Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Sky’s a Fallin’

Riding on a bus is generally accepted as the best form of public transport available. They generally hold upwards of 70-80 people in Rows of 5 seats (3 on one side, 2 on the other).  Buses generally are more speedy and stop less than other means of travel.  Obviously, the sooner you get onto a bus means the better seat you will get (i.e. closer to the front) but also the longer you will wait for the bus to fill.  When traveling to populated areas, my gold standard is 2 hours or less as an acceptable expectation for waiting. 

You will find matatus as well, but because of their tendency to stop frequently (it is not uncommon for a matatu to pick someone up at location x, start, then be told to stop by a different passenger to be let off at location x + 7 meters), their increased susceptibility to break downs, as well as their propensity towards overstuffing.  Recommended 16 passengers quickly becomes 20 (generally best case scenario), which quickly becomes 25 with children who if they are under 5 don’t count, no matter how many there are.  This is not to mention the numerous chickens clucking at your feet, goats screaming in the back, or the amazing girth of Ugandan ladies taking “1” seat.

In some regions you will find sedans taking the roll of matatus, which to me is almost guaranteed to be less comfortable than matatus.  2 people in the front seat is the ideal situation, because in the back they will fit at least 5, without even breaking a sweat.  They accomplish this by having smaller passengers sit towards the front of the seat with their legs angled towards the door.  What results is the most impressive game of twister of unwilling participants you’d never want to see.

Riding on a bus does have its entertainments, as well.  On some lucky occasions, you will be given the viewing pleasure of old music videos or cheesy American movie with Luganda speakers dubbed over.  My favorite form of passing time is making bets on which piece of luggage is most likely to fall from the overhead shelves.  With every bump, bags/suitcases/tvs/water bottles/office equipment/sketchy black bags filled with God knows what is jostled and jumbled.  In a 5-6 hour bus ride, my over/under on items falling is 2.5.  On good days, upwards of 4 different items will fall, at which point the betting game clearly becomes a bus-wide event—everyone looks at the baggages, at the very least, directly above them.  Some objects are harmless, like pillows, which produces nothing more than a sleeping mother to shrug off her sleeping baby to put it back on the shelf.  Other objects, like the “luxury platter set” which I witnessed plummet in front of me just yesterday, can pack quite a punch.  This particular item fell 3 feet and landed corner first on the fake hair braids of the passenger in front of me.  Immediately there are a plethora of “sorry, sorry, sorry” statements being given by all passengers around.  They are in no way admitting it to be their fault; saying “sorry” just denotes that something bad has happened (used when hearing a death in the family, to tripping on a rock, to losing ones job). 

The most interesting part, perhaps because it shows a huge difference of social norms, is that neither the person hit nor anyone else on the bus actually tries to ascertain the owner of the object.  I’ve seen blood come from some of these items, and yet no one even attempts to assign blame to it.  Perhaps, at most, the driver is blamed for “overspeeding,” some clicks (which express disappointment or discontent with some kind of situation) are made, and people move on.  I still haven’t gotten to this level of Ugandaness—the few times I fell victim to a improperly packed object, the first thing I do is look around for the guilty face.  It is instinct!  And yet, here in Uganda, nobody seems to care.

I realize this is silly to try and find something meaningful out of falling suitcases on shoddy buses, but at times it does strike me as pretty cool that people here don’t need to know who the culprit is of their misfortune.  Perhaps this is because they don’t designate the action with anger for why it happened, but discomfort from the act only.  What a nice way to live life.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gulu Nation

Having been to Gulu several times before, I admit to being (overly) quite confident about the prospect of moving to it’s town.  Visiting a place and assuming you understand how it would be to live there, however, is like eating a strawberry slice placed on top of icing all over a birthday cake and instantly proclaiming to have an affinity for red velvet.  That was a tough analogy, but the point is that it doesn’t work.

I was struck immediately with insecurity on my first day, just after I was left “to organize & rest a bit,” which basically is the blanket phrase for “you travelled today, and therefore you don’t do anything of value.”  Walking the streets of Gulu is not unsimilar to any other populated place in Uganda, and yet signs are clear enough that this place has some pretty distinct differences.  85% of cars passing are 4 wheel drive gas guzzling giants built to be the first vehicle to summit Everest; 95% of these cars proudly adorn some clever acronym describing the organization and who have supported them.  Not surprisingly, therefore, I am constantly reminded of the national colors of my homeland.

 Traveling around and stopping at the one place I remembered from my last trip to Gulu, I chanced upon a friend from New Zealand who I worked with while at Northern Camp BUILD.  She quickly recited the weekly recurring schedule of ultimate Frisbee, poker, trivia, and Mexican nights which the white people hold.  I was quite clearly overwhelmed.

Gulu is the only place I’ve been where I actually feel I have to explain myself to others.  This feels comes almost entirely because no one seems to care.  There are so many foreigners doing so many things (some worthy of sainthood, others of the 8th circle) that Ugandans have become completely unimpressed.  This foreign fatigue might seem nice to some; not being stared at quite so long or ostracized quite so much---these seem like things that one would welcome.  Yet for me it is the first time I am being grouped in with a “whole,” whereas I used to BE the whole.  People didn’t define me as a white person, they defined white people as Opolot (me).  Here, suddenly people I’ve never met are shaping the way people have and will see me in the place that I live.  That is frustrating to someone grown used to shaping his own identity---even if it was at his peril.

To be certain, I am taking the good with the different.  I’m currently staying in a hotel where I have free reign to a swimming pool, gym, steam & dry saunas, hot showers, a fridge in my room and a king size bed.  They had me at “no rats,” to be honest—everything else is just bonus.  The food is amazing (I had chicken tikka masala last night) if a bit expensive.  We are in the meantime searching for a place for me within town.  More importantly, my organization is seemingly extremely well organized, not to mention obviously well funded.  The work environment is friendly and up-beat; you’d be hardest not to hear someone laughing every 30 seconds in some part of the office.  The light heartedness could never be mistaken for follishness or associated with lack of ability; it is a supreme confidence that has come from the successful completion of the last 4 years cumulative work.  Their wheels are quite clearly greased, lessons learned and patterns formed as a result. 

As I move forward, I will continue to try and give Gulu the chance I gave Ngora.  It certainly has a lot to live up to, but perhaps once I’m able to accept them as different entities entirely I’ll be able to more appropriately appreciate such a town.  Hell, maybe I’ll even play a game of ultimate or two.

