The nanny state and the iceberg

Exposure to Ugandan culture has had an impact on the entire team. Jim Harris commented that Canadians live in a nanny state by comparison to Uganda and I agree. He pointed out how our coffee cup lids say “Caution: Hot beverage” and how we strap our children into cars like they’re astronauts. In Uganda we’ve seen entire families on one motorcycle. (Caution: Nanny state or not, do not try this at home. Have a licence, wear a helmet, keep your mind on the road, watch out for pedestrians, use winter tires as needed, keep your vehicle in good condition, and drive safely.)

CCA shared with our team the notion that culture is like an iceberg; what is visible on the surface, (especially to a tourist), is only a small part. Any culture has a massive underlying foundation that may take years for an outsider to fully know and understand. Our team has been lucky to even take a peek at the peak of the iceberg that is Ugandan culture.

I’ve mentioned some of my cultural observations in other posts. In this one I want to mention other things about Uganda that have stuck with me. Like the toilet paper, which is actually a bit sticky, and sometimes scarce. And look below: dark green toilet paper.

Green toilet paper in Kampala

Green toilet paper in Kampala

Also, Ugandan handshakes vary widely in form and are not done the same way as in Canada. Finally, (’cause three examples is enough for now), the moon is directly overhead and appears to be rotated a quarter turn to the right, so that it looks like a smile when it’s a crescent and a football when it’s gibbous.

Laurie Tennian shared some of the interesting feedback CCA receives from international visitors to Canada. What sticks in my mind is how they don’t understand why we put ice in our drinking water even on winter days.

Today our team had its first exposure to Masindi, a great town. Shortly after our arrival at the Hotel Victory Bijja we held our first round of interviews with local co-op members. It was enlightening to hear their stories of how belonging to a co-op has had a positive effect on their lives, and I look forward to sharing some of these stories soon.


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