29 December 2007

First Blog Post from Kayonza!<<< (now with footnotes!)


Thinking back, there were a couple letters I sent out that I wasn't sure if they had arrived, so I decided to put a list of some that I haven't heard back from. Also, after the first few that I wrote I started making photocopies - sooo, if it actually didn't arrive, I can send along another copy upon request:

Nicole, I sent you a letter back May in response to the frisbees and stuff (which I greatly appreciated), but Jason seemed to think that you never got it.

G'ma & G'pa, Pug & Jug, sent a little aerogram back in about Aug/Sept. It had a nice graph of my emotional state :)

Aunt Tracy, Thanks a lot for sending Ender's Game. It's already gone through the hands of a number of the volunteers. I sent you a brief letter of thanks in August with a lot of questions in it about what's going on.

James, sent something in July with many footnotes and a couple doodles.

Now a few of you may be wondering if I ever got things from you, and hopefully I'll get off my butt soon and write back:

Patty Finally got the duct tape and candy - what more do you need in life?

Sara, just got the amazing package of kid's books. Can't wait to put them in the resource room and start sharing them with the neighbor kids when they get back after the holidays. There's also quite a few that I haven't read yet - soon to be remedied. You Rock, you!!!

Michelle & Brandi, Will write soon. Awesome pictures, etc received and appreciated. You are missed.

Collete, see above.

Matt, have read most of the poetry and will be writing some responses soon.

Let me know if I missed anyone there.

The Whirlwind Tour of Uganda

So, as most of you probably know, Biff-Dad and Jason-Bro came to visit for 15 days at the end of Nov & beginning of Dec. Which was awesome! It was really great to see some faces from home and also to get a fresher perspective on Uganda. The joke (reality?) around here is that as long-term volunteers, many of us get very "jaded." For a good while near the beginning in training and a little beyond everything is new and exciting, and it's just so much fun to be in a new place so different from home. After a while things start to drag. The constant barrage of "Muzungu" from the local kids, the staring, your co-workers forever being 1+ hours late to everything or not telling you about this meeting or that, and how everything breakable seems to break and everything going wrong always does -- it starts to wear on you. And eventually, you kind of start to hate the world. To hate Uganda. And the worst part of it is that it becomes reflex. Now, you are jaded. In fact, I often will say that Uganda has taught me how to be angry. Anyway, to get back on subject, it was especially awesome that Dad and Jason were able to indirectly show me how much of a rut I was in, how much that reflexive anger was just unproductively bringing me down and isolating me . Both Dad and Jason were having a grand old time just hanging out with people (esp. kids) in my village. I remember Jason teaching Jason-Fu to Kenneth as well as learning the local card game, "Matatu"@. All the kids thought Dad was a riot, with his weird noises and by village standards absolutely alien looks -- I don't think we could count on both hands how many times a kid would see Dad and just burst out crying : ). We had some pretty good times in the village, and even got some good work done on my resource center and house as well.

Each day was a new adventure for us, and as Dad said, it's not really possible to sit down and tell the story of everything that happened. There's so much to tell. So, I'm not really going to try. Suffice it to say, we had an awesome time, and maybe if we're lucky Dad and/or Jason will write a little something that I'll post here as a guest portion of the blog. Also, as soon as I get a workable operating system on my laptop, I'll put together a post with some pictures so you can see what it was all about.

Christmas & New Year's

I remember seeing a news story a few years ago showing footage of a shirtless Santa paddling to the shore of one of the Hawaiian islands. In reaction I just shrugged and said "that's weird" thinking nothing of it. Well, I had no idea how weird it actually is -- frickin' weird. I've remarked before on the strangeness brought about by days having the exact same length$, everyday, a Groundhog-Day-effect of sorts. Along with the lengthening of the day to signal oncoming summer, the shortening of the day was always the precursor to the holiday season. But as the same day comes, 80 85 90o F, even though Christmas music is playing, it still feels more like it's about 4th of July. It was especially strange because the major PCV get together in Kampala was a barbeque. Also, I've gotten pretty used to the go-home-to-Spokane, catch-up-with-friends-you-haven't-seen-in-a-while, laze-around-and-do-jack-nothing-at-the-p's-house routine. Which was nice. Comfortable, even. Instead there's a training right up to a few days before Christmas#, I get to hang out with familiar friends, and actually had a nice Christmas Eve dinner of salad and pumpkin soup%. It was cool, it was fun, it was pretty alright. But, it wasn't really Christmas.

Actually, it was a lot closer to Christmas when Dad & Jason came. Really, it was like six Christmases rolled into one with all of the stuff they brought for me&, and of course just to see them was a lot closer to a Christmas feel than I felt on the 25th. Near the Eve many of the PCV conversations turned to "what does your family do on Christmas?" and we all wistfully shared our stories. Mine were about decorating the tree, twice-baked potatoes, getting a little tipsy off rum & coke (just the one time), and the plastic-toy-gun wars on Christmas morning among others. It was kind of cool to hear how everyone's family celebrated differently. It was also kind of sad. Ooh, that's kind of a bad place to end this blurb. Oh, well*.

Maybe it's just be easier to say

that Christmas gave me a rain-check this year.

But, I want you all to know

that I miss you much, loves you dear.

Hope Christmas was Merry~,

and have a Happy New Year.




! As Dad & Jason brought my laptop, I now have the ability to take more time to compose blog posts while I'm sitting around with nothing to do in the village. This is the first. Sadly I don't exactly have an operating system and I can't include pictures from my camera. You can be the judge of whether quality has improved, although I must say I do enjoy footnotes (who was it that sent The Mezzanine, Amy N.? P.S. I love you.).

@ As Kenneth doesn't speak much English, Jason had to pretty much learn this card game with hand gestures and Kenneth saying, "I win" to signal that Jason had come out poorly. This was especially hilarious as Jason kept losing and began to suspect that Kenneth was just making up rules to win : ).

