The First Goodbyes

19/11/15

I said goodbye to my year 1 students and one of my neighbors today. I finally felt better today, so I washed my clothes after the torrential downpour of the morning subsided and then made my way to the PTC. I gave my supervisor a very nice fountain pen from Boston University and discussed the last few discussion points of my service:

  • Term timetable for the ICT tutors
  • Driving me to Kampala from Luteete
  • What to expect to do with my successor
  • Schedule for my last three weeks in-country

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I then spent one of my last days teaching in the computer lab. A few year 2 students came in and I taught them the basics of holding the mouse, practicing drag-and-drop with solitaire, and the functions of major keyboard keys. We also had a heated discussion where I tried to convince them that being black doesn’t make you any less intelligent, developed, or able to succeed compared to “whites”. What really riled me was when they said that they would much rather prefer a “white” person like me as a Peace Corps Volunteer than a black African Peace Corps Volunteer. They just couldn’t comprehend that black people could be successful or called true Americans because of their skin color. So honestly, it wasn’t that different than many of the discussions that I have had with them.

It feels weird, because I was teaching as if it was any other day during the term, but I knew that everything would soon be different. In less than a month I would be hanging out with friends in Amsterdam and I would breathe in the frigid December air. I left the ICT lab in the late afternoon and said goodbye to the year 1 students whom I could see. Naturally, they all wanted my contact information and photo.

When I got back to my house, I shared some samosas with my villagers and then said goodbye to Master Okia. Master Okia is one of the fathers who lives in a house near mine in Luteete, and he would be leaving next week for a month-long trip. Since I would be leaving in the first week of December, I made sure to knock on his door and personally say farewell. He requested that when I return back to the United States, that I not forget the people of Luteete.

Right now I am wondering how it could be possible for me to forget my experiences here. I honestly believe that I have enough life experiences here to fill a few average lifetimes. I tend to stop and gaze at things here for a few moments and reflect on my time. I look at the growing apple trees, the organized library that has progressed from having a part-time student librarian to a full-time librarian, and a functional ICT lab with eager students. I know that I will leave here with no regrets.

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Old and New

8/11/15

I finally finished all of the Peace Corps video projects that the office wanted me to film and edit together. As a result, I have four regional videos showcasing various PCV projects, a video about how a PCV saved a Ugandan Lieutenant’s life during the 1971 Idi Amin coup against Obote, and how PCV’s work with their counterparts. As I finished these videos, I took some time to reflect on these past few days in the village. The days are zooming by faster than ever, and in a few days we’ll be welcoming a new Peace Corps Uganda cohort. Looking back there my entire viewpoint and belief system has radically changed since that time I left Maryland back in November 2013. I have recently been connecting with old friends and acquaintances in Facebook in order to prep them for my eventual re-entry into the United States, and already I can feel see how much I have changed when I look at the last messages that I sent to my friends. I talked about going to Africa, helping people, and answering the call of adventure for a lifetime.

Now I look back on those messages and feel as if the person who wrote them was much more immature and callow than the one reading them. I will be unable to tell the “African story”, as the BBC news report puts it. I will still be unsure if I really helped anyone in the sustainable, long-term. But I will definitely understand that if I want it, then even back in the United States I can keep my edge. I don’t believe that there should be this fine line between the workday and the weekend, or between the work year and a vacation. I want to be able to live in the United States and still adventure every day or motivate myself to try something instead of just liking it on Facebook.

I’m still young, but at times I feel much older than I once was. Yesterday was the commissioning of the Year 2 students at Luteete PTC. I attended the ceremony, which started 2 hours late at 10am and continued until 4pm when lunch was finally served. By now I was already used to having a few hundred eyes staring at me, the long-winded speeches, a mass service where the preacher proclaimed that Jesus was a better leader than Hitler or Napoleon,  and a captive audience where I was asked to give a speech in Luganda. To be honest, I enjoyed the day with my fellow teachers, students, and their family members. As I daydreamed throughout the event, I reminisced about my own high school graduation in 2009 and my college graduation in 2013. I dreamed about baccalaureate mass, senior week in ocean city, fulfilling my college bucket list during my college senior week, the soundtrack of college graduation parties compared to Ugandan dancehall tunes, and how everything was about to change.

