The Aimless Wanderers


Muzungu (Luganda n). – white man, European

I made a small breakthrough with my neighbors today. I informed them that my replacement PCV is a Filipino American whose parents come from the Philippines, but is an American citizen. They seemed surprised that his name is Justin, since Justin (pronounced Justine by Ugandans) is a girl’s name here. At one point, my neighbor asked me why we Americans disliked being called muzungu.

Neighbor: “Why do you dislike being called muzungu?”

Me: “Well, first of all what do you think muzungu means?”

Neighbor: “Eh, for us it means a white person.”

Me: “The word muzungu is related to the Luganda word kuzunga which means to wander aimlessly.”

Neighbor: “EH! I have never made that connection.”

Me: “And is kuzunga a good thing?”

Neighbor: “No, to wander aimlessly is not a good thing.”

Me: “Yes, for us we don’t enjoy being told that we are lost and that we don’t belong here. Also not all Americans are white, so it is also a difficulty with identity.”

Neighbor: “Eh, we have picked. Thank you.”

oku-zunga (Luganda n.) – to stagger, reel about, whirl around, or wander aimlessly

Literally two years later my neighbors finally started to understand the reasoning behind the word muzungu and how it has a negative connotation. I also explained that muzungu relates to people who look white and is associated with wealth, short-term tourism, dependence, and not knowing where to go. For PCV’s who have white or semi-white skin the term lumps us all together as a homogenous grouping that disregards our personal identities or heritage. For PCV’s who are black or have brown skin, the term strips away the identity of that person’s heritage by assuming that since that person is from America, then he or she is like the other rich white people.

In the past, I have explained to Ugandans to first ask me to tell them my name or ask me about my heritage before calling me muzungu. I liken it to calling people from the Buganda Kingdom muganda instead of mudugavu. Muganda means brother, or person from the Buganda Kingdom, whereas, mudugavu means a black/dirty person. Mudugavu is related to the verb oku-ddugala, which means to become black or dirty. Even though using the word muganda denotes that the person is black, it also is respectable because that person hails from the Buganda Kingdom and central region of Uganda. However, mudugavu is an epithet because it calls a person dirty and associates the color of black skin with dirt.

When I was a trainee, our trainers told us that many of us would be called muzungu. They explained that it was related to the Kiswahili word kizungu which means of the aimless wanderer. Back then aimless wanderer sounded poetic. Now that I am here, I understand the silliness of that misconception. To be an aimless wanderer isn’t poetic or good, it’s seen as a sign of ignorance, dualism, and the disparity between the developed countries and many developing countries in East Africa. I still believe that it’s good to wander, but instead I feel that it’s better to wander with a purpose rather than without aim.



I have been sick for the past few days. Through the help of ibuprofen, bananas from my neighbors, toast, and ginger tea I have started to feel much better. As I physically started to feel better, I became more emotionally weary. I began cleaning my house and preparing my bags for my eventual move to Kampala for Close-of-Service medical and then to Entebbe airport to fly to Amsterdam. It has been stressful saying goodbye to everyone in my village. I have had to deny so many people “snaps” or photos that they want to take with me, because my camera’s memory card wouldn’t be able to fit an individual photo of all of them. Also, I don’t have the funds or energy to print a few hundred photos to give to all of them. Everyone wants remembrances of me, and it’s interesting that even now as I am about to leave many of the older village kids ask me for things. They tell me that they want the kitenge stars hanging up in my room, the bicycle, or an old laptop that lies dormant in my room.

I worry about the transition to the developed countries where perspectives and experiences are different. Slowly-by-slowly my rooms are becoming more barren and packed into neat suitcases and bags that will make trip back to the developed world with me. I think about the children with whom I play in my little yard and how they don’t seem to understand the concept that I will be leaving forever.

Me: “Omanyi nti nja kugenda America omwezi gujja?” (Do you know that I’m going back to America next month?)

Child: “Ojja kudda ddi?” (When will you come back?)

Me: “Sigendanga kudda.” (I am never coming back.)

Child: “Tuzannye fishy fishy!” (Let’s play fishy fishy*)
*A game similar to Sharks and Minnows


It’s weird thinking that soon I will be just a mere memory for my villagers and the children. Sure they will see my replacement Peace Corps Volunteer, but I wonder how many of the children will remember me. I think about the children telling stories about me to their own children when they’re older.

