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


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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!


1 comment:

  1. Oh, Ashley!! I just can't wait to read your updated blog. It warms my heart. Hope Buzi is ok. Give him a tight squeeze 4 me. Well, we r officially coming to Africa, and I can't wait!!! Purchased tickets this week. 6 more months, girl, and we will be spending Christmas with you. Sounds like all is well with you. I bought some seeds to send you. Will get in the mail this week. Take care and love you very much. Will talk soon. Mom