In the Life of Allie Muehe...

Thoughts and actions as of February 19th, 2006 mostly regarding my Peace Corps assignment to Uganda. I am leaving for Boston for my staging event (orientation) on March 2, 2006 and leave for Uganda on March 5, 2006.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


My cat, Mwenya (smile in Luganda), gave birth to 6 kittens last night! All of my neighbors are telling me that my cat waited for me because the first night I was home after being away more than a week because of a conference in Kampala. I'm not sure if I believe that, but I'm excited that after missing the birth of my goats that I am at least here for this. The kittens are adorable, they are all either completely black, like the mom, or spotted black and white. I have never seen kittens that young before. Maybe because I have never been near a cat after it has given birth, but from what I have seen it is remarkably clean. There was one small spot on my floor and a bit in the basin-I expected a lot worse. Cleanliness isn't my point of this blog, just to express my happiness about the newest members of my home (-:

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Wow, already I have more than half the funding needed to complete my tree nursery project. I'm estatic. Also completely humbled and amazed at how generous people are. Although I don't have access to the list of donors, I do know that many people have given support to my project whom I don't know or I don't know well and this proves how great these people are. At this rate I will be able to start my project very soon, just in time for the rainy season! Anyways, I just wanted to say thank you to all the people who have given support to my project, with money or encouragement. If you would like to donate and find my project has been fully funded, there are others that are completed by other Peace Corps volunteers, just scroll to the Uganda projects. Again, all of you are wonderful people and I hope I will return to thank you in person soon!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Please help me and one of my primary schools!

Well... I really hate to do this, but it has to be done.

I have written a grant for one of my best and favorite primary schools in my zone to develop a tree nursery. Unfortunately, the year I joined Peace Corps was the last year the traditional sources of grant funding agreed to support agriculture or environmental projects in order to increase the number of HIV/AIDS projects (which is an equally important issue in Uganda). On the Peace Corps Website there is a description of the project and an opportunity to give support by donation. I would really appreciate any and all support given. Thanks!!!!!!!!

Long time

I know it has been a long time since I have written a blog (woah, 2 months..sorry sorry) but I have actually had a busy end of the year. November and December consists of the last term of the school year and is one of the busiest times of the year because my CCT (my co-worker) and I have to attend many meetings, speech days (like open house), attended and facilitated workshops, and taught teachers getting their certificate while working...basically the usual. I have also tried to focus more on my masters thesis project because I only have a few months left and the my allowance of procrastination by the mugongo waazi (dried fish carcasses, the object of my project) workers has to be stopped.
BUT, the biggest news is that my parents came to visit Uganda. We first spent a week on the coast of Kenya and then came to Uganda. The resort in Kenya and the safari we went on in the nation park of Tsavo East were great-can't beat white sandy beaches and lions. When we traveled in Uganda things did not go so smooth, mostly due to transportation problems, and in general the living conditions were not up to standard. We saw many places and completed many activities-chimpanzee tracking, attending a music, dance and drama festival at my village primary school, going to the zoo in Entebbe, visiting Jinja and the Ssese Islands, touring Kampala a little bit and of course African craft shopping. I think the most beneficial part of my parents coming to visit is their ability to see and understand my life here better. It was wonderful to see my parents after a year apart and I am so grateful that they made the effort and sacrifice to come to Africa.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

SO Peace Corps

I know I know, I have been awful about putting up blog postings-about a month and a half without one! I have been very busy with my teachers I’m helping get their certificate while working, conducting workshops, finishing building fish dryers for my masters’ thesis, having meetings regarding education in my district and grants I’m working on, and many other things. This is time when Peace Corps says I’m ‘in the thick of things’ because all of my various projects are coming together now.

During one of my week long trainings that I was conducting at various schools, one day I was biking to a nearby school, only a few miles. I have to preface this story to describe the condition accurately: I’m biking on a dirt road going through small villages on a mountain bike which about 5% of people in my district have and I’m wearing a helmet. Not only am I Caucasian which makes kids go crazy anyways, but I’m in a skirt on an unusual mode of transport with a helmet on. Then it starts raining. People in Uganda are scared of the rain, for many reasons, mostly because they associate rain with sickness because there is no other time the temperature goes below 80 degrees. So I’m already looking ridiculous when a light sprinkle turns into a downpour in about 4 minutes (which is very typical here). People are looking at me from under trees or verandas or home doorways and looking at me or shouting at me to wait for the rain to stop. I don’t want to wait because I know I will be late and even though everyone in Uganda is late to everything, I don’t want to set a bad example, and I figured I’m wet anyways, why not just get drenched? I’m about 50 yards from the school when the rain stops and I ride into the compound. The teachers are looking at me from inside the doorway and yelling ‘Bambi!’ which loosely translates to ‘oh, dear, sorry, too bad.’ I had to first wring out the bottom of my skirt and button down shirt, then went to a classroom to wait for more teachers to come in with a pitied look on their faces.

The next day I went to a ‘deep’ school, or a school that is a bit difficult to get to because you have to go into a very rural area by small pathways. I had no idea where I was going and had to ask people along the way. I was quite a sight again as I was biking with a helmet, and being Caucasian, but at least it wasn’t raining! I tried using as little luganda as possible so they didn’t confuse me while I slowly wandered around finding huts to ask directions and find the correct paths to the school.

Both of these days while on the bike I thought, wow, I don’t even have to do these seminars; I’m trying so hard not to be late while knowing for sure I won’t start for at least 30-40 minutes after I arrive; and of course- what am I doing here. The ever present thought in my head was, ‘wow, I am SO Peace Corps today.’

Thursday, September 13, 2007

So True.....

Sorry, not much to report, but a fellow volunteer sent these online articles to me and I wanted to share them because I'm not sure everyone understands some of these things:

Peace Corps
Save Africa


Monday, September 03, 2007


So one time last year I was walking through Jinja and I saw a sign outside of a beauty parlor that had descriptions some of their services, like weaving, coloring, cutting.... and blaiding. I thought it was hilarious but I understood their mistake because in the Luganda language and l and r sound the same and are used in spelling according to the vowel proceeding it. I have been thinking about b(l)raiding my hair the whole time I have been here and last week finally sat down and got it done. It took almost 4 hours and they didn't really know what to do because with my 'white person's hair' it makes braiding much more difficult. I thought they were a bit more experienced than others but they didn't know I needed rubber bands to hold the braids.... oh well, one more fun experience in Uganda!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Congressional Deligation Lunch

Today I went to a Congressional Delegation lunch at a cafe near Masaka that is located on the equator. I had passed this place before but never actually got out and done the tourist thing and taken a picture. A couple other PCVs and I met with a few spouses of members of Congress and some of the Congressional Delegation committee (other people who work with and for congressmen). While at the cafe, we met local artists who display and sell African art at the cafe and to other vendors around East Africa. It was very nice, I met two spouses from New York and we talked about the finger lakes region for a long time. Here is a photo of Genia, another PCV and I at the equator. It's funny because she is from Mississippi and I'm from New York...I mean it's not the mason dixon line or anything, but still... The second photo is of a few of the committee members trying to cross the road, but I like this photo because it clearly shows where the equator is. Not as though I actually believe it's the exact line, but it's still a nice tribute.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

More School Photos...

