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


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Friday, March 23, 2012

Soaking it all in

I've spent my last couple weeks in country winding up and saying good bye. I made the trip down to Rakai to visit everyone one last time and was welcomed with a potluck style lunch and some very happy faces. We shared a meal, exchanged farwells, and with one last group picture we parted ways. I can't even begin to express how satisfying it was to get that closure. Rakai changed my life and when I look back on my time spent in Uganda, it will always be home to me and the people there will always be my family.

I've also been traveling around the country a bit as an opportunity to spend time with my fellow PCVs, who have also become family to me over the past 2 years. We climbed a volcano and experienced being in 3 places at one time: the borders of Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda all met at the peak. We had one last killer holiday party for St. Patrick's day and stumbled upon a Bobi Wine (famous Ugandan singer) concert, front row of course.

Mount Sabinyo

St. Patrick's Day 2012, Peace Corps style

I took part in an ajon (local brew common in Eastern Uganda) circle with another PCV and his neighbor, Miriam. She cooked a simple local meal for us and we sat in her kitchen and enjoyed it with our hands. I'm really going to miss the simple way of life here. Sitting outside, no power, with thousands of stars above our heads and just enjoying each others' company. No obligations, just living in the here and now. I've loved the sense of community and being welcomed into homes and invited to share meals. When we left Miriam's house she embraced me with a genuine hug and wished me a safe trip back to America and told me she'd be sending me positive thoughts. I felt so much pure and honest emotion from this woman, whom I've met maybe 3 times. I am thankful for these experiences and so many more.

I have a little over a week left in Uganda. There will be a silent disco, aka, headphone party where everyone is given a headset and literally dances to their own beat. I'll have a send off meal out East, with both American and Ugandan food, with an amazing parish that has considered me a part of them for the past year and a half. I'll finish up with a week in Kampala full of admin meetings, medical, and paperwork. Then it's off to Nairobi next Friday. From Nairobi there are 4 of us traveling together in SE Asia.

Here's what we have so far for our next adventure...

April 3 arrive in Bangkok, Thailand
We'll have a night or 2 to explore the city and get our visas in order before heading South.

April 5-7 full moon party in Kho Pha Ngan
On a Southern island, the full moon party is famous worldwide. I've been told people start pre-partying up to 3 days before the and on the night of the full moon the party goes until 11am. There are notorious buckets of vodka and redbull, glowsticks, battling djs, thousands of people. We'll have a day or 2 to recover before we get PADI certified.

April 13-17 Chang Mai for Songkran, Thai New Years
The biggest water fight in the world. The entire country shuts down for the festival and it is celebrated nation wide. We're making the trek North to experience the main location where the celebration takes place. Squirt guns, water balloons, buckets of water...bring it on!

From Thailand we're heading to Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. We'll do a little more time in S. Thailand before flying out of Vietnam and into Chicago, to meet up with another volunteer. After a few days in Chicago I'll be back in Texas on May 20th.

Can't wait to see everyone in person and to catch up on all the hugs I've been missing over the past 2 years. That's it on my end right now. What's been going on with you? Email me


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Good Stuff

As a PCV, at the end of your service you have a final conference. Similar to the ones we had 3 months in and half way through, my close of service (COS) conference was at the end of January. It was at a swanky hotel in Entebbe and consisted of sessions on readjustment, saying goodbye, and winding things down, to name a few.

COS was emotional in the sense it was the last time our entire training group was together in one place. A few volunteers worked really hard putting together a slideshow that encapsulated our last 2 years here. Looking through all the pictures made it really hit me that I have in fact been here for 2 years. Such a significant amount of time though it feels like it could have been days.

On the last night of the conference we had a nicer dinner outside under the gazebo and we all dressed up. I was walking back from dinner when one of the workers stopped me. I thought there may be a problem with the room or something and, I'm ashamed to admit, I was prepared to get fairly annoyed at whatever problem could have possibly come up. I couldn't have been more wrong. She was a student of mine from the vocational school in Rakai and she came up to me to thank me for teaching her cooking classes! She graduated and was able to get a job with the hotel. I was shocked. It was definitely one of my highest moments in country. A previous student not only recognized me among 27 other white people staying at the hotel but called me by my local name and embraced me in a genuine hug to thank me for what I taught her.

A volunteer recently asked me to recall some of my best experiences over the past 2 years and this was one of them. The other was when I was signing in campers at camp GLOW and so many of them remembered me from giving AFRIpads presentations at their schools.

That's why I'm in Uganda. And I've loved every minute of it.

Getting ready to leave my site and packing up and selling things has been kind of an emotional whirlwind. I never got the chance to say bye to my community and friends in Rakai (something I hope to rectify next week)and honestly I don't feel that Nakaseke has been as much of a home to me as Rakai was.

Even so, getting ready to leave I had an unexpected amazing time the other night just hanging out with teachers behind the staff housing. They were all cooking dinner together and standing around talking. I contributed a few pineapples and we all enjoyed them together. They were talking candidly with me about my time in Uganda and thanking me for giving up so much to help their country. What almost brought tears to my eyes was when my counterpart took my hand and held it while thanking me for teaching him how to be a better teacher. He said I inspired him and reminded him to teach the students with passion. I've only known this man for a few months but I will never forget him or his kind words.

2 years. It's been one of the most life changing experiences I've ever had and definitely the best decision I've ever made.

Next up: Thailand and SE Asia. Itinerary to come soon. Mark your calendars, I'm back in Texas on May 20th!

Much Love,