Sunday, March 13, 2011

books don't break

I have a bunk bed at my homestay, and a horribly sunken in bunk bed with a mosquito net over it is difficult to get in and out of, so I usually just keep things on my bed, like my journal (which is written in way more often than here, sorry), headlamp, kindle, etc... Things I use right before going to sleep. Well, stupidly, I somehow put some weight on my kindle when rolling over to get out of bed, and I cracked the screen. Fucking A. I was laying in bed last night, I'd just finished a paper book (I've been borrowing those from the PC office) and went to use my kindle and when I turned it on, the screen went all crazy and looked like cracked glass. My blood literally ran cold. I got the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach and all I could think of was "two years, no books" I almost cried. After about 2 minutes of thinking of all my options, I remembered that I'd gotten insurance on all my things (camera, computer, and $300 worth of random electronics). I called my mom (because my phone is on my bed too and when something happens, I call my mom) and asked if she'd gotten the paper work from the insurance company yet. She had, so she said she'd call and ask about it. I had a really hard time sleeping last night, hating that I'm so far away from the easy fix to all this, hating that even if my mom gets the insurance money, we're still taking a very big risk shipping it through the mail since things are opened and messed with all the time, and if they do make it they take at least a month. (I have yet to receive ANY mail) I thought of how my CD is going to the states tomorrow for two weeks, and wondered if he'd be willing to somehow carry a new kindle back for me if I have it shipped to him instead of my mom. I emailed him this morning to ask if he'd be ok with it, but his email is already on auto response, so I emailed the acting CD in his absence, but her email is on auto response till Tuesday. I really just hope this works out because I cannot spend 2 years without books, I spent a shit ton on all those kindle books, and I didn't even want it in the first place. Grr.

Other than that things are going well. It really hit me last night how hard this is going to be, not in a bad way, just in a way that's like..... I don't even know. I'm going to be placed up in the Lira district, and on the news last night they showed women there fist fighting over water in a mud puddle because there's a drought. It rained at about 3am, so I was thankful for that. Literally the toughest job I'll ever love.

We held a workshop for primary teachers on Friday, and 32 showed up. I was shocked. It was a Friday afternoon, we didn't provide food, and there was no per diem (both requests that are often made in order for one to attend a workshop). We were guessing a much lower turn out. I worked with two other people and did a presentation on teaching English in P1 and P2 (approx. 1st and 2nd grades) We talked about setting up a school store to reinforce vocabulary and simple sentences, creating a word wall, taught them some songs, and showed them my oh so popular dodecahedron. It's a 12 sided paper ball made of pentagons that you staple all together, it's my favorite thing ever. We wrote 12 verbs on it and showed them how to toss it around the classroom and have the students act out the verbs they read. We shared how it can be adjusted to any grade level and any subject. A man stood up at the end to thank us for our work and our time, and I had a small Peace Corps moment where I could feel how worth it this will all be.

The teachers all seemed very into our ideas and had a lot to say, but in the end when they evaluated us, they all noted how disappointed they were that we didn't bring them higher salaries and material things for their classes, like makers and flip charts. One of the PVCs who has been working with us told us that that will be one of the challenges we face in Peace Corps since so many other aid organizations come in with tangible items; books, classroom supplies, medicine, bottled water, money... and we just come with ideas to share. Many Ugandans want more from us, not realizing that the skills we are there to share will last longer than if we were to paint a classroom. A culture of having outsiders, whites usually, doing things for them has been reinforced over many years. When an organization comes and builds a school, or even just fixes one up, that building will obviously be in disrepair five or ten years down the line, but since mzungus did it last time, where are they to fix it this time?

We use a set of tools called PACA (I forget what it stands for) but basically we work with community members, asking them questions to gain a sense of what resources and assets they already posses, and what they feel they need to achieve more. There is a tool on community mapping, to figure out who can do what (is there a great seamstress? what about a carpenter?) daily and seasonal calendars (to know when everyone is going to be busy with planting, when the kids are out of school, when major holidays and festivals occur) and needs assessment and priority ranking (to figure out what they need, and more importantly, what order the needs should be addressed in). We worked with a group of teachers on that last one on Wednesday, and to no one's surprise, their greatest need to which they gave the highest priority was their salaries. At this point, it's not up to PCVs to solve their problems, but to hand them the reins and ask what they think they can do about it. One of our PCVs told about an income generating project she'd helped the teachers at her school start that supplemented their income. (The teachers are required to be at school until 5 or 6 and don't have the opportunity to hold second jobs if they need them) The teachers at our school wanted nothing to do with this. They just kept talking about the ministry and the parents and how they couldn't do anything about it. It was very frustrating to hear, and I think they were frustrated that we were there, asking them these questions, and then not providing any answers. Thank God we had a Ugandan woman there with us, who could speak to the teachers more firmly than we were able to, and she reminded them that when money is tight at home, they have to solve things themselves, and that they can't go to the ministry or the head teacher asking for help. It was very eye opening.

Random Ugandan things: roosters are all over, they start crowing at about 3 am and don't stop until, well, I'll let you know when they stop. My favorite snacks are roasted soy nuts and drinking yogurt in a plastic baggie. We get them whenever we stop for snacks at the gas station, which is about every other day. Lately I've been seeing bunnies all over the place. Mostly in yards, but sometimes along the main highway where we walk home from training. The Ugandan clock (mostly in villages, and I think all over Africa too) is different from the western clock. They start at 7 am because that's when the sun rises, and that's 1. 2=8am, 3=9am and so on until 7 at night, and that's the first hour of night. So if you ask someone what time the meeting is at and they say 2 in the morning, they're not crazy. I've trying to figure out if that's something that is strictly on the equator since the days and nights don't vary, or if it's all over Africa.

I'm pretty stoked about some things my mom is sending me. I got to talk to her last night (we talk once a week) and she told me about a fun website called that does freeze dried foods for backpackers and traveling. They have a freeze dried red wine powder that they don't suggest drinking, but adding to soups and stuff :) My mom is the best, love her!!!!!

I love you and miss you all!!!!


The Strix said...

Oh Liz, your poor Kindle! I'm sure you'll figure out a way to get the new one to you.

We're going over PACA and CAT stuff too. I'm dreading doing 100+ interviews in my community.

I still don't know where I am going to be placed. I find out on Tuesday. They're going to do a fancy-dancy reveal ceremony. I just want to f&%$ing know.

Ecuador is so different from Uganda, but the development mentality is the same. We've been reading Two Ears of Corn as a training group. It's about agriculture, which isn't either of our specialties, but what it has to say about development in general has been incredibly useful. You should check and see if your PC office has a copy. It's definitely worth the read.


Ping-i said...

Sucks to hear about the Kindle. I've been debating myself whether kindles would be better than hard copies during service.

Cory said...

OH, the poor Kindle! I have been debating whether to get one for my service. Still up in the air about that. Despite your poor Kindle, would you recommend that? I leave for Kenya in June and would love to travel to Uganda at some point during my service. So maybe we could even cross paths at some point! You would always be welcome, if you wanted to come to Kenya.