Monday, June 11, 2012

Thank the heavens I have a new modem!

I don't remember if I've shared this, but my modem was stolen back around New Years. I'd left it at a friends house in my hard-drive case. Her house was broken into and long story short, I've been sans internet on my computer since then.  I made due with my iPhone for email and facebook until April when I bought a modem off a COSing volunteer. Life is slower here, so it took a while to get airtime on it, get it working, plug it in to see if it worked, and then actually use it. Well, here I am, sitting in my yard with my feet propped up typing a new blog entry on my computer (the connection is much faster outside, and it's nice out.)

The rainy season started one weekend while I was in Kampala for a meeting. I got texts from my friends back up north saying how hard it was raining and how they were pretty sure it was the apocalypse, given how dry and barren it had been for so long. Even just two days later when I was on my way back to Lira, I could see a change in the landscape and the air. Things looked clearer, as if the rain had washed away the dust that had been blowing around the lower atmosphere.  It was a wonderful relief and all of my neighbors hurriedly began planting the gardens that they had prepared in the weeks leading up to the deluge. I am noticeably behind the rest of them as I just planted my "garden" yesterday.  I just did some herbs and peppers and lettuce, so we'll see what comes up. I have a black thumb, but playing in the dirt and watching food appear from my blisters has been more fun that I'd realized, so I figured I'd give it another shot this time around.

A few weeks prior to this I had a fun experience with home break-ins. I came home one afternoon only to find that my outdoor kitchen was open (my fault, I hadn't locked it) and my main house was open as well (this was not my fault, I most definitely HAD locked that).  I did the opposite of what you're supposed to do in this situation and entered my house to peek around. Nothing seemed out of place until I realized that my camera was broken, my headlamp was missing, and a mango was gone. Bitches and hoes, that was the first mango of the season and I was really looking forward to it.  A suggestion from the Peace Corps Safety and Security Coordinator (Fred you are awesome!) led me to check the pictures on my camera and sure enough, some jerk of a child had broken in (still don't know how), taken my camera around the village all afternoon, had a ball from the looks of it, and then replaced it when it was no longer useable. Ass. I have almost 100 pictures of this kid's joyride, including one black and white of a cow drinking from a borehole drain or something. I printed that one and hung it up, it's kind of funny and I actually like it. I'm incredibly thankful that this was my break-in experience and that it wasn't much much worse.

I went home for a wedding and to visit a few weeks ago, and I got a lot of questions about my safety.  I really have never felt unsafe here. Granted there have been a few times where I've tread carefully; my first time walking back from Nikki's at night (literally less than 10 minutes), any time I've been in Kampala at night, during dry season when my yard is extra crunchy and any stray animal wakes me up... but I promise that I do not feel unsafe here. I find it funny, but also kind of sad, when people back home exclaim that I'm nuts for being here. Most likely they have no clue how it really is, but more importantly they're generalizing that Africa is unsafe, that it's different, that it's all around, inherently bad. I will be the first to admit that I complain about things here, that things are slow moving, that customer service is non-existent, and that public transportation makes me want to cry occasionally. However, my experience here has been that most people most of the time want to go out of their way to make sure I'm ok. They are kind and generous, they smile and laugh, and they seem genuinely happy to see me and hear how I've been.

Going home was an adventure in and of itself. By the time Nora and Emmy picked me up in Jacksonville, I had been awake for 48 hours and was still 2 hours away from getting into a bed. That is far, far too long to be awake.  The wedding I went home for was the next day, and somehow I was not only awake for the whole thing, but I was coherent and even lively in some instances.  Spending that day with my friends was priceless, and I knew there was literally no where else on Earth I'd rather have been.  America was amazing, it's incredible how my perspective has changed while I've been in Uganda. I didn't have any freak-outs in the cereal aisle, but I think part of that was that I was preparing myself to completely feel like a martian, so the small things that threw me off were more humorous than anything else. I stood staring at a wall of running shoes, not sure where to even begin selecting a pair to try on. I eventually had to leave the store, giving my apologies to the clerk who'd offered to help me only to be told "um, I don't know..." I walked around target (TARGET! best store everrrrr) for two hours and marveled at things like employees working hard rather than sitting in a corner slowly wiping the dust off of anything in arms' reach, the quiet radio playing rather than some sort of foreign (to me at least) music blaring, how nothing really smelled of anything in particular, how clothing hung on a rack, ten of the exact same dresses so you could find your size... I could go on forever. It was amazing. A lot of my readjustment worries were alleviated, things I'd had in the back of my mind for the last 16 months. Would my dog remember me, and more importantly, want to be my dog again? Would my cat? Would I remember how to drive? Blow dry my hair? I feel like having these questions answered (yes, yes, yes, yes, no) will make it a little easier to relax this year, knowing that going home again won't be as hard as I'd built it up in my mind.

Other things that blew my mind about America: Driving... alone, in my car, going to where I want to go to do things that take however long, that is a freedom in and of itself. Well done. The wastefulness of packaging... everything does not need to be surrounded by three layers of plastic. Bottled water? Really? You know the water is safe over there, right? (for the record, water fountains blew me away, too) The diversity... I was expecting to be surrounded by a sea of white people. Not so! It was really awesome, considering that the homogenous-ness of Uganda is one thing that really bugs me. How we still can't get gay rights right... why am I on the other side of the world sharing our culture and trying to teach people "a better way" of doing anything if my home still hasn't gotten it right. It makes me want to come home and work for that instead (or after, I'm almost done here anyway) My family & friends... I knew they were awesome, but it was beyyyyond amazing to see everyone again and be reminded of all the positive influences in my life that constantly push me to be better. If I saw you while I was back (and unfortunately there are a couple people I didn't get to see, too, you know who you are) you are one of the ones whom I truly value and miss and appreciate!

After going back to the states, I got to take a trip to Jordan to see Petra, the Dead Sea, and the Red Sea, all of which were incredibly humbling. Being in a place with the history that it has (well documented, far-reaching history I guess, everywhere has history) made me feel very connected to civilization as an entity. That sounds weird, sorry. In simpler terms, it was really, really cool.  We floated around in the water-so-salty-that-it-was-oily, smeared black mud all over and laughed about how people pay hundreds of dollars for that crap in spas. We drove on a highway that has been a trade route for thousands of years and is mentioned in the Bible (it was beautiful and completely understated.) Those will be some of my favorite memories for a long time.  Thank you Claire for hosting us!

Now I'm back, settled back into my routine of brushing my teeth in the yard and trotting out to the latrine (which smells of margaritas since I just opened the second air freshener that Laura had sent last summer!)  I'm back to eating my one plate of beans for lunch, unfortunately the beans have been also coming with a side of little worms recently.  It's incredible the things you can get used to...

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