Soon

1/11/15

“Goodbye Marv. See you soon!”

Those words hit me hard. I stepped off the taxi from Gulu where I had spent this past Halloween weekend with Peace Corps Volunteers. I’ve been saying goodbye to so many places recently, and I said goodbye to a lot of friends and PCV’s in Gulu. I know that I will most likely not see many of them ever again. Most things that I will do in my last 6 weeks in country will be the last time that I do them. I most likely will not see the flat plains of the West Nile, the slopes of Elgon, the matooke and tea fields of the West, or the small town of Masindi again. It’s definitely a lot of goodbyes that I have said and a lot of emotions all mixed together.

In Gulu, I spent most of my time hanging out at the Iron Donkey Café and Guesthouse. The quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches were on point, and it didn’t hurt having unreasonably fast wifi. On Saturday I had phone interview with a small solar energy company based in Kigali, Rwanda. The interview revolved around my current skills and what I could offer to the company that needed someone who knew CAD, community needs assessment reports, and local training skills. It’s hard because I still don’t know what I want to do at this crossroads in my life. I don’t know if I want to continue the whole adventuring and not settling in a semi-permanent location or go back to the United States and establish a more permanent base there.

I could go on and on about readjusting. But now, I will focus on the job applications and the goodbyes to my villagers, PCV’s, and friends here. Goodbyes hurt a lot, especially when it’s been a whole lifetime worth of experiences and impacts that end with stepping off a taxi and waving your friends as they ride away.

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Pre-Conservation Camp, Kisoro

24/8/15 – 29/8/15

I am inundated with emotions right now. I just finished editing together my group’s COS (Close of Service) slideshow which showcases photos and videos from almost two years ago when we first met each other in Philadelphia for staging on November 11th, 2013. I am clean, comfortable, and resting here in Bruce’s apartment in Kisoro as we gear up for Conservation Camp. The past few days, I have felt like I have been playing house; Rachel and I have been cooking ridiculous meals in a kitchen with a faux-marble countertop, doing daily errands, and lounging on couches in a living room.

Bunagana - Uganda DRC Border

Bunagana – Uganda DRC Border

We endured a harrowing night bus ride which included blasting dancehall music from 8pm – 5:30am inside the darkened bus, babies crying, and chilly wind blasting through the windows. We got into Kisoro while it was still dark and Jax, Bruce’s counterpart, picked us up and brought us to Bruce’s house. Over the course of several days we prepared for the coming weeks. Rachel prepped the shirts, water bottles, certificates, and plans for Conservation Camp events while I worked on the COS slideshow video for our COS Conference next week.

Hill WalkingDuring the day, I would ride Bruce’s bicycle around Kisoro town. As the warm sun hit my skin and the wind rustled through my sweater I felt as if I was back home in the United States. I would just bicycle a few minutes to pick up cauliflower, onions, green beans, butter, milk, cheese, and other cooking ingredients. At one point, Jax brought us to this hill purportedly where Churchill dubbed Kisoro the African Alps. We called it Churchill’s Hill, but the locals called it Munari Hill off the dirt road from Kamugoyi Village in Kanaba District. We also hiked up the gorgeous hill behind Golden Monkey Guesthouse where one can see Mt. Muhabura and Lake Mutanda. This time however, we continued walking up a nearby, steeper hill and made our way down a ridge bounded with trees and steep slopes on either side. It honestly felt like a new adventure.

This past week has been so much of a blur, and I can’t believe that we are about to start Conservation Camp. During this camp, local Ugandan youth will learn about sustainable methods to start conservation projects in their community as well as learn life-skills and leadership methods. There will be 10 counselors: 5 Ugandan and 5 Peace Corps Volunteers. My role during this camp is to capture moments through both photographs and video, as well as cook dinner for the PCV’s during camp. The menu consists of sushi, stir-fry, pastas, pizza, sautéed veggies, and cabbage slaws.

