Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Breasts, Babies, and Barf

This next tale is a simple one in which finally… nothing bad happens to me. It’s merely something I witnessed that I feel attests to the suffrage filled lives Ugandan women endure. There’s a photo I’ve seen online that I feel rings true, and I’d like to share it with you here:

On with the story… you have to buy a ticket for every seat on a bus you are going to take up. So in general, mothers don’t buy tickets for their children until they are too big to sit on their lap. They just fit the child with them into the one seat they've purchased until it’s a physical impossibility. If a mother has two small children… nothing changes. They try at first to keep the two children in their same seat. One standing between their legs, and one in their lap (The standing child will sometimes have to stand for the entire 10 hours trip… and not complain once…) But sometimes, one of the children will eventually stray and end up in your lap if you are the unlucky bastard sitting next to them.

On this fatefull day I was sitting next to Audrey and Jake on the side of the bus that has three seats…(I know what you are wondering, and yes the buses themselves are the same size, but they have 5 seats across… with an isle… it’s cramped) I had the seat on the isle, across from me was a woman with a baby in her arm, a toddler on her knee and a little girl between her legs… Three children and one woman… in one tiny-ass seat. There was a man sitting next to the woman with a window on the other side, and he seemed less than willing to take of one of the children off of her hands. So for the entire trip I watched this woman juggle all three children. AKA, all three problems. There was no pleasing these children. They were all uncomfortable, hungry, and probably needed to pee. (Ladies, this is why we pee before we leave… ;) read the blog below, then you'll get it!) There wasn't one point where the baby or toddler weren't crying or where the little girl wasn’t complaining.

  Meanwhile the bus is hot because Ugandans prefer all windows shut. The driver is weaving all over the road to avoid pot holes. About half way through the journey I begin to smell a mess in the babies diaper, and by diaper… I mean cloth wrapped about the babies bum. And the smell must’ve signaled to the mother that it’s time to put more food in its stomach cause she proceeded to whip out her breast and shove her baby up to it. With the baby feeding, there is no room for the toddler so she makes the toddler stand in the isle… the only problem is that this toddler had a few more months before she could stand on her own ON SOLID GROUD. Not a rachety bus... so the Mom has to use her free hand to hold the toddler up in the isle.

 At this moment the young girl can no longer take the jerking of the bus and proceeds to throw up all the juice and bread and meat she ate at the last stop. She doesn’t open the window and barf, or warn her mother, or go for the empty plastic bag on the ground. Noooooooope. She just does it in her moms lap and a little on the breast feeding baby. The mother lets go of the baby at her breast and lets it hang on for it’s own life and rest on the metal armrest while she uses her newly free hand to catch some of the puke from falling on her. The girl is still barfing on her mom… she hasn’t turned to a window or at a minimum to the floor… away from people… I’m so confused and the scene I’m witnessing, but I decide it’s time for me to take the toddler into my lap until the mom can manage her again. But as I reach for the toddlers open hand to help her stand, she finally realizes that a pale faced Mzungu is sitting next to her. Her eyes go wide… I can see what’s coming… she starts to scream like I was Voldermort touching her lightning scar. I try to make reassuring noises and help… but my attempts are futile. My help is in fact, no help.

 I give up and retreat my efforts. The only thing left for me to do is give the little girl half  of my toilet paper supply to clean up. And THANK GOD I kept the other half for myself… because the previous story happened a few hours later… yikers.  In the end, everything was fine. The mother just let go of the toddler who fell to the floor and bounced around a little, all in good fun. The girl stopped projectiling and wiped her mouth. And the baby clung on for her meal until she had enough to make ooooonnnne more whoopsie in her diaper before the end of the journey. 

Through all of this, the man next to her never helped, other people on the bus didn’t offer help, if anything a few people got up and stood at the other end of the bus so they wouldn’t have to smell anything (something that could have been solved by just OPENING A FREAKING WINDOW) Someone who hasn’t lived in Uganda might think the people here are inherently terrible people, but it’s much more complicated than that. You are a product of your environment, and I think the people of Uganda are very much still in survival mode. If it doesn’t help you get from this day to the next, then why should you do it?  You are barely getting by on your own, who has time to sacrifice yourself for others?  And while most days I don’t understand and am frustrated as to why things aren’t improving here, when I see a woman deal with those three children all by herself, I can see why the next time she sees a mother going through a similar ordeal she will think “I did it by myself, she can too”

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