The other day I went to a school to conduct a workshop on the generic teaching method (basically child-centered teaching methods to get away from the writing notes on the board and having children read and repeat the notes on the board so they can memorize the words and not actually learn the material). This is an example of when it rains here it pours. As you can see on the other buildings, we have iron roofs but no ceilings so when it even sprinkles it sounds like elephants coming. Needless to say with this downpour we had to suspend our seminar. This happens all the time and it usually only lasts at most and hour. There are major floods then it goes back to dry dirt in a matter of hours.
This next photo is at a 'science' fair that I attended at one of my schools (even gave a 10 minute speech in luganda!). The school had each grade have a couple 'exhibits', like the one seen in the photo, that describes something related to science or health. Younger kids did things like proper nutrition with a variety of foods or personal hygiene. The older kids did things like distillation, agricultural practices, uses for plastic bags, and here they are showing people how to make beads out of paper (some people have seen them because they sold in some catalogs that are aimed to help people in third world countries). The woman on the right is my CCT (coordinating center tutor), or my counterpart who I work with on a daily basis. She's great!


Regarding the Nigeria Vs. Uganda football game, here is a photo of the stadium with both teams, Uganda in red and Nigeria in white. As you can see, it's a real stadium and it was PACKED with people. Leaving the stadium looked like a sea of people walking on two roads, it was crazy. MTN is the leading telecom company in Uganda, including my phone carrier.

Here is a photo at one of my primary schools of the local inter school soccer competition. It's almost similar to sectionals in high school as in you start competing locally then going sub zone then zonal the district wide then finally National (almost like statewide competition). The biggest difference is that the team that advances consists of the best players of both teams so the players don't represent a particular school, but an area. I don't like this method because the kids don't even get to practice together and don't have pride for their school. It also encourages personal and not team oriented playing so the boy might have good skills but he doesn't want to play as a team. The second photo is after the end of the game with all the students rushing the field (my zone, Kangulumira, won). The headmasters, on the left, are shaking hands, almost as if they had anything to do with the win.

At the same time as soccer competitions, which is only for boys, the girls play netball. (According to men here if a girl has netball why should she want to play soccer? Ugh....) It is a mix between basketball and handball. I love watching this game, well, actually it's pretty boring. The girls aren't good, so similar to girls lacrosse, there are calls every 10 seconds so plays get reset constantly. It's great to see girls being physical and aggressive because in this society they are so passive and quiet which often leads to suppression and unfortunate sexual relations. Also notice how people literally stand on the side of both the netball and soccer field...when I was a referee that would not been happening, same with the people who hang out behind the goals...oh no, definitely not.

Starting Photos... first some animals

Ok, so I finally stopped being lazy and looked at the icon of a photo to know how to upload photos to my blog. Maybe this will make me post more blog entries...

A few months ago I talked about my goat giving birth, and here is a photo of me holding the two babies. Notice how they can't hold their heads up... poor things )-: Anyways, it was fun for a little while to try and be Dr. Dolittle. In the background is my primary school and I'm standing on the field (yes, it's a hill) that I tried to coach soccer on.
To continue with the animal stories.... These are my two cats. The one on the left was my original cat (her name is Ferrari) who ran away for a month so she's smaller than her sister on the right. The sister belonged to Tessa until the past few weeks because she thinks her athsma attacks are because of the cat (her name is Mwenya-to smile in Lugand). They are adorable and I love them. The only bad thing is that they play in my sitting room and wreck everything and get everything dirty...ah well, it's ok, it's what I get for wanting a pet.

I have a name

I really don’t like being negative on my blog. However, I must talk about the recent reinstatement of children calling me ‘muzungu.’ According to Ugandans, muzungu is a term of endearment for all people with white skin. When adults call me muzungu it is usually in a rude way and just to get my attention for no reason at all or to try and get me to buy something. For children, they usually get a song going: ‘muzungu, how are you, muzungu, how are you…’ and many children look at you in wonder and excitement. The children come to roadside or even from the safety of their house and scream at the top of their lungs muzungu until you turn around then they say BYE again, as loud as they can. Even if you wave or greet them in luganda, they will go back to screaming bye or muzungu until you are out of sight. When we first arrive, it’s not a big deal, the screaming and jumping children don’t bother you so much and you just brush the name off. I have been here for almost a year and a half and have repeatedly told everyone that calls me Muzungu that I don’t like that word and that I have a name. My village is really good about knowing one of my names (namutebi in luganda or Allison, well they pronounce it allicy) or calling me nnyabo (miss/mrs in lugand). But in the past month I have been visiting my deep village schools to monitor my teachers and the kids don’t remember me or have never seen me before, so I have been hounded a lot by these kids. Most people would say, oooouu, too bad for you, you are like a celebrity-get over it. But it’s much more than being a celebrity, to me it seems like the children grow up thinking people with white skin aren’t even human. I feel as though they think of me simply as a foreign animal. Take children at a zoo, what do they do? Some are scared and yell from afar, some go right to the animal and try to touch it, most just want to watch it and do things to make it react and move. After the children get the animal to react-by looking at them, moving, etc. they laugh and try it again until another more interesting animal comes along. That’s precisely what children here do to me. I have many children just come up and pat me (even on clothed areas, so I don’t get the difference), scream til their lungs bleed to get me to give them attention, when I do they burst into giggles or screams then repeat. A few times on my bike I have had children throw things at me so I will look at them. It’s crazy. I really don’t appreciate it. Yes, I will admit, sometimes I do get special treatment and I enjoy it so maybe I do deserve to take the good with the bad. But all I am asking is for these children to treat me like a human.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I have just received a package from an amazing women and family from Minnesota. The Schulte family learned about my Peace Corps service by finding my blog while searching for people with relevance to Uganda. I want to make a public thank you because it was the sweetest thing to receive any kind of physical proof that people are acknowledging and appreciating my life in Uganda. Although I don’t need or deserve any kind of gratitude for living here or being in Peace Corps, it is nice to know that people are thinking of me, even people I have never met. This is the second package I have received from a family that I have never met and it makes me feel wonderful that there are people in the US that care enough to take time to pick things out, package and send them. Even knowing that random families just might be talking about ‘this girl’ who is volunteering in Uganda, which might spur a conversation about service work, East Africa, Peace Corps, etc. is awesome. It’s things like this that help me keep going here, so thank you Schulte family!

On a similar note, my friend Meggie sent me a package in June of 2006 and I finally got it! It took it over a year to get here! I really don't understand why this happened because I have received things from America within 2 months and there was nothing wrong with the packaging. Either way, I was very happy to have gotten it and although some of the candy had to be discarded (I shed a tear for every chocolate morsel) it's the thought that counts.

While talking about packages, my mom has been continually heeding to my ridiculous whims and sending me candy, toenail polish, fast food toys (my little neighbor kids LOVE them), local newspaper clippings, etc. Both of my parents have been wonderful and supportive, no matter how much I complain (-:

Monday, July 23, 2007


Oh, so many meetings....

Every term we have headteacher meetings to organize them, remind them of responsibilities, plan activities, and schedule workshops. These are usually well attended, like 65-75% of headteachers come. Yes, this is well attended. Like workshops, these meetings are not attended punctually, usually we start over an hour later than planned. I am so used to this system that if the meeting is at my school I will check in but not actually stay in the meeting room until an hour later than planned because I know I will be reading my book or twiddling my thumbs until more head teachers arrive. There are termly meetings at the district level for all of the headteachers that the Ministry of Education hold that are similar to the meetings we hold but on a larger scale. We are actually not always informed about these meetings although they like and expect us there. To tell you the truth, I feel they are a waste of time because they don't really involve us and because of the traveling to the district headquarters and waiting for the teachers to arrive, it takes all day with little that comes from it.

Other meetings I have are monthly with the the other CCTs in Kayunga district(coordinating center tutors, like each zone in the district has a CCT). These are nice because it keeps the CCTs in check and we report to the other CCTs what we are doing and we are able to coordinate activities that are district wide. I have the same type of monthly organizational meetings with Shimoni Teacher's college. Those are nice because we meet in Kampala and the college principal and deputy principal of outreach (my technical boss) give us updates on our students (teachers who are working towards their teaching certificate while teaching in the village schools). We also get to talk with other CCTs from other districts.

