“Probably there will be fish at 9” and other adventures

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Photo by Saskia Sichermann

Our life in Lira over the past few days has been full of fish, card games, and chapati. We are learning more Langi and getting immersed in the work of CPU.

On Friday, we began the day by arriving at the CPU office at 9 in the morning, ready to go out to the field to see the fish farming project and stock the pond cages with new tilapia fingerlings. We ended up waiting for several hours due to a delay of the fish delivery. Long delays in plans for the day are to be expected, and it is a big challenge that we face in completing our project by the end of the summer.

We made good use of our waiting time, though, and visited our favorite chapati stand, where our friend Tony called us over for our “practical.” He instructed Nellie and I on how to knead, shape, and fry the dough in just the right way. I then gave him my email address by writing it in the stand with a stick.

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Finally, at around 2pm, Nellie, Saskia, and I rode bodas with CPU staff out to the dams in Ngeta to see the fish farm. It was a short boda ride down a paved road and then down a narrow dirt road overgrown with grass, with huts on either side and children that called out “hi!” when we passed. At the pond, Nellie rowed the canoe while I bailed out water with a plastic yellow cup. At one point, there were five of us in the boat, and we weighed it down significantly. “We’re fine,” Bernard said. Then, a few seconds later, “We’re overloaded.”

There are 10 cages in the middle of the pond, each holding 2,400 fish, so the fish live in the pond water while being contained in nets for easy transport. The fish farm serves multiple purposes: first, it helps provide nutrition for child-headed households, which CPU supports with food supply. It also serves as a demonstration site to teach community members how to raise the fish for themselves. Finally, the fish are sold in the market to produce income that support scholarships for children that CPU supports.

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Photo by Saskia Sichermann

As we waited for the fish truck, we bonded with calves, practiced Langi phrases, and learned how to identify some common crops, like groundnuts and hibiscus. As we were waiting, we sat out on the fish cage pontoons and chatted with Bernard, the CPU staff person heading the fish farming project. We laughed at the sound of the goats bleating. “Which do you prefer: goats or pigs?” Bernard asked us. Nellie said she loved how friendly and funny goats are. Bernard said he prefers pigs because they are sweeter. “Oh,” we said. Taste-wise, not personalities.

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Photo by Saskia Sichermann

When the truck arrived, we helped transfer the fish from the tank in the truck to wash basins that were placed in the canoe and taken to each cage. This process attracted quite the crowd of village children, who were surprised to see monos (white people) handling fish and speaking Langi.

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Photo by Saskia Sichermann
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Photo by Saskia Sichermann

We had a KareMeKuc project meeting scheduled for that evening, but by the time we all returned from the field, it was too late, and we had to postpone the meeting for Monday. Slowly but steadily, we are making progress on preparations for the agricultural trainings.

Saturday morning, we gathered at the CPU office early in the morning even though it was the weekend because it was the wedding day of Sam, Jane’s brother, and Rebecca, the financial manager at CPU. Most of the CPU staff and the four of us were all there. After many hours of delays and playing card games outside the office, we finally departed.

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The traditional wedding was out in Rebecca’s home village. We arrived as part of Sam’s group, and were welcomed through the gates by women from Rebecca’s village, who even charged Sam a fine for being late. During the ceremony, young women of Rebecca’s village danced in wearing gomesis (belted dresses for weddings or other special occasions) and were presented to the groom’s side, who made a show of saying “we are not seeing the one who we came for,” and calling for more girls to come out. Finally, Rebecca danced out with the other women, and there was much elation and cheering. They negotiated the dowry (cows, goats, and chickens, who were all present, including a goat that rode in the back of the bus with us), presented rings, cut the cake, and exchanged gifts.

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Then, we all danced under the stars. Some drank a local brew made of fermented millet which was in a big bucket with long straws made of hollow reeds. “It kills you slowly,” one man told us. Another said, “it’s very good for your health.” “Yes, it makes you strong,” the first man said.

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We arrived home very late that night. We were exhausted, and in the morning, Max woke up with a fever. Luckily, we brought some antibiotics with us, and he is recovering. We spent the day washing clothes, taking care of some things around the apartment, and resting before a busy and hopefully productive week ahead. Most things are closed on Sundays.

One of our challenges as a team has been understanding different expectations and experiences of time. As students in the US, we are used to running around and always having something to do. Arriving a few minutes early to a scheduled event is expected, and it’s critical to follow the schedule of the day to fit in everything that must be done. Here in Uganda, events typically begin at least an hour or two after they are scheduled. We spend a lot of time waiting, which is both refreshing and challenging to the progress of the project. As we move forward, we are strategizing about how to best structure our time and the schedule of the program to get good participant attendance and have enough time to cover the content.

Today, we sat it on a CPU board meeting, and are looking forward to a staff meeting with our project team this afternoon to solidify the budget and general work plan.

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