30 October 2009

Wherever I Shall Roam, I Shall Always Return To HOME

Hello Everyone,

Apologies for not writing anything up here ever and a big "Thanks!"
for all the Birthday messages. I just wanted to quickly write that my
homecoming (to Seattle) is set to be:
9th November at 11:20am
And after a quick week to start settling in, I plan to head home to
Spokane for a couple weeks. Southern Thailand is quite beautiful and
sends it's love, but I am So looking forward to seeing everyone in a
little over a week!


02 October 2009

value(pictures) > value(words) RIGHT?

Hey everyone,

First please be advised that my pushing back of my arrival date does not mean I don't want to come home -- quite the contrary. This is officially my last night in Africa, although being at a backpackers with free internet is blowing my mind and really doesn't feel like Africa anyway. We (Kendra and I) are currently in Jo-burg, South Africa and there is no need to worry for our safety in a notoriously crimey city because we've taken every precaution and we are staying in our hostel until the shuttle takes us to the airport tomorrow, and the plane will take us on to Thailand! (by way of Abu Dhabi, UAE)

Anyway, not much time now, here are a few pictures from our last leg in Africa. Thank you to Kendra for being a good photographer (I never takes pictures unless I see a cool bug or a cool cloud):
* The sun sets beautifully off of Chizumulu Island, Malawi. (we got "stuck" there for longer than we expected--hard not to really)
* We spent two nights at the luxurious Nkwichi lodge on the Mozambique side of the Lake Malawi (a.k.a. Niassa). It was expensive for the delicious food, but worth it to pamper ourselves.
* Another picture of the white sand at Nkwichi, which means "It squeaks" in the local language, because that's exactly what the sand does when you walk across it.
* The coolest most disturbingly majestic trees I've ever seen, Baobabs are everywhere. The reason is that their wood is porous so bad for firewood and making things so local peoples haven't chopped them down yet. (Fun cartoon trivia for 10 pts: which movie trapped the villain in a baobab?)
* Me and Kendra enjoying yet another beach.
* A picture of me sneaking around the corner of the fort on Ilha de Mozambique. There was a gorgeous church on the point that you had to climb a bit to get to.
* A cool picture of Tofo/Tofinho in Mozambique. This is where we planned to surf and dive. Unfortunately I got sick so all I could do was a silly Ocean Safari where I went snorkeling with 20 foot Whale Sharks (the biggest fish in the world) and manta rays? I know, big deal right?

Loves and misses you all, will be home before too long.

14 September 2009

Onde esta?

I'm still alive, no worries. Spent a lot more time than we thought around Lake Malawi (beautiful and amazing). Will write more later. Currently in Cuamba, Mozambique.


07 August 2009

> Farwell Jones >> Farwell Kayonza

I don't have a lot of time to write now (I'm hoping to write some new posts on the long bus rides we're expecting on our way South), so here's just a few pictures to tide you over until then.

In the last week before leaving my site I had two major parties. One was a bit more formal and put together by the teachers, PTA, and SMC (School Management Committee). With a number of speeches, some music, and a feast afterwards I felt very filled up by all of the wonderful thanks that I had received.

Official Farwell Party

This looks like the more serious section of my speech which Yeko was nice enough to help me translate.

Arthur (my official counterpart), myself, and student-teacher Everlyne looking smart.

This is me being congratulated by Madame Nampa (the new "principal" at my school). As a going away gift they had bought me a very nice suit and were overjoyed to see me "put on" and looking so smart. As you may notice from mine and a few other suits, Ugandans tend to prefer oversized suits, don't worry that I've gotten smaller over here.

On my very last night in Kayonza I decided to make a smaller, informal party featuring Hamburgers and a big gift exchange. Both were thoroughly enjoyed by myself and Ugandans. It turned out to be an excellent way to distribute the miscellanea of my taken-apart household and also send one last big thank you to a community that has welcomed and "kept" me so well over these last two years.

