Our first week was in the small city of Entebe where the prominent religion is witchcraft. Our second camp was in the heart of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, where the kids were noticeably more needy. Our third week was also in the heart of Kampala but in the slums. News about this camp spread faster than any western media could achieve and our original 80 kids turned into 250 by day four.
Our western ideals and attitudes had to quickly change as we were reviewing and planning for each day. Time is merely estimated by most local people here. Therefore, the beginning of camp changed from day to day. Lunch was at no particular time, we ate when it was ready. People are much more relaxed and laid back, it seems as if no one rushes for anything. In fact, if it rains here, it is acceptable to show up late to work because you have been waiting for the rain to stop before leaving home.
(I suppose I can think of a few exceptions. People seem to be rushing if they are driving. The rules of the road as we know them do not apply here. What seems to be 2 lane traffic can easily split into 5 or more lanes depending circumstances. In this city of 1.4 million people there are only 8 traffic lights, most of which also have traffic police standing underneath them. The police frequently override the lights and direct traffic causing huge traffic jams which they think they are helping. The city is littered with crater sized pot holes, and a whole variety of speed bumps. These only slow people down somewhat, in fact, the solution to this obstacle is to buy yourself a 4x4.)
(AND, when kids line up for food, or line up for anything for that matter, there is utter chaos. We had injuries due to lining up. My theory is that normally if they don't push their way to the front, they don't get anything. We, of course, always planned so there would be enough for everyone, including those at the back of the line.)
Cleanliness and hygiene are also things that we have had to become used to being different than at home. Washing yourself is something that doesn't happen often. Laundry happens but it requires getting water and washing by hand. This is extremely hard work so it is only done periodically. Shoes are expensive and unnecessary and are therefore not used by many. This leaves kids pretty dirty. We handed out toothbrushes to all the kids and they were more excited about them than western kids are when receiving a video game at Christmas. Body odour is a normal, socially accepted fact of life. There is no kleenex, toilet paper, or towels here, you can imagine the result...
Safety is an interesting subject here. Every mall, hotel, restaurant, bank, church, etc. is in a gated compound with security guards standing by. The guards all have rifles, and many places have metal detectors, devices to check your vehicle for bombs, and other security equipment. Some of you may have heard that there was a bombing in Kampala about 2 months ago. I find some irony in this considering there are more security guards with rifles per capita than anywhere I have ever seen.
Socially we've adapted quite well. We've learned some Lugandan phrases that, when used, go a long way in making a friend. Generally, the African people have shown us great hospitality, often going out of their way to offer is help. We've learned that when someone raises their head coupled with a long blink, they are actually acknowledging, not snubbing. We have struggled, however, with peoples vocal volume. No one here speaks up! We haven't quite figured out what the reason for this is yet.
We fly home tomorrow. I am sad to leave the team, the city, the country, and the continent, but happy that we had such a fantastic experience! Stay tuned for pictures!