Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Overdue Updates

Greetings from Kayunga! Ugandans say sorry an awful lot - culturally when anything is dropped or something happens that is or is not of your doing sorry is said. So in true Ugandan style I'm sorry it has been over a month since I last posted - things have been very busy here at work and with PCV friends.

I got really homesick in the month of April and had some difficult times here at work and in my community. I strongly considered coming home - I had about two days where I could not find anything positive about why I was here or the work I have been doing. However, in Peace Corps PCV's give themselves this rule to follow when thinking about returning home: they give themselves 10 days and if nothing positive happens during those 10 days then most likely things will not improve. Well I am happy to say around day 3 some children brightened my day by coming over to my house and giving me an impromptu dance show which brought me back to happiness. Since then though I have had hard moment here and there I have been happy and positive about my life here and plan on staying until the end (September/October 2012). The positive moments have helped me get my African life back on track and happy!

I got the chance to spend Easter Weekend with some of my Peace Corps friends at another PCV's site in Mukono District. Her site, Providence Home, is a residential home for children with mental and physical illness who cannot be supported by their families at home. They come to live at the Providence Home with a care taker and while there have a safe place to learn, sleep and also build their lives so they can make an income for themselves. The Providence Home teaches the more high functioning residents how to have income generating activities so they can support themselves when they leave Providence Home. During the weekend we all spent time together reconnecting and catching up! We had a pizza making competition and my group had a blast making some kick butt pizzas - sadly we lost to a group that put cheese in their crust (total Pizza Hut rip off)! On Easter Sunday we all had a lazy morning, but in the afternoon it got a little crazy. We dyed Easter eggs with the children of Providence Home and made them an Easter Cake in their bakery. Then quite frankly I witnessed the most inhumane pig killing of the century. The group had planned a pig roast of this cross between hog and pig. It was a massive animal and no one in the group new how to properly kill a pig African style. So needless to say it was an excruciating 10 minuets that I will not give details on! That night my friend Dave made a BBQ rub to marinade the pig in and it was cooked on a wire frame bed over a fire pit. The next day was World Malaria Day at the Providence Home so we all helped organize on the day of the event and attended the event to try and help people of this community and the members of Providence Home learn a little more about Malaria and Malaria Prevention.

The Easter group shot (plus Easter dinner)

Ryan and myself - we're the basketball court building duo

Nick, like any good Jewish boy, being the Easter bunny

The best pizza making team

During the month of April our Country Director, Ted, left him term early due to personal reasons. Before he left he took myself, Dave and Lisa out to dinner as a thank you for planning, organizing and successfully completing the 50th Anniversary Service Day and Reception. We went to a restaurant in Kampala called The Lawns where they serve farm raised African game meat. The dinner was delicious though we didn't get to try any game meat because they were still featuring their Easter menu. I had a delicious dinner that included the ever awkward, but thoroughly laughable Passion of the Christ mock tail - which by the way was red. I asked the waiter if he was joking about the name and he said it came with the Easter menu. Religion here shocks me sometimes. It was a wonderful night filled with stories from Ted and some words of advice for our future careers. I enjoyed my time getting to know Ted and hopefully our new Country Director who comes this month is a wonderful advocate and help to us.

Dave, Lisa, Ted and myself

I went to Soroti in Eastern Uganda to watch the Royal Wedding with some PCV's from that area. We made paper hats and had a potluck luncheon together in celebrate of Wills and Kate. It was a beautiful wedding and was very fun to celebrate with my PCV friends. The next day we had a poker tournament at Mike's site. It was a great weekend away!

Chelsea, Maggie, Jo, Ashley and myself

We also had a 'Welcome to the East' welcome event at a pool in Jinja for the new teacher volunteers. It was a day of fun and sun. That night I came back to site with two of my friends to make stove top pizza and have a girls night.

Love the pool!