Informal Going Away/Hamburger/Give Away Everything in Ryan's House Party

Here (right to left) Maama1 Gobi, Maama Joann, Betty, and Annet bite down and enjoy the all-american, hand-held icon of deliciousness that is the hamburger (or as is often echoed "hamburg"). I was really glad I could cook for these ladies, because the two on the right served me quick, cheap, and delicious meals on about every other day at the local restaurant in town. Betty was a similarly amazing (although somewhat procrastinative) tailor who helped me make my two Halloween costumes as well as adjustments and what what.

Wasswa showing off his haul of jerry cans, cups, and bath towel. Afterwards, Yeko and Wasswa said that they enjoyed the idea of a gift exchange so much that they would try to do it again at the end of the year party.

All the smiling children's faces who I'll miss seeing every day.

Hope you are all well and looking forward to seeing you soon. I'll be off on my travelling adventure soon, and with luck will keep you all updated.

Stay Well,
Jones (or Ryan, but sadly no longer Migadde)

1 - An interesting albeit difficult-to-understand-by-Americans custom is that mothers are very often called by their children's names with the prefix of Maama. To translate, you would see my mom on the street and try to get here attention with "Oh, Momma Ryan! Momma Ryan!" Wasswa has even told me a story where he called a parent by her name and she said he had bad manners. When he asked what she would like to be called she responded with "Maama Rechel." People are proud of parenthood, and it's quite the truth that I don't know these ladies' real names. I find that sad, but I don't think they do.

05 June 2009

Quick Update & Travels

Sorry to have been so quiet on the blog. To tell the truth, not too much is going on. The term has started so I've transitioned from digging in the morning and teaching computer classes in the afternoons/evenings, to doing random work in the mornings and teaching computer classes in the afternoons/evenings. Good ol' same ol'. The extra time to give trainings, add resources to the computers, and lock them down as much as possible has been good and we're transitioning towards a time when I won't be here to manage it.

So, things are going well, and there's definitely a sense of my upcoming departure. The computer lab is functioning well and getting lots of use, which is all we can really ask/hope for. I have yet to organize the Thank You DVD of pictures and videos and what, but I hope to have that finished and sent out sometime early next month. Also, some more serious thoughts of the future and job and transitioning back into normal American life are beginning to grumble up into consciousness a bit too.

The only other news I have is that there's an All Volunteer Conference (AVC) coming up at the end of the month. It's really awesome that we're having one this year as this volunteer-work-sharing-get-together had been indefinitley cancelled due to budget concerns by the previous Uganda director. The new director, Dr. J. Larry Brown, however, agreed with volunteers that if it's taken seriously and we share and network, there's a lot that we can learn from each other and different ways that we can work together. As volunteers who come into country in fairly large groups we tend to network very well within our training class, but inter-class communication isn't as good as it could be, and it's always better to tell someone how to make a wheel instead of them having to reinvent it (which seems to happen all too often in "development").

Travel Plans!

Beyond that I wanted to give a heads up and say that I'm planning on travelling around a bit before heading back--I'm already on this side of the world, might as well look around a bit over here before I come back right? Actually, as far as international travelling goes, it seems like I've done a lot less than a lot of my fellow (and now returned PCVs) who have been to Kenya and Tanzania and Malawi and Ethiopia and Rwanda and Egypt and wherever. So far, I've only made it to Kenya for a week. But no longer will I have to be on the listening end of the traveler's story. The plan is for Kendra and me to:

  1. Travel down to Tanzania and hit up Zanzibar for a few days.

  2. Continue down to Mozambique1 and stay there for a week or two

  3. Then keep on truckin' down to South Africa from where...

  4. ...we plane it over to Thailand!

  5. After a few weeks there we'll fly back to home2, possibly stopping in Hawaii on the way (Kendra did her graduate studies there).

#### NEW! ####
I made a guestimation for how long it should take us to do our trip assuming everything goes really fast and then assuming we take our time. Our short ETA to the USA is 25th September 2009 and the longer guestimate is 25th October 2009 (ha ha, my mistake). I know that's a huge range, but I just wanted everyone to have some idea. I'll try to keep everyone updated as we're moving.
As we're planning to nail some of this down a little more clearly this weekend and the vicissitudes of travel demand that plans change, this is just a brief sketch, but the upshot of it is that it looks more like I'll be home at the beginning of October. I sincerely apologize if this throws a wrench into anyone's plans, I really should've mentioned all this a bit sooner--my bad!

