28 December 2009

Nightwalking in Sinai

Amber and i left Dahab at 11 pm and arrived at St. Katherine's Monastery (bottom of Mt.Sinai) around 1:30 am. We started walking and soon realized we were under dressed. It was Cold! The walk took about two and a half hours and there was a long procession of lights before and after me as groups of 10-15 made their pilgrim's way up the mountain. What a sight. Amber said it was like fairies floatin around the mountain. It was so dark and there were millions of stars, lots of twinkling and even those showy shooting stars.

I wish i could describe the walk up the canyon better. There were stars bursting everywhere. They made the outline of the mountains, some of which were trying to blend in with the sky while the others had moon shadows defining their peaks and edges. The dancing in the sky was mixing with the gravel sounds of all our feet. It was a full night.

When we had almost reached the top, the gravel pathway ended and the "Steps of Penitence" began. Hundreds of steps put in by a monk of St. Katherine's. The sleepless night was worth the effort to see the sun rise pink and orange and red over the morning mountains.

When we climbed back down we walked around the very old monastery. There were beautiful paintings and ornaments decorating the chapel. And an enormous inlaid tortoiseshell altar. Lots of people in lots of languages saying "Ooh" and "Aah."
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Welcome Little Laylah! Happy five days old~

24 December 2009

Happy Christmas XO

I'm with my dear amiga amber in cairo, getting ready for the bus to Sinai where we will be spending christmas 2009. I'm so happy to be with her, adventuring and laughing and seeing sights. But my little heart aches for family, dallas, midnight mass hopping and christmas lights. Thankfully she loves talking "family" so thats what we've been doing for the whole trip. "What in the world, thats a mummy." "Oh yeah, speaking of egyptian mummies, my mom is the best." Etc.

So this blog post is to say Merry Merry Christmas family. I love you and am missing you. I'm carrying you in my heart through egypt and back to uganda. You guys go everywhere with me! I hear those voices throughout the day and have a happy chuckle to know we can stay so close even while being far away.

con amor
XOX

19 December 2009

I've Been Lost






Snaps of a Murchison Park Adventure
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Been a while since posting. When i don't see one of my Ugandan friends in a while they say "You've been lost." or "Obuuze."

Merry Christmas guys. Its nice and warm here. Doesn't feel like the holidays, which is good and bad. Its not texas cold so there's no bundling up and drinking warm chocolate milk. But theres also not commercial pressure to shop til you drop and thats a wonderful feeling of freedom!

I went to Murchison Park, in the northwestern part of Uganda. And it was such an adventure. An adventure i would be more than happy to re-do if anyone out there would like to come and visit me in this green green country. You're most welcome!(as they say here.)

I've made a new friend named Valentino. He's five and talks to me non-stop in Luganda. I try to follow the conversation as best as possible, but most times i have to resort to making the agreement/disagreement/shock/amusement sound i think he's looking for. He's such a happy little boy and Pauline's new best friend (yes, i'm a little jealous.)And whereas Pauline was very shy when she first met me, never ventured too far into my house and would fidget anytime i got too close to her, Valentino is an explorer/adventurer and talks to me like we've known each other forever (in Luganda unfortunately.)I've really enjoyed playing with those two recently.

16 December 2009

happy 20th beanie

I love you martin, i hope you have a great celebration in 10 days!
all my neighbors wish you the best too~

LOVE,
celeste

23 November 2009

Knitting Class

I went to a primary school next to my house yesterday to take a knitting class. The Primary 4 girls were excited to teach me and i was really excited to learn. (Mom, our knitting class at JoAnne's didn't stick~) They showed me how to make "windows" and i had a happy time listening to the conversation as they knitted. Lots of the students at this school are from Sudan, so the chatter was in Arabic, Luganda, English and their Sudanese local language.

There weren't enough knitting needles for all the girls to knit, so they were using bicycle spokes, the inside of their bic pens, toothpicks, small sticks and hard pieces of grass. And they were knitting such beautiful things.
When they first showed me their knitting tools i wanted to laugh an unbelievable-but-of-course laugh. Instead i said that they were doing amazing work and i couldn't wait til next term so they could keep teaching me.

These P4 girls just learned how to knit this term; it was taught by one of the teachers and a boy from Northern Sudan. They are advancing very quickly and are now teaching most of the other students there. So even the 5 year-old in P1 was happily knitting away using her two small twigs.

:)

16 November 2009

Expectations


Girls decorating their poetry on my front porch
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I thought that i didn't have any expectations, but i was wrong. They were lying there quietly in the back of my mind only to surface during the most frustrating moments of service.
I wanted to share some of them with you.

1. I expected to live in modest housing without running water or electricity. My house is incredibly nice and very "western" with plumbing, lights and yes i have tiled floors.
2. I expected to have trouble communicating with home but there are internet cafes all over kampala, not to mention right next to where i work.
3. I expected to be on my own, without any american support system but I'm close to the city where many foreigners live and work AND i have some great PCV friends who live nearby. One amiga even works with me at the same Primary Teachers College.
4. I expected to miss people like crazy. So far, that one's right on the mark.
5. I expected to have plenty, if not overflowing amounts, of work to do. The work is "there" i just have to go out and get it.
6. I expected to be more motivated. I think the problem i'm facing with motivation is that i feel overwhelmed with the responsibility. There are up and down feelings of inadequacy, determination, melancholy and confidence. I'm working on self encouragement; "Si se puede" and stuff like that.

Besides what i did expect, i didn't expect so many other wonderful things that surround me now. So i'm thankful for that!

09 November 2009

November Weekend

I went up north to a village called Mwareere to work with my friends Lizzie (who lives there), Christine, Amanda and Mandy for Girls Empowerment Day at Mwareere Secondary School. It went really well. I talked to the girls about goal setting and had them write a letter to themselves that Lizzie would return to them after a year. The other sessions were bead making as an income generating activity, information and prevention of HIV, self defense and self esteem. I think the girls were really excited to see so many foreigners gathered in one place~ they really enjoyed all the activities and we hope to come back next year for a re-fresher course.

I also went to visit my homestay family in wakiso. I was able to play with my little sisters and brothers for a few hours. It was loads of fun and it felt like home. We played cards, i helped pick up leaves in the yard, we watched a circus show on tv, we had tea and of course, before i left, they fed me lunch. Then i traveled back south to Kisubi and played music and colored and talked with the P5 and P6 girls at St. Theresa. It was such a happy day of laughing and talking with little ones. It felt good.

04 November 2009

Thank You Castillos


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Thank you Casiana for this beautiful drawing. It makes me happy!

Love, Celeste

01 November 2009

Walk to Lake Victoria






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My friends and i walked to the lake yesterday. It was me, Paulinee, Teddy, Sylvia and Scovia. They had never been to the lake! So we had a good time~ We hadn't walked 5 minutes before Pauline said we were walking So Far! We hitched a ride halfway down the road, which was kinda nice cause we were walking s-l-o-w. It was a fun sunday afternoon.
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So maybe you've noticed, i've been finding more internet time. I feel happier when i feel "connected" to family & friends in the good ole US of A. And i just wanted to say (again and again) thank you for the emails and letters you've been sending my way. Even the occassional facebook hello is a warm feeling...

30 October 2009

What are you gonna be for Halloween?


