Saturday, June 15, 2013

My Daily Life in Uganda

Work, work, work! 

To Africa Renewal University (ARU)!
It probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that I went from working crazily in LA to working crazily in Uganda with no break. I think I managed ~3-4 hrs of sleep each night the week before I left as I wrapped up my semester. At least here I was sleeping 7-8 hrs a night. Luxury!

Welcome to the Academic Office
I sat at this desk in the middle everyday. 
All the cubicles were for the faculty. And this is basically the entire Academic Team here.
It’s fantastic working alongside the academic team here at ARU.Everyone has been extremely welcoming.

Daily routine
7:00 AM breakfast (just for musungos, foreigners, since the Ugandans usually don’t early)
8:00 AM LATTC (my home school) work e-mails
8:30 Everyone arrives at the office. ARU work begins
10:30-11 Tea break
1 – 2 Lunch break
7:30 (to as late as 9:30): leave office
+ 1 hr LATTC work e-mails.

Joseline and I working side by side on Friday Night with dinner at the office. My watch says 7:38 pm, but we went at least another hour after. Just like the states. We are working on "sense of urgency."

After the first week, the LATTC work died down (and I just started ignoring it apparently), but the ARU work cranked up. Yup. I managed to work 12+ hr work days during my first two weeks of summer. But, compared to what I’ve been doing, this isn’t a problem.
Goals for the Staff
Africa Renewal University is Christian institution that trains students to serve the greater community. ARU just transitioned from a College to a University this past December. Here, that means they can now propose to confer Bachelor degrees as oppose to certificates (1 yr degrees) and diplomas (2 yr degrees). This advance now calls for several new programs to be developed, one which is a BA in Community Health, which is what I came to work on.
Editing the ARU Statement of Philosophy with Samuel.
Transforming. Empowering. Relevant.

Food breaks
Without food, the brain doesn’t work.
Chilling at Tea Time (10:30 - 11:00)
Traditional Matooke (yellow), beans, G-nut (purple) and rice.
Carbs, carbs, beans and more carbs.
I tried and consistently ate all the traditional foods. My friends here appreciated that. What I could not do, however, was eat the standard piled high plate that the Ugandans consume. People looked at my plate and asked "Will that satisfy you?"

I had advance warning so I bought a stash of vitamins, dried fruits, Emergen-C and energy bars. I surprisingly haven’t had to resort to my stash that much. The food has been much better and more varied than I anticipated. Thank goodness for the scattered pineapples and avocado along with the abundant bananas in season. 

“You can get pregnant?” and Donuts
Yes, that is the newspaper saying you want to go along with your donut. Between the copious oil and lack of fruits and veg, my body is not a happy camper, but the stomach of steel is making a comeback. One day all the natives got stomachaches and I was absolutely fine. They were impressed.

Chipati: one of my favorite foods here

Chipati is an indian influenced pancake-like thing. I rolled banana in it once much to the amusement of the Ugandans. It’s best in the form of Rolex which has egg inside and is known as the bachelor’s food (the man, not the degree).

Bed sweet bed

My basic dorm room for 6 on campus
Definitely with mosquito net!

My second home in Uganda at Joseline's
 I spent several nights here at Joseline’s. Her colleagues and friends all live in the same complex. It’s just like the TV show.
The 10 minute walk through the back “road”. 
Joseline and Kristine. My common walk the second week of work.
Everyone dresses really professionally, even with high heels and come to work looking proper after this walk. Pretty impressive.  I felt like a bum with only two skirts, t-shirts and Tom’s.

I’m sitting here for the third night in a row in Joseline’s apt. We’re watching “News Without Dust”. Straight up. “48% of girls get married before the age of 18.” Not sure if they were talking about Uganda. I'm getting used to the squat toilets and may be preferring warm bucket showers over cold running ones. I feel so blessed to have been welcomed into Joseline’s home and community.

More Campus Shots
Banana trees on campus
ARU is a sustainable campus. They plant and harvest much of the food that is consumed. Every Friday students have to do practical work on campus, including working the fields. I wanted to do some shoveling, but alas I played the role of an academic. Maybe next time.

2 minute walk down to my dorm
Black water tank is next to to the dorms for running water.

My Wonderful Colleagues at ARU

So many of the staff here have such amazing life stories to share. I really enjoyed getting to know them, hearing their perspectives and learning about Ugandan culture.
Prayer Time 
Mark (pastor), Samuel (aka “Uncle Sam”. Yes, that can get confusing. Vice Chancellor of Acdemics), Harriet (Head of Theology), Denis (Co-Head of Social Sciences)
This is my first time being in or working at a non-secular institution. One of the benefits is group prayer. What a blessing.

Uncle Sam and I had a lot of fruitful conversations as he leads this Academic Team. He is a strong character with lots of compassion and a history. He has my utmost respect.

“Joseline, what are you doing?!”
“I think she’s going for a panoramic photo.”
Robert, Me and Mark. Two of the 3 theologists.
I don’t know much about theology, but I helped edit several of their program proposals. It was fun to learn new things. Both Robert and Mark were great guys. Mark taught me "Bonga" = "Wussup?"

Me, Kristine and Richard having a little fun in the library on the last day.
Kristine helps with the finances and Richard is the librarian. Both are getting their Master’s degrees while working at ARU. Kristine is a riot. When she picked me up at the airport, she immediately nicknamed me "Nachimoly" which means flower. Turns out that's my Chinese name too.

It’s been such a blessing to work alongside the academic team here. Everyone has been extremely welcoming and a joy to get to know. I got to do several things all in collaboration with the team from drafting proposals, organizing a coding system,  writing course outlines, creating templates, editing and much more! We shared different perspectives and I was able to bring a critical eye. I felt comfortable with the academic environment and my ARU colleagues from the get-go. It was a smooth transition and like I never stopped working! No culture shock. At the same time, it’s really been an eye-opening experience. This type of missions work was the last thing I had in mind a few months ago, but it’s amazing how God perfectly orchestrated this collaboration and utilized my background here at ARU.

Joseline (below) is my “twin” here at ARU. She is so amazing to work with and quickly transitioned from a colleague to dear friend. I’ll definitely miss her, but I’m supposed to come back when a to-be-determined baby arrives. 

The best for last!
Joseline and me in front of her apartment.
ARU is at an exciting and pivotal point in its growth! I feel I have made real connections with the people here. Two weeks is too short and many of my colleagues here asked me to extend my stay (one week … two weeks … come as full-time faculty!). Apparently, now I have full time faculty offers in both NYC and Uganda. Hmm….. don’t worry (yet). I love my job back in LA, so for now I must depart Uganda.  But, I know that I will continue to be involved in the progress of ARU, and definitely hope to come back. Thanks to everyone (especially my Joseline!) at ARU who welcomed me and made my stay so wonderful and those supporting and praying for me stateside. 

I’m extremely humbled to be given this opportunity to take part in the vision of ARU.


sharock said...

wow your stint there few.

Jan said...

Great to get a real feel for your time in Uganda. Looking forward to reading about your second two weeks (and catching up in person)!