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Monday, June 4, 2012

Colin's Dinner & Culture

Today, we all traveled up the hills to Colin Sentongo's beautiful home. Here we all enjoyed meeting members of the MUBS board, the ambassador of Japan, and many other special guests. We all mingled before dinner and got to know a little about what some of their duties consisted of. Many of us were given the chance to enter their culture in different ways, such as talking with the ambassador, the way we were seated (women on mats and men in chairs), the order in which we received our food (men going first), and the different dances we were shown. After dinner, we had a short discussion on the differences between the Ugandan culture and the US culture. We got to hear all about Colin's cultural background and some of the invited guests as well. It was very interesting to me to hear about their "clans", or what animal everyone was. We also presented Colin with a new Drake Blvd. sign to put at the end of his lane, where earlier students got to plant their own trees as a sign of sustainable development. He was extremely thrilled and could not wait to put up his new signs. We all then enjoyed the rest of our night with lots of dancing and laughing.

What do you think the major cultural differences are between Uganda and the US? Are there any similarities? What were a few sustainable developments at Colin's house? And what was one new cultural idea that you learned at Colin's house from him, the guests, or the MUBS students? 


  1. As said in the group presentation today, some major culture differences include food, education, and hospitality. In Uganda, they have matooke as a staple food which is eaten for lunch almost everyday. However, in the United States, people tend to eat different types of foods for lunch everyday and it can range from Italian to Mexican to a sandwich or a salad. Like Dani had said in our presentation, we noticed that in the U.S. we use more spices and flavors in our foods, but the food in Uganda is fresh and not processed without any use of spices. While observing the education system, I realized that it is similar to the U.S. except we call it different things. In Uganda, you have to test to get into the next level, while we have finals and if you don't do well enough, you might not pass the class. Ugandan schools have a higher student to teacher ratio which makes it a harder learning environment. I think it was interesting to see that kids are more disciplined and excited to go to school in the primary level. Going on to hospitality, it is great in Uganda. People will wave to one another saying "Hi, how are you?" and continue to have a conversation with you while having a long handshake. In the United States, the most you will get from a stranger will be a "hi" and a handshake because most people will continue to walk on by or just give a smile.

    As for sustainable developments, I can only think of the planted trees example. Dr. Sentongo realized that he had used a lot of wood for the scaffolding for his house and thought he would provide back for the amount of trees he had to use, so he had students plant trees. That provides back to the environment for the future.

    At Colin's house I learned that just by knowing a person's last name, you can know what clan they are from and if you marry, it has to be with someone from another clan.

  2. To be completely honest the minute I walked into Dr. Sentogo's house and was told that women were supposed to sit on mats I had a negative mindset. I know this is a cultural thing, but the constitution states that women and men are equal. As the night went on though I realized that sometimes you cannot change people's mindsets because that was how they were raised.
    I was incredibly impressed with Colin's presentation on culture. I felt that he gave me a new way of looking at culture. I think one of the biggest cultural differences is time management. If an outsider was to watch our group walking to one of our events they would notice a few things. Most of the Americans would be walking ahead of the Ugandans and not by just a few steps. We have a tendency to live a fast paced life. I have also noticed that if we are late to an event or our main speaker is late, Ugandans are not very upset. It is just their way of life for them. This is honestly something I am struggling to adjust to. I think I successfully slowed my pace by half a step, but I still don't like the idea of being tardy.
    I think Colin's whole discussion on culture was showing the social side of sustainable development. I think he was trying to emphasize how every group/nation/place has its own culture and we cannot combine multiple groups as one culture. A group's culture is demonstrates their individuality. For diversity to continue to progress in the future it is important we take the time to understand someone else's culture. That is how I think he related sustainable development to our course for this year.

  3. I think there are a lot of major cultural differences between Uganda and the United States. One that came up time and time again was the component of time keeping. Culturally speaking, Ugandans don’t live their life always being preoccupied with what time it is. If they are twenty minutes late it doesn’t really faze anyone. We’ve experienced this with the bus, the MUB students, and even the pace at which they walk. Where as in the United States we are always caught up with what time it is, where we need to be next, and doing things quickly so we have time for other things. This is just one huge cultural difference, but to touch on a few others are food, hospitality, and gender issues. One obvious idea of sustainable development at Colin’s house was Drake Boulevard. Those trees were planted to replace trees that were cut down to build his house. This was a conscious effort to replace the resources he used. One new cultural idea I learned was how some of my classmates were forced to kneel when greeting one of the guests. Overall, it made for a great day and I love the moments we get to spend just hanging out and being together.

  4. It was quite the experience driving tup to Colin's beautiful home in cars that turned on the air conditioning. I was completely cut off guard when this happened and I may or may not have started crying just a little bit. I thoroughly enjoyed Colin's talk on culture and the differences he has see between the u.s. and Uganda. He talked about how Ugandans are more hospitable to their guests and are very close with their neighbors. I slightly disagree with the fact that they are more hospitable; I think they are more welcoming to strangers but when we are planing on being hosts in the U.S. I would say that we are pretty hospitable. I've also noticed that being on time doesn't seem to be an issue or a priority. If we say we will be somewhere at noon we will be there fifteen minutes early, whereas they might not leave until noon or a little after noon. Some similarities include our music and amount of cellphone usage.
    I was amazed at Colin's support for our program with MUBS and the fact that he invites us to his house for hours with catered food. I love how he took our course and decided to be sustainable by planting the 20 trees our front.

