Monday, July 9, 2012

Happy Birthday to America and Me!

Well, for all of you who have missed my posts dearly (i.e. my sister and betsy's parents) I thought it was finally time to post something.  Mostly because it would be nice to organize my thoughts and goings on the past 6 months.... so enjoy my rambling!

America celebrated it's birthday last week, and I, my second one since being here! That got me thinking... what the HELL am I going to do when this is all over.  It's easy to lose time here.  You look forward to events like the 4th where you have an excuse to meet up with a bunch of people and act a little crazy.  Then before you know it life comes knocking with plans and expectations.  Things have always had a way of falling into place for me but now I feel that I need to get a little more proactive.

One thing I realized I needed to do was travel! I have lived here for almost 17 months and I haven't left Uganda.  So in true college cramming fashion, it's all going to get done at once at the tail end of my service.  So if you are reading this and you want to jump on the bandwagon for any of these trips hit me up!

The family is coming and I am sooooo stressed about planning their trip so nothing goes wrong! First, I need to tour them around Uganda, which even I haven't explored enough of.  That means checking out my site, hanging with some gorillas in the southwest, rafting the nile AGAIN, hitting up Murchison falls, and getting in a little luxury time in Entebbe and Kampala.  I also am planning a trip to Tanzania with them to check out Serengheti, Tarangire and Ngororo Crater.  YAY!

Then literally the day after they leave it's off to South Africa.  Five days in Capetown, then to Zanzibar and finally to Ethiopia.  Christmas on the beach in a bungalow.... be jealous!

Finally, it's time to start looking at the COS trip.  The countries I am planning to go to (and hopefully I will have enough time) are India, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and South Korea.

What will I do after all this crazy adventure you ask? Well I am taking three tests in order to keep some options open.  The GRE, the GRE subject test (psyc), and the FSOT (foreign service officer test).  I've been studying and it's super strange I must say.  Do I really want to go back to school? Or do I just think it seems like the sound and responsible next step?  Who knows!  Maybe I'll find a job in Indonesia and continue to live on a dollar a day for a little longer.   Either way.... the future freaks me out!

Site is the same as always.... teaching, counseling, running clubs, coaching softball, having fun and feeling lonely.  I can't believe I only have two more terms left.  I am also working on writing a manual for teaching sexual education in East Africa.  It looks like it may be over 100 pages (yikes!).  When I started teaching this at my school I found that peace corps didn't offer a lot of resources.  I had to do my research and also keep in mind of WHERE these topics are being taught.  Uganda is very sensitive to a lot of subjects like virginity, HIV and other things that are probably inappropriate to put on my blog.  So I wanted to compile all this information and other references for volunteers who may have wanted to talk to youth about these issues but don't know how to.  This includes lessons, activities, physical resources in different regions, cultural approach to topics, content, helpful websites and books and  strategies for starting a program.  I'm considering calling it "The Birds and the Bees and Much Much More...".  Hopefully it will be published by the end of my service!

So that's the haps with me! Here are some entertaining pictures for you to enjoy as my words this time are not so inspiring.  As always miss and love EVERYONE!



Teaching girls how to play rock, paper scissors at Camp GLOW North

My absolute two favorite students Ritah and Sandra.  They made me a disney princess drawing, wrote me a song and even bought me dairy milk chocolate for my birthday... so friccan sweet!

Fourth of July! I found that shirt the day of... Jacque and Liz went with the All American JORTS! also found and cut the same day!

Geared up for softball! Minus the shoes

Ziplining and Recreation Project in Gulu

Fourth of July 2012... will henceforth be known as.... The best dance party EVER!

Soccer players after winning the district tournament!  After was the most insane celebration at the school I have ever seen and wish I had had camera battery to document.

Teachers from the school helping in counting ballots for student elections

Me teaching reproductive health and safe sex at Camp GLOW North

Saturday, January 7, 2012

One year Down.... basically

SOOOOOOOO I am back visiting in America and all I am hearing is.... "you haven't posted anything in a LONG TIME!" so here is a recap and reflection of my first 11 months of service! Enjoy!

Well I am sitting here at my mom's house right where i was almost exactly a year ago, packing clothes, frantically downloading books and music, trying to eat anything and everything and soaking up last moments with friends and family.  The actions are the same but the feelings are completely different....

* One year ago.... I was packing long skirts, collared shirts and essentially anything i thought was appropriate and professional
~ Now.... I HATE ALL THOSE CLOTHES.... therefore i was wearing the same pair of jeans and 3 shirts for a year so I went shopping for things that I actually wear!

* One year ago... I thought I would be lost without a solar charger because I assumed I would be living deep in the bush without electricity
~ Now... I am getting a new camera, new movies, new speakers because GUESS WHAT! i have electricity and it is nice to be entertained when the village gets old.