There is one recent even that I will remember for a long time: one of the secondary school boys, Waswa, came up to my window the other evening. I told him that I would be leaving for good and that I wanted to say goodbye to him before he left for another school. I then gave him an issue of The Atlantic magazine and a deck of playing cards that I got from Busch Gardens many years ago. He said thank you and walked away. An hour later he returned and was sniffling. He told me how he was crying and that he would miss me a lot. I usually don’t have much patience for the older secondary school students, but Waswa was different; he was always respectful and would invite me to play sports with him and the other students. He would offer me jackfruit, bananas, and avocadoes from time to time. But most importantly, he would listen and ask intelligent questions whenever we had discussions. What struck me about this specific interaction was that he cried.

In Uganda, it is not culturally appropriate for men to show signs of physical or emotional weakness, and crying is one of them. The only appropriate times to cry are when a close relative has died or if one is involved in a horrendous accident.

Before Peace Corps, I remember asking myself how to pack my entire life into two check-in bags. Now I am trying to comprehend how to take back this new life, this new perspective, and this new me back home. My home is changing and this house in Luteete will remain my home for 18 more days. In some ways, my worries are lessened because I have a carrier volunteer to follow up after me and I have planted some deep roots here.

Setting Dust and Settling In


It’s been a whole new week with both the same old dust setting on every surface of my house, as I get used to a routine. I mean, it felt very good just spending quality time with my site for days on end. I forgot how easy it was to lose track of the date when I was at site, especially since my calendar is now out-of-date. Also, the electricity was on for the majority of the days spent at site, which made it easy to stay up late and even easier to sleep in.

I got into such a good routine where I would wake up sometime after 9am, wash a few clothes, make some chappatis, watch episodes of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock, play with the kids, cook either quinoa (I found some left behind by a COSing PCV at the office) or rice, take a nap, watch more tv, make French-pressed coffee, talk with the neighbors, fetch water, bring in my dry clothes, do a Focus T25 workout, make dinner, shower, watch more tv, check free 0.facebook, and then go to bed.

I was relaxed. I felt comfortable getting into the habit of living at site and doing everything that I was used to doing. If too much time spent away from site made me feel guilty in the past, too much time spent at site with nothing to do since it was school break made me feel at ease. I was at vacation in my own house and didn’t feel guilty about spending a ton of money flying to another country.

Of course, I decided to get busy again. My productivity started up again on Sunday the 4th when I chose to take another jab at editing the Coffee Camp video from the Kasese Coffee Camp back during August 17-23, 2014. Since all of the translations were completed, the video clips were compressed to file sizes that my tome of a laptop could handle, and electricity was somehow on at site I decided that now was the perfect opportunity to finally finish this project that loomed over my head like a dust cloud or a non-existent raincloud (since we are in the middle of rainy season).

I have spent the past four days working on this whenever electricity has been available to me. I left site on the 6th since I had to fill in the role of Central Luganda Satellite Liaison for the new trainees who were undergoing language training and homestay in Mityana. It was rough waking up in early on Tuesday, biking to Wobulenzi, riding a takisi to Kampala and completing all of my errands for the day. I got a medical checkup where a jigger in my toe was removed, my knee might have slight tendonitis, and my left index finger has a splinter blister. I also discussed the possibility of attaining more grant funding for the construction of the computer/ICT lab in my village and delivered screen-printed PSN t-shirts to the office.

By the time I made it to St. Noa Primary School in Mityana to meet the 10 trainees, I was exhausted. I got to share some stories with them about the bike ride two weeks ago. I didn’t even know where I would be spending the night here, but fortunately Joshua graciously allowed me to stay in his future house, the same one that used to belong to RPCV Robin Munroe on top of Kololo Hill near Busuubizi PTC.

The next day was the trainees’ mock LPI, Language Placement Interview. It was a slow day, which was good because it allowed me to spend quality time with the trainees. I felt that I was getting to know them on a more personal level compared to how I interacted with them during the earlier stages of PST at both Kulika and Shimoni. I bluntly answered their questions, joked with them, and shared my own stories and perspectives concerning different issues and concerns that they had.

I have very high hopes for this group. I feel as if they have a very strong energy and determination to get out there and start working on projects that they are passionate about. Even today it was refreshing to see them invested in the Uganda gender roles discussion with the language trainers. During the daily hangout session at Enro Hotel, I had a heart-to-heart talk with one of the trainees. She voiced her concerns to me about how she was worried about her future site because she didn’t feel inspired or emotionally attached to it even though it had all of the amenities that she would ever want.

