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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A Wake of Dust

March 3, 2014

I like to think that some of the best writing can come out of either a really well-thought out and researched topic, or from an emotional response to an event or series of events. For me, I’d say that today was one of those lows and one of those days when I felt like I was stuck in a funk. I just returned from the central group’s welcome weekend in Entebbe, and was exhausted after traveling all day Sunday with a ton of groceries from the giant lime-green megamall complex near the Old Taxi Park and the Chinese grocery store on the road that goes northeast from the Old Taxi Park to Kampala-Jinja Road. Today was a bit rough, because I felt that I could have accomplished so much more than I actually did. I remember making a checklist and hoping that I would be very productive today. Instead, I ended up teaching an ICT lesson to the Year 2 students who seemed to be very bored. And it’s still very frustrating trying to get them to learn how to use a computer when the only one available to them is my small laptop that I used to demo File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, Window, and Help on Microsoft Word today.

Then I was told by some Year 2 students that they wanted to learn how to play Ultimate Frisbee later in the evening, so I told them that we would meet at 5pm. I decided to stop by the library around that time, since the Year 2 librarian told me last week that she would be at the library every weekday to open it and stay there from 4pm – 7pm. When I arrived at the library, the door was closed and the other students informed me that she went to Bamunanika. It was just frustrating trying to coordinate events to happen, especially when people tell you that they’re committed to making them happen. I then played some Ultimate Frisbee with some of the students, and then I went home to make dinner. But for some reason I just couldn’t make my dinner taste good and it was probably one of the worst dinners that I made in country. Then to add to the funk is the fact that I get no viable internet connection at my site through any of the available internet/telephone carriers of Orange, Airtel, or MTN. And when I use MTN I get about 10Kbps download speed if I’m lucky. It takes me about 2 minutes to open up the Google front page and checking email is a no-go at my site. So vlogs, YouTube, Facebook, pictures, and even blogs will have to wait until I bike to a place that has a better internet connection

But I expect these lows, because they’re part of the package deal. Similar to the thin layer of dust that seems to coverBrownie and Ice Cream every single surface in my house every morning, there will always be some small annoyances that just whittle away at my physical and emotional energy. I also think that maybe I’m experiencing the withdrawal from the weekend’s activities of hanging out with other volunteers at the Backpacker’s Guesthouse in Entebbe and eating so well for every meal that I was there: chicken schnitzel at Faze 3, Jaeger and Hookah at Red Rooster Bar, Spanish Omelettes at Ana’s Corner, chicken sandwiches and brownie/ice cream at Carpe Diem, and amazing Ethiopian food at Abyssinia. So I’m probably experiencing the effects of withdrawal here at my house where I only have Ugandans surrounding me and a new way of acting. Also, let me mention that on Fridays at the Red Rooster Bar, there are maybe a dozen or so prostitutes who were all propositioning any man whom they could find for sex. Every guy in our group, including myself, was propositioned about 6 times and they promised to use a condom. I remember telling them in Luganda that I already had a wife. There response was funny, because they would respond by saying that it was alright and that they understood.

I also kind of think that life here is like my 12km weekly bicycle journey to Wobulenzi on the hilly, dusty roads. Whenever a boda boda (motorcycle) or truck almost hits me as it overtakes me, I have to look away because a building-sized cloud of dust pummels me as I continue pedaling on my bike. And then I am inundated with dust on both the inside and outside, but I continue biking to my destination undeterred. There are challenges here that I expected to face, but actually facing them is very different from expecting to face them.

African Sunset by HouseI’m not going to lie and say that life is amazing here, because it’s not always great. It’s hard, and I do miss life back in the United States. There are times when I think about how easy it would be just to call the Peace Corps Uganda Office and let them know that I want to ET (early terminate) and just start a well-paid career back in the comforts of home. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about the small annoyances and hardships here.

But if I did that then I wouldn’t have experienced the good that happens here. Despite the funk that was today, I will not forget returning back to my house right before dinner, and having the two small twin girls running up to me and hugging me. Each one grabbed my hand and pulled me as we walked behind the staff houses and we stood together for a while on the grassy area next to my house as an orange African sun set behind the tall banana trees behind my house. I then realized that without the dust, the African sunset would not be as beautiful.