I have been living the dream for two years now. I am interested in seeing how it will be to look back on these experiences in a country where the African dream is still a thing. I’ll definitely have a tale or two when I get back and I’m sure that I’m ready for another adventure.

“The old taxis will stage at home again… the young bodas will ride away.”

Hiking Mt. Elgon

3/4/15 – 6/4/15

I felt very fulfilled after this Passover and Easter weekend. On Friday I did my usual journey to Kampala where I met up with Rachel at the Kamwokya Taxi Stage in the New Taxi Park. We made it to the Peace Corps office as the DMO (Director of Management and Operations) was pulling out of the office parking lot. She quizzically asked us why we were in Kampala and Rachel stated that she was bringing in quilts from Piece by Peace. I just remained silent as she drove away. I picked up my tent from the Peace Corps Volunteer lounge and Rachel dropped her quilts at the office where staff was working on the upcoming Youth Technical Trainings. As I entered the office, they told us that Kampala was still on strict lockdown due to the possible terrorist attack as notified by both the British and U.S. Embassies. As a result, we technically shouldn’t have been in Kampala.

Rachel and I quickly departed the office, but not before I accidentally sat in a swivel chair and knocked down a dry-erase board and glass wall clock that shattered on the ground. We sojourned to the frenzy of the Ugandans in the Bus Park and obtained tickets to Mbale. Honestly, after battling a few dozen Ugandans who bull-rushed a ticket vendor for the next available bus with two backpacking backpacks and a tent, I will never be upset when waiting at the DMV with a numbered ticket stub. The ride was uneventful in that it started to storm halfway through the ride and one of the passengers complained that the bus kept stopping to pick up people along the road who were headed to Mbale. This sparked an interesting debate where many of the passengers and bus staff took a stand against the complaining passenger. Personally, I would have endorsed this complaint except that I didn’t want to be kicked out of the bus.

By the late evening we arrived in Mbale and made our way to PCV Cindy’s house where she was hosting over 10 other PCV’s. The plan for the weekend was that on Saturday we would share a Jewish Passover Seder Meal with the Abayudaya. From what Rachel told me, the Abayudaya (“People of Judah” in Luganda) was the group of converted Ugandan Jews who resided near Mbale, read the Torah, and observed the high holy days. Half of the PCV’s at Cindy’s house were Jews who wanted to attend the Seder Meal and the other half were those who were interested in sharing in such an experience. I had also organized an overnight hike on Mt. Elgon on Easter Sunday with my fellow tutors at Luteete PTC, Masters Joseph and Dan.

It started more than a month ago during lunch at the PTC when Master Joseph asked me about my bike ride to Fort Portal. When I told him how much I enjoyed the scenery of western and southwestern Uganda, he told me that I should also see his home region of the east, especially Mt. Elgon. He also suggested that I bring my friends. As a result, he contacted his old friend from secondary school named Richard who lived near an Mzee (old man) who lived on a village high in Mt. Elgon National Park. Many phone calls later among myself, Rachel, the Abayudaya Rabbi, Cindy, Master Joseph, Richard, and the Mzee it was decided that the Mzee’s village on Mt. Elgon would host us Sunday until Monday. Other than that, there were no other details.

On Saturday evening we took a private vehicle to the Abayudaya Village where we met up with Abayudaya Arrivalsome other Ugandan Jews, a Jewish NGO volunteer, and an Israeli named Daniel Goldberg (a very unique name as I was assured by those PCV’s not in the Jew Crew). It was quite interesting to hear the history of the Abayudaya during the Seder Meal. A few decades ago when the Christian missionaries were in the Mbale area, the local chief disagreed with the New Testament of the Bible and told his community members to follow the Old Testament only. The ensuing congregation was proto-Judaism, because they intended and attempted to follow the rules of Judaism, but didn’t have the skills, training, or materials to do so. There was a drop in congregation members during the reign of the anti-semitic Idi Amin but through the contact of an Israeli diplomat and Rabbis from the United States several of the Ugandans were officially converted to Judaism.

