Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Here's to you, Ms. Wilkinson...

...Jesus loves you more than you may know."

Well, Hell, at the very least I know that I sure appreciate you. For all of those who are not aware, Amy was the nearest Peace Corps neighbor to me in Ngora. When I had first arrived, bright eyed and bushy tailed, she had already been here for 2 years time. She had already learned the language, the location, and the people to a level that I can only help will achieve in two years; so needless to say that after a week at site, I considered her a Golden Goddess.

Giving me small tips and advice on the best shop, worst roads, best shortcuts would have made her one of the more vital contacts that I could have. But because of her (albeit bittersweet) closure approaching in Uganda, as she’d already served in Peace Corps for its 2 year duration, and also because of how close in proximity she was to me…well…I got most all of her stuff.

Big deal, right? We are given money for moving-in, and as Peace Corps Volunteers we make well over the national average salary, so who cares? It’s not the money aspect though. It’s traveling 45 uncomfortable minutes to actually get to a place where most of these things that she gave me can be bought, and then another 30 going around store to store to figure out what the Actual price is, not the price because you’ve come in with white skin and what’s sure to be, as a result, a fat wallet. It’s then finding a way to get it home, without it being mishandled while being thrown on the roof or stolen from the trunk at a stop. It’s then getting back home to figure out the damned thing doesn’t work at all, and that you didn’t get a receipt (which wouldn’t matter anyway, because they sure as hell won’t give you a refund. It’s the ONE instance in which a Ugandan will absolutely Not remember you from your last visit). It’s stress, and it’s time, and it’s usually the first step in a day that usually ends in locking yourself in your home for 3 hours to punch walls and…well…write blogs about how happy you are!

Bottom line, it’s invaluable. Whether it’s scented candles, hand saws, A FAN, steel nails that don’t downward dog on the first hit, custom made, previously unknown to Ugandans Futon, gas stove with tank and tube, two much needed jerrycans to hold water when the water stops being running water…you get the idea. It’s awesome. It’s one hell of a Christmas gift, I’ll tell you that.

So, Amy, I appreciate it. You will be missed.


Side note, completely unrelated in anyway:

Hey, Fam--Have any ideas on sending my 138 mb video to you? Cause I have been shut down by every sending device I know. I have turned it into a 43 mb version, but this has also failed to be allowed to send through anything I could think of. Ideas?

Christmas

Obviously, this Christmas was a lot different for me than any other Christmas I’ve had. In fact, it was a lot different for my whole family; my brother was with his fiancĂ©e and her parents’ house, I was in Uganda, and my parents were in Mississippi. All new locations with all different kinds of people attending. Craziness.

I think at first the idea of Christmas got me a little sad. Obviously it’s the quintessential time to be with the family, and it would be the first time I wouldn’t get that “Christmas morning” that we Americans all know so well. The fact that I wasn’t going to be waking up my parents by banging on their wall with my brother at the crack of dawn, well it kind of got to me. It also didn’t help that everybody I knew was saying how much it must suck that I wasn’t “home for the holidays”. I also wasn’t going to be giving presents, and had no expectations to receive any, besides maybe a beer or two from the parish priest. Not getting to wrap presents, a good Boddie tradition, was probably the biggest hit that I took out of all of it.

But I started thinking; there is a whole hell of a lot that I’ve been given this Christmas. Considering that in August I was Bartending/Managing in Chapel Hill while living in the basement floor of a (lovely) 70 year-old ladies house, and now I’m on the Board of Trustees for a Health Center in Ngora, Uganda as a Peace Corps Volunteer…I think there are a lot of things that I have to be thankful for. Looking at my life on paper, PC obviously took a risk on spending all the time, energy, and money on me that they have. Moreso, the Catholic Parish where I’m living has given me a house, running water (even though it runs all over my house), and electricity (on a good day) in a land where all three are designated only for the extremely wealthy. They have done this on THEIR OWN dime, without the help of PC, strictly to allow me to kind of run free in hopes that I will be making changes that will account and exceed these costs. I’ve been given 170 peers from America that would, at the drop of a hat, come to my home if I ever had something where they could help me with. Also, from one of those 170 people, I’ve been given pretty much every single thing a guy could need for moving into a house (more on her later.)

Anyway, bottom line: Don’t feel bad for me. I’m making out like a bandit. Ok, attending 4 masses from 7:30-2 isn’t exactly my normal Christmas, but hey. I drank beer, I taught my people how to shag (dance) and the waltz (thank you, Ballroom Dancing class), and I had fun. It was a great Christmas, despite my doubts beforehand.

To come: New Years! I think I’ll be staying close to home, despite earlier plans to head down to the South West part of the country with a bunch of other PCVs. Bushonyi sounds awesome, but having to go through Kampala when Al Shabaab has been doing all their antics isn’t really worth it to me. Besides, if what we are doing at midnight is what we’ll be doing for the rest of the year, I’d rather be in Ngora with my arranged family. And that’s an awesome feeling.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Line of Control (Sequel to “Fog of War”)

A team of specialists have eradicated the water problem…for now. I will defer the scoring of a point to myself…because I kind of just sat around and watched. It’s nice to have friends that (kind of) know what they are doing, or at least are willing to try things out and see, cause hey, it’s not their house they are possibly about to screw up!
The cow killer escaped unharmed. Don’t you hate it when the strikingly big animals or their class are also just as if not faster than their smaller cousins? I refuse to accept that as logical, and will continue to underestimate animals for this exact reason. I will also refuse to give said cow killer a point, because after all it WAS he who retreated, not me. He knows where to find me.
The other Battle that has emerged (just minutes after the blog post) was that against the cow killer’s smaller versioned, but much more plentiful, infantrymen. Perhaps the cow killer is acting as general in command of his infantrymen, the sugar ants. These little bastards are everywhere, and they are super fast. I found most of their major barracks, however, and caused the sky to rain in their plummet (they are mostly in the cracks of the wall and wood that is in the rafters. It literally sounded like a light rain storm inside the house with all of them falling, after I’d completed my genocide with chemical warfare). The battle has reduced now to smaller skirmishes, whenever they build up the courage to attack a stray egg piece or if I leave the bread too close to the shelves, which I’m content to allow, for now. They, at least, have seemed to learn who the master is.


Side note: I am trying to save Internet Data (I get charged for every MB that I use, both in uploaded and downloaded material), so I am writing these off the internet and then posting them quickly. Thus there might be a cluster effect on my blogs from now on. Sorry.


Also, guess what book I've just finished? Haha, yep, Tom Clancy's Line of Control. Hope this counts as my citation to the title.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fog of War

Water is a big deal in Africa. Water isn't taken for granted, because for the large majority of people, they have to travel more than a kilometer to get any. When they do, it's clear at best, murky puddle water at worst. Clear doesn't mean that it is clean, yet some people consider that good enough.

Needless to say, I felt/feel pretty lucky from having a running water source inside my house. The water tank is suspended precariously over my walls, held up by 2 2x8 boards that I question the strength of everyday. Last night I decided to take a shower. I stripped off my linen pants and button down (standard wear), put on my sandals and turned on the knob controlling the shower. 1 part water, 2 parts ants, and 2.5 parts mosquitoes come pouring out of said showerhead, directly into my hair and on my face. Sweet life.

The water must have sensed my displeasure and ungrateful attitude towards it, because now it has refused to come out at all. Such a pretty sink, toilet, shower, and water spout have been rendered useless by the maniacal acts of the apparatus that threatens to squish me every time I walk underneath it. This feels like a war that I can't win; it certainly has the higher ground, and for now the score remains 0(me)-2(water tank).

---Holy hell. Just spotted a cow killer ant on my desk. The water war has been tabled; It seems that more pressing enemies have surfaced. I will keep you informed.

Kampala Rant, and Awesome News From Home

After dealing with the Kampala style life for a couple of days, there was no better feeling than getting back to site. Correction; getting back home.

Kampala is awesome for the services it provides, and the mass amounts of material which you can get from there. There is enough muzungu traffic in Uganda's capital to ensure that, if you have the money, you can get pretty much anything you'd like. I ate pizza, had a soft-serve strawberry ice cream, enjoyed a hot shower, and even bought some over-priced mueslix for when I got home, to mix with my yogurt. I certain lady back home introduced me to mueslix, and I guess when I saw it I couldn't resist.

The problem with all of these material items and services that are found in Kampala, you realize, can be found in the reason why they are there in the first place: the people. The crowds that amass in seemingly every nook and corner of the city take its toll on the sanity of anyone not accustomed to it. Every amazingly serene, welcoming, and genuine people that can be found almost everywhere in the village have been replaced with 50 people hardened by the quick and dirty city lifestyle. Smiling seems to be a weakness as opposed to comfort; peoples arms are grabbed, not held.

