Bicycle Man

23/2/15

It’s been another busy week at site. I’ve been reviewing mathematics with the Year 2 students, while also teaching the mathematics curriculum for the new Year 1 students. I’ve also been meeting with my supervisor to cut our losses and continue building the computer/ICT lab with the funds that we’ve currently been able to raise. I’m planning my friend’s visit in March, and have attempted to plan out the rest of these next 10 months of Peace Corps service. Looking back to last December, I laugh when I think back to how I told myself that I would definitely spend more time at site and not travel or take on as many other projects.

However, I am comfortable with what I do and who I am. I think that I’ve reached that balance and acceptance of my work here and what I can feasibly accomplish before I depart. Already I’m moving away from always reminiscing and remembering my life’s adventures before Peace Corps and instead imagining the adventures and experiences to come. In the meantime, I still have a job to do here.

I was reminded of my mortality this afternoon. I was playing outside with the village kids and saw that my neighbors had gathered by the side of the dirt road behind my house. My neighbor told me that there was an accident where a boda boda crashed into a man riding his bicycle. I left my rice to cook in my kitchen on low heat as I walked towards the scene of the accident. When my neighbors asked why I wanted to see the accident, I told them that I was a bike rider on these roads too.

As I approached the growing crowd on one of the side road intersections, I heard whispers that the man was dead. I climbed up to one of the dirt ridges by the side of the dirt road and saw a crowd around the boda boda driver and another one around a man lying on the ground with his bicycle lying down next to him. He wasn’t moving. One of the onlookers moved him to a sitting position and I saw that there was a small pool of blood on the ground where his head had lain. I couldn’t tell if he was dazed or dead. Several other men picked him up and sat him on a boda. Another man sat behind him to hold onto him as the boda driver drove away into the swirls of dust.

I would imagine that the boda man left the crash scene with nothing more than a warning from the villagers to drive more carefully. However, I don’t know if the crash victim died or is recovering. As unfortunate as it is this is state of events in my community in Uganda. Some boda boda drivers will still drive recklessly, and I’m still going to bicycle from my village to Wobulenzi in order to catch a takisi to Kampala or the north. It definitely crossed my thought that I could have been the victim, since the crash scene was a route that I would normally take to purchase eggs, toilet paper, oil, or other such village essentials. If there ever was a time in my life when I contemplated my own mortality, it has been during my time thus far in the Peace Corps. But I’m not gonna worry about that all the time, because there is so much else to think about than about the multitude of ways to perish here.

Despite accidents like the bodaman and the bicycle man, there is so much beauty here and so much more to be thankful for. I have to remember that, because shit happens a lot here; maybe more-so than in a developed world. So I’m gonna keep on biking and keep on working here because that’s what I can do in response to the injustice of an innocent bicycle man riding back home to his family.

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Gratitude

22/1/15 – 23/1/15

The new Education group of trainees finally swore-in at the ambassador’s house on Thursday. It really  didn’t hit me how much things have changed until I sat down and heard the speeches that I’ve heard time and time again by the Country Director, Ambassador, and new PCV’s. It struck me just how optimistic of a tone this new group had when its representatives gave speeches during the ceremony. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t eloquent or heartfelt, but they sounded very optimistic and intangible. There were a lot of metaphors and comparisons of empowering Ugandans in a sustainable way.

I believe that if I had heard these speeches a year ago, I would have been inspired. It’s funny just how much stock I now place in tangible goals instead of intangible aspirations and how all of the beautiful rhetoric in the world still won’t make the borehole pump itself. Some of my fellow PCV’s from my cohort who also attended the ceremony commented, “How long do you think it will take until they become jaded?”

New Group Swearing-In

Of course we all congratulated them and welcomed the newly sworn-in PCV’s with open arms, but I kept asking myself that question. Was there a turning point or was it a gradual shift in attitudes that made me the Peace Corps Volunteer who I am today as opposed to a whole year ago at the Ambassador’s house. I still welcome the fresh perspective to this country that only new PCV’s can offer.

The next day, I returned back to site. It’s almost as if my entry into my metaphorical junior year of my Peace Corps service was a reminder of what I had gone through. I had a mini-bout of giardia in the morning which caused me intense pain even as I wolfed down the chicken skewer appetizers after the swearing-in ceremony and drank glasses of wine at the Country Director’s house afterwards. I threw up later that night after much diarrhea.

The next day, I travelled back to site on an empty stomach. Even in my own town, a market vendor called me muchina and I chewed him out in local language. My bicycle’s back wheel had low air pressure, but as I made it back to my house a smile grew on my face. My neighborhood kids were yelling, “Marvin” as I made it to my front door. Even the berry plant that was eaten by a stray goat started to re-grow its leaves. So much has changed in this past year, and I think back to that last speech given at this new group’s swearing-in ceremony. PCV Emery gave a speech entirely devoted to gratitude towards all people and parts who made Peace Corps Ugandan possible: from the UPS man/woman who delivered our visa applications to the Peace Corps Uganda staff and trainers.

As I entered the front door of my house a for the first time after a whole year, I think back to the experiences and interactions that continuously led me back to that door when I could have just as easily ignored it for somewhere else. In this case, I’m grateful to call his place my home.