Friday, November 30, 2012

That sh*t cray

I knew it was a full moon the other night, not because the news or a calendar or because the internet told me, but because things around my home went batshit crazy.  Jacque arrived midmorning so we could start getting things together for our World Aids Day event this weekend, we broke into the box of wine, spread out the poster paper and markers, put on some TrueBlood, and proceeded to watch things go south from there.  One: I went to use the latrine and was met by a tiny (like the length of my hand tiny) black snake curled up behind the door. (what IS it with me and snakes lately?). Two: Jacque let out the loudest most terrified scream I've heard from her in the almost two years we've known each other and flung a giant spider across the poster paper on which I was writing HIV truths and myths.  Three: A toad hopped across our laps and into my bedroom.  I scooped him out with my dustpan and grumbled about animals in my house.  Four: Dogs were howling.  Five: When the lights went out my cat and her kittens got into a very intense growling/hissing/spitting fight and I was pretty sure she was going to attack her children.  Five things that added up to one nutso night.

Other than that I've just had constant company for more than a week now with Thanksgiving and preparations for World Aids Day.  There was absolutely a second Thanksgiving dinner last night, sans green beans.  It was magical. Sunday we're going down for Camp GLOW where we'll be for a week before coming back to my place for five days of laying out, patting ourselves on the back for finishing the term, being what we like to call "super volunteers", and day-dreaming about the upcoming transcontinental travels.

"Wait... wait, i'm back in Uganda?"

We missed you

Girl cat being adorbs

Pistachio pudding pies in lieu of an actual meal

Vera stocking in my favorite colors from Nora :)

Cheesecake pudding pie, again in lieu of an actual meal

Saturday, November 24, 2012

There's no such thing as too much pie

Thanksgiving is proven to be the most important holiday to PCVs around the world. I'm extrapolating this data based on my own opinion and the fact that I'm a PCV, so perhaps that's not a totally scientific statement. Whatever.

This is what I look like when I peel apples, and also what I look like after x number of days not showering. (x = 11). I'm thankful to be so charming and gorgeous.

I'm thankful I can find apples in Lira

I hosted Thanksgiving in my tiny home again, this time with about half the number of people as last year. No one slept on the floor and everyone had a mosquito net, almost unnecessary considering dry season has started and there are fewer bugs around.  Now that it's over and time is moving faster than it was during October (longest gd month ever) I feel like I can breathe a little easier, calm down, and stop worrying if this next month will ever actually happen.  

I'm thankful for Jacque who cuts sweet potatoes oh so beautifully, and keeps me sane :) 

And Rachel who never fails to make me laugh

We have a joke in Peace Corps, "expectations... reality" which is based on this website. Basically we just remind each other not to get our hopes up. I am happy to say that both last year's and this year's Thanksgiving celebrations blew that joke out of the water. With enough pots and coordination I've happily discovered that almost anything is possible. 

I'm thankful for hammocks and facial expressions/hand motions during stories.


I'm thankful that the kittens have learned to use a litter box without too much hullabaloo.

I'm thankful for friends who make me fudge, deep-fried snickers bars, and breaded pork chops.

I'm thankful to have a kitty to keep me company for a few months here

The celebration started about two weeks ago when I picked up three (THREE) boxes of food that my mom sent. Perhaps you think having food from home via mail is cheating? I. do. not. care. We poured over cranberry sauce, stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole ingredients, and mini pie shells for instant pudding.  To this spread we added two pumpkin pies, apple pie, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese (which will henceforth be a traditional thanksgiving dish for me and mine), bbq pork chops, and fudge. 

I'm thankful for my mom. handsdown. period. best mom ever. & neon making a comeback. (also, how many freaking colors are in my hair?!)

I'm thankful for a boxed wine station in my sitting room.

I'm thankful for my picnic table and outdoor chairs, barbecue sauce from London, and nalgenes. 

I'm thankful for this plate of food and glass of wine. 

I'm thankful I wasn't in this much pain.

I'm thankful for just-add-milk anything (in this case, cookies 'n' cream pudding)

I'm thankful I'm somehow getting better at pie crusts

I'm thankful for canned food that lasts a year (like the ingredients in this pumpkin pie)

I'm thankful for teal walls, pictures from home, and cheeky notes

I'm thankful for breakfast pies and my coffee press. 

I'm thankful for left-over Thanksgiving sandwiches & Amanda Pie

Friday, November 16, 2012

winding down

Sitting here in my yard with my feet propped up, looking at a table with two basins of rainwater and a collection of clean dishes. This sometimes feels incredibly easy, being here. Then a child wanders over to stare, call me munu, ask for money, and quickly skitters away when I give her the eye. Or a brand new lightbulb literally explodes and shatters the first time it's turned on. There's a pan of avocado bread on the stove, a delicious concoction that was born of my almost painful boredom and hesitancy to toss out the quickly mushifying (yes, I did just make that up) avocado in my cupboard. Oh, and google. Though it's pretty fantastic and will surely be gone by morning (avocado french toast? I've eaten weirder) it's still runner up to pumpkin and banana. I just finished The Tao of Travel (Thank you Donna!!!) and it made me itch to be alone on a train going somewhere.  There was one quote I loved, I'm too lazy to go find it, but it basically said the best part of traveling is when it stops being about reaching your destination and starts to just be a part of your every day life. Love it.