* One year ago... I was seriously concerned I hadn't started a malaria prophilaxis (sp?) before leaving
~ Now... My malaria pill is the last thing on my mind and I am having trouble remembering to take it

* One year ago... I thought I would miss snow
~ Now... I am ecstatic I didn't really have to see any and remember the east coast fucking SUCKS in the winter

* One year ago... I thought ugandan children would be adorable, innocent and inspiring and teaching them would be a joy.
~ Now... I have realized for the most part ugandan teenagers are emotionally very similar to american ones and therefore they can suck just as much (i.e. not paying attention, sleeping, rude, making jokes, mean to other girls, sneaking alcohol, dancing like little hoes..... ) okay that is a bit of an exaggeration they are usually sweet and manageable... to my face anyway!

* One year ago... I thought it was kinda neat, well interesting at least, when I heard that ugandans call white people mzungu
~ Now... FUCK THAT! my name is not mzungu or munu!  if you don't know it you can call me miss or madam like every other woman you see who is not white! (oh and screw that muchina and muhindi shit too.... RUDE!)

* One year ago... I thought that Ugandans would be doing traditional dances, wearing stereotypical "african clothing" and probably wouldn't be too concerned with hygeine
~ Now... I feel that Ugandans are cleaner and more obsessed with looking smart and westernized then any peace corps volunteer I know (aside from the lack of education concerning deoderant) They bathe TWICE a day... and I have friends who are trying to remember if they washed their asses 2 weeks ago...

* One year ago... I was excited but also scared and nervous about what I was going to experience and how I would get along there without anything I was accustomed to
~ Now... I am happy to say that while I loved visiting the states and seeing people I love, I am looking forward to returning to Uganda, getting back to work, having fun and being generally ridiculous more then I could ever have afforded to be in America.  Don't get me wrong the food sucks, the power shuts off EVERYDAY for hours, transportation of a 100km can take 5 hours and people stare at me sometimes like I am from the moon but I love my job, my friends, my home and the life that I have created over there.

I have some new projects I am starting next year including a health and sexual education program, possibly coaching baseball and participating in some camps designated for children from northern uganda... in addition to the work I already do which includes a counseling program, lifeskills club and occasional reproductive health seminars... oh yeah and teaching!

Hilites from the first year include: 1. rafting the nile in jinja 2. halloween and thanksgiving madness in gulu 3.drinking and dancing in lira one day/night after accidentally taking a muscle relaxer... 4. starting the lifeskills club at my school with some of my fave students 5. being a counselor at camp GLOW 6. doing condom demos for men who were total strangers 7. finding Sankofa... our american sanctuary to get away from all that is africa and... 8. when Derrick, a teacher at my school who used to try to defend caning, stood up in front of 200 primary teachers and asked them to promise to never hit a child again!

So I suck at posting so I am not making any promises... but I hope this satisfied those of you who have been waiting for one! And now for some pictures....



Us about to flip over on a class 5 rapid on the nile.... terrifying (I'm the 2nd one back on the left)

Bernadette and I being silly in a hotel room in Gulu before going out to a club

The road from my house to school

Sarah... the sweetest girl I have met in Uganda thus far

Nile booze cruise... pretty rainbow!

My faves... steve and eliza being their usual silly selves dancing at All Vol... and jacque off to side with one of her usual fabulously awkward poses

Me doing a condom demo at world aids day for a bunch of ugandan strangers

playing baseball with JICA volunteers (the japanese peace corps) in Mpigi

girls at assembly.. on the right is Jane another one of my students that I took to camp GLOW

Me and RACHEL! my equally ridiculous and silly partner in lame crime

Me in a creepy african mask from a shady store we found in an ally in Jinja

Steve and I cramped in a matatu... per usual

Stella walking ahead in the market in Gulu

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Meet Some Students

So it has been months since I have written anything and some of my friends and family have been bugging me…  truth is I just don’t have too much to say.  Life here is great! I was in a slump for about a month but now I am getting back into the groove of things just trying to get one task done at a time.  Interesting things I have done since I last wrote are holding more holding more RUMPS sessions, trying to put together a counseling room and program, and planning life skills and HIV/AIDS education activities with another teacher at the school.  One more thing I’m hoping works out is working with an NGO based in Amolatar bringing reproductive education to the rural villages there and options to the women in those communities like afripads or re-usable menstrual pads.  Outside of school… I got to see all my training class at In Service training in August, rafted the nile, and went to Gulu and Arua (where we went on an awesome hike and got to see our friends Tom and Ilse’s sites).  So that has been my life in a nutshell. When any of these projects are fully done and I get some good pictures I’ll post about them more.

But for now, I have been approached by a few students about getting pen pals.  This becomes difficult because of postage costs, time it takes to organize an entire class to go through world wise schools and so on.  I am doing world wise schools, but I thought it might be nice for my friends and family at home to meet some of my students, and if you want to write anything to them just post or send me an email and they would be THRILLED! Even if it is one sentence…  The two girls below are so sweet and when they came to me with letters about themselves I suggested they also write a short story too.  I only corrected major spelling errors that I thought would confuse people reading it, but other then that I left their letters and stories exactly as written.  And they were amazed when they saw what they wrote and their pictures online! Hope you Enjoy!