I also have termly meetings with the teachers in charge of environmental activities at the primary schools in my zone. I have been trying to encourage these activities at the primary level and like to monitor these teachers. Also, we have an environmental competition at the end of the year that I like to remind them about. Sometimes I do a small lecture about things like composting and waste management.

So many meetings.... talk talk talk.....

Workshops and Conferences

The first of many conferences I went to was our MST (mid-service training). It was held in Mukono (outside of Kampala) at a decent hotel, it had a shower! It was a short conference (1.5 days) but it was really nice to see everyone in my PC class and catch up with the people who live far away from me. We just went over a few details about our last year (like grant due dates, travel policy, etc.) and a security update. I have only had my phone stolen in a very awful situation that I know I should have been more careful, so the security awareness lecture didn't really include me and I got in trouble many times for not paying attention. It was like middle school all over again (-:

The next week I had a 3 day medical check up in Kampala. It didn't really NEED 3 days, but with travel time they give you 3 days. Mostly, the check up consists of a physical with blood and stool tests, and a dental cleaning. For the medical part we go to the PC medical officer who works at the PC office. We have 2 PCMOs and they are awesome. They are both registered nurses, one from England and one from Germany. I don't think I will have better health care again because they are available 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week by phone. The only problem is that if we want to see them we have to go to Kampala. The dental appointment is by one of two PC approved dentists who work in Kampala. The man I went to was great-very intelligent, had a clean and sufficient office. I luckily didn't have any cavities (most PCVs do, we don't know why...), but he said that my gums are receding because I brush too hard. Ha, oh muscles...

After that week, I went to Kampala for a week of a Life Skills Workshop. Not to teach me life skills (like how to communicate, about self-esteem, saying no to drugs and sex, etc.), but we were trained in how to teach life skills to various groups (for me primary school kids, so many of the activities are too mature for them). That workshop was actually really nice because I attended with a small class that arrived in Uganda after I did. My class did this workshop last year when I was leaving for home for Christmas vacation. I was able to get to know this class and being a smaller class (only 12 of them) we were fairly time efficient. My counterpart also attended and I am good friends with her so it was nice for her to get to know the other PCVs also.

The AVC (all volunteer conference) was at the same place as the life skills training and began the same day that the training ended. It was at this large hotel/hostel on the outskirts of Kampala. The actual hotel wasn't very nice, most of the showers didn't work and my room was facing the 'restaurant' and they chose to blare music all night every night, no matter if we complained. However, it was close to the city and we went out a few times. This conference was mostly intended for all the volunteers (my class, the smaller later class, and the large new class that is a year after my class) to get to know each other. There were almost 100 of us, 50 being the new class. Needless to say, I only met about half of the 'newbies'. The technical reason for us to be there is to review a type of grant reporting, security issues, and update PC committees.

The other workshops I went to I actually facilitated with my CCT (coordinating center tutor-my counterpart). The workshops or seminars were: reviewing the implementation of the thematic curriculum and a week long workshop (each day a different sub zone) on generic teaching method (basically child-centered learning methods). Then tomorrow we are doing a joint seminar on financial and material budgeting with general school improvement. This one of main parts of my job-to conduct seminars and workshops. It is not something that I particularly enjoy, am skilled at, or do well, but I still have to do. It has made me a much better public speaker, even though because of my 'accent' and language usage Ugandans don't always understand me. Like I will say something and seeing black faces I have my CCT repeat, almost verbatim, what I say and then you see nods of agreement or some kind of sign of acknowledgment. These workshops are also a bit frustrating because people come late (as in 1.5 hours late at least) and expect food or travel expenses. We train and give information for free-in America businesses have to pay a lot of money to attend trainings or workshops. But here these schools don't have money and these teachers don't want to come, they are told to by their headteachers so they see it as an inconvenience. They also have to leave their classes because people refuse to come to seminars on the weekends. Anyways, this is the 1 of 2 ways here that I am able to 'teach' because although I work at a primary school I don't have daily or weekly lessons with kids. Actually, I have only taught children once, it was a P4 class and I taught them how to bake on a charcoal stove.

Been a while….

I know, I know, I haven’t posted anything in over a month. I have actually been strangely busy. Since the beginning of July, or since I went to the soccer game, I have attended a bunch of workshops, facilitated workshops, had medical checkups, meetings, Kampala visits, etc. I will now try to post a short blog about each of these topics.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Uganda Vs. Nigeria

Soccer game. The first time I past the enormous Nelson Mandela Stadium in Namboole, on the outskirts of Kampala, I knew I wanted to watch a football game there. That was over a year ago, but I finally fulfilled of my many goals I have during my time here. Last Saturday I went with some other volunteers to one of the biggest games of the year, Uganda verses their rival: Nigeria. I knew it would be a crazy game and a bit unsafe, but fun none the less. Since this was a big game, the already high ticket prices went higher and unfortunately we bought the most expensive seats. When purchasing the tickets, the lady at the phone accessories store, that's attached to a credible, expensive, muzungo eatery, said that there were three ticket prices with the differences being: lowest-no seats or shade, mid-range-shade but no seats, highest-shade and seats. Then she mentioned that sometimes there are seats for the people who arrive early in the mid-range seats, early as in 8am for the 4:30pm game. Therefore, we decided the expensive tickets were worth it. Leaving Kampala at 2pm, we got to the stadium at 3:30pm, a ride that usually takes 20 minutes. Once we entered the stadium, we tried to look for any indication of seating assignments or people that may work there, but found none, so we asked the most reliable person we could think of: a guy in army fatigues. He pointed us in the right direction of the 'special seats' that had an iron gate before it and when we arrived there were about 30 people loitering in front of the door. Apparently there were a bunch of drunk men who went out to get another drink and left their tickets inside but for some reason the workers didn't take them to the side and deal with the situation, they made us stand there and wonder what the hell was going on. The way lines or any type of waiting for an entry goes in this country is to push and push and cut in line until you are inside or have received your thing. There is no sense of personal space, you are generally jammed against someone until the line gets moving, even then, if you can move an inch, they expect you to or will try and cut in front of you (this is how driving and parking is too, but that's another blog for another day...). But we finally got in and realized that all tickets have the same seating and optional cover. However, the most expensive seats were in the middle of the field and the sun at your back. But after the team started warming up on the field, I realized for my only game in Uganda, it was worth the extra money because although people were still obnoxiously excited, they were not crazy like in the other part of the stands, and we had a great view of the game. The game started with Ugandans being typical Ugandans: working individually, trying to be showoffs, being dramatic and having none of these tactics working. The larger and bulkier Nigerian team played composed, clean, and patient soccer-so naturally they had possession most of the time. First goal was by the Nigerians after a quick transition and the highly skilled forward got the ball at the top of the box, completely schooled two Ugandan defenders and had a beautiful, low, hard shot in the opposite side of the goal. After that, in my opinion, the Nigerians got a little too affected by the crowd and dirty, dramatic way the Ugandans played. Right before the first half, Uganda tied the score from a penalty kick, earned because the goalie came out and apparently clipped the forwards feet. After a quick and boring halftime (no halftime show like during the Superbowl (-: but it wasn't a long break), the second half was exciting but disappointing as both teams played sloppier and more dramatic, aka, more to the level of the Ugandan players. With about 10-15 minutes left (I don't know because the digital clock at the stadium wasn't working), the a Ugandan forward totally dramatized a fall in the box and they scored on a penalty kick. After that blow, the Nigerian team couldn't earn another one, even though they had a few chances with the ball just missed the goal by 2 feet at most. After the game, people threw bottles and tons of garbage onto the field while storming the players and invading the field. It was complete chaos with people cheering, dancing, and celebrating like they earned the win themselves. On one hand, I was so angry that the better team was cheated out of a win because of technicalities and the dirty game the Ugandans played almost embarrassed me. Yes yes, when I played soccer I was also very aggressive, on the fence of dirty, but I tried very hard and prided myself with playing with class and integrity. The Ugandans tried as hard as they could to rub it in the faces of the visiting Nigerians that they won and surprisingly, no fights broke out and as far as I could see they didn't retaliate. They were not sore losers as much as Ugandans were classless winners. In the stream of thousands of people trying to leave the stadium on a dirt, two lane road, we found 4 huge Nigerians walking towards Kampala. As it was getting dark and being short, fairly weak muzungus, we decided to walk with them, because even as people jeered and shouted things at them, they just laughed and kept walking. One even said that he was so happy because this must be the best day of the year for Uganda. I knew none of the scrawny Ugandans would do anything to these mammoth men, so as night was soon coming, we figured we would walk with them. Once they noticed three young white kids with them, not too hard since there aren't many of us, they were very nice and made sure when they got in a taxi that we would be ok. Basically, I was very impressed with the nature of the Nigerians I saw today. I know I am a little biased because I did not see the game in Nigeria when Uganda lost a few months ago. Although disappointed in the outcome of the game, it was a great experience and I would not have changed anything. It really was amazing for this little country to feel some kind of pride and patriotism, because they usually show so little. So thinking for Uganda, I am very glad they won, even if it wasn't an honorable win. After the game, I heard someone say, 'wow, it's like they have never won anything in their life.' As a country? Not so much.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Last week I returned home from a workshop that lasted almost 2 weeks at a teacher's college in Iganga. It was a refresher course for all CCTs (coordinating center tutor, like a education monitor and developer for the village schools in a county) that any PCVs associated with the college had to go to in order to 'fully understand the job of the CCT.' This kinda makes sense seeing how we work hand in hand with the CCT and our official job is to work with them to improve the education system here. However, the workshop was one part of a course that they will receive a certificate of merit for and we are just there to give ideas and network. I had a good time overall because I was able to meet and get to know some of the new volunteers that just swore in a few weeks ago. The workshop was a bit of a burden for them because the first few months are meant for setting up your house and getting to know your community. They had basically arrived at their site then had to leave within a day or two. Most don't have any furniture, food, or basic necessities and haven't unpacked. It was kinda strange for me at the workshop because I went to a workshop there last year for thematic curriculum training and I was the only PCV there. At first it was frustrating and I really wished there were other volunteers there, but after a while I got to know other tutors and it was nice being the center of positive attention. At this past workshop there were about 6 volunteers there and I tried to talk with the other tutors but found myself hanging out mostly with the PCVs. I don't really like that because I feel integration is necessary and I find it ridiculous when minority groups segregate themselves, but many times it was just so much more convenient because I could speak with my normal speed, use slang, reference America, and say things that people can actually understand and/or relate to. I ended up trying to compromise and hang out with the tutors and bringing one or two of the PCVs with me and during breaks talking with the tutors. Anyways, other exciting things that occurred at the workshop: seeing hail in Uganda, within 3 minutes falling and scraping my knee then being hit by a horned cow on the way home, and getting my watch stolen because of an unbeknown broken window. Overall I had a great time and and it's just one more of my many experiences as a PCV.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Face Rash