So whatever. I love the fact that Kampala is and will always be there; I'm just glad I get to deal with it on my own terms. I really hope people don't come to Uganda, hang out in Kampala for a few days, and say they saw the country. Sorry. That's not Uganda.

For now, I'm loving the small luxuries I have afforded to give myself. I recognize them as dangerous; a computer playing Ben Harper into a reverberating (no ceilings + tin roof=automatic surround sound, from bathroom to bedroom to office to kitchen) house that is all my own, reading the summaries of the daily news received through a contact of the U.S. Embassy, printed off on my own personal laser printer (thanks Mama and Papa!) doesn't exactly seem like I'm roughing it. In honesty, these things make it more difficult at times. Sometimes being reminded of luxuries only brings back memories of everything else that you could be having. Where's the refrigerator, the electric drill, the air conditioning, the cheese or endless supply of ground meat? And then you are hit with reality, and realize that you didn't put any water out on the roof last night; you'll have to boil your water today if you want to drink it without getting a ring-worm or amoebic dysentery. Why'd you forget? Oh, you were watching a DVD while drinking a beer? Great job; way to use those luxuries. I guess there is a Kampala in me as well.

Biggest news of the year: My big brother is getting married!!! I have no idea how the man actually managed to convince a person to even CONSIDER spending the rest of their life with him, much less a female, much less somebody so intelligent and driven as the lady which he's asked...but hey, whatever. ---Just kidding, Will. You have always served as a great inspiration to me, both with regards to your achievements, your drive, and most of all your steadfast nature in being nobody besides yourself. The amount of pleasure that you gave me when you called me and told me the amazing news is something I will always remember. Moulin Rouge taught me about what the "greatest gift you could ever receive" is, and I'm really happy and proud that it's been given to you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Package! Package!

Got into Kampala, via sweeeeet ride from the PEPFAR coordinator of Uganda from the US Embassy, and made into the office today. There was a package waiting for me!

Thank you Grandmother, for the article regarding N. Uganda; THANK YOU Melanie for the hammock information; I am super excited about spreading this wealth of information once I get back to site! And thank you Mama for sending it. The map is perfect, and I'm going to use the post it notes and pens more than you could imagine.

Lessons learned: Crystal light doesn't travel well. I opened the (already torn open) padded envelope to find what I first thought was presents wrapped in sand. But sticky. haha.

SO weird that only 8 days separate today and Xmas. It is getting hotter and dryer with each morning here.

Have to get going; need to find some items in KLA before I head back home! much love.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Days in Slow motion, month in fast forward

Been awhile since my last blog. For that I apologize; I didn’t realize how many people were keeping up with me through this media until I stop writing…and start receiving the questioning emails. Yes, I’m alive, and kicking quite well.
In honesty I’ve been really busy. There are many different branches which I am trying to balance on top of, with an intense stubbornness unwilling to admit that I’m stretching myself too thin on all sides. When you give a guy free reign on a country, and pay him enough salary to actually roam it at will, well, he’s bound to be pretty occupied.

A lot of my time currently is going into my house. I was able to commandeer a big slab of wood (freshly cut from a mammoth tree), and I’ve cut it into several pieces in order to make a desk. The cutting, with the crappy hand saw that I bought for the equivalent of 3 dollars, took some time. The hammering, with a head that falls off every third swing and nails that bend more than yoga instructors, wasn’t exactly efficient either. Luckily enough, Ugandans don’t understand what I’m saying when I curse. I have kept the scraggly edges and strips of bark, because I think it’s beautiful and an awesome contrast to the marble-eyed pattern it gives on its face; the Ugandan’s have decided that I’m either too lazy to cut it, or genuinely mixed up in style. “Why, if you have the ability to make something look factory made and uniform, would you not do so?” is what they seem to be asking…and the language barrier doesn’t allow me to answer in convincing enough of a fashion. In time, perhaps.

Another chunk of time is continuing with the orphans living in the women-headed household. I had the first meeting, and we set up another meeting for what was yesterday. My goal in these meetings is to continually remove myself from importance of my attendance, in hopes that the ownership will more and more be their own and less just coming because of the white guy in the front of the room. (I say room…we have our meetings under the mango tree, just like everyone else who has a meeting in Teso Region) In order to help with this, I brought along a government official who is the point-man of NUSAF-2, which is a government run grant application for the northern parts of Uganda. He and I show up to this meeting, to which I’m expecting to see the same group of 20 kids…and I find myself looking upon 205 children, all of whom are orphans, or living with HIV/AIDS from birth, or street children…it was unbelievable. The government official was absolutely ecstatic from the turn-out, and admitted that he has been trying to find a group like this for some time. Score one for Opolot Matthew? We’ll see. The spark has certainly been lit, and it’s bright enough to make you squint….just hope it gets enough air and attention in order to continue on.

The rest of my time is meetings. Meeting people is a full time job…or 3. One time every week or so my suspicion is confirmed in some odd, roundabout way that the people that I meet and become connected to are going to dictate my success in this country. I am realizing more and more that my successes will never be things that I will do, or I am going to be building, but rather the ones in which I helped bring together, facilitate, and let run.

Got to go to Soroti yesterday for a World Aids event, which was awesome. Lynne Mcdermott (spelling? Sorry Lynne) was the lady in charge of this event, as well as every other World Aids event sponsored by the US Embassy in the country. She was a PCV of Uganda in 03-05, and so it was really cool to have a person high up in the food chain of American’s in Uganda who also understands the things that we are going through on a personal level. She is also highly involved with PEPFAR, which pays for about 9 dimes out of a dollar on HIV/AIDS relief in Uganda….so she’s somebody I would very much like to get to know.

Right now a Youth Conference for the catholic diocese is being held in Ngora parish, aka my backyard. It was really excited in prospect, to get so many youths and people in one place to try and tell them about water and sanitation…but now that they are all here, and using part of my house for storage and the building directly adjacent my house for cooking…it is getting a bit old. Last night I was able to fall asleep only after the chants had died down at around 2am…but then I was woken again by a rousing version of “Jesus is coming” at about 4:30am. I am going to have to find a place to go, outside of Ngora, so that I don’t immediately lose my mind. I’ve gotten used to the magnified glass being put on me by my villagers, but when it’s multiplied by an additional 2500 kids below the age of 20…well, you get the idea.

Last night was amazing because I got to talk to Shay and Will, on the same night! I hadn’t talked to them in over 2 months, and since I’ve been in Uganda, respectively, so it was a great surprise to get to have some interaction with both of them. I also got in contact with Andrew Johnson, a fellow fraternity brother from home, who is in Kenya now for a documentary he is helping shoot. Trying to work out having him come down to UG for New Years.

Apparently my dth article got leaked to Peace Corps, and was put on the front page of the National Newsletter. I kind of hope that isn’t the truth, but if it is, cool? Haha I don’t know. Feel silly writing an article about Peace Corps to other PCV’s after being in country for less than 4 months, but I suppose I should be appreciative of the gesture.

ALSO, just saw that UNC beat Kentucky. Really hope that my uncle, Stephen, (A huge UK fan, who regularly attends the games) was calling my dad (UNC Alumni) beforehand with snide comments, because I know that my Dad called him after the game was over. Go heels.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Yoga Kere

Wanted to let everybody who is interested know that I wrote a column that will be run in tomorrow's (Thursday's) Daily Tar Heel. I've been told every year of schooling that I am terribly wordy, poor with descriptions, and am never captivating enough; obviously writing an article for one of the best college newspapers in the country (me? biased?) is a logical step after not writing anything for the past 2 years.

Things at site have gone well. I am getting less "How you Musugun?" and more "Opolot, YOGA!!," which I am more than a little proud of. I am hopeful that after this weekend, there will be a charger in my hands that has capability to power my laptop, which I am more than a little excited about. Of course, I know my immediate family remembers the last time that I tried to have a replacement charger power my laptop (cue flashback to Will's creation of a charger being plugged in and, subsequently, my computer smoking and going black for all eternity)...so I admit to being...more than a little nervous about trying it.

I have also had some connections that I've made start to bear fruit. I biked over to CDC (Child Development Center) on a whim that I might be able to help with a survey that I had heard they were conducting in the area regarding water and sanitation. As it turns out, they had already completed the surveys of over 300 households (which, in Uganda life, means over 2500 residents) and were about to send the surveys in order to be summarized by people in Kampala. Would they let me steal the said surveys, then for the 2 days before they are shipped out? Sure! Two days of exceling later, I have some pretty good information and, for a philosophy major, not too bad of a spreadsheet with which to work off of.

