Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bryan the "mzungu"

Hello from Uganda!

I apologize that it has taken me this long to post, but I haven't had any Internet connection since I've been here (except for a visit to the internet cafe). I do get electricity from my homestay, but I have not yet figured out how to go about accessing the Internet.

To say my Peace Corps experience thus far has been exceptional would be an understatement. I am having the time of my life. Language training is, at times, very stressful, but Ugandans are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. I am currently living in the village of Kisimbiri in the town of Wakiso with my homestay family. I have a homestay mother, sister, two brothers, aunt, and a housegirl. They are awesome! They live in a house compound with their own vegetable garden and animals (goat, rooster, hen, chickens). I am grateful for everything they have provided me, and how they have seemingly welcomed me into their family.

To best understand Peace Corps training, here is generally what our daily schedule looks like:

6:30AM-8:00AM - Wakeup, bathe, eat breakfast, walk 2-3KM to the training site
8:00AM-10:00AM - Language training
10:00AM-10:30AM - Morning tea
10:30AM-12:30PM - Technical training
12:30PM-1:30PM - Lunch
1:30PM-3:30PM - Technical training
3:30PM-4:00PM - Afternoon tea
4:00PM-5:00PM - Language training
5:00PM-11:00PM - Walk back to homestay, eat dinner, play soccer with homestay brothers/sister, go to the bar, study
11:00PM - Bed

Technical training has ranged from sessions on diversity and safety/security to sessions on cultural integration and banking. I, along with six other volunteers, am learning the Ateso language, spoken in eastern Uganda. Eastern Uganda is where I will be placed to work for the next two years. We do not recieve our official site placements until late September.

1. I have gained a newfound respect for the meaning of hard work. Ugandans are some of the hardest working people I've ever met.
2. President Obama, religion, and soccer are three popular things to talk about in Uganda.
3. I have been referred to as a "mzungu" (white person) at least fifty times, but I've learned to embrace it.
4. Despite tasting and liking many new foods (ovacado, pumpkin, goat meat, black beans, cabbage), eating the same food everyday has been my biggest challenge to date.
5. I have never liked pineapple as much as I do now.
6. I have already made the time-effective decision to hire someone to help me cook/clean.
7. One thing that I do not miss is Washington D.C.'s humidity. Let the 70's/80's weather in Uganda continue...
8. Learning the Ateso language will be more challenging than I previously imagined.
9. Kampala is like no capital city I have ever been to before.
10. The 2011 Presidential Election is incredibly important to Ugandans!
11. Due to the stress of Peace Corps training, time has seemed to move at a much slower pace.
12. I plan to go to church with my host family at least once (hopefully more).
13. I feel incredibly fortunate to serve in a country with such great people and potential for growth, and to be a small part of the Peace Corps Uganda team.

Things that have surprised me:
1. The British influence is still widely prevalent in Uganda (language, British football).
2. Peace Corps volunteers are treated like heroes amongst the people of Wakiso.
3. How quickly I have adjusted to the Ugandan culture, integrated into the community, bonded with my host family, and DO NOT miss the technological comforts back home.
4. The Ateso and Lugandan languages are similar to Spanish in many respects (emphasis on certain vowels, pronunciations).
5. The mosquitoes haven't been bad...yet. Malaria is still a significant issue of concern.
6. Ugandans, at least our homestay families, watch a lot of television, primarily Mexican soap operas and the local news.
7. Ugandans have very different eating habits than Americans. Not only is it their norm to eat dinner at the earliest 8:00PM, but also they eat much larger portions of food. Members of my host family eat nearly triple what I eat.
8. I have perfected the art of bucket bathing, despite the electricity constantly going on and off in the morning.

Friends and family: I miss you all, and am thinking of all of you!

Monday, August 9, 2010


Day 1: Staging is complete!

There are 45 volunteers in the Peace Corps Uganda group. We have an incredibly diverse group of volunteers coming from all walks of life. I have never met a group of people more enthusiastic and passionate about global volunteerism and service. Staging entailed outlining the Peace Corps mission and expectations, our anxieties and aspirations, and what we should expect in our first week of service.

It's both intimidating and exciting that my Peace Corps experience is finally coming to fruition, finally a reality. It's been a long time coming since I filled out my Peace Corps application in September 2009.

We leave our hotel in Philly at 2:30AM Tuesday morning. As such, I do not plan on sleeping tonight; hopefully, I'll be able to get some sleep on our 15 hour flight to Johannesburg.

Family and friends: I'd like to again thank you all for your support ane encouragement. I wouldn't be here without you.

Until next time...