So I thought I'd get ahead of myself before classes start, because I'm sure I won't have quite as much time then to get online and update. This weekend has been nice for us to start to get to know each other, as well as some fellow Ugandan students who are moving back on to campus or to Mukono for the start of the semester. We had an orientation session Saturday morning to get our Ugandan cell phones, register for classes, and to talk about our expectations for the semester. The director did a great job of talking about some main goals of the program, as well as what the program is not about. I think afterwards it gave us some things to process and think over, but it will help our attitudes as we adjust and live our lives here. One specific thing he said is that they are not about simple lessons in pretty packages, rather they are okay with tension or if things get messy because that is real life. They also are not about doing things just so we feel emotionally gratified and it is more about helping us rather than helping Ugandans. That does not mean we will not serve while we are here, in fact, half of the group is in a practicum that requires community service and the other half voluntarily chose to take a practicum that will require it. Instead, it means we are serving as fellow community members and not because we are American or white or have more money. They also are about making 1 degree changes in our lives, rather than life-changing experiences, because ultimately a subtle change in perspective, thought, or lifestyle that is lived out for the rest of our lives can have a much greater effect than something radical that does not last much past the trip. Going over these, I know the semester will not always be easy. But I am also glad that this is how they have designed the program because I know that this way I will probably grow and be challenged more, rather than just having an experience that makes me feel good or change that I won't or can't legitimately live out.
Since then, I have been with only half of the USP group because the others moved into their homestays for the semester and have been spending time with their families. The rest of us who are living on campus have fully settled into our dorms. We are living in the dorms for Honors College at Uganda Christian University, so have begun meeting some of our fellow students, specifically from the Honors College. We also filled our time with lots of exploring, which essentially means walking through part of Mukono, which is the town our school is in, as well as the extensive campus. It is very beautiful, and the campus is covered with jungle and gardens and red dirt paths. Many of the faculty live on campus, so walking around you see many private homes, as well as university buildings. This morning, my roommate and I went to breakfast and met a woman named Deborah, then went to the campus church with her. It was fun to be able to worship in an open-aired building. Almost all of the service was in English, though part of the worship was sung in Luganda, a Ugandan language (one of over 50 in the country), but even that was fun because we could join in and read the words off of a projector. After, we met up with some of the other American girls and went "rolling," which means we walked across the street from campus and got a rolex. Rolex is made of eggs sometimes cooked with onion, tomato, and cabbage then wrapped in chapati, which is their form of tortillas. It was great and very filling, so we know what to get when we need a break from rice and beans! We've spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on the internet and finishing the reading for one of classes. Viola, a girl in my dorm, was washing her clothes, so she showed a couple of us how to do it when we need to in a couple days. It sounds silly, but when you're used to putting them in a machine and pushing buttons, it helped to get her tips and watch her because there are ways to do it better. Apparently, Americans normally rub their hands the wrong way, so we learned the right way to do it.
Clearly, I am enjoying adjusting to life here... I just can't wait for classes to see what they are like and to begin meeting and spending more time with more students!