Friday, July 8, 2011


The paradox of being in Peace Corps is that it feels like nothing ever happens when in fact, many things happen. Many things that you would probably be amused to read about, that I have to remind myself are maybe worth writing down. There is a saying about PC that goes "the days go really slowly, but the weeks go fast" and I've found that to be pretty true. Days can drag on here and by 6 pm I'm thankful that I can finish cleaning up for the day and go to bed and read. (It's kind of funny that I'm over here in Africa having this crazy adventure and I go to bed at 7:30 or 8 most nights.) But somehow it's already Friday when my friend Jen was just here on Monday. I don't know where the week went.

Since I have been a crappy blog writer for the past few weeks, I'll have to search my memory and try to recap what went on. The Health Center, Budgeting, Missing People, The RPCV, The Ugandan Club/Town View Guest House, Students Return, Remedial Lessons, Gulu, EuroBash2K13, Stars, etc.

The Health Center: Since my college was closed for about two weeks due to budgetary issues, I went by the dispensary that is run by the church to see if there was anything there I could help with. "You can come give health talks" the nurse (?) told me, "We have antenatal sessions on Tuesday and Thursday, and give immunizations on Wednesdays. You come around 10." Whatever will I talk about? I asked. "Oh, simple things, like preparing for the baby to arrive, antenatal nutrition, breastfeeding, HIV/Aids, malaria, that kind of thing." Lovely. I returned a few days later and sat around for about three hours while women got their pulse, BP and other things taken. Finally the head nurse (who I later found out was newer in this village than I am, and just likes to be in charge of things) asked me to give my talks. I sheepishly asked if I could just assist and supplement since I wasn't exactly sure on the way they did things, it being my first time and all. She said that was fine and then asked what I'd prepared. "No, I want to just help out today, I haven't prepared anything." She asked if I could talk about HIV and I said sure, so she went on for about 10 minutes in Lango and then asked if I had anything to add. I had to stifle my laughter because other than picking out numbers I understood, the word condom, and ARV, I wasn't sure what was said at all and would have a hard time adding on to it. I kind of gave a little talk on how HIV attacks the body's immune system, how it's spread, and ways to prevent it, although I could have been repeating exactly what was already said, I don't know. She translated for me, and it occurred to me that I really don't want to be sued for malpractice due to mistranslation here, but I'm not sure Ugandans are as lawsuit crazy as Americans are. I told them I wasn't comfortable telling women how to prepare for the coming of the baby since I haven't had one and things are way different in the states. We, for instance, don't tell women they need to shave their privates to avoid cutting baby's head with the pubic hair. (Do we? I've never had a kid, I don't know.) Sheesh. I went back the next day and sat while women came and got their children immunized and dewormed. I was fascinated by the nurses walking around, stepping over small bodies to give shots. What if one of them tripped? It seems like it might be safer if the needles stay in one place and the other people move around. This is not the place I'd want to be accidentally stabbed with a deworming shot. I haven't been back yet, but I have been reading my Life Skills and HIV books to get a better idea of how to approach community education sessions. I drew a pretty sweet poster representing HIV attacking the immune system and letting opportunistic infections do the dirty work. It may or may not include lions and elephants, my two favorite animals.

Totally legit explanation of how HIV works

Budgeting: I've started trying to do envelope budgeting here so I can save money to go on all our awesome trips that we have planned (rafting, climbing Mt. Elgon, Egypt, Gorilla trekking, and backpacking down to South Africa). It is kind of a pain in the ass though because the ATM gives me super huge bills (50,000/=) and no one here has change. Even trying to pay for something in my market here with a 5,000/= note would be looked at as ostentatious. Bah, guilt.

Missing People: Yep, that says it all. I received some awesome news though that two of my good friends got engaged and will be getting married during my time here. Though I wasn't planning on going home at all, I decided that I can't miss their wedding and will be making a visit back to the states sometime next spring. It'll be just about half way through my service, a long enough time on this side to where I'll fully appreciate it, and a short enough time afterward to where (hopefully) it'll breeze by once I'm back in country. Knowing that I'll get to see my dog, drive my car, and eat all my favorite foods made me feel so much better last night when I was making the decision. I know that I would have gotten to do all those things in two years anyway, but the fact that I get to have a little reprieve in about 10 months is like a weight off my shoulders.

The RPCV: From 1969 to 1971 a woman served in my village and taught at the school down the road from me. She met Idi Amin, tanned in a roofless hut, hitchhiked to Nairobi, wore short shorts, taught the future (current) woman president of parliament, and returned last week to hang out with me and tell me all her stories. I had been in touch with her via email and knew she was coming, so I offered to cook dinner and host her for the night. I made homemade pasta, and bought both a bottle of wine and real glasses so we wouldn't have to drink out of my nalgenes or toothbrush cup. We sat outside and used the place mats my mom made me. (I felt fancy.) It was so cool hearing all her stories and walking around the village with her as she pointed out buildings that hadn't been there before, her old house, and where the pyromaniac next door lived. Even more exciting is that she went to my university (Go Gators!) and has a house in NY not far from my dad's family, so I'm hoping to keep in touch with her over the long term. I can't imagine coming back here in 2051. Nuts.

