Monday, April 2, 2012

Village Life Revealed

Welcome to Village Life as a Ugandan PCV
You will feel like a celebrity for your first few weeks. But the novelty of the adults’ blank stares and the children screaming “mzungu!” will soon wear off. You will crave any place you can go to not stand out. You will never find one.
Everyone will want to be your friend… until they realize friendship is not a paid position.
You will be paralyzed by the heat and blinded by the dust in the dry season, as you pray for rain.
The rain will come.
All business will come to a standstill as a storm passes, and when you finally move you will be covered in mud. You will pray for the dry season.
The dry season will come. Repeat.
All visitors of the opposite sex will be assumed siblings… or spouses… or “side dishes”… Plan your introductions wisely.
No, you should not expect the carpenters to make what you order, the stores with outside signs reading “_______ sold here,” to sell _______, or power to be on/ your modem to be working/ the internet cafe to be open when you REALLY need to send an email. Yes, you should expect to be over-charged for any and everything you purchase.
You will earn respect by hand-washing your own clothes instead of hiring a neighbor; you will also earn blisters on your hands and aches in your back and arms.
Ladies, you will never become a perfect aim into the pit latrine. Never.
No, you cannot walk to your latrine at night, when the stray dogs and robbers are out. Yes, you will pee into that bucket on your floor, and wash it out each morning.
You will arrive early to prepare your 9am meeting or event; everyone else will show up after 1pm.
You will zoom through the country in speeding matatus (taxis), with 5 people seated in your row, a stranger’s baby in your lap, a chicken at your feet, and curious woman pulling at and combing through your mysterious mzungu hair.
It is very likely that you will either eat an insect or have one lay eggs under your skin… it is more likely that you will experience both.
Yes, those are bats in your ceiling. No, I cannot guarantee that you will never wake to one hanging off the outside of your mosquito net… or to a rat running across the top of it.
You will be desperately lonely and homesick… especially when you get physically sick… which will happen soon.
You will remember that you joined the Peace Corps to better yourself, and you did not move to Uganda to live the way you did in the US.
You will learn to embrace change and you will grow from every challenge.
Mpola, mpola, your neighbors will begin calling you by name and inquiring about your day. You will develop an identity besides “mzungu,” and if you are lucky, it will be an identity reflecting who you actually are.
You WILL find Ugandan friends, who appreciate you for your personality and not your skin… eventually. Be patient.
You may never love the seasons… BUT your US friends will envy your January tan… And you will never again take water or a cool breeze for granted.
Plan your introductions wisely.
You will (eventually) find the businesspeople who stand by their word, and they will become your most valued resources. And the first time you’re not quoted a mzungu price, will be one of your happiest moments.
After months of washing, your blisters will callous and your back and arm pain will turn to strength.
Sorry ladies, the pit latrine never gets easier.
The “night bucket,” however, will be one of your greatest comforts.
You may never get used to waiting hours for everything. BUT, you will read more books than you ever imagined.
The horrors of matatu-riding will remain ever-present; BUT, when you have those rides in which Ugandans are impressed by your knowledge of the local language, or are deeply thankful for your work here, or are serenading the taxi in song, you will think, “I live in Africa. What could be more amazing than this?”
The insects… Well, you live in Africa.
The bats and rats (and roaches and wasps and spiders and mosquitoes and moths and ants) may not go away; but you will learn to live with them in peace. I promise. After all… You DO live in Africa.
“Home” becomes your village and your quaint little house or hut. (Go ahead and nest.) Your PCV friends become your family. (Let yourself be vulnerable.) Your work becomes your life. (Give it everything you have.) You may still miss Starbucks lattes, Taco Bell, sushi, short dresses and heels, driving, Ikea, and your friends and family, but two years will fly, and they will all be awaiting you when your plane touches US soil.
So for now…. Welcome to Uganda. Welcome home.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Finished Product

Joshua and I finished our Hand-washing Station Project and I wanted to share the pictures with you. The stations were given to Kayunga District Youth Center, Mukono District Youth Center, Kayunga District Hospital and other smaller Health Centers around the District. We distributed 12 in total. It was a small project, but hopefully it will have a large impact in the health and hygiene of health care professionals and clients at the health centers.

I'm happy Josh got to see his idea come to fruition and have such a great impact.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Season of Birthdays

The past three weeks have been filled with lots of birthday wishes in the Kayunga/Jinja area. My PCV friend Lisa celebrated her 24th birthday in style at a lovely pool in Jinja while my friend Maggie had a visitor from the States who celebrated her 24th birthday in Jinja as well. Work has been so busy for me lately that these birthday days have been a breath of fresh air not to mention a whole truck load of fun.

