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


The contents and opinions of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I've been up an down lately. With all the difficulties I've been experiencing, both personally and professionally, I have lost focus of why I'm here. I feel like I'm going crazy. My emotions have gone haywire and I cry almost every time someone asks me about my site. I hate not having control and not being able to keep myself in check. I'm not that person, and I don't want to become that person.

Yes, I am here for a certain extent. I'm here to learn about myself, to push myself outside of my comfort zone, to grow, and to to get the experience of a lifetime. After living here for a year, I can confidently say I know myself better than I ever have before and that I have changed. Africa changes you. Peace Corps changes you. I think it's change for the better, though.

So while I am here for myself, more importantly I am here for my community. For the little boy sitting next to me on my taxi ride home who I share a muffin with. For the kids who greet me at my doorstep. For the shop owners who offer a genuine smile and handshake every time I stop by to buy eggs or bread. For the voices calling "Bye, Kirabo!" from the matooke fields as I pass by on my way home. For the lady who gives me a free pineapple because I greeted her in the local language. For my students whose scores have dramatically improved since I started teaching them. For the girls and women all over Uganda who I have been educating end empowering to be able to take care of their bodies. For the brothers who now know how to bake. For the children's ward in the health center. For the sisters who feed me dinner every Sunday night. For teaching scrabble. For playing volleyball. For being invited to visit family members. For every member of Biikira Parish who picked up a paint brush to help complete 8 murals in the village and for every person who reads the messages from these murals.

That's why I'm here. Life is difficult and messy and right now I seem to be getting hit from all angles, but I've spent enough time being sad. It's time to pick myself back up and make the best of my situation. I love my village and my community too much to give up on them now. Does that make me crazy? Maybe, but I know they love and respect me just as much, if not more. And maybe that makes them crazy.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Third Gender

Being a woman in Uganda is challenging. Living here has made me realize how much I took for granted being a women in America. Uganda is a country where women are still seen as lesser than men. This is apparent when you see any Ugandan woman greet a man...she kneels down, lowers her eyes, and shakes his hand. It's the way the culture is here and while I may not agree with it, I'm by no means in any position to try and change it.

What's more challenging is being a white woman in Uganda. Sure the sexual harassment and the negative attention are a lot to deal with, but I've learned to tolerate them (most of the time). What I still sometimes struggle with is being part of a "third gender." The Ugandan man is definitely at the top and the Ugandan woman is definitely at the bottom. Based on the color of my skin and all that it implies (that I have money, that I'm educated, etc.) I fall somewhere in the middle where I'm not quite equal to a man but I'm treated with more respect than a woman. I understand this, but it doesn't make it any easier.

Sometimes I am treated like a man out of respect but I definitely don't get the same privileges. As a woman if I speak my mind I have to be very careful of what I say and who I say it to. If I have an idea that I know will benefit the community I need to make sure it comes from a man if I every want to implement it. Other times I am separated from the women, again out of respect, because as a "visitor" you are expected to talk and eat with members of higher class, ie men, and not those who prepare the meals and clean, ie, women.

Just something interesting to think about. Uganda is behind America in terms of gender equality (Ugandan men can't believe male Peace Corps volunteers cook for me or help me wash dishes!). Being a part of this culture has made me appreciate how I am viewed and treated in America. Definitely something I'm looking forward to coming home to.