To never have to start a sentence with "I wish I would have..."


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Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Bros

Third term is over, my students have completed theirs exams and gone home, my tutors have left the college for the holiday, and I have absolutely nothing to do until February when the students are supposed to come back.

...Or so I thought. One of the tutors at my college, Brother Lawrence, watches Buzi anytime I go out of town. He even went out and got his own dog, Rex, after I got Buzi because he wanted to be able to train him like I trained Buzi. He's a wonderful man and is actually buying 2 chickens this week to raise until Christmas so that we will be able to have chicken for our Christmas dinner.

Anyway, last Sunday I took Buzi to the brothers' compound, where Bro. Lawrence lives. I spent the better part of the day there learning how to make balls out of banana fibers and showing the brothers that dogs know how to fetch. I was even invited to stay and have lunch with the brothers. Before I left they invited me to come to English mass on Tuesday.

Some of you know that English mass is something I have really been missing here. I live in a Catholic parish with a beautiful church, but I just can't do Luganda mass. It is 3 hours long, all in local language, and every time I went I was forced to sit in the front pews and make a speech after the sermon. I was always a spectacle and could never go to mass in peace. Feeling invisible is something I didn't think I would miss, but it's something I definitely have a deeper appreciation for now.

Mass was wonderful. It was like an American mass, 50 minutes to the second! The entire thing was done in English and even the music was familiar. A few of the brothers made up the choir and played drums to accompany the music, which is by far my favorite part.

Wednesday I went back to the brothers and taught them to bake, dutch oven style. I showed up with my two huge baking pans and all the necessary ingredients to make cookies and found the brothers in the dining area unpacking all this food they bought to prepare a big lunch...rice, tomatoes, and vegetables they had gathered from the garden. I was teaching them to bake and they decided to turn lunch into a special occasion.

Spending time at the brothers' compound has been such a blessing. I was honestly really worried that I would go crazy at my house with nothing to do. I continue to surprise myself with the things I am still learning about my village. I met and am getting to know a group of wonderful men who, on a daily basis, thank me for the sacrifices I've made to come and help their country. It's always nice to be appreciated, but even nicer is knowing these men are genuine. They don't expect anything from me in return and are always eager to teach me.

While spending time with the brothers, I have never been hit on or called mzungu or been shown anything less than respect, which lately has been kind of hard to come by. They are organizing a bunch of mattresses for us to use on Christmas when volunteers will be traveling to my house. They said they're going to slash my compound so it will be "smart" when Mom comes. They've organized an English mass on Christmas day for us to attend. They've even volunteered to help us slaughter and prepare the chickens for Christmas dinner.

This past week has reminded me that integration is a process, not an end result. That's something I feel I've lost sight of lately.

Leaving for camp GLOW tomorrow and then World AIDS Day out East after that. Then Mom, Mar, and Ang will be on their way here. Can't wait to see you guys and show you everything I've learned these past 10 months!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m thankful for my incredibly accepting and supportive family and friends. I’m thankful for the amazing experience I am having and the things I am learning about myself every day. I’m thankful for my new PC family, without them I’m not sure I’d still be in Uganda. This Thanksgiving was kind of tough. Even though we are here with a different culture, last Thursday we were able to bring a little bit of America to Uganda.

About half of my group spent the better part of 2 days cooking and preparing Thanksgiving dinner. Pies and stuffing were prepared Wednesday night and early Thursday morning we all woke up to watch our turkey get slaughtered. That’s right, we had our own turkey and one of the volunteers was brave enough to kill it for us. It definitely gave me a much greater appreciation for eating meat. A Ugandan taught us how to clean the bird and explained the significance of each part as it was removed. I have to admit, none of us knew how to cook a turkey much less how to cook a turkey when you don’t have the luxury of a big oven! We ended up cutting the meat into pieces and boiling it for a few hours before baking it. It turned out pretty good.

The menu included turkey, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce (someone brought back from the states!), mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, tuna salad, tomato basil salad, herb foccacia bread, pumpkin and apple pies, broccoli macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, pita bread and humus, pumpkin bread, and beets. Oh yea, and everything was homemade!

We ate dinner outside in the middle of the compound at three long tables, end to end to end. Before eating, everyone went around and said what they were thankful for. It was emotional and many tears were shed as people talked about their families back home as well as their new family here. I miss you all very much and it was difficult to be away on such a family oriented holiday but don’t worry, the people here are taking care of me. We are all taking care of each other.

Love everyone and miss you even more during this holiday season.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cultural Differences

I’ve never been to summer camp before much less been a camp counselor before. Nest week I’m privileged to be able to participate as a counselor for camp GLOW (girls leading our world). It’s a week long girls’ empowerment camp for Ugandan girls 13-15. There are about 150 girls from all over Uganda who will be attending the camp. We’ll teach them multiple lifeskills topics including HIV/ADIS facts and myths, puberty and taking care of their bodies (the topic I’m teaching!), arts and crafts, team building, self esteem, public speaking, etc. The best part is, it’s free for them to come!

Last weekend I went to a training for all the counselors who will be at the camp. Each American counselor will be working with a Ugandan co-counselor. During training, we all stayed in the dorm we will be using during the actual camp. I live with Ugandans but I have never before spent the night in a dorm setting with one. After sharing close quarters with Ugandan women I got a deeper insight into the Ugandan culture and just how different it is from the American culture. Below are some things we’ve had to adjust to as well as some things we just don’t see eye to eye on. The first couple are from the weekend at training and the rest are things I have learned my last 9 months here. Hope you enjoy…

-It’s not uncommon for Ugandans to get phone calls (and answer them!) at 3 or 4 in the morning while sharing a room with 40 other people. Apparently the talking rates are MUCH cheaper during this time.

-It’s not uncommon for people to “flash” your phone (call and hang up before you answer) because they want to greet you or they just don’t have enough airtime to spend on having a conversation with you so they want you to use your airtime to call them back.

-In a professional setting it is socially acceptable for a woman to bring her infant child with her. I can understand this, especially if the baby is breastfeeding (which is also VERY socially acceptable to see on taxis, in church, during meetings, in your living room…) What I don’t understand is bringing your toddler to a camp counselor training where you have to spend consecutive nights in the same room with a large group of people…especially when your toddler likes to cry at night.

-It’s a common belief that water treated with Waterguard or AquaSafe will upset your stomach. Some Ugandans fear this so much they will refuse to drink treated water. They insist boiling is the only way to treat your water.

-Ugandan women are surprised when American women “cover themselves” when changing to go and bathe. Apparently, they want to see the “bazungu breasts.”

-I don’t think I’ve seen a Ugandan sneeze. EVER.

-Nose picking is very common. I mean obvious, finger in the nose, digging around nose picking. While carrying on a conversation!

-While it’s ok to pick your nose, if you blow your nose with your napkin after finish lunch it’s absolutely taboo.

-“I’m fine” is an appropriate response to just about anything.

-Never show up to a meeting on time. 2 hours late after the set starting time is more likely to be closer to when the meeting will actually begin.

-I bring a book with me EVERYWHERE and I’ve found that it’s completely acceptable for me to read during class, during a meeting, while at a big important social event, just about anywhere a group of people will be meeting. (See above…meetings never start on time).

-Ugandans tell me cold drinks cause cancer.

-If I am feeling a little under the weather, it’s not uncommon to be asked if I have “a little malaria.”

-Greetings are the most important part of social interaction. If I don’t greet someone or forget to greet someone as I’m walking past and later need to ask directions from that same person, it wouldn’t be surprising if they gave me incorrect directions because I didn’t greet them.

-Everyone who is anyone has a visitors’ book and will make you sign that visitors’ book not once but every SINGLE time you visit the person’s house, organization, church, office, etc. At first, I felt like I was being asked for my autograph and it was kind of cool. That got old fast…about after the 30 thousandanth book I signed.

-I’ve grown accustomed to waiting anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours for a bus or taxi to actually leave after I board it.

