I’m from Canada. I grew up there, lived there, and thrived there – til I got bored and ran away at the age of 31. I achieved the middle class dream: university education, home and car ownership, great credit, annual world travel, marriage, career, retirement savings. It’s safe to say I am thoroughly Canadian. However, living in Uganda full time for the past 11 years has shaken a little of that “Canadian” out of me.
These days, I’m doin’ it like a Ugandan.
In response to our legendary potholes, I don’t drive on the right or left side of the road. I drive on the best side of the road.
Because we have open drainage channels and few sidewalks, I stroll slowly and watch where I’m going. My reduced speed also keeps down the sweating – it’s 30C out there!
When the feeling hits, I break into dance. Let’s just say I’m usually not the only one.
I eat one helluva lot of matooke.
Against dehydration, I supplement drinking water with chewing sugar cane and plenty of jackfruit.
I’m not too worried about being on time for an event. I know it’s not going to start until everyone is there. We’re more people focused than clock obsessed.
My morning porridge is drunk from a mug and made from maize or millet. No oats, raisins or spoon needed.
I’m more tolerant and less judgmental. While age and motherhood have contributed to this, there’s no way I’d be this mellow if I was still in Canada.
When something breaks, I get it fixed.
Mobile money and the bodaboda are the greatest inventions of all time.
We like to teach visitors the importance of buying fresh!
All food scraps are thrown directly into the garden. All other garbage is summarily burned.
When I head to western Uganda, I stop in Lukaya for refreshment – not the equator.
Local gin sure tastes great with fresh passion juice.
My 3 year old’s days are filled with exploration, outside time, community functions, shouting, climbing, jumping, cooking, cleaning, and gardening. He knows where his food comes from. He has household chores. He knows how to stimulate himself and interacts with a variety of people of all ages. He does not know how to write his name or sing the alphabet correctly. He doesn’t need to yet.
I have a young man who washes my car, rakes my leaves, and weeds my garden. I make money, therefore, I have a responsibility to create a job for someone who doesn’t. (Ok, the Canadian in me didn’t allow this for a LONG time, but I have indeed submitted in these last couple years!)
What are the holdovers from my Canadian days?
I directly say “no” when the answer is no.
I SUCK at the language. We native English speakers are an arrogant lot.
I own a washing machine and it’s one of my favourite things on the planet.
8 times out of 10, I do my own pedicure.
I snack on fresh, raw vegetables.
I never wash the engine of my car.
I don’t go to church.
I’m rather impatient.
I’m a (sometimes) sucker for processed food and totally eat cheese.
I NEVER put on closed shoes and rarely wear sleeves. It’s summer time ALL the time.
I swear quite a bit.
I choose coffee over tea every time, with 1 sugar, not 3.
I go to bed with the dishes done and the floor swept.
I have 1 kid and no plans to produce more. (Eh!? Banange!)
The best thing about Uganda is that no one really wants me to leave behind my former identity completely. I get to pick and choose the best from my new and old cultures, and live the life I build for myself and family. No judgments. (Except for the language bit, which is well deserved.)
There’s no fighting it, Uganda gets inside you. Literally, after 3 months, foreigners develop this thing (I call it UG fever) that is only cured by spending more time in Uganda, doin’ it like Ugandans.
How many people reading this have suffered a bout of UG fever? Tell your tales in the comments below!
Want to test out my theory and try living a new way? Think about volunteering with The Real Uganda. We don’t want to change Uganda, we want to share it with the world.