Sunrise in Kisubi
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Just got back from Lifeskills training in Kampala. It was a week with the other volunteers in my group and our counterparts. We played tons of games and learned how to incorporate these sessions into basically any part of our peace corps service. I think this is one of the peace corps programs i am most excited about. It seems like such a positive way to work for all sorts of development~

Some of the big discussions we had were about the spread of HIV, stigma & discrimination, peer pressure, positive discipline, self esteem and goal setting. It was very helpful to hear the ugandan perspective. It made me realize why some of my ideas fall flat on their faces. And i think they appreciated hearing our perspectives. It was a safe place to exchange ideas and thoughts and i feel like we all tried our best to be honest and respectful. It was tough at times. Specifically when some of the men asked why americans couldn't accept that women were property. I think they were semi joking.

We had a halloween shindig one evening and we just danced the night away in silly costumes. I was part of an 80's punk band. I think all the costumes took a back burner to the dancing! Most of our group (the volunteers who came feb 14, 2009 a.k.a. "the valentiners)are girls and all of us really like to cut a rug. It was a blast.

I was thinking of family dances at home! Stefan at first not wanting to dance, then finally caving in and wanting to dance ALL the time..... Good Luck Quag with the meet. It sounds like you're traveling all over the place! And i bet you're taking pictures for me...
Maybe you'll end up visiting that beanie bean way up north! Keep up the good run quag, enjoy the race... i'll be thinking of you and sending you happy happy thoughts!

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Webale nnyo for the packages! I just got tuna fish and coffesmate flavoring from the Castillos! I can't wait to go home and drink some coffee... And there was a gorgeous drawing from Casiana that i'm going to hang on my wall.
Tia! Lucas! Vicente! Thanks for the photos of home!!! I love them and i cant stop giving you guys kisses on the pictures. And the book, webale jaja wange!! Thanks welita bagita, i read it a long time ago and look forward to starting it again. "The Power of One." Thanks tia for the cute notecards and thank you Tia Vita for the nice note! Awesome stickers matre~ Muah muah muah! I love you all and really appreciate your thinking of me. It really feels nice to open these gifts from home and i hope you know they bring me lots of joy. Just reading your handwriting is a gift~

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To my cute little brothers and cousins.... i miss you all and smile to myself thinking of ya'll and what shenanigans you must be up to these days.

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What are you guys gonna be for halloween?

23 October 2009

Tour of Jinja





At Bujagali Falls and a view of Kampala
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I left with the St. Theresa P5 class around 7:30. After tons of traffic we finally began our tour at the sugar factory. It was an amazing jumble of metal, heat, sweet smelling steam and shouting men. At the beginning of the tour they asked if anyone was afraid of loud machines or if they had asthma they would have to stay behind. "I'm not afraid" thought Celeste. Then we started climbing rickety (to me) metal stairs and walking over high,holey metal walkways. I was scared but trying not to "look" scared. It didn't work though, cause the teachers kept asking "are you scared celeste?" and "nothing to fear, nothing to fear!"
We each (5 teachers, 90 students and myself) got a heaping handful of sugar at the end of the tour.

Then we went to a factory where they make clothes and we got to see the process go from raw cotton to nice cotton sheets. There was cotton floating everywhere so we were sneezing and the ladies all covered their hair. They told me i didn't have to cover mine since i washed my hair every day.

Then it was off to the mattress factory. They showed us the chemical process they use to make the foam mattresses everyone uses here. Then we each got a piece of foam to take home. They gave me one shaped like a heart :)

After the factory tours we went to the source of the Nile and then to Bujagali Falls. They were beautiful and loud and rushing. There were men who jumped into the falls with just a jerrycan. Hmm..

A long day, but full of excitement. The girls were great. They were trying to explain all sorts of things to me, as though they'd been there a million times, and it brought big smiles to my face.

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Just received some things from my momma, carrie, langela, martin and nate. Thank you so much for thinking of me.. I haven't opened the packages/letters yet cause i'm trying to learn patience! (Okay, so i opened one...)
Love

20 October 2009

Wash Your Hands


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Handwashing Day was last thursday and we had a small, slightly disorganized event. There was singing, a dance, a poem and a short skit. The lower primary really liked the skit, and i think everyone else just wanted to go to lunch.

But the upside to Global Handwashing Day events is that i have been helping schools build tippy-taps. I have a sneaking suspicion that the kids are going to break them within the year, or someone is going to steal the wood. But hopefully just making them will show the kids they have control over their health.

Thanks mom for the recipes!

16 October 2009

Oh Susanna, Don't You Cry For Me


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After our reading and writing club meeting yesterday, the P5 and P6 girls walked me to my house, and they love to carry my things for me. I usually have a pen, some books and a piece of cloth to sit on the grass with. They divvy out my goods, then "escort" me home.
At the door they asked me if i would play JUST ONE song, PLEASE ARISTA?
I said, "just one?"
YES, JUST ONE!
So i brought out the guitar and played many songs, including "Oh Susanna", "Bread and Butter" and some Church songs. (Bread and Butter is a popular and great song by the Ugandan duo sensation Radio and Weasel.)

After playing "Oh Susanna" a coupla times, they had memorized the refrain. So there was this group of primary girls singing at the top of their lungs, Oh Susanna, dont you cry for me, for i come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee...
"

14 October 2009

Joy and Jump Rope

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9… oooooh
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16…ooohhhhh
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26….oooohhh

I made it to 26 in jumping rope. I’m kinda proud. I think I need to stop and play jump rope more often. Forget about words like sustainable development, community-based organizations, NGOs… I wanna talk about giggling, happy primary school students, playing in the sunshine and just general feel-goodery.

I do want to “do” something while I’m here and selfishly, I would like that something to be big picture/newsworthy/important/noticed. BUT on the goldeny, sunshiny days like today, after I’ve finished all my laundry and re-read one of the Dune books, I’m content and happy and glad and all those kinda words to just play, laugh and be silly with the St. Theresa girls. And I can forget about the “Peace Corps” label. Forget what people may or may not be thinking about what I’m doing on this side of the world. Forget the pressures of being here. And remember joy.

Matre, I think you’ve been trying to get us to remember joy all our lives. Here I am being joyful.

what reminds you to be joyful?

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Call for Recipes:
I have or can easily find:
Flour (maize and wheat), most spices, baking powder and soda, different kinds of oils, bananas, apples, guava, papaya, mango, passion fruit, jackfruit, pineapple, peanuts, cassava (type of root), potato, avocado, beans, rice, tomatoes, eggplant, peas, cabbage, ginger, onion, carrots, and garlic.

Any ideas for delicious meals?

04 October 2009

Cold October Day







Some recent snaps of the reading and writing club members reading to the P2 students(it reminded me of the buddy system at Santa Clara!), standing with the PIASCY group last friday after they had performed some amazing song and dance routines and taking a soda break with the teachers at St. Theresa.
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Its cold today. Brrr. Walking to work (just up the hill from the bus stop) i got so dirty. Only the main roads are paved, everything else is the red dirt that i love. That i love on dry, non-windy days.

This past weekend my amigas came over and we celebrated a birthday. There was pineapple stir-fry, apple crisp and champagne (awful, awful champagne.)

This coming friday is Uganda's Independence Day. I think i'm going to get a watermelon and stand over a foot bridge pretending i'm watching fireworks. Maybe it'll come close to celebrating the 4th on the Jefferson Bridge before it was closed off. My laptop has a game that when you win, fireworks shoot off, so maybe i'll bring my computer along. ;)

All my love

Ps. Thanks Bob for the amazing teas and candles! They are wonderful! The vit C came at a perfect time, just as i was gettting a cold. Thanks Karina for the book, i finished it in one night! Thanks Tommy for the quality package you sent that only a fellow ugandan volunteer would be able to do. Pens! Thanks Matre for the sandals~ Oh my mama, you are the best.

