Who We Are

February 3, 2015

After MSC, a portion of us PCV’s chilled out by the beautifully swanky Nile Resort pool that overlooked the Nile. I feltNile Resort Hotel like I was in a movie, because everything looked so pretty and thought-out. Then we headed to NRE to stay the night. I was a bit turned off by NRE, because last time I was very excited to be among other PCV’s and in the mindset to celebrate the 4th of July. It smelled of old beer, the music was overbearing, and I felt off since I was hungover from the beer pong games of the night before. I didn’t even feel like joining in with the other muzungus and dancing with them.

The next day, we headed over to Kampala since we had a meetings the next day at the office. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but the Super Bowl was being shown at the Fat Boyz bar in Kisementi starting at 2:30am on Tuesday morning. I slept a bit beforehand, and then got up to watch the first American football game that I’ve seen in-country. So there weren’t any wings, commercials, or half-time show but it was so worth it to watch a well-edited game in solidarity with everyone else who was watching it around the world. The shock that us 8 PCV’s had in seeing the Patriots keep the Seahawks away from that last 1-yard line in the last minute of the game was audible throughout the Kisementi parking lot.

The next day saw some of the most action that the Peace Corps Office has seen in a while. Peer Support Network, Diversity Club, GEO Club, SHAC Committee, Conservation Think Tank, and VAC all met with staff in order to discuss the way forward this year for PCV’s and their respective groups. Now more than ever, it seems as if these support committees and clubs are needed by the PCV community in Uganda.

Pool HangoutOne of the biggest take-aways from this most recent training group was the lack of diversity awareness and training. Trainers and trainees alike would sometimes refer to the entire training cohort as “white people” where there were definitely other races represented. In another instance, some of the white trainees shared, “Oh, I mean I’m called muzungu all the time by Ugandans and it annoys me so I totally get how it feels to be discriminated against.” Of course, this was just a misguided form of empathy.

In the past, Diversity Club used to be focused predominantly on race, especially for African-American PCV’s. The founder of the club was very passionate about the issue, because of how she was treated by Ugandans. Having very dark skin due to her Nigerian heritage, her homestay family would complain about having her because they couldn’t have one of the white, American PCV’s. As a result, the Diversity Club was created to spread awareness among staff, PCV’s, and Ugandans that Americans come from all races, backgrounds, beliefs, orientations, sexes, and ages.

Furthermore, there have been instances where female PCV’s feel as if they aren’t given as much support as they need. Unfortunately, most of Uganda’s laws blame the victim. For example, if a female were to go into a house with three other men in it and then gets sexually assaulted, then it would be hard for her to win a court case against them because she should have known better than to go into a house with three men in it. In other words, she was asking for it and it’s partially her fault.

And yes, there have been stories concerning sexual assault to the point where almost every PCV in any given Peace Corps country could tell you about someone who has been sexually harassed or assaulted during service. The hardest part is keeping that motivation to help and do good in a country where some of its people want nothing more than to take advantage of you or your Peace Corps family. Back in Kulika, we were told to believe that goodness can prevail but it’s hard to believe that sometimes.

Even in the case of those who are LGBT, I have heard from some PCV’s about the difficulties in having to make friends, live with homestay families, and make lasting relationships with Ugandans and never be able to let them know about this very beautiful and significant part of their lives. A lot of these PCV’s sometimes live in fear because a simple slipup of leaving a journal entry out in public, having personal pictures stolen, or an old photo on a Facebook album could turn a whole community against them.

So this is why the committees and clubs met together at the office. A passionate percentage of us PCV’s wanted to help support each other in any way that we could. Even though there is a lot of bad going on around us, there is also a lot of possible good. I remember back when I was a trainee how it was even possible for a PCV to get anything done in the village let alone smile while being bombarded by apathy, dust, heat, lack of resources, and even hostility at times.

It’s those little victories of goodness that help turn the tide of apathy and hatred. It’s the reminder that for every negative situation there is another positive situation to balance it. It’s the mutual respect among PCV’s that we know how it really is to be a foreigner living in a country that will leave physical, mental, and emotional scars on your body, mind, and soul before you leave.  It’s the understanding that while we may not know what’s another person is going through, we can try to understand what he or she is experiencing.