I feel like I'm only showing the greener side of the pastures when writing the blog. I purposefully only write when I'm in a good mood, and things are going well, just so I don't start ranting and, in the process, freaking out Mother Boddie; with that said, things aren't always fantastic. I had my carabiner stolen (which is much more crippling than I would have thought)and I currently have no PC-allowed way to get into a town with actual supplies (PC doesn't allow the riding of boda-bodas, which are the motorcycle taxis. It's dangerous, and I agree with their policy...but it means a 22 KM minimum bike ride just to get mail, yoghurt, or a hammer and nails). I've gotten food poisoning twice now, and have started to think that the mefloquine I'm taking is affecting my ability to sleep. Being stared at by everyone you know, and being so obviously different than everyone in town, definitely takes it's toll as well. When working so hard to make a place so different a home, it's frustrating to know deep down you will never actually 'belong' to this area. Even if I live in Ngora for the rest of my life, it is simply the option that I have of leaving that could separate myself from the rest of my neighbors, neverminding the difference in education, language, and skin color.

So anyway. That stuff is in the back of my head, and sometimes it does get to me; for the most part, though, I'm really happy. The greatest part about living here is the simple potential that it possesses for me and the community. We both have so much to learn from one another. It is impossible, after really thinking, to feel like there is nothing for me to do. It's the question of how that I'll keep working on, and the question of what that will keep emerging itself to me with each passing day that I put myself in a position to see it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Roses and Thorns

Highlight of my day: Amy Wilkinson telling me that my charger did in fact reach her house in time for it to be carried with some PCV's to Uganda in a couple days' time.

Low of my day: http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/team/_/id/153/north-carolina-tar-heels

Going to see if Africa has gophers. So I can cook one for dinner.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

100th day

...or something like that.

Can't believe it is already November 20th, and about to begin the final month of the year. While in America the middle of November signals a return to the corduroy pants, whool scarfs, and other warm weather gear, here in Eastern Uganda we are settling in for the hot and dry season. Although the temperature doesn't get above 85, and the humidity is always at about 10% or less, the sun's direct rays provide enough sizzle to keep me under the shade for as long as possible.

There are so many sets of pools of ideas that I have put my toes into since being here. I have been continually considering, updating, renovating, and evolving several different IGA's that I think would be easily to implement, cheap to make, and have real possibility to sustain. I have started talks with the Water School of Uganda, in hopes of working out SO-DIS purification as a way to combat lack of drinking water and deforestation. I am also working on a syllabus for WWS (world wise schools) for next term so that I can link up my teachers to classrooms in Uganda. (TANGENT: If you are interested in working with me, and you are a teacher, SEND ME AN EMAIL!!! I am in contact with several schools, each with several teachers, all who would love to be a part of an American program supporting the exchange of cultural norms. I have lots of ideas and would love to share them with you. M.h.boddie@gmail.com)

I am also now well versed with LC1, who eats dinner at my house regularly,as well as the DHO (District Health Officer), Minister of Water and Sanitation for the District, Councellor of Ngora, Resident District Commissioner, Police Commander, NUSAF coordinator at the town council, Sr. Nurse at the local hospital, and so many other influential figures. This makes it much easier to think of ideas on the grandiose scale that my mind enjoys, but of course also makes everything I do ripple so much further in the small pond of Ngora. For now I'm trying to pull the levitation act, hoping that I will be given the time I need to gather respect at the lower levels of government and the community itself before these big-wigs start asking me to do a cannonball.

I have finally been made mobile; I have bought, and then the next day fixed, a second hand mountain bike that should work just fine. I have made a report with the local bike shop to let me use their tools when I need, and they are very happy just to have the local muzungu at their shop with nearly everyone in town staring. Walking around the town was a drag after the first hour; after 3 weeks, my skin was starting to sizzle even underneath the long sleeve button down and long pants.

Since said purchase, my life has really hit a different gear. That was awful. I am now traveling to Fredecarr (the local hospital, and the location of the district headquarters for health) once and twice a day, whereas normally it was a once a week trip due to it's hour long walking commute. Today marks the first day of Eastern Ugandan's house-house approach towards stopping the polio outbreak which was first confirmed a month previous. Ministry of Health and UNICEF have now come in to help with the task. It has been extremely enlightening to be able to sit in on the meetings. Today, the day of implementation, was even more enlightening (I am scared to think of another, more suitable word besides this) to be able to stand around the table while supplies were being passed out.

My house is nearly complete! I made the mistake of actually answering the question of what my favorite color was, when my priests asked me. I didn't realize that this color would result in me seeing nothing BUT this color in my house, a day later. Silly of me really, when I look back on it. Anywayyyyyy, as if the absolutely gorgeous Carolina Blue sky isn't enough for me everyday to wake up to, I will now have it in every room of my new house. Nothing could be finer...

Integration into my community is going extremely well. I'm pretty impressed with myself, with all honesty, in my ability to stay upbeat around town. Kids screaming muzungu is one thing, but when you're biking up a hill with the sun beating down in full business attire, and the damned kids just want to stare and look at you with something recognizant of Rambo's 1000 yard stare...lets just say it makes you want to test if they actually ARE as badass as Rambo. As of yet, no blow ups have occurred, though. I do have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be working out harder and harder, though...

I've also joined the ranks of the permanent soccer crew. Every night at around 5 I go out with the boys from the PTC (primary teachers college) and kick it around until they are called in for dinner. They are all of similar ages, maybe hovering around 3 or 4 years younger than myself. They are in much better apparent shape than me...so it's a good thing they are lazier than me too. Oh, playing in cleats while half the others plays barefoot doesn't hurt either. No, I absolutely do NOT feel bad about that. Come play with me. You'll find out quickly why.

My most frustrating set-back right now is that it seems my computer charger, that I paid arms and legs to reach a PCV's parents house in the states at a certain date so that it could be carried back with said PCV when she came back from her US vacatio, has not showed up on time. This puts me back at square one for finding a way to power my computer.

Most inspiring was definitely two younger ladies that came looking for me by name (Opolot, which has stuck like no other nickname before in my life...besides maybe cuerpo). They are both orphans, living in a house together. Suddenly, after taking in a fellow orphan who's parents had died of HIV/AIDS, they have woken up to find over 15 mouths in their kitchen, waiting to be fed. They are asking for ways to sustain themselves, wasy in which they will be able to make this work. What are they NOT doing? They aren't asking how to get these kids out of their home, or how to receive funding from America, or how I'm going to fix their problems. They are asking for a little coordination, and any possible ideas from the kid with new perspectives. What else were they not doing? Speaking in English. Thank you very much, asisiankinan Susan Oce; your teaching of Ateso has been so fundamental to any and every role that I have performed in this country, and there is nothing I am more appreciative of than your commitment to making me learn.

As for pictures, I'm sorry to say that my foresight while packing for this country was quite short (surprise surprise, right?), and I have no way of loading my pictures from my computer without the SD slot embedded into my laptop. Considering my laptop, as mentioned above, is out of commission...yeah. I'll work on it.

As for the future...
There are some small plans for me on this glorious Thanksgiving week coming up, which I'm super excited about. I am also, I'm proud to say, excited about staying at my site with noone else but my new family of Ugandans for Christmas. I have been hearing rumors about it since I have arrived, and there are few things that I'm anticipating more.


After quickly re-reading this, it sounds like I'm quite busy I'm sure. Cut out TV, the ability to deeply conversate with another person within a 20km radius, the internet, and a computer...then throw in the fact that I finished my last novel (Catcher in the Rye) of which I have in stock...and then consider my previous work schedule with Spanky's, Squids, and Psychology Lab Work...and you'll see that my days are quite empty. Send emails, send texts, all will be welcome...even if I can't see them or get them for a few days time.

New number. +256757817300 (zain line)
+256700797157(Warid line-shitty service in my site, but cheapest and easiest to use in a more urban setting)

My MTN line (the first number I had) is currently not in my phone, so it won't be picked up. If I change, which I inevitably will in the next couple of weeks for some reason, I'll let you know.

Gotta go. Need to look up the process of starting to grow dreadlocks before I get kicked off the internet...

Awanyunos bobo lukapolok kede nukapolok,
Opolot

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ngora else I'd rather be

So after 26 hours of traveling, a week in Lweza, 10 weeks in Wakiso, I've finally started to settle down in the location where I'm actually supposed to live. It's been quite the experience, and I'm happy to say that thngs are going quite well.

One of the things I've learned is to stop being surprised when crazy things do happen here in Uganda. I still get annoyed by them, like when I lose all of my electrically useful instruments, but I'm no longer saying "where the hell AM I! What is going on!" I kind of just accept it for being part of the location and living conditions that I have, after all, volunteered for. I am typing this as a goat is being chased out of the house where I am living, by the 3 year old daughter of the house maid. Said 3 year old, Orelia, has just finished her first cup of Ajon, which is the local Teso brew. Yes, it's acoholic. I know. I'm working on getting the mother to stop her.

