Sunday, January 30, 2011

Keeping it in the family

I have struggled a lot with trying to feel like I deserve all of the things that I've been given here at site. They have put me up in the equivalent of a baller house in Uganda, and have continued to offer me meals every day, even if they know that I'm planning on cooking my own. They have been as nice as any group I've ever met. With that, I really want to give them something so that they feel like it was worth it, in the end. It took a friend of mine within PCV visiting to remind me that, sometimes, it's the things that you would never consider important that are exactly the things that they are hoping to get from you.

With that said, there are a few things that I shared with my surrogate family that I thought they may enjoy, because if nothing else they were most definitely hits in my family reunions. These two things went especially well:

1) Spoons
In 3 months, I have literally never seen the parish priest laugh harder than when we were playing this game. The coolest part though was that the chef, the parish priest, the youngest son of 12, and I were all sitting at the same table. In Uganda, that rarely EVER happens, for anything. Indirectly teaching them a silly American game, I also saw my first true signs of equality at home. Pretty cool.

There is also one kid who always, always cheated. I named him Stephen.

2) Sound of Music
I took this to the convent, after purposefully buying the illegal copy in Kampala while I was in In Service Training. For the first time ever, I saw Ugandan's get up and leave the room when they had a phone call, and even tell people to be quiet at certain parts of the movie. Unbelievable. The nuns gave it to the parish priest, who last night stayed up with 5 or 6 others until 2am watching it. How cool is that!

So, thanks family. It seems some of our traditions are powerful enough to transcend cultures, language barriers, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Days at Site

The days at site, like usual, are speeding by at a pace I've still not gotten used to.

Biggest challenge I've found currently is the lack of H20 at my house. The water source that I had just began to take for advantage (the running tap that fills into a tank above my hallway) has given out completely to the dry season. Thus I am now forced to hall my 20 liter jerrycans to fill them at the nearest bore hole. The walk DOWN to the bore hole isn't a big deal, and it's only a little over a kilometer away...but when you're carrying 20 liters of water in each hand back UP to your house, It is a little annoying. My technique of carrying the jugs actually reminded me of a man I met on the Appalachian Trail, named Rewind.

He had two duffel bags, and he'd hike 50 yards with one bag, set it down...then go back, take the other duffel bag, and walk 50 yards to bring it equal to its counterpart. He then repeated. And repeated.

I was able to carry both jugs at once, thankfully, but my pick up and (30 seconds later) set down method was pretty frustrating. Add on the 30 plus kids that I (so slowly) passed by with this process, and it was also pretty embarrassing. Stupid muzungu, you got too much water!! So greedy, muzungu!! Caning is a terrible thing, and I really hope I don't have to see kids getting punished in such a fashion at my nearby schools...but at the time it seemed like a pretty fun idea. Just saying.

The worst part about the water though is that the only real access I have as far as #2's is through my toilet. The toilet was at first a welcome surprise, but has turned itself quickly into a water guzzling handicap. After taking 35 minutes bringing back 40 liters, I could have cried pouring in 8 liters for one flush of the toilet. I didn't though. Couldn't waste the water.

Anyway, besides that, everything is going well. The health center is now something I look forward to traveling to, as opposed to the dread with which it used to fill my days with. I have found some small ways to make myself useful, even if right now that means, most days, diagnosing malaria and typhoid on a high school microscope.

This coming week should be a good one, with scheduled appointments with people from local start-up groups, to the local government officials, to even a meeting with the inspector general of the police of Uganda. Pretty cool.

Thank you to Ann and Mama Boddie for the packages!! Ann, i promise that I didn't eat all of the goodies at one time! In fact It took me nearly the whole day to eat them. Haha.

Also got an awesome package from the parentals with some good "don't make them like they used to" books, one of which is the perfect eclectic collection of DIY projects.

Thanks guys, I really appreciate the love!

Friday, January 28, 2011

And I'm Freeeeeeeeee.....

The month of January has come and gone, though not entirely in Vain. Ive done some pretty cool things, and I've done some pretty stupid things, and most coincide with both of those characteristics.

My last weekend was certainly one of note. After In Service Training (which is the final step towards Peace Corps giving me and the rest of my group free-king of-reign to go out and do the projects we want to do) 36 out of the 45 of us decided to celebrate our new found (relative) freedom by conquering the Nile. Let me describe said conquering action well, so that you all can be terribly jealous of me.