Winding Kisoro Roads

Winding Kisoro Roads

Gracious

31/7/15

“Master Marvin, make sure that the next volunteer who stays here is a white person.”

That was the line that my student neighbors said to me as I made my way back to my house this evening. I shook my head in disbelief at the ignorant statement; even after 21 months they still thought that Americans meant white people. I told them that the next volunteer may even be a black American, which confuses them. They still think that a black American is a “cross-breed” between a white muzungu and an African. I explained to them that Americans come in all colors and that even I didn’t consider myself white because I am fully Filipino.

These past few days have taught me that things at my site can swing from having too much free time to not enough free time. I have been spending my entire day in the computer lab. I have installed Microsoft Office, AVG Antivirus, Mavis Beacon, Learning the Computer module, and Age of Empires II on the computers. Even though there are 10 working computers, it is still difficult managing the students and monitoring their performance. It got tiring the other day after I instructed the 50th student how to hold the mouse and how to move the mouse in order to move the cursor on the screen. I discovered that fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination are lacking as well as the ability to just explore and make mistakes.

My students get worried when they click on a wrong button, and they have trouble “fixing the problem”. However, it is heartening to witness my students understanding the problem and how they can solve it. It is my dream that my college will take ownership of this computer lab and effectively use it for the benefit of the students. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest problems is that my students want to learn too fast. They change the wallpaper of the computer, open too many window tabs, or complain when they are still on a Using the Mouse module lesson when others are learning the basics of typing. Development and sustainability are fucking difficult.

There wasn’t any electricity today, so I spent my day performing internet work on my hill. At one point I closed my eyes and just felt the cool breeze and afternoon sunshine on my skin. I realized that I would for sure miss this place when I left in a few months. Then it started to rain so I quickly packed away my laptop and bicycled downhill accompanied by goats running to find shelter in town. I laughed out loud at how very normal of a situation this was for me.

After the rain subsided, I bought a quarter kilo of village beef, picked some fresh rosemary from the college garden, and marinated the meat in balsamic vinegar. As I waited for the meat to marinade, I reflected on how thankful I was. No, this is not the whole thankfulness associated with being born as an American with privilege, rather it was a thankfulness to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. I forget at times that I am literally living the dream (which reminds me that I have to take my Mefloquine tonight) in a village that I can call my home. Others call the developed world normal life, but this is my normal life and I am content here.

Gratitude

22/1/15 – 23/1/15

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

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

New Group Swearing-In

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

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

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

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

The Struggles and the Furies

December 10, 2014

I’ve been through the whole gambit of emotions recently. On Monday I traveled to Masindi in order to choose some quilts from Piece by Peace so that Rachel could bring them back to friends and family members back in the United States. I’m not going back to the United States for the holidays, but I still want to give my loved ones gifts back home. The next day we traveled to Kampala by bus, which wasn’t too bad since the air was cool due to the recent rain. However, I instantly got stressed because I thought about all of the stuff that I still had to do before I returned to Shimoni PTC for my cultural sessions. I still had to pick up some PSN t-shirts at the Peace Corps Office, discuss my bike ride fundraising idea with Peace Corps administration, say final goodbyes to some COSing PCV’s, grab lunch, pick up some more PSN t-shirts near the Old Taxi Park, and then make my way to Shimoni by takisi.

I got frustrated the longer the day went, because there was so much on my mind and the people whom I was hanging out with had their own strong emotions that they were undergoing. I got so angry when I went to pick up the order of 24 PSN t-shirts at the t-shirt screen printing shop near the Old Taxi Park. I arrived at the desk only to see that no one had started the process of screen printing the agreed upon I design on any of the t-shirts. The woman behind the counter just told me, “Ah, the woman she is coming and she will finish them now.” When the managing woman arrived, I got so furious with her. I told her how upset I was with how she broke the agreement that the t-shirts would be done by the morning. I explained to her that now I didn’t have the opportunity to sell them since I couldn’t bring them with me and that I would no longer use her services if they weren’t ready by tomorrow.