Semmy Ruth

Semmy is in my S2-Green class and I teach her math.  She used to sit in the back corner of the class very quite and behaved, and always one of the first to finish her work.  This week she moved to the front and I was shocked to see her there, I think she is coming out of her shell a bit more.  She is shy but always smiling.  She sang at a function we had at school last term and has an amazing voice.  I have to admit she is one of my favorites and always greets me when I walk by.  She came up with this “Taught me a lesson” theme on her own for her stories, I was going to only pick one but they are short and call my sentimental but I thought all of them were good, especially in comparison to how many of the girls her age write.  Some background that may help you understand the stories better: Students are in nursersy school as small children then they enter primary P1-P7 then secondary from S1-S6.  Usually students are beaten in schools at any age, even nursery. Matooke is unripened boiled and mashed bananas.  Her third story is about using the latrine at night.

My name is Semmy Ruth.  I’m a Ugandan by nationality and currently living in Lira district. “Teso bar in Adyel division”.  I’m 14 years of age an in form two in St.Katherine S.S. 
            My dad is a teacher and my mum is a peasant farmer.
            In our home, we are a family of seven children where the first born is a teacher, followed by the second born who is a nurse.  Our third born is at campus in for her third year followed by the forth born who is a girl in senior five.  Our fifth born is a boy in senior five and I’m the sixth born and the last born is in primary seven.  Therefore these makes us to be six girls and one boy.
            I have a dream to be a surgeon.  What interests me most is singing and reading novels.
            My best hobbies are singing, reading, watching and many others.
            My favorite foods are matooke, cheese, yoghurt, deep friend chicken ice cream and many others.

My Childhood at School

Despite of me being small, I was very funny.  When I was in primary three I could go to school everyday without missing.  A certain Friday when I was at school in the evening, assembly was to be held.  The bell was rung and we as pupils made a positive response to the bell.  We sat down as we listened to the speeches made by teachers on duty.
            One of the teachers was invited to give his speech, when he came, he said “Today I have nothing much to air out but only one question to ask and the question is like this, “What do we normally use to put off burning fire?” he asked.  Pupils responded in chorus that water of which was the correct answer but be being a stubborn pupil, I shouted at last that “match box”.  The teacher pretended not to have heard and he asked the question again.  Pupils made the same response like wise to me I still shouted match box.
            I was picked from among the students and I was beaten properly, starting from that day, I could only make funs where my agemates are

An Accident I was Involved

            It was in 2004 when I was in primary two.  By then I had just learnt how to ride a bicycle and if I was sent to fetch water minus a bicycle, nothing like water could be within the home.
            One day, when my parents refused to ease my transport to the well by giving me a bicycle, I waited when both of them had entered inside the house.  I stole the bike and hurried seriously to the well with a group of girls from the same area.
            When we reached the well, we fetched our water happily coze we were all in the same boat.
            On our way back home, girls were just busy riding not knowing that a speeding vehicle was behind and to make matters worst, I was in the middle of the road after which someone shouted from nowhere that girls! A vehicle is almost knocking you all!!! Other people who were by the road sides managed to stop but for me I just had to fall on the road and wait for the vehicle calmly without any complain but to my surprise it managed to dodge me and it happened to crush my bicycle into pieces that could never be repaired. 
            Before I could get up, my parents were already by the road side and I was really ashamed coze even all the water poured without a single dot remaining.  So, from that day, I don’t use things without permission.

At Home

            Life at home is very interesting: As long as it’s your home, “Home is Home”, never to be rejected.
            One evening, when we had already taken our supper, everyone was expected to go to their respective rooms and also I did what was expected of me.  I am a kind of person who when coming out at night, just come out at once without first stealing glances.
            There was a man who used to go to his garden very early around 4:00am for digging.  One day, he was deceived by the brightness of the moon and he thought it was already time for his garden yet it was 10 minutes past midnight.  He moved but to his surprise, he could not hear any cock crowing.  As he used to pass via our home, that day he happened to stop at our home to wait for morning hours to come but all in vain.  He saw at the doorway to my room.
            I came out to ease myself at once.  To my surprise I found somebody sitting at the doorway from there it was a conflicting loyalty.  I had no decision whther to continue or to move back but I just burst into tears and shouted with a loud voice, “Mummy today am dead!”  When I was crying this man was also shouting, trying to identify himself but because I could not withstand the situation, I just increased my voice.  My mother from inside was also confused coze of the two voices.  She could not tell out which one is for her daughter so for that she couldn’t come out.  So the cries continued not until this man stopped for awhile and I made the loudest noise ever.  My mum came out and found this man was now just standing looking at me but I had closed my eyes with the intention that if something would happen bad to me, I may not be in a position to see.  So from that day, I enter the house and come out in the morning only.

Ongom Sarah

Sarah is in my S2-Blue class and I also teach her math.  She is extremely shy and always looks down at the ground when you talk to her.  Despite that she is very involved in school and is the student who initiated doing skits at assembly about HIV/AIDS to educate everyone that I have helped with.  When you make her laugh she only giggles for a moment then goes back to a serious face.  The only background you need for Sarah’s story is that Ugandans use SO MUCH SUGAR.  Seriously I have been questioned multiple times about not putting sugar in my tea… they are baffled.