The main leader behind the main Jewish community in Mbale was Kakungula who had himself circumcised. Right now there are 7 remaining villages where Judaism is practiced by native Ugandans. The Rabbi who presided over the Seder Meal actually lived in Israel for some time where he learned Hebrew and became an accredited and ordained Rabbi.

Seder MealThe community looked like any other Ugandan village, except that there were a lot of Stars of David and donated Jewish books from Jewish communities (mainly tri-state area and New England) all over the United States. The Seder Meal went by quickly, and the prayers were sung in Hebrew with a Ugandan dancehall track playing in the background. All the meat was Kosher and we followed the traditional format of Seder Meal. Personally, I felt that this was such a cool experience because I had never attended a Seder Meal, and I had never expected that my first time would be in Uganda with the Ugandan Jewish converts. Contrary to popular belief, the Abayudaya are not a lost tribe.

Takisi stuck in mudEarly the next morning we packed up our bags and all got into a privately hired takisi headed towards Mt. Elgon, along with Masters Joseph and Dan. Master Joseph lived in the Mbale region and showed us his house and nearby cliff that gave us a panoramic view of Mt. Elgon in the distance. He told us that years ago, the hills and cliffs of this region provided the Ugandans with refuge from the northern Karamajong tribes who would raid the villages. The locals would hide in the hills and roll down boulders upon the raiders until they left.

The takisi wound its way down forest paths and over foot bridges that crisscrossed the River Sironko after reaching Budadiri town. We continued down towards Bugitimwa but our takisi got stuck at Kiguye trading center due to the mud from the onset of rainy season. Interestingly enough, we were a bit concerned about mudslides since in the past few years a few hundred people have died in this region due to mudslides from the torrential downpours. After a break of fresh chappatis, the takisi got out of the mud and continued on a tortuous and harrowing road of muddy banks and deep puddles of brown goop that made us hope that a nearby PCV would cushion our fall if our takisi were to careen off one of the hairpin turns. Fortunately, a few kilometers later we arrived at Buwodeya town and collected ourselves at the Butina Primary School that was started by the Mzee.

Most of the community gathered to see us as we sat down to watch a small greeting from the Bugitimwa Primary Schoolpupils at the school. The pupils performed three song and dance numbers with the words “My name is ____insert name here____, welcome our visitors!” as a mentally challenged older woman danced in front of them. Soon enough we continued our hike through the wide roads of the town, and then upwards. The road was still wide enough for a car to pass through, but steep enough that we needed to put in constant effort to make it up the slope. About 30 minutes up, the path became much narrower and we ventured into the forest.

The path was very muddy from the rains of the previous day, but every now and then a jutting rock would allow us to clamber onto dryer ground. I couldn’t believe that we were exploring an area that Hannah Fallingno non-Ugandans had ever seen before. The hike was splendid, and we kept crossing over small streams and bridges. At one point, one of the PCV’s in the group fell on a stepping stone in a stream and instead of helping her we all decided to take photos as I yelled, “Why are we taking photos?!” Fortunately, Rachel, being the most coordinated person on the hike, slid down the banks of the stream to hold the fallen PCV’s hair.

About two hours later, we were greeted by a village set upon a hill. On either side of the hill were deep valleys bounded by even larger hills. I felt like I was in a hidden valley and all I could think about was how much I wanted to each ranch dressing in that wide open air. Of course the southwest will always remain gorgeous to me, but this area was unseen by western eyes and so different than anything else that I had seen. I wondered how difficult it must have been for the villagers to walk all the way down to the stream from their hill and then bring that water back up the muddy paths. Even though the entire village stopped working in order to silently gather in a crowd and stare at us, there were no catcalls or jeering. No one even called us Muzungu because most of them didn’t even know what they should call us. Even as PCV’s we were in literally uncharted territory.

Kusi VillageThe Mzee and Richard told us that we were in the Masaba sub-county in Kusi Village, which is part of the Zesui Parish. Richared further told me that this place could be located on Google Maps by searching Bukanguye Catholic Church.

