and explode from the stomach, killing multiple roaches at once. 

Sadly, boric acid does not discriminate and I accidentally killed my friend. Thank God, Amelia was there, because I could barely move. I was so freaked out by what I had indirectly done—accidental homicide is homicide nonetheless. 

After a long time of me walking around the apartment with the immobile Mr. Gecko limp in my dustpan (that was now glued to my freaked out hand,) Amelia and I finally decided what to do. We could not bury him, toss him in the rubbish pile outside, feed him to chickens, or put him anywhere that children would play with it and potentially get sick. Thus, Mr. Gecko had a proper Goldfish burial. Down the pipes he went. Amelia had to do it, of course, I could simply not bear it.

…we did it…

Grasshoppers are abundant in Uganda this time of year. It’s a good thing for the Ugandans, because those little green insects are a crowd favorite for snack time. They sell them—alive—by the buckets on the side of the road, and people come up and buy them by the bag full. Then the little insects are fried, lathered in butter (or more likely Blue Band margarine), salted up and eaten like pop-corn. In fact, the first time I ever walked into a room with people eating the things, I was hit with the familiar scent of freshly popped kernels. So we did it. We totally tried one. Notice that I said, one. Yeah, we weren’t real big on the Grasshopper movement. Something about knowing reptiles eat them..., I am not a reptile..., and they are not popcorn…they are an insect. I just could not do more than one. 

Nevertheless, we did it.

…we added protein to our porridge…  

Amelia and I went through quite a bit of effort the other day to make our porridge. We had to boil the water, measure the oats without measuring cups, and then add a ton of sugar, cinnamon, and bananas on top to mask the gross rubbery flavor it always seems to have. Just as I was about to take my first bite, I notice this blackish brown thing in my spoonful on its way to my mouth. I said to Amelia, “Hey—does that look like a bug to you?” She was like, “Nah, no way. There is just no way a bug is in our breakfast. I’m sure it’s an oat or something…” I could not take her word for it, and I examined the dark thing again—it had legs, tiny beady eyes, and was for sure not an oat. Then we realized there were many little “oats” in our porridge. (At this point, we were cursing Africa very loudly over the sound of our stomachs growling) We spent a solid 30 minutes trying to pick bugs out of our bowls of porridge. We covered a napkin with them. (Seriously, look at the picture.)

About half way through, I said to Amelia, “You know, if we get all the bugs out, we have to accept that the point of us fishing them out is to eat this damn porridge. Is that the plan?” We both knew that was the plan. How could we waste a bowl of FOOD just because of some unknown creature lurking behind every spoonful?

With every bite, my father’s best Drill Instructor voice was in my head repeating one of his favorite phrases from my childhood, “You can eat that bug in your food—it’s just a little more protein!” I am embarrassed to say that I was not able to finish my bowl of porridge. I went until 13:00 with only a few bites of banana-porridge and was shaking and weak like a spoiled little Mzungu by lunchtime. My father may be disappointed when he reads this, but I am willing to bet my mom is saying, “that’s my baby, no need to eat that nasty s*** if it has bugs in it!”

Oh, and in case you are wondering…we gave the VERY BUG INFESTED bag of porridge to our neighbors who were entirely not fazed by the idea of having to fish bugs out before they ate it. I really do wish I were that resilient after all this time…

Thanks for being such a trooper, AmeRia! [Ugandans switch the L and R sound. Hahah]

Safe journey!!
With love,


  1. At least the water came from the tank and not up from the depths. I have loved your blogs and cannot believe your year is about to end. What a wonderful gift you have given RPU, MSA and TOLM. We love you so much.