Farewell to Ngora

Since Junior Year of High-school, my head rested in one location for never more than one year.  Ngora is thus my longest duration of a home since I’ve gotten my full driver’s license.  That makes me feel old, saying that.  Anyway, it’s a bit of a technicality, but still interesting to see the place some might call me “settling down” was in the heart of NorthEastern Uganda in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ngora, you were and are a huge source of pride for me.  I have and will continue to defend any offenses against our people because, well, they’re our people after all.  You have frustrated me, to be sure—there are days when I cursed the very thought of you – but in the end you knew you’d found a new son.  When I find my place in this world, it will be in no small part to the things you taught me.

Fr. Ecogu—Scores upon scores of hat racks couldn’t hold all of the positions and responsibilities that you’ve taken in Ngora.  Your demeanor is so inspiring in that you actively throw yourself into any and every project you feel has merit; a relaxed day IS a bad day for you, because you understand how important you are and furthermore see it as a responsibility.  You have managed to make speeches that I’ve fumbled through in English sound eloquent in Ateso, somehow saying less but also more.  You are thoughtful and passionate, wise yet ever questioning.  You have sent me to google from conversations more than any other person I’ve met.  Your willingness to take time and encourage me at the right times has meant so much to me, and had such an impact on my ability to lead within Ngora.  You break the mold, Father.

Jackie—Only you could manage to make a 23 year old American MORE dependent on people by coming to Uganda.  Any time I’d do work outside, you’d scold me; everytime I didn’t eat 2x my fill, you’d purse your lips.  You were a great and wonderful teacher; you’d never get tired of teaching me Ateso.  You’re also a leader, Jackie, even if you don’t see it yourself; realize it and allow yourself to lead the women so willing to follow you  towards the things you wish to see in our community. 

Orelia—Don’t ever grow up.

Gulu-- Get ready.  Opolot is coming

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stomping Out Malaria

On the 18th of September, I flew from Uganda to Kenya to the Ivory Coast, finally reaching Dakar, Senegal.  I showed up at the Senegal Peace Corps Office (Corps de la Paix) without much of an idea of what I'd be in for.  I had skimmed what seemed to be an overly optimistic schedule for the coming 10 days of "Boot Camp."  All I knew for sure was that I had close to $200 in my pocket and several neck-ties (and one bow-tie) in my bag; I figured the rest would work itself out.  I knew very little about malaria; 90% of what I knew came from a quick and dirty reading list provided by the camp.  To be honest, what I really expected was to get a break away, see a new country, ride some waves, and save some per-diem to be used on a future trip.

On the 30th of September, I flew back to Uganda. I came back with 7 extra pounds was on my body (Senegalese food---there are no words.), ~130 extra gigabytes of data on my computer (google drive, mumford & sons, Watch The Throne, Etc.etc.etc.), 35 new facebook friends, and a new outlook on my coming year in Uganda.  What I lost was (Besides my coveted Kavu Visor and my precious sunglasses) any excuse not to make an impact on Malaria in Uganda.  I have come back disillusioned, empowered, and for the first time in quite some time...Optimistic.

As beautiful as Senegal is, it is a true testament to the training that I won't be talking about it.  Its beautiful.  As wonderful as the food at the training center was, it is even MORE of a testament that I won't be talking about it. --I might have to have a follow-up post about it.--  Speaking sincerely, Stomp Out Malaria's Boot Camp was 10 days of the best training I've ever received.

The camp held almost 30 volunteers from 12 different countries within Africa, each having specific affiliations in malaria at their sites.  From 9am-9pm we were on a schedule.  From supply chain management to radio psa's, Epidemiology to behavior change, log frames to Indoor Residual Spraying, and on and on, we acquired the tools necessary to become resources for other volunteers in our respective country of service.  These lessons were taught by international leaders in the field through skype sessions from all over, from Stanford to the CDC HQ in Atlanta to the PC HQ in D.C.  I personally talked to the overall Peace Corps Director, Carrie Hessler-Radelet about the Stomp Out Malaria Camp (http://stompoutmalaria.org/boot-camp-v-day-9-a-message-from-the-acting-peace-corps-director-care-groups-model-and-united-against-malaria/)

There was much more than information.  Underwriting every session, meal, and minute while at camp there could be felt a certain degree of expectation.  The creators of this camp very openly (and repeated several times) their intention of holding us, as boot camp participants, to a higher standard in every way.  It was expected to dress professionally each day, to have read case studies before the night session the day prior, and to be able to apply country specific highlights to lessons being taught.  This expectation was embossed with an otherwise overwhelming amount of information, an ever-increasing access to documents from all over Africa, and incredibly wide-spread network of people with which to find out answers.  By the end of the 10 days I felt polished into a volunteer that could actually tackle such an overwhelming topic that is Malaria.  I was reinvigorated with the feeling that I was now apart of something that I could truly be proud of.

It is a dangerous thing, this hope I now possess.  Every day in Africa is a challenge; trying to accomplish real results in it is something else entirely.  This kind of mentality, though, I will no longer accept as rationale for lack of progress.  I refuse the jaded attitude that clouds over like cataracts, and have resolved to remain in a state of near furious motion until my goals (which ARE attainable) are met.

The world lost somewhere between 700,000-1,000,000 people last year due to malaria.  This staggering figure is brought home quickly, with Uganda itself being about 10% responsible for this (estimated 80,000-110,000 die annually).  In some places in Uganda, the average person gets bit over 1500 times by an infected mosquito.  That means each day a person is being bit 5 times by a mosquito carrying a deadly disease.  Malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Uganda, and in children under-5 attributes close to 50% of total deaths.

The overarching mission is to have near 0 deaths in all 19 Presidential Malaria Initiative funded countries by 2015.  Time to get to work.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Life, Readers Digest Version

Power has taken a turn for the absolutely terrible here in Ngora, after what has been a glorious 2 months of the most stable electricity I've had in all of my 2 years in Uganda.  Thus, this will be brief---

On the 18th of this month, we will officially be signing the acceptance of our Grant from the U.S. Embassy Small Grants Office, which will be funding the building of a permanent structure, sewing machines, solar panels and two computers for the up and coming Ngora Parish Harmack Company.  I will not be there, though, becauseeeeeee

At midnight on the 17th, I will be escorted to the airport.  Peace Corps is sending me to a Stomp Out Malaria Boot Camp in Senegal for 12 days, in preparation for the response position that I have been given for my third year extension as a Volunteer in Uganda.  You can read more about this here: http://stompoutmalaria.org/

At or around the date of October 1st, I will be arriving back in Uganda.  This will also mark our first day able to begin our project under the U.S. Embassy, thus the first day of construction.  We aim to finish construction by the end of January, 2013, and start Phase 2 of our grant (and start making our new structure nice and fancy and ready to become operational!)

Finally, at or around (best I can do...this is still Uganda) October 21st will be my last official day living in Ngora as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  I will shift to Gulu, in Northern Uganda, to be a field coordinator under ABT Associates, working specifically on IRS implementation in surrounding areas of Gulu District. 