They greeted us as honored guests with meals of roasted goat, steamed yams, irish potatoes, another variety of yams, beans, and the local dish called Malewa. Malewa is pasted bamboo shoots. They first steam the bamboo shoots and then cook it with ground g-nut paste. It tasted a bit like bland creamed spinach. After lunch, I hung out at the top of the hill where the village’s sloping farms ended and the adjacent game park began. I just felt so amazing relaxing in the tall grass where the cows grazed and as the sun set. I felt as if I was back in a field or park in Maryland during early fall when the sun was still warm but the wind was cold enough to warrant the wearing of a sweater.

Confession: During the group picture, I was moving everyone’s things out of the shot and accidentally kicked a bottle of water at a child’s face.

We dropped our bags in our tents and bamboo shelters and we continued to hike down one side of the hill in order to make for a jutting rock structure in the distance called Mt. Zesui. Even though we were in Mt. Elgon National Park, we were still allowed to wander around since Richard had made a deal with the local police officers and park officials of the Uganda Wildlife Authority since we were the guests of the locals. After hiking for more than an hour, we felt that we weren’t that much closer to Mt. Zesui and it was getting dark so we headed back across the ravine-like valley.

I can still remember the cool wind upon my skin as the sun set beyond the curtain of hills that Sunset over Elgonmarked the beginnings of Mt. Elgon. I couldn’t believe how perfectly everything had come together and what a wonderful surprise this adventure had become. Master Dan swore Cindy and me as honorary Kampala scouts and gave us scarves with the colors of the Ugandan flag. What made this even cooler was that Master Dan is the brother of my homestay father in Luweero.

The night was spent huddle on the dry side of our tents that was covered by the extra tarp that I had brought since our cheap Nakumatt-bought tents weren’t waterproof. In the morning, we were greeted by over 15 children staring at our tents. We sung a few Peace Corps camp songs for them, wrote the village thank you letters, and paid for the food, guards, and guides.

We made it back down Mt. Elgon without any incident and rode the takisi back to Cindy’s house Mt. Elgon Group Village Shotwhere we chilled and made a gigantic Mexican feast. As I sat there among friends with the cool winds heralding the onset of a fully matured rainy season, all I could think about was how perfect that weekend was. I mean during some weekends in Uganda I feel as if I spent most of it partying with PCV’s and spending a lot of money on an experience or adventure. Or in other cases I spend it too local in the village or at a Ugandan event where I am the local celebrity. During this weekend, I felt as if I had the marriage of both worlds. I felt that even though I was with other PCV’s, I was also willingly immersing myself in Ugandan culture and sharing these experiences with my teachers who were sharing their homes with me.

As I rested my tired body and soul down in the tent on Monday night in Cindy’s courtyard, all I could think was that I wouldn’t have spent Easter weekend any other way.

Submitted PCPP Grant Application

I just finished submitting a PCPP (Peace Corps Partnership Program) Grant Application for the construction and furnishing of an ICT Lab building at the Luteete PTC. The unique thing about this grant is that it relies on donations from donors who give money through a link on the main Peace Corps Website. It’s pretty much a Peace Corps backed GoFundMe website in order for Peace Corps Volunteers to get their projects crowd-funded. I’ve also contacted people at my middle school, high school, and university in the hopes that some of them would be able to support me in this project. Honestly, I think that it would be the coolest thing to know that the institutions that were instrumental in shaping me also helped in supporting this community that I have also started to call home.

A Writing Club

One of the other secondary projects that I’ve been starting at Luteete PTC has been the writing club where students write whatever they want and then share it with the group for editing. After the editing process, the works are uploaded on this website (http://toseethevillage.wordpress.com/) for the whole world to read.

I’m going to add this site as one of the pages on this blog so that others may have the opportunity to read what my students are writing.

Video of My Site

I feel that one can only get so much from reading someone’s summary or views of an experience. So I made a two-part video explaining what I’m doing at my site in Luteete PTC as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda, Africa. I hope that you enjoy it and get a small taste of what it’s like to be living in my village and walking in my shoes.

