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!