It was very interesting being in this position, because after I talked her through her worries she thanked me for my wisdom and hard work. To be honest, I don’t feel very wise. I agree that I am a hard worker, but many times I feel that I don’t have wisdom. Sure, I’ve lived in-country for over a year, but that doesn’t automatically make me wise. I still feel like a fool, even when I talk to people about what I have learned. Either way, it felt good to have been of some use to this group as their Deputy Satellite Liaison.

When I returned back to Joshua’s house, I finally finished the last few edits of the Coffee Camp video. I was ecstatic to have finally pressed the render button that would turn the timeline of video clips, titles, and music files into a sharable MPEG file. After all of the roadblocks and issues that kept me from working on this video, including a broken laptop for over a month after Coffee Camp, I finally finished this project and couldn’t be happier.

Tomorrow, I return to Fort Portal to begin training for yet another camp called Camp Kuseka for Ugandan children with special needs. I am exhausted, definitely have something like a sty in my right eye, and need to rally for this coming week and couldn’t be happier how this new year is starting.

oku-kola ekissayizzi (Doing Exercise)


*The following blog post is written how I would perceive one of the neighboring Ugandan children to view me.

I woke up at 5am or maybe 6am about an hour or two after the cock started crowing. I started to get dressed for church with my parents. Afterwards, I began washing the clothes and hanging them up to dry. The muzungu was still asleep in his bed and didn’t wake up until well after 10am. Why does he sleep so much and did he already go to church while I was at the service or while I was washing clothes? Also what religion is he: Catholic, Born-Again, Seventh Day Adventist, Protestant, or Muslim? I’m sure that he has to be one of those.

Ah he’s finally out of bed, and he tries so hard not to make it seem that he woke up this late even though everyone can see him through the open bedroom Linda Neighborwindow. It’s interesting that he washes his clothes inside the house instead of outside. Now I can smell him cooking something, and now he’s eat what looks like chappati. I have to get back to my chores and prepare the fire for cooking lunch.

Now I’m digging and I seem the muzungu come out and wave at me. I wave back and he disappears behind my house. I hear him attempt to speak in his awkward Luganda with the younger kids. He plays with them for a while, and then returns back to his house. I hear some snoring and realize that he’s asleep again on his living room bench. How can someone sleep this much all the time? He already slept in for four hours!

I’m busy sweeping the compound when the muzungu comes out of his house and starts sharing pieces of this sweet, gingerbread with us. He tells us that his friend from a country called Germany brought it back for him and that he wanted to share it with us. He discusses something with my father and some o the other villagers before returning back to his house. He opens the door to let my sister borrow his bicycle and allow the boarding pupils to play with this weird, plastic plate that they throw to each other. I even get a chance to ride on the bicycle, which is fun but I have to ask him to lower the seat because he raises it up too much.

As it gets dark, he goes and fills up his two 20 litre jerrycans from the rain-collection tank. He fills those two jerrycans everyday, and I wonder why he needs that much water all the time. I had one of my fellow neighbor friends ask him what he used all that water for. She comes back to me and tells me that he uses it to bathe, cook, water the newly planted grass, and wash clothes. I’m still not convinced that he uses 40 litres of water just for himself every day. Even my entire family doesn’t use that much water in a day.

The darkness comes and fortunately the electricity goes on in time for me to finish cooking the rest of the matook for dinner in our cooking shed. The muzungu is busy in his room watching something on his computer and moving his arms in a weird way. I think that he’s trying to dance, but I can’t hear the music. Several of the other neighborhood kids knock on his door and ask him to come out do show them the exercise video. They were telling me that a few days ago they opened his living room window and saw him doing some interesting exercise moves in his living room by following a video that he watched on his computer. It was cool to see the nice video quality and it was funny because the muzungu was only wearing his pants.

The muzungu brought out his laptop and told us that we would all have to do the exercises with him if we wanted to watch the video. I was tired and didn’t want to do the exercises. I also couldn’t see the laptop screen because there were 20 other pupils crowding around. I kept laughing because the muzungu and my friends looked so silly moving their bodies in weird motions that made them tired.

Over half of us were just watching and the other half would do the exercises if the muzungu was watching them. I just wanted to see the video and listen to the music that was interesting. At the end of the video we all clapped, but the muzungu looked at all of us in his slow Luganda. I have trouble understanding his accent or what he means sometimes. I think that he told us that he wouldn’t let us borrow his bicycle, plastic plate, or watch anymore exercise videos until next week because we were not taking the video seriously. He then closed his doors and windows without saying goodnight.