    One new cultural difference that I noticed was that women are expected to be the last ones to get the food. Normally you would expect ladies first but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

  5. I had a really meaningful conversation with Dr. Sentongo's canadian brother about mixed families. (for those who dont know I come from a mixed family)The conversation was essentially about how mixed familes are becoming more common and his theory that eventually everyone will be the same color. Interesting theory to say the least. Later Ms. Shifra (the judge) joined our conversation and the topic of interest turned to religion. I asked Shifra a lot of questions on what it was like to be a muslim in a very christian country like Uganda; she did not seem to think it was very difficult. Shifra and Mr. Sentongo asked me a lot of questions about my own faith and that which is typical in the United States. This was easily one of the most engaging conversations of the entire trip for me.

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  7. I agree with everyone about the differences and with Micah about the hospitality/niceness of people in America vs Uganda. There were a couple of other things that really stood out to me during the culture talk as well.
    Something Colin mentioned that I had never thought about before was how in America we often just group the whole entire continent of Africa into one culture. I felt ignorant because I had never thought about it like that, but it is so true. People just think of all of Africa as very much the same (many don’t even think about the Middle East as being ‘African’) – while when we think about Europe we categorize it by countries a lot more frequently. There are so many different cultures in Uganda alone – mainly because of all the ancestral tribal differences. I wish people in America were better educated on the variety of African cultures.
    One thing that I did not agree with was the statement made about how because Uganda has a large growing population and lots of natural resources they are going to be the next big deal in 20 years. To me, yes these are both important factors in being a successful country, but investment in your people, education and sharing financial rewards (lessening corruption) are what ties it all together. Over 80 percent of their population is youth – but most are unemployed and some are uneducated. Having more and more kids, is just making everything even that much more expensive (to feed, to educate, to accommodate). A true democracy, equal votes, equal representation, and opportunities to have abilities to advance yourself and community are what Uganda is missing. Unless all of this changes, in 20 years I do not see Uganda being the “next China” like he thought.

    Some other things that stood out to me was how adamant Colin was about thanking our families for allowing us to come to his country, the strict no marrying in clans, the different name changes done if you have a twin in your family, and how Colin and his wife only had to go to the supermarket once a month because of what they are able to grow at their house.

  8. I enjoyed my time at Colin's house. I didn't think i would learn or take away as many lessons/ ideas as i did. When i came back to the states and told my family and neighbors about my trip they were surprised by how many important people we were able to meet/ spend time with. The aspect of connections plays an important part in sustainable development. Colin himself talked about that you never know when you might "need" someone you met a long time ago or in another country. I think our friendships with the MUB students is a perfect example of this. Yes, we only got to stay with them for 21 days but who knows how they will impact your life in the future. Even if it is coming back to Uganda you know you'll be able to stay with them. Another lesson that i thought was important that Colin touched on was communities. I know i have taken for granted my relationship with my neighbors. I hope to strengthen the relationship i have with them. Lastly, i know there are many differences between Uganda and the USA but i think what stands out to me the most is the similarities. The fact that we live thousands of miles away and yet can find many similarities among us. Whether these similarities be materialistic like clothing or of values like friendship and family. I think it was great to see that even though we went to different universities in different countries We (MUBS and Drake ) are both college students.

  9. There are several culture differences between the Ugandans and Americans. I think the previous comments have explained these differences quite well, however I would like to touch on the hospitality aspect...
    I do not think it is fair to say that Ugandans are more hospitable or nicer than Americans. I think the difference is attributed to our different definitions of what a friend is to us. It seems that Ugandans consider anyone they meet to be a friend. Whereas for Americans it takes us time and getting to know the person before we would call or consider them a friend. I believe that we are just as equally hospitable towards our friends as Ugandans are. However, Ugandans are much more welcoming to strangers than we are. I think this is where they get the image that Americans are not friendly, welcoming, or hospitable. Again, this is just my opinion.

  10. I found there are quite a few differences between culture in the United States and culture in Uganda! I realize everyone has targeted this one, but for a while, I couldn't stand the "waiting for nothing" process that happened a lot. I realize that comparatively, the United States is very schedule oriented and timely compared to countries all around the world, but it was difficult sometimes to just sit and wait for people to show up, or have things get cancelled on us with little or no notice! I realize that was a blow, so now I'll be nice. Hospitality of Ugandans cannot be matched by any other country I've ever been to. The food, the presentation, the overall presentation and comfortability of everything is perfected by everyone. Everyone is welcomed to anyone's home, which is awesome. We just don't have that in the US. We live very private lives compared to them, so in terms of culture, I wish we were more open and welcoming.

    Like others said, there were a few great topics that were discussed that really made me think. one made me feel ignorant. This is when he said most people group Africa as a whole. Unfortunately, this is mostly true. People do say 'Africa' as opposed to 'Uganda' if anything about something in this continent arrises in conversation. I'm catching myself now and letting others know that it isn't okay to assume every country in Africa is experiencing the same thing. So, I'm happy I learned a lesson.

    The other discussion I disagreed with. People in most cases causes power. With that, you need proper education, a non-corruptive government, and a lot of money. Uganda, although it's population is growing exponentially high, is probably not going to be the "next big deal" because unless there are opportunities such as education and jobs, people doesn't mean anything.

    Overall, I loved this dinner and had a blast meeting everyone there. It was a beautiful home where we got to experience a beautiful culture.

  11. Larry bimenyimanaJuly 3, 2012 at 3:07 AM

    i like your comments and the issue of hospitality, Uganda is very okey with that. Time management, we are still lacking but hope what MUBS students learnt will be shared by other people and we shall change their lives too like the way we got changed. About the population the country will be worse if it continues to increase at that rate. they all need to think like me aand we have two children in every home. this will reduce on the expenditure.
    About food. we eat more fresh foods than any other country. a credit goes to my fellow Ugandans. thaank u for all your comments. they are all good