$ Plus or minus ~7 minutes. Someday when I'm bored I might figure out exactly what the time difference is at this latitude. All I need is the radius of the Earth, the declination of the Earth's axis, and my latitude (handily got from GPS), and to assume the Earth is a sphere. I remember doing it once riding with Lee & Nancy on the way back to Spokane. Man I'm a nerd.

# Which was made infinitely better by the hotel we stayed at having a pool. For swimming. And volleyball. And general awesome enjoyitude.

% Unorthodox? -- Yes. Delicious? -- Quite. It's amazing how refreshing and mouth-wateringly good a salad can taste. It's also amazing how silly somewhat-deprived PCV's can get over simple things.

& Much of which was brought from a variety of sources, which all deserve a huge "THANK YOU SO MUCH! LOVES YOU LOTS!" -- you know who you are.

* I actually didn't mean to make a little poem here, I just noticed that the last few lines had some rhymes and couldn't help myself.

~ And in the case of Arya and Larry-Dad, I hope you both had a really good birthday.

26 November 2007

Thanksgiving and Other Random Pictures


Here's a picture of the amazing Thanksgiving Feast we had at Amy's new house in Kayunga, with Amy (one of the Top Chef's along with Brett) proudly smiling in front. She appears a bit damp because it decided to downpour for a little bit right as we were finishing the preparations, but supposedly that's good luck here in Uganda. I ate two heaping plates of food and was full until lunch the next day.

Pictures from the 100 KM Day

At one point in attempting to visit all 64 schools in my cachement area I had to head, as they say, "deep deep" and took a long bike ride. Luckily, I brought my camera along with me, here are a few pictures from the trip:

This is a Jones-eye view on a typical day while going out to visit schools. Almost endless dirt "roads," but lots of good exercise and sun. And look! I have a little bell!

These cool cactus trees are not rare, but not common either. They look like they should be in the desert rather than the tropics and they can grow to be pretty huge. I've been wanting to get a picture of one for a while and got this nice shot against the blue of the sky.

Awesome birds are everywhere. Here's some of the kind that have this amazing crimson underbelly.

SWAMP! (notice cool little lily things) This, I think, is a finger off of Sezibwa "river," which is a branch off the Nile. My district, Kayunga, is placed right between Sezibwa and the Nile, with Lake Kyoga to the north. So, it's like I'm on a little island, unfortunately sometimes it feels like it.

Clouds & Trees

I like them. Hope you do too:

A neat UFO cloud. I think this is caused by a thermal, which happens to push up beyond the dew point another, more humid, layer of air. There's a name for this. I don't know what it is, but I do know that it happens around mountains a lot.

There was one weekend where I went a bit crazy. Literally. Anyway, I'm okay now, but one of the days after having realized I was going a bit crazy I decided to take a morning and bike to the Nile. I found it and here's a picture of the morning dew drops - it was awesome and I felt a lot better. Also talked with the ferry man that was waiting for passengers about how I missed things like mountains and water and stuff.

About a month ago I went to a really cool little rainforest where a JICA volunteer is posted (in Nepoleon Dynamite voice, "Lucky!") for a rave (yes, a rave), and a nice hike through the woods. Here are some green shoots growing on a log. P.S. I forgot the name of the forest. Sorry.

There were some huge spider nests in {pick your own name} Forest.

A really neat tree that I found on a hike while in Sipi Falls a while back. Reminds me of the show Six Feet Under, anyone? anyone? (Nathaniel?)


This is a bat. I have a lot that live in my roof. I don't know why this one was crawling instead of flying. Sometimes I find them in my house. If I'm feeling mean I kill it with a flip flop (the same flip flop as for cockroaches) and then I throw it outside (where the chickens will eat it in the morning - Yes! chickens eat bats, and frogs, and even rats - whole). If I'm feeling nice I try to kindly usher it outside with my broom.

(Really old pic back from In-Service Training) Derek likes his bi-coffee.

There was a man selling apples at 500 /= a go in the taxi park - I bought the whole bag. And don't they look dashing in my neat wicker basket-thingys? Very Zen. And with that, I'm out.


23 November 2007


Hey there,

A couple people have asked me if I (or my schools) want anything for Christmas. I'm having trouble thinking of anything - which means I'm probably pretty good. A good book, or a cartoon you doodled on a restaurant napkin, or pictures are always welcome and I love to get them. If you can think of cool little toys / games / oddities that village children would like and would entertain them for a long time (a.k.a. must be durable and not require things like batteries - and, of course, this is a school so it's better if it can make them think) that would be really cool too. I've been trying to find a good level book to have them read, but their English (+ reading) is so poor, they probably couldn't read anything beyond Dr. Seuss (which some might like).

As before, remember that anything that more closely approximates a letter (e.g. a padded envelope versus a box), it will travel amazingly faster.\

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy CHOGM! (google it if you don't know what that is)
Loves you all,
Jones out

18 November 2007

Things is Okay

I just got a package from Michelle, with the most awesome Birthday gifts: Pictures of everyone with messages on the back – Thanks so much to: Dave, Arya, James, Amy, Tara, Andy, Lindsay, Parker, Raz, Jesse, Lizzy, Anna, Sarah, Brandi, and of course Michelle (and thanks for the XKCD & card too). Also, a shot out to Collette, with the most randomly awesome package with magazines, playing cards (how did you know?!), and other goodies.

So, I’m doing pretty well, I just spent last night in Jinja winning 50,000 /= (which is about $30) at the Casino, before going out dancing. We may be volunteers working against disease, ignorance, and poverty during the week, but we know how to party on the weekends. And some of that money will probably go to improving my resource center – I’m pretty sure no money will be coming from the college to fix it, and grant writing seems pretty daunting especially considering that the amounts are so small ($5 here, $20 there).