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hC7lZ_BWnc

Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLmeKiXAXe4

Mwebale kulaba videos zange.

Never the Same

9/4/14

So I’m in the midst of teaching my Year 1 students in the hopes that they can somehow retain the knowledge of basic pre-algebra. These are students who are in their upper teens and the spread in knowledge and experience is very vast. I have some students in class who are very bored because they know all of the answers, and then I have some students who don’t pay attention because the material is too difficult for them. I started off teaching last week with basic addition, then moved on to subtraction, multiplication, division, incorporating decimals and negatives, and then on to powers today. I’ve been teaching a bit more thoroughly than the Ugandan curriculum (which has some typos and mathematical errors) for mathematics in a PTC.

I never thought that one day I would be the teacher giving the quizzes and expecting the students to understand concepts to a certain level. However, I cannot blame the students who are performing poorly, because many of them come from educational backgrounds that are less than ideal. I have some students in the classroom who were struggling with basic addition, and then I have some students who are ready for higher level algebra. That much is apparent in the daily quizzes that I give my class with questions pertaining to the lesson of the previous day.

I believe that giving these students a thorough background in the basics of mathematics can help inspire them to be better students and eventually better student teachers. I want to give my students a fighting chance to grow and have the opportunity to achieve more than the average Ugandan’s life can achieve. As I was grading the quizzes concerning the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of negative numbers I was dismayed at first by the lower marks on the first dozen or so quizzes. However, as I continued I found that the majority of the students scored around the 70%-80% range and a few of them even managed to get 100%. I felt as if I was at least reaching some of the students and that hopefully there is a Gaussian distribution of grades.

I had also promised my class a prize for a game that we were playing. So today I brought my saucepans and ingredients to make a banana cake from scratch. I had asked the custodian to bring a sagiri and charcoal to the college at 5pm today in order to show them all how to bake without an oven. So I shared with them the recipe from the Peace Corps Uganda cookbook and demonstrated how to make a makeshift dutch oven using a smaller metal saucepan placed on top of rocks inside two larger saucepans placed on top of a sagiri. We played a quick game of Ultimate Frisbee while we waited for the cake to bake.

I was even able to incorporate some math and reading into the demonstration by having the students read and copy down the recipe and show how recipe proportions worked.

However, what stuck to me the most today was a comment left on my blog from a Ugandan who had moved to the United States. It was a very eloquently written comment concerning your typical culture shock but also how living in another country changes you. The perspective of the comment concerned moving to the United States from Uganda and how that person missed so many things from her homeland. It almost seemed as if she was describing the exact opposite of what I was feeling. She talked about eating marshmallows and hamburgers and missing Ugandan dishes. She would travel hours across many state-lines just to hang out with other Africans. However, she stressed that experiences such as living for many years in another country or volunteering in the Peace Corps makes you change forever. No matter how much I yearn for the things that I was once used to back home, once I eventually attain them in 22 months they will no longer mean what I thought they meant to me. Of course it is okay to miss things from back home, but right now I am living in my home of Uganda. I can either embrace the culture and truly attempt to understand how a Ugandan lives, or I can continuously try to only speak English, eat pizza, watch American movies, and never really know why Ugandans act the way or think the way that they do.

Even know after 5 months I feel that I have changed. I no longer have the urgent need to always be on the internet, I decided that po sho and beans are amazingly delicious, how everything in the world is linked, how difficult it is to accomplish almost anything in this country, and also how much I feel that I love the life that I am living right now. I love going to sleep underneath my mosquito net, taking cold bucket baths, fetching water from the nearby water tank after a heavy rainfall, talking with the cutest, young children in P1 who can’t speak any English yet, and surprising villagers by speaking to them in Luganda.

I worry a lot about many of my friends from back home moving on. But I know that the ones who matter the most in life will most likely still be there and ready to hang out when I return as if nothing happened. But something will have happened; I will have new friends from my time here. I didn’t replace the ones that I had back home, instead I changed and this stage in my life has the friends whom I have now. These are other Peace Corps Volunteers as well as host country nationals whose lives I actually understand far greater than if I had just visited Uganda for a couple weeks or months.