So the only really exciting thing to happen recently is that I have somehow gotten a face rash. The Peace Corps nurse told me it sounded like it came from some kind of beetle. However, the beetle looks more like an ant…? Apparently, when you squash the beetle there is a toxin it emits that you don’t notice and if you touch any part of your skin, the rash will spread. Not to describe it in detail, but I have a couple lines across my face that resembles very small clusters of blisters. It sounds rather awful, but it’s not that bad, as in Ugandans haven’t said anything to me. Although a face rash in America would make people notice and maybe stare, most people wouldn’t say anything because it’s rude. Ugandans are ridiculously blunt when it comes to physical appearance. So unless I point it out to people, they think it’s acne or something. And I have had it for about 2-3 days now so it’s healing. The first few days I hid in my house but even then, my neighbors said they didn’t notice right away. Anyways…so that is the most exciting thing that has happened lately.

In other news, my kitten is awesome. I have officially named her Ferrari-strange, I know, unless you know I named my other cat Carrera and I’m trying to stick with the expensive European automobiles that are difficult to pronounce. She is just getting used to my house and has ventured outside a couple times. The neighborhood kids scare her as much as she scares them (yes, Ugandans are scared of sweet little kittens). Work wise, the term is about to start so here comes academic workshops and meetings. I'm also slowely getting things done with my thesis again. I have finished one grant for a tree nursery project that won't get funding til October or so and I am just beginning another one that hopefully will get funding in August. That's it, I'll keep you updated...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Not much...

That's what's going on in my life right now...not much. I haven't written a blog entry in a while because nothing too spectacular has happened in a while. All the school kids are on break so none of the teachers want to work either, which means I don't conduct any workshops or anything. Also, the other half of my job which entails assisting teachers who are working while to get their teaching certificate, isn't functioning because they just took their first round of exams and get a break. However, one of my teachers just got me information for a grant that I may write which would get the school cows to breed as an income generating project. However, I asked him to get me the prices last November and now I think by the time it's reviewed (in July or August) it will be too late to finish by May 2008. Extending my service isn't in my grand scheme of things. However, I am also trying to complete my master's thesis for my master's of engineering and because of a funding, or lack thereof, issue with the environmental officer I'm working with, he's been successfully avoiding my calls and meetings for a month. So again, hopefully I will not have to extend but it's not out of the picture.

So what HAVE I been doing? Well... a lot of community integration work, aka hanging out with my neighbors and the teacher's kids. I have also been planting a vegetable garden and germinating seedlings. I have been visiting some of the PCVs who are leaving (a sad time...) while helping out my teachers in other ways, like fixing computers, bikes, tutoring, etc.

But OH, one new fun thing just happened today. A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer gave me one of the kittens that his cat had. So I'm going to try my luck again with this cat, hopefully she won't be stolen also. But now the problem is coming up with a name....

Not much...

That's what's going on in my life right now...not much. I haven't written a blog entry in a while because nothing too spectacular has happened in a while. All the school kids are on break so none of the teachers want to work either, which means I don't conduct any workshops or anything. Also, the other half of my job which entails assisting teachers who are working while to get their teaching certificate, isn't functioning because they just took their first round of exams and get a break. However, one of my teachers just got me information for a grant that I may write which would get the school cows to breed as an income generating project. However, I asked him to get me the prices last November and now I think by the time it's reviewed (in July or August) it will be too late to finish by May 2008. Extending my service isn't in my grand scheme of things. However, I am also trying to complete my master's thesis for my master's of engineering and because of a funding, or lack thereof, issue with the environmental officer I'm working with, he's been successfully avoiding my calls and meetings for a month. So again, hopefully I will not have to extend but it's not out of the picture.

So what HAVE I been doing? Well... a lot of community integration work, aka hanging out with my neighbors and the teacher's kids. I have also been planting a vegetable garden and germinating seedlings. I have been visiting some of the PCVs who are leaving (a sad time...) while helping out my teachers in other ways, like fixing computers, bikes, tutoring, etc.