Life here has been extremely busy, if not efficient. I have been to tons of meetings, and each time I find myself sitting in the middle of a group of people, shoulder to shoulder, for something like 4-5 hours. This would be fine if they were speaking in a language that I could actually understand, OR if all of them weren't staring at me every chance they get. I have counteracted this experience with copying down copius amounts of symbolic logic problems into my "waste time" notebook, which I'm able to write in and seem busy.

The meetings are not useless, however. I am meeting the people that I am going to be working with, around, through, over, and under in the next two years. Many of these people who are found in meetings are present in several others; it seems it is a group of about 20 people in Ngora that pretty much run the place in every aspect. I am very proud and very happy to say that my supervisor is absolutely one of these 20. There are many doors that are continually opened each day, because of him and because of my ateso speech that is ever-growing in size and vocabulary.

I have also gotten into a bit of a groove, with regards to my daily routine. I usually wake up around 5:30, work out until around 6 or 6:30, then shower and (most likely) fall back asleep until around 7:30. I go and sit on the veranda of the father's house, where I write in my journal about yesterday and the days goals. Then I eat breakfast. There is a huge block of time in between 8 and around 2 which always, always gets filled with something that I'm not planning on. Then after lunch, at around 3, I always always get hit with something that I am supposed to be attending and am "being waited on" for. At 7 I take tea, and at 9 I eat dinner with my boys.

Ah, my boys. Where I live right now might be thought of as the living quarters for the father of the church, but it could much more easily and accurately be described as a fraternity lodge. There are 5 guys living inside the house, along with a house maid and the daughter mentioned earlier; there is also another father that lives around 20 feet away who frequents our lodge. The boys and I drink Ajon pretty much at will, and I'm constantly having to turn down bottles of more domesticated beer (much to the dismay of one of the Fathers-in-training). It's all quite a good time, to be honest.

The house becomes closer to completion after each day. The water is set up, and the plaster is done; the veranda concrete is layed and cured. All that is left is a fresh bucket of paint, a possible power supply, and a cleaning out followed by a moving in. I give it a couple of weeks, but I think I'll be very very happy there.

Am in the process of writing an article for DTH (UNC's college newspaper). I'll let you know if it actually comes to fruition. Also got some news from swearing in, and you get to see my pearly whites on the front page:
http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/19/736210

Does anybody have an online susbcription to the Economist? I'm feel like now that I'm other-worldly, I should try and become a bit more worldly while I'm here. If I can get the online subscription, I'd be able to print it out each week at a local duka. Thanks!

-Cuerpo

Friday, November 5, 2010

Argh!

In a matter of 30 minutes, I was convinced that I had destroyed: phone charger, phone, computer, computer charger, and solar lamp. Luckily I fixed my phone and my computer wasn't broken...but that still leaves the charger to both. Thus, I will be a bit out of contact for the next few weeks. I am using the Father's computer now, and don't like bothering him about it (we are running the generator just for me, currently). More back later! Thanks for the birthday wishes!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Swearing in, First days at site

A lot has happened since I have last posted. I have finally been sworn in (!), and have moved in to my new home in Ngora, Uganda. Here I sit, amazingly at peace in what should seem like a terribly unfamiliar world. Unfamiliarity isn’t always so terrible, and at this point, it is the possibility of routine and progress towards my comfort level that gives me peace of mind. I have been released, and I’ve never been more confident about my independence than in the past couple of days.

Swearing in finally happened on 21/10/2010. After a week of getting to hang out with my group at Ridar Hotel, we were bused over to Ambassador Lanier’s house, where we enjoyed the company of RPCVs, our supervisors and counterparts, the CD, PTO, Admin XO, WHO representative, and Program Managers. Oh, the Ambassador was there too. After being sworn in as official U.S. Foreign Service volunteers, we were given some finger foods (delicious) and sent on our way to party one last night with our group. (Insert all the stories I wish I could tell here.)

The next day we woke up and headed out with our supervisors and counterparts. When I arrived, after a long day of traveling, I was almost immediately given a seat in the middle of a circle of chairs. An hour later, when the chairs were filled, I found myself staring into the eyes of some of the most important people in my district. The Local Chairmen, the chairmen of the church committees, the school headmasters, the parish elders, the grandmothers, and the “in charge” (the person…in charge…of the health center in which I will work) were all ready, looking very smart in their Sunday best. I was sweaty, smelly, and wearing a t-shirt. Sweet first impressions, Matt.

I am absolutely amazed at the abilities and work that the people in the meeting were doing. They all were shining examples of the kind of potential any driven man/woman has in a country like Uganda. It was humbling, without a doubt, but it also gave me a strong sense of pride for the kind of community that I have been asked to join. After we started the meeting (which in Teso means, after we’ve started drinking the local brew, Ajon), and I had a couple of beers in me, I felt comfortable enough to stand up and give thanks and goals in the local language. Although I hadn’t been given prior knowledge of the meeting, I felt like I portrayed my intentions fairly well. Speaking even a few words in the local language is without a doubt the most powerful weapon anyone can have in this region. I’ve used it like a skeleton key for pretty much every door I’ve needed to open, so far; hopefully they will give me a few months before they change the locks.

I almost forgot about my house! The people in the community were really encouraged by my visit, and after I left they put in some SERIOUS work into my home. There is now a beautiful A-frame roof, and they have begun with fervor on the bathroom (I’m not holding my breath for it, but they say I might have running water.) Next will be the plastering of the walls, and then it’ll basically be done! Sooooooo excited about it. It looks amazing already, and it’s a place I’d be proud of in any country, 1st or 3rd. More, it’s a home.

My community has not only given me a house, but also a new name. From here on out, I will be referred to as Opolot Matthew. To be honest, I’m not sure it translates very well. From what I can tell, I have been given a great honor with this name, and it’s even the same name as the most respected man in the village, the LC I. There is definitely “friend” and “helping hand” and “volunteer” intermingled in its meaning…I think. Everybody gives me quite a lot of respect when I introduce myself with this name, which is reassuring.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My home (sans roof), and the church about 20 feet away from it




LPI, Farewell to Kisimbiri, Uganda

Intermediate Low is the level of standardized language skills that I had to achieve in order to avoid a mandatory tutor, extra training days, and a retest in 3 months. I was one of the few to actually go above and beyond this and receive a intermediate mid. Want it! (sorry for being gaudy about this, but I worked hard. Deal with it.)

Everything is coming to an end in Kisimbiri. In similar style of one of my first posts, I suppose I should say Farewell:

To the Kanakulya family: Thank you so much for your warm hospitality. The 9 weeks of training was made possible largely because of your great cooking and willingness to let me study. I am sure that my going to bed at 9pm every night wasn't exactly what you were expecting, but I appreciate your flexibility. Take care of the kabwa for me!

To Choice Gardens (the local bar in Kisimbiri): Re-felt your pool table. Get some new cues.

To Wakiso Gardens (" "): See my comment to Choice Gardens

To Kisimbiri: Thank you for your seemingly endless supply of children shouting muzungu at every chance. Their rousing, rhythmic chants of "Seee youuu, Seee youuuu, See youuu Muzungu" have been permanently engraved into the back of my memory banks. You have taught me many important things, one of which is the holy grail of street snacks: the Rolex. This godly design of fried bread and scrambled egg could, and did, solve pretty much every problem that ever did arise in your great town. I hope that my morning, mid-day, and evening street dances were enough of a payment for the knowledge of said rolex.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking off the Band-aid

After over 2 months in country, my group and I are now less than a week away from swearing in, and exactly a week from heading to our own respective sites where we are expected to remain for 2 years. Peace Corps has weened us more and more off of it's motherly touch and deemed, finally, that we are worthy of fending for ourselves.

Yesterday and today we are all taking our final LPI's, which are the language tests that determine if we are at a level of proficiency acceptable to the standards of Peace Corps. If we are found wanting, we will be assigned tutors for our first three months, and will be given the LPI again afterwards. For some, this is reason enough to stay up all night and cram every possible scenario in before their interview. For others, that find the idea of a tutor an assurance of less loneliness and more sense of duty in the first three months, the LPI is something that is merely another piece of the long strand of events that we've had in training.

I myself took the exam yesterday, and feel fairly (jinx) confident that I have reached "intermediate low" standards, which is what I need to get by without mandatory tutor. I'll find out on Monday how I actually did, with everybody else. Regardless, the LPI is for me the last step of real responsibility before we get sworn in. It feels great to know that the next week I'll be staying in a (for Uganda) fancy hotel and living stress free with no looming examinations to worry about.

Another cool development; it seems that I have been signed up to be a part of a sponsored Peace Corps Uganda outdoor team in a white water rafting race on the Nile. Winner (which, btw, PC is defending champion) wins a free round trip to Nairobi. Loser gets a free ride on the Nile. Sounds like a hell of a way to spend a Saturday, and an extremely fitting way to spend the first weekend away from training.

