Sunday, July 29, 2007

We Are (Host) Family

For the first time ever, I stayed with a host family, albeit one that Biyeun has known for several years and has become very close with. Staying with a host family, I really became integrated into their lifestyles and got to know them on a whole new level. When you live with people, a different connection forms, even in dorm life, however imagine living in the same one-level house…. Sharing a bathroom and waking/sleeping/eating on their schedule. While it could become an inconvenience, for me it was a great opportunity to really capture and understand their lives, Biyeun’s experience, and become more Ugandan.

I would highly recommend living with a family of locals. It can be hard as it is not as private or comfortable at times as a hotel, but it is more cost-efficient (at times free though I brought a box of chocolates as a thank-you) and you get an experience and opportunity that you can’t buy. I was fortunate that this was the family of an Honorable of Uganda (a minister.. not religious, but political), and so the house was very nice (on Ugandan standards), clean, and there were orphan girls living with them and working as house girls in exchange for the promise of getting a free education after a certain amount of years. The family had 2 young boys, 2 and 5, and 1 girl cousin visiting. It was delightful to have children around, despite the screaming at 5am every morning when they would get up and want to wake everyone else up as well. Dinner was always around 11pm, 10 at the earliest and midnight when it was late. Everyone seems to eat dinner late in Uganda, my stomach wasn’t too happy with it, but they are very eager to feed you and the food is very good, so I ate every night right before going to sleep. Oh another bizarre thing... there are many many guards... every middle-class to upper-class house seems to have a gate/guard.. but its always the same guard, day in and day out. they live in that little brick room shown above... so are they bachelors? Are they ALL bachelors? That's a lot of bachelors.... or perhaps they just never see their family? I'd be interested to see the demographics of men who are guards for profession.

Another thing I should mention is try to stay with a host family with children near your age or with a family that you’re working with. The host family that I stayed with in Moshi, Tanzania is a family that Shirley found on facebook, and when the children were away, we were much less involved in their lives and it was more like living at a bed & breakfast, however, as soon as the host sister came back, we really got to experience the life of a Tanzanian young adult. Most highly recommended.

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