-Dogs are dirty animals and should ride in the boot of a car but you can hold chickens on your lap and people won’t even give you a second look.

-I’ve eliminated the word “no” from my vocabulary. A straight out “no” response or answer is usually interpreted as rude so now I find myself saying “somehow” or “God willing.” Everyone knows both of these responses mean no but they’re somehow more polite…somehow.

-I eat bugs. Both by choice (it’s currently grasshopper season here) and because I don’t really have any other option. If ants are in my rice and beans or have gotten into my bread I just consider it another source or protein.

-People think my dog needs a visa to get back to the states.

-It’s totally acceptable for a Ugandan man to tell you just how much he wants to marry you and how you are “his size.” Absolutely hate this one.

-Children like to greet me by saying “Bye-eeee!”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sexual Network

AIDS is a problem in Uganda. I live in Rakai district, the first place in Uganda to be hit by HIV/AIDS. It’s apparent just by looking around how heavily impacted my community has been by the virus; there is an entire generation missing. We have primary schools and vocational schools whose sole purpose is to offer an affordable education to orphans in the area. With the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, you’d think my students would be more educated on the topic. I was surprised to find how shocked they were that HIV can spread so quickly through the sexual network. The sexual network is a common term in Uganda used to describe the web-like structure between people and their sexual partners. Person A sleeps with person B, who is also sleeping with person C. Person C is sleeping with person D and E who are both sleeping with persons F, G, and H. Before you know it you have an entire community sleeping with each other and a widespread breakout of (insert STD/STI/HIV).

I did an activity with my girls’ club this week that I later repeated with my entire student body, all 300+ of them, and tutors at the college. The activity goes like this…You give every person a notecard. Some notecards are blank and others have symbols or instructions to follow. One notecard says “DO NOT shake hands with anyone else.” Two notecards say “Find the other person with the * symbol. Shake only his or her hand.” One notecard has an X on it and another has a C on it. After everyone is given a notecard and told to follow the instructions on the card, if there are any, the participants begin to shake each other’s hands. After you give participants time to “mingle,” you bring them back together to explain the purpose of the activity. As you may have guessed, shaking hands symbolizes having sex with a person. In the activity, the person who did not shake anyone else’s hand was practicing abstinence and did not contract HIV or STDs. The two people with the *symbol were in a faithful, monogamous relationship and did not contract HIV or STDs. The person with the X was HIV positive. Everyone who shook this person’s hand contracted the virus. Everyone who shook any of those people’s hands also contracted the virus and so on and so on. The person with the C on their notecard was wearing a condom and was practicing safe sex. Their risk of contracting HIV was much lower than the participants not using condoms.

The point of the activity is to show how the sexual network works and for students to see how quickly and easily STDs and HIV can spread. My girls were shocked. When I repeated the activity the next morning with my first and second years at the college, they were shocked. My tutors who also sat in on the activity were shocked! These people know how HIV is spread. It is drilled into their brains from an early age, yet having a physical representation in front of their eyes still managed to surprise them.

After the activity I allowed the students to openly ask questions, and boy did they have questions! I think this was the first time since the beginning of the term that I had a full classroom. My students are deprived of this information. They are not used to openly discussing sex and getting their questions answered. Living in a Catholic parish makes talking about sex and condom use a little controversial and my students were so appreciative to have the opportunity to discuss the topic. I have to admit, I was surprised with how open and honest I was being with my students. These are kids my age if not older and I was talking to them about the difference between using a condom and using a plastic bag as a contraceptive!

The level of ignorance continues to surprise me, and I have taught my students about sex and the reproductive systems multiple times. I’m going to take some of my girls from the girls’ club to the primary school next week to do the activity with them. I know, shocking that such an activity should be taught to 10 and 12 years old girls but the reality is that these girls are the ones who need it the most. They call sexual intercourse “playing sex” because it’s a game for them to do when they get bored. If anyone has tips or activity suggestions to teach sex ed or STD spread, please let me know!

I’ve officially been a PCV for 6 months now. I can’t believe it’s already November! 6 more weeks until Mom and the girls come to visit. Hope everyone is doing well and keeping warm. I miss you all so much!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Uganda Gone Wild

A few weeks ago I traveled out West to visit another volunteer and help put on an education workshop. It was my first experience putting on a workshop for Ugandans and it was a success. Two other volunteers and myself taught on the psychology of education, creative teaching methods, and classroom management. The Ugandans kept time pretty well and we had a decent turn out of about 20 people.

After the workshop we went on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. We woke up at 5 in the morning for our driver to pick us up and get to the park. The early morning hours give you the best chance of seeing animals. The safari was absolutely AMAZING! We saw elephants right on the side of the road, a pride of lions, water buffalo, tons of different birds, a leopard, and warthogs. Our driver, Benjamin, was wonderful and answered all of our questions. When a friend phoned him to let him know they had spotted lions, Benjamin told us to fasten our seat belts because we would be "rushing." He sped off and a few minutes later there they were...LIONS! I can't even begin to explain how it felt to pull up next to a pride of lions. To see the dominant male. Definitely one of the coolest things I've done since being in country. Later that afternoon we went on a boat tour and saw hippos! I've never seen hippos that up close before and there were so many of them! We also saw a crocodile and more elephants. I think the elephants were by far my favorite. They're so huge! My first safari in Africa was a success! The only thing we didn't see were giraffes and zebras, which I'm hopeful to see in December when I take Mom and the girls to Murchison Falls.

A quick update on my girls' club...

The week after our reusable menstrual pads workshop, my girls went and taught the same workshop to the primary girls at our demonstration school. They did everything! They taught them in Luganda, answered their questions, and helped them sew the menstrual pads. It was a really unique experience seeing my girls teach other girls something that I had taught them...all on their own!

We had a meeting at my house 2 weeks ago and I had the girls draw self portraits and write what made them beautiful. The activity was so much fun and the girls really got into to. Some of the things that make them beautiful: Their curves, their flattened noses, their beautiful voices, the color of their skin, because that's how God made them. Of course the wanted me to share what made me beautiful and when I said my freckles, something they have never seen before, they started clapping and laughing. Anyone who has ideas of things to do with my girls' club, please let me know! Arts and crafts, team building, womens empowerment, anything is welcome!

Hope all is well stateside. Miss you guys much and think about you everyday. Until next time,


Sunday, September 26, 2010


I had my first girls' club meeting at my college last week. About 20 girls showed up and our MTC tutor, Namusisi. This club is the first and only club for girls at my college. The administration has been incredibly supportive and encouraging of me wanting to start this club, which is amazing! At first we talked about how I wanted the girls to have ownership of the club and I would just help facilitate. They came up with their own goals and in a few weeks they're going to nominate and vote for their own president, VP, etc. Our first activity was to talk about an important female role model in our lives. I wanted to girls to tell me what made that person a good role model as well as a few things they have learned from their role models. I went first, saying that my mother was my role model because of everything she has taught me. I told them that I respect her for following her dreams and that her strength continues to inspire me. The first girl from the group to share said "Madame Kirabo is my role model because she is ever smart and confident." I seriously wanted to cry, it was such an awesome feeling to hear that my girls look up to me so much.

On Friday another PCV come down to teach the girls how to make reusable menstrual pads out of local materials (school uniform material, towels, thread, button, etc.) About 40 of my girls came to the workshop and Naumsisi as well as our librarian. The presentation was informative and taught the girls such a valuable skill. They kept thanking our presenter for teaching them something they can actually use.

I've been going out to the field to watch my second years do their school practice, kind of like student teaching. The primary schools I go to for observing are sometimes deep in the village, where the students have never seen white people before. Needless to say, I sometimes feel like a big distraction. Actually going out to visit these schools has been eye opening to say the least. The vast majority of students don't have shoes and walk to school for who knows how many km barefoot. There's no electricity at the schools and a lot of times many of the students go without eating lunch because they are too poor to bring anything with them. It's hard to see but it definitely makes me appreciate our American school system much more, as flawed as it sometimes seems to be.

