22 April 2007

End of Week 7: Counterparts and Capture the Flag

Met Counterpart
I guess the biggest news is that this last Wednesday there was a workshop where everybody’s counterparts (at least for education the person we’ll be working with most closely for the next 2 years) and some supervisors (a.k.a. bosses) came to get some more information and meet us. My counterpart is a stocky man, I’d guess somewhere in his 50’s, who’s named John Mutuuba. He seemed really cool, although not terribly talkative, but I’m not exactly a social butterfly either. He actually comes from a Lumasaba speaking region (over in the east), so Luganda isn’t his first language. When I asked him how long he’s been teaching he said, “Since about 1980,” and I replied, “Oh, that’s a long time, I was born in 1983,” which elicited a nice chuckle from him. One surprising statistic that he gave me was that there are about 90 primary schools in the cachement area of our Coordinating Center School. That means that I’ll probably have plenty of work if I want it which I think is good. It would be harder to have nothing to do.

Two highlights from the day:
There was a small session where the different groups (volunteers, counterparts, supervisors) wrote down their expectations of the other groups and I was “voluntold” (a.k.a. forcibly volunteered to present the posters that the trainees had come up with. I didn’t really want to present, but there wasn’t much I could do when no one else was standing up and I was the closest. Anyway, I got up and presented fairly well, trying to radiate good intentions to our future bosses and partners. When I sat down again I was congratulated and Stephanie said, “Maybe if you don’t want to present anymore you should screw up really badly instead of doing well.” Well, that really made the ego glow for a bit and hopefully it will help with nervousness in presenting in the future.

And I was quite nervous for a little presentation I, and 4 other PCT’s, were going to give to the whole group (~120 people) on the EAP (Emergency Action Plan).
…. It was a disaster…
Near the beginning, rain started to fall on the tin roof above, which makes this lovely static noise which drowns out all other sounds created by presenters, microphone systems, and otherwise. We took a small break to see if the rain would stop and then the Country Director said we should just go on so that we just shouted very ineffectively into the microphone. What made it especially bad was that I’d spent about 2 hours making my flipchart nice and pretty and I was going to have the crowd guess and then peel away papers to reveal aspects of the “Site Locator Form” (exciting, I know! :). I knew that wouldn’t work so I just read them off and got it over with. It was silly. Many of the other PCT’s congratulated me afterwards, which was very nice and just goes to show you how well we all support each other.

Capture the Flag
Yesterday (Saturday), after an exciting “Language Immersion Day” in the morning, most of the PCT’s got together at the Diocese (our training center), to play a big game of capture the flag. It was a bit funny trying to get all the rules set up with so many strong, individual personalities, but after a little bit we got started. Running, dodging, and leaping through the midday heat (which was surprising with how cool it’s been the last week), many of us became sweaty and doubled-over, out-of-breath within the first 5 minutes. I hadn’t realized how out of shape I’ve become without a daily 20 minute bike ride to and from work and the occasional game of ultimate. I should probably take up running or jump roping or something. I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

Sorry, that kind of trailed off into boringitude. This next week should prove quite exciting and be a good source of stories as we’ll be heading off to our Future Site Visit. We all have to make our own way there by public transport and I’ll be staying in my future house as well. It’ll be for 4 days, so stay tuned – good stuff to come!

As always, loves you all, keep in touch, I will answer emails offline and copy-paste them next time I can get to the internets,