I got the chance to house sit for a diplomat friend during a week in May - let me tell you it was a breath of fresh air! Her house is amazing with all the amenities that are available back home: washer and dryer, oven, hot showers and baths. It was very relaxing and rewarding to be there for a week. I feel very blessed to have this person in my life because not only do I house/cat sit for her, but she is also a friend and has taught me a lot about her experience with development and pathways I might want to take in my future career. I also met a really nice undergrad/future medical school student while I was in Muyenga because he came to stay at my friends house when he first arrived in country. His name is James and I helped him get acclimated to Uganda and find housing at Mulago Hospital while he is here doing research this summer. While I was in Muyenga I felt like I was in America and it made me miss my home and friends here in Kayunga more than I thought it would. So when it was time to depart from the lap of luxury I felt very ready to be back to home and work.

I currently have a roommate! Her name is Lauren and she is a nursing student. She is over here working with the clinical officers and nurses of MUWRP to further her knowledge and care base. She is a wonderful person who is eager to learn and help the community here. It is truly wonderful that I have someone to eat dinner with every night and just share a conversation with who understands American culture and thought. I'm so happy she's here, but when she leaves in five weeks it is going to be hard to get readjusted to being by myself! Until then I'm going to thoroughly enjoy her company!

Work has been super busy! My counterparts and I have re-arranged the Youth Center completely and given it a make over! It flows so much better now when clients come in the office to seek out services. I'm proud of how it looks and runs. The basketball court contractual bid has been approved and now the purchase request has been submitted. In about 10 days the money will be available, the lawyer will finalize the contract with the builder and we will start building! I'm so excited for this court because Kayunga District does not have a basketball court anywhere. The Youth Center will be the place to come and have a safe place to play basketball for the whole district which makes me very happy! Our programs are going well - our prevention outreaches and prevention with positives outreaches have lead to many people having access to our services. Currently we are doing an overhaul of our public health messaging campaign and redesigning our posters, calendars and billboards around Kayunga/Mukono Districts. We have visual arts education PhD candidate from Canada here, Leslie, who developing the main part of these projects. She is wonderful with the youth staff here at the Youth Center and is including them in the conceptualization of all the designs. She has inspired our 3 in 1 Art Group (which is a health group that goes to schools and community for art inspired public health messaging) to become more involved in the art community and to be Artivists - activists through art. We had a well attended Discordant Couples (when one partner in the couple is HIV+ and the other is HIV-) Workshop that over 400 people attended. It is so nice to see many couples attending this event because it makes me happy to think that people are hearing our messages and practicing safe health seeking behavior.

My two friends that come visit me after school everyday

At work we officially launched the Mobile Medical Male Circumcision Van at Lugogo Cricket Fields in Kampala. We had a long celebration and guest speakers from the Ministry of Health as well as PEPFAR. Our guest of honor was the American Ambassador which was very nice to see him there showing his support to the program. After the van was formally launched people who attended could go and take a tour of the van. Then we had performers come to entertain the crowd - we had Ugandan rap star Coco Finger preform as well as Downtown Entertainment who wrote a song for the MUWRP Circumcision Program. The Circumcision song is going to be made into a music video which all the MUWRP staff is going to be a part of - I'm going to be in an Ugandan music video! How ridiculous and cool!

Some of my wonderful co-workers

The van at the van launch

While walking home through long grass one day I got rubbed by a poisonous caterpillar. The little bugger gave me a massive rash on my ankle that too upwards of three weeks to heal and has left a scare. Now this would not have been so bad if on the tail end of the healing processes I did not itch my ankle and then rub my eye and neck! My eye got a massive rash around it and swelled up to the point where it was difficult to see out of and my neck still currently has a rash. My eye has healed and gotten better and hopefully the rash on my neck lessens with time!

During this past month I have also been planning a holiday for the end of August/beginning of September which is something I thoroughly looking forward to. I'm getting the opportunity to travel to Kenya for the first time with four of my girlfriends from Peace Corps. We are going on a four day safari in the famed Masai Mara National Park to watch the wildebeest migration from Tanzania to Kenya. The wildebeest migration is one of the most miraculous things to witness in Africa and I'm so excited that I am going to have the opportunity to see it! I will also have the chance to meet the Masai Warriors who have one of the most interesting and colorful cultures in East Africa. We are then going to head to the coast and spend some time in Mombasa for the beautiful history, Indian Ocean and seafood (I'll pass on the sea creatures for dinner, but the rest of the group is excited). It should be a welcomed holiday after a busy summer at work - things are only going to get better at the Youth Center and I can't wait.

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