I've been having issues with my post office the past few months, mainly because it hasn't been open. The post worker went away to University and no one replaced her, so my post office has been closed the past 2 months. You can imagine my frustration trying to get this problem solved when most Ugandans don't even know where our post office is! I would bring the issue to my principal's attention many MANY times, almost every time I saw him! I took until a few weeks ago for someone from the Masaka post branch to come to our post office for the day. The only good thing about your post office being closed for 2 months is that when it finally opens, if only for a day, you get 6 PACKAGES! Thank you so much Dad, Jill, Uncle Mike, Sharon, Deb, and Barbara. You guys are awesome and your packages are very much appreciated.

Hope everyone is doing well. I love and miss you all so much!


Monday, September 13, 2010


Sorry for the delay in posting…I spent the last 3 out of 4 weeks in training: language, in-service, and all volunteer conference. Needless to say, I’ve been away from site a lot this past month.

Quick Updates:

-Potluck was a HUGE success, every single tutor participated and they even want to start a new tradition of having a “foodluck,” as they call it, at the end of every term

-I hosted a game night at my house with my counterpart, Francis, and the Kiswahili tutor, Stanley, from my college. Francis and Stanley showed up at my house wearing sport jackets, it was so cute! I cooked fried rice for dinner and taught them to play spoons and bullshit. They caught on quickly and only had trouble when it came to the lying part in BS

-Turns out that weird hive-like irritation I had was a parasite called Stronglyoides. I most likely got it when I went to the Nile for kayaking. The parasite passes through damp soil into your feet then travels around your blood. Whenever my skin would get irritated (scratched, scraped, bumped, cut, etc.) the area surrounding the irritation would turn into these weird hives. No worries, after a blood test and 3 days’ worth of pills I am parasite free!

After my in-service training, a language and technical training that groups go through once they hit their 6 months in country marker, my group decided to go to Jinja to raft the Nile. For those of you who don’t know, the rapids on the Nile are mainly grade 5s and 4s with a 5.5 thrown in there somewhere. I want to remind you that I have NEVER GONE RAFTING BEFORE. I had no idea what to expect, and to tell you the truth was slightly hungover from the night before. Regardless, rafting on the Nile was probably the most memorable thing I have done since being in Uganda to date. It was freakin awesome and not to mention the single most terrifying thing I have ever done in my entire life.

There were about 20 of us that went and we divided into groups of 6-8, each raft having their own Ugandan guide. My raft was the “baby raft” and had a total of 6 people in it. None of us had been rafting before. We started out in a little eddie learning how to maneuver the raft, which way to paddle, what to do when you come to a rapid, and what happens when you flip over. Not what happens if you flip over, but what happens WHEN you flip over. The idea of an inevitable flip scared the crap out of me! Even during the practice flip in calm water I managed to get trapped under our raft and swallowed about half my body weight of Nile water. No fun. I was determined to not flip over for real and we kept emphasizing to our guide that we did not want to flip (we went through a company called Equator Rafting and they are notoriously known for purposefully flipping the rafts).

After a few more practice laps around the eddie, it was time to go. My raft was first up and the rapid we went down was supposed to be a 4. Our guide directed us not down the smooth part of the rapid that everyone else went down, but smack over a waterfall. Our raft became trapped and before we realized what was going on we were all being pummeled with water. I was desperately trying to hold on the rope but I kept getting smacked in the face with water, I couldn’t see anything or anyone around me. Within seconds I was thrown from the raft and caught in a current. My life jacket was not pulling me to the surface and I was thrashing about wildly. I finally came to the surface gasping for air and made my way to a kayaker (the safety guys that kayak in front and around the rapids to pick up stragglers and bring them back to their rafts). I was panting and holding on for dear life to the tiny kayak as he pulled me back to my raft. Every person in my raft was thrown…in the FIRST RAPID! None of the other rafts tipped, as they all went over the smooth part of the rapid.

When we were all brought back to our baby raft, the one we were determined to not flip over, we just sat in a sort of shocked silence for a few minutes. I didn’t want to go any further, I was ready to quite. Especially when our guide told us the next rapid coming up was the worst one of the course. (The waterfall we went over was the second worse, what a way to start out a bunch of beginners!) I was dead set on walking the rest of the course and just giving up. This obviously wasn’t an option. I had to suck it up and continue through the rest of the day. Like I said, I had never been more scared of anything before in my life. It was definitely a way to sober up quickly, though. There’s nothing like holding on for dear life while trying to paddle through a grade 5 rapid to kick your hangover!

The more rapids we went through the more comfortable I became. I got myself into this system, paddle as hard as I could, duck into the raft, hold on for dear life, pray that we don’t flip, repeat. I’m proud to say that our raft did not tip after that first rapid. Some of them were close and one we even went down backwards and I was sure we were all going to fly out, but we made it. We all survived an entire day of rafting on the Nile. Talk about a team building exercise! I definitely recommend the experience to anyone visiting Africa. It’s the experience of a lifetime and how many people can say they’ve rafted on the Nile? I’m glad that I stuck it out, but I don’t think I would do it again to be honest.

Hope everyone is doing well! I’m going on being in country for 7 months…time is flying by! Happy Birthday Uncle Rich, Lashelle, Matt, and Ish. Miss you guys! I miss you guys so much and think about you every day. Looking forward to your updates,


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Airtime, Potluck, and Bacterial Dysentary

First I want to give you a little more information about the bombings you may have heard of. A few days ago, after the final World Cup match, a terrorist group set of bombs in Kampala, targeting mainly areas where white people tend to frequent. More than 70 people were killed in the bombings, including 7 Americans. No Peace Corps volunteers were hurt during the bombings and Peace Corps staff immediately took control of the situation and restricted travel to and from Kampala until further notice.

The power has been going out a lot lately and I have been spending many evenings cooking by candlelight. The other night after I finished making dinner, I sat down to eat at my table. Buzi started barking outside, but I didn’t really think anything of it because he barks at pretty much anything that moves. He kept barking and I started to hear footsteps on my lawn. I don’t usually get visitors after dark and I of course started to freak myself out. I heard a scratching noise on my screen then someone whispered my name. I opened my door and looked out the screen door to see 3 pairs of eyes staring back at me. They were children and after greeting me in Luganda they just stood on my porch. My immediate thought was that they were going to ask me for money, but they didn’t. One of the little boys said he had airtime for me (there’s no such thing as a monthly cell phone bill here, you purchase airtime in various amounts and it’s kind of a pay as you go thing). Earlier that night I walked into town and went to my favorite dukka where Joseph, one of the nicest Ugandans I’ve met, works. Surprisingly, his dukka was closed and he was nowhere to be seen. I always purchase my airtime from him because he’s started carrying large quantities of it for me to buy. I guess someone in town must have told him that I stopped by and he sent a group of kids to deliver me my airtime. It continues to surprise me when people go out of their way like that to do something for me, but it’s definitely making me feel more and more a part of my community.

I’ve introduced the concept of a “potluck” to the tutors at my college. They were so intrigued by the idea they insisted we have one, so next Thursday Rakai PTC will have its first (of many, hopefully) official American/Ugandan cultural food exchange potluck (the tutors insisted it have a title, hence the food exchange part). The tutors were so excited when I made a flyer advertising the potluck and they all signed up and chose a dish to bring. I made the flyer more than two weeks ago…it’s all they can talk about…EVERY DAY. When visitors come to the school, my principal brags about this big cultural food exchange that I’ve organized. People have no clue what he’s talking about! I almost can’t wait for our potluck day to come and pass just so people will stop talking about it. I’m sure the actual event will have a story of its own. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes…

As our term is coming to an end I have been assessing my students. Nothing major, just an in class exercise to be able to get a grade for them. I thought an 8-10 question mini exam would be no problem. Boy was I wrong! I have been spending the majority of this past week grading 300+ short answer papers. It’s taken me forever and I’m not even done yet! I still have about 100 to go. What makes the work even more tedious is that my students have a hard time following directions. When I ask them to give me 3 examples of a specific term, they’ll list 7. When I ask for them to list 2 different ways of being a good guidance counselor, they’ll give me 12! I think I’m going to have to reiterate the importance of following directions next time, or maybe I’ll just try true/false.