18 April 2007


I figured out that the pictures I was trying to upload were just too ridiculously huge for the computers here to handle (~3MB each), so I used my host family's computer to make them smaller first : ). Enjoy!
* A cool leaf I saw in the farm attached to Nakaseke College
* A neat shot after the charcoal stove has been lit in the kitchen at night.
* A photo of the yard to the east of the house showing my clothes drying on the line and our garden, which seems to mostly consist of aloe plants. Sometimes on Sundays when it's hot we nap under the mango tree which you can see part of in the top right.
* Here's a few of our enkoko (chickens).
* A crazy lizard thing I saw while sitting under the mango tree.
* Here's a picture of the "bush" taken from Nakaseke college to give you an idea of what the terrain here looks like (a.k.a green and jungly, and not really any mountains - probably will be similar in Kayonza).* A sweet sunset. * This is the kitchen where every night my host mom cooks a feast on three charcoal stoves ! Amazing she be.
* The picture of my house for the next 2 years (I will see it next week), supposedly it has electricity!
* The Mukiibi House - Home Sweet Home. It's fairly small, but the boys sleep in a different room (the one behind Dan) , which is separate and attached to the kitchen
*Me and my host Father, Wilson Mukiibi, chillin' at the homestead.
* My 2nd oldest brother staying at the house, Dan. He's taught me how to make juice, sometimes helps me with washing clothes (which I've caught him doing now), and I help him with physics and math homework.

Will try to get some more on next time.
P.S. Let me know with a reply or an email if anyone has any requests for pictures. There are a lot of cool birds here that I'm going to try to get "snaps" of. Also, I'm keeping the bigger versions (may have to start writing them to CD or something soon though).

16 April 2007

End of Week 6

Happy Belated Easter to everybody! After being frustrated with excellent internet in Jinja and a pretty long ride home I hurriedly washed my best clothes right after taking a bucket bath, because I had figured that it was Easter and we’d probably be going to church. Also, I was crossing my fingers that they would be able to dry overnight in my room and had Tim (the youngest of my 4 host brothers) help me wring out my pants (that’s trousers here – you’d like it, Matt). By morning, they were only a little damp around the pockets, but there was no electricity to iron them and they were wrinkled to hell and gone-thanks to our wringing efforts. So, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it on this important day, but was rescued by my host dad who borrowed the neighbor’s charcoal iron and ironed out the wrinkles so we could make it to the English service. I started wondering when it was 5 minutes before the service started and my host-dad was still ironing, "Why isn’t he getting ready?" I found out on the way out the door, that he wasn’t coming and I’d just over-assumed the importance of Easter—I had thought most families were quite religious here in Uganda.

A tangent: Actually—although we pray before meals (sometimes in Luganda and sometimes in English) I haven’t ever noticed my family going to church. Maybe they are more liberal? I think this must be the case as "Taata" and I have had a lot of interesting and enlightening conversations on some touchy subjects like capitol punishment, abortion, and quick touch on homosexual marriage. That he didn’t launch into any tirades for either side has really convinced me of how thoughtful he is.

Anyway, this story is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up quick. It turns out that we were wrong about when the service started and instead of being 10 minutes late, we were 45 minutes early. The actual service was good and fairly interesting with a fair amount of standing and singing, not too different from what I could remember from the states.

Site Assignment
The day before yesterday was pretty exciting as they finally announced our sites with names of counterparts & supervisors, the town, and even for some a picture (I took a picture of my new house and hopefully I’ll be able to upload it - well, maybe tomorrow). It was pretty cool how they did it: first they made us wait to the end of the day, then they built tension by having us draw our hoped for sites, then informing us that each step of the way was meant to decrease our expectations, and then they unveiled a map with all of our names covered, and one-by-one had us uncover each name and call the next person in Game-Show-fashion to much fanfare.

Anyway, without further ado, my site is in Kayonza in the Kayunga district, which is just East of where I am now (in Luweero). The house looks pretty big – I would say too big, but quite nice with a yard and maybe a view in the back. When I asked my language teacher, Ameria, about Kayunga the main thing she said was that there were no "balalu" (crazy people) there. But, some other people also got weird answers from her. So, it was exciting to know, but now that I do I don’t really feel like I found out that much. I’ll definitely know more by Wednesday when I meet my counterpart and even more next week when I go for a week-long site visit.