By the way...the lady-pup that I was so dramatically writing about in my last post is doing just fine. Her mother has taken her back, and her wounds have healed at a rate that would impress wolverine, if you ask me. Sorry for making you cry, Meagan.

Matt

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wake up call

Hard to see the way they treat animals in this country, most of all dogs. From a country where most people greet their canine friends before they greet their wives, Uganda is a tough place to stomach for it's complete indifference towards a dog in need of attention. I came home to my homestay family brothers playing with a 3 week old, lady pup. She was bleeding on her entire, 5 inch left side of her stomach, and was unable to step more than 3 paces without falling over. When I picked her up, her stomach was orange; not from dirt, or dried blood as I first guessed, but rather from the pure mass of dead and still moving fleas that totally encapsulated her skin. When I began to clean her, she simply lay in my hands, ready to admit defeat towards what must seem like a worthless world to even attempt to live in. I cleaned out the initial layer of fleas to find 4 small pen size holes in her left side, filled in with swarms of maggots in each orifice. 2 hours later, after digging out the maggots with my fingernails and washing away most of the fleas, I was able to find the mother of the dog and reconnect them.

The hardest part about all of this was the incredulous nature that my homestay family had with me even trying to help the animal. They sat and laughed while I stressed out about it's well being, running inside to grab antibiotic, salt, and iodine to clean the wounds that would have soon ended the animals life. It's not a question of personality, or of their inability to feel pain; simply a realization that this is not a place that has time to worry about the things we do in America.

Did I tell the family why I was upset? yes. Did we talk about it, and did they understand and did I possibly change their outlook on it the next time it might happen? Perhaps. I think I just have to learn, though, that I'm not in Kansas anymore.

10 days till I go home. (to Ngora). Can't. Wait.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Site Visit

After a 7 hour bus ride, plus an initial two hours of waiting for the bus to actually get off, and including an unexpected bus change (I saw the driver holding a part to the bus in his hand...) in Mbale, I stepped off into Kumi Town. After receiving a ride (no, PC, it was NOT a boda-boda ride), 30 minutes time placed me in Ngora district, near their "shops." These refer to about 4 dukas, or open buildings that can be used for either modest housing or extremely limited markets. Traveling about 3/4 of a mile...which at this point it feels much more comfortable to say 1km...up a dirt road, I had reached my site.

I'm in a Catholic Diocese, affectionately called "the mission" to everyone in town. It is known to be the main site of the parish, and thus these two names are also quite often synonomous with each other. I rolled up to a nun sitting on the veranda of the Fathers living quarters, drinking ajon (local brew beer) from a 4.5 foot straw and a plastic pitcher beneath her. After she escorted me inside and went "back to the straw" as they call it, I sat in the dark (the light had gone off in town) waiting for the Father to come out. Before he did, the cutest. baby. you've. ever. seen. walked into the room, silently. She came over to me, put up her hands...and before i knew it, and without her even making a sound besides a slight groan when i greeted her in Ateso, she was asleep in my lap. Never had such a good welcome.

Eventually, the lights would come back on, shedding light on both my surroundings and my situation and responsibility for the next 2 years of my life. The HCII (the lowest level of actual possible facilities in Uganda) in the diocese is in need of some serious work...almost as much as the house that is supposed to be my home. I'll get to that later. The health center is run by a staff of 8, and the Father told me that the majority of the 33,000 people in the district, catholic or not, consider it their only source of healthcare. There are also 3 schools within a stones throw of the church, from primary to high (5-20). The convent is just behind the church, which is just beside the father's quarters. My "house," is about 20 steps behind where the Father sleeps.

So my house. It's 3 rooms, not including a small bathroom area where water is (apparently) going to be put in for a shower and running toilet. I have used probably 2 running toilets in Uganda, up to this point, as a point of reference. The rooms are all quite small, big enough for a bed in one, a desk in another, and a stove and possible guest hammock/bed in the other. The main problem with the house is pretty evident when you first look at it: there is no roof. As in, when it rains...yeah, my floor is what stops it's fall. No problem, they say. A couple of weeks, the ensure. I'm guessing about 6-8 months.

I'm staying in the guest room, located inside of the Father's house, until that time comes. Oddly enough, in large part because of how welcoming and honest Father Robert is, this doesn't actually make me to apprehensive to the whole idea. I have a nice, single room, with a double bed, my own bathroom. More than that, I have a home. Even though it's not my own house, yet, when I walked in, part of my stress and weight of being in Uganda was most definitely lifted. I could live there; I can exist and find success and sustain myself in that amount of space without much more than minor inconveniences in the day. An incredible feeling, to be honest, to be assured that there is a home for you to make your nest in. After 10 weeks of living out of a bag, with the constant reminder of the percentage of people who quit before swearing in, then the even higher percentage after the first 3 months...it's nice to finally feel like things are being put in their place. And yeah, fine, it's nice to know that i'll be able to drink at my site. The Father keeps a fridge stocked full of Bell, and the ajon is something i've already grown quite accustomed to, even in the first two days.

Walking into the church on friday, for morning mass, there wasn't a single eye that wasn't on me. For many of these people, it's the first time they've ever even seen white skin. At the end of mass, with a previous warning the night before, the Father called me up to the front to say a few words. Haha never will I ever be a rock star, and never will I be able to get up in front of thousands of people and amaze them with a skill that will keep them entertained for hours...but for the 5 minutes that I was speaking in front of the 300 people or so inside the church, that's exactly who I was. Every five words that I would speak in Ateso, they felt compelled to stop me, beat on their drums, and scream at the top of their lungs in excitement. It was pretty sweet, and I'm not going to pretend that I didn't like it, a lot.

My group and I have become extremely close, as the end draws on our community atmosphere inside the country. In a matter of days, we will all be 1-15 hours away, and I didn't expect to be so nervous about it. It's not so much that I will feel lonely, but more just that I want to somehow find the time to make sure that I stay connected with all of the amazing people that I've come to know so well, in so little time. Within the larger group, there is definitely a smaller group of friends that I've connected with more, and I'm excited that I am so confident that we will remain in touch.

So. C/o Matthew Boddie, (Father Robert Ecog), St. Anthony's Catholic Diocese P.O Box 50 Ngora District, Uganda. Packages are welcomeeeeeeeeee. Always report there to be less than 25 dollars of value, and don't be afraid to emphasize the religious nature of the destination on the package to reduce a person's temptation to steal. "air mail" in all different languages also helps.

Thanks to all those that have responded to me in emails. I haven't emailed all of you back yet, and I promise that I'll get on that...but don't stop sending emails! It's really nice to have rememberences of home everytime I get on the internet.

Matt

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Just got placed yesterday. I am in Ngora district, and I'm paired with a Catholic Diocese HC II. It's a huge shock to me, and I have no idea yet what it is actually going to entail; there are still many questions. This entire process is starting to remind me more and more of Lost; each little tidbit of information that we are given, each morsel of knowledge that is dropped on us, the more I feel like I don't know. Right now, my PC experience is about the end of Season 2-beginning of Season 3, because I'm starting to wonder if there is ever a point where I'll stop asking questions. Hopefully, hopefully, I don't feel like I do right now (I'm in the middle of the last season) with lost when I'm COSing (close of service). Or maybe I should just hope that I could be as enamored with Peace Corps as I have been at times with Lost, and let all else figure itself out.

More later; I have to get back to home so that I can help my kids with their hammock.

Cheers,
Matt

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Next Couple of Days, and the Coming Week

For the next couple of days, I will be using up the surplus of data that I've been using so diligently over the past month. If anybody has the urge to see my (burly) smiling face, and wants to g-vid, now would be the best time for that.

On the other hand, my host-family and I have hit a setback, which will limit my ability to use said internet; apparently the electrical company decided to come and cut the power from our house. In Uganda, that means that somebody went up a ladder, got to the powerline, and took down a wire that was connected to our house, and walked away with it. APPARENTLY, my fam has been trying to pay some kind of bill for the past 12 (or more) months, but that every time they ask, they haven't received any kind of bill for payment. I don't know what the deal is, but it's likely that I will not have power for the remainder of my time in Wakiso. I am taking it as a sign that this would be a good time for me to get used to not having power.

Anywayyyyy, the entire group and I are all really pumped about next week. The countdown is starting to get serious on the number of days until site announcement (4!!). Peace Corps Staff has allotted 4 hours for process of telling 45 individuals where they'll be spending the next two years of their life. As a Ugandan would put it, just before an accusatory laugh, "Matthew is fearing this placement."

