Finally, after the intensive week of training, I’ve met my Ugandan host family. I think it will be an amazing time of a mutual cultural discovery; full of fun and some challenges as well. Ethel and John are a friendly and very communicative young couple. They live in the northern district of Kampala with their 1-year son and two maids. It’s worth noticing that in Uganda it’s common and not very expensive to have maids who live with families and do all the housework.
My host family lives in a rented spacious apartment, about 20 min walking distance from the main road. The bloc of apartments is separated by a huge wall protected by a barbed wire; it’s a typical protection in Uganda. They seem to be quite well-off compare to the average Ugandan. Their flat is modern and it’s equipped with facilities such as a flushing-water toilet, a shower, a TV set and a balcony. After the pre-departure training with Challenges who prepared the volunteers to expect very basic conditions (such as no toilet and no shower), I’m positively surprised by the way my host family lives here. After all, it’s better to be positively surprised than disappointed by too high expectations.
My family is a Ugandan educated middle-class. Ethel works as a psychologist in a hospital whereas John is an electrical engineer. They are a really hard-working couple. John works and finishes his post-graduate qualification while Ethel has recently gone back to work after giving a birth to their son. I must say: logistically, I’m really lucky because Ethel’s hospital is in the neighbourhood of the company I’ll be working with. It means I will be picked up every morning from home and get to work faster than by a taxi – this is a luxury here…
Nonetheless, I’m still planning to use Kampala’s public transport to get back from work as I should indulge fully in a Ugandan lifestyle. As a result, over the next 9 weeks I’ll experience an early waking-up, cold showers, long commuting, slow Internet, crowded buses, noise, heat, dust, unexpected tropical rain, inability to go out at night (security reasons), and other inconvenient things.
Unpleasant for a spoiled child of the West, isn’t it? In fact, the wisest thing in these circumstances is to adapt and be flexible. I was told a very simple but important principle today:
If you want to enjoy your stay here, you need to live like us…
This shall be my golden principle while staying in Uganda. Why I’m sharing all these things with you? Simply because I don’t intend to lie to you about me ‘staying in an African paradise’. I want rather to present a realistic, as much as objective image of Uganda and Ugandans here. Therefore, you must be aware that life here is much harder than what we get used to have in Europe. Even a way to the supermarket can be a challenging expedition if you don’t have a car.
My main purpose of staying in Uganda will be, then, attempting to live as they live, without a constant comparison to things I take for granted. I’m sure that with an open-minded, non- judgemental attitude and a help of Ugandans it’s a tangible objective.