Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

To celebrate Thanksgiving, we went on a walk in the forest and planned a dinner of Ugandan-style thanksgiving food. W e are going to have Pumpkin soup, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, canned corn, greens, rice, wine, and a chocolate cake for dessert. We hope you all have a wonderful day and enjoy the yummy food!

A few things we did this week to celebrate the holidays:
1) We went to one of the primary schools that Jeff works with and handed out t-shirts that my Aunt sent. We had about two hundred t-shirts and thanks to the poor attendance at the end of the school year, we were able to give a shirt to every kid. Our friend Alex came along to document, so check out the pictures. One of the funniest moments was at the end of the day when a first grader came up to us crying because he had been outside playing instead of in his classroom when we handed out the shirts. You would have thought this kid just broke his leg, not missed out on a free Akron Zips t-shirt. The tears were streaming down his face. So we gave him one. But the older kids who decided to skip class got a stern warning and no t-shirt.

This day was really nice for Jeff because he often has to deal with solving a lot of problems at the school. The work he is doing here is wonderful and important, but that also means complicated and frustrating. So having a day to just hand out free t-shirts and enjoy the instant gratification that it brought to the kids and us was wonderful. In the end, the t-shirts won’t mean as much as the other things he has done, but it was so rewarding to have a nice, uncomplicated day of giving.

2)On Tuesday, we went to the Kasiisi Primary School “Christmas Concert”. More on this in a future post.

3) Today I handed out sugarcane to my field assistants to enjoy. My guys love sweet things, so this was a real treat that made them super happy first thing in the morning. I suggested that they could pick it up after work, but they definitely wanted it right away.

Alain’s Second Birthday

My first field assistant and good friend, Prime, has a beautiful little girl named Alain. She is one of our favorite kids around. So we threw her a make-shift birthday party with little notice. Jeff made pancakes and we covered them all around in Nutella to look like a cake, we had candles, gifts, and Finding Nemo to watch. It was really fun. Here are some pictures, including her blowing out her candles, sharing her gifts with everyone and enjoying them herself, and a video of her hilarious response to the movie. She was so concerned that her Dad wasn’t watching, so she kept pointing everything out to him. She is so smart and can say so many things. She is adorable. And she is wearing an outfit my Mom bought for her. :)

The Introduction

In Uganda, when a man wants to “wed” a woman, there is a very formal process. In Uganda, there is a difference between being married (a less official, kind of common-law situation, usually because people don’t have money for all that goes into a wedding and introduction) and being wedded, which is the typical US idea of marriage. The first part of getting wedded is the introduction. This is a huge party and huge charade of acts to try to work out the logistics of the marriage. It includes the groom needing to be able to pick out the bride (from a hilarious selection of first very young girls, then slightly older, finally a group that includes the bride dressed very fancy). Then the girl is sent back into the house and the negotiation begins. Each side has a negotiator and they discuss the bride price. This is mostly how many cows for the girl. Our friends that we sat near said that they have seen every extreme of this. Sometimes the family is so happy for their daughter, they say they don’t want anything. Other times, the groom is willing to pay anything. And sometimes a decision can’t be reached, so there is no wedding. Our negotiations started at 18 cows, I think, but ended in 4 being paid. Plus, there were crates of beer and soda, which were brought in different waves, which added to the suspense. There were interesting jokes, like if the beer crates were missing any, the brides family would say they were being cheated by the man. If they were all full, they would say the man must have no friends to come all this way and not meet anyone to share a drink with. After all the formalities, there was great entertainment, including a man dressed as a woman and doing traditional women dancing. And there was food. It was a great time, so check out the videos and pictures. This couple will probably be getting married in the spring.

Invaded by Ants!!!

Hello Everyone -- Sorry that it has been so long since the blog has been updated. We have both been very busy, so we decided to put in a joint effort to get things updated. So Jeff will upload some pictures and I’ll write some descriptions. I hope you enjoy! - Krista

Invaded by Ants!!!

Africa is full of many different types of menacing ants. There are ants that destroy the food, ants that eat the house, little ants that inject poison in you and give you a fever, and big ants with huge mouths that bite and cling to you. They are amazing creatures, but mostly really annoying when they are biting you and destroying your things.

The big biting ants, safari ants, invaded our house twice in one week. These creatures are amazing. They build bridges by linking their legs together so that many form a cluster and others can walk over them. They can even form these bridges over moving water! It is amazing to think about but terrifying when you wake up to find these bridges all over your house as the ants work to invade every space. Worst of all, is that we usually realize that these guys are around the house when we go out to pee in the middle of the night and start to feel painful bites all over our feet and legs. The ants have been around our house a lot, but only invaded twice, which is good, I guess. But every time they invade, it is a major rebuilding. We have to throw out all the food, wash all the dishes, clean out the whole house. We use soapy water to initially try to get them to go so then all of that needs cleaned up. And we applied kerosene (which stinks and gives you a big headache) and ash around the house to keep them out. Unfortunately, the moment it rains, those things get washed away and the ants come back in. So eventually, I did a completely un-conservationist thing and decided the ants need to go. Keep in mind, these are things that can eat animals alive, especially if the animals are captive and can’t get away. So they are scary.

If the nest had been in the forest, I would have left it alone, but it was at the field station behind the big trash pit. It was HUGE! The size of a US bathroom, I would say. The whole area was covered in reddish dirt mixed with lots of little black spots. The black spots were actually heads of dead ants that had been eaten by the others. It was amazing. It is hard to capture such a crazy thing, but we got one picture and one very shaky video that just looks like the earth moving.