I said this to her in much meaner terms and with angrier language. One of the PCV’s who was accompanying me said that he had never seen me act this way. I replied to him that he needed to hang out with me more because this was just another side of me. I guess that that infuriated me more because I extremely dislike it when people just assume that I’m happy all of the time.

I was just in a very foul and pissed off mood with everyone and I knew it. I rationally knew that I needed to change my outlook lest I bring others down with me. Instead I snapped at a PCV who was going through a breakup, kept shaking my head when any Ugandans wanted to talk to me, and straight up pushed some Ugandans out of my way instead of me walking around them.

The takisi ride from Kampala to the Shimoni PTC sign and the subsequent walk to the college helped cool down my temper a bit. It felt both satisfying and sucky to be in a mood like this one where I just had trouble seeing the good ahead of me. If you had asked me then what my goals were for the immediate future, I would have told you that I didn’t know. My mood significantly improved when I arrived at the college and saw the many trainees working on their lesson plans, work stations, and other activities. I guess that refreshing would be the right word to describe how I felt.

I put my bags back in the dorm room and did a solo session of T25 to exert some excess steam. I then had some dinner, worked on a few presentations, and slept in preparation for a new day.

Today was a good day. It wasn’t perfect, and maybe I won’t be sharing any epic stories or pictures from the day. But it was a good day. I met up with language trainers in preparation for cross-cultural and language sessions that we would be presenting to the trainees. I also planned out the details for a fundraising idea for the ICT Lab. The idea is for one of my Ugandan neighbors, PCV Ravi, and I to bike all the way to Fort Portal from the village of Luteete in order to raise pledged donations towards the construction and furnishing of the ICT/computer lab. I’m banking on the fact that people back home will be in the giving mood since the journey will overlap with my birthday and will end a few days before Christmas.

Then after lunchtime I helped out with a stress-management session with Dr. Jenny from the PCMO. When the session ended, a dozen of us gathered together on the big football patch at the end of campus to play a game of Ultimate Frisbee. I can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was. I haven’t played a competitive sports game for over 6 months. There’s just something about the workout and the fun combined together that I missed. Plus the sun was setting with this golden glow that cast the entire pitch in this nostalgic light that just reminded me of playing the same game with different people last year.

And I know that a lot of those people, including myself, have drastically changed in this past year. For a few minutes, I just sat down on the edge of the pitch and basked in the glow of the setting sun. I felt at peace; I felt comfortable again. We then made our way back up to the dining hall where I partook in a Zumba session led by one of the trainees who is a Native American from Wisconsin. I spent the rest of the night polishing up some sessions and typing up the bike ride proposal to the Country Director Loucine whom I hope will approve it.

I feel better knowing that I am here and that the ideas that I have are slowly by slowly coming together. I no longer feel the fury and anger that I felt yesterday, but I know that they can easily be awakened again. I don’t like it when I get moody and angry, but I have fully accepted that sometimes I need to act like that to let off some steam from the thoughts, emotions, and worries that I am processing. If I had the choice I would want to go back to some of my original ideals of talking to the Ugandans whom I meet and indulging him or her in conversations that I’ve heard time and time again. I would go back to a time when getting new furniture was the most exciting event of the week for me. I would go back to a time when I didn’t have to be angry because I could just accept things as the way they are. But this is just another change that happens during my Peace Corps service.

The struggle is real, but as for Peace Corps Volunteers: they endure.

At It Again

15/11/14

I’m back on the Kulika organic farm again for training a whole year since I first had arrived in-country. I feel more connection as a trainer with this group as opposed to the most recent HAG (Health/Agribusiness) cohort that arrived 5 months ago. I think that I am at the position that my own trainers were at back when I was a trainee and participated in all of the mandatory training sessions. Immediately I start to imagine how a lot of these trainees will turn out after having lived in-country.

But more on that later. Let me first explain how I got to Kulika again.