P.S. – After MSC, I feel as if I’ve been better able to manage my temper whenever I’m called muchina or muzungu by Ugandans.

Peer Support and Science Fairs

Peer Support and Science Fairs

31/7/14 – 3/8/14

Once again it was another tiring weekend. I left site on Thursday July 31st in the afternoon to get to Kampala. I get there later, and meet up with Rachel Belkin near the New Taxi Park and Bus Park. The goal was to do some errands associated with the Peer Support Network (PSN) group for Peace Corps Uganda (www.facebook.com/psnuganda) and with Peace by Piece (www.facebook.com/pxpuganda). Peer Support Network is a group within Peace Corps Uganda dedicated to supporting volunteers, creating merchandise, forming media projects, and acting as another support system for Peace Corps Volunteers in-country. Peace by Piece is an organization in Masindi that was started by a Peace Corps Volunteer a few years ago. It empowers the local tailors in Masindi by creating opportunities for them to sell kitenge merchandise such as: satchels, bags, dresses, and quilts. The items are of a higher quality than those sewn by the average tailor, and the proceeds go towards growing the tailors’ business.

As a member of Peer Support Network I had to pick up a special order from a kitenge tailor, make another special order,Screen Prints and then meet up with the t-shirt screen printer near the Old Taxi Park who would be able to make jpg’s into wearable t-shirts. I got two proofs printed out: a black shirt with PCV UGA written on it in the style of RUN DMC’s logo as well as a beige shirt of one of our legendary, older PCV’s riding a gorilla. Rachel had to mail 5 kitenge quilts to the founder of Peace by Piece, but the post office was already closed. It was a hilarious site to see us two muzungus carrying huge bags of kitenge on our head as we walked from the crowded, pickpocket-filled Luwum Street area (the street between the New and the Old Taxi Parks) to the slightly less crowded Kampala-Jinja Road. Honestly, we joked about being two old, Jewish grandmothers since we planned out our day in the city where we would mail some quilts, order specially designed fabrics, meet the nice young man who screen printed t-shirts, and then find a nice place to sit down and order some coffee.

Rachel and I boarded a takisi headed towards Kisementi near Acacia Mall. We got off and made our way to the other hotel frequently used by Peace Corps Volunteers known as City View Hotel. It was so much more luxurious than the New City Annex where I normally stayed. City View Hotel had a nicer, tiled room, a fan, and most importantly a personal bathroom for each bedroom unlike the shared ones at New City Annex. We meet up with Mary and share a room with her before having dinner at Casablanca, an Ethiopian restaurant. I was surprised at how close City View Hotel not only to Acacia Mall, but also to some nearby restaurants as well as Bubbles O’Leary club.

The next plan was to eat some gelato at the mall and drink some rum with it. I wanted to do it old school style and drink the Captain Morgan rum out of a paper bag in one of the restaurant spaces of the mall, but it was way too classy to do that. So we made our way back to the hotel where we drank the rum, shared some stories, and watched YouTube videos with my data since I bought the 1Gb for 2,500/= Orange Internet bundle from midnight to 6am. I watched so many videos and downloaded so many things that I’ve wanted to download for the longest time.

On Friday Rachel and I walked from the hotel to the Peace Corps Headquarters on Kololo Hill which was past the Chinese Embassy. My business there concerned taking stock of the PSN T-shirts that left there by the older members of the group, dropping off the kitenge bags, as well as withdrawing the money from past T-shirt sales so that it could be used to create more merchandise. Incidentally, I also had Peace Corps Volunteers who were chilling at the office to model some of the T-shirt styles for me.

Rachel Looking OutAs a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, I have come to learn that one of the biggest frustrations in-country can be the lack of organization. It’s understandable that that happens in a country where the infrastructure is not as structured as a developed country. Unfortunately, that also translates to the Peace Corps Office since the staff has to work with the existing infrastructure in-country. Sometimes from emails, text messages, and other announcements I wonder whether everyone is on the same page or not. I like to sometimes think that working in the Peace Corps Office would be like being a character in The Office or 30 Rock. I mean, I can just imagine waking up in the morning and getting to the office late because of a traffic jam on the main roads, trying to get a driver to pick up an extremely sick PCV in a remote village, talking to the ambassador about a potential threat, emailing out a new policy to PCV’s who won’t receive for at least a few days since not everyone has internet, changing someone’s site due to a security threat, evacuating PCV’s from an area brewing with tribal conflicts, early terminating a PCV who was caught riding a boda, attending a meeting with the Country Director, planning the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Celebration, processing new PEPFAR Grant information, and planning out the swearing-in ceremony of the soon-to-be PCV’s. So I can understand why it’s always so hectic in the office.