While all this is happening, the NPHC has been setting up MOUs to all our present companies which we supply harmacks to, and has also made plans to start an extensive nation-wide tour to scale our target locations.  By the end of the year, 2013, we hope to have gone from supplying to 4 companies (currently), to have long term agreements with over 30 resorts within Uganda.

Now all I have to do is to remember to breathe...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A jaunt in the woods

It has become easy for me to assume that through continual interaction with the community and previous adventures around I have become able to traipse through even the most rural locations of Ngora without losing my direction.  Yesterday, it became easy to realize I was a fool for this assumption made.

In attempt to break up the monotony of a particularly frustratingly day, I decided to trade the dress slacks and long sleeve for my highschool soccer shorts and spanky’s cotton long sleeve (sun here is brutal).  With buzi already anticipating Runner’s High by my actions, I stretched and departed in a direction previously never undertaken. 

Not many people will speak in blogs or otherwise about the beauty of Eastern Uganda, and fewer still about Teso Sub-region.  Generally I’ll have to admit that the SW is much more picturesque; even still, Ngora still has its fair share of jaw-droppers.  Traversing on new trails is always a treat, and the further you get away from “the town,” the more ideal the view becomes.  Within 35 minutes Buzi and I were surrounded by nothing but blue skies, beautifully untampered hedges lining the trails, and our own panting breaths.  A second later, Buzi bolts---he’s seen a wild pigeon.  Instantly a whole cloud of fluttering white rises into the air, faltering for a moment before realizing their threat has no skyward mobility, then lazily retiring to the next shady spot as their chosen respite.

Stunned by the beauty around me, it took a group of women who stopped me (they wanted to greet, ask me how my place was, talk about the rains---the normal) for me to realize I had no clue where I was.  Faced with the option of admitting defeat and asking the ladies for directions around or running around in circles…I chose the latter.  Eventually Buzi and I made it to a valley low enough to have standing water in the fields (Buzi loved this, by the way; he took to water immediately) which meant---I thought---that I was back in a region that I knew.  I was wrong, of course; it would take 45 more minutes of intermittent running & backtracking to get back to a road that was familiar.  Buzi got a thorn in his foot and was panting like a crazy man.  Credit where it’s due: despite my many turn-arounds which he must have known were incorrect in the first place, he remained faithfully trailing me.

After it was all said and done, Buzi and I had gone running from 12:30-3:30…the dead middle of the day.  Buzi collapsed outside of my house, unwilling to deal with the marginally higher temperature of my non-ceilinged room.  I brought out his water and laid down beside him on the cool concrete.  What a journey!

Experiences like these make me question if I do them enough.  This was 3 hours of one day of one week, and yet the experience is something that will stick with me as a great part of my time in Teso.  I guess I just wish I could have taken the time when it was there to take; a year ago I didn’t have 1/5 the things going on that I do now.  If a man is only old when regrets take the place of dreams, it’s as though I’ve started to get a few gray hairs.  

The dynamic duo strikes again

My favorite texter of all time is a fairly plump Mugiso (in Bantu languages, prefixes are added for descriptions within tribes.  Someone lives in Bugiso, is a Mugiso, and speaks Lugiso) who resides in Kumi District.  She wears too much make-up, tries way too hard to be American and also to pick up Americans (i.e. me, Danny, and the new guy).  She’s a bit haughty.  Despite these faults (more egregious in print than is really fair), her position as postmaster, and therefore the person who informs me of packages having arrived for me, makes her a VIP contact.

------In Ngora, being its own district and all, we do in fact have our own post office.  You might wonder why I would ride my bike 20 kilometers on a road I’ve been clipped twice to get to Kumi, instead of simply having it coming to Ngora and picking it less than 2km from my doorstep.  Well, go less than 2km and 1 step, and there you will find an ajon circle (local brew drinking site, which is a big pot with straws coming out of it in a big circle, about 10 feet in diameter with chairs and people included).  Once found, search for the drunkest man there.  That is Mr. Oloit, our postmaster.------

Anywho, this package was especially wonderful, sent from my two generations of mamas.  Inside the package, the first thing that demands your attention is the self-written “Caldwell Navigator” newspaper article, outlining the package’s contents in a play by play. 

Presents included candy buttons, toothbrushes, a stolen cocktail menu, and a 2013 edition almanac in the same tradition as Poor Richard’s.  Amongst most of the nonsensical items included was a wooden measure previously used from my great granddad, amazingly still in perfect condition.  Buzi was also celebrated, and got to taste what could have been his first ever American treat (Also obtained through questionable methods at a local bank, “reportedly”)

Thank you Mama & Grandmama!  Appreciate the love; I promise all of the construction items will be put to good use! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Battle Lines Drawn.

For the past couple of months I have been psychologically broken down by man most worthy adversary: The African Rat.  I classify it beyond normal vermin strictly to save what little pride I have left.  The two families that are currently a feature of Opolot’s humble abode cannot possibly be ordinary rats; little guys are too clever, too relentless, too rat-like.  Other rats probably video tape my inhabitants and stare in awe at their gall, performing such brazen acts as using my mosquito net as a trampoline, stealing food directly from my plate after leaving for no more than 35 minutes, leaving gaudy footprints on my keyboard when I return.

The animals so infiltrated my mind that, by last week, I had given up control of the house after nightfall.  I would lock myself under my net, tuck in on the sides, and put two pillows on my head.  Every morning I would wake up to see the wake of destruction; bread loaves with baseball size holes out of the side, cheese missing completely (how the HELL did they eat ¾ of a wheel of cheese in one night?), poop ostentatiously lying on my table and couch. 

Had I been alone, I don’t know how long these monstrous acts would have continued.  As it was, Buzi has had a snapping point and declared total war.  Inspired by his scare tactics (he’ll randomly bark at nights, hoping the noise will frighten the rats to give away their position---it works!) and complete focus (after 3-4km sprints to town with him following me on my bike, he’ll pick up his speed at the end of the run, sprinting into the house and kamikaze-ing directly into the cupboard which we hear him), I begin to slowly try and give assistance.  I will admit, though, that I was leaving the killing of the rats, and indeed nearly all of the scouting out, up to Buzi. 

My best move I decided was to streamline Buzi’s paths into well-known terrorist---sorry, rat---hide outs.  I moved paint cans around so that he has full access to behind the couch, moved my bed so he has more room to scout through my room.  Then, one day as I was moving things above my clothes cabinet, I hit my snapping point. 