29 September 2009

Thanks Lucas

For the delicious coke gummy candy. Yum!

on saturday i went to a graduation celebration with my friend Amanda. we arrived when the speeches had already begun. the master of ceremonies interrupted his speech and introduced us saying "they have been sent by the queen." We got to sit up front with the guests of honor. Typical day in the life...

on monday i walked to five schools in five hours. i was pretty proud. i may not have accomplished much in the way of teaching, but i did get some good excercise and got to walk deeper into the villages. It made me wish i lived in a more rural, quiet place. The red dirt roads, quiet walks with the sounds of banana leaves, barefeet, etc.

26 September 2009

Good Morning September Sunday


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Yesterday I had a busy and wonderful day. It was full of friends, talking and celebrations. At the end of the day I made potato soup. And it was delicious. But it was more than the potato-y, starch-y flavor, it was spiced full of memories. Of sitting at la Madeleine, watching people walk by at Northpark, or getting into the jeep on a cold day in December and going for a drive near SMU looking at Christmas lights. That place was only in north dallas then, but maybe by now one’s been built between the trinity and cedar hill. An oak cliff gal can hope.

I wish I had more to write about work, but as you probably know, it just isn’t there yet. I’m hoping and working and hoping some more that I’ll make some steady/good work soon. I’m going to start giving tippy-tap demonstrations after this next week. They’re hand washing stations made outta wood, jerry cans, and string. Mainly.

Have I told you guys that I miss you?

I’m doing well and enjoying the good Ugandan life. Of course there are days when I am quite frustrated/annoyed/anxious/exhausted and just plain grouchy. (I try to stay away from writing on this online journal those days, since I feel like even a positive attitude is slightly jaded at this point.)

The only things I am in “need” of are letters, emails and photos from ya’ll. I have most everything readily available since Kampala is only a hop, skip, n’ a jump away. And thank you for all of the letters and care packages you’ve sent. They are pieces of pure joy and I sing a happy tune all the way home from the post office.

All my love~

22 September 2009

21 September 2009

Feliz Cumpleanos (Manana)



Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti,
Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

19 September 2009

17 September 2009

Warm September


PIASCY Workshop, Teachers playing "Pat On the Back" game
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Shout out to my Ugandan amigos. I hope your job and your day are going fairly if not very well. You are doing Great things! And I’m glad we’re friends.
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Last week I helped give a teacher’s workshop on The Presidential Initiative for Aids Strategy and Communication to the Youth (PIASCY.) It’s a program that began a few years ago to educate primary and secondary students on HIV/AIDS. There are PIASCY clubs that perform dramas about peer pressure, how to say no and reducing stigmatization against anyone who is positive. The program encourages schools to have signs and murals around the campus that warn of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections. PIASCY also promotes Life Skills education alongside the usual curriculum. Life Skills is an education program that Peace Corps volunteers also work with in most every country they work in. Life Skills education is based on the idea that we all have the knowledge to make good decisions. But how do we use the knowledge that we already have to get to a positive and healthy lifestyle?

That’s where Life Skills come in handy; we all need to learn how to be assertive, confident, critical thinkers, goal setters, responsible, and possess self esteem, self respect etc. Peace Corps has a comprehensive and detailed program outline that can be tailored to meet the age group or specific need of a Life Skills group. These clubs play games, role play, debate and discuss to learn more about themselves and the options they have in life.

I’m in the very beginning stages of Life Skills clubs at different primary schools. We’re trying to figure out how and when to run them, how teachers and I will share responsibility and what the students are most at risk for. The more I learn about Life Skills, the more I think we should have them in America or in my neighborhood in Dallas anyway. I think the teachers i‘ve had are great motivators and advocates for our individual personalities and talents. But the amount of “poor decisions(like the high STI rate)” seems to say that’s something’s missing and maybe that’s more of a focus on life skills.
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I am doing well and am safe and sound here in my small, quiet community. Have I ever told you guys that I live in a community of schools? I live next to a great University that specializes in education (meaning access to resources on pedagogy in Africa!) 3 technical schools (art, catering, electrical and building), two secondary schools, 4 primary schools and a seminary.
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Early Happy Birthday wishes go to my dear mom and my dear friend sandrita. I wish I could be there to sing las mananitas and shower you with hugs and kisses. You are in my thoughts and prayers and I love you a lot, even though I’m 14 inches away.
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Thank you for writing about guilt. It’s changed the way I think about myself and my “job” in Uganda and anywhere else. I’m going to try to do my best (hard enough without adding complicated emotions to it) and be loving to people I know and to people I meet. Easier said than done right? I’ll keep looking up and out!

01 September 2009

Guilt

Lots of time i struggle with feeling guilty. Some struggles are more lighthearted than others, like feeling guilty for being 120-something lbs when i'm getting a ride on someone's bike. But other days, usually as i'm walking around dusty Kampala, i see sleeping babies sitting on the streets with their little hands held out for anything. Or less heartbreaking but still an issue: when i'm at a ceremony or huge celebration and i'm one of the first (out of hundreds) to get served lunch cause i'm foreign. Then even as a volunteer here, i get a living allowance that exceeds most of my friends yearly pay.

Any suggestions my friends out there?

To end on a happier note, for the past few days (for more language training) we're in a gorgeous part of Uganda. Northwest of Kampala, its just green for days and days!

Thanks Welita for your letter! I was so happy to get it. Thanks Nate for the gummy bears~ they were just what the doctor ordered.

18 August 2009

17 August 2009

Schools Out!

It’s been a long time. I have been wrapping up saying hello to teachers and head teachers at the schools. I think there are still schools that I haven’t visited yet, but that will give me some good solid goals for third term.

There are a lot of proposed-hopefully-they-work-out projects up in the air right now: Leadership education day camps in collaboration with other PCVs; fundraising events for the local hospital; HIV/AIDS awareness clubs with the schools; and reading and writing clubs with the schools.

So far, these projects are in the talking stage. I’m going to work at getting at least ONE of these projects started. Peace Corps is an advocate of sustainable development work and they strongly encourage us to work with/develop Ugandan leaders in the activities we participate/initiate. So when we leave Uganda, we hope to leave stable programs that will continue under positive leadership. A bit harder than I had imagined. I’ve met many people who are very interested/excited about getting information, being in a club, or educating the youth; however, I have yet to meet someone who wants to lead any one of those activities with me. I think many people are still unsure of how serious or qualified I am, so I’m trying my level best to share ALL the information I have about ANYthing as OFTEN as possible with ANYone who wants to listen (and sometimes even with those who don’t.)

Recently I went to an all day celebration for a friend who was just ordained. It was a very happy and busy and long day. Most celebrations occur outside under large white tents. A usual format for these celebrations is: 1.Morning Mass, 2.Speeches, 3.Dancing, 4.Lunch at Three. I usually start the day enjoying the company and festiveness. I’m not gonna lie, by the time three rolls around I can be a bit grouchy. It’s magic though, once I’ve eaten lunch everything is sunshine and roses again. (Late lunches/Early dinners reminds me of my mama. That trickster.)

Thanks Castillo Family, via Maria, for the wonderful treats you sent! How did you know Werther’s are my fav? Yum! Thanks Sandrita for the cool gadget – took me a while to figure out how to use it! Its great. Thanks Monica for the adorable replacement goods you sent! Thanks Mike for the musica… Its been fun listening! Thanks Welita for the books! Did you send me the Magnificat? Thank you! Thank you Tia for the soup and the books. They hit the spot! Thank you Tia/Tia Janda for wonderful gifts - they were perfectly timed!