At the office, I met with one of the Peace Corps Uganda staff Ven who informed me that my translation of “Oh the Places You’ll Go” into the 9 different languages currently spoken by PCV’s in Uganda was on its way to completion, talked to the head of training Mary-Anne who informed me that I could attend the new group’s swearing-in ceremony, talked with a current PCV Jim about the status of the grants for July, and met up with another PCV Meital who asked me if I could help out with a media project for the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary Celebration.

Rachel, being very patient, chilled in the PCV lounge until I was done my errands at the office. The next goal on our checklist as Jewish grandmothers in Kampala was to mail the 5 quilts at the Post Office. We decided that our best bet was to hitch a ride with one of the Peace Corps vans that was headed towards the Kolping Hotel where the GHSP Volunteers were finishing up their training. We picked up the GHSP Volunteers at Mulago Hospital where they were given a lecture and presentation.

We were finally dropped off at Kolping, where Rachel and I took a takisi to the Post Office. Rachel mailed off her quilts to the United States, we ate some hidden soft serve ice cream, then travelled to Lugogo Mall where Rachel had to register for another Barclay’s card since she had lost hers in the previous week. During that time I uploaded photos at the Café Java’s. Our final goal on Friday was to make it to Masaka by 6pm in order to join up with other PCVs at Frikadellen where we would eat a delicious buffet dinner of barbecued meats, tomato soups, fried cheese sticks, salads, and chocolate cake. By the time we finished our penultimate errand at Lugogo it was 4:30pm, so we rushed back to the New Taxi Park where I picked up the two screen printed T-shirts from the T-shirt guy. We boarded a coaster (a larger takisi except that everyone has his or her own seat) around 5pm.

The problem was that we were extremely hungry since we didn’t eat any substantial food all day in-preparation for ourKabukunge PTC Science Fair Welcomedinner at Frikadellen. We arrived in Masaka and subsequently Frikadellen at 8pm, so we totally missed dinner which was alright since we bought a ton of street food. A bunch of us PCV’s then made our way to Alaina’s house, which was past Nyendo at the Kabukunge PTC. I slept so well that night because I was exhausted.

Saturday was hectic, because it was the day of the science fair at the Kabukunge PTC. Alaina had been working hard all of Term 2 in order to get this event together. All of the PTC students were taught how to put together a science project utilizing the scientific method. The students were then told to come up with a project, state a hypothesis, perform an experiment, come up with research to support the results, and then present the science project to the parents, teachers, faculty, and Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) representative who came.

It was really cool to see the PTC Students engage themselves in higher level thinking and hands-on science that is rarely taught here in many Ugandan PTC’s There were projects concerning how light travels, seed germination, oxidation, water purification, gravity on an inclined plane and various other topics in science that would not be out of place in a middle school science fair. Even though the students where in their late teens, it felt refreshing to see them presenting Light Science Projecttheir projects in English and showcasing what they had learned. However, the science fair itself was a stressful day because not everyone in the school administration was supportive of Alaina’s project. There were definitely some teachers and staff members who were helpful, but not everyone provided the assistance that she needed.

Fortunately, about 8 of us PCV’s were there to help out Alaina by helping set up, judging the projects, and taking videos and photographs of the event. I personally promised to take pictures and videos of the science fair for her. The day was slow to start, and there were some mishaps along the way. For example, the representatives from the government and school administration were late, which is par for the course, and other than Alaina no one else knew what the schedule was. Lunch was served around 5:30pm, which was early since the meetings were cut short.

The initial plan was for the current PTC principal to give a speech, followed by a presentation of the best science fair Metal Fire Rodprojects, followed by the retired PTC principal to give a speech, followed by the presentation of certificates, followed by another closing speech. I felt bad for Alaina, because it was stressful enough coordinating this large event, and even more difficult when the schedule that she had planned was changed last minute by the administration who wanted things done their way. Emotions started to run high when the principal of the school then told Alaina that she “failed” because she didn’t present the certificates out to the students at the correct time.

