Thursday, December 9, 2010

F is for Friends

Ok this is a blog post I'm determined to finish. I've written about a thousand posts in the past two weeks (and by a thousand I mean four), that I've been totally unable to finish. Either I suddenly realized it was past my bedtime (I like to imagine that I have an actual bedtime, unfortunately it is rarely adhered to.... probably because dad is too far away to say "Elizabeth, you're going to be a real pain to wake up tomorrow morning. Go to bed!" and I'm always a pain to wake up...), or (yup, this sentence is continuing, parentheses and all) I find my story turning into a rant, and probably the same old rant I have playing on repeat in my head (and emails to mum and dad) all the time: "what should I do when I grow up? I have no idea." Just to fill you all in on dad's latest response to that one (this was following about a million emails of ideas, suggestions and encouragement) "Lib, seeing as you're mostly grown up, you need to figure it out. Love, Dad." Love you too, Daddy dearest.

Well, I don't think I'll ever really consider myself grown up (ew, I sound like Peter Pan), but I have figured something out: it takes a long time to feel like you know what you're doing in a new setting (school, work, whatever), but if you have fantastic friends (which I always manage to find) then at least it will make the stress/frustration/disappointments more enjoyable... or ignorable.

I think at every point in my life this has been true. I always hated sleep over camps as a kid (I still hate anything resembling sleep over camps... organized activities, days scheduled from dusk till dawn... *shiver*), but there was always something to get you through them (no matter how many tear stained, calligraphy written, cartoon decorated "take me home please" letters were ignored by your parents in the meantime)-- your friends. I never bothered making new friends at camp (puh-lease, that would just be an excuse to send me back), but I always managed to go with some of my usual friends, or at least my sister, and that made it bearable. Nothing cures homesickness like making fun of annoying kids with your friends.

But the key point there is really friends (making fun of people by yourself is boring, if not pointless... oh and I'm not encouraging bullying.... this is the kind of teasing that my dear sister in law subjected me to for whole summers at a time to try to toughen me up a bit... Did it work?). And friends can mean family and vice versa. I feel like the older you get, saying this from my wise old age of 22, the more the line blurs. Your friends can become your family and your family, if you're lucky (and if you're me), can become your friends.

The point is, you should appreciate your friends. They're the people that agree with you that a "tap dance independent study" would be much better than a regular high school class, or stand up for you against French-Canadian boat owners who are sure that "Libbyyy!" made a reservation for their goat. They're the ones that lend you their clothes so you don't look like a middle schooler or redneck when you go out on the town (I really need to go shopping). Then, they make sure that you don't go to work in the morning covered in permanent marker (what? No, that never happened... just a random example). And they're the ones that take the time to read (or at least skim) your ridiculous blog that's not at all what it was supposed to be ("I'll update all about Uganda and what my work is like there!").

So, thus concludes my friends post (sadly, not at all about the show "Friends." But I'm sure I could tie it in here if I tried... I'll spare you). I think I should also mention that the whole time I've been writing this, a stupid Spongebob song has been playing in my head:

"F is for friends we do things together
U is for you and me
N is for anywhere and anytime at all down here in the deep blue sea.*"

-Quoth the Sponge

I think you get the point.

*Marf, that was dedicated to you!

ps- I've learned my lesson about parentheses. They started as literary device (going for the stream of consciousness effect, pretty reflective of how I tell "stories"), and they turned into a crutch. Alas, a complete entry was finally posted after two months of radio silence. (Patting myself on the back).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jingle All The Way..

I've come to the disappointing conclusion that an alarming amount of my brain space has been filled with commercials. Jingles, slogans, catch phrases... Instead of rotting my brain (as my dad claimed it would), the TV was actually building up an impressive arsenal of obnoxious songs and sayings to distract and disrupt my everyday communication abilities.

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Example: I've just completed a task and felt that it was far simpler than anticipated. What do I say to myself? "That was easy!" Then it strikes. Commercials. I freeze momentarily in horror as I realize I have just quoted an awful Staples commercial where they press that stupid red button that says "That was easy!". I shake it off though, just a coincidence, an accident really. I try to forget about it.

Maybe I'll go get an ice cream, I decide, to congratulate myself on completing the aforementioned task. I get my ice cream and I'm really in ice cream heaven. My friend asks me how it is and before I can even open my mouth, it pops into my head... "Bada bah bah bah, I'm lovin' it!" AHH! A McDonalds commercial, really? I stand speechless; grateful that I hadn't actually uttered the deep-fried, dollar menu, golden arches jingle aloud. But I must respond, so I tell my dear friend "it's not good, it's g-r-r-r-eat!". Oh dear God... Commercials have taken over my brain! I quickly say goodbye, trying to hide my shame at having actually quoted Tony the Tiger, and walk away. As I'm leaving my friend shouts to me "well, see you back in the neighborhood for the block party!". Ohh, right, block party today, how could I forget?

So I arrive that evening at the block party and immediately head to the refreshments table. Ah, so much food! Then I look to my friend, calmed by the sight of such delicious treats I hardly even see it coming before it hits me... "Eatin' good in the neighborhood!".... I just sang the Applebees jingle, I think it's time to throw out the TV... or at least buy TiVo.

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Sure, okay, this story was fictitious, but based on true events! Fictional stories aside, when you really break it down--all the commercial inundation that occurred during my childhood--it looks something like this: TV--$100, basic cable--$30/month, money spent on advertising--too much.... my commercially-hijacked brain--priceless.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tell me what you see...

I have fallen into the bad habit of using lyrics as my titles, so I apologize. Although, it's unlikely that I'll stop doing it either. Every time I sit down and think about what I want to write about, I spend a least a few moments (that feel like minutes) thinking about a title, only because there happens to be space for one, so I must. Then, perhaps because I grew up with a dad who has a song for every topic, no matter how random (and feels the need to sing it too, despite, and probably because of the protests from his children), a song always pops into my head and I can't think of any other title than some lyric that doesn't sound as good read as it does sung (and lately they've all been Beatles songs... because they also have a song for everything).

Anyways, to the point (if there really is one, that's always debatable on my blog and with my stories in general). At Educate!, there are a few terms and ideas that come up repeatedly, like empowerment, goals, proactivity, etc. One that has come up quite a bit lately has been "personal vision." We ask all of our mentors to develop their own personal visions for their futures and to share them constantly and inspire others and so on. So, after all this emphasis we've been putting on personal visions, we (myself and the other program coordinators) really shouldn't have been surprised when, at our last meeting, the mentors demanded that we also share our personal vision!