In my broken mind, I felt me and the rat families had established an understanding.  They stay out of my way in the day, and if I leave anything out at night they would like, then my loss.  I realized their willingness to wake me with rat-like screams (of victory, or rage, or perhaps ecstasy…I can’t be sure) might be a sign that the agreement was beginning to be in need of a renegotiation.  When I reached about my clothes cabinet, however, and I brought down my MSR Single Hubba 3.5 season backpacking tent (I.E. my single most loved piece of outdoor equipment, behind only my Arc Teryx Bora 80) and found a (albeit tiny) rat nibbled hole…all agreements were off.  I tore down everything from the cabinet, immediately finding 4 newborn rats, still too young even to have opened their eyes.  Buzi immediately neutralized 3 with his trademark head grab and shake, breaking each of their spinal cords and tossing them off to the side.  I joined the effort with my rat bludgeon.  Let the games begin.

Buzi and I have taken back the night in the following weeks.  Two nights ago was a crippling blow, when buzi’s banshee-call sent one rat falling, into the open.  We chased him (his bark now gets me out of bed, on my feet with a stick in hand in less than 3 seconds from full sleep) behind the clothes cabinet.  Drawing up images of my tainted Single Hubba, I picked up the whole side and twisted it away from the wall, leaving Papa AND Mama rat exposed.  They split, each heading opposite directions away; Buzi and I silently picked off each of our prey.  I managed to stick Papa rat and hold him by his tail, all the while cheering on Buzi to “Get’m, GET’M” in my most sinister voice.  Mama got away.  Buzi, once he realized he’d been eluded, raced back to my position to finish the job on Papa.  Thinking he was already fazed, I let go of my stick---like a bullet, off the little guy goes, out of the room and into the hallway.  Buzi closes the space between them in one pounce and, with a growl, he clenches.  No more Papa rat.

Buzi and I still have a lot of work to do, but we feel the momentum is on our side. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

2 years and 2 days

The week of the 2 year anniversary of my class & mine’ s time in Uganda was especially memorable for me.  The journey started with news of meeting Hillary Clinton and ended with the successful staffing of 1st annual GirlTech Uganda Camp.

News that I had been selected amongst PC-UG to meet and talk with Hillary Clinton during her visit to Kampala, Uganda was made quickly, and required commitments even faster.  In preparation for Madame Secretary’s meeting, I had the kids of the NPHC make a special hammock combining the American and Ugandan flags.  The fabric for the American flags came from nowhere else but my Grandmama’s basement, where I had so generously been allowed to snoop around and take fabrics.  Thanks Grandmama!  Hope you enjoy, Ms. Clinton! 

Before I knew what was going on I had signed up and was in a private car with Peace Corps Staff towards KLA.  As we traveled up, we learned that Madame Secretary aimed to have a 30-45 minute sit-down with selected Volunteers about service within Uganda.  When I got there, we didn’t have time to find an iron, and I realized I forgot my socks---PTO (Program and Training Officer--#2 of PC UG) Paul Sully was generous enough to solve both of these issues personally.   When the official time came for the Secretary to arrive, we were given word that she was going to be “detained” for some time.  I late got some inside information that it would be 2+ hours before she arrived.

Before the eventual arrival of the Secretary of State, I was received quickly by the acting ambassador and the small grants coordinator.  I was given news that in my email inbox was a congratulatory email for the NPHC; we have made it to the final round of our Grant!!!  It is now all about receiving Pro-forma invoices and getting organized for the money to be sent; in Mid-October we will then receive the first phase of our 60,000,000 Uganda Shillings.  I couldn’t help but excuse myself out of earshot, once I had been told, to call Obote (the project manager) and Fr. Ecogu (the parish priest) and give them the great news.  That phone call will forever remain in my mind as one of the best moments in Uganda. 

 Finally, at 8:25, she made her appearance to those at the U.S. Embassy who had not given up hope.  Our sit-down had been cancelled due to the extreme delay of schedule, but we were still able to shake hands and take a quick picture.  It was certainly an honor, if not exactly what we’d been hoping for. 

After the meeting, I was privileged enough to get to go out and enjoy dinner with workers from the U.S. Embassy.  I taught them about village life while they taught me about living in the capital city under the government.  This Venn diagram didn’t need much space in the middle, but was great to get some perspective.  Hopefully it will not be the last of these interactions.

The next day, it was off to Wanyange Girls Secondary School for GirlTech.  A quick internet search will land you with a youtube video summary of the camp---unfortunately my internet speed is too slow to reach it without me pulling my hair out in the process.  If someone finds it, perhaps they could attach it as a comment below this post.  Anyway, the camp was a great success, especially considering the experimental nature of its design.  The camp was designed specifically for those who have excelled in the sciences at their respective secondary schools within (but without regard to location otherwise) Uganda.  My role in the camp was general camp logistics/runner/hype-man.  Basically the guy no one has to feel bad about making do “THAT” job, because it’s what I signed up for in the first place.  I was honored to do two different “Tower of Strength” challenges piggy-backed off of Odyssey of the Mind Spontaneous problems and one night of teaching astronomy.  On the next to last day, I stayed up all night working (while dancing around to music) on a Rube Goldberg machine to help me crack my hard-boiled egg.  The contraption took 7 hours to create, lasted about 25 seconds from start to finish while incorporating 12 different mechanical contraptions.    I was pretty proud of it, even if it did require some subtle (or not so subtle) nudging when it was show-time. In the end, a swinging hammer suspended 12 feet up knocked a tower of bottles holding my breakfast, conveniently breaking my egg in a platter with some buttered bread.

On Saturday we were able to celebrate a camp well done.    Only the subsequent day (yesterday) did I realize my anniversary had already passed.  Time continues to travel at speeds so unbelievably slow on the day to day level and yet mystifyingly quick on a grander scale; it is no surprise that my two years anniversary was spent as such.

And so, on to the future.  I am securing my place in Uganda for up to another year, with renewed fervor for the project that got me through most of my service.  My understanding of Uganda has only continued to increase my potential within it, and currently it seems foolhardy to leave such opportunities that exist all around me. 

Timing is a tricky little fellow.  I will continue to search for my place, and more so for what makes a place THE place (despite the search’s seemingly impossible nature). 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Writing Angry

Representatives of an NGO came by yesterday, for a couple hours total.  They gave out presents, made promises, took pictures.  I cringed.  Just now I had 3 kids (if you can call them kids; they were probably 22 or 23) come and knock on my house.  They didn't even greet me (super bad manners in Uganda), and asked me for bread.  Or eggs.  Or sweets. Or a shirt.  No?  What about school fees, then?  "You give me school fees."  Unfortunately, I had to act like I was disappointed in them for asking me such things.  In the local language, I gave a detailed explanation of how it makes me feel, and the bad manners they are having.  Afterwards I shooed them and slammed my door, sending them scampering away, falling over each other in the battle of who could get the furthest away.