Buddhism Class
The most interesting thing I did this last week was to teach a little (~45 min.) class about Buddhism to some pre-service student-teachers at Nakaseke Primary Teachers College (PTC). You might ask, "Why Buddhism?" My best answer would be, "That was my best choice." As a whole, the college was reviewing for exams and the choices of subjects to teach that particular week were Religious Education, Physical Education (which was Soccer, which they almost undoubtedly know more about that me), Art (drawing and stuff, could’ve done that too), and Music (Classical and Romantic Periods). Many of us were disappointed that they didn’t have any math or science, but I saw Buddhism and decided that sounded pretty cool. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much in the way of resources – a book that had two pages on Hinduism and two on Buddhism, which I also somehow managed to lose (I felt very bad about it and said that I really want to pay to replace it if it isn’t found), and that was it. Luckily, my family has a computer—upon which I’m typing now—with Encarta, which managed to save both me and Mark who was doing Islam.

We arrived at the college to find that the ~150 students that we were teaching hadn’t actually studied the material that we were going to cover in our "Review Session." "Oh, well," was maybe the best answer that fact could be met with and we divided our students up into groups as we had planned. My 30 or so pupils led me to a classroom, where I nervously broke them up into two more groups to brainstorm everything that they knew about Buddhism. I hadn’t prepared more than two pages of notes the night before and I didn’t have a flipchart, or markers, and there was no chalkboard in the room. Somehow, I also managed to lose every writing implement I’d come with. I was stuck. I bounced between the groups listening and asking a couple questions and after 10 minutes brought them back together.

Both groups presented and briefly described some key elements without using the terms like Karma, Enlightenment, and that Buddhism is structured around the individual, not a God.
Oop, the power went out last night... let's see if I can pick up where I left off. Anyway, I then fleshed out the topics they'd come up with a little bit more after having congratulated them that together they knew quite a bit without having studied Buddhism formally.

Then I said that one thing the missed was the first "Noble Truth," which is that "All life is suffering." I asked them, "Do you think that is true?" and almost everybody either said yes or nodded their head. With surprise, I said that it was one of the tenets of Buddhism that I had the most trouble with and we had a good little discussion on why life might be suffering: pain of birth, wanting things we cannot have, having to toil always to feed ourselves, and suffering when we are unable to.

Then near the end, I wanted to bring out some more differences between Buddhism and the Christian religions they're more familiar with so we had a discussion on the differences between prayer and meditation. The former is focused outwards on a god, and the latter is focused inwards. Lastly, I had them practice a little bit and led them in some breathing exercises, which seemed to work fairly well.

As an ego booster, Venn (one of our Ugandan Education Trainers) came up to me and said, "The students came to me and said, that this one will make a good teacher here," which I took with a grin and a "Kirungi" (that's good). Even though we were supposed to be teaching them these different religions, I thought it was better that they get more of a taste of it then just facts.

I also went to an awesome place called AIDCHILD - it's a really cool organization helping kids with AIDs. No time for more.

(Sorry, I'm a bit short on time here - internet is expensive when they're running on a generator).

That's it for Now,
Loves You All,

P.S. If anybody would like to send me a copy of either The Mezzanine I would love you forever (and if you do, you might want to reply to this post so I don't get multiple copies - not that that would be terrible). Blank Cd's on which to store my photos would be sweet too. ; )

P.P.S. Lizzy, I just got your letter and I'm mailing a reply today.

09 April 2007

End of Week 5 - The Well

Update #2

This is the second time I've had internet, and there should be some pictures this time - unfortunately not as many as I've taken because the card on my camera has been deleting them. I've also just recently had an idea: because my family has a computer at the house (which works when there is power) I can start using that to write blog entries and then load them all on every couple weeks or so when I have internets.

I'm currently in Jinja (which means stone in Luganda), a touristy-town called the source of the Nile and it's a bit weird walking around and seeing so many Muzungus (white people) that aren't in my training group.

