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.

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