Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Final Plea

With the holiday season rapidly approaching, what better way to make a meaningful impact in the lives of Ugandan children than to contribute to the "Libraries for Life - Peace Corps Uganda" project.

Partnering with Books for Africa (BfA), the project aims to build libraries in selected schools throughout Uganda. By supplying schools with textbooks, workbooks, novels, reference books, school supplies, and other resources, we (two other Peace Corps volunteers, children's author Jean Ready, and myself) hope to encourage a culture of reading that is fun yet educational. Books spark intellectual curiosity, encourage kids to think critically and creatively, and put a powerful face to words.

Unfortunately, the majority of schools in Uganda - including the schools participating in this project - have a very limited supply (if any) of books. Many of my students have never before opened a textbook or novel, or learned how to use a book's index or table of contents.

This is where we need your help. In order to have the donated books, supplied by BfA, shipped to Kampala, Uganda, we need to clear the books from port by first paying the shipping charges (approximately $14,000) and port/clearance charges (approximately $2,000), in addition to the costs needed to rent out space to sort through the books, and to deliver the books via truck to the beneficiary schools.

If you find yourself in position to donate to "Libraries for Life - Peace Corps Uganda", please visit Books for Africa's donation page (, scroll down to the Uganda subheading, and click on the said project link.

Any sum that you are able to contribute is greatly appreciated, and will go a long way to building new libraries, with about 4,000 books in each, in selected schools around Uganda!

Friday, November 18, 2011

It Was Only A Matter of Time

Today, I was traveling from Mbale to Kampala for my upcoming midservice medical checkup. Proud of myself for waking up at 5:00AM, I managed to catch the 7:30AM Elgon Flyer bus. I secured a seat in the back, hoping to slyly hide the vacant seat directly next to me.

For those who are unfamiliar with Ugandan transportation, it is rare, almost unheard of, to secure a seat on a bus, car taxi, or matatu without at least one person sitting next to/on top of you. For example, it is the norm to be jammed five people on a seat intended to sit two people. Because bus companies understandably want to maximize their profit on any given journey by filling up every available seat, customer satisfaction/comfort is essentially disregarded. No sweat, right?

Waiting quietly in the back for the bus to leave for Kampala, I thought I had outsmarted the bus conducter. One minute before departure, I was sadly mistaken. "You sit next to the muzunugu," I hear from the conducter, directed at a woman with a baby (not more than a few months old) in-hand. I immediately curse my luck. Sitting next to a presumably crying baby is not how I want to spend the next four hours of my day.

To my surprise, the baby was remarkably well-behaved and cryless, so much that I managed to fall asleep. All was going fine until, two hours later after passing Jinja town, I am suddenly awoken to "Bllaahhhhh." Initially confused by the sound, I wake up to my shirt and pants covered in vomit. It takes me 2-3 seconds to actually realize what just happened. With the mother profusely apologizing "I am sorry" and hundreds of eyes staring at me, wondering from where the nauseating smell and sound originated, I embarrassingly begin to clean/wash my shirt with my water. The conducter then comes over to ask if I am doing okay. Outwardly, I say, "I am fine." Inwardly, I am passing much of the blame on him.

The irony of it all? The mother and her baby proceed to get off the bus in Lugazi town (not in Kampala), not even 20 minutes after my shower of baby vomit. A prime example of bad timing at its finest.

The morals of the story? In Uganda, to expect the unexpected. To embrace everything, even the gross things, as they come because they may never come again stateside. And to perhaps sleep in and catch the 8:30AM Elgon Flyer bus to Kampala instead.

It was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The World Map Project at Kongunga Primary School

Thanks to the students and teachers of Kongunga Primary School for their hard work and dedication on this project. Next up: the World Map Project at Kongunga Secondary School!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


My apologies for my several week absence from updating the blog.

Two weeks ago was my midservice conference in Masaka, with all 44 volunteers from my training group. It was great to reconnect with my fellow PCV's, some of whom I haven't seen since IST back in January. A training group's midservice conference signifies the halfway point in their two years of service. The purpose of the conference is to share successes, challenges, and frustrations; pool resources; and to develop a new workplan and monthly project goals.

Midservice is also the time to really do soul-searching and begin to question what is next for me? What the heck do I want to do after service? What options are available? Do I want to extend my service in-country or in another country? Do I want to consider a Peace Corps Response assignment that has more defined project objectives, and is more tailored to one's skills, interests, and experiences? Do I return stateside, and try my luck in the uninspiring job market? I've already decided not to extend in Uganda because my work situation is anything but ideal; also, I want to see something new. More likely than not, I will return stateside following post-COS travel unless I find a Peace Corps Response assignment that is an ideal fit.

The most reflective part of the conference for me was when we were all frankly asked Why are you still here? What is keeping you from leaving early and going back to the U.S.? My answer is a combination of:
- The full support I have recieved from family and friends back home
- The great relationships I have formed with people in my village
- Several of my projects that are now on the upswing
- My stubborness/self-pride and refusal to quit anything I start
- My satisfaction at being able to communicate in the local dialect
- My loving, biting, tick-carrying dog
- The realization that Uganda really has become a second home for me

We also had a Halloween party (I was too lazy to make a costume) and trivia night, as well as superlatives which were given out to everybody. My superlative, predictably, was "Most likely to get mango flies, nairobi eye, and have his computer stolen all in the same week." Yes, these all did happen to me. No, these all didn't happen within a week.

Despite some nasty reactions (nausea, diahrrea, fever) we all had to the flu shots Peace Corps was mandated to give us (three days of diahrrea, no sweat), midservice was incredibly fulfilling, and motivated me to continue on in my second year of service.