Now I have to think of one... Or choose one rather. The issue is, and I think this applies to a lot of people, my attention span and my imagination are inversely related (oo, look, I remembered a term from high school math!). I have a massive imagination with an awful tendency to change my mind (or never make it up in the first place, which most of my friends would probably attest to)--so there are about a zillion different unresolved personal visions floating around in my head. That's not to say however, that I haven't been completely and utterly serious about each and every one!

When I was 5 I wanted to be in an all girls version of The Beach Boys, but that dream was crushed when I realized that playing the guitar was hard, I didn't have one, and my parents signed me up for piano lessons instead. When I was 11, I asked for a filing cabinet and a Dictionary of Law for my birthday, because I wanted to start early on my path to becoming a lawyer--then I realized I had nothing to file and dictionaries are boring. When I was 15, I planned on moving to London to join the Royal Ballet School and live happily ever after with Billy Elliot--but then my feet started hurting from the pointe shoes and I had to admit to myself that Billy was a fictional character (sigh)...

Now I'm 22 and my ideas for "when I grow up" (let's face it, that's a long ways away) are just as ridiculous as ever, but I'm just as serious about them. I guess the real issue is that I keep thinking of a "personal vision" as a final destination; that at some point, there's an end to all the planning and visioning and imagining. Maybe that's exactly why I can't think of one. I can't imagine a day where I'm not imagining something else. So what if I had become the best ballerina ever, dancing duets with Bill Elliot; who's to say I would've been content doing that forever? I suppose in reality, I have had a lot of personal visions, and I've realized a lot of them, too (the less... remarkable of them, perhaps).

When I was 5, I watched the older kids in school putting on plays and wished I would get the lead one day--then I did when I was 12 (I played a snooty little brat in a local play; a fantastic role). When I was 11, I decided UVM would be the best school for me, and despite some mind changes along the way, I eventually did go there! At 15, I dreamed of traveling all over the world, and I've kind of been doing that. So I suppose personal visions are realized here and there, and they're less of a ending point than they are a starting point. One leads to another, which leads to another and so on.

So what to tell the mentors? I guess I'll just tell them the next stop on the personal vision train. I want to go back to school (International law? Theatre? Development? undecided...). I want to make and save some money (mm, unlikely). I want to live in New York City (see vision #2). I want to travel (vision #2). And my overarching, long-term, very serious and most important personal vision is to be happy and have fun, which quite obviously impacts all the rest of my visions (I've done remarkably well with this one so far).

Alas, perhaps "Tell Me What You See" wasn't the perfect song choice for this topic, but you know... vision, seeing... it makes sense in my mind anyways. I considered "you never give me your money," but thought that perhaps the lyric I was thinking of sort of contradicted my whole story here ("out of college, money spent, see no future, pay no rent/all the money's gone no where to go").

Moral of the story: I need to stop listening to music when I'm trying to write.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Words are flowing out like endless rain

into a paper cup, they slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe" (guess the song?)

The trouble with writing is, inspiration seems to come at the most inconvenient of times. Yesterday I had a wonderful experience at another graduation (they're endless, I know), and for the whole matatu (small mini bus; public transportation; crowded, remember?) ride back to Kampala I had words and stories and descriptions flowing through my head like water. Driving through bustling market centers on the outskirts of the city, marveling at the hilly, green landscape, reflecting on a day packed with hilarious and memorable moments, it would've inspired those least inclined to reflect to sit down and record it all on paper. Alas, over bumps we went, potholes galore, swerving suddenly to spare the lives of pedestrians and boda drivers, and so crammed in that there was hardly room to reach for my wallet to pay the whole 75 cents for the hour long drive. Writing wasn't exactly feasible. Yet, I was determined to come out of this matatu drive with my narrative in tact, ready to be posted only minutes after arriving home. I had re-written it in my head probably a thousand times (hyperbole, to aid your understanding and evoke your sympathy). Finally, I had made it home. Dark and stumbling over rocks in the road, I walked up the driveway, still determined. I opened the door and the first words I was greeted with... "There's food in the kitchen."

And you can imagine what happened next. I ate, I relaxed, I talked with my friends. I didn't even rush to check my email (I probably only had messages from Barnes & Noble or Amazon anyways), I didn't even open my computer. As my belly got fuller and the conversation grew more interesting, I saw my story, my grand blog post, being pushed out of my mind. I saw it floating off into the distance, never to return. My carefully chosen words and my grand inspiration disappeared as quickly as my food (very quickly). Then I went to bed.

So, friends, forgive me if my blog is updated inconsistently or infrequently--it's not that I'm not thinking about it. It's just that my house isn't quite as thought provoking as my matatu rides.

(But I'll give you a short recap anyways! The inspiration may be gone, but I think I repeated it enough times in my head to give you a brief summary of this over-hyped blog post. But of course, this will be the "I'm late to go do something, chopped up and poorly composed" version).

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I spend most of my days planning what I might do and where I might be a few months from now. My thoughts are perpetually in the future, imagining scenes a few weeks ahead, planning out what is point B and how do I get there. Even on the most exciting days or in the middle of the most intriguing conversations, there's a little bit of my mind dwelling on the past or reaching towards the future; wondering about a distant place or absent party. Even in meeting new people, I find my thoughts instantly turn to comparison, dragging in someone who isn't there. Oh, she reminds me of my sister! But every so often, a moment, a place, a person draws you into the moment, back to present tense, so thoroughly that you can almost physically feel the weight of all those other times, places, and missing people lifting off of you; and I think it's those moments that let you form the most long-lasting connections with a place; or a person, or a time.

Yesterday, I made another long-lasting connection with Africa. This time, quite obviously, it was Uganda. I've fallen in love with places before, of course. I've had these moments in almost every place I've ever been (which doesn't make it any less special!). I've had these all encompassing moments skiing through Hubbard park in the winter, speeding down hills past snow covered branches, feeling more like I was in a scene from Narnia that in my home town. I've had them in Burlington, dancing down Loomis St. at night with my best friends, picking flowers and taking pictures. I've had them at the boathouse, watching fireworks from our VIP section on the docks and being unsure whether to laugh or duck for cover when the firework shrapnel starts raining down on us (I kind of did both).