Well, I think that I’ve just recently cleared a hump that I knew I was stuck on. It seemed like every day I was getting mad at kids calling me “Mzungu” every where I went and taxi drivers trying to overcharge me (by like 25 cents, but it’s the principle), and I was spending an increasing amount of my time at site just reading and being by myself. Angry + Lonely – Good Friends & Familycloseby = Sad Jones. Anyway, I think what really helped was reading a book called Blue Like Jazz. It’s actually a book about one man’s search to be Christian in the modern world, so there were some parts about loving Jesus and whatnot that didn’t exactly speak to me. However, at the end there were some chapters where he talked about Living in Community, which really struck a chord with me. I’m really used to living with people (and if I can brag a bit, really awesome people), and here, by definition, I must live alone. The only problem with that is that it gets lonely. Anyway, there were also another few chapters at the end of Blue where the author talked a lot about just “loving” other people, randomly, and unconditionally. This idea echoed what I read about Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains (thanks Michelle), and I think it’s really an essential part of living a happy life. It’s also something I’m not very good at. But, over the last week, by just looking at the kids yelling “Mzungu” and dancing and going crazy, and laughing at them instead of scowling, I’ve felt a lot better. Looking around with a smile and approval of those around you has helped me very much to be happier. It’s true, things are annoying here. But it is infinitely easier to deal with them if you take them with acceptance and a smile than if you battle them. Anyway, that seems to be going well and I hope I can keep it up.

As far as work is concerned, things are going well. I’m almost finished visiting all 65 of my schools – there are only two left to go! Some of the ones I’ve already gone to were really “deep deep” in the bush. One day I visited three of the more remote schools and logged just under 100 Km on my bike mileage meter – which to brag a bit, is not too bad, especially on potholed, muddy, dusty, swampy, windy and sometimes maze-like “roads” and footpaths. It’s also amazing how much work it is to do things that seem so simple. I only visited 3 schools in one day. Three pages of basic information collected from a long hard day of riding. In the states, with a car, on good roads I could probably visit 12 schools in a day and be done with this tour in a week, rather than taking about 2 months just to visit each one for half an hour. Anyway, now that I have most of the data I’m starting to analyze it to figure out which schools are doing the best, and especially which schools are doing the best with the fewest resources. This will be a bit of a challenge as I’ll be working pretty much exclusively in Excel (oh, what I wouldn’t give for a nice copy of Matlab – never thought I’d miss that). Hopefully, I’ll have some type of report before the new term in Feb. 2008

Here’s a quick update of what’s coming up in my life:
* Dad and Jason coming to visit (Nov. 27th – Dec. 13th) WOOOT!
* Training of Facilitators (of which I’ll be one) for the Thematic Curriculum for P2 (2nd grade) teachers. This is a new project that Uganda is phasing in where the material to be taught isn’t strictly placed in subjects as much as themes and is supposed to integrate things better. It also focuses on giving pupils (they almost never call them “students” here) a more fluent base in their local language (in my area, that’s Luganda). I think in theory it sounds like a good program, but as I’ve seen in some of the P1 classes while I’ve been here, actually doing it is a bit rocky.
* Life Skills & HIV/AIDS training (almost right up to X-mas) for a week in Kampala. I’m still not exactly sure what this “life skills” thing is – something like teaching kids to stand up for themselves so they can make good decisions and not get AIDS (most kids [and women] here are very deferent to anyone older and I bet this gets abused all too often).
* A nice break – no Christmas plans yet. It’ll be weird to be away from home.
* Then actually doing the training for the P2 teachers in my catchment area in January.

Alright, that’s it for me – Peace out!


24 October 2007

Dad & Jason coming end of November

Just a quick note here: Biff-Dad & Jason Bro are coming on November 26th (contact them if you want to send anything along with them -- hint hint, wink wink).

Things are going alright here, still bouncing up and down emotionally, but staying strong. Laters.

09 October 2007

Things are going well

So, I think I last left off saying that I was going through a few tough times (which have continued off & on), but that I was looking forward to having some work to do over the next term. I guess that's pretty much come true, I have been working quite a bit. Most of what I've been doing is riding my bike around to different schools with student teachers, watching them teach a lesson (~45 minutes) and then talking with them about the good and bad things I saw and wrote down on their supervision form. At first I didn't really want to do this because it seems so hypocritical. I've never been a primary school teacher, what do I know about teaching, and what gives me the right to criticize these teachers? So, the solution to this dilemma was to rationalize. 1) I've been through a lot of school and I could tell which teachers were good for me and which ones were not. 2) Many times what follows a supervision is not just a criticism, but a conversation about how the lesson went, and a bouncing back and forth of ideas for making the lesson better (not every time, but one every few). 3) Many times I am the first person to ever watch them teach and try to give them some pointers on what they are doing well and what new methods would be good to try. With these rationalizations in mind I can definitely say that supervision seems helpful in the long run. As I was riding along one day I realized that it is almost definitely not the best use of the skills I have (which is largely in solving mathematical problems and using computers), but it's not bad either. I think that may many times be what Peace Corps is about -- Adaptation. Not only trying to fit yourself into a new culture, but to do work that you never really would've considered doing before. To try to fit your square-pegged self into a circle-shaped hole and then come out of it with some rounded edges and the ability to fit better everywhere.

The plan is to just keep on doing as I'm doing. John, my counterpart, has been a bit absent due to family obligations in Mbale (weddings and funerals), but I'm hoping he will come back soon to help me (with 30 students and a goal of 8 supervisions each over the next two months, I know I can't do it alone - and furthermore I shouldn't have to). Also, CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting) is coming up next month, which to my understanding will just involve a lot of people coming from different countries that used to be under British rule to visit and talk in Uganda. This seems to be a pretty big deal over here and all the talk is about "Are you ready for CHOGM?" which has really become more of a joke as it seems they really aren't. You can often go into an empty restaurant, sit down and look at the menu, and find that they don't have anything on the menu except matooke and beans - if they aren't ready for normal customers, then how will they deal with an influx of hungry foreigners who want some services? I've been hearing through the Peace Corps grapevine that CHOGM will cause all of the schools to get out early, which would be silly, but would give me a huge hunk of time from the end November through January in which I won't have any official work. I'm actually a little afraid of that time, although Dad and Jason will be visiting (ROCK!), the rest of the time I'm going to have to find things to do to keep from going crazy.