You’ll be glad to know I survived my first major sickness in Africa! Last Thursday night I woke up in the middle of the night terribly sick. I mean running to the pit latrine every hour with simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea (sorry to be graphic). It turns out I had a bad case of bacterial dysentery, which basically means I had amoebas in my intestines. I most likely got it from using unclean or contaminated water to wash my vegetables. I can honestly say I have never been so sick in my life. It was the worst pain I’d been in, I couldn’t eat, and I could barely drink anything. I spent most of the 3 days I was sick in and out of sleep. I’m 100% better now and am super cautious of any water I use for cooking.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July. While you were probably eating hot dogs and setting off fireworks, a group of us PCVs were spending the weekend on a remote island in a hostel on Lake Victoria. It was absolutely gorgeous. We had the place to ourselves and even had all of our meals prepared for us by the wonderful staff. On the actual 4th of July while we were all hanging out on the beach, we saw a bald eagle in one of the trees. It was a surreal feeling to be celebrating our independence in a different county, but seeing our national bird definitely made the experience real.

I think I mentioned that I started working at a primary school in Kyotera, my nearest town. I’ve decided to be their new PE teacher. I’m 22 years old and yesterday I spent more than an hour playing duck duck goose. It was the best day ever. The kids loved it! The best part is that I gave the directions entirely in Luganda. I tried teaching them Simon says, but they had a hard part understanding why they weren’t supposed to follow directions if I didn’t say “Simon says.” They taught me a Ugandan game, I think it’s called cat and rat or something similar. Basically, one person is a cat and one person is a rat. The cat is trying to catch the rat but everyone else forms a circle and holds hands. They lift arms to allow the rat in and out of the circle, but do everything they can to keep the cat from passing. It was actually a lot of fun and something I want to teach my students when I come back to the states. If anyone has any game EASY game ideas for little kids, please let me know!

As I’m going on being in country for 6 months, I am definitely missing you guys. Some days are harder than others but all of your letters and emails definitely help. I’m doing ok over here and I absolutely love my village. I hope everyone is happy and well there. Thanks for all the updates; I always look forward to reading them. Barbara, thank you so much for the MAD book, it will come in handy when I’m teaching. Mrs. Supik, thank you for the care package…I FINALLY got it and the granola bars were awesome!

Love and miss you guys like crazy!


Monday, June 28, 2010

“I’ll tell Obama you say ‘Hello’.”

Ugandans love Obama. You can find Obama’s face on practically anything here: tshirts, sandals, plastic bags, fabric, banners, etc. There are car washes and hole in the wall restaurants named after Obama. Ugandans also think all Americans personally know Obama. On countless occasions I have had people, after having an in depth conversation or even just in passing, ask me to tell Obama they say “Hello.” Even though I have never seen—much less met—Obama in person, Ugandans think I have a personal relationship with him. I’ve found it’s easier to humor them and save myself from a half hour explanation of why most Americans don’t actually know Obama than it is to tell them I have never met Obama. I have started ending conversations by saying, “…and I will tell Obama you say ‘Hello’!” They love this! It cracks me up how excited they get whenever I say this. So if any of you just happen to run into Obama one day, make sure to tell him the people in Biikira Parish in Uganda say ‘Hello!’

Last week I found a primary school in Kyotera (my closest town) where I am going to start teaching. It’s a small boarding school for P1-P3 students. I toured the school and immediately fell in love. It’s considerably small by Ugandan standards and there are only about 40 students in each grade level. I brought all of my Pre-K music with me from the states (Thank you so very much for the PPCD mix, Angelique!) and have decided to start a music and dance class to help the kids with their English. I figure this will be a fun and interactive way for them to not only practice their English but also begin to understand my American accent before I start teaching them core subjects. I have made picture flash cards of vocabulary from the songs and plan to use them to teach the kids. For example, the song “Head and shoulders, knees and toes” is the first one we are working on. I made cards with the words on one side and the corresponding picture on the other. So there will be a flashcard with the word ‘head’ on one side and a picture of a head on the other. The kids will be able to associate a picture with the written word and then identify the specific body part on themselves. Once they have mastered the vocabulary I will teach them the song. I plan to do this with most of the songs I brought with me. As soon as they get the songs down I will be sure to post a video for you guys to check out.

Some of you know that I have been having issues with water lately. I don’t have running water in my house. My house is set up for running water, but the pipes don’t work and the pump is broken. I have had nice access to a rather large rain tank up until recently, when we discovered the rain tank is almost empty. It’s the middle of the dry season and we don’t get much rain this time of the year. This has made me rather nervous, especially when I have to “bucket flush” my toilet. This basically consists of pouring a huge amount of water into the back of my toilet tank so the toilet is able to flush. The whole process is really kind of gross since I can only flush the toilet about once a day because it uses a ridiculous amount of water. With a water shortage I have become even more worried because the situation turns into a health issue. I’ve been expressing my concern to my college almost on a daily basis and they have been trying to work to find some other water source for me. A few days ago I discovered that I actually have a pit latrine. No one told me I had one! I know, this may seem like something strange to get excited about, but it means I can save so much water by not flushing my toilet. So in short, the water situation is no longer a crisis because I am not wasting water flushing my toilet. Also, all of you who decide to come visit me will have the privilege of using a pit latrine! Very exciting, I know…

If you weren’t grossed out by that, maybe this one will get you: Buzi had worms. Not parasites, but worms that were actually in his skin. I discovered them the other day when I was petting him and I felt a small bump. As I looked closer, the bump looked sort of like a big pimple but had a small black hole in the center. The black hole moved a little and I realized something was inside. I squeezed the bump and a white grub-like worm popped out of my dog’s neck! It sounds absolutely disgusting, and it really kind of is, but it was the coolest thing I have seen. I have no idea what it was or even how to prevent it, so if anyone knows or can find out I would really appreciate it! Later that night I found a similar bump on his back leg, but this one was much bigger. Sure enough the bump had the same black hole in the center, which turns out is how the worm breathes. The next day I found 3 more, two in his back leg and one on his front paw. This time I made sure to get Courtney, my neighbor, to video tape the whole thing. So all of you who are interested in actually seeing the process can check the video out! It’s definitely better to see in person, but you can get the idea.

I have been told that I have mad bargaining skills. Whenever you want to buy anything, in the market or on the side of the road, if it doesn’t have a marked price you have to bargain to get a fair price. This is especially hard for white people because we are always charged “muzungu” price, which is most times double the normal price. When I first started going to the market in Kyotera I had to bargain for everything. Now, I have my own vegetable ladies who charge me “muganda” price and even give me extra vegetables for free! I do all of my bargaining in Luganda, which usually gets me a really good price because the locals are so impressed I know their language.

A few highlights:

-When I was going to the market the other day a man punched m y arm as I walked by. Without even thinking about it, I turned around and punched his arm as hard as I could. Everyone thought it was hysterical, except for the man of course. He didn’t try to touch me again.

-After I finished bargaining for fabric, the shop keeper offered me one of her children.

-I went to a Rotaract club initiation celebration at my college. The entertainment was DJ from Kyotera who played a mix of Ugandan music and old American pop songs. The kids came up and danced while the LIP SYCHNED to the songs. This is a common, an rather humorous, form of entertainment here.

-I am in the process of starting a cooking club at my school where I will teach my students to cook American food and they will teach me to cook Ugandan food.

I love you all very much and think about you often. Thank you for your encouraging emails and for your thoughts and prayers, they’re what get me through the tough days. Thank you for the birthday letter, Kadi! It’s hanging on my wall. Happy birthday Angie, Sebastian, and Kelsey! Hope you guys each have a wonderful birthday! Hope everyone has a safe 4th of July. Shoot off some fireworks for all of us over here; we’ll be celebrating our country’s independence with you guys in spirit! Miss you guys!