However, this is the Uganda that we live in, filled with pomp, flair, circumstance, and sometimes not much actual substance. There are just too many facets to focus on and not enough time to address them all. In order to relieve some stress, we all celebrated that night by going out to the local club in Masaka called Ambiance. The next day was dedicated to making it back to our respective sites.

Who I Am

7/6/14 – 16/6/14

June 7 – Saturday

It’s been a doozy of a week and so much has happened. I left site after a week of teaching on Saturday June 7th. I biked to Wobulenzi and picked up my Burning Ssebo rave outfit from the local tailor who left it with one of the MTN telecom workers. I then took a takisi to Kampala where I met a guy named Vincent at Brood on Entebbe Road. He was recommended to me by one of my fellow PCVs, Taylor, who informed me that he was a trustworthy computer salesperson who had sold computers, projectors, and other ICT equipment to PCVs in the past. I discussed the preliminary plans to purchase computers from him in order to furnish the ICT lab that is currently being constructed on the Luteete PTC campus. I then walked west on Entebbe Road past the Total gas station and turned northward where I met James near the Shumuk House who was the go-to guy for unlocking phones and modems in Kampala.

I made my way to the New Taxi Park where I new that I wanted to take the Busunjju Taxi Stage in order to get to Kulika for my Survival ICT session. However, I made a fool out of myself by arguing with the Busunjju stage taxi conductor that the correct fare was 3000/= instead of the normal 5000/=. I had just assumed that he was overcharging me because I was white. Instead of swallowing my pride, I took the Kakiri takisi for 3500/=, which took me Kakiri where I had to get off and then pay an extra 2000/= for the takisi to the Kulika training center. When I got there, the new Peace Corps Volunteer Trainees (PCVTs) were learning how to light a charcoal stove, wash clothes, and how to dress appropriately.

Honestly, it felt weird to be back there once again since Training of Trainers; this time as someone who has experience. I prepared for my Survival ICT session, and presented it to the PCVTs at 5pm. I was very pleased with my presentation and with how I was able to explain the necessary information in an easy-to-understand manner. It was interesting no longer being part of the new group anymore. I realized that some of the volunteers whom I have become friends with have started to COS (Close of Service) and go back to the United States and that some of my new friends will come from this group. What struck me the most about them was how clean they were and how all of them were healthy. No one was sick yet.

It felt nice sharing stories with them and having them ask the trainers questions regarding life in Uganda, the crazy stories that we have, and the hardships/successes that we’ve faced. As the night came to a close, I chilled with Loren and Nicole who used to be my trainers 7 months ago. It felt weird hanging out with them instead of looking up to them as people who knew more than I ever could know. They too expressed how weird it was that the volunteers in my group were no longer newbies, but volunteers who have gone through some trials and understand a little bit about what it means to be a PCV in Uganda.

I almost get this feeling that there exist friends of a PCV from back home who know you, and friends from your service who know you as your PCV self. They understand the hardships faced in this country and the difficulties and joys that can only be experienced here. I believe that experiencing the same hardships and trials earn respect among PCVs here that can be easily overlooked when sharing stories back with friends in the United States.

As I was getting ready for bed, I opened up the package sent to me from my two best friends back home, Sean BMO Hard Driveand Tyler. Inside I found an external hard drive with my old music from my laptop back home, movies, pictures, and the Eurotrip documentary from last summer. I was also given portable speakers, and a nice pair of headphones. I was so unbelievably ecstatic and overjoyed to look at the footage from the Eurotrip and remember that I once adventured there with my best friends. I then reminisced hardcore by listening to the music that I enjoyed during my high school days and remembering the associated memories with each song. I specifically remember listening to the songs sung by my high school chorus back in 2006 at Loyola Blakefield and knowing now that there are some members of that group who are no longer living.