On friday, we all will be giving our exploration study projects as a presentation to the class. It's all very reminiscient of a 3rd grade english project where some people have spent 40 hours, others 40 minutes. I myself am trying to stay in between giving my all and giving up altogether on the project (stole that from Grits, Ooh-Ahh).

I don't think I have written yet about this, and if I have, then I'm sorry. The one thing that really gets me about Uganda, and that I promise myself I will never actually mimic in my 2 years, is the lack of honour that is used while playing pool. Everybody knows that when your opponent is lining up for a shot, you don't go and put your crotch on the hole that is being aimed. When you are down 5 balls in Eight ball, you do NOT try and play ridiculous safeties. When you do play safeties, and you don't hit a rail, then it IS a foul. And unless you want to get smacked, you also do NOT shoot twice if the opponent isn't looking. I have tried like crazy to assert myself in these matters, only to the laughter of fellow Ugandans that are watching. They just don't get it.

Despite my ever increasing frustration with the attitudes and styles people hold when playing one of my more sacred games, I have enjoyed sports alot here. I met a coach of a secondary school, randomly, one day in Wakiso; we wound up playing basketball for over an hour with his team a week later, after I'd gathered some troops. We're making it a weekly thing now. I've also been able to play some soccer (futbal) while here, which has been fun...if I'm playing with 12 year olds. Anybody thats older than that just runs past, around, through, and over me.

I will update with information on my site and my NGO when I am informed. Until then,

Matt

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tech Immersion...and having to come back

Last week was earmarked by all of us in the PC group, because it was our one week in training that we'd actually been allotted some real freedom. We were to go out on our own from Wakiso, and wind up at a PCV's site to stay with for a week. We all got sent different places, varying from 2 to 9 hours away. I wound up with a PCV named Jonathan Blanchard, and it couldn't have been a better time. He is a Water/Sanitation Engineer as well, and it was awesome to get to see the things that he does, and thereby the things that I could possibly be doing.

Obviously, getting to see a PCV's site, realizing his schedule of activities, and seeing all of the privileges and freedoms that he is given in his service...it's all very attractive. The toughest part of Immersion Week was without a doubt the realization that we weren't ACTUALLY there, we hadn't actually reached the point that our PCV host already had (mine, for over a year now). It would still be a month before we got to go in a bus with all of our stuff, and drop it off later that day at a place we could truly call our own, a place that we could call home. There is nothing that occupies my thoughts more at this point.()

And so, as a result, the current week has been a struggle for us all. After being given a fairly comprehensive view of what life might be like for the next 2 years, we are really supposed to go back to being 8-5 lecture listeners? Well, yes.

It seems that the PC staff has foreseen our lack of enthusiasm for the return to the classroom. Their solution is assigning several tasks and examinations, testing our overall knowledge of language and of tech sessions up to this point. Although disgruntled, we all know that we really have no choice in the issue, and we continue on. Blinders only have to remain attached for a few more weeks...

In the mean time, I'm keeping my short term highlights of the week, and making them up whenever I don't have them. I started talking to a musician on the street, for example, who it turns out is a basketball coach for a secondary school in Wakiso. I gathered up a team, and we're going to skirmish them tomorrow. I'm pumped, and I'm hoping Kevin Bacon will be there to watch us, and scout some of the Ugandans. On the following week, we have a scheduled Talent Show, which I became one of the Emcees for. I've heard that if there is one thing Ugandans can do, it's a hellacious Talent Show, and I'm excited to see what they bring to the table.

The highlight of the week so far was definitely Wednesday, when a group of us went over to Kiboga in order to help a fellow PCV and support him in a project he's been working on for about 6 months. The community, with his help (co-facilitation, rather), set up a tree planting parade, and had over 800 trees donated for the cause of keeping their town clean and green. We showed up there for the ceremony, which was supposed to start at 9. At 12, after the ceremony had still not begun, we decided to start playing with the 4 primary schools who were waiting with us. I did the Vista skit (thanks, Boy Scouts), we did the wave, and had handstand contests. We later had a parade on the streets, and were not hindered at all by the monsoon that would come in the middle of it.

Sorry for my length of time in between posts. Time is moving at a ridiculous pace, and everything seems to be coming and going too quickly to comprehend. I am still checking my email pretty much everyday, even if it's just once a day for about 30 seconds.

Next week: Sites are given!!!!


Until then,
Matty B

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

One Month In Country

Has it really been that long, already? Without thinking, it seems like it has been so much longer than a month that I've been in Uganda. There seems to be so much that I've done. When I really stop and look back, however, it is difficult to create a substantial list of things learned, accomplished, or seen. Regardless, we as a group have completed our first real, tangible amount of time under Peace Corps watch. To some, We have one less month to complete our missions, and to others, we have come one month sooner until our return trip home. As for me? Besides the physical presence of a few family and friends, my mind has found little resistance calling Uganda home.

My diet has varied VERY little since arriving in country. Every day I eat bananas, an egg, tea and maybe a piece of toast at around 6:40. At 10 we have tea with either french toast (sans syrup) and g-nuts (peanuts), in small portions, at RACO. By 12:30 we are all ravenous and awaiting the spread of matoke, irish/sweet potatoes, chapati, g-nut sauce, beans, meat (more commonly bones, than meat, though), pineapple, and raw bananas. I get two full full plates these days. We have another break at 3, where I usually scarf down some clif bars, and have tea. I eat dinner at 8:30, where my host mother feeds and feeds and feeds me, as though each meal is the only meal that I have eaten in the day. After Agnes has sufficiently served me her mountain of food, Michael, my host-dad, usually comes behind and drops some kind of fruit as supplement. Avacados are grown everywhere, and so i usually have at least a half during the course of a day.

My beard has yet to be trimmed in any way, besides my shaving technique at the bottom of my neck, which I practiced at home in order to keep the managers of Spanky's and Squids happy. My host mom made an honest attempt at controlling the hair on my head...but after 5 or 6 wild snips, she admitted little experience with muzungu hair. The rest of the group's experience with salons in the area hasn't exactly raised my opinion of their skill...so for now it remains. I am toying with the idea of trimming the head down to a buzz, and keeping the beard. We'll see.

I have started a self exploration project, which I am to present an idea of at one of the last weeks of training, with my host-brothers. My idea is to inspire and positively reinforce creativity into these kids, and prove to them that there can be a result of increased sanitation and even income, if they are motivated. My brothers and I are going to figure out how to build a hammock tomorrow; after we (probably) fail, then we can go back tomorrow night and draw some designs and think of what things looked promising,and which things we need to alter. The next day we'll implement our new design. Eventually, I hope to have a hammock made for their father, whom is looking upon my own hammock with very envious eyes. I am amazed that these simple structures are not more common in Uganda; they can't even be found, to my belief, in Kampala.

Next week I will be off to Masaka, on the west coast of Lake Victoria. I am staying with a PCV who is in the middle of his masters in environmental engineering, and will be going through a typical week with him and his mission in being a wat/san man. I'm pumped to get a more practical learning experience, outside the classroom.

As for other things...We found a pool (may or may not be chlorinated...) in a place called "Kavumba." It's nice! The first day we went, last saturday, we all got burnt to a fairly well. One in our group got a legitimate 2nd degree burn all on his ankle and shin. pretty nasty, honestly. Even with the rapidly increasing list of bruises that we all are acquiring, our group as a whole is unwavering with positive energy and optimism in the coming years. It really is a great group of people that I am coming with, and I'm proud to be a part of them.

Thanks everyone for all the emails! It's great, great to hear about everyone. It is those emails that keep my mind assured that the people i care most about are safe and doing great things back at home. Keep them up!

Matt

Friday, September 3, 2010

Water/San tech session, ALLVol lunch

Since my last post, there haven't been too many changes in itinerary for us. Our group has spent the mornings walking to class, getting filled with knowledge about either economic development or community health, depending on your program that was assigned (for me, it's community health).

One of the changes is the emergence of the rainy season. It seems now that the weather is planning to stick around, meaning that we should be planning on getting precipitation at some part of most every day. The rain itself is completely fine, and looked at more of a relief rather than a nuisance. The mud, puddles, and small ponds that occupy the majority of the roads are, on the other hand, much more cumbersome. Even if I were agile enough on my bicycle to traverse the small oceans that cover nearly every meter of the roads, I still wouldn't be safe from the splashes that come from my best friends: the boda-boda drivers. They seem to combat the rainy weather with an increased rpm's, brighter smile, and less worry for everyone else. It certainly works for them.

Another high point (but this time I'm serious) in the past week was a couple of our tech sessions. We got schooled in some of the more basic and useful tools of a water/sanitation engineer. The designs presented to us from fellow volunteers Caleb and Steve were awesome, and are so simple, sustainable, and have SUCH a possibility for an impact and change in cleanliness and healthy living here in Uganda. I'm so proud at this point that my job will be primary centered around the possibility of doing these exact things. I have found myself dreaming up new inventions of low-tech fixes to everyday problems that the average and below-average Ugandan may face in a given day. Most are absurd...but that won't stop me recreating them at my site, once I get there.