So, it's wonderful to say that Uganda has given me one of those moments as well. The graduation I went to yesterday was just outside of Kampala, and despite being so close to the city, it appeared very rural. After taking a matatu for an hour, I had to take a 20 minute boda drive to the school. I went over bumpy dirt roads, trying not to get hit with branches and waving at the occasional little kid yelling "how are you mzunguuuu!!!?". When I arrived, I was early, so I offered to help the scholars set up for their party. Although they thought it was hilarious to see a mzungu sweeping with an African broom (straw tied together, basically just a broom-head so you have to awkwardly crouch over to sweep), they let me help. The mentors showed up and as we waited for the party to begin, we laughed and talked about marriage ceremonies and "introductions" in the different tribes in Uganda (if ever in a position to ask about it, ask about introductions rather than marriages. They're like engagement parties and way more entertaining!).

Finally, the event started and then ended (surprisingly quickly given the affinity for speeches) and I left with mentors Hawah and Charlotte. Of course, we were in a pretty rural area, so bodas weren't exactly in high supply, but we managed to flag down one... One. Now, as a quick precursor to this, Ugandan women, especially when wearing skirts, usually ride... mm, side saddle (that's what you say for horses, I guess I can apply it to bodas?). But we saw that rain was approaching and it was a long way to walk back to town! So, after much laughing and contemplation, the boda driver scooted up as far as he could to the front, I jumped on behind, Hawah followed me next, and Charlotte, protests aside, hopped on last ("Eh, but we're sitting like men!"). So over the bumpy dirt roads went the four of us on this little boda. People were looking from their houses, joining us in our laughter and amusement at the sight. The closer we got to town, the more of an attraction we became, before we finally got off, just before the matatu station.

It was this little moment, a fifteen minute boda ride, that made me fall in love with Uganda. Of course you don't fall in love with anything immediately; I've liked Uganda from day one, but it was laughing on a cramped boda that forced me to be totally in the present, not missing anyone from abroad, not waiting for anyone to text or call and not composing any emails in my head. Just one of those times that feels so specific to a place and seems to sum it all up. The hilarity of three people riding on a boda isn't hypothetical, isn't illegal, isn't really anything that out of the ordinary, but it's funny, and no matter how long I live here, or how many times I visit Africa (because I did this in Benin, too), I will always find it amusing to see so many people balancing on a little motorcycle. It just couldn't happen in the States (for good reason, of course. I imagine things could go horribly wrong), and so it becomes a TIA (this is Africa) moment--but the kind that makes you happy to be here (unlike, oh no, the door of my matatu just fell off and there's a goat underneath my seat... TIA...). So, safety concerns, future, thoughts of home aside, it made me pretty happy to be where I am right now. Thanks, Uganda!

So, there's a not-so-shortened version of my story and I don't have time to proofread it (email me if there are any glaring errors), but I hope you took away from my rambling story that I'm having a lovely time over here and I had wonderful day yesterday (don't worry though, I won't stay forever, I'm still planning to come home!). That's all for now!

Monday, August 23, 2010

What's in a Name?

When I was growing up, I never imagined that names could possibly be ordered in any other way than: first middle last. The first, of course, was your given name, chosen to identify you as an individual, different than the rest of your family members. Your middle name was often a family name, a sort of second-choice first name, or maybe you were one of the unique people with no middle name, for whatever reason (maybe because there’s no good reason for one… That I can think of, other than the fact that I like finding out people’s middle names). Your last name, finally, was your family name—probably your father’s, but in an ever-increasing number of cases, a hyphenated name (or maybe just your mom’s!).

In any case, I would have found it hard to believe, as a kid, that names could be ordered in such drastically different ways across the world. Of course, I was introduced to different naming practices when our Middle School discovered suddenly that it had been mixing up the order of names of one of the only Chinese students in school, and had to make amends. (In that case, the student came from a culture where the last name was the one he was supposed to be called. It would be like if I had moved to China and everyone called me “Daghlian.” Just not right).

Now, after spending some time in Ghana and more recently, trying to navigate the intricacies of Ugandan culture (as if I can make a sweeping statement that there is such a thing. If I were more knowledgeable, I might be able to distinguish between the Baganada culture and Acholi culture… But that might take a bit more research!). Trying to make sense of the difference in name orders has been really interesting in both places.

Here in Uganda, people generally have two names, a first and a last (though some have three). From my understanding, the first name is a Ugandan name and the second name is an Anglicized name, usually having religious roots (I mean, about as religious as the name Elizabeth is. But for a lot of people, it can distinguish between a Christian and a Muslim, for example). So, let’s say one girl’s name is Atukunda Lillian; her brother probably won’t have any names in common. Her brother might be called… Katumba Joseph. Pretty simple, but it also kind of blows my mind that in one family there might be a plethora of different names and no common name. I’ve always viewed it as such a unifying thing (which is a little odd considering that among my five siblings we have three different last names… so why would I think it was so important?).

Anyways, that naming practice is also very different from Ghana’s, which still makes me laugh a little bit. In Ghana, you might meet a person on the street and maybe he’ll introduce himself as Frank. You later ask someone, “do you know a person called Frank who stays around here?” They will say “no… but Kofi says he met a white lady today, maybe you are looking for him.” You think to yourself, no, but he said his name was Frank. So you go to ask someone else: “have you seen Frank?... or perhaps it’s Kofi?” They look at you blankly and then say, “no… but you know, Nii has just passed by here, perhaps it is him.” “Eh!” (as you would say if you were living in Ghana), where is this guy?? So, you ask one more person, certain that this time you’ll find him. “Have you seen Frank… Or Kofi? Maybe Nii?” They look at you and pause… “No, I don’t know anyone by those names… But here is Mr. Mensah.” And Mr. Mensah turns around…. It’s him!

People in Ghana have so many names and nicknames and titles that they use depending on the context. So in this case, it would make perfect sense to meet someone named Nii Kofi Frank Mensah. Nii is a title meaning “king” in Ga, although, considering that it’s a really common nickname, probably not that meaningful. Kofi simply means Friday born (in Twi, which wouldn’t really make sense if you had another name in Ga), and while not everyone includes it as a formal part of their name, they will generally use it in some settings. Frank, of course, is the given Christian name (though Muslims would obviously choose Islamic names) that all students are required to use in school. Finally, Mensah is the family name that will, just as I would expect, signify familial relationships, usually coming from the father’s side (unless you are Asante, which is matrilinear).

So, in short, names are cool, and it would be neat to learn more about different practices from around the world. But here are a few to start!

Monday, August 16, 2010

All I have to do is dreeaam, dream dream dream

(Anyone get my title reference? Again, not one of those songs that translates well to text... Sigh. Everly Brothers "All I have to do is dream." We used to listen to it in my tap class a lot).