But OH, one new fun thing just happened today. A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer gave me one of the kittens that his cat had. So I'm going to try my luck again with this cat, hopefully she won't be stolen also. But now the problem is coming up with a name....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Ridiculously Sad

I had the best and worst days of Peace Corps this past weekend. On Friday morning I found in my rabbit hutch this tiny, red, squirming being. I didn’t even know my rabbit was pregnant. Previously, I had been waiting for the female rabbit to get pregnant so I could move her away from the male and put her in the section of the hutch that has a more solid flooring (the bigger part of the hutch has branches nailed together as a floor but there are gaps between the branches). When I only found one baby rabbit I figured that she didn’t have many and the others must have fallen out and been ate by one of the many wild dogs in my area. All Friday and Saturday I brought the baby to the mom to feed it because the female rabbit wanted nothing to do with the rabbit yet. On Saturday I went to another PCV’s events and arrived home about 7:30pm. Upon arrival, everyone told me my goat gave birth that afternoon in the rain. I ran to my neighbor’s house to find my goat with her two twin babies. But they were all soaking wet and crying. The babies just lied there in a basin with clothes to keep them warm. Again, one of my animals gave birth and doesn’t want to be a mom. Between my neighbor and I we can’t hold down my goat long enough to get milk from her. We leave her with her babies in a storeroom to sleep and stay out of the rain. At this point I thought everything was going great. It was so exciting to see the newborn goats (SOOO cute) and have my rabbits give birth, even though only one. I was so happy and energized, thinking about the next few weeks when my baby animals would grow.

The next morning everything started going downhill. First, I awoke at 6:30am by my neighbor bringing my goat back to her shack (she didn’t stay there at night because of the cold and the threat of wild dogs eating her babies). At that point I found that my rabbits escaped because in the original hutch the builder made the floor out of branches and mud, but he didn’t nail the branches down. So the rabbits dug up the dirt and clawed away the branches. So now I had this 2-day-old rabbit with no mom. I had to turn my attention to my goat for the moment. I tried all day to get milk from my goat, feed the babies with a straw, teach them how to walk, keep them warm, and generally keep an eye on them. When I tried to feed the baby rabbit the goat’s milk it didn’t want it and it was so small I couldn’t find a way to force the milk down it’s throat, like I had been doing with the baby goats. Well the baby goats weren’t doing well-they just lied there, refusing to eat, stand, only sometimes they cried out for their mom, who was almost ignoring them and completely refusing to let the babies get milk. By late afternoon one of the babies had died and the other one was following suite. I felt like such a failure and an awful caretaker. Even though the odds were against me because according to my teachers the babies were premature and being born in the rain made it so they immediately became sick, I still wanted to nurse them back to health.

The next morning I found the other baby goat had passed away. The only good thing up to this point was my baby rabbit was still alive. I don’t now how it had survived up to this point because I had repeatedly (literally 10 times that day) tried to feed it goats milk, almost drowning it many times, but it wouldn’t drink it and other wise stayed in a shoebox with an old shirt I gave it. Then, like the other babies, Wednesday morning I found it dead in the shoebox.

So now I only have my goat. The silver lining to this story is that I will be able to get my goat pregnant again soon and I will be able to know what to do with the babies once they are born because I have already gone through it once. The rabbits are a sad story, but again, if I decide to breed rabbits again I will have a better understanding of what to do. I take this all as a chance to learn and it’s apart of my Peace Corps experience.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Smell of Rain

Growing up, I had always thought the smell after a rain storm was gross because it smelled of worms. I have come into the city of Jinja where it just stopped raining and I immediately went back to 10 years old playing in my driveway after a rainstorm. Granted the cool breeze was amazing after spending 45 minutes in a ripe, stuffy, musty, body-odor filled matatu (15 passenger van stuffed with at least 20). I realize now the smell of fresh post-rain air is not of worms, well maybe a little, but more of fresh, wet, clear air with a mix of water and drenched soil. I love it- no matter where I am.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Super Cute

When I first arrived, many current volunteers who had been working for over a year in Uganda tried to tell me about the type of work you accomplish and the amount of influence you have on people. They told me it's not about the material good that you produce, nor is it the qualitative work that you concentrate on, but it's the community interaction, qualitative work that you look for-I thought they were making excuses for not getting anything done and that I wouldn't ever feel that way. Ha, sometimes I do eat my words (er....thoughts). I have been at my site for almost a year now and there is little physical evidence of my presence here yet I definitely feel busy and I do work. When the older PCVs told me that most of my work will be in the form of influencing people around me and getting integrated into my community I never thought I would feel that I have a large influence on anyone-even in America I have rarely seen any positive affects caused by me on other people. This past week I had two instances that proved to me that I am having an effect on the people around me.

The first instance happened while I was in my house finishing typing one of my schools grant for a tree nursery. I usually sit at the table in my sitting room while working (I only have two rooms, a sitting room/kitchen and a bedroom/washroom). Since it was a school day and I live next door to a primary school, during the kids’ recess and lunch break the kids like to walk around the teachers’ houses, including mine. In order to have any light or air flow in my house I have to keep the front and back doors open with a piece of material hanging in the doorway. Well since I’m a white person and especially because I was working on my laptop some of the kids still like to be rude and stand in my doorway or peek in from the yard. I have gotten to the point of being able to ignore them usually. Well that day I had two of my favorite little teacher kids in my house because they like to come over and color or play with the 4 happy meal toys I brought back with me. These two boys are around 3 years old and they are currently developing their speaking skills. When they saw the kids peeking in or standing near my veranda they shouted in Luganda that the kids have to leave or go away from my house. They stormed to the front door, put their little hands on their hips and yelled at these school age kids to go away, like they were my and my house’s little protectors. I was so touched. It was possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen.

The second instance occurred after I had finished the grant for one of my schools and had gone to deliver a copy of it the school. I have been working on this grant with the deputy headteacher of the school, like a vice principle, and I really like him-he’s a hardworking, honest family man that has been a joy to work with. Well, I had found out that the money for this grant won’t be available until at least October because it is through the US government and well, we all know how quickly they like to process money matters. So I had to adjust the timeline and overlap some activities to complete the project by April 2008. I explained this to the deputy headteacher and when he made a comment about it not mattering if it goes over a little bit I reminded him that I am leaving in May 2008. When he heard this he looked at me with this awed, slightly distressed look on his face and said ‘no, I am going to write a letter to your supervisors to request you stay here, I will help you so that you can stay.’ He was visibly upset when it sunk in that I was only there for a short time (2 years only seems long in the beginning) and would be going back home. Other times when people say thank you for teaching them workshops or coming to visit them or whatever, even when they start blabbering thanks, I don’t really believe them or feel like they are truly appreciating what I have done with or for them. But when this deputy headteacher realized I was going right after we complete the tree nursery, it made me think about those PCVs who kept telling me about how you will influence certain people at your site and that’s what you concentrate on. Even though I haven’t actually completed the project or obtained any money for the school, he still showed appreciation of my efforts. That was awesome.