Last week I visited a few other PCV’s near the Jinja area to help out with taking pictures and videos at a Science Teaching Fair at the Wanyange Science Teaching Fair Lungs ActivityPTC. The goal of the event was to give several outstanding PTC students to teach biology lessons by demonstrating experiments to some P5 pupils at the nearby Mwiri primary school. It was so neat seeing their bright and shining faces as they marched in their yellow and khaki uniform. The fair started off with PCV Penelope having the pupils draw a vector for a disease. The catch was that the pupils had to be creative in the creation of this vector; for example it could have 100 legs, 32 eyes, be the color purple, and spread a disease that causes a swollen head and hands.

Most of the pupils created already known vectors such as fleas, mosquitoes, bed bugs, and other insects but few of them really showcased creativity outside of the norm. This sessions was designed to allow the pupils a chance to creatively express themselves as well as allow the PTC students a chance to find ways to foster creativity in the pupils. Then pupils were split into 7 groups. Each group went to a different station where a biological concept was explained and demonstrated through lecture, experiments, and activities.

The Activities:

  1. Hygiene- Singing a Bill-Nye the Science Guy song about washing hands
  2. White Blood Cells – Rock, Paper, Scissors turned into Antibody and Antigen game
  3. Lungs – Hula Hoop game
  4. Digestive System – Order of the organs and drinking upside down race
  5. Heart – Heart shaped sponge relay race
  6. Red Blood Cells – Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide race
  7. Muscular/Skeletal System – Arm pumps and raw chicken wing demonstration

Teaching MusclesThe fair came to a close as the students and pupils alike came together for a big group reflection. Pupils got to answer questions concerning what they learned during the fair as well as choose their favorite PTC student teacher. Similarly the PTC student teachers had the opportunity to choose their favorite pupil. The event felt very successful, and was a great way to combine content based instruction with teaching practice.

It felt good to stay over at Penelope’s site, since I had yet to really see any part of Eastern Uganda. Penelope’s site was located in Wanyange which was about 10 minutes east of Jinja. While at her site, she brought me to a quaint, Catholic convent called St. Benedict’s, which was located on the banks of Lake Victoria. It was one of the earliest times that I woke up in country so that I could make it to 7am mass. I also had the opportunity to see PCV’s Stephanie, Linda, and Josh who brought me around Jinja Town and the Jinja Market. During my second night in Jinja I stayed with Stephanie at her house, which had recently gained electricity.

My goal was to explore a bit more of the eastern region before I headed over to Kulika for training I felt that Penelope’s invitation to come and help at her Science Teaching Fair was the perfect excuse to travel to Jinja and beyond. My viewpoint is that many PCV’s travel a lot during their first year at site and explore specific areas and towns of Uganda in big groups during large gatherings and events. Then when the excitement settles down, they start to focus on seeing the same old people and staying more and more at site. Furthermore, there are a lot of cliques within Peace Corps. I’m not saying that cliques are bad, only that they are a natural occurrence after living through very high and highs and just as low lows with people who truly understand you in this country, this region, this village, and in this specific circumstance. I wanted to break a bit of the mold and spend my one-year anniversary doing something different and travelling to see other PCV’s in another cohort in order to see something new and get to know them a little bit better.

So on Wednesday I bid farewell to Jinja and boarded a takisi headed to Mbale. Technically, the takisi headed to Mbale was empty and I waited inside of it for an hour before taking another one that went most of the way there and then taking a connecting one to Mbale town. When I got to Mbale town I got some coffee at Cosmos Café, which was located on the second floor of storefront on Republic Street with Mt. Elgon looming in the eastern horizon. Mbale town reminded me a lot like one that you would see in an old western movie: there were the wide dusty road and saloon storefronts that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place during the days of sundance kids and cowboy vigilantes.