            My name is Sarah.  I am a Ugandan and I’m currently leaving in Lira district in Kakoge B Parish. 
            I’m in S2 in St. Katherine S.S. and dreaming to become a doctor in a nearby future although I also dream of being a musician too!
            In our home, we are five children in which two are boys and three are girls and I’m the first is in senior five (sciences) and the second is also a boy and is in senior three meanwhile I’m third and our fourth born is also a girl and is in primary five while the last born is a girl too but in baby class.
            My father is a businessman and my mother too.
            I was born twins but unfortunately the other died leaving me and he was a boy.
            I like watching movies, touring places, reading novels, singing, drama acting but what interested me most is singing (musics) and bible studies.
            My favourate foods are; ice cream, matooke, chocolate drinks to mentioned but a few.
            I’m very proud of my colour and I like Europeans colours that’s why I like being friends to them and this make me like face book too. 
            I haven’t yet been in any country in Africa or any continent out-side Africa and I can’t help imagining how it looks like during winter period and I hope with God’s mercy and grace I will study hard so that I also reach those other continents. 

            There was one evening, my mum came back from town and told us she had forgotten to buy sugar yet she wanted to take tea that evening.She ten told me and my sister to go to the nearby shop to buy it since my brothers wasn’t around.
            As we were on the way to the shop, my sister asked “Sarah, if you are to see a ghost now, what can you do?” and I answered, “ I would run leaving you behind” She also argued that she would run leaving behind.
            As we were about to reach the shop, we met our neighboours son called chris and told as he was from buying airtime and asked if he could escort us but we told him, we weren’t fearing so we continued.
            We reached the shop and actually bought what we were sent for.
            On our way back, when we were about to reach our fence, my sister told me she saw somebody hiding near the gate,  This brought a lot of fear to me but this was the boy we had met on the way and wanted to scare us. 
            As we reached the gate, he jumped right in from of us “Today you are all dead” he said with a bold voice.
            We were so much afread that we started running at such a marathon speed crying for help with very loud voices and is boy came out and started to laugh at us buy by them, we had arrived home shivering a lot.  Then mum asked what had happened, we both burst in to laughter, she too started laughing.
            When we narrarated the story, she laghted more loudly that made everyone amazed and the next morning, when we asked him, he said he wanted to see weather we are real girls and this made my mum to advice us never to walk at night.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Short Stories

Brief Update
Well I can’t believe it is already the middle of July… In service training is just around the corner and I am really excited to see all the other PCV’s from my group in just a month.  I am only teaching for three more weeks before the girls begin their end of term exams, and then I have to be away from site for almost a month L
 What does that mean for me?  It means I have a lot of work to cram in.  Personally I would rather my girls understand what I am teaching them, as opposed to cramming in a large amount of content.  Especially with math because you can’t master it without practice and these girls, god love them, are really good at cheating…. So I have to constantly assess them in class where I can keep an eye on them.  No matter how many times I say it they don’t seem to understand GIRLS I just want to know how you are handling the material… I am not going to grade this for my own benefit it is for you!  They don’t get it.  They just want lots of pretty red check marks in their books… sigh…  Therefore I have been going to classes in the evening during their prep and reviewing with them, in addition to teaching extra lessons on Saturday.  Than I have had quite a few girls come up to me asking for sanitary pads.  So I had a few of the girls go around to obtain a number and a list of girls so I can go buy all the materials in bulk in town and have another re-usable menstrual pad session before the term ends.  This time though, if these girls want it now before next term, they will have to supply the money on their own. Lastly, I have to help set end of term exams, and when I return from Kampala I will have to help mark.  So that’s the boring details of my day to day.  So now for some funny stories…

Just Dance
So there are anywhere between 5-15 kids, that run up to me as I am walking up to my home requesting sweeties (candy).  I have quite a bit since every time I go to the Indian supermarket in town they give me a handful for being such a devoted customer (hey a girl needs to indulge in some yogurt and peanutbutter from time to time).  This can be annoying and I have not submitted to the request because I do not want to be hounded daily for treats.  However, I remembered that back at homestay I would frequently bust out my speakers and hold an impromptu dance party with the little ones and it was always enjoyable for both sides.  So I decided, fine I will give you sweetie but you have to dance for it!  Don’t get the wrong idea, they love to dance too, so they get their treats and I get a little bit of entertainment at the end of my day!  Now when I return home I get NIKKI! Tum! Tum! Which means radio… and I end up having to turn the radio off after some time and repeat to them several times amani wunu idwoggo pacu… for them to finally leave my doorstep and return home.  These kids were a small challenge for me at first.  First because they are too young to understand any more English than basic greetings, so I have to use a combination of my limited Lango and creative sherades.  Secondly because it took me a month to get them to stop referring to me as munu and to actually use my name.  And lastly because at first they were intrigued but slightly terrified by me.  I would turn around at their calls at first and they would get closer and then run in the other direction.  I decided fine, I’ll give you something to be scared of… so when they would get on my heels I would quickly turn around and growl/scream at them jokingly while they turned away half confused half giggly.  Eventually they got the idea and now we have a little inside joke where we try to scare each other between the fence at night.  Yeah I’m just a kid at heart.  I’ll post pictures of these adorable/annoying munchins soon!