Other Things I’m grateful for:
1. Talking to the matre, quagmire and the bean
2. My friend Lydia re-teaching me Luganda words all the time
3. Little Paulie talking contentedly for long stretches about who knows what
4. Great sunrises and sunsets
5. Playing soccer with St. Theresa girls – I use the word “playing” lightly
6. Finally getting a handle on my co-workers names
7. Getting mail from the familia and friends

This is the first month we are able to use vacation days and travel around. The Three Months At Site marker has been met! But it’s also In-Service Training time. So most likely no travel, but I’m really anxious to get more language and job training. It’s nicely timed to be just when you are starting to try creating development activities. AND when you are realizing the language skills need more work. I think I’m great at greetings and at saying “I know a little Luganda, but I am still learning.” I think the conjugations and vocabulary in that sentence are a little misleading to the people I say it to ‘cause they generally begin speaking to me at a rapid pace using words I’ve never heard before.

25 July 2009

4 am Wake Up Call

Not mine, for the 7th graders. Also known as P7 students. Since the national exams are coming up in december - deciding where they will be attending secondary school, schools are buckling down. Even more than before, when they awoke at 5:00. Usually, the sound of the students running across the lawn at 5:15 is like a pre-pre-pre alarm call for me to get up about an hour (or so) later.
I talked to my friend lydia who is the matron of the P7 dorm. Matrons take care of the dorms and the students making sure they stay clean and the students behave - basically. She told me when she was in primary she was a day scholar, so she went home after lessons. This was her day:
5:30 am wake up for chores at home
6:00 am eat breakfast and walk to school
7:00 am classes begin
5:00 pm classes end
5:00 - 7:00 walk home and chores at home
THEN walk back to school for more lessons/revising work
THEN walk back home at night.
From what i've seen and/or heard this is a fairly mild day.
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Making a cake with a great helper~

08 July 2009

Nursery Class Student Teacher Ratio 60:1

I saw many classes today and it felt nice to interact with the students. I went into a nursery class where the kids were 2-4 years old. There were a little over 60 little ones with one determined teacher. She was good. But there were 60 little ones. It was a little hectic.

This morning i had a nice walk to work. It was about an hour and the morning weather made it a cool and pleasant hour. The best part were the chickens. It was a cute family with the newborns happily following their mama. The fun part was that while the mom was a mottled black and white, the little chicks were magenta! (Whoa Genetics! Some crazy recessive genes!) I think i've heard that they're dyed so they are recognizable by their owners. I'll check my sources on that one.

04 July 2009

Happy July 4th !

Today I spent the morning painting learning materials for the lower primary students. I was in charge of “green.” I started out painting papayas green and yellow but since i didn’t know how to paint them correctly I was directed to paint bananas and sticks Just green. Still fun. Now my hands and fingers are green.
There were some girls watching us paint, they didn’t speak English but after I shared some Almond M&Ms (Thanks Sally!) with them we were best friends. I asked if they knew what color I was using. Of course they knew. Green. “What other colors do you know?” (After translation by my teacher friend…) “Orange, blue, banana, cow, red…” I think they were trying their very best to show me they knew English. It was endearing. Though some of the teachers didn’t think so and the girls were berated for not knowing their colors in English. One teacher asked if they went to school and they replied that they went to classes until they were chased away for not paying school fees. So they would collect maize and sell it until they had enough to pay off some of the fees. This morning they were selling their maize.
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About 3 weeks ago and then today I received many goodies in the mail. Just wanted to say thank you forever for thinking of me and sending me something nice. Though Please don’t feel like you have to send something that comes in a package cause I would equally love a letter or a postcard that comes in a small but just-the-same-cause-for-joy envelope.
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Recently I’ve seen more Uganda traditional dancing and singing and I continue to be amazed. At the voices, at the energy, and at the incredible rhythm! It took me years and years of dance classes to be able to move my shoulders to a slow beat – and these little ones can shake it like nobody’s business. I’ll admit it... I’m a little bit jealous…But it’s so fun to watch because not only do you get to see this great dance, but you get to see their joy. They smile with their whole body!
I think it feels so good to see the kids that happy and confident because it seems they have very little control over the happiness in their lives. It feels like there is less concern over children’s emotional health. Parents try and meet their “most” important needs like food and education. And most try really hard. They work before the sun is up and long after it’s gone down. Their exhaustion may be why I see little outward concern over how their child is feeling.
________
Time is funny. When I feel listless an hour can last for days. When I’m trying to communicate via internet, an hour disappears in an instant! Yikes. I’m sorry I have been a poor communicator lately! I’ve read your emails and gotten your packages and thank you so much! Karina I have your graduation pic up! Susie Q I melted when I got the soft tp from home. Kindergarteners’ presents left me full of smiles! Thanks Michelle for the amazing homemade cards! Tia, the delicious gum keeps me sane during abnormally long meetings. Welita thank you for the Padre Pio book, after I read it I’m gonna share it with the nuns! Sally thanks for the M&Ms and book – I just finished one yesterday, so the timing was prrrrfect! Mom thanks for the macaroni n cheese, YUM! And thank you for all the emails. It feels really good to read about what you guys are doing back in Texas/Massachusetts/California. And I promise to write more! I’m doing good and great with occasional days of missing home. Attending lots of workshops for teachers and head teachers. Visiting more primary schools in my neighborhood. Getting a feel for how we can work together to improve their school. It’s going well.
_________
And since my ethnic amiga Amber decided- purely on her own- to write about me here is a little amber bio… A grand girl from Kansas City. And even though she is so young, she still has a lot to contribute. Her hobbies are running, being lively, volunteering other people for jobs, running, being a good listener, running, being an awesome hairdresser, and just being great.
_________
P.S. Could you guys keep sending me photos? They are great and make me smile! Thanks!

12 June 2009

Texas Tee Shirts


Workshop for Primary 1 Teachers at the Coordinating Center
____________

I saw someone wearing a shirt with the Texas flag on it.
The other day I saw someone in a UT Longhorns shirt. You know me, I have post-UT school spirit (went to the Co-op before I graduated and got myself a tee shirt) But I had a surge of pride and did the hook ‘em horns out the window. (I was in a taxi.)
And finally yesterday i saw a young girl with a Fort Worth Zoo Tee Shirt. (!)
_______


Last week we had some workshops at various schools and i would like to describe some aspects of their structures for you. Their buildings aren't all the same, but at least mostly similar. Looking at them i think of parents/teachers/students from back home and make silent faces to myself cause i know someone who's in facilities maintenance :)

Here are some things:

#1 No Electricity but overhead light bulbs
#2 Cement floor crumbling near the blackboard (nice pot holes for the teacher to maneuver around) and under the student’s desks
#3 A tin roof and no ceiling. (I’ll mention it just in case you weren’t imagining it: there’s no air conditioning here on the equator. Sometimes I step into a swanky bank or grocery store-in Kampala of course- and feel the fresh burst of cold air coming my way. Mmmm)
#4 No glass panes for the windows, when it rains everyone just moves towards the center of the room and since rain on a tin roof is Loud, class instruction usually stops.
#5 Pupils’ desks have rusty nails sticking out of them
#6 Thick, established spiders’ webs and bats’ nests in the corners and crevices of the room
#7 Crumbling cement walls
#8 Old wooden door that doesn’t occupy the entire door frame
#9 Lines of ants running up and down the walls.

Some schools have more or less building "issues" they would love to fix if they had the funds, but in the meantime, the students learn and the teachers teach.

LOVE. Me

07 June 2009

Martyr's Day at Namogongo

Martyr's Day is June 3rd and there is a large "get together" at their shrine in Namogongo - not too far east of Kampala.