ANYWAYS. I only mention dreams because I saw "Inception," and loovveed it! (It's about dreams, that's where the title comes in. And I have had interesting dreams ever since the movie!... total coincidence). It was complicated enough to be cool, but simple enough to never cause confusion. Or it was just well explained maybe. A lot of movies that try to be all clever with manipulating reality always have to stop the plot and start literally explaining what's going on, which sounds stupid and shows that the writers were kind of confused about it all too. But I never got that feeling with "Inception." It seemed like a well thought out and clear concept, although the ending wasn't my favorite (I won't spoil it, don't worry). It wasn't awful, but... not brilliant either. Ok, well this isn't a movie reviewing blog, so I'll leave it at that. It's just kind of neat to see how quickly movies (blockbuster movies, to clarify) go global these days. It used to take months for movies to get from New York to Vermont back in the day, and now they make it to East Africa in a matter of days! (Am I allowed to publicly use the phrase "back in the day" at my age? Well, I guess considering that I use that phrase to describe any period of time ranging from paleolithic times to just a few years ago, it's probably allowed. I'll let you judge the exact period of time I'm referring to given the context).

Now let's continue with the theme of technology (it's a theme--advancements in the film industry are reliant on technology! So there). Technology also happens to be the theme of the next term at Educate!, but that's not where I was really going with this, just a side note. My dad sent me an interesting article the other day about the unintended (and unexpected) consequences of sending computers to Africa (in this case, Ghana). To summarize (although you should look at the link, lots of great pictures!), a lot of people and companies donate old, used computers to places like Ghana thinking that "ok, a crappy old computer will be better than no computer," and then it ends up in a computer graveyard where people basically mine this old technology for gold (for circuits and contacts), copper wiring and other various parts--probably not what the donors imagined at all!

This was particularly interesting to me because I've (for some unknown reason) been put in charge of all the computers at my office! It's fun to complain about because I really know no more about computers than your average joe (and definitely not much at all about PCs. wooo macintosh!), but it's also sort of a fun challenge. During middle school and high school, I was interested in about every activity one could ever be interested in (usually lasting for a period of about two weeks. I played the flute when I was 11 for a week. Learned how to play one note). Anyways, so thanks to my computer nerd brother and dad, one of those phases was computers! I spent two weeks teaching myself to type on a DVORAK keyboard and learned probably two programing codes for blogging, and then I think I moved onto to figure skating or something much more fun like that (figure skating didn't last long either, not that fun it turns out). So, the point is, there is a tiny little itty bitty part of me that's interested in computers, so it's sort of exciting... in a challenging, frustrating kind of way.

So to make a long story even longer, I thought this article was interesting because while we do have some great used computers at our office, and we were just generously given two new computers (yay!), we definitely have some crappy, useless, space-taking computers that people still try to use from time to time, hoping they might work (I do have plans to try to fix them). So I applaud those computers miners in Ghana for not wasting their time trying to use broken, shoddy electronics. I'm not referring to our computers really, but to people donating computers (not that any potential computer donors are reading this blog), if it's not useful to you, it's probably not all that useful to people in "developing" countries either! (If it's just annoying to use, but it works, then ok, but if it's totally worthless, then it will be worthless to everyone... unless you're a computer genius, which you probably aren't if you've never owned one before and haven't had much experience using one... or if you're relying on the skills of an "I only use computers for internet and writing" kind of person... like me). Ok, I'll get off my little computer donations soapbox now...

The point is, I'm gaining a fascinating new perspective on technology in Uganda! And it's not only through my limited work with computers, but also through talking with people here who are: designing and marketing solar panels; building energy efficient stoves (this is one of the Educate! scholars!); exploring new ways to make coal ("biochar".. charcoal made out of corn); making plans to buy solar run buses; laying the groundwork for establishing fiber-optic internet, which will probably eventually be the fastest in the world; and many other cool things! It's neat that because sub-Saharan Africa missed out on some of the earlier stages of all this technology, they're now skipping ahead and in line to be on the forefront of green energy and cell phone/internet technology. Now, if only they could say the same about waste management and sewage systems... Alas.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Digging and Dancing

Sunday was a fantastically busy day! Some of the mentors organized our first community outreach through an Educate! affiliated group called the Change Makers Association (CMA). They identified a community near Kampala and decided with the village leaders to do a sanitation sensitization and cleaning project. So, as per our instructions, we all arrived pretty much on time Sunday morning at the little market. Members of the community who had been mobilized by community leaders were already hard at work digging out the "trenches."

Trenches are just open gutters that run alongside the roads, and in this case, through the market. I had thought trenches weren't as bad here as they were in Ghana (and really they aren't, they're much more discrete--often covered with grates, and they don't smell as bad, probably due to the drier climate), but these were sufficiently gross. So we all grabbed our hoes and shovels and sticks and started emptying out trash and detritus to be taken away by trucks. (I didn't actually do that much, but there is photographic evidence of me with a hoe. The whole trash picking up aspect kind of reminded me of the boathouse, in a "how did I end up in a trash picking job again?" kind of way. It's like painting jobs, they just follow me wherever I go! But it also gave me fond memories of the BH, of course).

Anyways, it was a fun project overall and nice to spend some time in another part of Kampala with industrious people interested in making positive changes in their communities! Also, as another side note (perhaps I'll just rename this blog "sidenotes" because that's about all it is), I was beyond impressed by some of the community members who are normally farmers but volunteered their services for this project. This one guy in particular just made the hoeing look effortless! He stood with a foot on either side of the trench, swung the hoe way above his head, arms fully extended, let gravity pull it straight down in front where it grabbed up a huge chunk of dirt, and then tossed it to the side as he swung it around above his head again. It was like watching a clock hand go round... Effortless. Then I tried... I bent my knees, braced myself for some serious labor, lifted the hoe to about knee level, dropped it into the ground barely making a dent, tugged at it a few times, got a speck or two of dirt and flung it to another section that I was supposed to be digging... I think I needed a little more practice.

After the hard manual labor, I trekked off to the National Theatre to watch one of the high schools that we work with put on an incredible performance. It was a play with a ridiculously dramatic plot (twin brothers separated at birth who later become best friends and their mother is warned that if they find out they're related they'll both die, and in the end they do in a crazy gun fight show down). However, it wasn't just a play. Between every single scene, there was a completely unrelated, unexplained and irrelevant dance or chorus performance. The dance performances were incredible, especially the hip hop and African ones (although there were some hilarious little kid ballet ones in the beginning). The chorus performances were great too, because it generally involved bringing the entire school onto the stage (maybe... 70 kids?) to sing together, however miraculously, they were pretty good! They also had a live band, also made up of high school students. The play was fantastic on its own too, not only because it was ridiculous, but because so many of the scenes were really unimportant to the movement of the plot and I think that's hilarious. It was like unintentional metatheatre (if that's possible, I think it has to be intentional). I loved it!

