Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Uganda I Know (through my camera)

There have been many great inventions in our time. The computer. The television set. The radio, the automobile, the telephone. The list goes on. But if there were one invention in my opinion that tops the list, it would be Nicéphore Niépce's invention of the camera in 1816, which produced the first successful photograph of a camera image. In a single snap (couldn't help the pun), cameras enable the user to photograph what they want, when they want, where they want, through their own subjective and creative lens. Cameras in the 19th century? A notable, technological innovation. Cameras in the present? The rest is history.

My camera has proven to be invaluable during my time in Uganda. It's enabled me to capture pictures, memories, experiences, places, events that I will remember for the rest of my life. It's enabled me to share with you and provide a glimpse of Uganda on this blog.

To which this final blog post is dedicated. Below are pictures compiled chronologically of my past two years in a nutshell. Some are of Ugandans, others are fellow Peace Corps Uganda Volunteers. Some are of my work in Kachumbala, others depict Ugandan culture to the fullest. Some illustrate my crazy "Only in Uganda" moments, the moments where you just have to sit back and laugh because you have absolutely no control over them, the moments when you just have to accept the culture for what it is, the moments that sure make for great stories back in the U.S. 

As always, thanks for reading. It's been a pleasure updating this blog when power has permitted me to. I appreciate all your comments, feedback, and support.

Posing with my homestay family after Sunday mass

Attempting to push a tractor up a hill


My Ateso language trainer, Anne, and I at my swear-in ceremony

The Ateso language group

Hiking at Sipi Falls

Gary, Becca, and I (the three Massholes) cruising down the Nile

Rafting the Nile

A Ugandan sunset in Kachumbala


Raincatcher's Sawyer water filtratation system

Ugandan Little League Baseball

The World Map Project

With my homestay family during Easter

Sorting through thousands of English, Math, Science, History, Geography, and Reference textbooks and workbooks

The final product of Kongunga Secondary School's new library

A young Kachumbalan balancing an empty jerrycan on her head

Apio handwashing her clothes

Fugoso and I

Emma, Fugoso, Junior


A butcher cutting up cows meat

Another Ugandan sunset

Skillfully balancing a full jerrycan of water on her head

Road safety clearly does not exist in Uganda 

A typical travel experience in a matatu

Sleeping the hours away on a boda 

Julius and Emma

Silver, the best cook in Kachumbala


Rose, my old supervisor, and Zefalan

Cyrus and Susan, my favorite shopowners in Kachumbala

Posing with Cyrus and Susan

Friday, September 21, 2012

Final Updates

I have officially two weeks left in Kachumbala. As I've mentioned previously, leaving the life I have established for myself and become so accustomed to feels really bitter-sweet. Because there are many people, Ugandans and PCV's alike, who I will likely never see again, I can't help but feel a little sentimental over leaving. Peace Corps Uganda have given me a myriad of lifetime memories, lessons, friends, and experiences. Nevertheless, the timing could not be more opportune. I am definitely ready to return stateside, and begin a new chapter of my life. Just as my family and friends have moved on with their lives, I look foward to doing the same.

Perhaps my biggest concern over leaving was what would happen to my dog and cat after I left. I wanted to find a better home for them than their current one, yet I didn't want to move them out of the Parish just for the sake of doing so. Needless to say this is no longer a concern! I found good homes for both of them. Fugoso is being taken in by missionaries at an organization (JENGA) in Mbale; the missionaries seem to genuinely like and care for their dogs (he will live with other dogs), so I am confident that Fugoso in the long-term will be happy there. "Pus Pus" is being taken in by a Mbale owner (connected to JENGA) of five other well-cared-for cats. Unfortunately, the unique, brotherly dog/cat bond that Fugoso and Pus Pus share will be forever separated, but they'll be in much better living situations than they otherwise would be if they were to remain at the Parish. Their last day in Kachumbala is this coming Thursday.

Last week, Kongunga Secondary School held an inauguration ceremony for the official opening of "Apollo" Library (my second namesake). Father Okurut, several District officials, and the entire school staff and student body attended the ceremony. Since then, more and more students have begun to use the library. I am proud to be able to provide my school with a tangible learning space and resource center of novels, textbooks, and other educational materials. Denis has done a fantastic job managing the library; he has developed his own system for implementing day-to-day library policies and procedures. I have actively tried to step back, limit my presence, and turn the library reigns over to him.