I met with PCV’s from the most recent HAG (Health Agribusiness) cohort group. Cindy met me at Cosmos and we made our way to Molly’s site, Cindy, Baby, and Kittenswhich was an orphanage that took in children from parents who died. I felt like a short-term volunteer when I got to the orphanage because I saw dozens of cute infants who were lying helplessly around the nursery area and just as many toddlers waddling and peeing around the orphanage/church compound. Molly explained to me that this site was the location of many short-term volunteer projects and mission trips where groups came in, took pictures, maybe even built a stove, and then left without having really accomplished anything substantial.

Cindy and Teresa had a very large house inside of a compound on the outskirts of Mbale town, and fortunately they loved having people over; they even had their house registered on CouchSurfing. So I spent my one-year anniversary in Uganda with PCV’s from the HAG cohort ahead of me while we enjoyed some red wine (courtesy of Uchumi) and some homemade Bolognese sauce (courtesy of OiLibya gas tanks and the giant indoor Mbale market). It was interesting hearing stories and inside jokes from an outsider’s perspective concerning their cohort.

The next day, Cindy took me on a hike to Wanale Falls. If you looked off in the horizon a little bit southeast of her house, you would see a sort of green mesa jutting up from the ground with a small forest surrounding it. The coolest and most confusing part of the mesa was that there was a waterfall smack dab in the middle of it that didn’t make sense because it was well above the normal height of the ground of the Mbale region.

The hike to the top of the falls took a bit more than 2 hours, but it was one of the more difficult hikes that I’ve done in Uganda because the slope wasn’t gradual. After walking through open green fields of grass, small trading dukas, and houses hidden in the forests, the path gave way to steep rock steps and muddy slopes carved into the structure of the mesa. When we were almost at the top, we encountered the wooden ladder made out of interlocked tree branches and logs that allowed you to scale a 30 foot rock wall. Then we made it to the top where a few Ugandan farmers lived and tended their farms using the water that flowed on the top of the mesa.

Open Field Path

Open Field Path

Climbing Rocks

Climbing Rocks

Climbing Stick Ladder

Climbing Stick Ladder

The view was spectacular. I could see as far as the clouds would let me and I had to just take it all in for a moment. My tendency is to take out my camera as soon as possible to capture to the visual side of a perfect moment, but sometimes I like to first close my eyes and enjoy the unadulterated moment in its entirety. I definitely got knots in my stomach as I sat near the edge of the cliff by the waterfall, because the drop was at least 400ft and I would definitely die if I fell. We enjoyed the moments, shared some stories, took some pics, and made our way down on the other side of the falls.

Top of the Falls

Top of the Falls

Ledges and Falls

Ledges and Falls

By the time we got back to the house, we were exhausted. Fortunately, the tap was back on so we had access to unlimited water to wash clothes, bathe, and refill the jerrycans for later when the tap turned off at sunset. Two of the PCV’s from the older group joined for a dinner of steak, mashed sweet potatoes, and creamed peas and carrots. It really felt like a good American meal after a long day of hiking.

This whole time I was dealing with what started as a tickle in my throat but then progressed to an annoying sore throat. Every time I swallowed it would hurt, and at some points I would just spit because it felt better than swallowing.

Then on Friday morning I took a bus from Mbale to Kampala. I had a few errands to do at the Peace Corps Office including: getting my flash drive back, receiving the translated scripts from Lukonzo into English for the Coffee Camp Video, getting my schistosomiasis test results back (negative), selling a PSN t-shirt, turning in my reimbursement form, and prepping for training at Kulika.

In the early afternoon, I finally decided to make my way down to the Busunju taxi stage to get to the Kulika training center. I got there before the training group returned from their field trip to Kamurasi PTC, so I set up my hammock between the two brick posts outside the main conference room. As I lay in the hammock in the same spot where I had lain in last year, I reminisced about my own training experience. I remember the sessions, the smell of the farm, the food, the staff, and how excited it was to be starting this experience. As the trainees trickled in, I started associating their individual personalities with people from my own training group.