Anyways, it was splendid Sunday (although a little long), and a great way to start off the week (or end the weekend, whichever). Also, I had another experience that I meant to share on an earlier post but forgot until now. So let me take you back in time to about a week ago:

I was walking into work this morning and as I approached the building I heard this hilarious music coming from across the little street. I glanced in (because the door was wide open) and there were probably three guys having a 9 in the morning jam session. They were right on beat, I’ll give them that, and they had a clear melody, but their choice of instruments was a little peculiar. They had a deafeningly loud drum banging out a steady BAM pause BAM pause BAM. They had some kind of string instrument—maybe just an acoustic guitar, ok that’s normal, that’s acceptable. But the most prominent and interesting choice of instruments had to be the recorder, whistling out a borderline jolly tune. I say borderline, because perhaps if it had been a little more up-tempo it would have made some kind of musical sense, but instead it was exactly on the beat of the deep, thundering drum and the contrast between the two was just too funny. It was a great way to start the day.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Week in Review

Queen Elizabeth National Park... Last weekend, I galavanted off to Queen Elizabeth National Park with a few of my E! friends and a lot of people I didn't actually know. Because we were a fairly large group, it ended up that some of us got to ride in a car (including me) and the rest were in a small bus (which the car was following). The total distance from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth was probably... similar to the distance between Burlington, VT and NYC, or maybe not even that far. However, thanks to roads, which were alternately littered with potholes and then covered with speedbumps (literally every 20 kilometres when the roads were well paved), it took us about 10 hours to get there! The car could have gone faster had it not been following the bus (and it absolutely did on the way back when it only took us 5 hours), but alas, we were traveling as a group. Anyways, it was an interesting collection of people: 3 American E! staff (one of whom holds French and British citizenship too), 2 Scottish girls, 5 British volunteers, 2 British Oxford students, 1 Belgian University student, 1 Belgian diplomat, and 1 Ugandan fellow who arranged the whole trip. Anyways, to make a long story short, I saw lots of elephants, hippos, water buffalo, warthogs, and pretty landscapes!

Surprises and Celebrations... This past week, back in Kampala, I enjoyed good food, visited with students, tried to focus on my various projects and met a few interesting people. I had a great time on Tuesday visiting the orphanage that E! works with. I went with one of the mentors and three people from the US Embassy who are considering giving us a grant, and because the orphanage knew all these people were coming, they arranged this huge performance! I think I've explained it on here before, but the idea behind this orphanage is to empower former street kids and orphans through music and performance. Unfortunately, I had no idea this was happening and didn't have a camera.. Oh well. It was very entertaining, but I was also moderately terrified when these 7 and 8 year old boys started making these human towers on the concrete stage. One boy would brace himself as about four other boys would stand on his shoulders and make crazy pyramids and towers. It was even more frightening when the 14 and 15 year old boys started doing the same thing, because of course the towers were twice as tall! Thankfully, no injuries or mistakes resulted. It was just like Circus Smirkus! Later in the week, I visited with students at another school who were celebrating their graduation from the E! program. They had even gone so far as to raise money for graduation gowns!

Good Food and New Friends... When I wasn't working on projects at the office (I've somehow been put in charge of fixing computer problems.. gulp), I was out getting drinks and good food and meeting new people! I went out to our local bar on Tuesday, which is actually called Local Bar, I think, and had a relaxing evening talking about work and other things. We went back there the next night with a friend of a friend who is in town, but generally works in Kenya selling solar panels. That was pretty interesting. The best part of the night by far, however, was getting pork and plantains from a little stand across the street (it took about 2 hours to prepare, but it was worth the wait). It reminded me of Ghana a bit and the days of eating with your hands and wondering if your body would hate you the next day for your choice of food (it worked out fine though!). The following night, we met up with another interesting guy who sells solar panels in Kampala, and the food at the restaurant was deeeelicious (I got fish, which came with veggies, salad, soup, grilled pineapple, garlic bread and mashed potatoes.... plus a dessert, all for $7!).

Making the Most of it All... Anyways, now it is the weekend and I'm doing probably the exact same thing I would be doing if I was back in my parents' house at home... Wasting time on my computer. And I have to say, the only thing worse than wasting a lot of time watching youtube videos, is trying to waste time watching youtube videos when they take about 30 minutes to load... So beyond this one music video I'm desperately trying to watch (no, not Beyonce), I will probably give up. I've already spent too much time trying to download pictures of Chelsea Clinton's wedding dress (just lovely!). So maybe it's time to go be productive! (No guarantees though... Then again, I could just continue being lazy and make up great stories about all the things I've accomplished and just tell you all that I forgot my camera! You'd never know.... ha. ha. ha!) Ok, the end!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Ode to Family, Friends and Food

Disclaimer: This has almost nothing to do with Uganda. Definitely nothing.

Hey everyone at home (and by home I suppose I mean North America in general, or... anyone who considers themselves friends or family), just wanted to let you know I miss you! But don't be alarmed, I'm far from being homesick... I miss you in a good way. I miss you in the same way that I miss iced coffee and donuts (yup, spelled the dunkin way), or the way I miss maple creemees with maple sprinkles, or chocolate chip pancakes made by dad... but, in a more meaningful, less fatty way. And luckily, unlike my dearly missed sugar-filled treats, I can actually tell you that I miss you!

Now, ok, some of you already knew this because I've been sending you more than frequent updates on everything ranging from what I did at work, what I made for dinner, how bad the traffic was, what I want to do with the rest of my life (any ideas?) to papers that need editing or crazy traveling ideas I've had. Alas, if you haven't received these constant updates, don't feel left out, it's only because I know you would feel too pressured to respond and eventually resent me for the constant flow of (useless) information from ye old ugandae. (Or perhaps you fall under the category of "wouldn't respond, but would feel really bad about it").

In any case, whether you like it or not, chances are you will be pretty up to date on what I'm doing on any given day (which I guess you don't mind because you're reading my blog) because I'm trying to be well rested for work and not spend money (i.e. spending evenings in), I don't have a TV and my DVD drive doesn't work (no "Friends" or "Glee" for me...), I live and work with the same people so inevitably we run out of things to talk about eventually and yes, yes, yes, I do read, but more often than not it puts me to sleep. So, when I'm not writing all of you or updating le blog, I am usually enlightening myself with the magic of the Internet. I am becoming quite the expert on news (Facebook gets boring pretty quickly... BBC, NYTimes and Al Jazeera are the replacements) and I'm trying not to rot my brain with celebrity "swill," as my dad would say (not that there isn't a decent amount of swill in the regular news).

