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 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; 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,

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