Changing Gears: Here's some pictures from Sipi falls. I'm just on my way back from there, where most of the volunteers congregated for Goatstock, our Halloween celebration (and yes it does involve the killing and eating of goats. I got to see / participate in the slaughter of one of them, which was fairly interesting. I'll spare the details for all you vegetarians out there : ). Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of costumes, I didn't have my camera out, but I plan on stealing some tonight from Allie, to be posted next time:

A few of us on the cliffs near the top of the upper falls. From left to right: half of our guide, Christina (PEPFAR group of 2006), Marcus (2nd-year PCV), Becky (Crisis Corps Volunteer). P.S. Sorry that this picture is crooked, I just realized that the horizon isn't straight and don't have photoshop to fix it - ah well. Still a beautiful view.

Here's a view of the upper falls We climbed to the bottom first and got completely drenched in the powerful spray that explodes outward from the bottom like a perpetual hurricane. In other words, it's really awesome.

Just some trees on the top of a cliff overlooking the upper falls

That's it for now. As always, loves you all and hope to hear from you now and then.

22 September 2007

Low Points, Pictures, & Plans

Sorry for being so quiet over here, but there's not a terrible lot that's new. I've just finished my 3 (well three and a half) month In-Service Training (IST). It was a week long, and as was advertised by Jeffrey (one of our program directors) it is most commonly THE low point for most volunteers. I'm not exactly sure, but I think I actually had my low point last week sometime and I'm definitely not as happy-go-lucky optimisitc as when I stepped off the plane. But, I just wrote a pretty big letter about that so I think I'll leave that alone for now - I'm really trying to look forward to this next term.

Here's my baby (Jesse, I wish I'd listened to you earlier about solar stoves, but I was too excited making other plans). Probably the only really productive thing I've done in the last few weeks while school has been on break. I'm really quite proud of it even though it only makes water REALLY hot, and not yet "boiling" :) . But, in my defense, I'm pretty sure it'll boil like a champ as soon as I get some black paint for my kettle, because at the moment the silvery surface is just reflecting off a lot of the light. For a quick description of what you're seeing, I used a design I found from a "solar cooker"-search on Wikipedia . It's just a big piece of cardboard (about 1.2 m X 1 m), I cut a couple slits in it and made a few folds, then I taped/glued aluminum foil to all the main reflecting services, last is a little green-house-effect transparent-plastic cover thing and there ya go, Free Energy. My neighbors, and some other teachers that had walked by showed a lot of interest, so maybe this'll become more than a backyard project.

Also, here's a picture of some JIKA volunteers (it's almost exactly Japanese Peace Corps), who came to visit my house briefly. You may notice that I no longer have any hair - and also that the line dividing my forehead from my lack of hair is amazingly straight. Yes, I know it's fairly hideous and as another volunteer has described "Putin-esque," but the Ugandans have all told me how "smart" I look and there's not that many mirrors here anyway. My barber had never done Mzungu hair before (he buzzed downwards for about 20 minutes before Amy showed him that you have to go against the grain to really get the hair) and started making some very straight lines before I could stop him. You should see the sides, they're like ladder steps. Anyway...

So, I'm looking forward to this next term and I have a fair amount of plans:
1) Continue supervising in-service student-teachers: This seemed very productive last term and I really enjoy watching the teachers teach and they seem to appreciate the feedback afterwards.
2) Teaching Math to student-teachers: I noticed during my supervisions last term that many of my teachers use "guided discussion" and "chalk-and-talk" and left it at that. So I'd like to teach them some math each week (because most nearly failed math, on their promotional exams the average was 47% - because 35% is set as passing, although it probably shouldn't be, because except for log properties the test wasn't THAT hard), but using more methods like groupwork, and games, and mini-projects so that they can get the math skills and maybe also see some alternative methods in practice.
3) Visit all 65 of my schools: This might be a bit ambitious, but I'd like to go to all of the schools in my catchment area this next term which will partly be in an effort to collect information and see which schools are doing the best (and worst) and why. The plan is to rank the schools visibly so that H/T's have an idea of how they are doing (and hopefully will have some social pressure to do school improvement, or at least to be at their schools {abesenteeism is a fairly big problem}), and also to inform some future projects. One of the main lessons that I did get from this workshop is that improvement in education happens at the school level versus at the level of individual teachers (Jeffery told me that many studies have backed this up, which I'd like to read if anyone maybe wants to do a bit of digging for scholarly papers? ; ), so maybe after this study I'll pick a few schools to start working more closely with.
4) And other smaller plans -> Look into making our Resource Center secure (it currently has nothing in it, because things would just be stolen/destroyed) -> Ramp down the Physics/Math at the secondary school to be just a once-a-week study center deal ->some other things I can't remember, but thankfully wrote down somewhere.

One last note in response to Ludan's comment asking about the weather here: Yes, it pretty much is summer all of the time, except that there's very often explosive thunderstorms, especially in the rainy season (I think it's partly due to the migration of the ITCZ-InterTropical Convergence Zone). It's amazing to see the sky darken and a good wind whip up a storm and then hurl down big crocodile tears (none of that Seattle mist-rain crap), all in 20 minutes. Also, it was a bit strange coming here because when I left (March), we were near the equinox, so the length of the day in America was about 12 hours which +/- 7 mins is the exact length of the day here. This means that it was very easy to transition to the day's length, but when the days never got longer it felt as if time had stopped. No new season was coming. Half light - half night -- DAY after DAY. I think I'm pretty much used to it now, but it'll be interesting to see what it feels like going the other way.

Alright, that's all I have time for now. Sorry for being a stranger. Letters shall be written. Loves all you all and hope to hear from you soon.