The conclusion is, to get back to the original point of this entry, that I really don't feel very far away from any of you because I'm living quite comfortably and normally here, but I look forward to the immediate gratification of conversing with you in person, some nine months from now (doesn't that make it sound like I live in the early to mid 1900's and just secretly went to live in the country and have an illegitimate baby in order to spare my ritzy family the shame... and all this Uganda nonsense is just a facade... Maybe I'll be a novelist when I grow up. I think that's a very original story-line, right?).

Well, after a few too many tangents and far too many run-on sentences (in reality, I think they were all perfectly constructed sentences that may have just been unnecessarily strung together with over-zealous use of parenthesis and commas), I think it's time to conclude my post... Here is my departing advice for you all: tomorrow morning, go get an iced latte and a frosted donut. I think you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Graduation

Well, the graduation of this specific class of scholars from Educate! (which, as a reminder, is a two year leadership program that includes a Social Entrepreneurship Club) may have topped UVM's when it comes to time! And this was only for about twenty students! That said, it was a pretty good time. The students fundraised all the money for the celebration and set up fancy looking banquet tables (separating the S6 scholars, S5 scholars and the Educate! staff/mentors/school administration. As a side note, S6 is the last year of high school, and S5 is the second to last. The S5 scholars are currently in their first year of the Educate! program).

Anyways, two very charismatic S6 scholars played MCs at the event, while other students were charged as DJs, cooks, servers, etc. However, despite their various duties, they all seemed to be having a fabulous time. It is a boarding school/day school, so all the other students who weren't part of Educate! were gathered close by outside to keep up with the festivities. There were many speeches made and generally they were very long, drawn-out speeches that ended with "well, I don't have much to say.... but" and then they would launch into the next twenty minutes of talking.

In between speeches, the wonderful MC would call on two or three students (usually the same couple kids again and again) to go to the center of the room and dance. So we had some very entertaining dancers and everyone voted for their favorites. But what I thought was even more hilarious (in a good way) was when they called up the same students to "mime" (or as we would say lipsync) to great R&B songs (both American and African). Those were hilarious--imagine high school boys imitating Backstreet Boys or Boyz II Men... yea, hilarious.

After many, many, many dances and mimes, we finally had lunch... A lot of lunch... They served matoke (the banana dish I've told you about), rice, spaghetti, potatoes, chicken, beef, groundnut sauce, chipote and fruit. So ok yea, that sounds like a lot of food, right? Now imagine that each one of those would be enough for a whole meal on its own... Then put all of it on one plate... That's what we had! But it was pretty delicious (and no, of course I didn't finish it all. I don't care what country I'm in, I'm not going to literally explode my stomach just for the sake of manners.. Plus the deputy of the school didn't even finish his).

After eating, we had a few more dances and mimes and speeches and finally they invited the guests (yup, that includes me) up to dance, which they found hilarious, of course. We finally left and it took about an hour to get home.

On that note (transportation), it was pretty neat driving into the city this morning because I just felt the air of an important event around me! As I think I've said before, there are just military and police men lining the main roads. So. Many. And every once and a while (a few times a day) a huge convoy of cars will drive by with police sirens in front and in back, and clearly some important head of state is in the car in the middle. Apparently the President of Mexico is here, Eric Holder is here, Gordon Brown was or is here, and lots of the presidents of Caribbean nations are here. And obviously, it goes without saying, almost all of the African heads of state are here (excluding Egypt, because he cancelled... ill health). I haven't seeeen any of these important folks, but it's pretty neat to be in the same city anyways.

Well, that is all for now! I'm off to bed to rest up for another productive week!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'll be Off a Second Later and Go Straight to the The-ater!!

(Anyone know what song my title was taken from?...)

So, after our in-coming country director clarified the email sent by the president saying that she really had to advise us against going to the theatre for liability reasons, it was ultimately up to us and she didn't mind too much either way. With that, one of my friends and I headed off! We took a boda (motorcycle taxi) there because we were running late and it was much easier than taking a matatu, which wouldn't have brought us all the way there. However, rest assured we both brought helmets and although I always feel kind of dorky wearing a helmet, I value my life. I'd rather be a little dorky than a little dead. (Also, dad I know you read about the sketchy boda drivers around here, so you can also be assured that I only take them during daylight hours, with friends and only the drivers who are near our house or the office, because it's always the same group of drivers and they know us).

Anyhoo, we eventually made to the theatre, were checked for bombs, got our sodas and entered the sparsely populated theatre! I had a kind of cool revelation when I realized I had seen the theatre once before in a documentary (Erin and Amy, it was the documentary that Pierre lent me, haha). That was cool. Then I got nervous when my friend started snapping pictures as the performance began, because of course that is such a faux pas in US theaters, but apparently it was the norm here! (Sorry for my inconsistent spelling of theater. The American version is theater, but the UVM theatre department spells it the British way with the "re." I had started to take ownership of the "re" until my darling sister called me out on it... Now I'm wavering awkwardly between). The performance began with a hip hop group who did a short, but very energetic routine. Then the feature performance began.

There was a short 12 minute piece followed by a longer 45 minute piece. The short piece was entirely to a solo drummer and revolved around the dancers (all men) fighting over a bench. They were incredibly athletic and it was pretty amusing and entertaining to watch. I should preface my description of the second piece by explaining that this dance company (as I discovered only tonight) is run by an older (but not old) French woman (I hope she doesn't read my blog...) with some crazy brassy blond hair and who has clearly spent a lot of time in the sun. She was in the second piece and seemed to posit herself as one of the love interests... Hmm.. Anyways, the improvised sections by the men were incredibly impressed and they're clearly very talented. The choreographed sections seemed amateurish. It definitely had some shining moments, but they were other times when it seemed a little comical for the wrong reasons. (I really hope they don't find my blog).

Anyways, it was totally worth it and I had a fantastic time! I'm excited to track down some more interesting performances in the future. I also will be stealing some of my friend's pictures, so you can expect to see those sometime in the near future!

A Little bit of Music, Not so much Dance

Well I am finally in the middle of a typical work-week after the unexpected events of last week (which seems like ages ago). We had our usual Monday morning meeting with the entire staff, which was great and a guest speaker talked to us about mentorship, entrepreneurship and achieving goals. She was very interesting to listen to and is actually a partner at the largest female owned venture capital firms in the United States, which was pretty impressive.