Much love,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Integration, Caning, and Conquering the Nile

Sorry in advance, this one’s pretty long but a lot has been going on the past few weeks. The longer I spend at site the more it is starting to feel like home. Here are a few recent examples of what I consider integration success…

-I’ve started running with my neighbor Courtney, another PCV, in the mornings. One morning we were running in the village and we heard the kids shouting our names…in the village! I’ve only ever been in the village once when I first got to site. It was such an amazing feeling to have people I’ve never met know my name and not call me muzungu. The kids at our trading center (TC) even know the difference between the 2 of us now and whenever we walk through town they call out “Bye Ashery! Bye Coatin!”

-There’s a vegetable market in Kyotera, my closest town that’s about a 45 minute walk from my house. I have my own vegetable ladies and they get so excited whenever I come to buy from them. I don’t have to bargain or haggle and they don’t charge me muzungu price anymore. Sometimes they even give me extra vegetables just because. They love when I talk to them in Lugunda.

- I slashed my yard! Or I tried…it’s so hard! Francis came over after classes one day and taught Courtney and I how to do it. I got nasty blisters on my hand but my yard is beautiful now. It’s definitely extremely hard work and I have a greater appreciation when people offer to slash my yard now.

-I made oatmeal cookies that everyone said “tasted like home.” We baked them at the vocational school (which has ovens!) and 2 of the students helped us and told us they would teach us how to cook Ugandan food.

-I finally found a tailor in Kyotera. I bought some fabric and took it in to her. She doesn’t speak English, so communicating with her can be challenging sometimes. She measured me and made me 2 beautiful skirts, all for about $9 each…including the cost of fabric! I told her if she gave me a fair price I would use her the whole 2 years I’m here. That made her very happy.

I had my first experience with caning, it was terrible. One morning before a run I wanted to stop by the college to let them know I’d be in after the assembly. As Courtney and I were walking past the demonstration school (a local elementary school linked to my Teaching College that’s supposed to be a model and example school) we saw one of the male teachers caning the little girls. Worse was that he had a smile on his face the entire time, the bastard was actually enjoying it. Caning is illegal in Uganda, and the teachers know this but some claim it’s the only way they can discipline their students. At first I didn’t know what to do and I just stopped and stared at him. When he realized I was watching he stopped then walked away. I went to my college and saw Francis, my counterpart. I told him what happened and he came with me back to the demonstration school where the guy was caning the girls again! Francis called him into the principal’s office so we could talk to him. As we were walking to the office Francis told me the teacher was a former student at our college and was a former student of Francis’! I couldn’t believe it. I started crying. How can a student who graduated from our TEACHING COLLEGE and is working at the DEMONSTRATION SCHOOL cane little girls? At our demonstration school that’s right next to the college! I was fuming. When we got to the office Francis explained to the teacher how caning is illegal and there are other ways to discipline. Of course he said that was the only way he could discipline. I told him I work at the college and I have a background in alternative forms of discipline and that I would be more than happy to talk with him if he had any questions. The jerk still had that smile on his face the whole time Francis and I were talking. I told him if I saw him caning again I’d call the Ministry of Education and he’d lose his job. I think the only time I really got through to him was when I asked him if I could cane him because he had misbehaved. He didn’t like that idea very much.

I kayaked the Nile! I went with a group of 5 other PCVs to Jinja where we had 3 Ugandan trainers who taught us how to Kayak. We learned how to release ourselves from the kayaks if we flipped over and they also taught us different ways to flip back over if we went upside down. If you’ve never kayaked before, the idea of flipping over and being trapped underwater absolutely terrified me! I was so nervous I would get stuck and then drown. They teach you how to get out of the kayak if this happens, but when you’re actually upside down and under water it’s difficult to remember how to flip yourself back over. I was definitely the worst one in the group but I had a blast. They took us down the river, which was super easy. Paddling back upstream against the current…not so easy. It took forever! And the stream kept pushing everyone back to where we started. They had to take us one at a time to make sure we actually made it back to the other side. It was physically exhausting and I wanted to give up so many times, but I did it. We all did it and it was an amazing feeling. I kayaked on the NILE! How cool is that?

I went to the post office earlier this week and had a padded envelope from Leah, the teacher whose kindergarten class I student taught with. Inside were handwritten birthday cards from all my kids! It was the best thing ever to see how much their writing has progressed since the beginning of the school year. Those cards mean so much to me and they are hanging on the wall in my hallway right now…every single one of them! Thank you Leah, for the birthday cards, you have no idea what that meant to me!

Bodas are common forms of transportation in Uganda. They are basically motorcycle taxis. The drivers are usually certifiably insane and they drive way to fast down windy, unpaved, dirt roads. Needless to say, they are dangerous and the boda drivers are extremely rude. I was walking into town the other night to get meat for Buzi. Buzi was on the other side of the road in the grass and as he went to cross the street a speeding boda man hit him. My dog was hit by a motorcycle! He's ok, the front tire just skimmed his face (I know that sounds awful, but it could have been much much worse). The worst part was that the driver didn't even slow down, the whole thing didn't even phase him.

I know this post was super long but there was so much I wanted to say. Hope you guys enjoy it and thank you so much for taking the time to read! Happy Fathers' Day, Dad! Happy early birthday, Angie and Sebastian! Happy belated Kadi and Sarah! Hope you guys are doing well!


Thursday, June 3, 2010


I got a puppy! I’ve been trying to find a male puppy since about my first week at site. (Ugandans greatly fear dogs so I figured having one would reduce my risk of a break in). Last week, 2 days before I was supposed to leave for Kampala for the weekend, Enid and Namusisi—two of the tutors at the college—took me to this lady’s house where there was a litter of the cutest puppies I have ever seen. There was one male in the litter and he was freaking adorable, I fell in love as soon as I saw him. Now for the gross part…he was COMPLETELY infested with fleas, ticks, probably lice, and these weird worms that Namusisi pinched out of his skin. It was awful! Namusisi told me I had to take him then or he would be gone and she promised to treat him for me. I was skeptical, but for 5oooUGX (about $2.50) I bought him. Namusisi took him back to her house and when she brought him to the college his fur had this chalky powder in it and within a few hours there wasn’t a single bug on him! I was definitely impressed. That afternoon we took him into Kyotera and got him a few vaccinations as well as some de-worming medicine. He was pretty sick from all the medicine and treatments so he slept that entire night and the following day. His name is “Buzibu,” which means difficult in Luganda. I call him Buzi for short.

The next day I baked a cake to share with the tutors at the college. They loved it! They insisted on singing to me, several times, and after a few failed attempts we all took a picture together…with the cake of course. Buzi slept in a box on the floor the entire day. He even went to class with me. Most of my students fear him and I tell him he’ll only bite them if they’re late to class. I think they actually believe me.

Which brings me to my next topic…I finally started teaching! Oh my gosh I love it! I’ve really missed being in the classroom. Teaching in Uganda, especially at a college is WAY different than teaching a group of snotty nosed 5 years olds. My first class was the year 1s, a little over 100 students, and I taught them on child growth and development. At first they were quiet and didn’t want to share. We are still getting used to communicating together and they have a hard time understanding my accent. By the end of class they were comfortable enough to ask me to slow down or repeat something, which I consider amazing progress. Then I taught the years 2s. They were 200+ students and that was a little intimidating. Once I got used to practically shouting at them so they could hear me, things went well. I taught them on the difference between guidance and counseling and they participated and contributed throughout the whole class. It was so much fun.

At the end of both classes I let the students ask me any questions they wanted to. The only off limits topics were my age (because there’s a good percentage who are older than I am), if I could bring them back to America, anything political in Uganda, and if I had a husband. They asked me the difference between Ugandan education and American education and they were really interested in how I was liking Uganda and how it was different from America.

