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"The general level of "cleanliness" of the shops is far below what we would consider acceptable in the West.."
- Christina Jordan

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First impressions in Uganda
by Christina Jordan, Uganda
Mar 12, 2000

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Sipi Falls close to the
border with Kenya

The gardens are fantastic. We've got passion fruit, bananas and another fruit (whose name I don't know) ready to be picked in the next few weeks; there's bougainvillea in all colors, vivid pink and yellow hibiscus, vines with huge leaves growing in the acacia tree in the front, and wall creepers with brilliant orange honeysuckle-type blossoms. There are strawberries, basil, mint and other herbs in the vegetable plot. The gardener's name is Ben. Epko hired him on a trial 1-month basis to get the place in shape before I arrived, so he was thrilled to hear that I thought the garden was beautiful. We've meanwhile decided to keep him on full time, and help him get his driver's license so he can help with other errands around the house. In just a few short days he's shown enormous initiative and responsibility, and he's great with the kids. All this for $130/month. So part of our "domestic help" problem is solved.

But it is, after all is said and done, still Africa. Our first day we spent grocery shopping. Quite an endeavor! There are very few supermarkets - the best place to shop is in the industrial area, where factories have their shops around back. We bought bread at the bread factory, and milk from a refrigerated container at the dairy company. Luckily, one of the best places for vegetables is just near our house. I haven't been to a good place for meat yet, but there seem to be a few places in town which Epko can stop at on his way home from work. The general level of "cleanliness" of the shops is far below what we would consider acceptable in the West - partially because of the red dirt that impermeates everything, but mostly because of the general state of disrepair that things are in. Holes in the roads and floors, broken steps, cracked walls, etc. Our house here also definitely has its faults in terms of the state it is in: the kitchen would never be acceptable in Belgium or the US, for example. But you quickly learn to accept imperfection in a country like this, where basic is REALLY basic, and even that much is considered luxury by the majority of the people.

On our second day (Friday), the first of two shipments of our stuff arrived from Belgium, and that's kept us pretty busy until today. The weather is perfect for the kids to play outside while I unpack and put away - about 85f (25c) with the occasional light, passing rain-shower. The boys are adjusting beautifully, enjoying a rediscovery of their toys, renewed friendship with Kanga, and new friendship with Ben. I don't yet have my car, but managed to be productive today with Epko back at work (he took some days off work for our first days in the country last week). I got my internet connection set up - very efficient service, I should add. I needed a new modem which deals with pulses instead of tones - the serviceman left and came right back to install it and finish the job . And I arranged to have some work done in the back yard: a small new terrace, a safety rail on some dangerous steps, and a sandbox - all for a quote of only about $150! Ben helped me arrange all of this with the workers who are renovating the Egyptian embassy across the street. I also interviewed a woman I really liked who is interested in working for us to take care of the kids and the house, and I made an appointment to see another potential candidate tomorrow.

There's still a lot to do to get us settled in, but the beginning feels good. I feel incredibly alive in this new and strange and wondrously beautiful place.

Christina's own site, with a whole lot more!

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