It felt weird being asked so many questions all at once, and being seen as the expert in-country. Honestly, I still feel very naïve and clueless about many things. One of the trainees said that the trainers all looked rugged and seemed to walk differently. He said that it had something to do with how we looked as if we’ve been through a few struggles since we first arrived and that we walked with a certain confidence and surety. While answering the trainees’ questions, I definitely felt a sense of sureness and confidence with my answers and my actions. Most of the questions were very straightforward.

We had the Kampala tour on Sunday, which was pretty fun. We split up the trainees into groups of 4-5 with either a PCV or a Ugandan trainer to bring them around Kampala. It was fun rushing my group through Kampala in order to buy a Powermatic/Dr. Volt, exchange money, buy unlocked modems, purchase cell phones, get sim cards, and then meet up with some hungover PCV’s for lunch at Prunes. As we approached the table of my fellow PCV’s, I noticed a marked difference between my group of trainees and my friends. That was by far the funniest part of the day for me, because my trainees looked fresh, clean, and energized and the PCV’s looked haggard, bedraggled, and extremely hungover. Fortunately, I convinced the waitress to ice them with a Smirnoff Ice that I had bought earlier at Nakumatt. Overall, I thought that it was productive for the trainees to see PCV’s early on who weren’t trainers and get a more well-rounded perspective concerning PCV’s compared to the generally formal nature of trainers.

I also felt a bit more of a connection with this group than with the past cohort. I don’t know what the reasoning is. Maybe it’s because this group is an education group or that it is one year since I too arrived in Uganda as a trainee. I also felt as if I was able to bond with this group from the get-go. I answered their questions truthfully and with tact since I was also their trainer. I gave the survival ICT session, helped out with the basic survival skills, and assisted in the survival Luganda lesson. From this side of training, I could really see a lot of the disorganization and the reasoning behind the complaints that many of my trainers last year made. I no longer have the lens of newness and wonder with which I can view this world.

So on the last night of training Ellen, my fellow community integration PCV, and I hung out with the trainees as they hung out on the concrete dais of Kulika with wireless speakers, champagne, good wine, incense, Rwandan beers (Skol), and some good conversations. I’m a fan of this new group, especially since they’ve already started getting acclimated talking about the three eternal topics that all PCV’s talk about: poop, sex, and alcohol.

“Guys, I love this song; it’s the one that I had sex to the night before I left.”

~Education Cohort 3 Trainee

Becoming Used

29/10/14

Sometimes I wonder about how different life was like back in the United States. I had a dream (most likely Mefloquine induced) about staging in Philadelphia the day before we left for our flight to Uganda. I definitely know that I have changed since that day. One of my PCV friends here explained her concern that when our friends and family members see us back in the United States, they will see us as a changed person. They might say, “Marvin, you’ve changed since you left 27 months ago.” However, for them the change that they see is just one large change in outlook, appearance, and personality whereas the change that I and my fellow PCV’s know consists of many small minute changes that occurred throughout the entirety of our service. What I am at the one year mark is different from what I was when I first arrived and what I will be when I depart.

As I’ve acclimated to daily life here, the epiphany moments become less and less frequent as the mundane day-to-day moments become more and more frequent. I may not notice how I’ve changed because of how gradual the changes have been. As an example, when I first arrived in country I was extremely confused as how to navigate anywhere without a Peace Corps Driver driving me everywhere. The concept of finding another Peace Corps Volunteer in the middle of a Ugandan sub-county was daunting. I couldn’t understand how to get from one place to another without the guidance of sign posts or a pre-printed list of Google Maps directions.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I got more and more comfortable travelling to different areas of Uganda by myself. I began to see familiar roads and intersections. I could tell when I had left one region and started entering another one. As the Ugandans say, “I started to become used.”

I think that the hardest adjustment will be re-connecting with old friends as well as connecting with new ones. I’ve already started thinking about that concise one-sentence response that will answer the question: “How as Peace Corps/Africa/Uganda?”