(somehow my internet is now fast enough to upload pictures, I'll try to add some each update)

The new group of trainees arrives in Entebbe tonight, the last new group I'll see before I peace out of here come spring.  It's very odd being a senior in Peace Corps, having come not-quite-but-almost full circle and seeing the worries they have over packing and the flight and how they'll get a cell phone. One of the things I'm most proud of accomplishing here is being able to pack lighter than I ever have in my life. It's an odd thing to think about, let alone scrutinize, but to quote another PCV, "I've had every thought humanly possible. Twice."

What else? The kittens are fine, they're quickly gaining gross motor control and will soon be pouncing on one another.  I'm crossing my fingers that someone at the college has a connection to someone who could possibly spay Tia, as cute as the babies are there doesn't need to be a repeat of this fun little experiment.  I feel terrible that animals here (cats and dogs mostly) are almost constantly either pregnant or nursing.  As long as I've lived here, that's one thing I won't ever feel differently about.  It's interesting to step outside myself for a moment and think about the things I've held onto and the things I've changed.  I will always value animal lives and their companionship, I will always enjoy (cherish, really) my alone time, and I will always prefer cooking for myself, regardless of money I spend on groceries.  I think things that have changed are my complete lackadaisical attitude toward having clean hair, an almost 180 degree change on my belief in foreign aid and donations, and my unwavering love for powdered milk.

Today is Friday, a week from now I'll be eating Thanksgiving left overs. A week after that Jacque and I are hosting the second World Aids Day Lira 5K & Health Fair, then Camp GLOW - check out the BLOG!!!! - Then back to site for a week of eating and laughing and laying out, then I'm off on a much needed, much anticpated, year-and-a-half-in-the-making vacation to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, and Addis Ababa.  After that it's just a few short weeks until our COS (Close of Service) conference where we scramble to pick our dates to leave and book our tickets for another amazing international adventure.  Nora is coming to visit me right after the conference and I'm so excited to show her where I live and for her to see in person that I'm not making up all of the crazy things I tell people back home.  It's gotten to the point where everything I do - remotely cool or not - I think "I wonder what Nora will think of this?" Whether it's the cold water in my shower, the chickens who wander into my house, or the naked baby that calls my name as I walk by, it's going to be amazing to really share that with someone from my "real life".  Then Shaun comes (yes?) and then I'm out of here. I have to stop thinking about all this sometimes and just look around my village and appreciate that it's been almost two years since I sat looking at the dukas and the market thinking "Holy crap, can I do this?" It's lush and green and beautiful and I can now practically float over the mud instead of clomping through it.  I listen to the tropical birds and bugs and bats and forget that those won't be there when I'm back in America.  I watch storms rolling in from the East and think about how that's Kenya. My storms come from Kenya.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I love the rain the most... when it stops.

Sometimes really interesting or funny things happen and I think "people will get a kick out this for sure" but then power is out or my internet is slow or it's raining or something like that, and it never gets recorded. Sorry. An hour and a half ago, though, something interesting happened and it just so happens that it's lovely weather out, I just renewed my internet, and power has been on for a full 18 hours.  The fates obviously are clamoring for an update today.

I arrived home from town and shuffled up to my door, backpack and tote back laden with half my month's living allowance worth of groceries, only to be confronted with a bright green snake on my stoop.  A few weeks ago I came home and was in my house for a good half hour before I looked in the mirror and saw a snake above my doorway, watching me creepily.  I ended up chasing out of my house and up a tree, convinced that it was a green mamba.  Well, apparently it had returned, or it's twin stopped by to say hey, either way there was a green snake staring me down.  I slowly put my bags down, and ignoring the desperate cries of my cat inside, picked up a huge log and started hacking at the snake like a crazy person.  When I saw that it was injured enough to neither slither away nor attack I went into my storeroom, grabbed a slasher, and proceeded to try to cut the head off. My slasher isn't very sharp so the most I managed to do was bluntly cut it into sections, but it did the job and the snake was dead. Justice.

See my friend?

