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). 

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