Some of the things we learned about were bio filters, so-dis methods of achieving potable water, first flush methods to decrease disease, dirt, and virus in the drinking water, and other simple tools that could drastically reduce diarrhea as a result of fecal-mouth transmission. Not all are glamorous, but ALL are awesome, plausible, and completely important.

Another cool part of the week was that yesterday we were able to go and see all of the volunteers in one spot, while they were being put up in the Ridar Hotel (on behalf of the volunteers...thanks taxpayers. The hotel looks like a palace). Little did we know, we would be joined at lunch by not only the volunteers from all over the country (thereby giving us a chance to meet the guys that we'd be near for the next 2 years), but also the CD Ted Mooney, and ALSO the main man, the Ambassador. When it was announced that he actually is from North Carolina, I had no choice but to go up and shake his hand personally. As it turns out, he went to UNC for 6 years of Grad School and has been following our (diminishing) college football prospects for the year. Nothing like eating lunch, talking to the AMB about Marvin Austen and Butch. Sounds like home.

Oh. The volunteers also decided that they'd choose me out of our group to kidnap, blindfold, and throw in the hotel's pool. I managed to keep my phone and wallet dry, despite being dunked...however the volunteer that did the deed came out much worse. I suppose he didn't expect me to put up much of a fight, and so he (cockily) didn't worry about taking his phone or wallet out of his pants....and they were ruined. Sorry I'm not sorry.

All else is going quite well. I will give you some more updates when I have them to give...Until then, I hope all are managing amidst the high seas and increased wind speed on the east coast...I've heard Hurricane Earl is either imminent or presently sweeping through. Stay safe everyone.

Matt

Saturday, August 28, 2010

sharpening the tool

The last days have been very helpful to me and my understanding of exactly what will be expected of me once I am sent out into Uganda on my own. I am being given crash courses in as many things as possible in as many ways as possible; it is clear that Peace Corps aims to shape me into a machine. I have learned much knowledge of location specific infectious diseases (prevalence, exposure, anti-viruses, stigma, impact, prevention), community mobilizing (mapping, needs assessment, swot analysis, seasonal calendars, daily activity sheets), language learning (3-5 hours a day, 6 days a week for 10 weeks), technical training (permaculture(permagardening, agronomy), brickmaking, clothes washing, cooking, efficiency stove making, composting)...and the training is still in it's very early stages. All of the information is kind of like, to steal a phrase from a friend, trying to drink from a fire hydrant.

It's amazing how extremely different we all are in our group of 45. We have experts of infectious disease, a nurses with over 40 years experience, a social worker for the past 30 years, a permaculturist, a nutritionist, a carpenter-turned-mason-turned-massage therapist, we have camp counselors and we have bartenders. Everyone is starting to feel comfortable enough to admit their strengths to the group and let the rest learn from them, which is awesome to not only see but to be apart of. My contribution, besides the baseball gloves, has been the implementation of Trivia Nights at our favorite watering hole. The more things change...

I've also gotten more comfortable with my host family. I taught my youngest sister to waltz tonight (thank you social dance) and worked on a beat to lay down my first single (my family has a music studio.) I'm writing the lyrics as we speak.

More practically, I've also talked with them about HIV, malaria, stigmas behind both, old wives tales of Uganda, and other generalities of a culture that could only be figured out on-site. It is critical that I have a connection with people who I can ask the stupid questions (what happens when you have to go to the bathroom, but you can't get out of the house because the door is bolted after 11?) and the awkward questions (why do you think only 3% of women in Uganda use condoms, in such a highly prevalent area of HIV) to the really important questions (When I where shorts outside, our the Ugandans going to point and laugh at my skinny muzungu legs?). I had no idea just how important this connection was until a couple of days ago.

Beyond that, I'm just really lucky because my host dad is a baller. He is one of those guys who you always wanted to talk to, because they have this quiet glint in their eye and seem to be doing things just a bittttt different than the rest. You know he'd love to sit you down and talk to you about all of the things that go on in his head, you just never get the chance...well I actually have gotten it. It's awesome to hear him talk about politics, life, the American Dream (except for Uganda), and about his aspirations both for himself and his children. He is the kind of man that as long as "a man is never old until regrets take the place of dreams," his youth will be present until his death.

Time is really starting to speed up here. At first I was furious to have to tell Ugandans that I'd only been in country a week, because it felt like 5 months...but since, the days have started to slide. Our schedules have gotten more compact, and there are now expectations of retention from several different facets of our day, be it from language class to technical training to cooking at home with the family.

You can also feel the group's dynamic changing. At first there was a strong sense that we were all clinging on a bit to each other, in a way acting as our own home away from home. We were put in a bubble in Lweza, and have slowly been trying to rip off the bandaid from 1st world life. As tools are being given to us, we find our selves wanting to play with them, wanting to branch out and learn more. We all start making excuses for going home early, because we aren't quite ready to admit to each other that we might actually just WANT to learn a bit more about to build a keyhole garden or about the LC 1's rights in the village. I find myself striding in place in preparation for the marathon of the next two years. Of course I realize its much more like me striding 100 yards for a 100 mile race...but still. It's nice to be excited about it from a new perspective, from a perspective of actual confidence in ability to give the capacity to make a change.

I am interested already in how my perspectives are changing amidst all of the change around me. It will be fun to "return to a place unchanged and find they ways in which I myself have been altered."


Send me an email at M.h.boddie@gmail.com. I might not respond quickly, or at all depending on internet capability, but I promise I'll read it and I'll be interested in what you're up to.

Also heard about something that might be useful; onesuite.com. Apparently you can set up an account with them, and call with a 1800 number to Uganda for only 2 cents a minute. For those interested in keeping contact, maybe this could be a (much) cheaper way to accomplish?

Much love,
Cuerpo
Uganda is an interesting place. The first thing I noticed after traveling for about 26 hours were the boda-bodas. I have never seen such careless disregard for ones own well-being. These motorcycle taxis could weave through a New York City traffic jam while eating a piece of toast and talking on the phone. Or maybe they couldn't, but the point is, they would absolutely try without thinking twice. Their appeal is undeniable, and it is with some relief that Peace Corps has such strict regulations against using them; there is no opportunity for my curiousity to take shape.

The second thing is how interested the people are in you. There hasn't been a single person in the country who wasn't intrigued by me. A man with even a stitch of less confidence that he isn't being a complete idiot during every part of his day would be in trouble. I find myself sub-consciously checking to see if there is something in my teeth, a "kick me" sign on my back, or a cowlick in my hair. No, it turns out I'm just the village Muzungu (whitey), and this is how it works. There is no insult intended; I could imagine seeing the first white person in their lifetime could bring about quite a lot of shock. With that said, I can't say it hasn't begun to wear on my nerves a bit.

The third is just how nice everyone is; not just to you, but in general. Everyone is on "uganda time" (take whatever time you are on currently, then throw it out the window. You are now on Uganda time.) and everyone has no trouble walking you across town towards the nearest pub. "it is not a problem" they say, with the look of "hey, kid, what else have I got to do? Let's just have a chat on the way and we'll call it square". It's the kind of place where where noone actually has change when you buy something that costs 1,000 shillings with a 10,000 shilling bill; luckily, it's also the place where the cashier can get change from the native behind you with a non-spoken agreement that they would pay them back. It's a place where when you go to a restaurant and ask for a drink, if they don't have it they will go around the back, go to the store neighboring their own, buy it and charge you 500 shillings more.

The fourth thing you notice, after you've been around for awhile, is that everyone might JUST be talking about you after all. You start keying in on their local language dialect; not only do you hear the word Muzungu from all of the village children (these kids scream it at you, and you have no question that they are talking to you), but also more sneakily from the adults. They will hide the word amidst a variety of quickly spoken, as-of-now completely nonsensical words to me, and you wonder if they just considered asking you to marry their daughter...or deciding if they felt like slashing your bag and taking whatever falls.

Another thing I immediately started questioning was the definition of development. You start considering all of the things that we have in the US that simply can't be afforded in 95% of the homes in Uganda, and of course at first it seems sad. But if I had to point out one thing that really bothered me after 6 days of living with a family in Uganda, it would be easy. It's the TV and DVD player that sits proudly next to the dining room table, playing philipino soap operas that are dubbed in english and then dubbed over top in Luganda. Everything else is quite nice.
With regard to my family, I have never seen such discipline. The 4,5, and 9 year old children get up at 645 on a Sunday so that they can cook breakfast. After breakfast they are quickly off to washing clothes, where the mother and father have conveniently forgotten to take out a few shillings in their pockets. Then they are eating, laughing, and playing until it is time to start cooking for dinner alongside getting ready for church. Lunch is on the stove before they all leave, and is ready when they get back to be served. The clothes are now dry and need to be brought in, and there are now a stack of dishes from breakfast and lunch that need to be washed in the traditional 3 pot standard.