21 August 2007

Running Around

First a quick shot out to Michelle and Brandi (letters will be forthcoming) and Aunt Tracy (letter has been sent) for the excellent reading materials and Biff-Dad for many comfort / happiness essentials.

So, there’s been both a lot, and not much going on lately. I’m just on my way back from four days of language training in Mukono, which was nice. I really enjoy Luganda, and I’m starting to get into a little bit more of the meat with more complex conjugations (never and still and things), and the vocab is growing steadily (I have a little floss-box-turned flashcard holder that I carry around and try to go through about every other day). Actually, I may have been nearly the only one really looking forward to the language component of language training – it’s a little isolating to like learning the language so much when it seems most other volunteers aren’t really that interested. Beyond that, it was really nice to have a change of pace and some more American influence (and partying ; ).

Actually, it was my second “change of pace” in the last two weeks because I just went up to Mbale to help train some of the CCT’s (Coordinating Center Tutors, who are the teacher trainers and our counterparts / colleagues) in using computers. For one, Mbale is really beautiful (see picture below), and it has something to look at on the horizon – it’s amazing how much I really miss having mountains / hills around*. For two, it was a bit silly how unprepared they were to receive us – they didn’t have any place for us to stay the first night and the lack of electricity made it harder to find some makeshift accommodations. For three, they really weren’t prepared to use what they had, which was four (Me, Amy, Allie, and Fred – who lives near the college there) computer literate and willing teachers. Much of the time we just sat around playing on the computers (I discovered Spider Solitaire, which I’ll probably have to remove from my laptop when it comes with Dad & Jason in December), and when some of the tutors did come we mostly just introduced them to a program that helps them learn how to touch type. That actually seems to be a big theme here, when there are a lot of really good resources (whether that be money, or books, or trained people), the resources are either plundered (there’s quite a bit of theft here), squandered, or ignored. This is probably a big over-generalization, but it seems to happen WAY too much (and quite especially with USAID money too). It’s hard to tell why exactly it happens though – what do Ugandans want? Where do they want to go? Tiradein the CC aside, it was a good trip and had some nice time with computers and visiting people and cooking and things too.

Right before I left for Mbale, I had a couple days with not much to do, so I decided to look through a lot of the files (Coordinating Center) office at the school I’m posted at. I’d been feeling like I really wasn’t up to speed on a lot of the details of what was going on and it was nice to just sit and do office work for a while and start thinking about things I’d like to accomplish next term. I’d like to stick a little bit closer to the Primary Schools and the student teachers, which is really what I should be doing, over tutoring at the secondary schools. I’m making a map of all the schools in my cachement area (I think there’s 65), and I’d like to try to visit them all at least once this next term. There’s also a lot of materials in the storage of my Resource Center that are just sitting and gathering dust, but that’s mainly because the classroom where they’re supposed to be displayed isn’t secure enough and villagers and children often come into open classrooms and wreck things if they’re not well locked up (I don’t understand why).

Also, here’s a picture from a cool Japanese – Ugandan Culture day I got to attend. It was a lot of fun and enlightening for me to see the things that were similar between the US and Japan (like good time management, and not needing to look “smart” all the time), didn’t seem like there were many differences.

Well, that’s about it. Bit confused at times, but surviving thanks to good books, letters / emails from home, and Ugandan friends here.

Loves you all

* On a side note, one day when I was in Mukono I decided to walk up to the top of one of the hills nearby. I ended up meeting a nice Burundese (spelling?) man, many other nice people / children, and seeing a lot of the countryside after walking down and then around the hill. And I was thinking during the walk that mountains seem like a philosophical necessity for me (people in general?). There’re something there, something new, something big, an entity to be explored, and even more than that it seems like they just draw you to explore. At my site everything is flat and I haven’t really gone out exploring around much besides finding my way to schools I’ve never been to before. On the “horizon” there’s just not anything to look at besides sky, over there just seems to be the same as right here. But, if there’s a mountain, it seems to beckon. To draw one towards it, if for nothing else than an excellent view of what could be beyond. It’s a big dangling question mark, a challenge with the promise of novelty. Anyway, I miss ‘em, maybe I should head over sometime I’m free and walk up Elgon or something – you down Bro?

08 August 2007


Sorry this note will be pretty short - I'm actually using most of this internet time to catch up on my guilty-pleasure reading of the infinitely nerdy, but also deep web-comic xkcd.

Things have quieted down over here as the term is nearing it's end. I'm getting ready to head to a town called "Nyondo" near Mbale to help with a computer training. It should be fun.

The week after that is language training in Mukono (which it seems I alone of my entire training group am looking forward too - yeah, I know I's a nerd).

And then there is a training from the Ministry for the next week.

And then there's In-Service-Training.

So, I'll be all over the place I guess.

Take Care all.

P.S. Biff-Dad - Where are you? I've sent you a few emails and text messages - are you okay?

27 July 2007

Meeting, Move like a Ugandan, & Heroic Teeth Brushing

* A picture of everyone in the Cluster. From left to right: Me, Amy (Namulansi) Olson, Wasike Anthony (Amy's counterpart), Beatrice (Allie's counterpart), Mutuuba John Fads (my counterpart), Allie (Namutebi) Muehe, Nangoye Patrick, Margaret.

* Here's how we roll Uganda style. To prepare for my visitors I rode to Kayunga (~20 KM away), and loaded to the gills I rode back in true Ugandan fashion.

* Allie and Amy stayed over the night before our Cluster (meeting of CCTs and PCVs in the Kayunga district), and Allie took this opportunity to take some pictures of me around my site. Here's a good shot she got of me heroically brushing my teeth.

