Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Value of H2O

Living without running water from the tap for the past two weeks or a functioning borehole (since I've been at site) has given me a new appreciation for the clean, readily available water I enjoyed and took for granted stateside. Residents have to walk 2km each day to the community well just to retrieve a gerrycan of water. To cook their food. To drink. To bathe. To launder their clothing. To clean. I am fortunate because my organization hires a worker to retrieve enough water for everybody at site, so I don't have to make the daily hike.

Nevertheless, living on a limited water supply has guiltily reminded me that while there is a dearth of clean, accessible water in Uganda, thousands and thousands of gallons of water are simultaneously wasted everyday in the States. I was certainly guilty of contributing to this. For one, I am considering just continuing to bucket bathe after the conclusion of my service. Or at least take shorter showers.

How else can we limit our water usage? By using less toilet paper, thus flushing less. By not aimlessly leaving the water on at innopportune times. By using the dishwasher sparingly/"as-needed". By preventing water pollution. By educating other people about water wastage.

Let's all make a concerted effort to, at the very least, be cognizant of our water usage, and if possible, limit our water consumption.

Just a thought.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My ABC's of Uganda

'A'jon – A type of local beer brewed from finger millet in the eastern and northern regions of Uganda

'B'ucket baths – Uganda's water-saving version of showering

'C'ities (top 10 most populous): Kampala > Kira > Gulu > Lira > Mbale > Jinja > Nansana > Mbarara > Entebbe > Masaka

'D'VD bootlegs – A booming industry (and popular purchase amongst PCV’s) in Uganda

'E'lection challenges – Corruption, bribery, voter rigging, no cap on # of Presidential terms served

'F'arming – A main source of income for most Ugandans

'G'errycans – Used to carry and transport water

'H'idden Passion – A Mexican soap; Ugandans’ and PCV’s favorite televised show; kept me sane during PST

'I'di Imin – Uganda has come a long way since his reign of power in the 1970’s

'J'ackfruit – Best fruit in Uganda!

'K'enya – Uganda’s eastern neighboring country

'L'ethargy of Ugandans showing up to community meetings on time

'M'atoke – The starch, staple food of Uganda's Buganda region; tasteless

'N'RM- National Resistance Movement; Musevini’s party

'O'bama fandom

'P'remier League Football – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool

'Q'ualms? Not about coming to Uganda!

'R'afting class IV and class V rapids on the Nile is Uganda’s adventure sport!

'S'hort-/Long-term Orientation – Living in Africa firsthand, one can immediately see the cultural differences in orientation between Uganda (e.g. “What happens tomorrow?”) and the United States (e.g. “What happens after I graduate from college?”)

'T'ransportation – Matatus, car taxis, bicycles, buses, boda boda motorcycles

'U'gandan music – Bebe Cool, Coco Finger, Radio & Weasel, Eddy Kenzo, Juliana

'V'SLA’s – Village Savings Loan Associations

'W'aterfalls aplenty – Sipi Falls, Murchison Falls, Bujagali Falls

'X'-rays from the Ugandan sun during the dry season is killer!

'Y'outh – full of energy, enthusiasm, curiosity, and laughter

'Z'ealous, friendly, and hospitable villagers in Kachumbala

Thursday, February 17, 2011

As Per Request

As per request, here are more photos of my worksite, organization's compound, and the nearby primary/secondary school at which I'll be teaching in Kachumbala.

The front door to my room

My organization's compound

Used for outdoor prayer

The Catholic Church at Kachumbala Mission Dispensary

The front door of the Catholic Church

Kachumbala Mission Dispensary (Health Clinic II/parish level)

The beginning construction of a secondary maternity building adjacent to the dispensary. Fundraising for this construction will be one of my primary projects.

The primary school

The football field next to the primary school

Ugandan children requesting that I take a picture of them

The secondary school

More Ugandan children posing for the camera

The community borehole (a primary source of [nonpurified] water)

And more Ugandan children...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My leg hair is not for sale. Now go play football...