That night we had a going away party for our out-going country director who has been with the organization since it began and was invaluable in establishing the relationships we have with schools, administrators and other officials and organizations in the country. All the mentors gave short (mostly) and very heartfelt goodbye speeches to her, interrupted occasionally by interludes of dancing (very amusing). It was a wonderful event to be a part of at this point of my time here because it really emphasized how meaningful the organization has been for so many people, the kind of family relationship that has developed between the employees and volunteers, as well as the unique and innovative, ever-evolving work that happens at Educate!

That set the stage perfectly for my Tuesday where I spent most of the morning researching for the Poverty Manual I've been tasked with writing (have I mentioned that on here yet?... I think I have, but it's a resource for the scholars to use in developing their community entrepreneurship projects), and in the afternoon I went to observe one of my mentor's classes. This was a really interesting class to observe because it is sort of a pilot program to see if this curriculum works in settings other than schools. It was at an orphanage which takes in street children and empowers them through music. They sang a lovely little song about Educate! before the class started (see first half of entry title!). Anyways, it was really chaotic at first, but eventually about twelve kids showed up for the class and they discussed "advocacy writing." Despite the multitude of distractions around them (kids playing trombones, little kids yelling to each other, "mzungus", i.e. white people coming over to say hi with no respect that there was a class going on) , they were really enthusiastic and interested in the material. Next week they'll be reading their advocacy papers outloud, so perhaps I'll try to be there for that!

In more disappointing news, and getting to the latter part of this title, me and a few friends were supposed to go see the Ugandan National Contemporary Ballet tonight at the National Theatre (already bought tickets and everything), but security issues are preventing us.. :(. There are just concerns going around that there may be more attacks especially because the African Union Summit is being hosted in Kampala this week. So anyways, I understand the reasoning, but it still sucks. Guess I'll just have to be on the look out for when they're performing next!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

f.r.i.e.n.d.s.

There's a local bar here called "f.r.i.e.n.d.s. p.u.b.," (haven't been to it, probably won't go) which I found amusing because it's written in the tv show "Friends" font, and it just seems really random. And I love "Friends," and have no way to watch it, alas... I'm not complaining though.

In fact, in my non-Friends watching time, I've been doing lots of fun things. I had a successful expedition into Kampala yesterday with one of my friends. Our first stop was one of the crafts markets, which happened to be right behind the National Theater. As we walked towards the theater, we saw some people being interviewed by a TV station and assumed they were famous--they weren't. We kept walking and someone called to us from the TV crew and asked to interview us too. They were just asking about the vuvuzelas from the World Cup, and apparently we'll be on the news on Tuesday night. A very random start to the day.

After that we wandered through the craft market and then went to get some lunch. Ever since the bombings last week, security has been amped up everywhere and will probably continue to be that way until the African Union Summit is over after this week. Anyways, so they have scanner things and check everyone's bags. So after we had walked around Kampala for a while we headed back to the Old Taxi Park. We stopped at the entrance and I opened by bag for the guard to check. He looks right at me, totally straight faced and says "do you have a bomb?" I was a little surprised at first, but then I said "no" and he started laughing. But hey, at least they're being thorough!

But overall I would say being on the news, buying a touristy "Uganda" t-shirt with a picture of a giraffe on it (yup, new favorite shirt), and being questioned about bombs is a sign of a successful tour of Kampala. And my fun day was topped of with a very fun night having a going away party for our out-going country director (resulting in a very lazy day today!).

P.S. since this will likely be my one and only "friends" themed entry, I have to share a recurring thought I've been having lately. Because I don't have TV here, I've been reading the news a lot and Yemen keeps showing up because the US thinks it's a safe haven for terrorists, and anyways it makes me think of Chandler and Janice every time! Every. time. You would think I could have a deeper, more thoughtful first reaction to this new portrayal of Yemen, but mmm, nope, just Chandler.

Okay, the end.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Map!

I wanted to make my title a line from that "Maps" song, but it didn't translate very well to writing... Anyways, here is a map of Kampala so you can all see where I am. (If I were tech-ier and more patient, I might actually just copy the image onto my blog, but I'm giving you a link instead). If you look at the map, I am farther south of Kabalagala, and going north of Kabalagala takes you into "downtown." All the "taxis" or "matatus" (small mini-busses, just like the ones I rode in Ghana), take you into the city and travel on set routes out of the city.

Anyways, hopefully today as I wander around Kampala and familiarize myself with the area, I'll get some good pictures to share with you all!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Scholahs and Mentahs

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit in on my first Educate! Socially Responsible Leadership Course today at one of the schools. There were eleven scholars (or "scholahs" as Ugandans would say) present, although I think usually there are around 13 in this particular class. They are all in their second to last year of High School, referred to as S5 (juniors). The lesson today was on advocacy writing and they were asked to select a topic from the PEDVU model to write about. PEDVU stands for poverty, environment, disease, violence and uneducated/disempowered communities.

The course lasted for two hours, though it was broken up into different sections. We discussed writing strategies, played a game ("A Cold Wind Blows" if any of you have ever played it), and then wrote and presented speeches. The class ended with one of the students reading the speech of the week, which was "African Progress," by Kofi Annan.

I was really happy to see the students becoming progressively more comfortable and talkative as the class went on. Earlier on, they were speaking very softly and mumbling, but with encouragement from the mentor they started to enunciate and raise their volume. Overall it was a great first class to attend, and I'm looking forward to more! I know this wasn't much of an analytical, interesting post, but at least you have a sense of what I'm up to over here!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Who Lives in a Pineapple Under the Sea?"

Yup, I quoted the Spongebob theme song in my title, so what? I wanted to put a picture of his pineapple house too, but this blog's just not that fancy (and this internet's just not that fast). Anyways, this is all relevant, I promise. I just ate a pineapple. The end.

Gotcha, not the end! Prepare yourself for a thrilling lib story: about... some number of years ago, let's say.. 6, I developed a very mild allergy to pineapple (e.g. itchy throat, mouth, ears). Since that time I've gone through phases ranging from respecting the allergy and avoiding even the most tempting of pineapples, to attempts to defeat the allergy via frequent pineapple consumption. Anyhoo, while in Ghana two years ago, I discovered that Ghanaian pineapples somehow didn't trigger my allergy, I had won! Alas, it came back towards the end of my stay, and here I am now... in Uganda. I just ate a pineapple, which I bought for the equivalent of 30 cents (a whole pineapple), and not a single reaction!

Hm.. Perhaps that wasn't blog-worthy. But you've already read it! Ha.

