Each month, Becca sends a letter back from Uganda, about the Parish Project for 2006 which is Kagando Hospital
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Parish Project 2006

Becca's Letter from Uganda

June 2006

Hi hope you enjoyed the Open Gardens event. I hear it was a great success with prayers answered in terms of good weather and lots of people in attendance. The support it will bring to Kagando will by greatly welcomed and appreciated.

I thought it would be interesting to discuss the difference in culture between Uganda and the UK.

Uganda is a community-based culture. This has hundreds of implications; the most obvious is that people spend a lot of time greeting one another. I once went onto a ward where, because I was busy, I went straight to treating the patient. Later that day I was told off by the nurses for having not greeted them first. In England we often greet people as we walk past one another - it was good to hear that there was a lot of that going on in Eaton Bray during the Open Gardens. Here, in Uganda, you have to stop and exchange conversation. It used to be an insult to not greet any person you walked passed, now it is reserved to just people you know.

In this culture there is rarely the problem of loneliness. People don't like living by themselves, they are brought up in large families and are used to people being around. Everyone drops by and visits one another, very rarely is the visit pre-arranged. As Westerners it can seem quite overwhelming to not have space and time to yourself. Yet here it's normal - instead of people finding space by being alone, they find it by thought privacy - in other words, they don't always share everything they are thinking or that's going on in their mind. If someone visits and you are eating, it is polite to share your dinner with them, even if it means that you do not have enough yourself. Similarly whenever someone calls you should give them something to drink and a snack to eat. When they leave you give them a "push" - this means that you accompany them part of their way home.

Funerals and Weddings are big occasions, everyone is supposed to go to them and it's normal for people to leave work to attend. Prior to such events lists go round so that others can contribute and support financially, so it is a community event.

When I first came to Africa as a student I was trying to come to terms with the recent death of a close friend. She was 19 when she died and it seemed so hard and unfair. We feel that we and everyone else has a right to live till old age, and even then we often struggle with death. Here death is a normal part of everyday life, people are constantly praising God for the life that they have. Life is not taken for granted and each new day is thought of and treasured as a gift. This has its downside working in a hospital as sometimes a person's life isn't fought for like it would be at home. However, I still find it a much truer way to view life and liberating in many ways.

Money is looked at in a different way too. There is generally a lack of money so saving is not commonplace. People will spend the money on whatever the next demand is. Money may be earmarked for something, but used for a different need that comes first. There is no social security in the country, so friends and relatives fulfil that role. Someone will have a financial need and they will ask others to help them, with the assumption or hope that they will do the same for you. It is therefore considered good to have as many friends as possible.

Titles and roles are viewed highly. There is a higher rank of people, from men to women to children, and within this there are other ranks too. The elderly are greatly respected, as are people in leadership positions. People acknowledge these by addressing with titles and by kneeling as they greet.

Women spend ages in hairdressers getting hair extensions done, or their hair straightened. It's so important here to look smart. Their version of smart is quite different to ours, for example a top and skirt in the same bright pattern material would be frowned on at home but here it's much smarter than wearing tops and skirt that differ.

There are so many differences in culture - in almost every aspect there is some difference that could be written about. There are cultural rituals that I've not covered here too. One of the things that you notice is how a lot of these are actually changing and in many ways the people here are loosing some of their cultural difference and becoming more westernised. However, one conclusion I have drawn is that, despite the apparent differences, there are many more similarities between people of different races and what drives them all is love and caring and a sense of justice for all mankind.

Much love - and please keep praying for our work her in Uganda.

Letters from previous months