My tentative responses thus far:

“It was hot. It was sultry. I learned where Uganda was on the map. I was a physics teacher in a Ugandan village armed with a blackboard and a piece of chalk. I pooped in a hole. Ebola wasn’t near me at all. I could never tell what was inside me.”

I guess that I’ll figure out my witty, informative, and awe-inspiring response sometime in the coming 15 months.

So the rest of the day involved me going to a dedication ceremony for the primary school pupils here. There was a Christian (Seventh Day Luteete Primary School Dedication CeremonyAdventist maybe?) church service and the P7 and P1 pupils were honored. From the few words I could gather from the pastor’s 20-minute long speech (he said that he was wrapping up the speech at the 5, 10, and 15 minute mark) he made a poignant comparison between the P1 and the P7 pupils. It was interesting placing myself in their shoes and imagining how it must feel to have once been that young and then be on the verge of entering secondary school.

I thought back to when I was a middle-school student in Sacred Heart of Glyndon in Maryland. I remembered my graduation night and how I felt that those three years in middle school represented an end of an era.

I look back on that now and think about how far I’ve come and how many personal eras I’ve lived through since that graduation night in a far different church. In that air-conditioned church, all students and family members were present for a graduation ceremony where the speeches were brief and the prospect of eating out at the nearby Bill Bateman’s was tantalizing. In this heat-filled church, all pupils and some family members who could make it for the day were present for a dedication ceremony where the overtly religious speeches were endless and the prospect of eat fresh cassava and beans was on everyone’s mind.

After the ceremony ended, I taught a brief lesson about light dispersion and the formation of rainbows. I then walked back home and saw the entire congregation gathered underneath the tamarind tree. They were having a harvest auction where each grade level of the primary school brought in something  such as beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cassava, etc. to auction. It was amusing seeing one of the primary school teachers playing the role of the auctioneer as pupils, teachers, and parents alike bid on the various harvest goods. I outbid one of the villagers for a pumpkin by 100/= (roughly 2 cents).

Right now I am roasting some pumpkin in my dutch oven in order to make some pumpkin bread and pumpkin based tikka masala as a small treat for me since its hump day at site. Tomorrow I’ll use the remainder to make some pumpkin soup. So yeah, I guess that I’m getting used.

oku-kola ekissayizzi (Doing Exercise)

28/9/14

*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?

A Casual Bout of Giardia

1/7/14

So I woke up this morning excited because I knew that it was the start of an exciting week of adventure. I had a busy week ahead of me. As I started to get out of bed, I realized that my stomach was hurting. I hurried to the pit latrine to poop a bunch, and I thought that it was just because I ate a lot of food last night in order to clear everything out of the kitchen in preparation for me leaving. When I returned back to the house I was horrified to realize that the pain in my abdomen was actually cramps and that my burps smelled exactly like the ones I had during my bout of Giardia back in January.

At first I wondered whether the cramps, gas, and pain signified another problem. However, the only relief that I could get from the pain was by child’s pose in yoga or hunching over in a sitting-fetal position as I consulted the Peace Corps Uganda Health Handbook which I simultaneously love and despise. The cramps kept coming and going and I felt bloated and gassy. I decided to attack my ailments head on and I called the Peace Corps Medical Officer. The Officer on duty told me to take the 2000mg of tinidazole and wouldn’t have to take anything else like gabbroral since I had caught Giardia early. Fortunately, back in IST I had preemptively asked the Medical Office for all the medicines needed to treat Giardia in the likely chance that I would get it again.

I took the tinidazole and some acetaminophen and then slept for about 3 hours. I dreamed about living in a house back at home and sharing a Christmas Eve dinner with my mom and brother. At least it was nice to se them in my dreams and share a meal with them. I then woke up and felt almost 100% better. I would just have to take it a bit easy today instead of doing most of the things that I had initially planned to do. I mean the 4th of July celebration is this weekend and there’s no way that I’m gonna miss it.