Over the weekend I went to Kampala to celebrate my birthday and almost everyone from my training group came into town. It was the first time we’ve all been together since swearing in. Our group is super close and it was awesome being able to catch up with everyone and to just hang out without having to do anything. One of the nights we went dancing in club called the Iguana and I saw a Ugandan with a Tim Duncan jersey on. I started freaking our but no one really appreciated it because no one else is from San Antonio. I thought of you, Mom!

When I got back to the college I taught a few classes and sat in on a workshop. The workshop was awful and lasted 4 hours. After it was over I played a tutor versus students volleyball game, which I organized the previous week. The students were impressed that I knew how to play volleyball and they loved watching. It was a great way to bond with them and show them that I am just like their other tutors.
I’m much busier now that the new term started at the college. I love having some sort of schedule every day, I actually feel productive! My current tasks I will be working on are training Buzi (Ugandans don’t know you can train dogs and insist that I will not be able to since he is an African breed…yea right, I’ll show them!), planting a garden (finally), and starting a girls’ empowerment club at the college with Enid and Namusisi (I want to teach them about self esteem, reproductive health, and how to make reusable menstrual pads). If anyone has teaching suggestions or activities for very large groups of students, I would love to hear them. Thank you Mom for all the wonderful packages, it was awesome to open something on my birthday! And thanks Jill for the package, even though it was random everything in it was perfect…especially the tshirts! Congrats again to McKenzie and Preston, I can’t wait to see pictures! Hope everyone is enjoying summer break and I look forward to reading your updates.

Love and miss you all!


PS- I tried setting up a Picasa account so you can see the pictures without having to login to facebook, let me know if you are having problems accessing it. There's a link under the pictures at the top of the page. Love you guys!

Friday, May 21, 2010

They call me "Ashery"

I’ve been at site almost a month now and I’m slowly getting my house together. It’s definitely been tough. There’s no work for me to do right now until the students get back and I have never been so bored in my life. We’re not really supposed to have work the first few months, we’re supposed to use the time to adjust and integrate into our communities. You guys know me, I’m a workaholic. I’m going insane! For the most part, my community knows me. When I walk to the dukkas in town I rarely hear “muzungu” called after me, and if I do I correct it almost immediately. The kids all run to the road and call me by my name. It’s funny though because for some reason they have a real hard time pronouncing ‘Ashley.’ Some get it without a problem but some say “Asheley” or, my favorite, “Ashery.” I think it’s cute and they always get so excited when I stop and talk to them. I’m getting to know the dukka owners too. I was having a terrible morning at the college a few weeks ago and I went into town to find an avocado to make some guacamole for lunch. No one had one. I was going through the whole formal greeting with everyone, trying to find just one stinking avocado. Finally, this man told me to follow him to where an older woman was working at a dukka. She came out and I greeted her, asked about her family, and introduced myself (all in local language!). She disappeared into the dukka for a minute and came back with an avocado that she proceeded to give me, free of charge, as a gift for moving here. I seriously wanted to start crying.

It’s crazy how you can have the highest high and lowest low all in the same day here. This happened to me last week when I broke down in front of my deputy principal. I was tired of being left out of meetings and I started crying in front of him. I went off about how they haven’t been fixing my house the way they said they would, how I have no idea what I’m supposed to teach because the other tutor never shows up, how I feel like a waste of resources being put here, how I’m not included in anything and they never let me know when things are going on. It was terrible. Later that afternoon when I got home one of the little neighbor boys, Paolo (who is so freakin cute, I love this kid!) came running up to me and gave me a huge hug. He told me he had put charcoal all around my house to keep the red ants from invading. It was the sweetest thing ever. The next morning he was knocking at my door at 7am to give me an avocado, 2 guavas, and a passion fruit…just because. I showed him and the other kids pictures of all you guys from home and when I showed him pictures of Mom, Mar, and Ang he was so excited he would actually get to meet them at Christmas time. He said he would help me kill chickens and pull their feathers off so we could have a good meal. All the kids said they couldn’t wait to give Mom and the girls local names…something for you guys to look forward to! These kids are my best friends here and sometimes they’re the only reason I can find to leave my house. They’re the reason I tolerate being propositioned for sex by boda drivers and they’re the ones who are always excited to see me return home, even if I’ve only been gone for 5 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing really well here. I’m settling into my house and becoming more and more comfortable on my own. No one has work the first few weeks and we are all going through the same frustrations of trying to find productive ways to spend the days. As they say here, mmpola mmpola…slowly slowly. I’m supposed to start teaching Monday, but we’ll see how that goes. My first few lessons will be child growth and development, sex ed, guidance and counseling in primary schools, and a general introduction to early childhood education. If anyone has advice on interactive ways to teach any of these topics, I will gladly welcome suggestions!

I should be getting the rest of my pictures next weekend, which means my goal for the next time I have internet access will be to upload ALL my pictures from training up until now…about 400 or so. Including pictures of my house! Thank you all for your encouraging emails and texts, they mean so much more to me than you know! Hope everyone is doing well with the end of the school year approaching. Happy 16th Birthday, Mar, I hope you liked the flowers. Congrats on graduation Kelsey, Jill, Jeff, Alex, and Xavi! Congrats also to Mr. and Mrs. Preston Milburn, I’m sure the wedding will be absolutely gorgeous! I love and miss everyone so much! I’ll try and update again soon.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer!

I’m finally an official volunteer! Our group is the first in Uganda Peace Corps history to have all trainees swear in…all 29 of us made it! Last week we left Wakiso and had a huge celebration to thank our homestay families. Most of you know I didn’t have the best experience with my homestay family, to put it nicely. Despite that, the party was awesome. Another volunteer and I were in charge of the menu and we were able to have American food…macaroni and cheese! I gave a thank you speech (entirely in Luganda!) with a girl from my language class, which was pretty awesome. After the celebration we FINALLY moved out of our homestay houses and went to Kampala for swearing in. We got to go to the U.S Embassy here and met the ambassador. The actual swearing in ceremony was at his house.

I’ll be living in Bikiira Parish in Rakai District for the next two years. Rakai is about 30 kilometers north of Tanzania, so I’m pretty far south in Uganda. I’ll be working at Rakai Primary Teachers’ College (PTC) teaching PES (teaching methodology), early childhood education, and computers. I also think I might be the girls’ counselor, which I’m pretty excited about. The college has over 300 students, about 230 second years and 140 or so first years. The second years are broken into 2 streams and the first years are all together…which means I teach all 140 of them at one time! It’s kind of intimidating, but I’m hoping to be able to break the students into smaller streams at some point…we’ll see how that goes!

All of my students leave for holiday starting today and they’ll be gone until the end of May. That gives me plenty of time to settle into my house and start integrating into the community. My house is amazing! I’m so fortunate to have electricity! I also have a guest bedroom, perfect for hosting visitors! I live across the road from the health center—I really want to start working with the children’s ward there—and I’m about a 5 minute walk from the PTC. Bikiira Parish itself is actually pretty small, with just a trading center and a few dukkas. Kyotera town is about a half hour walk and I can get most of my groceries there. For more specific things, like oatmeal and peanut butter, I can take a taxi into Masaka town, which is about an hour/hour and a half away, and also use wireless internet there.

I’m going to start a garden so if you have tips on that please email me...or better yet send me seeds! I’ve never gardened before but apparently most everything grows fairly easily here so I figured I’d try it out. I also want to start a girls’ empowerment club at the college. I’m hoping to make it sustainable by teaching the students how to implement similar clubs at the primary schools they’ll be teaching at. I’d love to hear any ideas you guys may have for that. I’m thinking something along the lines of self esteem building, life skills, HIV/AIDS awareness, sex education, etc.

Thanks for the packages Celia, McKenzie, and Aunt Jody! And thanks for the letter, Jill! I still haven’t received all my mail so for those of you whose letters/packages I haven’t received yet…don’t worry, they’re still coming. I have established a new address in my community and now that I’m able to check it whenever I want I will hopefully get mail quicker. Feel free to start sending stuff! I’d love to get some pictures to put on my walls.