Street Food… Blessing or Curse?
Although most things here are the polar opposite of how they are at home, some things are universal.  And one of them is, when people are drunk at 2AM, they just want some greasy food.  I recently went to Gulu with some PCV’s to celebrate 4th of July weekend/ my birthday.  I really liked Gulu, but Lira will always be my fave.  One  night we went out dancing at a very crammed Ugandan club, which go figure, had a large sign out front that said “Amigos Bar”.  I have not met a Ugandan who speaks Spanish.  They know a lot of languages usually since Uganda has upwards of 70 (nation of babble) and some even know a little French due to surrounding past colonialism influences but Spanish is definitely not one of them.  So when I revealed to some Ugandans that it means “Friends Bar” They were delighted having spent years in Gulu and not having a clue.  So the night preceded as one would imagine, dance drink and dance some more.  Then we walked back into the “alley” behind the bar.  Okay that sounds sketchy but that’s what it was… but it was full of delicious smelling street food! My Ugandan friend bought what I can only say is meat (don’t ask me what kind or what it was marinated in) cabbage chips and drenched in chili sauce and we sat on empty beer crates in the alley and stuffed ourselves with more calories than I have took in awhile.  In Uganda it’s the next best thing since there isn’t a 24/7 mcdonalds or 711 to run to in the middle of the night.  On the walk back to our hotel later though… I had to stop walking at points due to the painful cramps in my stomach and preceded to have one of the worst nights I have had sleep wise here.  I was fine the next morning but next time I go out I will wait until morning to make my own greasy food if I really want it

When we first got to Uganda, our trainers told us, you will experience a little bit of culture shock in reverse when you get back stateside.  I thought… um no way, that is what I grew up around I will not feel uncomfortable in my home.  But it is already happening.  At first a little when I saw so many white people in Gulu 2 weeks ago, but last week Liz and I, as always, went to Sankofa to indulge in grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshaks.  We were just relaxing… stalking the new incoming group of PCVs (that’s right if any of you are reading this August group we stalk you too!) When suddenly… out of nowhere… a bijillion white girls appeared before our eyes!  Liz and I cowered into each other as if in fear… what are they all doing here???? I feel strange…. Should we go? We should go I don’t like it here anymore… let’s call Jacque this is freaking me out.  Seriously they were everywhere all chatty and loud and in matching outfits with makeup and shit.  Don’t you know you are in Uganda! Then I thought okay chill out, be nice, say hello… when one of them walked up and attempted to say hi herself.  I had a brief moment of relief until, SO RUDE!, her motive was only to ask a question and then preceeding look straight back at her iphone whilst ignoring liz waiting for a response from her.  That was it, they were all invading on our peaceful sanctuary so we escaped to the streets (that’s right Rachel and burnadette… we took it to the streets!)  We got to talking on our way out and we realized, that would not have phased me in the least in the U.S.  People are constantly consumed by their phones, laptops, etc. and it doesn’t occur twice to them that it could be insensitive because it is just what we are used to.  Here it’s extremely important to greet people and give them your undivided attention when they are speaking to you.  At first I found it a bit challenging to talk to attentively to everyone I saw, but now it is one of the things I love about this country.  So for those of you back at home, put down your damn phone and give people the attention they deserve! But I still love you!

I’ve said before that the girls here call me Minaj.  I thought it was just coincidental since people here love Nicky Minaj and I think I was the first person named “Nikki” they had ever met.  (neither the name nikki or Nicole is common here)  In fact you would be surprised at the music they like.  It’s at least a year behind usually, but even the other day I was in an Indian resturaunt and the soundtrack was identical to what was playing in my house junior year of college… it brought me back.  So I was outside with a student teacher talking with about 10 of the girls about random things, mostly just being silly.  One topic, was they were telling us all the nicknames they had given the new teachers (me and all the other student teachers)  One girl asked me if I knew what “peeping tom” meant.  I shot her a look of concern and bewilderment wondering if this nickname had any merit and to whom it belonged to.  Thankfully it didn’t but then it made me think… hey what other nicknames do you have for all of us! They assured me if I had another name it would only be a nice one… but these girls are sneaky sneaky.  Than as always, they preceded to pet my hair and ask me to pluck it out of my skull for them to wear before I returned home to ponder what they say about me behind my back.

