A few months back I wrote a post about the best volunteer abroad culture shock moments. It was compiled from submissions from our former volunteers. You can read about them here. Since it was popular, and my readers love hearing from actual volunteers, I’ve put together another. And some of these are really hilarious. I mean, check out Zan and these chickens:
Its important to stress that there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for volunteering abroad. However, taking a realistic approach toward learning new ways of doing things is a great way to get started. Some days are hard, tear filled, and frustrating. Some days are amazing, inspiring, and life-affirming. And some days are just bizarre. You can’t begin to understand life until you’ve experienced a whole range of ways to live. Volunteering and immersing yourself in a new culture will give you that exposure in ways traveling simply can’t.
Let’s begin with our newest volunteer, Cat. She’s just completed her first week of a 6 month stay. Here’s what she has to say:
“I am waved at by every single person in the street. And realizing that these kids live with very few things yet they are grateful and happy. What a first week lesson!!”
Thank, Cat. Can’t wait to watch you grow to love Uganda over the coming months.
“Buying a friend a duck as a gift… It was put in a bag so I could take it to Mukono… during the matatu ride people asked me when I planned to eat my duck, and the looks of utter confusion when I explained it was going to be a pet for a friend were epic. The duck then bit a small child while she was sleeping on her mother’s lap and started quacking at everyone… then an older man grabbed the duck by the beak and told me: “you must get control of your duck, mzungu”…. now that should be a MasterCard commercial… duck in a bag – priceless.” Sarah 2009
“Coffin on the back of a motorbike…got me every single time.” Ian
“I took a couple of the kids from the school over to the clinic because we suspected they had malaria. It took forever for the kids to be seen, and when they were, I was told they needed hypodermic needles in order to get their blood tested, and they don’t have needles at the clinic. The children took me to where we could find the needles… In the middle of a field, way off the road in a mud, stick and thatched-roof hut. They sold only ginger beer and needles. About 8 US cents each. I found it funny that things like AIDS medication was free but they don’t have needles. The needles seemed to be sealed. But they were one size fits all.” Gwen 2013
“Riding into Jinja to white water raft and your matatu hits a monkey. Nothing you can do but gasp with your fellow Ugandan riders.” Caroline 2006
“First day in the village and I helped a goat give birth…or the time I spent hours trying to catch a hen and then a 5 year old came and caught it in less than a minute!!” Gustavo 2016
“The welcome reception done by the elders when we arrived at the village, with the ladies all wearing beautiful traditional dresses (I felt so under-dressed!)… the fruits, the colors, the smiles…seeing how handicapped children/teens are thrown aside by their families, and given no chance to show they can be great contributors to the society.” Margarida 2014
“There was a moment when I took a bodaboda (motorcycle) to the village to charge my mobile when I realized that for the first time in my life I was the absolute minority. I remember clear as day taking a deep breath and thinking to myself this is freaking awesome!!! Everyone was lovely!!!” Cathy 2015
Hey Cathy, Grace Daycare now has solar power and everyone can charge their phones on sight!!
“When some visitors came to the project they brought gifts- out of the trunk of a sedan they pulled out a large bundle of bananas, a chicken, as well as a very pregnant goat…” Margaret 2014
“Getting halfway through my 10:30pm dinner only to realize I was eating silverfish!! Since I was so hungry, I thought it had just been veggies and rice and didn’t notice all the small eyes for a while, but it gave me quite the shock once I did.” Nandini 2016
“Riding a bodaboda comfortably sandwiched between two others (or hanging off the end and gripping the seat with white knuckles), as we navigated rutted and dusty dirt roads, struggled up hills, passed waving, cheering kids yelling “muzungu,” and sailed across vast oceans of sugar cane fields in the cool morning mist.” Renee 2014
“The rainstorms on the tin roofs of village houses! I recorded it and listen to it every time I need a fresh awaking to man vs nature! A sound you never hear in most USA houses…” Staci, 2011
Staci, I’m just the opposite these days. Every time we have a light rain shower in Uganda, I sing “Rain on the Roof” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. The sweetest tune ever.
“We were doing outreach in Namakuma. There was a big billy goat who got an erection, licked it until he ejaculated, then proceeded to eat and lick up all the semen. I am still traumatized…” Lee 2006
Lee, I don’t have words…
“The giant cockroaches that came out of the “toilet” hole while you squatted over them. Still having nightmares about those.” Jennifer 2008
“The night sky without electricity (not a culture shock as such but AWESOME). Also I offended some folks by wearing trousers to church on my second day, it was really a miracle I was in church at all. The food was a culture shock- but a good shock- I had such great food, crispy pork, fried fish, lovely chicken, and I loved all the stodgy stuff that came with it. Very comforting.” Dawn 2008
Thank you Dawn, Jennifer, Lee, Staci, Renee, Lori, Nandini, Margaret, Cathy, Margarida, Gustavo, Caroline, Gwen, Ian, Sarah, Cat and Zan for coming to Uganda, jumping in with both feet, having fun, and sharing it with us. Being a fish out of water may not be comfortable, but it is indeed memorable (and often quite rad).
Want to experience the joy, love and craziness that is volunteering in Uganda? Check out our website and read about what we do and why we do it. If you like what you read, fill in our online application form. We want volunteers ready to join in on what ever the &%*# is happening in our lives and communities!