“And so it goes, and so it goes…”
I still feel like I compare myself too much with other PCVs whose accomplishments posted on Facebook seem to dwarf my day-to-day victories. After a good phone call with my friend Ravi in the Wobulenzi market today I feel a bit better. I just have to be comfortable being where I am at this very moment and understanding that there will be days when I feel like I’m accomplishing a great deal, and days when it feels as if I’m going backwards.
Yesterday I travelled to Wobulenzi en route to Nakaseke for the radio show. For some reason my Orange internet access stayed at EDGE the entire time which was frustrating because I had to figure out what was wrong with my personal student loan account. I had applied to have a portion of the Peace Corps readjustment allowance to be paid in monthly installments towards my personal loan payments. However, I was notified that my paperwork that I filled out during the initial application and during PST was never processed and so I was late in paying my payments this past July.
I had to deal with my bank’s customer service by using the Orange international bundle of 45 minutes talking time with anyone in the United States for 6,000/=. Funnily enough the customer service felt like it sped by at lightning fast speed compared to the way things move here in Uganda. It turns out through the bureaucracy of Peace Corps, Washington D.C., and the banks my paperwork was never submitted that allotted my monthly installments.
Fortunately, the problem was squared away by the nice employees at the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, which was a pleasant surprise.
Before I left Wobulenzi, a Ugandan man approached me and said that he noticed that I spoke with an American accent. He asked me if I had some time to speak with him about his daughter. I was a bit annoyed since I assumed he wanted me to sponsor his daughter, marry her, or bring her back to the United States with me. Despite my apprehension, I agreed to speak with him. He informed me that his daughter was about to depart for the United States in mid-August to study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. She had been enrolled in some sort of international studies program that sponsored her to study abroad in other schools around the world. She finished that last two years of her high school studies in Italy after completing her O Levels here in Uganda.
I was very impressed to hear this man talk in superb English about his daughter. He himself obtained his Bachelors in Makerere University in Kampala and then his Masters in Nairobi, Kenya. It felt good to hear that there were programs that sponsored bright Ugandan students to have the opportunity to see other cultures and study in other places that allowed them to have chances that many of their peers and family members would never have. He requested that I meet with his daughter in order to answer her questions regarding the United States since it would be the first time that she would ever travel let alone live there. I felt honored to be requested by this man, who also correctly guessed that I was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and scheduled to meet him and his daughter in one week’s time. I then bid him farewell and left Wobulenzi.
I arrived in Nakaseke in the late afternoon and made my way to the radio station. I had originally planned to discuss the differences between the education system here and in the United States as the theme for the evening’s radio show. I had also hoped to bring the Luteete PTC and Nakaseke PTC Kiswahili teacher to talk as a guest speaker on the show. Unfortunately, she forgot about the scheduled date and told me that she couldn’t make it to the show. Coincidentally, the head of the Nakaseke Telecenter, Peter, was sick in Kampala and couldn’t host the show that night so it was cancelled and I made my way to Rebekah’s house to hang out with her for the rest of the evening.
I woke up to the smell of French toast and Nakumatt Blue Label coffee prepared by Rebekah before heading back towards Wobulenzi. When I got there, I called my supervisor to meet me and sign the grant paperwork for the VEW cookstoves for my college. He arrived, signed the paper, and asked me if he could see the ICT Lab appeal video that I had created to spread awareness about the project. I showed it to him on my external hard drive. I stepped away from the laptop to work on some other paperwork when I noticed that he was clicking on some files after the video was done.
I walk over to the screen and laugh because I see that he clicked on the Community folder and started watching an episode. I explained to him that Community was a famous American comedy tv show. He then bought me a Guinness, as he always does at Wobulenzi, and left to go back to his house. As I drank the beer and continued working on my laptop I got a little bit worried because one of the episodes of Community was titled Advanced Gay. In the wrong hands, the title itself could be misconstrued by a Ugandan who wouldn’t understand the satirical comedy of the show due to the current atmosphere and attitudes towards that subject in Uganda.
I wasn’t worried about it at all, but at the very least it got me thinking about repercussions involving a misconception with the episode. Furthermore, it bothered me to think that in this is such a non-issue in the United States to the point that the episode could be broadcasted on a family tv network, but it would be absolutely taboo and forbidden to say the same for Uganda. The situation here in Uganda is so different, unknown, and untested that it’s even suggested that PCVs create euphemisms and code words when talking about the subject in order to not attract any unwanted attention. Ah well, this is the Uganda that we live in today.
So I finish up my work in Wobulenzi, buy some linoleum flooring for my dirt floor kitchen, then bike back to Bamunanika where I call my mother who celebrated her birthday in California with my grandparents and relatives. It felt good just hearing their voices again and knowing that they were having a good time together. I guess that I’m getting old, because I’m starting to just enjoy the small talk and exchanges with good friends and family members back in the United States.
“…and you’re the only one who knows.”
~Billy Joel, And So It Goes