22 July 2007

Teaching Ups and Downs

* "Teaching" physics: So, this kind of fell through because it was just too much. I was trying to teach 5 classes of high school physics, with no materials beyond a chalk board and only two days each week to do it. What I found was that there was just too much to do. I had to make a least two or three lesson plans the night before (and if they had been good ones they would've included demonstration experiments), thinking up exercises for each class to do (which I did a little bit), and then grading each classes answers and trying to keep track of progress (the classes have on average 45-55 students each). With my other obligations to Shimoni college to help my counterpart in tutoring Primary school teachers (a.k.a. what I Actually should be doing), I found I just didn't have enough time to be a decent physics teacher. If it was the only thing I was doing, yeah that'd be doable, but I had to settle for one notch down. After doing some thinking I arrived at the fact that a lot of what Physics and Math is about, and valuable for, is simply the ability to think and string together a lot of "If this ____, then that _____" statements - to be logical. So, what I'm doing now, is answering questions at the board for the 1st 40 minute period, and then playing SET and giving them logic games for the 2nd 40 minute period. It requires a lot less work, but is still helping them out. Just recently I also started going around and helping people individually, which seems to be really important because there are many who are trying, but fall through the cracks during lecture-style classes - I keep wishing that I could somehow setup a physics / math study center (but classes are pretty much all day and there's other problems too). As one example, I was helping one SII (~= 8th grader) student who was having trouble calculating density and as I found out, didn't really know what a centimeter was. I asked him, "how big is a centimeter?" Blank stare. "How big is a meter?" Blank stare. Then I pulled out my ruler and we spent the next 20 minutes, differentiating between inches, centimeters, and milimeters, and then measuring distances on his desk (which it didn't look like he had ever done before). So, it seems one of the biggest problems here, is that teaching tends to be very theoretical and not connected to the outside world, but at least that's one thing I can work on with my student teachers.

* Student Teachers: I've started supervising student teachers, which I was actually a little afraid of at first (even before I left the states). Because, "who am I to supervise these teachers? I don't really have any experience teaching classes." But, I've found that it's not too bad. It's easy to tell if the students are excited (or bored) about the lesson, and whether they like (or are scared by) their teacher. And then when students are doing exercises I try to think of ideas that could make the lesson better, often by connecting it to something physical. One example is a student teacher I just watched who did a lesson about weather vanes, wind socks, and wind cocks (roosters :). He drew some pictures on the board, had a good relationship with his students, and discussed the topic very well with them, but in the end the exercise was just a rote copying of what a weather vane does (point the direction of wind), and to draw a picture of a weather vane. That's all fine and good, but I could tell that the students weren't too excited by the material and I had a suspicion that they weren't connecting it to anything real and practical. So, when the st. tr. and I got together to talk, I first said, "I wouldn't expect you to build something like a wind vane ... kizibu nyo (that's very hard) ... but a wind sock would be pretty easy. You could use a leaf tied to a stick and come up and ask students to blow on it or have them make some themselves." And that sparked his interest and he suggested you could use a caverra (plastic sack), instead of a leaf, and I said, "Ah! That's a great idea, those are everywhere!" Then, we talked about trying to connect the material to the real world, asking "Why would you want to measure the direction of wind?" I suggested that you might want to know because if the wind is strong, then you know what direction a storm might be coming from, and he said that builders take wiund direction into account when building a house so that the roof won't blow off in a storm. All in all, it was a very synergistic conversation where we were coming up with different suggestions to help improve the lesson, make it more interactive, make it more practical, and make it more fun - it was awesome! Then I asked him to make a wind sock and I used it in a little lesson during the weekly meeting of student teachers to point out what a good Instruction Material it was (easy and cheap to make, moving / working parts, could be made and or played with by students, would help connect the material inside the classroom to that outside).

Out of time: loves ya all.

30 June 2007


Hey all, just a quick note that I've decided to start sharing a post office box with another volunteer so that I can get letters a little quicker. Usually I have to take a 2-3 hour taxi into Kampala to get mail (well, I usually go for another reason and get mail then), but it's not unusual for me to not go to Kampala for 3 weeks at a time (it's so expensive), so if you have a letter you can send it to:

H. Ryan Jones, PCV
c.o. Allison Muehe
P.O. Box 201

Note that if it's an important package it should probably be sent to the normal Peace Corps Address (copied here for your convenience) :

H. Ryan Jones, PCV
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

27 June 2007

Pictures: Bugs, Brakes, and Ball (Football, a.k.a. soccer)

WARNING: There are large pictures of insects below - the squimish take note.


* Here’s a cool red moth I found.

* So this one’s a bit gross, but it instills an intense feeling of pride in me like a hunting trophy. Last night there was no power, so it was by the dim orange glow of a single candle that I noticed a significant dark spot on the wall near one of the more familiar holes. Upon closer inspection I noticed that it was one of the larger cockroaches I’ve seen here. So, I diligently went to the other room to select my weapon of choice – a broom (which is really more like a bundle of straw, almost no brooms have the long handle, so when you sweep you actually have to bend almost all the way to the ground – as Lizzy let me know in India they also have short brooms, but they squat down to sweep).
Returning to my quarry, I leapt into the air and hurtled with deadly accuracy a blow to destroy any foe. In the chaotic aftermath I saw the shadow whiz into the darkness by the door. Thinking I must have dealt a mortal wound, but not satisfied to have the creature still lurking, I picked up my candle and carefully searched in cracks and within the towel hanging from the door. It’s amazing how difficult it is to shed light on something with a candle. The brightness of the candle blinds you in the dim light it sheds. Anyway, I couldn’t find the bastard.
But, that didn’t stop him from finding me with a daring fly-in-attack to my shoulder. A “Gad!” and a lightning brush reflex sent him spiraling over near my bed. Now it was serious. Time to pull out the big guns. I got out my lantern (can’t hit what you can’t see), and the ultimate weapon - a flip flop of raging doom. Thusly armed to the teeth, I set out with a red hunting diode (the small light on my watch – my flashlight has gone missing). Bathed in a blood red glow, my quarry cowered behind my bedframe, and scurried away after another blow – yes, direct hit number two and it kept going. For some reason the pictures I took don’t seem to do it justice. Maybe it’s because of the sound it made when walking, like a crab, loud clicking and scratching.
Jumping out of the way of the charging insect, I then chased it out from under my bookcase and dealt another blow flipping over and immobilizing the then powerless invertebrate. Finally after taking some trophy shots, I dealt a final smack and called it a night, battle-weary.