As pissed off as this gets me, it is the good version of this scenario.  At least, in this instance, somebody is here to counteract the pretentiousness of a few.

Playing bad cop sucks.  You think I don't want to give them food or fees for their education?  Of course I do.  But I respect this village and the children that make it up (because over 50% are actually children, by the official statistics) too much; I know that if they are going to be successful in the country they call home, it will have to start with a belief that its up to them.  It will then have to follow with a feeling of worth large enough to believe they CAN do it.  People come here and see kids that need help, instead of believing in them to help themselves.  People come here and give this air like they're doing such amazing things.  What they're really doing is instilling dependency, turning problems that they see into permanent conditions.

Every time someone comes here with the intention of making themselves feel good with pictures and a few handouts, my legs get cut out from beneath me.  If you want to provide support, find somebody that actually knows what they're talking about; preferably someone who's been here longer than a 3 month tourist.  If you don't, or if you can't find that, then help the country by NOT providing support.  Finally, whatever your goal is, if you are sending money or materials over to Uganda without proper research, without ensured accountability, without a person on the ground who understands what is going on, without concentration on sustainability and ENDING THE NEED for what you're supporting, then it is you who is doing so much to ruin this country.  Stop.  We--the people who know better--are not impressed.

This is one of my posts from 11 months ago.  It is perhaps the less jaded version of what I just wrote.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Breaking my own rules

The seminarians are currently all on break, and several of them are staying at Ngora Parish while they relax and prepare for their next term.  We’ve been commonly enjoying evening discussions about life, religion, astronomy, and whatever else pops up. I can put on my shorts, and take a last look at the previous discussions’ unanswerables so that we can start where we dropped off.  The conversations are especially interesting when the parish priest joins in, who is by nature extremely curious and continually playing devil’s advocate (irony).  Anyway, these conversations are always a treat to me; the Vin-diagram of knowledge comparison between a 25 year old American and a group of 20-40 year old Catholic, Ugandan Seminarians and Priests would tell you why.  I’ll talk to them about the stars, about costs of living abroad, about different foods and the ways people eat.  They’ll talk to me about magic worshipping, country stereotypes, and the wars that at one point were destroying their lives.  By the end of the night, I’ll have 5-20 questions that I have to look up.  These nights are sometimes the only thing I’m looking forward to. 

Last night, the seminarians were bummed because the local ajon lady didn’t have but ¼ of a jerrycan of local brew.  This would last for probably 30 minutes for our group, which doesn’t work for the usual 2 hours we are outside.
People are only known by one of their names.  85% of people in my village know me strictly as “Opolot.”  Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap, stemming from one of the most dense countries in the world as well as only having about 15 different tribal names.  Thus, many people’s names adapts completely to the job they are working.  “Nakapolon ko Ajon” is the name we all use for the lady who makes the ajon.  There are people that I’ve known my two years, and have good relationships with, who I call “askari” (literally-security guard) or “Honourable” (someone who works in the district). 

So anyway, I offered to buy everyone who was around beers for the night.  For 10 bucks I bought enough beer to serve 7 different people for the night.  The boys were pretty pumped; they very rarely get to taste actual bottled beer (although, I think in all honesty they would admit to liking Ajon more.  Drinking from a bottle is a class thing more than anything else), much less the Good kind (Eagle is crap beer at 6.5% that is the “villager’s beer,” as opposed to more expensive, less alcoholic bottles like NILE, CLUB, and BELL). 
As a rule, I neverrrrrrr submit to paying for items, much less offer to pay for a whole night’s rounds without provocation.  Even more, I brought out my mosquito repellant (worth its weight in gold to me, so much that I use it no more than once a week as a treat to myself) for everyone to use, AND my computer to play some of my music.  Not only was I possibly being ostentatious with money, but I was sharing my limited resources and showing off a brand new computer that I’d bought in my previous trip to America. 

It’s not something I’ll make a habit of, but letting down my guard in this way with some of my best friends in country was really refreshing.  I get so worried about not being THAT volunteer, that I realize I lose my ability (on some small scale) to have fun with people I genuinely enjoy being around.  After all, each and every one of these seminarians have invited me to their homes where we’ve shared food and drinks in their own home.  It’s nice to know that I can make gestures of appreciation as well.  Besides, talking about southern culture is much easier when you’ve got “wagon wheel” playing in the background.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This and that

This past week, my group and I traveled to Munyonyo to have our Close-Of-Service conference.  After 23 months being in Uganda, we’ve found ourselves as the most senior class still remaining in-country.  We started as 45; at the conference 34 and I remained.

Not sure what my future will hold.  As more definite information comes, I will try and let all of you know.  If any of you have specific questions (or any positions, for that matter), let me know through email.

Out with the old…

As my mind becomes more and more filled with an uncertain future, and where I will find myself even 6 months from now, a new volunteer is planning on starting his own journey in Ngora.  Aisa Radio Station has gotten clearance for their first Peace Corps Volunteer.  It’s a pretty special thing for me, having helped the station get started.  There are soooo many things that are still left to do to make the Radio Station what it can be, and I’m pumped that there will be a volunteer able to devote his time and work with other committee members.

As the new volunteer comes in, I’m presented with a new challenge.  My bubble of Ngora Mission has been mine and mine alone for the past 2years.  I can’t help but feel like the older son, having to welcome a newborn.  Sure, I’m excited.  I know its what the community wants, and I’m confident that he (the new volunteer) can do good things.  At the same time, though, this is MY community!  I don’t want to share it!
And so approaches a new chapter.  I have no idea what it is going to hold.  Before Peace Corps, perhaps, this would have worried me.