…IS AWESOME (-: Well maybe because I came from Uganda and everything is relative. Also, I only visited the capital, Kigale, but even so, I thought Rwanda was wonderful. I had a great time. We had a bit of a rocky start after an adventurous night at a dance club in Mbarara that lasted until we left for the bus to Kigale at 6:00am. Then after a few tortuous hours on a bus and spent at the border, we arrived in Kigale about 1pm. Side note: there was an obvious visual difference at the border between Rwanda and Uganda: like in Uganda the immigration office was on this awkward hill, there were a bunch of dirty shops with garbage all around the ground, and all vehicles trying to find space on the side of a typical road-full of potholes, bumpy, narrow, partly dirt, and covered in garbage; while the Rwandan side had a well organized and convenient immigration office on a spacious, level, and cleaned paved area that served as a space for a few well maintained shops, toilets, and immigration office as well as designated areas for trucks, buses, and cars to park in while dealing with border control. There is about a 50 yard walk between borders that the people have named ‘no man’s land’ that have tons of men trying to be walking forex bureaus. Again, Uganda had these obnoxious men but Rwanda regulated them. These differences were just a preview of the disparities between the two neighboring countries. The cleanliness factor was huge for me because I can’t stand how much Ugandans litter and in Rwanda plastic bags are illegal, they even check bags and vehicles at the border. Even the taxi/bus park in Kigale was cleaner, more organized, less crowded and the men, although aggressive, not nearly as much as in the Kampala taxi and bus parks. After dropping our luggage at our hotel we went right to the genocide museum that is not far from the downtown area. I know that it was built in the past decade so it’s more modern and was well funded by foreign and Rwandan governments, but it was really nice-as in similar to museums in America. There was a well maintained and beautiful garden with a veranda for the café that sells snacks and drinks. After the museum we went to a mall in the center of the city that has a great and huge grocery store and an amazing coffee shop (I don’t like coffee but everyone else really liked it, but the ambiance was similar to coffee houses in America and it even had wireless internet connection that was free as long as you are a customer-free internet is unheard of in Uganda, let alone wireless internet). Then we went to the hotel to quickly shower then headed to the New Cactus Restaurant and had amazing pizzas and lasagnas. Then the cheesecake I bought at the grocery store was brought out with candles and we sung happy birthday to one of our volunteers (actually we originally decided to go to Rwanda because of the PCV’s 50th birthday). The next day was a little lighter because we were tired and it was raining. So we went to the coffee shop a while, walked around the city and went to eat at a few different restaurants. While walking around the city we visited the Millennium Colline Hotel (I think that was the name…) which is not only very nice but apparently was the hotel that the movie Hotel Rwanda was based upon. For dinner we went to a tandoori Indian restaurant-delicious. Early the next morning we grudgingly got on a bus to Uganda at 6:00am. It’s amazing what a less corrupt, strict, and organized government can do for an East African country…apparently a lot.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Not yet a Bugandan

So the other day I had a bit of a reality check when I went to a primary school that I am working with. I went to have a meeting with the headteacher and a few other teachers that are helping to organize and write a grant for an income generating project that I'm doing with them. The gist of the project involves creating a tree nursery and having at least one batch of tree seedlings sold while I'm here. As a form of advertising they want to have a traditional Ugandan ceremony with all local political, religious, and academic leaders come to hear speeches and eat food. Well this ceremony will cost about a quarter of the entire project. Part of the grant includes a required contribution from the school and I try to fudge this requirement as much as possible. Not lie, but there are some things that wouldn't be considered or given much thought as a financial concern because the students can help-like with cleaning or fetching water, etc. These small actions are a contribution, so for this ceremony I asked of the parents of the children could give a little bit of food that they farmed so they wouldn't have to give money. All of the sudden they started laughing and I asked what is so funny. They told me that these people can't feed themselves, the kids eat once a day, etc so there is no way they can give food for this ceremony. I felt so ridiculous, it was like when Marie Antoinette was told her people didn't have enough money to make bread and she replied 'let them eat cake'. Til that point I had actually thought that I had come so far in assimilating into the Ugandan culture. I guess I will learn humility and new things about myself everyday.

I died? What?

So I was called the other day by my brother because apparently someone was spreading the rumor that I died while here in Uganda. Yeah, not so funny... I thank those that were concerned for my safety and actually called my brother to confirm this piece of ridiculous news but no worries, I'm just fine and actually doing better than fine, I am really enjoying myself here. I'm getting work done and I'm still able to travel a lot; like I'm going to Kigale, Rwanda for a weekend soon to see the genocide museum and to go to Lake Kivu!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


I thought I would write almost like journal entry this time. So I’m back in my village today, getting ready for my environmental educators’ meeting when the headteacher at my primary school knocks on my door. Apparently through a non-profit organization, Opportunity Education, my school was given a TV and DVD player to show kids educational videos that they gave them. Maybe because my school actually has electricity it was chosen to receive this equipment? I don’t want to be pessimistic because it’s a great program that gives many schools modern equipment as well as motivation to teach, but that money that bought the TV could have gone to other much more useful things that would be utilized much more. But it was a nice little ceremony with short and sweet speeches and I was able to talk with the executive director of the organization-an Irish immigrant who lives in California while not going to third world countries to deliver televisions. This is another image of a missionary or passing through white person who gives something to the school without understanding the impact. They are better than some of the other religious organizations because they have an Ugandan staff that is responsible for monitoring the schools to make sure they use the DVDs with the students as well as being there as a technician when the equipment has problems. Also, it seems like the missionaries are overly well-meaning, like they are so into helping people and thinking they are making them happy that they don’t see the big picture and just seem so completely foreign-not even considering skin color. It is like they think bringing a little equipment will change the school, not knowing most of the sports equipment and books are stored and they students barely get to see them. Again, I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I think of myself more as realistic. But I had a great time taking photos and talking with a fellow American.

PS I just received a package I sent myself: apparently I love beef jerky! It’s not a slim jim, I know I don’t like those, but it’s real jerky. Crazy…

Different View

This past week I went and visited 2 other volunteers, Tessa and Stephanie. Tessa lives the way I aspire to: simple, clean and organized. She took her two room crap hole, painted it and added furniture and African crafts so that it is really cute-again, what I have tried to do but I think Tessa has done a great job and I’m going to use it as inspiration to work on my house. I think I stopped after the first 6 months trying to make my house nicer because I knew that it’s such a temporary living situation that I don’t want to put TOO much money or time into it, especially now since I’ll only have it for one more year. Another thing I notice when visiting Tessa is how amazing she is with kids. It took me over 9 months for my neighbor’s kids to stop crying when they see me.

Then I visited Stephanie in Luweero. She lives in a convent in this super sweet house that is bigger and more luxurious than my last 2 apartments in the states. She also has a baby that she takes care of in the convent that was born in the first month we were at site. This uber-cute baby is what makes Stephanie tick; they make each other so happy. We had a really good time and I think Stephanie has a really good thing going because she has work that she really enjoys there and has her baby and nuns.

I also went to dinner at my homestay while I was in Luweero. It’s funny how different I see the house and my family, even Uganda in general. I feel like I understand them so much better, like the things I didn’t like about my homestay father is just because I didn’t like nor understand the facial expressions, body language, and overall general characteristics of most Ugandan men. At dinner I got along very well with my homestay parents and the girls barely spoke to me-opposite of how it was when I lived there. Also, when I lived in Luweero I thought it was so depressing, dirty, and just awful. I see it now much more as a normal, larger Ugandan village; even though a bit more dirty, it also has many things to buy there that aren’t available in my village.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I was talking with my mom the other day and I had a few really fun stories/information for her. As I was telling her, I realized that I have definitely reached the point in my service of really enjoying my time here and the country in general. Of course I still have my issues with the Ugandan culture and people’s actions, but I think I have come to the point where I am used to them and they don’t frustrate me as much. One of the things I told my mom was that I experienced an earthquake here. I think it’s great! I have always wanted to experience one, not one that is life threatening, but just to get the feeling of such a powerful natural phenomenon. Unfortunately it happened in the middle of the night and I was dead asleep so I barely woke up, feeling the vibrations and thinking I was hearing my dishes rattle. When I woke up the next morning I thought it was a dream but when I talked to my neighbor she asked me if I had felt it and I got so excited that I didn’t dream it but actually felt it. I hope I’m not being insensitive to earthquake disaster survivors, but I thought it was really fun.