African Time, African Dance, African Fork
So I wrote last time that the girls held student elections, and this past weekend they had a ceremony where they handed over power.  Let me preface this with… Ugandans LOVE their functions! Seriously it’s a big deal, whether it’s a wedding, graduation, or even a simple meeting… there is a long list of protocol and a heavy schedule to get through, but coincidentally preparation is lacking.  Therefore functions, along with most other things in this country, don’t start on time.  It was scheduled to begin at 10AM… I showed up at 11:30 being optimistic.  I was 2 hours early… Power was gone that day (go figure) so they fired up the generator so we could use the PA system and then the speeches began…and they continued… for hours.  And then guess what! I was asked to give a speech!  I have been asked to give an impromptu speech about myself or my agenda from time to time in meetings and at assemblies here but seriously… I’m American so clearly I have something to say?  I constantly get called out in front of the entire school… yes Nikki was here to oversee our elections and ensure that the democratic process was carried out fairly so she will preside over the handing over of power of these prefects.  WHAT! Sam and Morris were on either side of me laughing… them being my closest friends here, they know how I feel about public humiliation, I mean speeches, and they offered no words of encouragement except “just go”.  Thanks guys!  So I beat red, I think I said something about a job well done to the previous prefects and may God help you new ones carry out your jobs successfully?  I don’t know it was short, especially for Ugandan standards (they can talk for hours in public…. Give them a microphone and an audience and it’s like a kid on Christmas morning).  After my embarressment…The speeches WHAT? Continued… Thank god for the intermissions which were filled with entertainment from the girls from traditional dances to PIASCY skits.  I finally got to see a traditional Langi dance which takes a lot of energy… a lot of jumping!  When it finally ended there was a buffet! Rice, potatoes, beans, chicken, goat and INTESTINES! I passed on the intestines.  No utensils though.. so UGANDAN FORK! Funny thing here is that people are actually encouraged to eat with their hands.  Doesn’t matter what it is or how messy, just shovel it into your mouth!  I drop food all over myself every time I do this so people also enjoy staring at me while I attempt this as well.  Then there was a dance.  These girls of course made me dance… I promised them I would a week ago and silly me, assumed they would forget. I gave them one dance and then pushed my way out of the crowd back to fresh air.  There I found the girls hounding Sam to dance.  After about 20 minutes I finally was like Sam just go dance for a minute I did it wasn’t so bad.  BAD IDEA!  These girls tackled him like a pride of lionesses on fresh game. I had to profusely apologize for assisting them in his demise but thankfully he is a good sport.  All this brings me to my last story…here you just have to go with the flow, you know what they say…

When in Uganda…
 1. be prepared to entertain yourself, because you never know what time the thing you showed up for will actually begin
 2. always have a speech ready, because hey you’re American they want to know what you have to say
3. always have hand sanitizer, because you never know when those 10 fingers will become your fork. (wait I mean 5 fingers because it is culturally inappropriate to eat with your LEFT hand… yeah forget about logic)
4. don’t set your alarm, because the chickens can always be relied upon to wake your ass up before 7:30AM anyway
 5. salvage any battery life you have and always recharge any solar equipment, because even if you have power, that doesn’t mean you can count on it to be there
6. re-use all of your water, because that shuts off too.  Use dishwater twice and then use that to flush your toilet when water is off… save laundry water for mopping and yep also for flushing your toilet… you get creative
7. sweep your house and brush your teeth twice a day, because dust here is ridiculous and there is no anesthesia in the village if something happens to your teeth
8. improve your dramatic talents, because you will be asked to sing and dance constantly
9.     say “fuck critters” because they aren’t going anywhere so learn to live with those spiders, gheckos, and GIANT bees that have no sense of direction and will surely fly directly into your face.
19.  know the local language phrases for “I don’t understand” I don’t want” and “I do not have money” because you will need to respond using one of them and if people don’t understand you they won’t leave you alone
11.  Look “smart” (meaning nice, attractive, put-together, etc.), because everyone is looking at you already, and if you aren’t they will let you know
12.  Iron everything, because the possibility of mango flies (bugs that burrow into your skin) is disgusting
13.  Stop and greet everyone, because if you don’t they will of course think there is a reason for you ignoring them and you don’t want people upset with you when you are already the odd one out
14.  Don’t wash your hair, because Ugandans are already baffled by your hair anyway, they don’t know what it looks like when it’s clean vs. dirty… and hey back to #6, it’s a waste of water
15.  Assume that if you aren’t with Ugandans, you are lost, because no matter who you are spending time with at that moment, those you aren’t with miss you and will let you know by saying “you are lost” so have an excuse ready always.
16.  Don’t feel guilty when you indulge in something salty or sweet like you would in the states, because I’m pretty sure there is no fat in posho and beans, and in Uganda that is what you eat most days anyway
17.  Reversely, feel guilty all the time, because regardless of how much you have given up to be here you still have more then most of the people you are surrounded by, so find a way to deal with it because that feeling will never go away.
18.  Laugh, because even if you don’t understand why Uganda is the way it is, the people here are mostly good at heart, and at times this place can be utterly ridiculous and therefore amazing

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

So my life this past month is pretty much consumed by the 900 girls at the school.  And I love them!  I think they like me too because whenever I walk by they scream NIKKI MINAJ!!!! and when I wave back they all scream.  Yes I have a Lango name but they would rather refer to me as minaj... which is fine by me!  They even write it on their exercise books for my classes.

Aside from teaching them, I frequently go after classes to play sports with the girls.  Me and the gym teacher have struck up a friendship so I go and help him and pretend to still have some athletic ability left in me.  I play soccer, volleyball and they are trying to teach me how to play netball which I still don't understand.  I refuse to join in on rugby haha.  I'm more of a distraction to them than I help sometimes but it's fun.  The girls have their district tournament for soccer this weekend so I'm excited to see how they do!