June 8 – Sunday

Kampala Old Taxi Park        I woke up early and got in the Peace Corps van headed to Kampala to give the PCVTs the Kampala tour. We were all split into groups of 4 with a PCV or Ugandan guide to lead us through the day. We were dropped off near the New Taxi Park, and I led Cindi, Dave, and Mebrat with the help of one of the Rachels. We exchanged money at a Forex Bureau, bough Powermatics, registered sim cards, passed by the Green Shops, chilled for a bit at Brood, passed through the Craft Market, checked what was inside the New City Annex, passed through Nakumatt Oasis, reconvened with the other groups at Garden City, ate lunch at Prunes, and then made it back to the New Taxi Park where we took the Busunjju Taxi back to Kulika.

I spent the rest of the evening enjoying the cooked Kulika food and a game of volleyball with the PCVTs.

June 9 – Monday

I returned back to Kampala today after helping give a Welcome to Uganda skit put on by the Peace Corps Uganda staff and other PCVs. I checked into the Annex and then met up with Rachel at Garden City. We ate at a nice Indian Restaurant on the roof and then chilled at the hipster Sound Cup coffeeshop until we met up with some other PCV friends at Brood. We were all convening in Kampala for a Femke Psychology training session at Peace Corps Headquarters.

That night at the Annex was intense because we had found out that one of our volunteer friends was sexually assaulted. We heard about the possibility of things like this happening, but it’s hard finally hearing that it can happen to one of your fellow volunteers. However, this is the Uganda that we live in and unfortunately it includes people who want to harm others.

I think that events such as this really showcase how each Peace Corps country’s PCVs act as a family. When something bad happens, we react in such a way to help that person or let that person know that you care. We even joke and say that even though we may severely dislike another volunteer, we wouldn’t deny him or her the opportunity to stay at our house for the night. We are a family in every sense of the word. We don’t always like each other, we may even hate each other at times, but we still support one another.

Then again events such as these showcase how difficult Peace Corps is from country to country. It has been said that Peace Corps Uganda has one of the highest ET (Early Termination) and lowest volunteer satisfaction rates among Peace Corps Countries in the world. It’s not like the United States where everything is fairer, laws are followed, and the bureaucracy eventually gets things done. In the Peace Corps, we have to deal with problems that may never go answered and issues that may never be resolved due to one reason or another.

June 10 – Tuesday

The majority of the day was spent at the Peace Corps Headquarters on Kololo for the Femke psychology meeting and a PSN (Peer Support Network) meeting. The Femke training involved ways PCVs coped with stress and the problems that we all faced in-country and ways to deal with them. One of the biggest issues discussed during this meeting was how we could make psychological treatment and therapeutic sessions available for PCVs who needed it and just wanted to talk to a trained professional.

The next session involved PSN and what the group could do to become more active. PSN is a group comprised of PCVs in Uganda who want to support the other volunteers in-country. In the past this involved getting Peace Corps Uganda shirts created, preparing regional Welcome Weekends for recently sworn-in groups, and calling random volunteers in order to check up on them. However, during his meeting it was discussed that PSN should play a much larger role by offering up weekly meditations, helping out those who are getting site changes, and having more of a Facebook page presence for our fellow volunteers.

June 11 – Wednesday

I spent today eating delicious, soft-serve ice cream on Entebbe Road hidden inside of a small shopping center. IHidden Soft Serve Ice Cream Kampala then took a Jinja-bound takisi with the Rachels and Ravi to Lugazi where I then took a PH (Private Hire) with one of the Rachels and Ravi to a PCV’s site in Mabira Forest. The PCV’s name was Aaron and he lived at the start of the forest trails in Mabira Forest. His project involved ecotourism and the creation of the Skyview ziplines that crossed over the river that ran through the forest. We were going early to Aaron’s site in preparation for the Burning Ssebo PCV camping event.

The ride from Lugazi to his Griffin Falls site was absolutely breathtaking. We passed through rolling fields of sugar cane and winding pathways that made it feel as if we were driving through a large corn maze. In the distance we could see rounded hills with forests on the top.

We spent that night resting from our journey from Kampala and playing Settlers of Catan.

June 12 – Thursday

Sugar Cane Fields to Griffin Falls    Rachel, Aaron, Ravi, and I trekked through the trails of Mabira forest and I loved every minute of it. It was such a new experience for me, because I had never walked through a tropical, rainforest before. The foliage and smells were so different compared to the ones back in the States. We made our way through winding pathways of decomposing leaves and good earth, crossed a log to get over the river, and then passed through muddy trails until we made it to a clearing near Namusa Hill. This was the clearing where Burning Ssebo would take place. We started collecting firewood and prepping our future campsites by shoveling away cow pies and slashing shoots coming out of the ground.