Why is he upset? He gets to sleep as much as he wants and eat the food that he wants to make. He is also leaving the village to go to his Peace Corps workshops and he has this laptop that shows videos. I always want to learn ICT and how to use a laptop, but he tells me that he cannot yet because he is so busy. I think that he is lying, because he doesn’t even dig that much other than the grass he plants in his compound. He is also ever sleeping and complaining or giving excuses the us about why he doesn’t do something or does something differently.

I have already discussed with the other pupils and secondary school students that this muzungu probably has a lot of money. Why doesn’t he just give it to us to help us with school fees or to buy us sweeties. Sometimes I think that he is just greedy and on vacation here to take the easy way out. He has so many nice things and he doesn’t even let us go inside his house to see any of them. I know that I will share my nice things if I had a bicycle, plastic plate, and laptop with the exercise videos.

It’s time to go to bed now, and I have to wake up early again tomorrow for school. I wonder what time the muzungu will wake up?

The Traditions of Gods and Cookstoves


Friday was definitely a busy day. I woke up a bit later than I wanted to and started editing my video detailing the ICT Lab Construction and how to donate the money to the Peace Corps Website (search Roxas in I was scheduled to meet with an Economic Development PCV, Jim Tanton, who visited my site because he was working with Virunga Engineering Works (VEW,!the-need-uganda/c16mg) to implement cookstoves at different PCVs’ sites. The idea behind them is that most schools and colleges throughout Uganda have to provide meals to the students, and most of them cook using the three-stone method. This isn’t the most efficient method of cooking since a lot of the heat is not directed upwards towards the ssefuliya (metal cooking pot) and is instead emanated outwards. Virgunga Engineering Cookstoves would are 70% more energy efficient than the three-stone method and also reduces cooking time by a little bit. This energy efficiency allows the school or college to use less firewood per term, which adds up to savings of sometimes more than 600,000/= per term.

So far Jim has visited a few other schools and colleges besides mine in order to take preliminary measurements regarding each individual site. The project would cost around $9600 which is covered by a PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) Grant through the Peace Corps Small Grants forum. The only catch with the project is that some of the initial money saved from the energy efficiency at the beginning has to go towards an HIV/AIDS related project such as a workshop, an HIV/AIDS testing day, an awareness day, or something other than just putting up posters on the walls. Other than that the project really helps out the schools and colleges and allows for the savings to be used for other expenditures every year, including volunteer projects.

So Jim met with the Luteete PTC bursar, cooks, and other staff members in order to take initial measurements of the college kitchen, which is a smoky room with two 70cm ssefuliyas that utilize the three-stone fire method. The estimate was that the college could save up to 300,000/= every term, which adds up to 900,000/= every year. I plan to draft a contract with the college that would allot a significant portion of this money to up-keeping the ICT lab as well as allowing for further development of the site in terms of paying tutors on time, purchasing new books, and future plans for later PCVs that will come to my site.

However, the only problem involved finding someone to write a grant for me since I am already in the midst of a PCPP Grant at my PTC. Fortunately, Rebekah Roland at the Nakaseke PTC agreed to help me in this regard. The goal is that I would write the contents of the grant and she would then put her name on it instead of me.

Jim then left, and I hurriedly went back to editing my video for the ICT Lab fund-raising. I was rushing because the power was out and I had limited time to use my laptop and then render the video, especially since Adobe Premiere Elements 10 still crashed on me, and I also had to make it to Mityana before it got dark since I was expected at the Central Luganda Group’s Homestay Farewell Celebration on Saturday morning. I finished the video by noon, packed up my things, and then biked to Wobulenzi. I took a takisi to Kampala and then had to walk all the way to the main Barclays Bank because I literally had 3000/= left in my wallet. I had spent a lot of money during 4th of July, and I also spent money every week travelling to Nakaseke for the radio show and then to Mityana for my homestay visits. Fortunately, Peace Corps has this thing where PCVs are reimbursed and given a stipend when travelling and training for Peace Corps events.

PCVs are given 22,500/= per diem for every day that he or she is travelling and 30,000/= per diem for every full day that that PCV is doing training: such as workshops, trainings, medical reasons, and any other reason that Peace Corps would need you to travel anywhere. In addition to the per diem, PCVs are also reimbursed for the travel costs incurred for these events.

