“To be African American is to be African with no memory, and American with no privilege.” – Unknown
As an African American woman, with generations of family members born and raised in the US, I’ve experience a huge disconnect with African culture my entire life. The MHIRT, Uganda site, research fellowship was my opportunity to learn more about an African culture, while pursuing my passion of research and public health. Although my research fellowship was limited to one country out of the 54 countries in the African continent, I have learned so much about Ugandan traditional and modernized culture
As soon as I landed in Uganda I noticed various cultural differences. Strangers smiled and greeted each other; random individuals I encountered were willing to help me with map directions. In general, Ugandans seemed very patient and kind with one another. Another cultural difference I quickly recognized was the traffic and driving culture. First, the roads are less developed in Uganda, so many roads are not paved or flattened. Second, the driving is on the left side of the road. And third, the traffic is so tight, so drivers are constantly fighting with other cars and “bota bota” (motorcycles) to weave in and out of traffic jams.
Food is a huge component of the Ugandan culture. Uganda is known for being the “food basket” of East Africa, so much agriculture and farming is done on Ugandan land. Some say it is impossible to starve in Uganda, as there is so much produce and cattle to feed all of East Africa. There were several local dishes that I enjoyed eating: ugoli, skuma, peas, beans, whole fish. I was surprised that all the food we ate, whether at restaurants or home-cooked, were fresh and organic.
In Uganda, I noticed healthy food is very accessible to the public, as even those suffering in poverty are able to afford organic fruits and vegetables. In the US, access to healthy foods is a huge problem for low-income families. “Food deserts” are prominent and most low socioeconomic (SES) families and individuals are forced to live in affordable neighborhoods that far from healthy grocery stores. These low SES housings are commonly surrounded by liquor stores and convenient stores. The middle and high SES class have better access to healthier foods through stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes, where organic and meats without antibiotics and other additives are available and affordable. The access to healthy foods is a strong aspect of Ugandan culture I know the population of the United States of America could benefit from. Access to healthy foods is a major public health issue that needs to be addressed in several countries.
Author: Briana Thrift