"Don't Steal on Super Bowl Monday in Uganda"

Last Monday, a group of PCV's met in Iganga to watch the Super Bowl. Watching American football, commercial-free, for the first time this season was very surreal. I momentarily forgot that I was in Africa. It was not until half-time that I remembered where exactly I was. While leaving the cafe to pick up some drinks at the nearby supermarket, this guy, attempting to steal from a store, was brutally beaten up by a mob of people (store owner, police, passerbyers), blood gushing out of his mouth and lip, in broad daylight. What disturbed me wasn't as much the severity of how this guy was beaten up, but rather how nonchalantly everybody else supported his beatdown (no attempted intervention). The guy eventually escaped from the mob, but was arrested by Iganga police. The lesson of the story? Don't steal in Uganda!

"Wait, What? You Want My Leg Hair?"

This is a conversation I had with a kid the other day at the football field, translated verbatim.

Kid: "You know what makes you different from me?"
Me: "No, what?"
Kid: "You have hair; I don't."
Me: "But that's only in appearence."
Kid: "Can I have some of your hair?"
Me: "No."
Kid: "But you have a lot of it (pointing to my leg hair), and I don't have any."
Me: "My leg hair is not for sale. Now go play football."

You never know what stange, hair-raising conversations you can have with kids in Uganda. I just take it all with a grain of salt.

"My Mzungu Costume"

A few days ago, I made two, 9-month old babies cry hysterically because my 'mzungu costume' scared them. I also took this with a grain of salt. Oh the joys of living in Africa.

"Book Aid/Darien"

On Wednesday, I attended the staff meeting at the local secondary school. Running on Ugandan time, I showed up at 11:00AM for the 10:00AM meeting expecting to be right on time, yet the meeting didn't start until 12:30PM. I introduced Life Skills to the teachers/headmaster and expressed my interest in teaching English and Geography. During the meeting, I heard many of the teachers lament to one another about how they didn't have quality teaching materials (textbooks, other reading materials) to teach their students. Instantly, a lightbulb went off in my head! Why not try to garner donated textbooks for the school as a secondary project, using Book Aid/Darien? Would the project be sustainable? No. But is there need? Absolutely. Book Aid/Darien is an American-based organization that works specifically with Peace Corps volunteers to collect and ship donated books to schools in third-world countries. At the meeting, I asked the teachers to compile a list of books they'd ideally want for their classes (in hopes of enhancing their teaching and student learning). Although a book shipment to Uganda (from the U.S.) can take anywhere from 2-8 months, I'm hoping it arrives and the books be distributed in time for the next school year.

"Standfast Shinanigans"

All PCV's in Uganda are now offically on "standfast" due to the upcoming Presidential election next Thursday. "Standfast" basically means that PCV's have to remain within the vicinity of their sites until told otherwise. Assuming that I am not consolidated, here is a running list of tasks I plan to do at site to pass the time.

- Start outlining a projected 2011 budget with my supervisor.
- Type out and send a request for donated books to Book Aid/Darien.
- Sit in on some secondary classes to get a better feel for how they are taught, and to get some ideas for things I can teach (on English/Geography).
- Read the Life Skills manual in its entirety.
- Teach Silver (my chef) to cook some basic American recipes from the Peace Corps cookbook.
- READ - I am currently reading 'The Waiter Rant' by Steve Dublanica. Next in line are 'Nine Hills to Nambonkaha' by Sarah Erdman and 'There is No Me Without You' by Melissa Fay Greene.

"Cow in the Bathroom..."

In light of my old toilet seat breaking, I just purchased a new toilet seat of, yes, a cow. Although costly, I think it adds comedy and flavor to my bathroom.

"No Move After All"

Despite all my bickering about unfinished housing, I've decided to live permanently in the parish guest house I've been staying in. I am living comfortably (1 room/bathroom, power most of the time, running water), and have no major reason to move.

That's all for now, folks. Take care everybody, and thanks for reading!