Sticking around

Home salon

Home salon

There are two other mzungus staying in the village at the moment – a pair of young English volunteers with the UK International Citizen Service programme. They work along with Ugandan volunteers, so the talks they give on sexual and reproductive health can be translated into Luganda or Lusoga.

At the weekend, the volunteers talked about HIV/AIDS to the women at the end of the crafts session. It wasn’t very interactive and it was hard to tell if many people were listening – or understood the dry, scientific explanations. They were silent though, during the condom demonstration, and gathered stacks of female condoms to take home.

If the English pair’s lecture seemed a bit lacking in energy, it’s perhaps because they haven’t left the village at all during their few months here – they’re not allowed. So they spend much of the day just hanging out with people, including the three girls who work at my guesthouse – who get out even less. Since the guesthouse reopened in September they’ve been working seven days a week, up early mopping and sweeping, and are around all day, cooking, cleaning, and bringing drinks to the politicians who use their meeting room and the occasional guests passing through.

The girls all moved here from elsewhere for the job – Christine, who’s just turned 28, because she wanted to get away from her parents’ pressure to get married (and was thrilled when she found out I was both older and unmarried). I asked Sharon, in her early 20s and from Jinja, if she’d made friends in the village here.

“Not really”, she said, “because as you see we don’t really leave the guesthouse”. Then she added brightly: “But we make friends with the customers.”

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