Example: Volunteer Travel Reimbursement Form NOV 2013

Fortunately, the Peace Corps staff processed my previous reimbursement forms and the money was in my bank account. I withdrew my money and then made my way back to the New Taxi Park to get to Mityana. I walked up the road from Busuubizi to Kololo hill to stay at Jenn’s site again and passed out after very busy day.

I woke up on Saturday and shared a cup of coffee with Jenn. I went out on the porch to read some Peace Corps blogs, and I read a post about a PCV in another East African country who was distraught about what happened at his site. It turns out that he was teaching a primary school class and one of the male teachers took some of the students to the farm where he raped some of them. I was stunned to read his testimonial and hear about something so vile that could be done. The worst part about it was that there was nothing that he could do about it. The system was so corrupt that even if the girls were to testify against him, the male teacher’s word would still hold more weight than the girls.

It hurt me so much to read this, especially since I was also a teacher. I then thought back to my site and thought of the innocent children whom I played with everyday and how much I would give to ensure that something like that never happened to them. The testimonial that I read moved me so much, that I was brought to tears for a bit and just needed a few moments alone to process what I had just read. It’s one thing to know that these things happen, but it’s another thing to read or hear about it from a someone who’s grown so attached to his or her students.

I collected my thoughts and journeyed to the New Highway Hotel in Mityana where the 5 PCV Trainees were havingNew Central Group Dance their homestay farewell celebration. There was the usual sharing of traditional dances, proverbs, sayings, speeches, music, and a trivia contest. We finished up the celebration and the trainees, Herbert the Luganda language trainer, and I went to visit the Ttanda Archaeological Archives. The legend goes that the founders of the Buganda Kingdom were Kintu and Nambi whose descendents comprise the Royal Family of the Kabaka (King of the Central Buganda Kingdom). Nambi’s father was Ggulu, which means heaven or the above. Nambi had two legendary brothers known as Walumbe, meaning death or disease, and Kayikuuzi, meaning excavator.

At some point Walumbe began killing Kintu and Nambi’s children, and Ggulu told Kayikuuzi to bring Walumbe back. This resulted in a chase leading to Ttanda where Walumbe dove straight into the ground. Kayikuuzi would then dig deep holes right where Walumbe dove in order to excavate him. Mystically, Walumbe would appear elsewhere on the Ttanda grounds and mock Kayikuuzi. Walumbe kept diving into the ground and Kayikuuzi kept trying to dig him out until over 200 conical pits were dug.

*Note: Muganda means someone who is from the Central Uganda Kingdom. Baganda is just the plural form.

Ttanda Archaological GroundsWe walked onto the grounds which are still regarded as sacred to some of the Baganda people. The mysticism of the pits involve Baganda who have visions about certain things, such as twins, peace, colors, electricity, sweetness and other things that pertain to various senses that cause them to make a pilgrimage of sorts to the Ttanda grounds to pay respect to the ancestors of the Kabaka. Each pit represents something specific that a Muganda pilgrim would go to after seeing a vision. For example, if a Muganda in a far-off Central village was crippled and then had a vision about one of the pits, he or she would travel to the Ttanda grounds and go to the pit having to do with cripples and walking. That person would then spend anywhere from a night to several months there in the hopes that the ancestors would help her in some way. In the very least, the vision would have brought her there to allow her to pay respects to her forefathers and foremothers.

Local Brew PotsThere were many congregations of Baganda there. Some were drinking the local alcoholic brew out of clay pots, some were smoking joints around a smoky fire, others were praying on woven mats, some were offering sacrifices of pineapple and various fruits, while others were wandering around the Ttanda grounds. We were told that some of the Baganda who came there smoked in order to commune with the ancestors. Honestly, it reminded me a bit of some Native American tribes who smoke peyote in order to go on spirit quests.

To show our respects, we removed our shoes and continued wandering around the community filled with pits. One of the PCVs, who was a geologist, was completely befuddled by the pits because it didn’t make any sense how they came to exist. From a geological standpoint there was no obvious reason how they came to be near the Mityana area. Some of the pits went down for hundreds of feet and we were told of a story about a man who fell down one of them and died. He was eventually retrieved by a brave Muganda.

Kayikuuzi SpearsSo we continued through the grounds and made our way out of that place of pits and ancient beliefs. What intrigued me the most about the visit was the coexistence of these local beliefs with the overarching strength of religions of Christianity and Islam. I tried to relate it to the beliefs of Voodoo and Christianity in Haiti, the belief in the Holy Death and Christianity in South America, as well as the concept of basic superstitions in American culture coupled with our own religious beliefs.