That's it for now, loves and misses you all, and looking eagerly forward to the not-too-distant time when I will see you all again.



1 - I'm planning to brush up on my Spanish a little bit and then pronounce it with a Frenchish accent, but that's pretty lame replacement for real Portugues so if anyone wants to send me any resources on studying up that'd be sweet! (**ahem** Jay! Actually, is Fernanda still at times going there? Is there any chance that she would be there in late August?)

2 - That's right! Around the world! Actually, I once figured that the exact other side of the world from Seattle is somewhere in the lower Indian Ocean, so beyond being in Madagascar or some islands off the West Coast of Australia I'm pretty darn close to that right here. Why not go back the other way?

28 March 2009


    Letters & packages
  • [received] from Michelle: A wonderful friend-montage calendar and a "Webale" card expressing just how awesome and supportive a group of friends I have back home.

  • [received] from Brett Bell: Perfect package of goodies and reading materials. I definitely was confused at first by the People magazine until I read that it was for TJ. It was also perfect timing because it came right before I had some PCTs visit, so I didn't have to just feed them local food. You gotta treat the PCTs right, right?

  • >[received] from Allie: Yet another amazing package and utterly delicious. Ditto on the good timing with PCTs.

  • Lastly, a quick apology that I haven't sent out more letters recently. Most of my other PCV friends are in a flurry of packing up and getting ready to head out, so I've been writing a fair number of in-country letters and going to visit (and party) with them on weekends. It'll be very quiet around here after about Mid-May and they will be missed.

27 March 2009

PICTURES!!! - Computer Lab - Woot!

Below are some long awaited pictures of the computer lab in place and being used:

Madame Quilina (pr. "Kee-lee-nah") reviews parts of a computer with P1 (Kindergarten) students.

This is ideally what a computer lesson looks like.

But it more often than not it looks like this.

(For any teachers out there, we have a number of pretty big classes - how would you like ~150 3rd graders?)

Or this.

(Painted walls = fun physicalish work for me, I also painted the shutters and Mr. Onyango complimented me, saying, "Jones, did you train for that work?" I guess it's just in my blood, right Grandpa Dick?)

Yeko, teaching some P7s (6th graders) where to put your hands for touch typing. (We hope to have a competition with prizes for the fastest, most-accurate typer in the near future.)

Madame Negesa helps a student who's learning to use the mouse.

This isn't really related to the computer lab at all, it was just unbearably cute to pass the store room and see this kid curled up, deep asleep, in a wheel barrow.

So, as you may be able to see, things are going pretty well. Classes are coming in regularly to use the computers to practice math and other subjects. I'm working to make sure the computers have lots of content for teaching, are working, and are locked down (which is more important than it sounds).

Plans are in the works to have a Computer Lab Opening Day sometime soonish. It should be quite the celebration with the hopeful guest of a Member of Parliament (Congress-person), a band, a choir, and presentations by all the classes. I'm planning to record as much of it as possible to share back at home.

That's all for now, Peace.

01 March 2009

Have Internet? Have time? Wanna Help?

This is just a short blog first to say that---


Of course there are many problems to trouble-shoot and continued improvements to be made to the lab, but as of this last week pupils and teachers began to use the computers. We are just beginning slowly, with the hope of beginning full lessons in the lab sson, much of which will be based off the open-source educational software, GCompris. In addition to helping teachers teach and manage classes in the computer lab and teaching computer classes to teachers and community members on the side, I'd like to continue adding resources to the computers. But, there's a bit of a problem: the internet here isn't lightning, and although I know there are many many resources available, I often just don't have the time to go sifting through looking for gems. So, if you have the time, you have the connection, and you have the will, you too can help. Both downloading stuff for us, or just finding good resources that I can get from here would be excellent.

For those of you willing to accept the challenge, here are a couple details you want to keep in mind.

  • Most of the users are kids (like K-6) who's first language is not English. Although teachers and high-school kids should have access as well. So...