Another positive experience I shared with my mom the other morning when I was helped by my new friends-a couple of 3 year olds. The teachers at my school helped me find a female rabbit from a student to join my male rabbit. They also asked the students if they could bring in a tree branch so I can extend the house where my rabbits live. The students brought the tree branches to the edge of the school grounds where the teacher housing begins so I had to bring them to the current rabbit house (which happens to be inside my goat house). These poles are small in diameter, most are around 3-5 inches, but they are very long, anywhere from 10-20 feet. Well I carried about 8 or so to the rabbit/goat house and my two new friends came running from their homes to help me transport these poles. The boy and girl toddlers are kids of teachers and live in the next door block of houses. They were completely adorable trying to take one or two of the smaller poles and drag them to the rabbit/goat house. Maybe they are just bored and help me as something to do, but I was really touched by their wanting to do manual labor for me.
There are other good things that happen everyday….finally.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Since Being Back

What have I done since I have been back? Most of the country is ‘on holiday’ with the school kids just this week coming back to school. Since I work in the school system that means that my teachers are either going to visit family member or hanging around the school. Having a bit of down time, I have read 4 books, spent way too long on Suduko puzzles, a bit of gardening, gone to a couple meetings, spent a lot of time on daily cleaning and cooking tasks, and started to plan many things that I want to accomplish this year. But also since the teachers are hanging around or in their gardens, I have spent a good deal of time getting to know my neighbors and especially the kids. Before I left most of the kids, majority of their ages range from 2-6, would see me and either start crying or screaming and run away. When I came back and spent a lot of time hanging around my house and talking with my neighbors, the kids started to realize that I wasn’t there to hurt them and started to come near me. It also helped that I brought back a few toys and cards that I let them play with either in my house or on my stoop. And, unlike most parents in Uganda, I like to play with the kids rather than teach them how to do work or yell at them for not doing work. Just yesterday I got water from my bore hole and the kids wouldn’t let me leave my house until they could carry my empty gericans. Walking back to my house the kids happened to follow me in a single line like the pied piper. We walked by a few teachers who were sitting and talking and I stopped, looked behind me and said in luganda ‘I don’t know why they like me now, but look, now I have an army.’ They just laughed.

Coming Back

I have been back to Uganda for a few weeks now. Some things are better, some are worse. The trip home was definitely wonderful and seeing all my friends and most of my family was beyond great. However, that did make it much more difficult to get on the plane back to Uganda-even more than the first time because I knew what I was going back to. I won’t lie, I cried the whole day I left, even in Brussells and Newark. And no, I didn’t cry in Newark because I had to hang out in one of the armpits of the nation for a few hours, but it meant that I had to leave everyone I love and care for and everything that is so nice and secure about the place I grew up. But once I back to Uganda and faced things I knew would be a problem and went to places I recognized, it wasn’t so bad. I actually didn’t want to spend too much time in Kampala-the closest Uganda has to a first world county, e.g. showers, power, toilets, etc. Maybe because I had so many luggages and was experiencing jet lag, I just wanted to get to my village, my two room house and sleep on my foam mattress. I also had my animals to come back to and my neighbors who I knew would be anxious to hear about my time in America, the far off fairy tale land where jobs and money are easily found and life is lazily simple-a delusion I’m still trying to expose. In some ways they are correct, we have machines and tools to do many of tasks they do by hand here, but at the same time we have to work that much harder and efficiently with a much higher standard for all products and services. The mediocrity that many people accept is astounding, for instance if someone makes something that you don’t want or has been built unacceptably poorly they still expect you to take it or at least pay for it. When people say ‘ignorance is bliss’ or ‘you don’t miss what you never had’ can definitely apply here, and probably most third world countries. It’s fortunate for some people that most of the country doesn’t know any better and will tolerate sub-standard products and services, but at the same time it’s keeping the economy down because it makes the country as a whole seem inferior-or, maybe just to me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Ha...just kidding

Riiiight, so I am back to my old number here (011-256-782244958) because the new phone carrier turned out to have no nearby tower, hence no network, in my village. Although it seems as though I should have known this beforehand, the people in my community had strongly suggested that since I was not happy with my old carrier that I should switch. So, I went to Jinja and bought a new number (same phone, but different number) and once I got back to my village I had almost no network. Anyways...more info to come.
PS I forgot, my cat, Carrera ran away or was eaten or stolen or something, either way she is gone. I am very upset but her sister, Tina, whom I gave to my counterpart was given to me but she's just not MY cat.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

New Phone Number!

Hello! I know I have been bad with postings..(last one in November! Sorry!) But I had an AMAZING time at home home and saw so many people-it was great! I'll get some postings up soon, I promise! Anyways, I wanted to post that I changed my cell phone number because I'm changing carriers. Now, it's 011-256-75-3010631. The country code here is 256 and I think you are supposed to dial a 011 if calling internationally from the US, so I believe this is right. Hopefully I'll talk to you soon!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ugandan Music

As I'm sitting here in Jinja (BTW: my favorite city so far in Uganda), we are listening to the radio in the internet cafe. Like all radio stations here, yes there are many, they don't play music according to genre. Although some tend to stick to East African music (this awful type of music that resembles reggea, hip hop, techno, and rap all in one), they do play a lot of American music. However, the selection of this music is histerical to me and the other volunteers. As most Americans know, you listen to a certain station depending on what type of music you feel like listening to. Not here. The radio stations I have listened to play a wide variety of music from the states, ranging from Beyonce and Sean Paul to Micheal Bolton and Shania Twain. Other favorites are Usher, Micheal and Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, while also playing TONS of 80's soft rock, a bit of country (really odd...), and lots of Christian music. Needless to say, I only listen to the radio in my house while my IPod is charging. However, since it's a common theme to have music ridiculously loud I can here some music being played by my teachers/neighbors or the boys who live across the street (like 50 yards and a highway between). I'll try to keep a list of artists that I hear on the radio here because I think the mix is so funny.

Text messages

Hi! I just wanted to post that I have received text messages on my phone here by people who email me. Thanks, I love getting them! J Hoch, Deb, Barrett, Leah, Carla, Best Bud, and Brendan: you guys are awesome!


Yes, I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving, not on the 23rd, but yesterday on Saturday the 25th. I went to another volunteer's house in the Eastern part of Uganda, near a city called Tororo. She has one of the only volunteer houses that is the closest thing to a 'home' that I have seen. Apparently some Finnish missionaries came to her health center and built the house. So there are two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen with running water (the pump has since broken so we still used water from gericans), electricity, and even a 'guest' house at her disposal. She even has a gas stove! Therefore, I got there on Friday and didn't stop eating until I left Sunday! It was amazing, I didn't think most of the food that was there was able to made here in Uganda. We had the closest thing to the all day feasting holiday as we can get here except for no football on the TV (not like I paid much attention to that anyways). We even had all 18 or so of us at one long table and had a traditional mid-day dinner with everyone giving thanks to something. We had a turkey, stuffing (mix sent from US), baked apples, mac and cheese (mix sent from US), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, home made wheat rolls, pumpkin pie, and SO much more. For being here with a gas stove, we did really well and it was awesome. For the most part we hung out, played cards, cooked, cleaned, and ate. It was really relaxing and nice to see the other volunteers. If I wasn't at my Uncle's house in Jersey with my family, this was the next best thing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


I just want to let everyone know this. I know that I give shout-outs to people who send me packages and letters and how much I appreciate them. But I never mention all of the letters and essentials that my parents send me (ok, granted it's mostly my mom...). They have sent me SOO many things that I have requested and many things that I haven't. I even make crazy requests like to cut out articles from the Daily Mess(anger) that they think I would like so that I can keep up with Canandaigua/Upstate NY news. My mom was the first one to send me aerogrammes when I was in training and it was SO nice to hear from someone back home. Aside from sending me things, they dutifully call me at least once a week so I can complain to someone about things I find ridiculous here and just share some of my experiences with someone who can relate to me, aka a non-Ugandan. Anyways, not to go on too much, I just wanted to write a short note on how great my parents are and how it's a shame that I never truly realized this until I moved to a 3rd world country across the world.

Land of Opportunity?