My new address is:
Ashley Dunn
c/o Rakai Primary Teachers’ College
P.O. Box 29
Kyotera, Uganda

Happy belated birthday, Dad!

Love and miss you all so much!
Ashley Kirabo

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Immersion was amazing, 4 weeks of training left...

Sorry in advance for the length of this post! I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again…

The past two weeks were immersion for us. I went with a group of 4 other trainees to stay with two current volunteers at Primary Teaching College (PTC) in Kabulasoke. We traveled by matatus (kind of public taxis) and it was an experience. A matatu is essentially a van that drives people to and from cities. There were 21 people crammed into our matatu! I am constantly surprised by the things I see in this country (Like watching a man sitting on a boda boda—motorcycle that is kind of like a taxi—strap not one but TWO goats around his waste so he could take them home). It was pretty awesome to see how current volunteers are living. We had electricity, except for one night, and running water. Even though the water was freezing, I can't even begin to explain how amazing it was to take a shower! We also had the opportunity too cook for ourselves all week, using a gas stove. Over the whole two weeks we made spaghetti, grilled cheese, baked potatoes, soup with dumplings, burritos with salsa and guacamole, and salad. I also baked a cake and attempted to make monkey bread...Ugandan style. Baking is so much harder here because we have to make an oven using two large pots over the gas stove. It works pretty well, it just takes about three times as long.

The purpose of immersion was to give us a good idea of the type of work we'll be doing when we get to site. We had opportunities to teach and to observe student teachers in the field. I loved all of it. I really hope that I will be placed at a PTC when I get to site. I've basically been teaching pre-service teachers, ages 18-22. I co-taught a methods lesson with another volunteer and we had so much fun with it. We taught about cooperative learning and the use of role play in the classroom. We had the class (about 40-50 students) role play different topics for us, with the purpose to teach through acting. At first it was hard to get lessons started because the students would just stare at us and they didn't really want to participate but after a while they had no problem answering questions. By the second week, I taught an English lesson on Reading Comprehension by using a main idea frame. I used a P4 text book (about the 4th grade reading level) to use a story for students to fill in their own main idea frames. I was shocked at how many struggled to read the material. It is discouraging that most of these students will rely on lecture and rote memorization when teaching in their future classrooms because it is the only thing they know. I taught a total of 8 times, each lesson to four different streams (classes) of students. My favorite part was when I was concluding the methods class and I asked the students what they had learned. One girl told us that our lesson inspired her to be creative in the classroom. It makes me hopeful that students enjoy what we teach them and will want to try our methods in their classrooms.

It’s pretty common to be late to class. During one of my English classes students kept coming in late so at the end of class we had a little extra time and I called all of the latecomers up to the front of the class. I had them sing Old McDonald to the rest of the class and act like chickens. It was hilarious to see a bunch of Ugandan students act like chickens and cluck in front of all of their peers. They’ll definitely think twice about being late again…

We also had language lessons during the second half of immersion. Herbert, my Luganda instructor, came to stay with us for most of the second week. I had language several hours a day for about three was pretty intense. One of the days the other trainee who is also learning Luganda was sick so I had language by myself. I did conversational Luganda with another trainer for about an hour. An hour of speaking nothing but Luganda...I was pretty proud of myself!

I have four weeks left of training before I swear in on April 21 (Happy Birthday Dad!). This next week I will have my practice Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), which assesses how well I am doing in my language. Basically I have to talk about various scenarios and situations in Luganda. The following week we will turn in our qualifying projects, secondary projects we plan to implement when we get to site. I'm planning to do a life skills/girls empowerment club where we make beads out of paper. (For those of you who have heard of the Ugandan beads that women make, that is what I will be doing. Anyone interested in buying the necklaces please let me know). After turning in and presenting our qualifying projects we find out where our sites will be and get to visit them for three days. I'm so excited to know where I will spending the next two years and what exactly I will be doing. The following week we have our real LPI and if we don't pass then we have to retest in three months. The next week we swear in and we're off to our official Peace Corps Volunteers! I can't believe the time is going as quickly as it is and that I've almost been here two months.

I'll end on a positive note...While visiting the student teachers teaching in the field, I was standing outside with the primary students during their break. Many of the little kids don't have much exposure to muzungus so they would dare each other to get as close to us as possible. I finally turned to them and outstretched my arms. After a while they worked up the courage to touch my hands and then I had a crowd of children huddled around me feeling my skin. I turned my hands over so my palms were facing up and the kids went crazy. They would rub their palms to mine as hard as they could then immediately check to see if any of their skin had turned white. This went on for about 15 minutes. I'll post pictures as soon as I get the chance, but it was a pretty cool experience to see the kids interact with us. It definitely made me miss being in the classroom and I'm going to try and teach at a primary school when I get to site. To emphasize the difference in American versus Ugandan schools, the P1 classroom, about the same level as Kinder in the states, had 67 students in it. 67 tiny bodies were crammed into desks, some students we standing off to the sides, and some were sitting on mats on the floor. Like I've said before, never again will I complain of a class of 30!

Hope all is well, I love and miss you all so much! If anyone is interested in sending my goodies, email me and I'll give you a list I've been compiling of things I've been missing here. I haven't gotten any letters but once I get back to RACO there should be mail waiting for us, I know some of you have sent things and as soon as I get them I will let you know. I love hearing how everyone is doing. Will update soon!

(My given name meaning “gift”)

Side Note...I heard the Macarena playing on the Ugandan radio the other day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ngenda Mpigi...I'm going to Mpigi!

Hello all!

Hope everyone is doing well. I am about halfway through my PST...time is flying by! Today I am leaving for Mpigi, a town about 2-3 hours from Wakiso. I will stay there with 4 fellow trainees at a current volunteer's house. The next two weeks will be immersion for us and we will truly get to see what it is like to live as the volunteers do. We will see a primary teacher college and I'll get to teach a class...I'm so excited! I'm also pretty happy that we'll get too cook for ourselves, no more matoke! Since I will be in immersion for 2 weeks I probably won't be able to update until I'm back in Wakiso. I'll update when I get back and share everything I experience during the next two weeks. I'll also put up the rest of the pictures, promise! Love and miss you all so much! Happy early birthday, Mom!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

What I've been up to...

Muli Mutya! (How are y’all!)

Hope everyone is healthy and doing well. I am having the most amazing time and have so much to tell you! I can’t believe I’ve already been here almost a month, the time has flown by! I feel like I am getting a good grasp on my language and have plenty of opportunities to practice whenever I go into town. I have become pretty good at bargaining for things at the market and actually have fun doing it. We entered into the rainy season with the beginning of March and it has been raining surprisingly less than it was before, but I am sure this will soon change. Typically it rains most days for at least part of the day and then is sunny for the rest of the day. It has been POURING at night lately and there is a tin roof at my homestay family so it sounds even louder.

Earlier this week we visited Gombe Kayumba primary school to observe a lesson. We met with a Ugandan Coordinating Center Tutor (CCT) who spoke to us about the changes they were making to the Ugandan school systems. I was extremely excited at first because the CCT knew so much about alternative methods of teaching and was excited to implement the learner-centered approach in the classroom. When we sat down to watch the lesson he taught I was extremely appalled. He basically lectured to the class, of close to 90 P6 students around 9-10 years old. (To all my DAWSON ladies, I will never again complain of a class of 25 students! You would love the kids here though, they are so obedient and eager to learn!) Even more, he did not use any wait time when students were responding, he called on the same students, he LAUGHED at a student’s wrong answer, and had poor instruction all around. There were 10 of us trainees there and those of us with teaching backgrounds were furiously taking down notes in our notebooks to share after the lesson. After the lesson we went with the CCT to reflect on how everything went. I asked him to tell us how the lesson went before we gave any feedback. It was shocking to hear how he thought the lesson was perfect! When I asked if that was the style of teaching that we were supposed to implement he said absolutely and that it was ideal. Amazing! Such a seemingly educated man completely contradicted everything he seemed to stand for in the classroom and, worse, that is what we are supposed to strive for! Above everything else I learned how much I have to offer here. The entire experience completely reaffirmed my reasons for being here and made me feel like I am truly needed. Before we left we were able to play with some of the kids and my goodness do they love cameras! They would run in front of the camera to get their pictures taken and would jump and scream around. Some of the little ones even put chalk on their faces so they could look like the muzungus. It was a very eye opening day but the eagerness of the kids makes it all worth it for me. I definitely have my work cut out for my while I’m here!