We ate a delicious lunch of lentils and rice prepared by Aaron’s cook back at his campsite. We then trekked all the way back to his house at Griffin Falls where Loren was waiting for us. Once again we played Settlers of Catan and prepared food for the next few days. I specifically remember cooking pasta and what was left over for the rice after Aaron’s pet goat, Django, ate through the cavera (plastic bag).

Journal Entry this Night:

     “It’s so nice right now, clean and comfortable in our own tent. It feels so good andCrossing Mabira Forest River

cool out here. I absolutely loved today, it’s adventures like these that I will remember for a long time.”

June 13 – Friday

Today was the start of Burning Ssebo. I left with Rachel, Ravi, and Loren to get to the clearing and setup camp earlier in the day before everyone else arrived. We take a different route to get to the clearing and cross the river on an old, wooden bridge instead of a log. We get to the clearing and it starts drizzling as we set up camp. Ravi, Rachel, and I set up our camp in the middle of three trees that we connected with neon rope, clothelines, and a hammock .Other groups started arriving throughout the afternoon and evening and it was just such a cool experience. Everyone set up their tents in different areas and every congregation of tents had its own decorations and setup.

It felt like a dream or adventure at this time. In this clearing were 30+ PCVs camping together just for the hell of it. I don’t remember too much about this evening except that there was a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, macaroni salads being shared, and singing in harmony with Aaron by the campfire.

June 14 – Saturday

 Journal Entry:

“I want to just stay here and chill I want to just enjoy the day and for a time forget all of the stress and projects associated with my site. To recharge and not stress about it here for the time being.

I love knowing that I can look back on this experience and remember it as being such a cool time out on the 2nd clearing in Mabira Forest.”

Burning Ssebo Hair Wraps    I remember waking up freezing because I was sleeping in a tent with minimal clothing on. The sun rose and the day got warmer and lazier. One of my PCV friends traded a piece of a homemade chocolate chip cookie for the pasta salad that I had shared with her the night before. Aww man it was such a tasty cookie and I couldn’t remember the last time that I had eaten a cookie like that.

I helped collect firewood, make mint tea, eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, took a nap, took pictures of the girls making hair wraps in our camp. I remember as I chilled in my hammock looking up at the sky and how crazy it was that we were all still in Africa, but in a very remote location in a forest clearing. I knew then that I would look back on this weekend and feel as if it was just a dream.

I also remember meeting Andrew Boston, a PCV who coaches the Ugandan National Lacrosse team and who Andrew Boston - Blakefield Don Class of 1999had also graduated from my Loyola Blakefield, my high school in Towson, Maryland. I thought that it was the coolest thing to meet another Loyola Don in this specific clearing during this specific event. He had also gone on the Kairos retreat, and he shared with me his love for our high school. Andrew told me that whenever he’s asked where he went to school, he tells them not only about his alma mater but also about Loyola Blakefield and how his experiences there shaped him to become the man that he is today. That was an awesome experience to meet him here.

Evening came and 15kg of pork were brought in to cook dinner. Several of the volunteers created a pork preparation assembly line that led to pork being placed on skewers for the grill. Man that was some damn good pork that we ate that night. I even made a peanut butter and soy sauce glaze for the pork skewers. After dinner, we pregamed a little bit and then gathered around a wooden man that we burned after hearing the history about this site and the volunteers who first stumbled upon it.

It seemed that people were too tired to dance, so the music wound down from the portable speakers (the batteries were dying anyway) and we started making our way back to our tents. Before I went to bed, I asked the Rachels and Ravi what lesson they took away from Burning Ssebo.

Burning Ssebo June 2014Rachel B: It was nice to see all of the different Peace Corps groups together in one place.

Rachel C: I don’t like camping nor too much time relaxing and not doing anything.

Ravi: I need alone time after too much time spent with others.

Marvin: There are so many cool PCV experiences and sites that wildly vary.