You may have noticed that I mentioned my cat inside meowing to get out, and you may also remember that my last entry ended with the sad tale of the cat running off and becoming a village cat. Well, a few days after that post, she came back, typical.  I feed her well enough that she knows this is home, but it's a double edged sword because it means that she stubbornly refuses to go hunt for her own food and instead yowls for a bit of whatever I'm eating, jumping onto the kitchen table and sticking her nose in the blueband (a horrible, horrible imitation of butter) A few weeks after our happy reunion however, I noticed that she felt a little rounder and that her nipples were more pokey and came to the conclusion that my kitten was going to have kittens.  I kept expecting her to miscarry since she was so young but she carried them to full term and two weeks ago I watched her deliver 4 tiny babies.  They are all seemingly healthy and while I'm enamored by them, I can't help think what crappy lives they are probably going to have.  Two of them are black and I can't really tell them apart, so I named them Bootes and Pavo after the kittens in The Night Circus (amaaaazing!) One is a dark charcoal grey and I'm pretty sure he's going to have white legs and chest when he's older, and the one girl is calico. Those two are still anonymous.  Tutors at the college have claimed them already and were insisting that I hand them over at 2 weeks of age, as if! They can't even walk yet.  I told them they could have them at 6 weeks old, which is when I'll be leaving for camp GLOW, so the timing will work nicely.  I'm worried about leaving Tia for December and January, when I'll be traipsing the continent, but hopefully it'll be a test run for when I'm leaving her for good.

This is Africa

Other than snakes and kittens, I've actually been quite busy at the college, but it's mostly been a project of my own choosing rather than teaching.  Back in July I met with the girls to see if they'd be interested in learning how to teach the reusable menstrual pads program that PCVs teach, and they said yes, but that they couldn't pay for the training materials (a sample pad, and a rice sack for making a visual aid of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system).  I wrote a grant and it was approved, so I spent a few months opening the bank account, waiting for the funding, and getting everything together.  One absurd morning I spent at the bank trying to withdraw the funds.  I got there at 8:30, when it was scheduled to open, but had to wait outside while the floor was mopped, furniture was arranged, wastebaskets emptied. Opening time is a great time for all that, no?  Anyway the line quickly filled and I had to wait for my friend who was the co-signer on the account.  Ugandans don't really use lines the way Americans do, there can't be any space between two people, or at the front of the line between the person being helped and next up.  A general lack of personal space is quite evident, and that, coupled with a lack of air conditioning and an overabundance of time waiting, got to me in a way that things usually don't get to me. Let me also add that the bank has a helper, who wears a sash and is in charge of minding the line, making sure people have the right forms, and directing them where to go.  When I finally got to the front, I had this man, and the eight people behind me literally within a four foot radius of my person.  The sash-wearing bank shepherd was peering over my shoulder telling me this and that, telling me I needed to go to another window when I asked the teller the balance of the account, and telling me I wasn't allowed to do that when I looked him in the eye and crumpled the paper he'd just handed me. In short,  I lost my cool. In a bank. Surrounded by Ugandans. It was embarrassing, but I was just soooo over it all, the slowness of everything here, the lack of personal space, the people peering at my bank slip, watching me write out "one million two hundred thousand..." and my account number, the clicking of the tongues when something goes wrong, being told "You're not in America..." It's days like that that make me think, ever so cruelly, "I win. I have a free ticket back to America, the greatest country on Earth, and you have to stay here."

Re-usable, washable, made from local materials, incredibly affordable

After that experience, preparations for the workshop went smoothly.  I commandeered the college van for a day, justifying it by putting in $8 worth of gas, and got all of the shopping done, refusing to leave anything un-purchased for another day. Let me just say that trying to get "everything done in one day" here is a feat, and I accomplished it. The shopping at least. I cut and prepared 150 pad kits, organized a ton of information, made the schedule, prepared activities for the girls so it was interactive, basically I was not only ready, I was stoked for this workshop. Of course it's Uganda though, so it started late and barely kept to the schedule and people came and went as they pleased. But at the end of it, 117 girls had shown up at SOME point, and at least 40 were there the whole time asking questions, participating, making the pads and the visual aids, playing the games I'd planned, and hopefully got a lot out of it.  I have a ton of extra materials so I'm going to chill out and regroup for a few days and then see what to do.  Options I'm throwing around are offering it again, this time to the gents since they were left out the first time around, or going to the primary school and offering a workshop there.  I told my girls if they want to teach it during school practice next term that I have extra pads they can use and I'll go with them to teach, but that it's up to them to initiate it.

Sewing sample pads

Other than that I've just been hiding out in the village for way too long, trying to save money and begin some semblance of a tan so I don't immediately fry in Cape Town. Power has been awful lately, so has the weather, and Airtel got rid of its unlimited texting plan, so there have been inumerable boring days spent daydreaming about things like really good red wine, the new camera lens that Stella is bringing me from America, and melted cheese. I escaped for lunch with the other Lira girls a few weeks ago, but apart from that afternoon of pizza, I've been alone here for over a month. I think that's a record, it's certainly something I never intend to do again.  Cannot WAIT for Thanksgiving!