What a day! People like i've never seen. I left the celebrations early to see a friend off at the airport (she finished her Peace Corps service!) So i didn't even stay for the busiest part. There was dancing and singing and the Bishop from Southwest Uganda said the mass. People from all over East Africa come every year and many of them come walking.
Can you imagine?

I couldn't, so i went and quickly remembered i'm an Arista and don't like crowds unless it's at the fair and i'm in close proximity to lemonade and belgian waffles.

There were so many people! Unfortunately i arrived late (7:15 am) so i didn't get a good seat to watch all the happenings. I tried to move around to meet up with a friend of mine who was sitting probably 100 yards away from me. Futile effort. The crowds were impenetrable! She got the good seats and saw more than manicured lawns and flower beds being destroyed/crushed.

But i hope to go back on ANY non-Uganda Martyrs Day day. It's a very neat and normally peaceful place - so i've been told.

02 June 2009

Bishop Dunne follows me to Uganda

The head sister here at St. Theresa Girls had been telling me about her relative who was returning to Uganda for the final burial rites for her mother. Sister told me that this relative also lived in Texas and in fact had been there for almost 40 years. Sister told me that she would introduce us so we could talk about my American home.

This Texan relative came by for a visit today and we talked warmly about Dallas; she lives in Mesquite. I didn't mention too much about Oak Cliff, cause Mesquite's kinda far. She wouldn't know Hampton n' Illinois, or Kiest Park, let alone Glenfield.

I told her i was from Oak Cliff and she said she knew it well since her job took her there quite often. "Wow" i thought. What a small world. Then i told her i lived on Glenfield and "Wow" again cause she often worked on that very home-town street of mine!

We chatted for a bit longer about her stay in Uganda, about her son who is at University in New York, about my adjustment here... "Oh yes i love Uganda." "Its also nice to meet you." "We will meet again." Then the words that made my heart beat almost out of my chest. "My son went to Bishop Dunne."

WHAT!!!!?

I almost shouted, cried, laughed and sat down all at the same time. Thankfully i just clapped my hands and shouted out. I grabbed her hand (probably to steady myself) and said very calmly "That is my school. I went to school there and i also worked there. What year did your son graduate? What! I know him AND that's when my little brother graduated! What! You thought you had recognized me? WHAT! You know my mom?!!!!!" (And that's when i almost did the shout/cry/laugh/sit thing again.)

And Sister and the others who were with us felt the joy. I mean, i was flyin'. So "hey" from here Bishop Dunne, Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas. I always knew there was something special about our school.

All my excited love and joy!
Celeste

27 May 2009

Just Some Photos






Hola amigos y familia. Como han estado? Les extrano!
Promise i'll write more later. Life is good and i hope you all had a great holiday weekend!
All my love love love

18 May 2009

So, i thought it would be a good idea





-photos of home before a rainstorm and a tucked away garden-

I wanted to eat pancakes for dinner. It sounded like a good idea. One of my friends can't eat gluten, so we were substituting flour with oats. Then i realized we didn't have one ingredient that i didn't think was too important. Well, it turns out that maybe baking powder is kinda important and maybe substituting flour with oats might not make for good pancakes. Cause it was a mess. I'm talking "smoke-in-the-kitchen, dinner-talk-stopped, nuns-looking-on-worried/horrified" mess. The "pancakes" were a runny disaster. It smelled delicious at first and then was gradually overpowered by the smell of smoke. I'm not sure of the exact combination of "wrong turns" that led us to being laughed out of the kitchen, but somehow, we made it there. Who knows how i'm gonna redeem myself now. (Mom/Tia, you gotta send me some recipes.) We ended our cooking adventure by abandoning all hope of being able to flip the gooey glop and instead switched to scrambling it. oh yes, a scrambled pancake mess. But, we held our heads high as we marched with our pancake goop back to my house to eat it with a spoon.

Other than that, i've been good and busy doing small jobs at schools and with my neighbors. I can’t put my finger on what makes the days pass so quickly though. Maybe a toothache and some friends leaving have made it feel quicker than usual. Tooth is better by the way. It was taken out. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Lately it has been cold. Yes my friends, cold. I had chills and goose bumps the other day. I was very surprised and kinda happy to be cold. For most of last week here, even in Kampala (which is usually hot as heck compared to the coolness of Kisubi...) it has been windy, cool, and rainy. I used it as an excuse to purchase a very pretty blue scarf at the craft market in the city. It’s a really neat place with lots of odds and ends for foreigners to pick up on their way in or out of Uganda. The prices begin outrageously and then, depending on the time of day or how much effort you’re willing to put into bargaining, come down to a reasonable price. This is a bargaining culture so I’ve been having lotsa chances to haggle in the markets. I’m still learning my numbers in Luganda (not to mention still learning how to put together coherent sentences…) so I generally stumble quite a bit when I’m trying to tell shopkeepers how much I want to spend. Usually they’re just glad to see me trying and attempt to coach me along the way. Sometimes on-the-spot language learning is fun and easy and sometimes it’s just embarrassing and kinda like getting a pop quiz in public.

I miss you guys and send you all my Love!
XO

08 May 2009

Thank You Posta Uganda

I finally received packages that were sent in February/March. And thank you so much for the assortment of love you sent! They will be taken care of (savored to the last drop if food, tacked up to my wall if pictures/cards, and gratefully taken to heart if gentle words of wisdom...)


Other than a wicked toothache i have been doing great in Kisubi. I've played games with the girls who stayed on campus over the holidays, learned how to crochet a scarf, tested out my ugandan cooking skills (by making spaghetti!), taken walks around the neighborhood, gotten my bike fixed(turns out someone must have accidentally switched the real bike chain with a fake bike chain, which is why it broke the moment i began pedaling), organized my room to feel like home (stuff on the walls, pictures of home on the mirror) and tried to speak Luganda with shopkeepers.

Thanks again for the letters and packages. They brighten my day!

06 May 2009

Birthday Wishes


*Happy Birthday Q...Stefan!*

I was thinking about you all day yesterday giving you long distance hugs.
XOXO - lest

30 April 2009

Chekhov and the resurrection story

I have a great site. My two year old sister (who calls me mamma lestee or mamma celee) is helping me learn Luganda. Just like any two-year-old, she’s got lots to say, I just wish I knew what it was. My other sister is in secondary school and has showed me how to cook the most delicious meals. My third sister has taken me on walks and shown me the ins and outs of boarding a taxi to get to work. Then of course there are the other sisters (nuns) who are like my third, fourth, fifth, sixth and so on… mom.

Last Sunday I went to Mount St. Theresa Church for a mass in English. The homily was given by a brother from America and he gave a warm talk about knowing Jesus. The gospel was about the apostles not recognizing Jesus after he had risen from the dead and Brother said he thought Luke wanted to emphasize how difficult it can be for anyone, let alone the closest friends, to see Jesus. He talked more about our struggle to find Jesus in people or in actions that don’t seem to have any love or truth in them.