The Headmaster and a representative from the DEO of Bukedea

"Apollo" Library officially opened!

Students completing their work and reading books inside the library. 

Take 2

Take 3
My last day in Kachumbala is October 5. From there, I'll bid farewell to my homestay family in Wakiso, and then stay in Kampala for a week to officially close out my service. This includes turning in mountains of COS forms, meeting with the PC Uganda Country Director to reflect upon the past two years and to provide recommendations for how to improve PC Uganda, closing out my Stanbick bank account, and meeting with PC Medical. I leave African soil the morning of October 15, and land in the European/Asian soil of Istanbul. From there, it's several flights and many train rides to Israel, Spain, and Morocco before I finally arrive in DC on November 20. I could not be more excited.

A Visit to the Abuyadaya

This past Tuesday (on Rosh Hashanah), a few PCV's and I had the unique opportunity to visit the Abuyadaya, a group of more than 1,000 Ugandan Jews living just outside Mbale. Though not genetically Jewish nor fully recognized by the Ugandan government, the Abuydaya are devout practitioners of Judaism. Having lived at a Catholic Parish and within steps of a Catholic Church the past two years, it felt incredibly surreal to visit a community of Ugandans who practice the same religious beliefs, celebrate the same holidays, and attend the same services as myself. Upon arriving, we were immediately greeted by Rabbi Wambedde and other community members who just finished their morning Rosh Hashanah service. We visited the Abuyadaya's main synagogue, secondary and primary schools, health center, and visitor guesthouse. We also had the opportunity to visit Perfect Coffee, a cooperative of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim farmers who collectively and harmoniously grow coffee beans, and sell them in the U.S. (California).

For further reading on the Abuyadaya or Perfect Coffee, visit

A young boy of the Abuyadaya

Samson, our guide

It felt so surreal to see buildings such as this in Uganda.

A young member of the Abuyadaya holding the Israel flag.

The Abuyadaya's primary synagogue

Signpost for Perfect Coffee Cooperative

Coffee beans grown by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.

The main Jewish health center in Mbale

The rabbi of the Abuyadaya. He is apparently the only rabbi in all of Africa to officially be certified as a rabbi in Israel.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kongunga Secondary School's New Library

I am proud to present pictures of Kongunga Secondary School's new library, officially the third secondary school library established in Bukedea District. The library comprises 6,000 volumes of English, Science, Math, Geography, and History textbooks and workbooks, as well as fiction, nonfiction, and reference books. It will open on September 3 when the school term resumes. In September (before I leave Uganda), my primary focus alongside Denis, the librarian, will be to teach the students and teachers of Kongunga Secondary School how to effectively use the library for research and/or to reference information. As this will be the first time many of the students have ever used a library or opened a library book, teaching, for instance, how to use a book's Table of Contents/Index or how to properly care for/open a book is critical. Beginning next term, Denis and I also hope to form an afterschool reading club for students. Wish us luck!  



The outside of Kongunga Secondary School's new library.

Steel door and lock to safeguard all books, property, and materials inside the library.

Library shot.

Library shot take 2.

Library shot take 3.

Reference section.

Fiction section, organized and labeled (by color-coded label) according to Primary Fiction (P1-P4), Intermediate Fiction (P5-S2), and Secondary Fiction (S3-S5).

Math section.
English section.

A sign that explains the rules and policies of the library. 

A sign that explains how we organized books in the library, using the color-coded classification system.

Subject books for teacher use only, stored in the Staff Resource Room.

Take 2.

Class sets of subject books, stored in the Staff Resource Room.

Denis sitting at his desk.

Denis graduated with a degree in Library Management Science from Uganda Christian University, and has worked extensively as a librarian at Amnesty International in Mbale, so he is certainly qualified for the position. More importantly, now that we've hired Denis, I am confident that the library will be sustainable and achieve its intended objectives after I leave. 

Thank you again to everybody who so generously contributed to the project! It certainly wouldn't have been possible without you.