  • ...they tend to like what kids like--fun sounds, pictures, interactive games. But, of course it's always better if these are somehow related to learning and education (but that's not a strict requirement :).
  • If you find software, it should be compatible for Linux. For programs you usually have to look for this explicitly, but content (e.g. pictures, documents, web-sites, movies, sounds) will all be directly viewable/playable on Linux (we even already have a nice assortment of Bill Nye and School House Rock thanks to another volunteer (Thanks Thomas!!!))

  • I'm able to download whole websites using a program called Httrack, so even suggestions of really cool websites is good.

  • If you decided to be an angel and download big things for me, you can just pop them on a cd, and pop them in an envelope, and pop them to my via my normal address

Here's a couple things that I know I want to do, but haven't been able to get to yet:
  1. We would like a decent encyclopedia, but there aren't many (as in none) that I could find that are made to also work on Linux. So, I have a small version of Wikipedia, but I've found a larger, DVD-size version here Wikipedia for Schools. Being big, however, is also preventing me from getting it.

  2. There seem to be a lot of resources available at UNESCO Open Training, but I haven't had time to look through many of these and it often seems an extra step to carry out an order for most things. If you feel like digging through this and happen upon something cool, feel free to have it sent straight to me and just let me know, so I can compliment you on how awesome you are.

  3. Here's a list of English-learning sites, of which I'd like to pick one or two to download:

  4. Lastly, I've been looking into "Kensington" locks which would allow us to lock the computers to the desks and greatly hinder any thief that might want to try and take them (which is quite a big concern here). I've found them in Kampala for about $20 each, but if you can find them for cheaper (like free), it would greatly reduce worries over here. (Just as a side note, the computers are currently being kept in my house at night until we get a night watchman -- bit annoying to pack and unpack them every day, so security really matters quite a bit).

So, that's that. My eternal gratefulness and that of Ugandan children can be yours for the price of a few hours of goofing around on the internet.

I hope to put pictures of the lab up soon. Know that I am missing you all,


19 February 2009

Do you DIG?

If you happen to visit Uganda1, you might experience a (mis-)conversation like this one:

Ugandan: Do you know how to dig?
YOU: [with slightly narrowed eyes] Yes[?].
Ugandan: Sure? ... What do you dig?
YOU: Usually just holes.
Ugandan: ...
Ugandan: What do you dig with?
YOU: A shovel.
Ugandan: Sure? Not with a hoe?

Most Ugandans can dig, ya dig? "Digging" is Uganglish for gardening or farming, which most people (something like 80% of the population) use as a primary mode of survival. The hoe2 is really central to most people's lives. Now, it's important to understand that digging is hard work; especially consider that people don't plow here. Yes, there are cows, but it is a rare thing to even hear of someone using them to turn up the earth. Every piece of land that is "reclaimed from the bush" had to be fought for: cut down, cleared, and broken up with a hoe in hard hands.

Up until about three weeks ago I was pretty useless with a hoe, but as I was pretty bored while school was out I invited myself to go out and dig with my neighbor Yeko3. Part of this was to match up my current thoughts on exercise4 with an attempt to connect more with Ugandans. Before I go on talking too much, here's some pictures:

Sowing Beans

Just today, I learned how to sow beans. Two beans in a hole. Cover it up with your foot.5 Move on. Easy and nicely Zen. Juliet, niece to Yeko, is in the background and in the far background you can see a lot of people at the borehole.

Ms. Nakajje in traditional digging attire

Yeko, Smiling, scoops out little holes for beans

A poem to end:

They ask "To dig, do you know?"
sillily I reply "yes,"
and invite myself to join Yeko.
In the garden I do my best,
but somehow manage to hit my toe.
Besides that little mishap,
I enjoy digging, Yeko calls me a pro.
Productive exercise spent with friends,
who knew how far, with digging, I'd go?