These are for Biff Dad so he can send me stuff (others take note : ). Here's two pictures of my brake pads:

* I think I was wrong that they're Shimano, but I’m pretty sure it’s a common type (as that’s what the ones on my bike in Seattle look like). Here’s what should be on the post of the brake pad: a bullet shaped top nut, a washer, and then 4 thick washers (two with bowl depressions and two that fit into these).

*My electric plug to help you find the correct one for a battery charger.
* P.S. A headlamp would be really nice too ; ).

BALL (football)

These are three good action shots from a sports day at Kayonza (hope you like them Larry Dad and Uncle Ken). It turned out that I was signed up to play as well. Didn't do that well, but had fun. As a side note, there was a deaf teacher from the visiting school that spent most of the day teaching me sign language, which was awesome! Sign language is so much easier to learn than spoken - it's so visual and "words" make sense.

22 June 2007

A Scattered Update

Yo Yo, Jones is back on the air!

A short Luganda lesson (generally pronounced like Spanish)

Zondo – slang for crazy
Mulalu – Actual term for crazy (not to be used lightly)
Kitufu (chih-too-foo) – Truly? / Truly (question or statement)
Osaga! – You’re joking
Omubbi! – Thief!

I found out that it costs about 13 cents to send a text message back to America and sent a few.
Here’s a list of people that I sent one, but I’m not sure if you got it:

* Arya

* James

* Amy G.

* Larry – Dad (I sent one on Father’s day, but I know you didn’t get it because it was the 7009 number, which no longer exists : )

* Biff – Dad (I sent one on Father’s day, but I wasn’t sure if you got it)

I could only send a few because I don’t have very many phone numbers, and if I heard back from you I didn’t put you up there.

So, what’s new?

- I’m currently attempting to take over teaching 4 physics classes at the local secondary school, because their teacher has not showed up this term and it’s unlikely that he will show up. My first real day as teacher was yesterday, and even though I prepared some pre-tests it went a bit rocky. I tried to write up the pre-test on the chalk board (which is a challenge with these high-quality boards) and only got halfway done after going through 3 pieces of chalk and then switched to a different method which left most of the students idle, and they still didn’t finish just copying the thing. I think I was a little over-ambitious. So, I toned it down a bit for the next few classes putting up 3 fast questions and then talking about the answers at the end. It wasn’t a complete waste though because I did learn a lot about what they already know, which was my original intention.

- I got a sweet, large bookshelf, but I don’t have many books to put on it (about 4), because I had to dump weight when I was packing. If you’re bored and want to send me a book, here’s a quick list of ones I would like:

--Siddhartha (Herman Hesse): I’ve been talking a lot with my neighbor Yeko, who is about the nicest guy you could meet, about religion. He’s a Born Again Christian and I’m a …. I guess “agnostic.” Anyway, we promised to trade “scriptures” and so the best book I could think to give him would be this one.

--The Illustrated World’s Religions: Although I’ve already started reading this one, it seemed really neat, and since Ugandan’s are very into religion I think it’d be cool to share.

--Guns, Germs, and Steal (Jared Diamond): Ugandans are very focused on development and also on “how things got to be this way” kind of questions and this book would be a perfect reference.

--The Protestant Ethic (Max Weber): A classic of political economy to counterpoint an interesting article I read called “The Problem of Africa” (Donahue) that attempts to do the same thing in African terms (you might want to check that one out Jay – I’d like to see what you think).

--Ender’s Game: I’m sure I would enjoy reading this one again, but I’d really like to share it with some Ugandans too – I think it would have universal appeal.

--A book of logic puzzles – because sometimes I’m bored and need some brain teasing to while away the time.

Well that’s about all I have time for (gotta love how half of this post is requests for stuff : ), I should figure out a method for making more though-provoking posts.

Loves ya’ll,


03 June 2007

A few Pictures


* This one's for Arya - and everybody else out there that like Apocalypse. This is the most post-apocalyptic motorcycle I've ever seen in reality, enjoy.

* This is my room - The main sitting room that I'm currently sleeping in because it is the only one that has an electric light (I know! ELECTRICITY!). Supposedly an electrician will come to put in a security light out in the back and fix the light in the bedroom. The bed is mine, but the rest of the furniture is on loan from my counterpart, John

* This is my ride - I bartered for it in Kampala, had it strapped to the back of a mini-bus to get it home and am currently fiddling wit the back gears and the chain length. Next big project is mudguards.

* This is my faucet - I get water from the borehole, which is a big metal pump that's not too far away. Shoulders are going to be awesome when I come back from carrying these jerry cans across the soccer field. BTW: That bucket looks all dirty because I'm still washing my walls (haven't got to the one behind these yet), and a lot of the water-based paint comes off when I do it. Another BTW: Anybody have some creative ideas for what I can put on my walls, I'm thinking of painting in installments and doing cool things like quotes and stuff and maybe some drawings (and definitely pictures that I get sent from home!).

31 May 2007

Apology - "So, yeah... it's been awhile"

Firstly I want to apologize that I haven't been able to update this blog and more than that I want to apologize to all the people who's letters I haven't responded to yet (Ken & Nicole, I'm going to write you emails - Michelle and Brandi, I promise to write you this week, which means you'll get it in about a month). These last few weeks have been a pretty big transition period with swearing in, moving into site, then there was a 2 week hiatus where I was at an education workshop.
I've had so much to say over the last few weeks and didn't write very much down and now I'm drawing a blank and the clock is ticking. I think I'll do another set of bullets.

New Home in Kayonza
* Pretty cool, still furnitureless except for a bed, but a bookshelf and cooking table are in the works
* Really love my neighbors and have been trading food, beans for matooke (which are unripe bananas which you cook and have about the consistency of mashed potatoes), pineapple for roasted maize, and been trading some English for Luganda.