So it was another jam-packed weekend filled with a lot of different things happening one right after the other. Fortunately, I have a full schedule ahead of me and I look forward to the weeks and projects ahead.

Ugandan Proverb Mashup:

“Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. If God is willing, teach that man to cook and he will eat for the rest of his life. If what he cooks doesn’t come out right, he still has to cut the grass.”


Giving a handout to someone only fills an immediate need and is sustainable. Our future is not in our hands, but if God decides it then we can give someone the skills to empower him and live his own life. But if it doesn’t work out he still has to deal with the life that he is living.

The Typical Slump


It’s another lazy weekend. When I look ahead to the things that I need to accomplish I’m pretty much up-to-date with everything for the immediate future. Bigger commitments lay further away in the far future and will be dealt with as they come. I thought that I could hone a pre-existing skill of mine or learn a new one, but there’s nothing to really do right now. The chores are all done, I’ve lesson planned, my Luganda Site Liaison PACA (Participatory Analysis for Community Action) presentation is prepared, and I’ve already wandered around my neighbors houses to play with the children several times today. There has to be a solution to feeling like there’s something more that I could be doing, but realizing that there’s nothing to be done at the moment.

I’ve been reading other Peace Corps blogs about what PCVs wished they had done during their free time in-service. A lot of them wrote that free time could have been better spent working on a particular skill that would help them for employment after their service. I’ve been trying to find something to keep me occupied these past few days. Recently I started baking breads with yeast, like plain white bread and focaccia. I’ve also started collecting seeds from several plants in order to germinate them and eventually plant them in my courtyard.

Then when I find myself with free time, I tend to marathon watch episodes of tv shows or skip ahead to my favorite Mityana Sunset Roadscenes from the movies on my hard drive. However, I feel guilty about this. I feel guilty that I’m watching tv shows and movies during the Peace Corps. This is one of the most exciting times of my life and I’m choosing to spend a good chunk of it sitting in front of my laptop and watching past seasons of addicting tv shows. The other day PCV in Mityana, Chris, shared a story with me about the time before he started his service in Uganda when he met an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). When asked what his typical schedule looked like during his service, the RPCV replied that he spent a lot of time sleeping in order to just pass the time. Chris was incredulous that someone who is in the Peace Corps spends his days sleeping when he could be out adventuring through the village or learning a new life skill. Almost 26 months later Chris told me that he now understands what that RPCV meant.

I ask myself if I’m wasting my time. I wonder if there is something better to improve myself or my community instead of cooping myself inside my house and watching tv shows or sleeping just to pass the time. While I would like to say that there is nothing to do, I know that I would be lying. There definitely is something to do, but sometimes the motivation is not there. I know myself well enough to understand that I get frustrated when there’s not a difficult or challenging project on which to apply myself. Right now there are other smaller projects and activities that I could be working on, but don’t feel motivated to start. I could plan a small workshop for the primary school, work on finding archetypal examples of good writing for the writing club, weeding the backyard, fixing the rat holes in my ceiling, or actually having a solid, lengthy conversation with one of the families whom I bike past during my ride to and from Wobulenzi.

So while I should be comfortable in just being, I should also be proactive and understand that each moment here is a moment in a life that has its ups and downs, exciting times and low times. I need to ride out this slump and take it in all of its mundane glory because it’s just as much a part of my Peace Corps experience as anything else that happens to me here.

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.



You have to be frank sometimes, because it gets hard to fake it. Today Uganda celebrated Martyrs’ Day, which is a national holiday. There were parades all over the nation, family celebrations, and schools also closed for the day. However, it was still a work day for me. I would say that Peace Corps teaches patience, but that it also makes one frustrated. I still have that piece of America that values some sort of privacy and respect. I don’t mean that many Ugandans whom I meet here aren’t respectful, it’s just that social boundaries and respect come in different forms here.

It felt good to sleep in today, and I continued the routine of making breakfast chappats, French pressed Nile Coffee, and washing clothes. I decided to be more proactive today and attempted to make the promotional video about Northern Camp BUILD. However, as it turns out my Adobe Premiere Elements 10 continuously crashes after I add any video segment, which greatly increases the time needed to create a video. Even after uninstalling and reinstalling the program, it continued to crash, which did not bode well for future video making endeavors.