I’m never gonna be the same person after this. Life here is starting to normalize for me, and the feeling of the new has definitely given way to routine. Sometimes I look at my free, data-less, picture-less version of Facebook (0.facebook.com) on my Airtel modem (because that’s the only internet that even marginally works sometimes at my house) and see the going-ons and accomplishments of my friends and acquaintances. There is a new Mr. and Ms. Boston University, a colleague from my Berlin internship is starting his PhD in Biochemistry at MIT, friends are getting engaged, there are four seasons, and the world is getting smaller. But whenever I start to feel uneasy about my own accomplishments, I realize that I have made a living here in a Ugandan village as a Peace Corps Volunteer and that’s pretty fucking fantastic.

Good Enough

6/4/14

I wonder if this habit will stay with me for the majority of my life. I feel as if I am never satisfied with how I am behaving or what I am doing here. After every success, I feel that sense of accomplishment and meaning. Soon afterwards that feeling disappears and I become restless. I compare myself with other Peace Corps volunteers and feel as if I need to find a way to excel as a volunteer. I even designated today as my rest day after my 52km roundtrip bike ride to Kasana to eat at Beat Retina restaurant and to say hello to my host family. It was a bit sad because the two youngest children in the family didn’t recognize me and were terrified when I tried to approach them.

Today I slept in and watched a lot of The Walking Dead and Parks and Rec. I tend to alternate between the two shows. I rested a lot, drank some coffee, ate some hash browns, and I also made some extra furniture today: I built a shelf for my bathing area so that I could finally hang my towels and put up my toiletries.

*Aside: There are literally a thousand insects flying everywhere at night, which is why I turn off all of the lights inside the house when I don’t really need to use them. Even this computer screen has a few mosquitos, moths, and flying ants buzzing around it. Also every now and then I hear scurrying above my makeshift plywood ceiling. I believe it to be the resident mouse who plagues me at night by taking bites out of my potatoes and tomatoes that I leave in my kitchen baskets.

Yet I still feel restless. It was the same feeling in college; that feeling of wanting to do more. But now I’m living in a culture where more planning and efforts to initiate something may not always be the best course of action. I’ve heard it said that sometimes the Peace Corps Volunteers who waited and acted slowly accomplished more than those who wildly rushed in headfirst. I go on Facebook and I see so many posts about volunteer activities concerning DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Day, Malaria Awareness Events, HIV/AIDS workshops, track and field days, and other events at Primary Schools and Primary Teacher Colleges.

I realize that that’s my problem. I keep comparing myself, my actions, and the consequences with those of the volunteers around me. I keep wondering what else I can do here at my site, rather than just being present in the moment. My best technological aid is also my biggest crutch; my 1TB external hard drive. It’s so easy just to plop down on my living room bench and watch any tv show or movie that I desire and forget about the world that I am living in. It’s like a very limited version of YouTube, since I don’t have any real internet access here in the house.

I then ask my supervisor, counterpart, fellow teachers, and neighbors and they all seem to think that I am doing a good job as a Peace Corps Volunteer and teacher. But I can’t shake the feeling that even though others think that I’m alright, I don’t feel that I am working to my full potential. I’m good at going at my own pace and setting my own goals, but I feel that I also have this need to fulfill the desires of someone else. I believe that that’s why I performed so well in college. I get my fulfillment by achieving other people’s goals. If I can exceed the standards of those who are observing me, then I meet my own standards.

I think that the first step is to view each day as a small victory. Every moment counts as me living in Uganda as a Peace Corps Volunteer who is trying to do some good in this world. Now I just need to see that what I am doing right now is good enough.

One Out of Many

March 10, 2014

They say that whoever saves one life saves the entire world. It has also been said that if you brought something to share with a classmate, then you better have enough to share with the entire class.

So what are we supposed to do when encountered with situations when life is unfair and we just want to help that one Areas of Improvementperson who needs help. We are consistently being bombarded with the two ideals of caring for each individual who can be impacted by our personal actions, as well as trying to cost-effectively help as many people as possible whereby we reduce the human faces into emotionless statistics.