As we arrived at Nile River Explorers, I knew that I was going to be in for quite a night. Because I had done the coordinating of the trip for the weekend, I was fully aware of all of the bad and good planning that had been accomplished. The stupidest of all of these plans made by yours truly was to set up the "Sunset Cruise" of the Nile the night Before the rafting.

The name sunset cruise was seen through immediately by my group, and referred to it always as the "Booze Cruise"; basically it was a double deck pontoon boat that powered us around for two hours while supplying unlimited drinks and food. Giving this opportunity to people who have chosen to live off of less than $300 a month for the next 2 years is dangerous; free refills are never overlooked. Combine this with the fact that the bartenders at NRE spoke Ateso (my local language in the east), and committed to giving me free shots BEFORE the booze cruise...yeah. It was an interesting night. Fade out...

Fade in. It's 8:33, says my watch...but wait, don't the buses going rafting leave at 8:30? Yeah. They do. Before I can realize what's happening, I'm walking out of my room in the clothes that I wore all day yesterday, and throughout the booze cruise and the subsequently fuzzy events afterwards, outside. Immediately I notice a bunch of very familiar white people leaving on a bus, all of whom are wearing bathing suits and general athletic attire. Ah. This is my group. I cut my losses, run towards the bus with Cole Haan penny loafers, J-Crew Khakis, and a Brooks Brother long sleeve Button down. If that isn't Rafting gear, I simply don't know what is. My group thought the whole thing was hillarious, of course. As was deserved, I got questions of my well being from almost everyone in the group, even though there was NO question how I was feeling, and that "well being" would not be my first words of description for myself.

Throughout what must have been the bumpiest and most terrible 30 minute ride of my life, I am just hoping that I'm able to regurgitate the liquid substances that I consumed the night prior, so that I may be able to actually enjoy what should be one of the coolest experiences of my life. It doesn't happen, and we arrive at the site where the company is going to serve us breakfast. I arrive at the front desk, and luckily they know my name, and because I have coordinated the trip and brough this company around 40 muzungus worth of business, they allow me to borrow some board shorts. I skip breakfast, and instead find a comfortable spot of compacted dirt just beside the building to lay down in.

By now everybody has seen my terrible state, and questions are arising as to whether I'm even going to be able to ride on the Nile at all, much less face the 4 class V rapids which will be facing us in the 6 hour rafting trip we'd all signed up for. Pride is luckily strong enough of a personality trait inside of me that I recognize my group's doubts, and counter them by jumping up (thereby nearly inducing a vomit all over the helmets laid out for our use) and asking the head rafting guide who the "craziest, stupidest, most fucking crazy rafting guide that is going on our trip is." She laughs, and points over to Nathan. Nathan and I exchange handshakes, and he sees how I feel, hears what I'm asking, and instantly we understand each other perfectly. Hangover or no hangover, this is going to be one hell of a trip. And hell yeah, I'm sitting in the front of the raft.

6 hours later, Me and the rest of my raft (consisting of Alexi, Aregnaz, Kate, Lisa, and Bryce) have flipped 5 times, and completed what was absolutely one of the coolest things I've ever done. It wouldn't have been the same without my group there, encouraging me and (perhaps mockingly) pushing me along the entire way. I am SOooooo happy that we got nearly the entire group to go; there is NO WAY it would have been the same, or half as much fun, without all of you there.

That night, I fall asleep at 9. I wake up at 6 the next morning, and within three hours I'm signing up to do another dream; bungee jumping. Over the nile, from 145 feet up? Ughhhh, ok. I take a tequilla shot (my only taste of tequilla since being in country) with Alexi and Chelsea, and then those two, Rebecca and I each take our solo plunge into the Nile. It was terrifying. I wish I could do it 40 more times. Alexi and I have promised to continue this rush on the next big trip, to Victoria falls. The bungee is almost 3 times as far a drop from there. Yikes.

After the Bungee, I went into Kampala and did some relaxing (kind of), then headed on home after a frustrating day of mock-consolidation tests. It was an amazing weekend.

Moral of the story: Don't feel bad for me, the lonely peace corps volunteer in the middle of nowhere in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is plenty of American'ed style fun here too.