Pool day for Lisa

Natalie's Birthday - NRE Sunset Cruise

The third birthday we celebrate was mine! Birthdays were always very special in my family growing up and my parents always put a lot of effort into making them into amazing birthday seasons for my brother and me. Last year it felt strange being away from my family and friends back home for my birthday, but this year all I felt was love from my friends and family here in Uganda and from everyone back home near and far. On my birthday my PCV friends and I had a wonderful pool day on Bujigali Falls overlooking the Nile and had a fabulous lunch. After traveling back to Kayunga that night (with a delicious pizza in hand from Jinja Town) I got to Skype with my family and best friend for hours. Needless to say I feel very blessed to have had such a wonderful birthday.

Birthday lunch at The Black Lantern on Bujigali Falls

I even got to have a birthday sundae with real ice cream (real ice cream is hard to find here)!

Mom even sent me cake - yummy! They were almost to good to eat, but you can't keep a Maine girl away from mini whoopie pies!

Then a couple days after my real birthday I got to have a second party with my Ugandan family. We celebrated at their favorite spot, which is the local pork joint in town. I love it there too - it has the most beautiful field to watch the sun set. All the people I love in Kayunga were there to celebrate with me and filled my night with fun and love. [Sorry for the blurry pictures - my camera is old and doesn't shoot well in the dark...oops.]

Chris and Francis - double trouble

Susan <3

Best Friends

Three Best Friends (Side note: I played them the song "Three Best Friends" from The Hangover and now it's their favorite song. Definitely my kind of people.)

Shafeke - Alisat's son who is super shy, but just started to like me. I guess I was to scary for the first 18 months - ha!

My Ugandan Family

Monday, March 5, 2012

Former PCV Blog

"He gave me more than a bracelet. He gave me HIV."

When I got back to Uganda after a holiday home I felt out of place assimilating back into my community. So as most PCV's do I started spending my nights watching many tv episodes, movies and surfing the internet to try and stay connected to the world at home that we are so distant from. I found this PCV blog entitled No Going Back. There Is Only Forward while I was surfing one night and have been following closely since then.

This blog is written by the last PCV who was medically separated from her service. To be medically separated by the Peace Corps a PCV must have a condition that cannot be corrected by treatment within 45 days. This treatment can take place in the host country, the medical evacuation of that geographical area (for Uganda it is South Africa) or the United States. This PCV was medically separated in December 2011 when she acquired HIV during her service in Zambia.

I strongly urge people to read her blog. Her story is sad, but provoking. She is a strong, resilient and articulate woman who has been through a life changing event and decided to share her story with anyone who will listen. Her blog talks about her infection and treatment, as well as sharing information on HIV/AIDS that everyone should either know or have access to.

Please take the time to read her blog and send her positivity. She is an inspiring young woman who speaks for so many people who cannot.

Recent Fun Photos


I have the habit of giving sweeties to the children in my village neighborhood of Nakarilo on a regular basis. For the most part the children are respectful and thankful for the time I spend with them so it makes me bend to their constant asking for candy. However, one thing that has started because of my candy dealings is the children are coming to my windows and doors all the time if the curtains are pulled back asking for me to come to them. I love seeing their little faces every day, but sometimes they are relentless with their asking and I just have to laugh ... and give in to their requests.

On Valentine's Day we celebrated my girlfriend Lisa's birthday at a beautiful pool in Jinja. While hanging around the pool Lisa and I decided it would be great fun to shave a heart in honor of Valentine's Day in our friend's absurd amount of chest hair. Success is sweet.

One afternoon in Kampala I went chameleon hunting with my friend Nat - we found two in the bushes around his house. I had never held one before and the grippies they have on their feet are super ticklish!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Comfort's Birthday

Comfort turned 5 this past weekend! She's a wonderfully funny, smart and beautiful little girl who I am blessed to have in her life. I found out she had never celebrated her birthday because her adoptive mom (my friend Cathy) did not find out their birthdays until late last year. So we threw her a party and at first she was stunned - she had no idea what was going on! After her mom explained it was a party for her, her face lighted up with joy and delight.

Mom and Daughter <3


Funny faces - Cathy, Comfort and I got the message!

Peace Corps 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament

I've been excited to get some serious basketball action on the court here at the Youth Center since it was built. We definitely have fun with the few adults in Kayunga that know how to play, but I was craving a legit tournament. So this past weekend I put together a Peace Corps Uganda 3 on 3 basketball tournament. It was wicked fun and my friend Matt's parents even got to spend the weekend in Kayunga and be a part of the fun!

Walking from my house to the Youth Center

The kids came and stayed all day

The 'Smiling Towers' were all business...til they lost to my team...