The Last Three Days in Kayonza
* There was one day that was just perfect: Biked to the market and got food (in Luganda), came back and washed clothes by hand, played with Kenneth the neighbor boy (about grade 5) who never stops smiling, and had a good conversation with my neighbor Yeko outside in the dark under a mostly full moon (it's cooler out there than inside)
* There was one day that sucked: my cct informed me at 9 am that there was going to be a meeting of headteachers at 9 am, so rushed back, the meeting started around 10:30 and then lasted until 4:30pm at which point I was tired, disgruntled, head-ached, and famished. I didn't eat a big breakfast, had hurried to look "smart" (the prevailing term for looking nice - appearances are important here), and then nearly the whole meeting was in Luganda so I didn't understand anything. I cleaned some more of my dirty walls to releive some stress.
* There was one day that was okay: details boring.

The Last Two Weeks in Iganga at an Education Workshop
* There were quite a few volunteers staying at Chris' house (anywhere from 2-6 at one time).
* The workshop had very little information, but plenty of free food, I was amazed at how much money was thrown at this workshop compared to how much the participants actually got out of it.
* For many days of the workshop I read about Macroeconomics and found some interesting graphs.
* Played cards and games after hours and met some

New Bike
* Forgot to get front shocks, but maybe will buy and install them.
* Anyone want to send me some new v-brake pads? The ones I have are kinda crappy.

* Really wishing I had a computer so that I can
--write better things than this
--organize pictures into the content
--read all the livejournal stuff I've been downloading while at the internets
--teach peeps here some computer skills
--help out my cct
--store pictures and burn cd's
* So, I'm thinking that even though it's a risk and might cost a bit that I'd like to have my laptop sent here (man, I shoulda brought it)

Mail Situation
* At this point I have to come into Kampala to get mail, which means that I'll probably only get it every 2 weeks, so I may be "somehow" (this is correct Uganglish usage) late in getting mail.

Besides all that I can't really think of what's new. I'm excited to actually start getting into some real work next week. It looks like there's at least 2 secondary schools which I'll be helping out in Math/Physics.

(Pictures next time)
Loves y'all,

11 May 2007

Even More Pictures & a little update

I finally have a decently fast connection (~DSL), so I'm taking this opportunity to upload some pictures - still surprised that most computers here don't have Cd burners though. Pictures of my new abode soon to come, although it still needs a $h!t-ton of work.

(note: HSTY = Home Stay Thank You)
* Another real old picture of the inside of my homestay family's house.
* An older picture that I'm just getting up of a cool cactus thing at Nakaseke College.
* A picture of just about everybody reading a magazine from America on mail-day. A recentish (i.e. less than a month old) is like gold here.
* Me and my homestay parents in our finest at the HSTY
* (from left to right) Megan, Natalie, Cecily, Olivia, and Andrew (trainer) cutting some traditional rug at the HSTY.
* Rick & Rishi with an awesome Uganda-American medley (it was like 10 minutes long) and one of the highlights of the HSTY
* (from left to right) Aggie (trainer), TJ, Amy, Kinsey, Megan, and Katherine doing a dance at the HSTY
* Me giving my speech in Luganda at the HSTY

Hey all,
Things are going pretty well. Yesterday was my first full day at my new home in Kayonza and it went well. My major success was being able to boil some water so I'm on my way to being able to live there. I don't quite have a bed yet, so I'm sleeping on a mattress on the floor (but I'm pretty used to that kind of thing). I spent nearly the whole day yesterday cleaning the walls of what will soon be my bedroom, they were amazingly filthy and I figured they should be cleaned before painted so the paint sticks better.

I was also very lucky to have a ride from Kampala and the Swearing In Ceremony to my site in my supervisor's truck. It would have been pretty much impossible to take all of my things by public transport (they gave us a lot of books and other bulky things; lantern, bucket; during training) and I have one of the lighter luggage loads among the PCV's.

Today I'm in Kampala mostly to buy a mountain bike - Anybody have any tips for maintainance? I'm thinking that I'll want to find a cheap and decent substitute for chain oil (i.e. cooking oil?) and I'm not sure about patch kits and things, maybe I can find some. I'm also going to buy a little electric stove because the electricity has been pretty decent lately and it would be a lot easier than using my kerosene stove. I also have a plan for getting rid of the massive amounts of bats in my roof - mothballs, who would've thought.

Well, this is kind of boring and I need to go get things done, so I'll leave it here. Peace out from the Peace Corps.


03 May 2007

Pictures: Mostly Birds, Clouds, and Pretty Things

More Pictures!!!

* An amazing picture of Wes (left) and Bunza (right – look at that face!) posing back-to-back.
* “Look’t the soize of it!”
* A view through the mango tree.
* A high shutter moon shot – thought it looked neat.
* A little bird with a bright turquoise stomach that reminds me a lot of Peeps (the heavenly Easter candy), that really make me want to catch one and pop it in my mouth. Probably wouldn’t melt as deliciously though : ) And sorry this is so dark.
* A cool yellow bird.
* Neat cloud shot. I watched the top of this cloud expanding like a marshmallow in the microwave as the storm built. It’s so cool how quickly weather changes here – ‘cuz of the ITCZ I think?
* Two of the cool iridescently blue birds with stark white eyes (hope you appreciate these bird shots Grams & Gramps ;). I like the one that’s got it’s wings open just about to alight.
* Here’s a nice illustration of how incredibly dusty things get over here. It took some good scrubbing to get that shoe clean too!
* I’ve been trying ever since Philadelphia to get a good shot of the moon, and this one turned out alright – I’m not really sure why there’s a double image and that line is one of the powerlines outside my homestay house.
* I barely got this picture of one of the really neat herons that are all over and amazingly graceful.
* This is a cool shot I got when I was playing around with the shutter speed trying to take a picture of the massive downpour of rain coming down. (This one goes out to you Jizzle!)