Can you tell I've been stuck in the house again all day? The embassy advised us to stay home (or in the neighborhood) again, and I was really disappointed at the prospect of another slow day, but it looks like tomorrow we'll be back in action! We have an ops meeting (operations, if you didn't figure that out) in the morning and then I'll have lunch with the Program Director to discuss my position in more depth (although I got an overview today).

Looks like primarily, I'll be working with a team of four mentors at four different schools around Kampala. They are responsible for teaching a two-hour Socially Responsible Leadership Course once a week to high school age students in addition to supervising a Social Entrepreneurship Club. I will be meeting with the mentors one-on-one every week, sitting in on their classes frequently and participating in larger meetings with the whole organization. I've also been put in charge of writing a "poverty manual," which will essentially serve as a resource for the students to use in understanding issues of poverty on a deeper level, seeing how it is relevant to their communities, and how they can develop projects to address specific issues. Quite a task! Should be fun.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Sleepless Sunday Night

After a long (and fun) weekend in Kyangwali and with the expectation of a busy Monday workday, I decided to skip on the World Cup Final festivities in Kampala to get a little sleep. However, I had only just fallen asleep when I was woken up again by one of my friends to tell me about the bombings in Kampala. I almost went right back to sleep, but took a moment to process the information and decided to get up.

Though the E! group was sort of spread out between different houses, we eventually were able to account for everyone and they were all fine. I feel a little odd even commenting on the attacks because I've been here for a total of... what, 6 days? Though I can say that I was incredibly glad that I had been following the news coming out of sub-Saharan Africa for the past year consistently, so I could actually make some sense of where this was all coming from. Do your research before you travel!

Anyways, today I'm sort of in a bubble. The U.S. Embassy advised Americans to stay home, so our busy Monday schedule was moved back to tomorrow, and we've just been hanging out. I got a bit of cabin fever though and went with one of my friends to a hotel nearby to sit by the pool and stare at the beautiful view of the lake below (again, pictures to come!), and relax and do some work.

I feel incredibly sad for the people who were victims of the attacks, and for those who had family or friends there. It's sort of mind boggling that so many people can see violence as a solution to their frustrations, and that a country supplying peace-keepers to your nation can be seen as an enemy. But, we shall see how Uganda and the international community proceed from here...

As for me, I'm looking forward to exploring Kampala more and orienting myself to my new role at Educate!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

From Kampala to Kyangwali

Let me preface this post by saying that I would love to add pictures, but the internet is being so slow that I've lost interest and patience in that pursuit. I'll add some soon though, promise! You'll just have to rely on my superb descriptions in the meantime...

Early on Friday morning, I wandered into the center of Kampala with two fellow Educate! (hereby referred to as E!) co-workers in search of a bus to Hoima, a small town in the western part of Uganda; close to Lake Albert if that helps. We wandered around there for a while before meeting with up the rest of the group and heading off to our final destination, Kyangwali Refugee Camp (pronounced chahn--gwah--lee). Refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi began arriving to the camp around 1997, and many are still fleeing there today.

E! is connected to the Kyangwali primarily through COBURWAS (Congolese, Burundian, Rwandese, Sudanese), which is an organization that was started by a few young Congolese refugees when they first arrived in the camp. We were fortunate to have a few of the founding members at the camp that day to share with us the history of their organization, the challenges they has faced and their future goals for COBURWAS.

After hearing them speak, I went with a few other people to visit the Sudanese side of the camp, where we spoke with a 15 year old boy and his four brothers about their daily life in the camp. His biggest concern and question for us at the end of our conversation was how to get more resources for his football (soccer) team! Of course. We advised him to follow the lead of COBURWAS and organize with his team to find creative ways to raise money for their gear. As we walked the hour and a half walk (yea... so long) back to the Congolese side (there are houses the entire way through, it just happened to be very far from where we were staying), I considered how I would have felt if I had had to do manual labor and farming and pleading with the elders and foreign organizations just to play soccer as a kid, and honestly... I might not have played at all!

After our day of walking all over the camp, we were serenaded by a fabulous singer/song-writer and his family of singers. The first song they sang was written to honor the E! founder, Eric, and being the humble guy that he is, he was incredibly embarrassed, which made it all the more entertaining. And the leader of the singers, DJ, was shocked and I think kind of thrilled to find out that someone had put the song on YouTube. Needless to say, it was a fun night.

Finally, we drove back today, dusty and dirty as can be and made it safely back into Kampala. I'll update soon with observations on architecture, food, etc., but I think this is plenty for now. And hopefully I'll have pictures up soon! The. End.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Like to Eat, Eat, Eat...

apples and BANANAS! As anticipated, the bananas here are delicious. Bananas were also incredibly delicious in Ghana, but Uganda has raised the bar by having about seven different varieties of banana. I've only tasted one as of yet, but I was very impressed. Much sweeter than the ones at home.

A banana was about the only thing I could stomach this afternoon after getting rather ill at the office. I haven't started any actual work yet, but I went into the office and was planning on going into Kampala with one of the mentors (all the mentors are Ugandan as a heads up, maybe I'll give a run down of the organization at some point). However, I started feeling incredibly sick, threw up, and went back to the house. After drinking some water, eating a banana and taking a very long nap, I am feeling infinitely better! (ps- I had a dream while I was napping that there was a tornado at home! and then a hurricane!). If I had to guess, I would say my mysterious illness was a result of a weird sleeping/eating schedule induced by traveling. Alas, life goes on.

This weekend (as in tomorrow), we're all heading off to Kyangwali Refugee camp, where Educate! was born, for some team building. Apparently it's very hot there and there's a higher risk for malaria (I'm presuming this all equates to higher humidity... yuck), but not to fear, I've been taking my anti-malarials! So with humidity and malaria aside, my greatest concern about going actually relates back to my Costa Rica days in high school.... There are chiggers at the camp. Chiggers, which I researched fanatically, driven by fear, before going to CR, are little bugs that burrow into your skin and lay eggs.... Uhhh, yea. Gross! I never got one.... but no reason not to be scared of them! Although by wearing sneakers and pants, there shouldn't be much to worry about.

So, expect some chigger-free, malaria-free, and adventure-full entries after this weekend.

(I realize that adventure-full is a silly looking construction, but I had to keep with the word dash word structure, obvi).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Jet Lag is Real.

I'm in Uganda and will be updating my blog soon with stories. I will aim to keep them concise, interesting and with some semblance of a plot structure or point, but I can't guarantee anything. I'm too tired to write anything of substance right now, but check back soon for some interesting (hopefully) updates!