There are many rites of passage in Peace Corps. Swearing in as a US Peace Corps Volunteer after 2+ months of training, completing your first project (successful or not), giving your first impromptu speech, and attending a social event (wedding, funeral, introduction, graduation, etc.) are a few examples. This weekend I completed another rite of passage: going to the home village of a friend.
I traveled to Kaliro District in the Busoga Region of Eastern Uganda. I got off the taxi in Kaliro town and heard my name being called. A man was sent to get me and take me to the village. We traveled down a fairly nice dirt road and soon veered off on what appeared to be a cow trail. We passed through forest, swamp, and more forest on trails sometimes, and other times grassy fields. As we got closer and closer I saw a cluster of grass thatch huts and people standing waving and yelling out welcoming me to their village. Annet and Grace were there to greet me with hugs and laughter. It was a beautiful scene.
Annet took me around her village introducing me to friends and family. I saw where she went to primary school and secondary school. I attended a village wedding. I watched monkeys swing overhead as we drank tea on grass mats. In a span of 8 hours I ate goat, beef, chicken and fish. As a vegetarian this was a shock to the system. But how to you refuse when they give it to honor you? Eating meat is not an everyday event here in Uganda either. Most people eat meat for Christmas and Easter. Because there was a wedding there was a lot of meat in the village and they had just slaughtered some of the animals for the wedding so it was a little unusual to get so much meat.
I'd always heard horror stories of volunteers who went to visit friends in the village. They talked of being stared at for days on end, people asking them for money or being treated as a god and given everything the villagers had. This was not my experience at all. Of course there were a few awkward moments. Imagine bathing outside at night with everyone under a full moon. Keep in mind my dear friends are as black as the night sky but myself, on the other hand, glow at night. I took my glasses off to wash my face and when I put them back on I found 6 pairs of eyes watching me bathe. Is a white naked body that different from a black naked body?
It was so refreshing to be out in the village away from the business of my town. Annet told me she liked having me there because I was all her's. I did what she wanted when she wanted. I didn't go away during the day to work or have other visitors come over and chat. I was there purely for her. It was really great to be there for her and I had a wonderful time. I wish I'd had longer. I guess I'll just have to go back again another time.
Dda Dda (grandmother in Lusoga - this is Annet's mother), Grace and Annet
Dda Dda and a Visitor (note "our" hut in the background)
Grace lounging in the Village