Peace Out Bruthas (and Sistas and Muthas, etc.),


0 - This is the first of a few little blogs in which I want to focus on Ugandan life and take the opportunity to post more pictures than I usually do. Upcoming topics are likely to be: THE BOREHOLE, MY FAVORITE "RESTAURANT", and others (suggestions welcome).
1 - Which you should. It's beautiful, the people are nice, even if they point out your whiteness a bit too much. And I'm still around for some time...
2 - 10 points to whoever can come up with the best "hoe" joke. GO!
3 - Note that this sentence with a bit of selective editing could easily guarantee that I'll never become president and simultaneously win 10 points.
4 - I had recently rationalized to myself that exercise -- the willful wasting of energy -- is just silly. Why not do something with that energy? Something productive, or at the very least something fun. This comes after my failed attempts to train for a marathon. Running is not fun. For me anyway. (Uncle Ken,if you're reading this, you are totally right.) So, some things I decided to do more of or start doing are 1) digging, 2) pumping at borehole (in next feature blog), 3) playing with kids (frisbee, hacky sack, juggling, handstands & cartwheels), 4) chopping wood (strangely I do find this fun). What's been especially awesome about this is that I've felt a lot better in the last few weeks and have also gotten a lot more contact with Ugandans.
5 - I had to be a bit careful as on my second day of digging I managed to catch myself in the big toe and about half my toenail is hanging on by a flap. Shoe goo came in handy to secure after bending it a bit today -- don't know why it hadn't occured to me before.

12 February 2009

Sorry, sorree (1)

As has been pointed out to me, it's been far too long since I updated this blog. Partly because I haven't been to the internet in almost 2 weeks and partly because my computer time is often being eaten by other, more nerdly pursuits (see Christmas below). I'm planning a couple more interesting blog posts, with pictures (if the internet gods allow) and as a lot and a little has transpired in the last month and a half I'm just gonna hit some big bullet points.


  • Kenya week-long vacation: Please refer to the blog of Ms. Brett, my travel companion

  • Christmas_time = 'non-event' + ' programing in Python to pass time' + ' reading interesting stuff' # On interesting reading, if you thought that my emotional graph was cool, you should check out a guy named Seth Roberts who has been doing serious and insight-lucrative self research for years.2

  • P2 Thematic Curriculum Training: A whirlwind 6-day workshop co-facilitated with my new counterpart, Arthur. In a word: harrowing. But, I felt quite accomplished afterward, and learned some things about working with Ugandans and people in general. Here's a picture of our participants packed into one of the school classrooms (sorry, internet's slow, no pictures:

Paranoid Post3 International4
(Sent & Received)

  • From Ken, Tracy, & Boys: Got the awesome book Black Swan and card you sent. To them, "Thank You So Much! " and a short letter is on the way back. To others, you should read this book if you get a chance - I'll put up a goodreads review in a bit, but as of now I'm planning on giving it *****.

  • To Patty: a short letter of thanks and information digging.

  • To Grandpa Dick: a photocopy of a photocopy of the letter that seems to have gotten lost.

  • These Already Mentioned?

  • To Nicole: longish mess of rambling resembling a letter.


1 - At first annoying, this commonly used Ugandanism has become part of my vocabulary along with the incorrect use of "somehow" and the ever-present-and-ever-loved "mmmm." It's usually used to be a showing of empathy about misfortune, about the closest we have is "man, that sucks" or on a lighter occasion, "oops."

2 - By-the-by I am serious, you should check it out, it's really cool. I'll even email you the major article he wrote about it for the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences if you request.

3 - I decided "Letters" was dull and need some jazzing up. It's "paranoid", because I want to know if things I send get there--for example, my mom received only the front of the envelope of a short letter I sent (and unfortunately forgot to photocopy)--and also so you know the wonderful things you send me have been received exuberantly.

4 - I say "International" because I've been sending some letters and Cds back and forth with other volunteers recently. This has been a fun way to trade music and other ideas that often get glazed over with a little too much beer at PCV get-togethers. All of these people are amazing--I just wished they lived closer, same as you all.

* - Actually, that's not exactly true, there is one big piece of news for you diligent footnote readers. Although, I've been thinking about extending my service for a while now, I haven't been talking about it much because it was still a big question-mark on the horizon. Well, now it's more of a period. I'm here an extra three months until about Mid-August, which'll put me back stateside around September if I do a little traveling. There will be more explanation to appear on the computer lab site in a bit.