That's what the insurance sticker in the suzuki says, and it makes us laugh every time. There is little in Uganda that isn't dramatic, from the blue/green contrast of sky and hills to the familiar tropes of mud-thatched huts, villages, women in colourful clothing carrying their babies on their backs and big yellow plastic water jugs on their heads. A child in our project taken to his relatives to "say goodbye" instead of to a better doctor.
Blair's first observation was that the people in Kampala didn't look very joyful. Ugandans are a fairly taciturn bunch on first glance, and often rife with litotes. On discovering that our director seems to have misplaced a child, our NGO partner said "this is unfortunate." You offer someone a new job and ask how that works for them and they say, without apparent affect, "it's okay." And then of course there are the chasm-cracking grins that burst from those same laconic mouths. Even the shifts in mood are dramatic.
But in the end, it's not the drama that wears me down -- it's the constant interaction, the complications. The circa-1995, dial-up computer that takes 20 minutes to reboot if I accidentally flip the power switch when I'm looking for the power button for the circa 1993 Laserjet (buttons labelled in afrikaans). The hovering attempts to offer help, with refusal to actually GIVE the help that would be helpful. (Carissa and Yerina still don't have their luggage, every day a dance with Egypt Air, the baggage people at Entebbe, and the security people at Entebbe, beginning with an enjoinder for Carissa to come and pick up her bags, seven hours away, and the same discussion of the already completed paperwork). The friendly reactions -- the people who pepper us with questions on the street, want to mug for the camera, the hotel staff who hang around, just wanting to be near us, practicing their english. They're lovely, and it's tiring.
The food dance is also wearing. The children want us to eat at the project, to share their food with us, but other than the most minimal attempts, we've tried to avoid it -- it's just not hygienic enough for our poor spoiled tummies. We know it upsets them. But it's them or our digestive systems. If the hotel actually served simple ugandan food -- beans and rice, greens, matooke -- we'd eat it, but instead, we end up with a variation on carbs and tomato sauce every night -- spagetti and tomato sauce, pizza margarita, chips and ketchup. The dip into curried chicken resulted in raw poultry, and so much of the other meat is suspect. Breakfast is fine -- shiny white bread toasted with peanut butter and a banana, maybe a teeny tiny mango, a boiled egg, and lunch is power bars of some kind. And a coke, for the caffeine deprived. But the constant carbs... not a drama, but we're feeling more and more sluggish as the week wears on.
We sleep more, too, every night, dreams as full as the days.
Most days, we are plastered wth the skin of the many children all day long. Today, it was good to sit with three of the introverted, quiet kids, playing with shells, talking quietly. Yesterday Blair commented that his hat smelled like the kids -- "it's like when you have a really stinky dog but you like the smell of his blanket because you love your dog."
Tonight is blair's last night with the kids, and carissa and I stayed at the hotel working on the paperwork about the impenind staff changes, until we'd missed the window of going. I feel guilty for missing what I know must be soul-ripping.