So I decided to then bike up to the hill where I can get internet access in order to work on the Survival ICT presentation that I would be giving this Saturday at Kulika for the new group. I would also be able to check on the progress of the project that I am currently working on concerning the creation of an ICT lab at the PTC. My supervisor and I had been working together over the course of the past three weeks. He consulted the college architect, and a plan was drafted that would lead to the setting of a foundation and creation of a building block ICT lab. The total cost of the project is 17.25 million shillings, and he said that the college and community would be able to fund 7.25 million of those shillings.

My plan is to have the other 10 million shillings funded by organizations, friends, and families back home through a crowd funding website. I had luck with GoFundMe before, but in order for donations to be tax-deductible a GoFundMe page must be associated with a certified charity with a 501(c)(3) tax id. Every day I have been in contact with members from my Maryland high school, Loyola Blakefield, and the Boston University Catholic Center in order to see if it would somehow be possible to use their charity’s id for the GoFundMe page so that donations would be tax deductible. It’s been slow work, since I sometimes have internet in my house and on the hill.

The other option would be to register my project on the actual Peace Corps Volunteer Projects, which would allow all donations to be tax deductible and sent to me 100% without any charges. So far, I am waiting on that to pass through the Peace Corps administration.

So that the possibilities are going through my mind while I sit on a rock on this hill, and every so often a group of Ugandans stop by and literally crowd around me as I type on my laptop. I know that they’re just curious to see me working on the laptop, but it really disrupts my concentration. Here I am attempting to work on training presentation and ICT lab funding as 10+ Ugandans squat within 2 inches of my being to see and poke at my laptop screen. It shouldn’t bother me; I shouldn’t even be bothered by it, but it took so much of my effort not to just tell them to go away. I continued to tell them that I was busy working (even as my power was draining and my internet intermittently would switch from 3G+ to EDGE), and they continued to ask me questions.

I think that they realized that I was upset, because they later came back to give me mangoes. But even ripe, juicy mangoes couldn’t help me update my ICT presentation with information from the non-customer friendly websites of MTN, Orange, and Airtel. Honestly I used up so much data and time in my attempts to find seemingly simple information about each company. Sometimes I would click on a link on one of the websites and the link would bring me to a blank page.

I then bike back home, and by then I’m already frustrated with how the day off turned out. I know that I have no reason to be frustrated, but I just am. The last frustrating event was when some of the neighborhood teens waited by my front door as I was bringing back my semi-dry clothes from the clothesline. They asked me for my bicycle and where I had just returned from even though they knew that it was too late to ride my bicycle and that I had just come from the clothesline. When I answered their questions in Luganda, they all burst out laughing. That just irked me.

*Right as I wrote the previous line in this entry, my neighbor knocked on the door and asked to be given a Microsoft Word lesson. I spent the last two hours showing him how to type, highlight words, make a table, and change the font.

To be honest, helping my neighbor this time was both annoying and satisfying. I was glad to help my neighbor and his great curiosity to learn about computers, but I was also not in the ideal mindset today to be as effective a teacher as I hoped to be. The feelings that I am going through now remind me of my college days when I was spending upwards of 8 hours in the computer lab in my attempts to solve a homework set or class project.

The problem now is not that the problems are too complicated, but that they are too simple. I love my neighbors and this community, but sometimes it bothers me that even the adults whom I work with have no idea how to type a simple sentence on Microsoft Word, let alone open up an internet browser. And then there are teenagers around the world who have created websites, revolutionized coding languages, and changed the landscape of global technology.

My hope is that through the creation of an ICT lab in this community can help educate and empower the Ugandans in this community to forge their own path in life and show them that there are possibilities greater than the life that they live in right now.

I also understand that my frustration, along with all things in life, too shall pass.

Welcome Back Satellites

5/19/14 – 5/22/14

So on Monday I travelled back to Kampala in order to make it to TOT (Training of Trainers) for the incoming Health and Agriculture group of PCVs arriving at the beginning of June. The training was held back in Kulika, where the past few cohorts had their PST (Pre-Service Training).