I’ve had plenty of ups and downs and some days are definitely harder than others. I am trying not to focus so much on the negative and keep my mind on the positive but it is definitely a struggle at times. Dealing with all the unwanted negative attention has been one of the hardest things for me here. The kids run after you in town and touch your arms to see if touching your white skin will make them turn white. It’s a constant thing. The men shout rude comments after you and ask to be your Ugandan husband. Sometimes they ask for even worse. I’m working really hard to not get hung up on all of this and I feel like I’m doing a better job. I try to greet everyone I come in contact with so that they know that I am a part of this community. It seems to help and they absolutely love it when I speak Luganda! They are shocked to hear their language coming from a foreigner’s mouth.

Now for a positive story…I had the most amazing day earlier this week. At school I was totally understanding my language and making progress. After lunch current PCVs gave us a presentation on educational materials and my group made a beautiful alphabet chart, complete with manuscript lines, on a cut rice bag! It was wonderful and even better I was able to take it with me! After school another volunteer and I came back to my house where my brother cut up a jack fruit and gave it to us. Jack fruit is amazing and always puts me in a good mood! Then we milked the cow (or tried to, but that’s another story). Later that night I played volleyball, with a soccer ball, with Miriam and Olive. It was so much fun to be in the front yard just playing with my sister and cousin. My limited volleyball experience to them was expertise and they were eager to learn the basics. After dinner my mom was helping me with my flashcards and language pronunciation. Days like this remind me why I’m here and make all the struggles completely worth it. I feel so blessed to be here and to be part of this amazing culture. I am learning so much and each day is a new experience.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I know this one was a bit long. I miss all of you more than you know and love reading all the emails! Please keep me posted! Send me pictures! I love hearing what you guys are up to.

Siiba Bulungi! (Have a good day!)


Sunday, February 28, 2010

I've made it to Uganda!

Hello All!

Hope this message finds you well. I have finally found an internet cafe in Kampala with reliable electricity and a FAST hook up! I have so much to tell you!

I am now going through training at Raco training center in Wakiso. Training is 6 days a week and includes language training (my language is Luganda which means I will be posted in the Baganda region after training), culture training, Ugandan history, school curriculum, safety and security, health, and necessary life skills. As far as life skills go this past weekend we went into a nearby village and learned all about gardening and composting. We built several different types of gardens for the community and were even able to plant some vegetables for them as well. Next weekend we will be learning all about cooking and I think I will even learn to cook a meal for my host family. My host family has hosted 3 volunteers before me and they are awesome. I have 3 brothers, Steven, Ezra, and Alfred and a sister Miriam. They teach me so much and also help me to practice my language. Miriam even gave me a local Ugandan name, Nakiganda (pronounced Nah-chi-gahn-dah). I try to use it whenever I go into town because the vendors tend to give me a lower price when I don't have a muzungu name. Muzungu means "white person" and whenever we walk into town, or anywhere for that matter, locals and kids especially shout it at you.

A little about Africa...the food actually isn't that bad. The fruit here is so fresh and sweet, it is by far my favorite thing to eat. I have pineapples, bananas, watermelon, papyaya, and jackfruit all the time. Jackfruit is the most amazing thing ever...look it up to find out what it is! I don't like matoke or posho but I love the cooked cabbage that my host my makes for me. I'm definitely starting to miss American food, which surprised me because it's only been a few weeks! Today in Kampala we were able to get pizza and it was so good! Cheese is hard to come by locally and it was awesome to be able to have some on my pizza for lunch.

My only luxury at homestay is electricity, when it is working. I use a pit latrine and take a bath using a bucket of water and a cup. I've adjusted pretty quickly and really have no issues with either. I sleep under a mosquito net and take anti-malaria pills daily. I've also gotten so many shots! Medical comes once a week and so far we've gotten a different shot, if not multiple shots, every week.

The country is beautiful and the weather is just like home. It's rained almost every day since I've been here and were about to go into the rainy season which means it will continue to rain. It gets dark about 7-7:30 every night and the sun comes up about 7 each morning.

In the evenings my host family watches the "soaps" which are awful TV programs originally in Spanish and dubbed over in English. I could go on and on about them but the bottom line is they are awful. Think of telenovellas times 10 and it still can't even compare to how awful these are! And they're one almost every family loves them!

That's all I have for now. I will try and update as soon as I can. Email me! I love reading email and seeing what's going on back home. Be patient if I don't respond right away. The electricity is unreliable in Wakiso and I can't make it to Kampala very often. As often as I can I will read and respond to emails. Updating my blog will take a little longer and be expecting pictures soon! I love and miss you all very much and look forward to hearing from you!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Last post for a while...

Hey all,

First I want to thank everyone for being so incredibly supportive this past week. I felt truly blessed to be surrounded by so much love at the going away party and it was awesome to be able to see everyone one last time for a while. Thank you for making it such a success!

So far staging has been crazy! My plane was delayed going in to Philly because of the snow and we had to leave early to avoid the snow storm coming in tonight. We're now in New York and are scheduled to fly out on time, at 10:30 tomorrow morning from JFK. If everything goes according to plan, we'll arrive in South Africa around 9 in the morning then have about a 5 hour lay over. I should arrive to Entebbe, Uganda by about 7:00pm Thursday evening (local time). I want everyone to know that I don't know when I'll have access to phone or internet to let you guys know that I made it in safely so don't panic if you don't hear from me for a few weeks.

That's all for now! I'm so excited that everything is finally happening and I will be working with a wonderful group of people for the next two years. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers and don't forget to write me letters!

I love you all,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ugandan News Websites

A member of my PCT group shared the following Ugandan news sites with us:


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Less than 1 month away!

I made my plan ticket reservations for staging! I will be leaving San Antonio on February 8th at 10:30am and arriving in Philadelphia at 5:10pm. From there, we will leave Philly at 2:30am on February 10th, drive to New York and fly out from the NY airport at 10:30am. We'll have a lay over in Johannesburg and arrive in Entebbe at 7:10pm on Thursday, February 11.

Uganda is 9 hours ahead of us.

According to my pre-service training description, here's a little of what I'll be doing once I get there...

Arrival/Week 1:
This week involves community entry, as Trainees begin to understand how to communicate with their Ugandan families and communities. We will explore Uganda’s history, issues of community development and the Volunteer’s role in that development, personal health, and cross-cultural issues. The focus is on community entry skills and techniques, the concept of HIV/AIDS, at the global level and the Ugandan situation.

Week 2 and 3: Field-based training:
In these weeks you will be exposed to many different relevant technical areas and issues regarding the health and development of Ugandan communities which will be presented to you through a combination of classroom and experiential learning activities. You will practice community entry techniques and you will learn how to work with grassroots development partners.

Week 4: PCV visit
During this week, all Trainees will be in the field experiencing some of the responsibilities they will assume as Volunteers. You will visit a current Peace Corps Volunteer during this period u
sing public transport and travel by your own self.

Week 5-10: Other key activities
You will be exposed to Peace Corps initiatives of Women and Gender in Development, ICT as well as youth empowerment initiatives. All of these sessions will be integrated with improved livelihood and capacity building development activities. You will have an opportunity to experiment with Village Savings and Loans, a great tool to use with people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers, and small business people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.