My book shelves seem to spawn new volumes spontaneously whenever I have a new interest. I’ve never been to Africa let alone Bududa village so I had a lot of homework to do. Listed below in no particular order is some of what I learned – some very good things and a few discoveries that are surprising.
One travel guide describes Uganda as “Africa condensed.” It might also be called the Best of Africa because this little country the size of Oregon contains the source of the Nile, and both the highest mountain and the largest lake on the continent.
Although Uganda straddles the equator, the high elevation “moderates” the temperature. I will be there in February which is the middle of one of the two dry seasons. The average daily high temperature is 84°F and often reaches 90. I guess you could say that “moderate” is moderately misleading.
The word “please” doesn’t exist in Lugandan, the local language. This can result in people seeming to be rude or even silly when using English and saying “Thank you, please.” Ugandans don’t like any kind of confrontation. They avoid saying “no” so you must be careful when asking for directions. Because they really want to help, they are likely to tell you how to get there even when they don’t really know how.
Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world. Travelers from western countries are all rich compared to natives of Uganda, one third of whom live on about $1.25 a day. Bring a big purse with you if you are exchanging US Dollar for Uganda money. $1 US is worth over 3,700 Uganda Shillings.
Healthcare is a luxury that most residents can’t afford. There were only eight physicians per 100,000 persons in Uganda in the early 2000s. In the United States, we have 100 times more doctors.
Kampala, the capital city with over two million residents, has world class traffic jams and a fairly modern life style and culture.
However, in rural Uganda, where most people live, many traditional beliefs remain even under a veneer of Christianity. Mothers may have their baby’s ears pierced to protect the child against kidnapping and child sacrifice. They believe that a child will not be kidnapped if she is blemished in any way.
The attitude toward marriage and sexual relationships is very different than in the West. It is common for married men to have other relationship often referred to as “side wives” or “side dishes.” Women have their own approach; they may be serially monogamous while men may be informally polygamous.
Uganda’s high birthrate and weak health services skew the age of the population. Uganda’s median age is 15. It is one of the lowest in the world. The birth rate of 5.97 children born per woman is one of the highest. Only 1 person in 50 is over the age of 65 compared to the US population where almost 1 person in 6 is over 65.
Greetings among natives in Uganda are often long and unhurried. You are asked not only about how your day was and your health, but the health of your family, your household, and your animals. It is also polite in most tribes to thank the person. The thanks can be indiscriminate and, in English, it might sound odd when someone thanks you for “whatever you are doing” but that is the direct translation.
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Thank you, please,