So in my last post I talked about my delicious coffee at Acacia Mall in Kisementi. The mall was absolutely gorgeous Definition Store Acacia Malland breathtaking, and it reminded me of those really upscale malls in the United States that had a nail salon, gelato, elevators (a big deal in Uganda), supermarkets, movie theaters, restaurants (like KFC), and hipster stores. Other than the Rwenzori coffee and hazelnut gelato that I obtained, I also explored the Definition Store ( that is all about Ugandan pride. The store reminded me of a small Urban Outfitters feel, but had stickers, shirts, pants, pillows, fabric, bags, postcards, and buttons all about Uganda such as: Live Aid Let’s Trade, RUN KLA, Matooke Republic, Banange! (My Goodness), R&B (Rice and Beans), RAP (Rice and Peas), and various other hipster Ugandan-inspired designs.

Return to KulikaI especially appreciated the first one about focusing on trading with African nations and their own economies as opposed to band aid solutions or throwing money at the problem. Eventually I left the mall and made my way back to a takisi that was supposed to take me to Lugogo Mall where a Peace Corps coaster (large van) would take me and several other volunteers to Kulika. I then received a call from Rachel Belkin, my fellow PCV friend and warden, explaining how there was a terror attack alert for Lugogo Mall and areas with heavy traffic. Of course, I was stuck in a takisi in traffic. As my takisis slowly crawled back to the center of the city, I continued receiving more and more calls from Rachel asking about my whereabouts. Finally, it was decided that the Peace Corps coaster would just pick me up from where I was stuck in traffic at Nakuwa Taxi Park.

Fortunately there was no terrorist attack, and all the PCVs safely made it to Kulika for TOT. My first evening there was weird, because it brought back memories when I had first arrived in country. It was odder still for the older PCVs who had arrived in-country more than a year ago. A lot of them kept saying that they were not the same person whom they were when they had first arrived in Uganda. And even though I have only lived in-country for 6 months, I too feel as if I am such a different person.

Now I return as the satellite liaison for the incoming Luganda language group (each incoming group of PCVs are split Empty Kulikainto different language groups dependent on their future site after PST). I have experienced what it means to start teaching, implementing project ideas, and am getting used to the difficulty associated with accomplishing seemingly simple tasks in this country. It was cool to see the messages posted on the incoming PCVs’ Facebook group wall concerning their last minute packing questions and anxieties concerning their departure.

Honestly, this TOT just got me excited to see how a new group adjusts to life in-country. I think that their enthusiasm and wonder at the newness of things in this country will only serve to re-inspire me to give back and help teach these newbies what I already know. I also expect to learn a lot from them in return.

Yet, despite these changes things still remain the same at Kulika: the farm is still organic, the dorms look the same, the grass is still beautifully manicured, the food is still delicious, the bathrooms still have warm showers and toilets, and there are still some familiar faces around. I still can’t shake the feeling that there are ghosts of my time spent there when my fellow PCVs who moved to Uganda with me were still felt a sense of wonder at the newness of everything and the adventure ahead. I still believe that there is an adventure lying ahead, but this time I will no longer just be an observing passenger.

*Note: Satellite Liaisons are a special type of trainer whose duties include visiting the language site of the incoming PCVs group (in my case Luganda) and helping the group members better integrate into the culture and help them understand the importance of the language learning.



I honestly think that one of the biggest talents that I will gain from the Peace Corps is patience. I have learned to be patient waiting for the internet to work on the only nearby hill that has any semblance of 3G+ internet (since my Orange EDGE and 3G don’t work), when children rush to touch and look at my computer screen, when I never know when a meeting will start, and when things don’t happen as fast as I want them to. Honestly, everyday is similar to waiting at the DMV except that there isn’t a line or the anticipation for your number to be called. You simply just have to wait. I have found myself getting very good at just recalling fond memories from my adventures, movies that I have seen, performances that I have been a part of and witnessed, successes, foods that I look forward to eating, and stories that I have read. I let myself doze off into daydreams or just sit back on a rock on my hill and just soak in the setting Ugandan sun and the cool rushing wind. Waiting for about 30 minutes will sometimes reward me with about 4 minutes of internet access during which I rush to check and send important Peace Corps emails that were due a week ago, while simultaneously explaining what I am doing in Luganda to the local children who surround the rock that I sit upon.

After I feel that it is getting too late, or that I can no longer wait for the internet to come I disembark from my rock and walk back down the hill to my home. As I look around I see Ugandans hauling their bikes loaded with jerrycans totaling over 100 liters of water, chappati vendors hard at work rolling and frying dough, children bringing the goats back home from their grazing grounds, and the women preparing the dinner on the charcoal sagiris for the families. Then I laugh at myself because I realize that no matter how patient I am, I will never be as patient as a Ugandan. Because for them, they endure.