Then I read a short story called “The Duel.” A story about two men (so different they came close to being the same) ending up in a… you guessed it… duel. The story finished with what I thought Sunday’s homily meant for me. There are many times I think I recognize love-Jesus-truth and I’m full of joy. Then there are times I feel exasperated by what seems to be illogical or inhumane behavior/what people sometimes call the “Ways of the World.” From some of the things I’ve seen here, I think I will have to keep in mind that I want to find the truth-love-Jesus and it won’t always be as easy as waking up with the sunrise. Here’s the ending of the story:

“…the agitated, black sea. It hurls the boat back…she takes two steps forward and one backward, but the oarsmen are stubborn, they ply the oars indefatigably and aren’t afraid of the high waves… It’s the same in life… In searching for the truth, men take two steps forward and one backward. Suffering, mistakes, and the tedium of life thrust them back, but the thirst for the truth and a stubborn will drive them on and on. And who knows? Maybe they’ll reach the real truth…”

(I tried to remind myself of this semi-hopeful, stirring passage yesterday when my bike broke for the third time in a 30 minute time frame. “How does the search for Jesus-love-truth fit into this incredibly irritating scenario celeste?” Is what I asked. Then i laughed at myself for imagining throwing the bike in a ditch or a bush or rubbish pile. “You could use some patience and peace celeste” I said. Then I smiled thinking that maybe I had found a good part of life.)

25 April 2009

Sports Day 2009






Here are a few photos from a busy and exciting sports day. There were many events, including:
-matooke peeling and preparation
-hoola hoop races
-traditional dress race (who put on a gomez the fastest)
-100, 400, and 800 meter races
-soccer match
-sack race
-musical chairs
-bottle filling (who can squeeze a sponge the fastest into a soda bottle)
-marching

My house didn't win sports day... sad..
There are four houses: blue/Luke, orange/Kizito, red/Lwanga, green/Mulumba. They are named after the Ugandan martyrs. I have been put in blue house--> Go team blue! They compete against each other during events like Sports Day and are grouped together for chores and living arrangements.

I even got to march today!

Love you all
Celeste

23 April 2009

Made it to a nice site

Just a short note to say i made it safely and soundly to my new home in Kisubi. My neighbors are a wonderful primary school for girls, some very friendly and welcoming nuns and a glittery lake victoria.

This is what went on in my head as i was walking around the grounds:
"What!? How is life so windy and rollercoaster-y? So happy and so bittersweet, surrounded by such good things but so far from family and friends, a new life learning completely new things but with knowledge and experience from my life so far...
Yikes..... Im loving life."

20 April 2009

Post Trainee... Pre Volunteer

The prospect of almost being at site makes me feel excited and nervous all at once. I think there is a big ball of emotion inside me rolling around soaking everything up! Plus i haven't talked to my momma or brothers in a long time and i just read an email from them and almost cried! (Out of joy and of course missing them...)

Saturday we had our homestay celebration and Sunday was busy with packing and saying our goodbyes to the friends we had made in our town. I was able to say goodbye to the family i met the first weekend when i went to mass. They were like a second family to the second family i have in Uganda, very welcoming and full of joy. We played a game of tag except if you cross your fingers or squat down on the ground the person who's It cannot tag you. So i was It for a long time. And the little one had a great time giving me commands in English (that her older sister was passing onto her.) Sit down! Dance! Comb your hair! Sing!

And this morning we said goodbye to our wonderful families and made our way into Kampala. We will be busy with training tomorrow and then we swear in as volunteers and leave to our sites on Wednesday. So far i know that i will be living right outside of Kisubi.

Thank you for all of the emails you have sent keeping me up-to-date on all the goings on. I think there has been a snag in the snail mail system, but im sure i'll get the letters/packages that have been sent soon. Thank you for thinking of me and be sure that i think of you all the time!
A big big hug

15 April 2009

Working near Entebbe

I will be working at a teachers' coordinating center near Entebbe. It all sounds great and good and i am having a nice day! It started out pretty muddily --> As in, lots and lots of mud. And it was pretty darn chilly. In true Uganda fashion,i was cold in the morning and then sweaty and hot by lunchtime. Reminds me of texas.
I miss you friends and family over there and am sending you some long distance love!

A big big hug.

11 April 2009

Today i ate at the Capital of Happiness


Amber and i at Mabira Forest

(had a great american like lunch at a cafe in Kampala today.)

Last week we had a presentation on the work of a Ugandan organization called Raising Voices. They work to educate Ugandans on the problems of violence against women and children. They gave us a lot if information about whats going on in Uganda. It was a motivating presentation and hopefully i will get the opportunity to work with them when i get to my site.

Our talent show was Thursday afternoon and i think we all enjoyed seeing everyone share their talent! Lots of singing, dancing, and cheering. It was a very positive afternoon and we got the chance to see and participate in traditional Ugandan music and dance. Our Luganda group did a cheerleading skit and i sang some songs and attempted some Ballet Folklorico.

I was so caught up in the fun and lightheartedness i completely forgot about the upcoming week's activities. Its kinda like finals week. Our secondary project ideas and presentations are due and our language proficiency test is on Friday. PLUS we find out where are sites are on Wednesday! Then, next weekend I am also going to give a speech in Luganda during our homestay thank you celebration. I am very glad to do it but slightly nervous i will say something completely ridiculous and/or inappropriate (Like when i was trying to ask someone if their food was good and instead said "I am not delicious" or when i tell people "Good Night" at 7 in the morning.)

We took a day trip to Jinja on Friday and were able to go to Sezibwa Falls and Mabira Forest. They are both found about halfway between Kampala and Jinja. The falls were so nice to see and hear. One of my favorite parts was sitting near the water eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Mm! After the falls we went to the forest for a walk through the woods. While it looked nothing like the Dallas Nature Center, it reminded me so much of hiking there and hanging out in the fort. Amber and i went on an hour long hike and saw enormous trees - looking like they were trying to reach the clouds- lots of tiny, colorful butterflies and red-tailed monkeys.(!) We heard and smelled many wonderful things too. After the walk, we drove to Jinja. It's a planned city so unlike Kampala there is a sense of order. Both are neat cities, but Jinja was so sweet and quiet. Maybe it was so quiet because it was Good Friday but it really seemed so peaceful. I got to sit in a nice garden and drink ginger beer (think very strong ginger ale.) The afternoon was topped off with a tasty bowl of ice cream. (And i wonder why i'm gaining weight.)

Sometimes i feel like i am overstimulated by certain foods i eat here but it feels so nice to eat or drink something that is familiar. I think that's why listening to the country music station on the radio makes me smile to myself. It's so comforting. I have really enjoyed the short time i have spent in Uganda and i want to be as present and participatory in the culture and lifestyle here as possible... but man.. sometimes it's just nice to eat a pizza or listen to some Brooks & Dunn on the radio.

One part of my adjustment that makes me laugh are the sudden false senses i get. Like during heavy rains (the kinda that sound like the sky is falling) i get the sudden worry that i've left the windows of the Jeep down. Or when i'm getting ready for bed and suddenly worry that i've left some appliance on (1.there are no appliances and 2.many nights there is no electricity.) I've been so grateful for this change to have less "things" though. There is more to do outside, more people to talk with and more relationships to build. (Okay-- i should add that i don't feel grateful all of the time. Some Sundays i wish for a washing machine and sometimes when i'm riding home under the equatorial sun i wish for the Jeep.) But i am learning lots of patience and getting good workouts at the same time.

Then there are bursts of happiness like last weekend when Amber and i went walking, we were accompanied by a jolly group of little ones. Thanks to our Luganda classes we were able to sing the Uganda national anthem and the Buganda anthem with them. (Okay--just the choruses.) And i had the most fun evening walk i can remember.

All my Love--Muah!

P.S. it's been tough to write letters but i will start being more productive with them after our swearing in on April 22nd. (22nds are special!)

04 April 2009

Building Rocket Stoves!

This morning we had a PCV come to show us how to construct a Rocket Stove and i was a bit skeptical at first, but it was a success! (So far anyway, it takes about two months to dry for use.)

I always have a million things to say when i am not in front of a computer, but the minute i sit down and try to compose a blog, i space out. Hmm... lets see...