 

June 15 – Sunday

This was a very rough day. We woke up, struck camp, packed up, and made our way down another pathway that turned into a road running parallel to power lines. We made our way to Aaron’s site, took a PH to Lugazi, took a takisi to Kampala, and then I bid farewell to my friends and took my takisi to Wobulenzi where I took a brief respite at the NB Hotel restaurant. I charged my dead laptop and phone there and prepared myself for the wave of work that I had to do this week. I called my dad and wished him Happy Fathers’ Day and talked to my little brother about his life now that he just finished his Freshman Year at UMBC.

 Journal Entry:

“You know what? I’m just so beat from this week. So much was done and so much was experienced. I honestly feel as if that 2nd clearing was a beautiful place. We made our temporary home over there for a time. Also, I’m right. What I experienced this weekend was a beautiful blue of trails, good friends, and warm camps.

I’m so tired right now, but there are things that I still need to get done, such as wish dad Happy Fathers’ Day and work on the many projects that I’ve started.”

June 16 – Monday

I decided not to teach today and instead focus on writing the PCPP Grant for the ICT lab construction. My supervisor called me and told me to see the progress that has taken place concerning the building of the ICT lab. When I had left the week before, a 60ft x 20ft plot of dirt was dug up. Now I could see a foundation and brick walls that were almost as tall as me. I was excited to see tangible results for my project thus far and how enthusiastic my supervisor and fellow community members were to have an ICT lab.

I performed my daily chores, ate po sho and beans lunch, and then biked to the top of the hill in order to do grant work, which requires internet in order to write the proposal. However, I got mad at the children who surrounded me at the top of the hill. There’s literally no way for me to avoid them, because they see the white guy on a bicycle and start yelling, “MUZUNGU!” and then start running towards me. It’s one of the most annoying and frustrating things for me to deal with when I’m sitting on a rocky outcropping at the top of the hill and these Ugandan children form a circle around me and poke me, poke my laptop screen, and rub the hair on my legs when I tell them that I’m busy working.

I got frustrated and decided to bike away from them. I biked to the far end of the hill and when I looked back they had laughed and run after me. I then lost my cool and yelled at them in Luganda: “I don’t want to play with you!” Their smiles vanished, they stopped laughing, and they slowly backed away and walked home. I felt like shit after doing that because I knew that they were just curious to see what I was doing on my laptop, but I just couldn’t deal with them today. I just needed some privacy to work on my computer without interference, especially with on/off internet access and needing to concentrate. If only I could impart to them that what I am doing can only help them in the long-term if they just gave me some time to do my work without distraction. I have attempted to tell this to them, but every time I bike to the top of the hill they seem to come to me.

A large part of this frustration also comes from knowing that all the attention that I’m getting comes from my Burning Ssebo Outfitskin color. They do not seem very interested in what I have accomplished; rather they want to know where I am from and what I am. However, I place great stock in judging a person based on that person’s personality and experiences instead of what that person looks like or what that person’s status is. I don’t want someone to like me just because of how white my skin color is. What hurts me even more is when I ask the children what they want to be and they respond, “I want to be white!”

I would say that this week describes who I am as a PCV. I train, help in different groups, teach, and chill out with other PCVs. I go through a wide array of emotions within the course of an entire week and get to travel through many different methods and see very different horizons and landscapes as well as hear dozens of stories and tales. I do believe that experiences are what make you who you are as a person, and the experiences that I go through in even just one week change my outlook on the world and viewpoints slowly by slowly. In other words, this is a brief summary of a week in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Right Now

5/19/14

Right now I am sitting at La Patisserie, adjoined to the front face of Acacia Mall, which is one of the nicest malls in Uganda. I stopped by here on my way to Lugogo to get picked up for TOT (Training of the Trainers) back in Kulika for the incoming June 2014 group of PCVs. And for the time being I am enjoying the divine breeze and relaxation that always comes with a good cup of coffee. This is why I love the city; I love the diversity of people and cultures that live within it from the vaulted hills of Kisementi on Kololo to the flood of people on Luwum Street. Even though I now live in a small village in Luteete, I still find comfort in the going-ons and happenings of a city like Kampala.

*Note: Of course I am only ever in Kampala when Peace Corps allows me to visit, because to do so otherwise would be a blatant disregard for the Safety and Security Guidelines.

Acacia Mall Outside

Acacia Mall Outside

Acacia Mall Inside

Acacia Mall Inside