The Ngora Parish Harmack Company waits with baited breath about the results of the U.S. Embassy Grant that we have applied for.  For sure, with a project approval would come a completely new kind of Company, with all kinds of new challenges and demands.  As we wait, however, we find ourselves busier than ever before.  In one weekend, over 65 orders came in from the companies we supply to.  At the same time, we’re expanding our product through successful work of the RD&D department; not only are we making fabric hammocks, but also hand woven string style (sprang) hammocks.
Too cool of a story.
Backing up to these sprang hammocks, I wanted to talk about how they came to fruition.  I actually tried to make this hammock before the group was created, or before we had even started thinking about making hammocks commercially.  I failed.  Completely.  I spent 3-4 days doing nothing but making tangled masses of twine.  After 4 or 5 months with the harmack company, I once again brought up this possibility, and we tried it.  We FAILED.  Completely.  I was trying to help, the kids were trying to do it, the elders were trying not to laugh.  Everybody failed at their objectives (especially the elders.)
A few months later on, group of ladies and men came to me asking to join the harmack company.   Because of our current structure of the company, we do not need a large group of people working; after sitting and talking with the chairperson and treasurer, it was clear there was no place for more people.  We instead offered them the option of making the sprang hammocks themselves, which if they could master we would purchase off of them directly, package it, and sell it to our pre-existing markets. 
The group was excited, and they inspired me to have hope that perhaps this would be the time.  We tried, and we tried, and we tried.  We always failed.  Tangled messes. 
Going through my town, I always stop and talk to the Indian Shopkeeper ( I capitalize this because I feel extremely bad that I don’t know his name.  He’s given me such great advice and we’ve talked so much, that I feel it’s not possible at this point to admit that I’ve forgotten what he goes by.) about whatever.  This is the same man who I mentioned awhile back, in the post regarding cricket.  The hammock company came up, and he asked questions poignant enough for me to realize he knew what he was talking about.  I asked him about this, and he mentioned that of course his wife has a hammock in the home.  She sleeps in it most nights, he says.  Yahtzee, I say; he looked confused.
As I boarded a plane for America, the Indian Shopkeeper’s timid wife was being invited and reveled as the new group’s teacher.  When I came back, 2 weeks later, they had 4 hammocks to show me, each one better than the last.  Amazing how cool of a village I live in.  Working on how to dye the skeins now, in order to make Ugandan flag colored sprang hammocks.  THAT will be something to see.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Foreigner in a Strange Land

 Walking into Entebbe airport and immediately trying to find the nearest restroom to prevent 1)throwing up everywhere and 2) pooping in my newly machine washed boxers, I couldn’t help but think it an appropriate “welcome back” from Uganda. 

My trip back to America was very many things.  Here’s a couple of the more prominent feelings I gathered from it.

Inspired.  Seeing my brother get married to the perfect woman for him was extremely touching to everyone that was able to see it.  It becomes easy to define success, when you see such happiness between two people.  My brother has always been someone I’ve looked up to, and getting to see him in such a rare mode of outward exuberance was something I won’t soon forget.

Proud.  So proud of the country where I come from.  America is great because of the people which reside in it; people are emotional, honest, and most of all, proud of themselves and where they are from.  Not just locally, but also as a whole.  Immediately I found the mindset of self-reliance and independence, and more so  a knowledge and empowerment from the two ideas that a) no one is going to help me succeed in this world and b) I wouldn’t want them to anyway, because I can do it myself.  What an amazing way to live; I no longer take that mentality for granted.  Come to Uganda and you’ll know what I’m talking about---and you’ll be upset as I am that it’s not here.

Nostalgic.  Obviously, right?  America is a pretty cool place, and seeing a couple of my old stomping grounds was pretty tough on my “Can’t wait to get back to Uganda” mindset.  It was a bit strange being in Chapel Hill for as long as I was.  It seemed to cycle between being the place I knew and loved, a place that seemed familiar, and a place as foreign as Amsterdam every 5 minutes.  I still haven’t figured out if I loved liked or hated my time there. 

Healthy.  Getting to eat calzones and burgers and proteins and greens and ranch and bleu cheese and mayonnaise and ice cream and donuts…man it felt good.  Surprisingly, my body loved every minute of it.  I never had any food-related illnesses my entire trip, which is pretty crazy considering the change in diet.  It wasn’t all about deficiencies from a foreign land, though; my whimsical nature in walking 2 or 3 kilometers in Downtown New York with all my bags let me know Uganda has trained me well.

No question, I did feel a bit strange on my first days in New York.  The number of cars was staggering.  The fact that everyone veers to the right while walking, instead of the left, caused many sidewalk collisions on my behalf.  The amount of options for ANYTHING was absurd.  The amount of beautiful people was also staggering (and a little intimidating).  In the first hour I saw more exposed knees than I had in my entire two years in Uganda.  I quickly realized that picking your nose in public is not common practice, nor acceptable when you are mid-conversation.  This doesn’t mean I was able to stop doing it…but I did realize I was breaking norms.  Clothes that people wear actually WERE a declaration, either big or small, of whom they were.  People either did not smell, or smelled amazing.  Staring is apparently considered rude.  Rolly suitcases makes sense.  Public transport is FAST.  No one greets before getting down to what they want---they just ask for what they want.  Doing otherwise, confusingly, actually upsets the other person.  People are happy to help but not to sacrifice.  Privacy is paramount.  So many cars. From the first day to the last, I could not handle a grocery store.  I became anxious, got lost, was constantly overwhelmed.  I eventually just gave up.

Thanks so much to those who took me in, showed me around, bought me a drink, or gave me a call.  It is an incredibly warm feeling to know that I had so many amazing friends in different places all throughout America.  It is easy to forget when you are on the other side.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yeah, but...

Now that this meeting (read the post below this one) is over, all that is between me and Stateside is 4 days.  LETS DO IT!!!

I am freekin pumped.  Being in Uganda has made me such a proud American in so many more ways that I would have thought.  I realize that the U.S. has its fair share of problems as well---but when you give it some perspective, it truly is amazing all of the amazing things we've accomplished as a group in such a small amount of time.

So--America, get ready.  Bring out all the UNC grads, the XY alums, the Bod & Graham clans, the Suite 5 members and groupies, the Spanky's workers, The Squids bar crew members and regulars, the whiskey drinks, the blue skies, and...can I say this?...the short skirts.  

Truth be told...I'm not sure if I'm prepared for the 1st world life, after having gotten so used to all that the 3rd world brings with it.  My speech has gotten slower, timing more lax.  When it rains, I now mentally cancel everything I had planned, until the rain again ends. I get sleepy when it gets dark, and rise before it becomes light (most days). Everyday I wake up with "hopes," but have accepted that 3/5 of these hopes won't be completed...only the first, or the second, or the 15th step will be taken towards its completion.  I bathe out of a bucket if I want hot water, and do so only as a treat to myself.  I eat street food 3 times a day to supplement the 3 huge meals I get fed everyday....and I've still lost 15 pounds since leaving America. 

If there is anything that you have been dreaming about getting from Uganda, now is the time.  Speak up or forever be without.  By the way---this includes your very own Ngora Parish Harmack!  



Today the NPHC and I met with the Small Grants Coordinator from the U.S. Embassy, who has us short-listed as a candidate to receive funding come October.  The funding will be in large part for a Permanent Structure (capital P and S) for the company.  The rest will go towards solar panels, a couple computers, and mosquito net fabric.

In order to get ready for the meeting, the company did quite a lot of work.  We became officially recognized as an NGO within Uganda (!), we worked out a land agreement (you are now looking at the beneficiary of 2 acres of land), designed an AutoCad-esque reprensentation of our proposed building (on paint, mind you).  We got recommendation letters from companies selling our hammocks, the Local Chiefs on three different levels, and from the CAO of Ngora (Chief Administrative Officer)(Pronounced "cow"---yeah, really.)  We wrote our official constitution, outlined our progress thus far and made 6 month, 1 year, and 3 year goals for ourselves.  It is awesome!