Well one thing did spoil my Saturday a little. One of the little girls who lives in the teacher compound around me came over to look at my Newsweeks (all the children do because they don’t have books and they like to sit on my porch). This girl and her sister live and work for one of the teachers because their mom ‘isn’t around’ and apparently single parent homes can only apply if it’s a mom. She has started to come over more lately, which I don't mind, she is very polite and I like her a lot because she is smart and not completely submissive like most women in Uganda. So while she was flipping through the magazine, looking at the pictures, she asked me out of the blue if I'm allowed to take children back with me to America. Now, when adults, especially men, ask me about taking them to America I can laugh and say no and that's it. But when this little, sweet girl asks me to take her with me it's really tough. I have to explain that I don't have any visa's or money to take them back and that right now I'm not able to take care of children. It's a bit heartbreaking. However, it's not as bad as another volunteer's experience. Apparently, two orphan siblings, who are less than 10 years old, skipped school and walked miles in the Ugandan heat to this PCV's house to ask if they could live with her. She had no choice but to say no and send them back walking miles to school. After the orphans left she cried all day and felt like the worst person on the planet. So I guess the request to be taken to America wasn't that bad.


This past Saturday I actually had a pretty good day. Almost every Saturday my counterpart and I hold meetings or classes for teachers who are pursuing their teaching certificate while they are working, we call them peer group meetings (PGMs). We go over content that will be on their exam and help them to improve their overall teaching. This past Saturday my counterpart was conducting a session on how to teach reading and writing to primary students. A lot of what she discussed was with English grammar and rules. Yes yes, I know it is MY native language, but if you ask me to diagram a sentence I will look at you dumbfounded. Well not really, but for the most part, it's amazing how well Ugandans know the technicalities of the English language yet have a hard time speaking it or understanding a native speaker. Anyways, so at the PGM the students were asking about pronunciation and my counterpart asked me to assist her and felt it was more appropriate for me to teach this part of the lesson (ok, all of you who know me can get off of the floor and stop laughing). I had a great time. First, I have to explain how I sound when I talk to Ugandans. If I speak like I do in the United States no one can understand me. Therefore, I try to not only slow down and pronunciate, but I have adopted the accent that we Peace Corps volunteers call Uganglish. It's hard to describe but it's a version of the British accent with every letter in every word emphasized (the first time I heard another volunteer speaking Uganglish I thought they were acting like a moron, and now of course I am doing it too…). When I started to help them with pronunciation I gave a small disclaimer that depending where you are that words in English will sound different: England is different than America, the northern and western part of American is different from the southern part of America, etc. This created an uproar. So I said that I will help them be able to speak like an upstate New Yorker (stop rolling your eyes, haha). I began with speaking with my normal accent and speed of speech. I was glad that they could tell a difference but after about 3 minutes they said that I was 'driving them crazy' because they couldn't understand what I was saying. Anyways, after explaining that most letters and letter combinations, especially vowels, are pronounced differently depending on the word, like owl and own, either and weight, etc, they started to ask me about specific words. Most words when I hear them spoken incorrectly I let it go because it is not usually a big deal, however there was one word that I just cringed when they said it: leopard. They say it like lee-oh-par-D. I made them practice saying it like 5 times. Although it was fun to have them repeat after me and recognize that their version of English actually may not be right, it got a little taxing. Sometimes they would argue with me and tell me I’m lying when I told them how to pronounce a word. I’m like: It’s MY language, don’t question me about HOW to say to it. Then, I had one student ask me how to pronounce the word realia. I told him it’s not a word. He said, and my counterpart also tried to convince me of this, that it is in reference to real objects. I told them over and over again that they made it up because it’s not a word, even showed them it’s not in a dictionary, but to no avail. They still don’t believe me to this day.

I know this is a long blog posting, but I also wanted to mention that I tried to teach some of the teachers and boarding kids how to play kickball on Saturday. You may think that kickball is one of the easiest games on earth, but the only game they really know is soccer. We take for granted that everyone is familiar with baseball and understands the concept of hitting/kicking a ball then running to a thing called a base with the object of the game to run in a diamond to reach a place called home. Trying to explain the basics of the game and the concept of ‘outs’ and other general rules took almost an hour. Other details like leading, stealing, strategy, positioning, etc. will have to come another day. Again we take for granted that everyone knows how to catch because football and baseball are so ingrained in our society. To see 13 year old boys and adult men wave their arms frantically as a ball hits them in the chest is hilarious. I think about 2 balls were caught. Also, they understood that after the player kicks the ball that the outfield needs to retrieve it but they think that they can run with it faster than it would take to throw it in, which we all know isn’t true. So getting people out didn’t happen very quickly. But by the second and last inning they were laughing and cheering as their teammates ran over home base. They are interested in playing again and I like going back to the good old days of playing kickball. Hopefully next time it’ll take less than 2 hours to complete 2 innings.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Package Thanks Update!

I just wanted to say thanks to Carla for my package--she sent it early April and I just got it last week!!! It was awesome and worth the wait though! Also, I received a package from one of my really good friend's Aunt's family who I have never met. It was such a wonderful surprise! I absolutely love when my friends send me things to let me know that they still keep me in their thoughts even when I'm a million miles away. The fact that people who I have never met and who have only heard about my Peace Corps assignment sent me a really sweet note with a great package is amazing to me. So basically, the Horton family, you guys are awesome, thanks so much.

Anyways, back to life in Uganda...

Friday, October 20, 2006


Right, so since the amount of people and the organization of the New Year's trip to Zanzibar isn't what I thought it would be, I have decided to cancel that trip. Good news: I extended my stay for home! So now I'll be home for the first few days of January before I come back to Uganda. It actually makes more sense for me to stay at home longer anyways because before my week at home wasn't long enough for all the things that I want to accomplish. And I just like being at home home with the fam and friends (-:

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Uganglish: Surely/Are you sure?-> American English: Really?/No way?!

So apparently my goat isn't pregnant, she was just well fed. She started to lose weight with me because I don't have the grass and feed that she is used to, I guess. Since I have never reared a goat I didn't think she was very small, I thought she was just early in her pregnancy. The past few days she has been crying like crazy. If you have never heard a goat cry it's like in between a child's voice and a sheep's 'baaa.' At first it's entertaining but after hours and hours of hearing it, you want to shoot yourself. Anyways, I was asking everyone around what could be wrong with her and I have been told that she seems to be in heat and that she is not actually pregnant. My counterpart is trying to find her a male goat to mate with so in roughly 6 months I will have a baby goat.

Also, cat update--Carrera is awesome! She is growing up quite well, even in spite of her being picky with food. I was told the other weekend when I was away that she caught a rat at my neighbors' house! She has become quite the hunter and loves to chase any kinds of insects, etc that are around the house. I would like to say that I don't have any, but living in a hot and humid area I can't help having a few cockroaches. To me, cockroaches are absolutely disgusting and insanitary, but I've heard that they are very numerous in the south and since they are almost impossible to exterminate that I shouldn't feel bad. And actually, I don't have that many, like I see one about once or twice a month, some volunteers see them daily in their homes and especially latrines. But Carrera showed interest in chasing one last night and although I was scared of it, she was all over it. Anyways...she is doing great, just fyi.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Oh Ugandans...

The other night I was helping my Ugandan friend Winnie with some math homework, she was working on percentages and interests. I just wanted to share with you the definition that her teacher gave her for discount because it's SO Ugandan:
Discount: This is a reduction made to a customer who is buying a lot of things or a customer who often spends a lot of money.

We all know that this isn't the REAL definition of a discount, but that's what it is here...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yay it works!

It's great! I just now a message from someone on my phone, but honestly...not sure who it is because it's a phone number from sprint and they didn't leave their name. BUT, I don't mind, it just proves that maybe from a Sprint phone I can receive messages--exciting! Anyways, thanks for trying guys and remember to leave your name!