I'll start with the wonderful weather we have been having. I think the rainy season started late this year but it finally began. It has been really cool this past week. I have really enjoyed the sun and the warmth so far, but the breezes and sound of rain have been really comforting. It makes it hard to focus and stay alert in class when all i want to do is curl up somewhere with some african milk tea and read a book... But it has been a nice break from the sun. After the long, uphill bike ride home i am not as drenched in sweat as i usually am! ;)

Last weekend we were invited to visit the Ambassador's home in Kampala and he and his wife were very nice. We even got to go swimming! It was a trainee's birthday so other very talented trainees made some delilicious no bake cookies and we really had a great,sweet-filled day.

Last week we also visited a Primary Teachers College and got to tour their campus and teach some classes. The PCV who works there is really involved in all the goings on and is currently in charge of their computer lab and giving computer classes. He teaches math and Social Studies and seems to have developed a great rapport with the students and teachers there. It was very encouraging.

Another source of encouragement was a presentation we heard about Straight Talk. They are an organization that works with the youth in Uganda to encourage healthy life skills and decisions. They create radio programs and publish newsletters (different ones geared towards different age or interest groups) and have workshops and youth geared festivals. Most of their publications seem to be written and created by young people. So they are trying to encourage youth participation, peer education, and youth empowerment as well. I think it would be a great program to have at home too. After i heard the presentation i wanted to get out in the community and start working!

So we will be through with training pretty soon and it will be sad to part with the other volunteers that i have met, but i think we are all pretty excited and geared up to start our jobs.

I do have one teeny tiny request though.... Could you maybe pretty please write a letter to me.... Maybe you have and it is still on the way so thank you in advance, i'm sure i will be ecstatic when i receive it--Just a small connection from home feels really great and i really miss everyone! The other volunteers are really great though and it helps to have a support group of people who are so wonderful.

I miss you and hope you are enjoying the spring! I'm kinda bummed that i'm going to miss the bluebonnets off spur 408. Hopefully i'll get a nice picture of the pretty texas spring i'm missing... ;)

All my love :)

21 March 2009

March days

Today we were given the opportunity to visit the Kasubi Tombs, a place just outside of Kampala where three Buganda kings are buried. It is a historical site that is still being used. The descendants of certain tribes are in charge of different aspects of the upkeep of the grounds and in the center of the grounds is the largest grass-thatched roof building in the world (maybe.) The building was so interesting even from the outside where the roof was very tall and reached fairly close to the ground. The inside is dark and clay-red. They covered the walls and poles with the “skin of a fig tree” and this bark made it seem like a living home.

This week we had a mock language exam and it was a little tough to try and “prepare” for but we all made it through and glad to be on the other side. Its given me a good perspective of how far we’ve come and how far we will be going before the end of training.

I think studying here is so tough because I am trying to constantly adjust. I know that won’t always be the case, but I think it is unconsciously tiring to always be aware of differences or to always have very tiny irritations that some days just seem to build up. There is nothing that is overwhelming though and with the help of the other trainees and the trainers support, the adapting is much easier.

Not to mention the beautiful weather and country. It really is a pleasure to ride my bike up some crazy hills when I get to see the views from up top. Absolutely worth it.

I'm pretty sure the extremely positive attitude is coming from the pizza and milkshake i had for lunch.. Yum!

12 March 2009

Return to training trip

Today we are stopping off in Kampala on our way back to training. As i wrote before, our PCV visit was gorgeous as well as very encouraging. It is a little hard to imagine, while i am in training, what life will be like when i am no longer surrounded by 29 other americans and the handful of very patient and understanding Ugandan trainers. It was great to see two volunteers working hard in their village, both at their peace corps "job" and at community communication and cultural exchange. Both PCVs were very open about their challenges and successes while at site and i found their experiences to be very interesting. I know each volunteer's experience is different, but i hope to keep theirs in mind when i begin my own job in april. I think what has really enriched their PC experience is speaking the local language so well and so confidently. I hope to make it there one day.

While at their site another trainee and i were able to help them paint a bakery. One of the volunteers helped organize the local women to start a bakery. I think it all started when the women found out the volunteer baked such delicious cakes. After some grant writing and mobilizing the community, a bakery was started. The volunteer is just overseeing the process and part of that was painting... just so happened two trainees were on their way to a PCV visit and we were more than happy to help. It felt good to do some work. We painted a small room lavender and hopefully, after we are volunteers, we will be able to go back and visit.

We all (the 2 PCVs and the 2 PCTs) went and had evening tea at their friend's home last night and we had such a fun time talking. The family was interested to hear that i was also from America. We also had a heart-warming conversation about hair. If you wonder how hair can be heart-warming i think it came from their genuine curiosity and interest in our different hair types. They were a very welcoming family, like most that i have met here in Uganda, and invited us back to their home any time we were in the area.

I think one of my favorite parts of the visit was hearing the PCVs speak the local language as well as English. The accent in English changes and it is fun to hear. It is a slower pattern of speech that follows the Ugandan waves of inflection. The English vocabulary is also packed with words or sentence structures i would never have thought to use.
Ex. Roll down the window/ Reduce on the glass.

Fun.
___________________

As far as our visits to Kampala go, they are pretty eye opening. Lots of people trying to get my/our attention, very young children begging on the street, a seeming lack of traffic rules, rows of small shops that sell the very same things, lots of foreigners, neat tall buildings, packed taxi parks (taxis are small buses) and other busy and fun things to see. I wish you could see it with me. I'm pretty sure it is a bit unsafe to pull out my camera in the middle of it all, so hopefully you will either 1. visit or 2. get the picture from the very short and not even close description i gave.

I hope you all are having a happy pre-springtime.
Lots of hugs and kisses

11 March 2009

Southwest Uganda Visit

I am on my PCV visit in the green rolling hills of southwest Uganda, where the weather is much cooler and i can't understand the language! The volunteer i am visiting works in health education and she speaks the language very well and has been showing us her town and work areas. Most people know her and she seems to be getting along very well here. It is very encouraging to see a volunteer in action. Plus, we had a delicious Mexican dinner last night and my mind as well as my stomach are incredibly satisfied!

Today another volunteer took me to visit a primary teacher's college, which is also a place i may work, and we had just a quick tour of their campus since some dark and thundery weather was blowing in. We ran to our lunch spot, which was a convent and i had a very nice matooke and sweet potato lunch with the Sisters of Our Lady of Good Counsel. (!)

Since training keeps us very busy, it has been very nice to take it easy for a bit. We read under a mimosa tree yesterday and i had to smile to myself because it felt so good.

I will be traveling back to our training site tomorrow so goodbye peaceful SW Uganda!

07 March 2009

Starting Week Four

Today we got another tour of Kampala and it is a Busy place. Lots of people, noise, traffic, etc. Its so different to be in an urban area, like my ears and eyes are being overstimulated. (i'm not complaining as i've been looking forward to internet for about two weeks now.)
I have stayed very busy, along with the other thirty-something trainees, learning language, getting job training, and having lots of hands-on teaching experiences. So far so good.

For my 25th birthday i was sung to by 1,060 primary school girl students. Alright, they were just singing their national anthems and they didn't know it was my birthday, but it was still a stunning present. A small group of the primary school teacher trainers (my job) were visiting an amazing primary school where they only take boarders and they have won numerous awards because of their great education standards and work in PICASY. All of the girls were so excited to see us and put on a number of plays/songs during their morning assembly specifically to welcome us!

