Different Perspectives by Kate Simeon

June 30, 2010:


Where I live in Kalisizo, there is a medical research facility. Both my host parents work there and were very enthusiastic to introduce me to a number of Columbia University public health grad students. Aside from be almost relieved to have more Americans or even westerners in my area, their presents offers a unique insight into an abroad experience I am not having: a comfortable one.

the adjustment process into a new country can be (read always is) rather difficult, I found their situation so be rather ideal. They know each other from home and go to work everyday with concrete work to do, with people who speak English and can communicate their needs and expectations to them, and then return to a guest house each night to relax, eat at a normal American time and watch movies on their laptops all while still being in Uganda.

For the first week or so while I was essentially alone (in terms of acquaintances and westerners) in rural Africa I sometimes envied them. The grass, however, it seems is always green as I found when we swapped experiences and found that as much as I was craving the comforts of home they in turn were anxious to experience Uganda the way that I am. One woman in particular expressed how she had tried on multiple occasions to ascertain the location of any sort of traditional celebration--a dance for example. She was, on those occasion, directed away from the truly authentic experience as her Uganda colleagues she believed were somewhat ashamed of showing them the real Uganda complete with pit latrines, rundown buildings, and general signs of poverty and underdevelopment. So as much as the "more authentic" situation can be flat out overwhelming at times, as I grow more and more accustom to it, I realize that it will leave me with a more authentic experience... at least in terms of cultural integration.

However on that note, sometimes I find I am unable to decide whether or not I am growing more comfortable with the cultural differences or if I am simply ignoring them. I guess for the most part, the parts of the culture I will never really integrate into (for example, no matter how hard I try, I will always be noticed as a white person by the incessantly persistent boda driver who insist on trying to pick up foreign women in more ways than one) I will have little option but to ignore... or marry depending on the case. Others, perhaps I will get a better handle on (for example, flexing my cultural expertise by showing up 2 hours late to a meeting with my boss :) ).

In any case, my Americaness for now is drug which I am still craving yet slowly working, at least partly, out of my system and life becomes more comfortable by the day.

Read Kate's Blog Here.