One of the girls in P7 at the LuteetePrimary School called to me from the window this evening and asked me for help. I was inclined to help her out without even knowing what her problem was, because she was one of the few children who actively tried to start a dialogue with me when I first arrived. She taught me how to plant cassava and gave me some advice on how to dig and plant some crops on my plot of farmland near the PTC. She asked me if she could borrow some money because she needed to pay her registration fee for her final P7 year at the Primary School. I really wanted to help her out and give her some money. I mean, it was 200,000/= that she needed to pay, and I could just easily reach into my wallet and give it to her and wait until my next month’s stipend. But I knew that if I helped her out, then I would feel as if I would then have to help her other classmates who also were in the same situation. When I told this to her, she shot me a perplexed look and asked me, “Why?” I explained to her that I could not pay for everyone’s registration fee, and that it would not solve the problem.

The problem became harder when she explained to me that if she did not pay by Friday, then she would be pushed back down to repeat P6 again. I couldn’t believe that there was a school system that would actually force children to repeat an already completed year just because they couldn’t afford to pay for the next year. This girl had no other relatives who could help her, and her mother had a broken cell phone and was currently working as a teacher in Kampala at some school. If I had heard this story in the US, I would have called bullshit. But over here in Uganda, this seems to be a very normal story. Children are left by the parents all the time, and they normally have to clean, wash, fetch water, farm, cook, and care for the little ones even before they hit the double digits.

I told her that I would talk to her teacher on her behalf, but she pleaded that I not go because the pupils were told that if a teacher found out that any of them had talked to me during the school day then they would be caned. Corporal punishment is still regularly employed in many Ugandan primary schools even though Uganda is one of the countries that has signed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child agreement from the United Nations. Instead, I advised my friend to go explain the situation to the teachers and ask if there was some way that they could contact her mother so that her mother could send the money somehow. She knew that her mother had the money but wasn’t aware that the fee was due this Friday.

She nodded her head, and I suppose that this was a starting point for her. Then before she walked back to her home, where she lived alone since all the adults had left town to work elsewhere, she asked if I wanted to go with her to Bamunanika in order to buy some bean, corn, or potato seeds so that she could show me how to plant another crop at the PTC farm.

They say that whoever saves one life also saves the world, but I can’t save them all.

The Beginning of Teaching

February 18th, 2014

           I started teaching this Monday. I entered the Year 1 classroom, and there were only 5 students just like last week. I was a little bit under whelmed, because I was informed that more students had come. Apparently, there more Year 2 students arrived than Year 1 students because the O Level Examination results from the Secondary Schools were still being released. I decided that I would begin teaching the Integrated Science curriculum and that the other students who arrived later throughout the term would catch up and get the notes from the students who are already here. I agreed to teach only Unit 1 of the necessary classes for Term I here, which involves the process of working and maintaining a science lab. One of the difficulties includes not having a science lab on the campus or in any of the nearby areas, so teaching how the theory of having science experiments and keeping records while incorporating literacy is hard to make enjoyable or captivating.

I am also having a hard time deciding what to do about teaching ICT since there aren’t any usable computers for the students here. A big goal for me is to write grants after IST (In-Service Training) and get a computer lab started here for the PTC so that ICT can actually be taught here. I also cannot start teaching Math, because I am teaching Unit 2: Sets and the teacher who is supposed to be teaching Unit 1 has not taught the Year 1 students yet. Of course, I understand that these things will all happen in due time and I am more amused than annoyed at my circumstances. I mean I signed up for the Peace Corps to be an Education Volunteer and I cannot expect the facilities to be on par with those back in the United States. That would be an unfair comparison given the different resources, skill levels, and bureaucracies that exist in the United States and Uganda.

But teaching these students makes me happy. Whenever I make them smile or learn how to read and define a new word I know that maybe I might have left some sort of a small impact over here. I am anxious to get into the meat and routine of things, but there is a lot of time here and it moves slowly. And with every passing day being a Peace Corps Volunteer does feel like the hardest job that I’ll ever love.