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