The last couple weeks since I last wrote have been excellent. One of the major highlights was this last Thursday where, after a presentation on Water & Sanitaiton, a group of us went to visit a "shallow" well which was under construction. We travelled by Mutatu (a.k.a. bush taxi, a.k.a. minibus often crowded with 30 people, which I thankfully haven't seen yet - they're cracking down on it), about an hour North of Luweero. As we progressed the roads became narrower and bumpier, with kids moving into the surrounding bushes to get out of our way. As we jostled about, Jacob - a current PCV who gave the W&S presentation, said "We must be getting close you can always tell you're getting closer because the roads get worse."

We arrived at a clearing in the bush ("bush" being the roughly 12 ft high greenery that dominates all land that is not cultivated, developed, or a swamp), where a number of people were sitting on piles of bricks taking break tea. Some of the men were speckled with yellowish grime. The well was in the center of the clearing with a little wooden structure over the top with a metal axle attached to a rope and bucket to raise sand and water, and as an elevator for workers. It was greased near the wood joints that held it and two men worked the handles on either side. After a little presentation on how long they'd been working (~1 month) and how deep it was (~45 feet). The foreman, a sinewy, somber-faced man in tan clothes was lowered down and to my excitement a couple of us were allowed to go down and help dig to see what it was like! Israel--a cool girl that I've had a lot of interesting, deep, and sometimes goofy conversations with--went first, being lowered down in the metal bucket (about 1.5 feet wide) mpola mpola ("slowly by slowly"). After she was down for about 15 minutes they said there was time for one more person to go down and as I was the only other one that had been excited to go I was up.

I took off my nice shoes, sloughed my nice polo shirt, and rolled up my Dockers - I didn't want to get messy (looking "smart" is important here), but it's not many times you get to descend a 40 foot hole into the earth and dig with a pick axe in the dark. I went up to the well, which was lined at the top with bricks, and sat down on the edge putting my feet into the bucket and holding onto the wood structure. Heart pounding, I grabbed onto the rope, stood up, and spun slowly as they began lowering. The man standing at the top and directing the two men at the controls kept saying, "Don't look up, don't look down. Look at the walls," and kept repeating that even though I said, "I am not afraid." (in slow exaggerated "Uganglish" of course). First was about 10 feet of brick, and then 8 ft. of yellowish sand-gravel that was on the surface, and then the walls were dark with holes where water slowly bubbled out. The sides were shiny and cool and then I was down, kind of it shock to be in such a vastly different world from the bright sun and greenery above. Israel got in the bucket and started her way up after relating excitedly, "There are frogs, they're coming out of the walls!" and I soon found out she was right. How did these frogs get 40 feet down in the mud - I couldn't figure it out, but it added greatly to an already surreal experience. I looked up to the bright hole above and the dark-bottomed bucket as Israel rose upwards, and then it was time to work. The foreman used a short-handeled hoe and cleared out a section of loose gravel that Israel had been working on, then handed me a pick axe gesturing to try it out. There wasn't much room to get a good swing, and I was often afraid of accidentally hitting the man on my backswing, but I got to work. Each swing made a small dent on the densely-packed gravel in the shallow water that was collecting on the bottom. I worked away and looked up excitedly at one point, "Sparks!" which I was making against the rocks when I hit. I realized that the man probably didn't share my excitement and went back to work.
The bucket came back down and then the man handed me a short-handled shovel, which I promptly used to scoop up the muck I had freed from the floor and walls. Up the bucket went. Pick axe up. Down. Sparks. Up. Down. (Watch out for that frog). Up. Down. Someone later asked me if it was cool down there and I said, "I couldn't really tell, I was working, sweating and breathing, hard." I also squinted my eyes somewhat afraid that a piece of rock could ricochet off. Soon, they yelled down that I had to come back up and I didn't want to go even though I was getting fairly tired already. When the bucket came I turned to the man and said, "Webale Ssebo. Okola nyo nyo" (which means "Thank you sir. You work very very.", which was supposed to be "you work so hard.") and I hope that he could tell how much I had appreciated it.

(The power went out so I lost a little bit on the end here, but I decided just to post it)

P.S. I unfortunately wasn't able to upload pictures this time either, the connection here isn't the best - I'll work on it.