Our idea for the grant is to scale up the company in a fairly big way.  We would be buying 25 sewing machines and adding on 30-50 interns onto our company.  These interns are all OVCs (Orphans/Vulnerable Children) who have come from P7 (basically, 8th grade equivalent.), but who aren't able to make it to Secondary Education. 

The system set up in Uganda is such that attending Primary education is fairly manageable.  There is a UPE (Universal Primary Education) in place that makes it "free" to go to school through P7.  I say "free" because it is what every politician calls it, yet expenses like uniforms, books, pencils, food for lunch, etc. still exist.  Unfortunately because some people call it "free," and because of the huge problem with corruption, when parents hear that they have to pay for things at their school, they just assume that someone wants to smuggle money and ignores it completely.  And the kid goes hungry. 

Anyway, while USE (Universal Secondary Education) is technically also in Uganda, it is much less widespread.  I personally have never seen a USE secondary school.  Schools are pretty expensive to attend--anywhere from 200,000UGX-700,000 per term, three terms a year.  That means a minimum of about 222 (sweet) dollars for every student, every year.  Consider this for a family, which on average makes at or below $1.00 a day (85% of homes here hardly have any income at all; they live off the land completely, but have nothing extra to sell in the market).  Add on the fact that a woman in Uganda births an average of almost 7 children in her lifetime.  The math is getting fuzzy.

Thus, "Vulnerable Child" is a pretty easy-to-assign term here in Uganda.  We will be searching for the kids who are the most driven out of all of these to join us at the NPHC for a 1 year internship.  During this time, they will spend time learning about finance skills, entrepreneurship, public speaking, savings and loans, as well as the vocational skill of Tailoring.  The small amount of money (no less than 10,000(4 bucks)--no more than 100,000) that they put in to be apart of the company each term will be held for them, and given back at the end of the year.  Along with this, they will be given the portion that they have earned through their work with the NPHC during this year.  With this money they will be encouraged to go back to school, or if they so choose, to set up their own business with the skills they've acquired within the school-like atmosphere. 

While the kids are interns, they will be given the option of accommodation within the structure we hope to build.  There will be a screened in porch around all sides of the building, with poles in the middle to support the very hammocks we are trying to sensitize the community about.  These will be strong, netted, and will act as an emergency shelter for the kids in need. 

This project is something that is evolving every day.  It has ignited the creativity within the two most committed workers in the NPHC, which has been such a great thing to see.  Everyday they come to me, nearly running, wanting to tell me about their new idea they have.  It's the same with me, too---I'm still trying to stay in the background, though, and let the kids figure it out on their own. 

This really was meant to be a blog about being DONE with the interview from the Embassy, and all about me being excited about going home to America.  I guess I was deceiving myself; what I'm excited about is happening all around me.  Right here, right now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

America, NPHC, Mango Fly

In a week I'll be stateside with some pretty lovely people.  That'll be nice.

In the meantime, all kind of stuff is going on!  We are a registered, certificate holding NGO within Uganda (that is, the Ngora Parish Harmack Company is), and I along with the company are also official landowners.  Pretty cool.

In 2 days time, my boys & girls will be meeting with the U.S. Embassy Small Grant workers, who are making a trip to come and see the NPHC and see if it is worthy of their funding.  We are hoping to scale up the project in a big way, and we're hoping that we can do it through the help of a grant rather than a big nasty loan.  Finger's crossed.

Forgot to mention this in the last blog post.  I just recently had my first Mango fly.  A mango fly, for those of you fortunate enough to need an explanation, is a fly that lays eggs...into...a person.  Basically the imbed themselves into you, lay their eggs, and peace (I think that's the gist, anyway).  It looks like a big zit for about a week...and then it just gets bigger.  I started wondering what was going on, because there was a big red circle on my left calf.  After a while, it become more swollen and it looked unnaturally dark in the center of the abscess.  It didn't hurt too much...so out of curiosity,  I started squeezing it around the edges to see if it was in fact just acne.  Out popped a 1cm or so little guy, and I was looking at it on my finger.  Then the damn thing started to wiggle around!  Don't worry---I took a video of the little dance he/she was doing, and a couple pictures of where it came from (i.e. a hole in my calf).  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

rickettsia, spitting cobras, 5 foot monitor lizards...

Yellow brick road doesn't have jack on Ngora, Uganda in these past couple of days.

Buzi and I have been traveling around a lot in anticipation for a week long rock-climbing camping trip that I've set up in July.  Basically, I talked too much about how many awesome boulders were in Ngora, and how I need to get out more and climb them...and eventually people started to take notice.  So there will be a kiwi and a couple other volunteers traveling down to see what we can find.  Given it is my backyard (literally), I would feel pretty weaksauce if I didn't at least TRY to find some good climbs before they got here.

Thus, everyday for the past week or so Buzi and I have been splitting on the trails and hitting the stones, trying to find boulders steep enough and with holds (yet not too many holds), slashing and grabbing everything in order to make some decent spots.  Given the beginning of the rainy season, and the high grass, and rocks being a haven for lizards, and it being the only real consistent shade Ngora's got...its pretty much the exact place snakes want to be. 

They say that when you are going through snake infested territory, you are never ever supposed to go 3rd in line.  The first guy wakes up the snake, the second guy pisses him off, and the third gets bit.  Well, for me, Buzi does a GREAT job of not only waking up everything with his extremely unique all-four-legs-3-feet-off-the-ground pounce on anything that moves in the grass....but also (I would assume) pissing them off.  I walk with a stick.  So far we've found 4 confirmed snakes, tons of skins, and tons of noises that were big enough to spook buzi and get me looking for another way around.  Nothing too serious; no crazy puff adders or anything like that.  Did see a really cool, albeit fairly immature, cobra.  The 3 or 4 footer was terrified of us, but didn't want to leave with at least showing off his sweet hoodie of a neck.  We were far enough away for me to smile and admire, and for buzi to bark like he actually wanted to attack it (which we all knew, he didn't), and for the snake to pretend like he wanted to eat us both.  The biggest one we found was something around 6 or 7 feet, but was preoccupied; when we found it he had 1/4 of a lizard hanging out of his venomous mouth. 

The same day we found the cobra, I was painting some signs for a project I have coming up, and buzi starts barking.  Always excited to see what he's found (seriously, he's better than a metal detector at the beach), I run over, instinctively saying "Get'm Buzi! Get'm."  Then I see what he's facing, and I can't help but laugh.  Silly dog has managed to greattttttly anger a 5-6 foot monitor lizard.  The thing was massive; so much more impressive than a 6 foot little baby snake.  Buzi was putting up a good front; good enough where I felt it prudent to pull him off and remind him that the lizard, not him, was boss here.  The lizard was just waiting for buzi to get close enough with his head so he could give him a good WHAP with his ridiculous tail.  After I pulled buzi away, the monitor lizard decided he'd had enough and scurried away.  Little suckers can really move when they want to.

