Sunday, June 17, 2012

One of those days

In the year and a half since I've been here, I can probably count the number of times I've felt bored or disheartened on one hand. Being bored means you're a boring person, right? I'm usually perfectly content with myself for company and have a myriad of distractions to keep me occupied. The last three days I've felt bored and disheartened almost constantly.  Maybe it's the fact that power has been out, that's it's overcast and rainy, that my neighbors are gone so it's quieter than usual, or that my students were complete idiots at the last assembly and heckled me when I asked them to not be rude and interrupt the speaker. It's never a good sign when you get a text at 6:52 am already declaring it "one of those days." At least I'm not alone.

I filled out my VRF the other day, a tool we use to report to PC about our goings-on at site and what we're working on, and seeing it all down in writing kind of depressed me.  I'm not doing a lot.  Putting it down in writing here is going to suck too, but I'm hoping indulging for a few minutes in my little pity party will help me work through it.  Two out of the three goals of Peace Corps are cross cultural, so keeping a blog, talking about the differences between America and Uganda, posting pictures, teaching my friends here how to cook an American meal, all those things count as what I'm supposed to be doing. Sometimes though, it doesn't feel like enough.  My primary project is teaching at the college, but since things there are more disorganized than not and we really only teach one term out of three, I'm not nearly as busy as I want to be.  My counterpart is the head of the math department and I feel a lot of the time like I'm just a free teacher for him for a couple years.  He's a great guy, a hard worker, amicable, and dedicated to his job, but as far as working with me on anything other than "Here is your schedule for this term," he doesn't have time or interest.  We're encouraged to find other counterparts to work with if our assigned one doesn't work, so I've talked to some of the women at the college about a few different projects where their interests and my skills match up. (There are only three others, one lives at the college and two of them live in town and commute).  The one at the college is an awesome older woman who I enjoy chatting with and who has looked out for me, but she has a negative and seemingly inflexible attitude on getting anything to change.  She's from another part of Uganda originally so she still views the north from an outsider's perspective and says they have a lot to catch up on. The other two women live in town and have young families to take care of, so they're not around except when they teach, and then they leave again. Getting anything to even begin, let alone be followed through on, has been difficult and frustrating.

The men at the college ask me over and over why I focus on "the girl-child" in terms of talking about reproductive health and whatnot, that the boys deserve to be educated too, that they might have sisters who would benefit from this information. I get their point, but girls are so much more marginalized and at risk of dropping out of school because of reproductive health related reasons (i.e. getting their periods and not having sanitary pads, getting pregnant, getting pregnant then having an abortion that nearly kills them, getting pregnant then having an abortion that nearly kills them and then being made fun of in front of the school assembly by the administration for the experience...).  I'm all for boys having strong, positive role models that show them how to grow up and be respectful, responsible men, but I'm not dumb enough to pretend that I can be that for the boys here.  The phrase "you have to pick your battles" marries perfectly with what it's like to serve in the Peace Corps, as does "don't bite off more than you can chew."

It doesn't help that my yard is now full of the furry, sneaky, poisonous caterpillars that make their cocoons up the sleeves of jackets, and then when you go to put it on you get caterpillar stings all up your arm (true story, not to me though, thankfully.)

Obviously this is all me whining about it being hard here, which I fully expected, so I need to cut the crap. My goals today were to sew the armpits of a dress so the arm openings were smaller, to write a blog post, and to plan for a meeting with some girls tomorrow about making pads. So far I'm two for three and am feeling better than when I sat down to write this, so maybe today won't suck. 

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