The Ugandan Club/Town View: After 5 months in country, my friends and I finally ventured out to a night club. As most of my friends back home (Nora) will tell you, I'm not really one for clubs except once in a blue moon, so while I was excited to see everyone, the club part wasn't really drawing me in. After stopping off at two bars, one of which was a country club of sorts, we headed to Club 24/7 and were promptly stopped by security for having cameras. Seriously? is JT in there? Kanye? No. You're not getting my camera dude, you don't even have a legit coat check system going. Two of our friends had Ugandan guys with them, so they were safe from stares and grabbing of arms and the "you come" that is oh so annoying. The rest of us were not. The ratio of guys to girls in there was about 9:1, men were just standing around drinking, half dancing badly to bad music.... we lasted about an hour before we had to call it quits and be able to say "yes, we went to a Ugandan club, no we probably won't again." I got a rolex on my way out, because late night street food is always a good idea (or so I thought.)
We had gotten a room in town for the night so we wouldn't have to hope for transport back to Boroboro super late. The room cost 16,000/= (about $6) and it's true that you get what you pay for. Three of us shared the bed (sleeping sideways with our feet hanging out, tons of mosquitoes bites.) It was stifling hot and I woke up the next morning feeling like crap. The rooms are all dorm style so everyone in the hotel shares two bathrooms that are at opposite ends of the hall. Getting sick in public bathrooms is not my favorite thing to do, not by far, but it's happened before and I guess it will happen again if I continue to eat street food in Africa. I avoided breakfast and was pretty useless the rest of the morning as we walked around and eventually made it over to Sankofa. Nikki and I went back home earlier than the others left, and the walk from Nikki's house to mine was brutal. I slept the whole afternoon, laid around in the evening, went back to bed at 8, and slept all night. Monday I felt much better.

Before the barf-o-rama. Rach, Nik, Me, Jac, Stella was in the front seat. 

The Students Return: My college is now open again, with about half the students and half the staff reporting back the first week. I've been teaching more consistently than I had been before the break, which is nice, but the college is closing early so I really only have about 3 weeks left. I teach the first lesson most mornings and my students are always about 20 minutes late because they saunter back to the dorms after the assembly to get their things. I got mad yesterday and told them to bring their books to the assembly next time. I also get annoyed with no one answers questions or follows directions, but then feel stupid when they offer "madame, we have not picked you," which means "we can't understand your American accent and you talk too fast." I hate feeling like I'm belittling them by putting on a fake Ugandan accent, and I hate when they imitate me in a high squeaky voice, so I just try to talk slowly in my normal voice but apparently they don't "pick" me well enough. Ugh. I have decided that I'm just going to be as ridiculous as possible and not take myself seriously at all, and maybe something I do will stick in their heads. They laugh at me anyway, I may as well be in on the joke.

Remedial Lessons: I'm not sure where this came from; if it's because we missed time being closed, or if the IRC always does this, or maybe a combination of the two, but I'm teaching seven days a week now. People from the International Rescue Committee came and talked to the staff about remedial lessons to increase girls' education and retention in school (our college is like 70:30 men, and sidenote: it bugs me when they say "the girl child," just say girls, we're not a specimen). There was a lot of talk about getting money for buildings and paying for lessons since we're working on the weekends. I think it was finally decided that tutors should be paid 5000/= per lesson. That is $2. The thing that gets me is that there's no sort of curriculum presented by this organization that is supposed to help the students, we're just supposed to teach on the weekends exactly what we'd be teaching during the week. The feeling like I'm not 100% sure what's going on has continued...

Gulu: About two hours to the north is a town called Gulu. It is pretty well known for being one of the main places that was so badly devastated by the LRA. The IDP camps have almost completely been taken apart, but remnants remain and are a reminder that things weren't so great not so long ago. A group of us traveled up there last weekend to visit, hang out, and generally get away from site (I hadn't been away since the service project in the southwest a month ago). I love getting to know the volunteers from groups other than ours, the year-ins and year-and-a-half-ins. We stayed in a pretty nice hotel and layed out by a pool for the first time in forever. We ate super yummy food and shopped in the market for things like football jerseys (I have to figure out who I support) sandals, and running shorts. I tried Ethiopian food for the first time, and Indian food for the second, both of which are now in my top favorite food-genres. I drank a coffee milkshake for breakfast and walked around barefoot after the sandals I bought in the market broke. It was an amazing time.

Street in Gulu seen from our balcony

Ethipoian food! 

Eurobash2K13: Completely ignoring every "live in the moment" quote I have ever read, I planned my post COS trip last week. Bored one Monday afternoon (after recovering from what was surely food poisoning), I looked at the map on my wall and listed out countries that would take me around the continent of Europe in a somewhat organized fashion. What I came up with was the most awesome trip anyone has ever planned (not that I'm not on one now, or won't go on several while I'm here...). Starting in Morocco, we're going to Spain, Portugal, back into Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, back into Germany, Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, back into France, the UK, and Ireland. So ridiculous, the 18 year old me would be peeing her pants at the thought of this trip, but she'd also be perturbed that it took this long to do it.

Stars: I walked up to my college the other night at about 10:30, way later than I have ever walked around my village before. The power was out, and it had rained earlier, but the sky was clearing and on my way home I saw more stars in one little patch of sky than I have seen in any open area I've stood in before. The lack of light pollution here is incredible.

Milky way seen from my yard

Holy super long update! I've got to start my laundry (because I have an American sized load to do, which will take a million liters of water and several hours, blah) and the power just went out so I don't want to waste my battery. Thank you to everyone who has sent me packages recently, the apple oatmeal is amazing and I'm trying to hoard it and enjoy it at the same time, which isn't working (so keep it coming :D)

Miss and love all of you!!!! <3

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