WHAT IS HOMESTAY?
Homestay is a form of tourism that allows a visitor to stay in a room or a traditional grass-thatched round house in the home of a local family to learn about and experience the local way of life as well as traditions and culture. At least some members of the family will be able to speak good English. Children start learning English as soon as they go to school and are competent by the time they are about 13. Conditions will be basic and simple, but clean and safe. There will be no running water or electricity, but you will have a proper bed with a mattress, bedding and mosquito net.
We pride ourselves on taking a pioneering approach, identifying suitable homesteads that meet minimum basic requirements of comfort, cleanliness and safety, and making long-term commitments to help these villages and the people who live in them to thrive.
Hosting a Homestay visitor allows the family to earn some much needed income. The notion and reality is that Homestay is a cultural exchange, while visitors pay for their accommodation and meals.
The purpose of Homestay is not just to provide a place to stay but to create an enriching learning experience for both the visitor and the host family. Our Homestays are based in various parts of Teso, a region in north eastern Uganda. During visits to the villages, you will be exposed to authentic Ugandan cultural experiences which in turn will encourage the communities to appreciate, value and preserve their way of life and culture. Homestays offer a wonderful variety of opportunities that most tourists never get to experience. You can just chill out for two or three days, or even longer, in a typical Ugandan Teso family home, taking part in as little or as much of the daily activities as you choose.
Your Driver-Guide will also stay in the home with you, to ensure that everything works well, to translate if necessary, to explain things and to help organise any activities, especially if transport is needed. If you have any problems or concerns, he will be there to help you and your host family sort things out.
Possible activities that may be available (depending partly on the locality and time of year)
- walking or cycling around the locality, on your own or with your host
- scrambling up high rocky outcrops and boulders
- ploughing with oxen
- learning about crops and how they are cultivated; perhaps even help with sowing seeds, planting sweet potato vines, digging, weeding etc
- harvesting a variety of crops according to the season
- preparing, drying and processing harvested crops, including peeling, threshing, winnowing, grinding etc
- making traditional beer from grains
- preparing and processing groundnuts to make your own groundnut paste (peanut butter) – the best you will ever taste!
- helping to cook a meal
- taking goats and cattle out to graze
- fetching water from a borehole or spring
- going to a market
- going in to a primary school with the children
- fishing (in swamps, lakes, pools, rivers) using a variety of methods, if your hosts live near water
- trip out on a lake in a local canoe
- singing and music, using traditional instruments such as the akogo and adungu
- traditional dancing, possibly including the spectacular ajosi dance
- traditional story telling
- visiting a local herbal medicine practitioner to learn about the plants and treatments
- playing with young children
- learning how traditional houses are built and thatched
You get to choose! Some activities may involve an extra charge.
You will always be welcome and will have a unique experience of life in the Heart of Africa – what a privilege! You will find that getting to know a family and their friends is a deeply personal and moving experience. Your visit is important to these communities – it is one step in helping us to create successful conservation economies.
Advice for those staying with rural families
The opportunity of being accepted into someone’s home to stay with them and experience their way of life is a great privilege which both hosts and guests will appreciate. However, we all acknowledge that there may be significant cultural differences and expectations when visitors from developed countries stay in rural homesteads in the middle of Africa which could cause unintentional offence. We would ask both hosts and guests to be sensitive to this and try not to offend each other. To help you be more aware of possible cultural differences which could cause misunderstandings, here are some guidelines:
- Please dress conservatively. Wearing skimpy or revealing blouses, dresses or shorts (especially for women) may cause offence. It is not normal for women to wear trousers in the villages.
- Most people in the villages eat with their hands (always the right hand). However, you will be given a spoon or knife and fork. Before and after meals, someone will come round with water and soap for you to wash your hands. You will be invited to serve yourself to food, which will be a variety of local dishes and usually include some meat and/or fish with rice and/or (Irish) potatoes and/or sweet potatoes as well as vegetables.
- Women and girls usually curtsy or even kneel when greeting visitors, which you may find a bit strange. Women always sit on mats on the ground although women visitors will be given chairs. It is not normal for women and children to eat with men and visitors.
- Children (especially very young ones and the last born) have a special place in the home and society. Boys and girls may have different roles and responsibilities in the home although both will look after babies and toddlers. They are very rarely disobedient or rude, naughty or quarrelsome. Please don’t give them sweets as they are bad for their teeth and they have no access to dental treatment.
- Children have a very respectful, ‘distant’ relationship with adults and often appear very shy, especially girls. They are always well-behaved. Adults don’t play with children as they do in western countries, so avoid playing rowdy games with children.
- Husbands and wives (boyfriends/girlfriends) never display affection or physical contact, even in the home. If you are in Uganda with your spouse/partner or boyfriend/girlfriend, please be sensitive about this. Please avoid holding hands or kissing or cuddling in public. If you want to share a room with your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner, then please indicate that you are a couple. It is very important you respect their culture and don’t set what could be seen as a bad example to young people by relating inappropriately.
- If you are young and single, please be very careful how you relate to young people of the opposite gender. They do not normally relate in the very open and physically intimate way that we often do in Europe, but are reserved and distant. Be very careful not to “lead them on” or encourage unrealistic expectations of your friendship – be aware that you might not think you are leading them on. It is not acceptable to flirt or get too familiar, as many younger people do when on holiday in Europe. If a boy takes a girl home to meet his family, it means that they are intending to get married, so you are advised not accept such an invitation if you are a young woman.
- Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. If you are gay or lesbian, you are advised to keep this to yourself, for your own sake as well as to avoid conflict with their culture and laws. If you do not feel able to hide the fact, then it may be advisable not to visit Uganda until things have changed. There is a gay rights movement in Uganda, but they are seriously persecuted and some have been killed. However, although it is not acceptable for husbands and wives, or boys and girls, to hold hands or display affection when walking or sitting or talking, it is actually common for two men to hold hands and even show ‘brotherly’ affection, which would rarely happen in Europe unless they are gay.
- Smoking is rare in Uganda, especially in rural areas, so it would be appreciated if you could possibly avoid smoking please, especially as there is a high risk of fire with grass-thatched houses.
- Some homes may brew local beer which is drunk as a group from a common pot. However, alcoholism is a serious problem, so there are many families who avoid alcohol. If you bring alcohol with you, please drink it in your room.
- You will not be expected to take gifts for your host family, but if you want to, here are some suggestions: soap bubbles, balloons, small balls, picture books of your home area, torches, penknives, stationery, headscarves, handkerchiefs.