I have enjoyed my homestay family and my Uganda sisters and brothers have taught me a lot about their country and language. I think i am learning 24 hrs a day, yes.. even in my sleep. We recently got electricity and now we watch television in the evening. The shows we watch range from novelas dubbed in english, english/luganda music videos, old nature specials (saw one about the reintroduction of CA condors!), and news. Its been fun and interesting. The best part about electricity is bathing with a light on.

I am still in love with Uganda food. My mom and sisters are great cooks and hopefully i will learn soon how to make matooke and posho and g nut sauce because they are scrumptious foods. I think most of my diet is starch based, but there are also tons of fruits so i have been eating bananas (!) , papaya, jackfruit, and pineapples. Mmmm.

Learning luganda is getting progressively harder, but it will be so beneficial to be able to communicate in the native language at our sites, so i'm trying my best! The teaching has been challenging but good. We have taught in primary classes and taught at coordinating centers (where current teachers receive in-service training.) The primary school classes are quite full with kids squeezing into their benches, but they are all excited and want to answer questions. I taught a P5 class and they all spoke english (they start english lessons in P4.) They loved going to the board and answering questions! The teachers were also interested and willing to participate in our workshop. So i think we have had some encouraging opportunities to teach.

New news:
-started riding a bike to school. Ouch, but fun.
-i think i see a new bird everyday. and in the brightest colors.
-bucket baths with electricity are a little more fun. ;)
-The weather has been nice and warm and a little more rainy recently.
-next week we head out to visit volunteers in the field and i get to go to the west!

Thank you for your wishes and prayers and letters! Sending mail is a little harder than i thought, but i will try to send letters out sooner than later.
I miss you all and give you big hugs throughout the day when i see something that reminds me of you. Like banana pancakes, CA condors, bluebonnet pillowcases, bright yellow birds, and blue skies.

All my love.

18 February 2009

Just before Training

I am safe and sound in Uganda, enjoying the warm weather and beautiful green colors that are all around. We have had lots of mini-training classes on different topics that have all been very helpful for our transition. We have all had survival Luganda lessons and we are all trying our best to practice as much as possible. Wasuze ottyonne? Bulungi, atte gwa?

We start our homestay tomorrow in a new town and thats also when our true training begins. I think so far the lessons have stayed very general and just introductory. It has been very fun/interesting to learn language, medical and cultural information. Lots of stuff to absorb but they give it to us in small doses.

Today we are out and about in the big city, trying to pick up some extra things before arriving at our homestay family's home. What a busy big city! Lots of shops, motorcycles (boda bodas), taxis and people walking around. I'm pretty sure i was wide eyed coming into the city and seeing all the hustle and bustle.

One thing that is striking to me is the color of the hills, trees and plants. I wish i could paint the right picture of their color green. Of course in the city there is quite a lot of development, so the hills are spotted with homes and clay colored dirt roads; full of rich and beautiful colors. The sky is large and blue and full of cotton ball clouds.

Once training starts communication is hard to come by, but i will be just fine and dandy and busy so don't worry if i don't write something for the next two months. Hopefully i can though!
My current goals:
1. Speak Lugandan as much as possible!! Nze Celeste, nva Texas mu America.
2. Learn how to make as much delicious Ugandan food as possible. MMMmmm, there is some serious eating going on here, and all of the meals are oh so tasty.
3. Absorb as much training material as possible...

I miss you all and wish you were here to experience this amazing country and culture with me. Maybe you could visit... boy would that be great! ;)
All my love
to you and you and you
XOXO

13 February 2009

Just to say H&G


Just sayin hello from the airport. Thank you for all your prayers and goodbyes. I'm pretty sure i miss you already. yes you!

12 February 2009

Just Before the Two Day Travel Adventure

Today began with an adventure at DFW. Since i arrived 5 hours before my re-scheduled departure, i had plenty of time to explore the airport. I went for a ride on the train, meandered down moving walkways, and tried to get some sleep. Since my mind was racing and i couldn't seem to find a comfortable way to sleep in a hard plastic airport chair, i ate some breakfast instead.
Then, just before my flight starts boarding and i'm thinking of "the future" and the scary things those words can conjure up, who taps my shoulder but an old family friend. (Mr. Butler) "Celeste! How are you, where are you off to today?" And that just made my day, my week, my trip. We were able to talk for a while and share updates on our families. Before he left i asked about the price of meals on the plane ( i am an unexperienced DFW traveler) and couldn't even believe it when i was handed a granola bar and tuna sandwich. He had made an extra sandwich for the day. If that's not sharing happiness i don't know what is.
After a nice flight i made my way to staging where i met the other Uganda volunteers. It was fun getting to know the other people i will be spending lots of quality time with.
And tomorrow our traveling really begins. So wish us luck! I'll be thinking of everyone back home with a full heart.

08 February 2009

Almost thursday

I don't remember the last time i was so nervous about a thursday. Such a regular sounding day right? I'm guessing i will be feeling anything but "Regular" when mom drops me off at the airport at the crack of dawn with my bags packed (but not too packed) with odds and ends and clothes and pictures.
As i'm putting all of my things into bags, i'm realizing i may have to leave some things here. With a 80 lb weight limit, i've already said goodbye to things i thought i couldn't live without; Goodbye guitar, see ya coloring books, hasta la vista laptop.
And this weekend has been full of much harder goodbyes to family and friends. Its hard to leave the people i love, but i know they will all be with me there, in spirit, and that helps me feel better about "goodbye."
I'm going to have to cheer myself on to get that first foot through the airport door, then i'm going to take a deep breath, smile, maybe hum an uplifting tune to myself and get on that airplane!

02 February 2009

Nine more days til departure...

As i'm scrambling to get the last of my "to do before i leave" list checked off, i'm finding that the upcoming journey/adventure/challenge across the world is getting me more and more anxious. I am very excited about this opportunity to travel, meet new cultures, interact with communities, and try and help in whatever way i can...BUT... still feel butterflies when i think about the time i will be spending away from family and friends in such a foreign environment.

While i've been reading up on Uganda, their community, other Peace Corps volunteer stories, etc., I know it will be an experience that i just can't imagine right now. So in the precious few days i have left in beautiful Texas, i'm just trying to take it easy and not dwell on all the unknowns of the future. "One day at a time" as my mom says.

All anxiousness and excitement aside, i have been pretty busy with compiling my things i will be taking with me. I've yet to start packing anything in bags; i'm still in the accumulating stage. It's hard to imagine what i will or won't need for two years. I'm counting on family and friends to help supplement my packing with the occasional care package of goodies/things i forgot! (Pretty please...)

I hope to be able to update this little site as often as possible, but in the event that Internet is hard to find, i will be sending as many letters as my hands can write. And please feel free to send me letters (to the mailing address on the right side of this site) as i'm sure anything from home will set my heart soaring!

18 January 2009

Warm Sunny Sunday

Its so warm today! The sun feels good and i'm itching to go hiking. I've gotten better at knitting. Still practicing, but its easier to hold the needles and yarn! Its the little things that seem to bring the sunshine! 
I've been getting my list of last minute to-do items before i leave, like:
1. Get a sturdy addressbook 
2. Pack up my room !
3. Review the new language 
4. Say goodbye
5. Get my financial standing in order
6. Get a haircut

And the list goes on forever, so i'll spare you. 

06 January 2009

January Before the Trip

I have gotten the final approvals to go to Uganda. And the trip seems to be coming much faster now that it is 2009. But even though i will be leaving in about a month (gulp) i think i'm in a small nexus of coming and going, so i'm kinda at a standstill. A little weird. 

I am working back at the school, helping out with creating brochures and enhancing the alumni network. I'm having a nice time, since its a second home to me anyway.