This afternoon, I had the opportunity to experience another aspect of Ugandan life alongside a local...which is to say it was about as authentic an experience as you can get. Our mission was to go get some grass so we could seed the yard of the resource centre. To say that the yard at our centre needs a little work might be a bit of an understatement. But with our caretaker, Alima's, help, I'm confident the compound is going to be beautiful in no time. It seems to be her primary objective at the moment: in just one afternoon, she single-handedly dug up the entire side yard and was requesting grass the same day.
I really had no idea what to expect when we set off to get the grass, except that I knew we wouldn't be getting lawn seed; over here, grass is planted as well-spaced seedlings that fill in over time to create a mature lawn. We drove down Ggaba road a ways to a neighbourhood where Alima used to live; there we found a man, the one who would provide us with our grass at a price Alima hoped would be reasonable. He joined the other seven of us in the truck and we traveled a little further up the road to a property with what looked to be an abandoned house (it's actually a house under construction but it looks like work has been at a stand-still for quite some time). Once there, Alima negotiated the price (20,000 shillings or a little less than $10) which I thought was a bargain but which she felt was too high. Still, she grudgingly agreed to the price on the condition that the man help us move the grass. With the price out of the way, Alima's uncle and the man began to dig up the grass in large clumps which Alima and I then transported to the back of my truck. Earlier, Alima had been shocked to learn that I was 34 years old (obviously very old in her opinion since she, at 31, considered herself already very old...come to think of it, with an average life expectancy of something like 55, I guess 31 is kind of old for a Ugandan!) She claimed I looked much younger, more like 27, and chalked it up to whites not having to work very hard, a suggestion to which I took mild offence but ignored on account of her lovely nature. So as the opportunity to negate her prior assumptions now presented itself in the form of pushing a heavy wheelbarrow to the truck, I eagerly took it. She was duly impressed and I was a little smug We managed to collect the grass and bring it back to the centre in record time. Now Alima has the arduous task of separating all the clumps of grass into individual plants and planting them in carefully-spaced rows all over the yard. So, OK, maybe she does have a point: Ugandans (particularly Ugandan women) probably do have to work harder than their white counterparts.
Unfortunately, I found out today from the resource centre's neighbour that he has snakes in his back yard; he approached me with the idea that we partner together to cut down the overgrown area that currently serves as their habitat and which he can't access from his side, and then have a professional come in and spray both yards and houses for snakes and other vermin. But we'll have to buy the insecticide ourselves, he added, since if we don't, the fumigator is likely to deceive us and spray with only water! These Ugandans can be sneaky alright...on the way back from getting our grass, Alima and I stopped at a charcoal vendor to pick up a bag of charcoal for Alima (a friend of ours pre-purchased 18 bags of charcoal for all the parents of students who are in her sponsorship program -- Alima is one of them). When we went to collect the charcoal this evening, Alima discovered that the vendor, with the money for the charcoal already securely in her pocket, had already proceeded to empty some of the charcoal out of each of the bags, knowing the recipients would have little recourse. Shameful!
Oh, yes, and getting back to the snake problem. Alima tells me I needn't waste my money on a fumigator. There's a much cheaper option; all I need to do is get her an old tire and each night she'll burn a strip of rubber and toss it into the place where the snakes are hiding out. They can't stay where that terrible smell is, she assures me. No kidding! Neither can anything or anyone else!!