The kids in my home are creative as hell. My mom will be proud to hear that I gave them a deck of the "house of cards," the same ones that I used to play with as a child and get bored with after 30 minutes, and it looked like they had been given the moon. For the next 4 days, the kitchen table was given the responsibility of displaying trains, bi-planes, skyscrapers, the Rwenzori Mountain Range...and several other engineering feats. I've heard of recruiting Africans for basketball, but if you ask me there should really be some Odyssey of the Mind scouts in the backyard checking these kids out.


0788033477 is my number, i think. text or call anytime.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life here in Uganda is pretty unbelievable. Currently I'm staying in a village called Kisimbiri in the district of Wakiso. I live around 4 kilometers away from my training center, where we go everyday from 8-5 to learn language, community interaction training, and capacity building expertise. I am staying with the Kanakulya family, consisting of a mother, Agnes, father, Michael, and 5 siblings: Samuel(19), John(15), Faith(9), Emmanuel(5), ???(4). Still working on the name of that last one.

I have started to learn Ateso as my language. This puts me in the Eastern Uganda region, apparently home to some of the more isolated villages in the country. I'm very excited about the prospect of moving here. I have been told that my language group is being sponsored by PEPFAR, and I will be interested to see in what capacity I will be working alongside this fund.

In the meantime, life is pretty standard here in Kisimbiri. I take a bucket shower every evening, take tea three times a day, and have learned the finer points of using the Ugandan latrine. I have gotten a bit ill and recovered from it, and I've already managed to split my head open and get it mended (long story). Anyway, I already feel myself starting to call Kisimbiri home. After 5 days in town, I am very happy with this progression.

Although this might not be a surprise to anybody here, the internet here is very shotty. I am writing this in "notepad" in hopes that I will be able to hook up my computer to the internet cafe and copy and paste this into my blog. This will (hopefully) prevent me writing large amounts and having the computers shut down or lose power just as I am about to send (which has happened twice already.)

We were issued bikes on Wednesday. I was pretty pumped to receive mine, given that it takes me 45 minutes to walk to class...after receiving the bikes, however, I have to admit that I didn't realize how spoiled I was from my bike at home. My pedals are made of plastic, and they have broken twice already. The bike is a 6 speed, but only changes into two gears. It's also brand new, so I'm confused. Anyway, it sure does look pretty...

Anyway, here I am! Today is a learning day for me, and I am hoping that at the end of it I will be well versed in the ways of cleaning, washing clothes, and (kind of) cooking some meals. I was also able to snag some information on well digging and a how to book on fuel efficient ovens while I was in Kampala getting my stitches from my head split (long story, promise it's fine.) I know that I may never actually use the contents of the book, but they are just so interesting that I felt it could be some good post-Ateso reading material.

If anybody just Happens to be making a shipment to Uganda, here are some things I was thinking about:
-music. I had to wipe my computer's memory once i got here. Womp Womp. Anything would be great.
-shampoo. Stuff is ridiculously expensive here, and it's not exactly vidal sassoon.
-rechargeable batteries. These won't be needed needed until much later on...but they'd be nice. for now i'm using up a pile of regular batteries that I brought with me. I already have a charger.
-peanut butter.
-pens. They suck here.
-Drink Mix
-Any pictures!!! Would love to have more here.

Thing that I have used the most since being here that I questioned bringing: UGA visor. The thing is one of the few things that I brought that reminds me of...well, you know. It travels with me always; if not on my head, then attached to my backpack. I anticipate most all of the pictures taken by the rest of the group will verify this.
Thing that I have used the least since being here that I absolutely thought would be vital: sunscreen. I'm wearing pants and longsleeves, as is custom. No need.
I'm an idiot because: Didn't bring a towel, or an ipod charger (because SOMEONE lost mine in Richmond), or a power adapter.
I'm a genius because: One of only two people to bring a hammock. Use it all the time.

My beard and hair is growing out of control. A fellow trainee has made promise to tame the wild mess, but results have not been present as of yet. I will continue the struggle.

The mefloquin (sp) that I am taking for Malaria has some interesting side effects. My dreams have become increasingly vivid. Looking forward to getting some real doozies in a couple of months time.

And so until next time, take care of yourselves everybody.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wakiso, at Homestay

Here I am in Wakiso! I once again only have time to touch base; the electricity here is extremely shotty and the last time I tried to post something, I got a couple paragraphs in and it turned off completely. Ohwell.

I have started to reside with the Kanakulya family. Samuel, the eldest of 5 children, is the one who I have gotten closest with. He has shown me around Wakjso, and introduced me to his friends and his hang outs. Already I feel comfortable calling him my brother. Boddies, you have new family members!

Michael and Agnes are my father and mother, and they couldn't be more helpful with everything in helping me to become proficient as a volunteer. I am going to start helping to build some structures at home that they can use, that they can then share and help spread among their community. Many of the items are fairly simple but can greatly reduce the spread of several kinds of malaria. I am so privileged to be given such a great power and, therefore, responsibility.

That is it for now. Other things need to be done before the electricity shuts off!! Send emails and I will do my best to respond, and comments are more than welcome and certainly make me feel nice. Thanks for all the love that has already been sent my way. Good luck to all until next time!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Greetings from Uganda!!

Hey guys! Just got my first chance at heading into kampala, and thus my first chance to actually make a statement to the outside world. Life here is unbelievable. The temperature stays at a breezy 75, no humidity, rain comes and leaves in a matter of minutes, and the countryside is amaaaazing.

Was put into a Ateso language group; this means I will be living in east, not quite to Kenya. Pumped!!!!!!


Everybody here is really nice. Have a phone now, but am figuring out its number still. Will inform as I know. Get your skype ready, parents and friends!!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Farewell to the Hill

Today was tough. It is the last official day and night that I will spend in Chapel Hill for the next 27 months.

To Chapel Hill, UNC: To say you and I have memories would be like saying Roger Federer has a good tennis game. I have lived here for 5 years now, and each year...each month...each day I have felt myself daydreaming about how much I love this place and your unbelievable campus. I am so proud to have lived here, so proud to be a tarheel. With this pride, I absolutely feel as though there is a weight of responsibility for me to represent Chapel Hill and UNC with whatever I do with the rest of my life. It is a weight I take gladly; an honor to know that I have become part of your tradition. I will take care not to embarass you.

To Spanky's: Thank you so much for all you have done for me. You took me in my sophomore year, and put your faith in me that I would be there for you. As I moved up the ranks, I only gained respect for the jobs that you provide and the service that you provide for both employees and the customers themselves. Even though you're not the best dating setter-upper (haha), you have always given me piece of mind to pursue the things that I want to do in life. There is no job that I would have rather had.

To Crunkleton: It has always been a dream of mine to be a regular. The idea of it is so homey, so warm and comforting to have a place where, as they say, "everybody knows your name." You have provided that to me, and more. As it is an honor to be a part of UNC, so to is it an honor and a privilege to consider myself part of your greater whole. I will keep my pool skills sharp, and will look for you at the tables.

To Chi Psi: Wow. I've Hated you, and I've loved you. I've ignored you, and I've been immersed in everything that you do. I will look upon my 4 years with you, and my 2 years under your roof, as the type of years that I hope to emulate for much of my life. But maybe not too much of my life.

To Squids: How quickly you took me in and brought me into your group. Although there wasn't much time shared, it is amazing how comfortable working for you has been. Fried Chicken will never, ever be the same to me because of you.

To Uganda: I hope you know how many places, lives, and living places that I have sacrificed for you. I have found people, and I have found a woman, whom I would be so lucky to be with as long as I live; yet here I am giving myself to you for over 2 years. Are you ready for me? Am I ready for you? Do you realize the passion that I am bringing? Am I going to be able to really make this worthwhile for both of us? I can only hope that you will be close to as loving as my Chapel Hill has been to me.
You've certainly got a lot to live up to.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mailing Information

Sending mail during Pre Service Training (PST)
This takes 3-4 weeks, on average.

Matthew Boddie, Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Mail after PST should be sent to each individual Volunteer’s PO Box at his or her assigned
site, which he or she should communicate to you after settling in to his or her assigned site. (I don't know my site yet)

Sending packages

Matthew Boddie, PCV
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

t-minus 22

Welcome all. It is my hope that this blog will be used for communication with the masses back at home while I am in Uganda, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Stay tuned! I hope to give you some more information, as I am given it, with regards to my location, my mailing address, living status, etc. Should be interesting!