I held my reproductive health session a few weeks back and it went really well!  Thankyou Stacey ;)  The ridiculous part was I was suppossed to be the adult and even I couldn't help giggling when the girls kept repeating the word vagina... I blame it on the lack of sleep.  So in the future when I hold these myself I will need to gain some maturity.  So the most interesting part was at the end of the session when we had the question and answer part.  We passed around a bag so that they could submit questions anonymously.  Most I expected, a lot about candida, virginity, safe sex, etc. but just as it did when we did the "best response" game awhile back some of the questions were really disheartening.  Mostly because its a shock that they would have such extreme misconceptions.  These girls don't know who to turn to sometimes and  In light of this I have decided that I am doing counseling at the school, hopefully starting next term.  The staff has asked me multiple times and I have put it off because I am so busy, but I can't in good conscience do it anymore.  So I guess I'll be putting that psyc degree to some use as well!   Although I don't know how much help I can be when it comes to anything outside female issues and minor dilemmas.  Some of the girls have approached me with some extremely disturbing information and most of the time all I can do is listen and offer my support.

Moving on to less depressing things, the school recently just held their student elections which were really interesting to see.  Each candidate gave a 2 minute speech and then there was 1 minute for someone in the audience to ask a question.  WELL... if you couldn't get your question or comment in these girls said all they needed to with their signs!  Some of them were kind of mean, for example, "Your Not Fit, Try Fishing or Marriage" and some were funny "You wan't another rap? yes NYABO!" (that one is from museveni's latest presidential campaign.)  If it were me there is  no way I would run for an office unless I was sure I was loved, but in general they had fun and it was good to see the girls involved.  Then I went to help pass out ballots in one of my S2 classes... they were obviously stoked when they found out it was me and so I stuck around and talked with them about the elections for awhile after they were over.

I gave a test this past week to my math classes, and since there was only 10 minutes left in class by the time they completed, I opted for the previously popular game of "ASK ME ANYTHING" that I did back at Kajjansi.  The questions were mostly the same... what's your family like? where in america do you come from? How does school work there?  It made me appreciate being with all ladies because they were WAY MORE appropriate then they were back at my school based training where the school was mixed.  But the most popular question..... "Are you married?"  Everytime I answer NO they are really surprised.  Than I say single and in unison they all correct me "SEARCHING!"  They really don't understand how a woman could just be happily alone... your body will expire though yes madame? Then they follow it up with you marry a ugandan! Lastly when I tell them okay one more question... I hear someone say "madame you sample for us a song" and then the shouting begins again.  I have not submitted to the request although I am asked constantly.  I'm running out of excuses but it will be a miracle if I leave this school after two years without belting out a few notes no matter how horrible.  Hell I already gave into the dancing why do I have to sing!

The last thing on my agenda is to get something done about the caning at my school.  I finally witnessed it... I guess they had been doing it at night, but the other day I guess some girls were forging permission slips so they had a public beating at assembly...  I had to run home I thought I was going to lose it because I knew I couldn't of said anything, it wouldn't have helped.  So now I'm working on setting up a workshop on positive discipline for the faculty.  I pray that it works.

In conclusion, these girls are the reason I'm here... to be their teacher and their friend.  I couldn't of asked for better I learn more from them than I could ever teach.

Two of the senior girls trying to show me how to do this dance.... which I epically failed at

The girls all circled around talking Stacey and I into dancing

Girls making re-usable menstrual pads

Girls holding up signs of support or disapproval during their student elections

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

All Work and No Play

So the last time I wrote anything I was getting bored of having the same routine everyday.... WELL I WANT THAT ROUTINE BACK! Okay not really... I'm happy to finally be working but where before I was trying to find interesting tasks to fill my day with, I now am trying to find time to just sit down!

So I am sharing four streams of S2 Math with another teacher and the S5 Chemistry with a different teacher.  We each teach different topics, which honestly doesn't make much sense to me, but hey one ground breaking idea at a time! My first amazing idea was to train the faculty at the school to actually use the 60 computers they have at their disposal.  This task was ill planned at first because now I am being commandeered to teach individual lessons, and this is not helping in finding a little me time.  So instead of being pulled into the lab every time I try to leave school I  have been slaving away making training manuals that involve teaching typing, word, excel and powerpoint, for the teachers to work on in their own time.  I am going to be setting up two sessions a week after school to have instructed teaching with the faculty that are interested.  I am then going to have these worksheets available in hard copies and on the hard drive for them to use in their free time.  My next problem is finding a way to teach all the girls.  The thing with them is.... some are interested and some could care less.  Right now they are all timetabled to come in as classes but it is kind of a waste to just lecture to them (and I had to say NO for the first time this year when the head of the department asked me to teach all 900 girls!) So I am thinking of actually starting a computer club instead (wow I never thought I would say that in my life!)  My idea for garnering interest in this is to include a typing competition where I will provide a prize at the end of the year (I'm thinking a chicken??? I don't know but I'll think of something awesome!)  The issue with all this computer nonsense is most of the people here have never even used a computer.  So when you think about it, if you had never seen a computer would you know how to turn it on?? Would you know how to use a mouse?? Would you even know what the desktop was??  These are my challenges but I have already decided that I'm only going to put in as much effort as they do.  I have quickly learned I can't take on too much and finding a balance is going to be the most difficult thing.

