as a peace corps volunteer in uganda (and i would venture to guess that it applies to peace corps volunteers everywhere) i often find myself laughing at the ridiculousness that is my life. while some of the absurdity has morphed into being a part of everyday life (i.e. hot water is a luxury, sleeping under a mosquito net, coveting nasty processed cheese, sharing toyota corollas with 15 other people, being treated like a middle school student by incompetent members of peace corps admin…), there are some days where i am reminded of just how ridiculous my life is. this past tuesday was one of those days.
tuesday started out fairly normally (well, as “normal” as a day can be for a white dude in bushenyi). i went to my office, and subsequently wanted to blow my brains out due to boredom (there was an all-day review of a training of trainers manual which consisted of my co-workers and i evaluating how the manual could be adjusted to best reach the intended audience of rural ugandans- something, as an american, i can provide a lot of insight into- but, hey, at least it wasn’t data entry!). fortunately, i received a phone call about 2 hours into the pointless madness, and somehow failed to make it back inside. in fact, my entire day at work was fairly normal; it wasn’t until i got home that things started getting weird.
last week i went to a weeklong in-service training where i got to see everyone from my training class again and sit through
pointless meaningful sessions. i also got to retake the language proficiency interview (which i surprisingly passed. i can now say that i officially speak runyankore at an intermediate low level!). when i arrived back at home i discovered something horrible: my house girl (maid/servant/slave… whichever term you prefer) had disappeared. the only explanation i received was from my neighbor, with whom i shared my maid/servant/slave, who told me cryptically, “sylvia is gone, and she’s never coming back.” while i was, of course, concerned for her well-being, i was more concerned for the bag of dirty clothes i was returning with and who exactly was going to be cleaning them. it wasn’t until after work on tuesday that i finally learned of the reason behind her mysterious disappearance. it turns out that sylvia left me, in my time of need, to marry a boda boda driver (boda bodas are the super-fun motorcycle taxis of which pcvs are strictly forbidden from riding). i haven’t met this particular driver, but boda boda drivers tend to be at the lower/seedier end of society (day-drinking entire bottles of gin, hassling females, etc), but i’m sure sylvia found herself a winner. i’ll never know for sure because, unlike my neighbors, i didn’t get an invite to the wedding which is happening this saturday.
i learned about sylvia’s betrayal from my landlord when he stopped by to visit. it isn’t unusual for him to visit me. he often comes up to drink a beer and have a chat about our days (read: it isn’t really about the conversation so much as it is about him wanting to steal my beer). today was a little strange since he was wearing a wrap-around skirt that greatly resembled the pattern of his curtains. he proceeded to lay down across my couch and grab my laptop. this was a little annoying since i was in the middle of watching “the west wing”, but even more annoying since i knew i’d spend the next hour or so explaining what exactly is going on (“what do you mean, i thought obama was the president?”…). before the questioning regarding president bartlett and the objectification of the female cast
(shocker: he prefers cj over donna. no offense to allison janney or janel moloney, but i think we can all agree that rob lowe is the prettiest member of the west wing staff) can begin, i’m informed that he’ll take a tusker lager. unfortunately for him, i only have a nile
special in the fridge (and if i did have the elusive brown bottle tusker lager, there is no chance that i’d be sharing it with him). “oh and make sure you bring me a glass too” (i guess the free bottle of beer isn’t enough). i return from the kitchen with the nile special and glass in hand to find him lying spread eagle on my couch with no clothing except a shirt.
now public nudity isn’t really that big of shocker here (granted it’s usually neighborhood children), and i’m not that big into wearing clothes all the time (ask my parents about the “naked dance”). however, this is not the usual scenario in which i find myself exposed (word choice, for the win) to random nudity. the nudity itself isn’t even the most shocking part. aside from the fact that my landlord wasn’t wearing anything below the waist, his exposed penis inexplicably covered in gauze and medical tape. i handed him the beer and sat down, expecting an unsolicited explanation on his part. however, instead of him explaining why his penis was both exposed and bandaged up, we talked about how attractive cj cregg is. finally, after we had finished the episode, he explained to me that his penis was in its current condition due to the circumcision he had do this afternoon.
you know, nothing unusual, just had a circumcision done this afternoon. no big deal. in uganda this isn’t actually that unusual. newborns just aren’t circumcised here like they are in the states, especially not 30 years ago when my landlord was born. following some (questionable) studies which declared that circumcision significantly decreasing one’s likelihood of contracting hiv, there has been a major push in uganda and other sub-saharan african countries towards adult male circumcision (thankfully my parents chopped my foreskin off when i was still an infant). i actually applaud my landlord for seeking a way of preventing himself from contracting hiv (now he just needs to slow down the continuous rotation of random sluts). i’d just prefer that he keep his penis in his pants, especially when he’s laying on my couch discussing the virtues of cj cregg and drinking my last beer.