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.


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.