Classes are going well so far, this is the first week I have been teaching.  My S2 girls are fun. They make fun of my accent sometimes though answering back in an equally high pitched voice "yesss madame".  I just shoot them a look and ask them if they want more dorm work so they giggle, say no and quit it until the next class haha.

Funny story (well to me at least) I was doing a little math competition at the end of class today in teams. I'm watching the girls at the board seeing how they are doing when I feel like something is pulling on my hair.... I turn around and two girls run away laughing.  Yes they were feeling up my precious locks! The girls are just fascinated by my hair (how is it so long? you get it wet! you wash it everyday?)

The S5 class is my favorite... I know it's not nice to say that... but hey there are FIVE of them!  That is much better then a class of 50-60 girls like my others.  The reason I like it better is because I can make photo copies of the notes before class and hand them out for them to read over. (They do not always have books for certain subjects so students here really rely on EXACTLY what you tell them).  This way they are somewhat familiar with the material and we can spend our 80 minutes a week actually going through problems and trying to understand the concepts as opposed to memorizing information.  And its OCHEM! Yeah okay I give in I'm a nerd at heart....

Lastly on my plate is I am doing a Re-Useable Menstrual Pads Session with about 100-150 girls next weekend S1-S2.  This program was started by a volunteer that just closed her service and I think it is one of the most useful and sustainable programs I have heard of.  Sanitary pads are expensive here and not always available out in the village.  Girls miss classes when they have their periods because of this.  In addition there are a lot of misconceptions about reproductive health and safety, and in the class we talk about all of this too.  In all, it involves a talk about reproductive health, a question and answer session, the making of the re-useable pads (made from school uniform material, cotton towel inserts, needle, thread and a button!) and directions on sanitation and cleaning.  Another volunteer who has taken the lead here in country is coming to perform this first session with me and my counterpart.  After that I am hoping to write a small grant so that I can hold sessions for the rest of the school and the community next term.

So that is what I have been up to... work work work.  Thankfully I am getting to see some friends this weekend... I am a bit overdo for some crazy company with my favs who I miss so much!

That's all from The Bush this week!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Address and Wish List!!!

So I finally stopped forgetting to ask my head teacher if I could use the P.O. Box for the school so now I can get mail in LIRA! So please please send me stuff.  I know it seems crazy but i love getting mail whether its a package with goodies or a letter letting me know how people are doing! Seriously it brightens our day more then you can imagine.

My new address:
St. Katherine's Secondary School
Nicole Dunn
P.O. Box 255
Lira, Uganda

My Wish list:

Practical Things I Need that I can't find in Uganda
- duct tape (seriously the possibilities are endless)
- push pins
- Deoderant (i have been using old spice bc it is all i can find haha, i like dove!)
- razors (i haven't given up on shaving yet and I won't quit if I can get more!)
- a pack of toothbrushes...i only brought 2 I don't know what I was thinking.
- detangler... my hair is getting longer and conditioner, if i can even find it here, sucks!
- PICTURES!!! (this applies a lot to my family becuase I know they have most, but I forgot ALL my pictures at home and it makes me sad I can't see everyone's beautiful faces in my house so please make copies and send me pictures of yourselves! This is def my number one request!)
- a pair of hair cutting scissors (MOM....)

Things I want because they are either fun or yummy!
- anything that has cheese that can be sent in the mail (when you do find it here it is usually disgusting)
- seeds (particularly cilantro, basil, oregano.... things like that.... things grow like crazy on the equator)
- colorful pens! (we do everything by hand so don't underestimate my new found love for writing utensils)
- granola bars (I hate having to actually cook breakfast every morning)
- FLASH DRIVES (with music, movies etc.) I steal a lot from other volunteers but it keeps me sane to have new things to watch and listen to
- posters
- books (I have a kindle and we circulate books here but you go through them fast)
- JEANS! (if someone could send me a new pair of jeans I would love them... I have lost a considerable amount of weight and my jeans are falling off me and I wear them in all my spare time)
- pajama pants... I can't believe I didn't bring any to lounge around in... thin ones cuz yes it is hot here
- VISITORS! ( I realize this is a large request... a trip to africa is neither cheap nor fun but once you get here I promise to show you the best time this continent can offer I swear!)
- habenero hot sauce! I don't know how practical this is but I put hot sauce on everything now and I can't seem to find anything spicy enough!

I know there are a 100 more things I am forgetting so I will add more to this list when I think of them but to get anything at all would be great... feel free to stray from the list since I'm not known for being the most practical person.

Things are still great here... my mind is not up to writing a long post just now about work since I just spent the past four houses doing laundry and cleaning my house...

Until next time