Finally, I have been getting sick seemingly randomly for the past 5 or so weeks.  Each episode, I get night sweats, awful headache, joint pains, and just in general absolutely terrible feeling.  It reminded me a lot of malaria each time; enough to where I got tested each time it happened.  Each time it was negative, and each time it came quickly and left just as fast, after about 20 or so hours.  I have (I think) finally figured out what it is, though, despite nothing positive and a hole barrage of tests from KLA and the Peace Corps Medical Office---Rickettsia, or Tick Bite Fever.  Basically just some kind of infection you can get from Ticks here in Uganda, as well as many other parts of the world.  "It presents with malaria like symptoms, quick onsetting, ends abruptly, and comes back 2-3 weeks later."  PERFECT fit.  Even better, all I have to do is take some doxycycline (which you've probably heard of if you'd had a UTI, malaria, or just acne) which I already have at my site for a week, and it should be all gone.  Beauty!  Last thing I wanted was to get one of those episodes when I make it back stateside in a few weeks.

Whats That!  Coming BACK in a few weeks?  That's right!!!  If you are in the NYC, DC, or NC areas in June, let me know.  Meeting some old friends and fraternity members in NYC, coming to attend and celebrate my brother's wedding in DC (!!!), and then going all over NC to see people, eat food, and in general just enjoy life.  Would love to catch up.  Plenty of stories to tell

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dog days have begun

I have mentioned to most of you by now I think that I have adopted a dog from an (amazing, beautiful, smart) Peace Corps Volunteer.  It was, and still is the plan, to get the dog back to America to re-unite him with his mother.  For now, that plan hasn’t worked out at all—two different times we’ve prepared and gotten all the paperwork in order, only to be turned down by the airlines which would do the carrying.  It looks like, now, the next chance we’ll have to ship him home will be with another volunteer in August.  So, in essence, I am a dog owner for another couple of months.

For anyone that would listen to me back in America, ¾ of those people probably heard about my desire to have a dog when I get to my village.  I didn’t care about seeing people, doing good….it was all about getting a dog.  Getting here, however, and seeing the way dogs are treated by the country nationals…it was tough.  I worried about all the detail issues like traveling, having someone take care of him while I’m away, and having to keep him on a leash all his life.  In the end I decided not to get a dog; simply too much responsibility, to many worries, and not enough reward.

And now, here I am.  Buzi (this is his name: Buzibu, which in Luganda means “stubborn”, which in Uganda means “dumb/ignorant.”) has been living with me for the past couple of months, and will be here for a few more.  I have had trips away, been extremely busy with all kinds of different projects, and had very little free time (relatively speaking) at site.  He (and only he) is allowed in and out of my house at will; only at night do I lock him inside for us to sleep.  He takes the couch.

Everything I thought Buzi would be has come true.  He is a big responsibility; feeding him every morning/night, keeping him away from the baby pigs (not to mention the baby cats), and pulling no less than 6 ticks off of him a day are only the beginning of the list.  He’s an extremely active dog, and needs to run around at least once or twice a day in order to actually WANT to sleep when its bedtime.  One thing I did get wrong, though; the rewards of having this dog with me are far beyond any and all of the responsibilities & worries.

Buzi is loyal to a fault.  Whenever I walk out of my room, he’s ready; he’s right behind me.  Whenever I go to town, he’s ready; he’s sprinting in front of me (and beats me, even when I’m on my bike).  Whenever I need to take a nap, he’s ready; getting the couch to myself is no longer an option.  Only one time has he really really gotten angry at another person—when a young man was pretending to run at me to attack me.  The guy was kidding, and I had to beat Buzi for taking a snap---but it was also pretty cool.  

Certainly, with the loss of the crew that was in essence my group, (the group that came in 6 months before me, who now have all left) Buzi has been a godsend.  He keeps me sane, and lets me be insane for increments at a time if it’s necessary.  Once we get the big man back home, there’s really only going to be one thing on my mind:

Where’s the nearest puppy?

Rains Down in Africa

Life here in Ngora is going pretty well.  All around me there are working clamoring around, constructing one of the 6 or so projects that are going on simultaneously around the Mission.  The church is adding on an office as well as two additions of space into the main cathedral, making the google view of the church into what will be a cross.  Only yesterday we received the iron sheets (all the way from Kampala) to switch out the remaining asbestos sheets that currently reside on the the roof of the church.  On top of all of that, we are building a new, re-usable latrine (based off of the one we made at the H/C with help from Appropriate Projects), and setting up our nursery for this rainy season.

Ah!  Rainy season.  So, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that Uganda doesn’t deal with seasons with regard to hot and cold.  Every day and most every night you could fix the temperature to within about 4 degrees Celsius.  What does change, though, is the rains.  Now that it is rainy season, we receive a shower almost every day, at nearly the same time (5:00-7:00 at night).  Temperatures, as you might imagine, can be  BIT cooler during these months…but not always.  Anyway, when the rainy season comes, so does the digging season.  The second consistent day of rain will bring out everyone AND their mother (or just their mothers) to the fields every morning for the next month or two.  It is not unlike (yet, completely different) than in University, when you have the second hot day in a row, and every single girl winds up wearing their short skirts and tank tops.  Did I mention that I miss America sometimes?

  In Uganda, a staggering amount of people live through subsistence farming; living off of the land for their food, without making a profit.  In Ngora, we’re even higher than the average.  Teso is known for its cattle, mangoes, oranges, and g-nuts (peanuts).  In my village a bit over 85% describe themselves as “peasants” who live off the land.  They make no profit, but need no shillings (at least, not for food.  Most times.)  It has been a constant struggle for me to call this a good or bad thing; there are certainly a lot of different sides to it.

Because of the shift in the rainy seasons, many people have found themselves without food for months at a time.  Apparently before I came, rains were extremely predictable.  Almost to the week, people were able to expect, plan for, and get ready for the digging to commence as the rains came in.  Now, though, for some reason or another the rains have shifted.  Sometimes they last for 4 months, other times 2.  Sometimes 6.  Sometimes ½.  When it determines if you and your family is going to eat, you can imagine the frustration.
For now, everyone’s living the good life.  Mangoes are in the plenty (you can get about 20 for the equivalent cost of 10 cents), oranges are almost as many (20 for about 40 cents), and the fields are all nicely saturated each night with good sun during the day.  For now, everyone’s confident.