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Arrival of the Mzungus

by Erin Kelly
May 27 2010

After approximately 22 hours of travel, we finally arrived in Uganda! I refer to us as “mzungus” because that’s the word for white people/foreigners in Ugandan. We flew in last night, over miles of water and under a full moon. We had been traveling since 6am on Tuesday, and despite the lack of electricity at our hostel,

Sitting under our mosquito netting at Red Chilli Hideaway

we were so excited to crawl into bed. Especially a bed that was covered in mosquito netting.

We spent our first full day with our first subject, Letha Sandison, who took us around town to show us her daily hotspots. We went to the local university and toured the art department, which was surprisingly large and budding with students, despite the lack of job prospects for art students here – a problem that Letha is working to counteract by collaborating with local artists for her various projects with Wrap Up Africa. We got to meet some of these artists – Bruno, an incredible potter and painter, whose studio is filled with beautiful hand-painted vases; and Sega, a gifted metal craftsman who has made uniquely shaped bronze buttons for Letha’s clothing. Both were very welcoming, and we’ll be returning to their studios on Saturday to film them working on their crafts.

We also visited the office for Wrap Up Africa and met some of the staff members. With brightly colored walls and rooms full of smiling tailors, it certainly was a lovely place to be. We’ll be spending most of the day there tomorrow, interviewing Letha and other staff members,

Letha and Wrap Up Africa staff discussing dress designs

and filming them working on their textiles. I’m looking forward to talking more with the staff and hearing their stories.

I had some interesting animals sightings today. The first thing I saw when I walked out of our room this morning was a gigantic pig. I kid you not – it was huge and it was standing right outside our building. Later, at Letha’s house, we met her “house duck,” Donald, sitting on their coffee table – it really is a duck that mainly lives inside! And when we got back to the hostel, I saw a pack of baby goats grazing outside our window. And that’s just right outside the capital city! I can’t wait ‘til our “Big Five” safari, where we’re sure to see some amazing animals in the wild.

Some interesting facts I’ve learned today about Uganda:

  • English is the national language in Uganda. Who knew! Although that doesn’t mean that absolutely everyone speaks it – there are dozens of tribal languages spoken as well, including Ugandan.
  • Ugandans drive on the left side of the road. I guess it’s not that surprising it was a British commonwealth, but I didn’t know that either.
  • There are at least three different ways in which the word “now” is used: “now” means sometime in the next few months, “right now” means sometime in the next few weeks, and “now now” means what we think of as “right now.” No wonder why Letha kept saying “now now!”

Tomorrow brings new adventures – I’m excited to learn more about Wrap Up Africa!

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