Saturday, July 4, 2009

A party and a funeral

Happy news first: yesterday Michael, the volunteer coordinator, graduated from university with a Bachelor's in Development Studies! We went to the ceremony, which was long and boring- some things are universal! Then we went out to the village where he grew up and his parents still live for a celebration luncheon. My host mom did the cooking, so of course the food was amazing. It was really cool to meet the rest of Michael's family. I'm pretty sure he is the first out of his family or his wife's family (IE who I stay with) to graduate from university so they were all very excited for him.

We happened to mention to her on the way home that we really liked the way the rice was prepared, so she taught us how to make it for lunch today! I'm going to try to make it when I get home, along with some of the other foods I've learned to make.

In sadder news, we also attended a funeral this week. There was an old American named Clifford that lived across the street from us and ran an orphanage. We met him on our first full day in Uganda. He had been here for a couple years and said that if we needed anything we should ask. He got very sick last week and was taken to the international hospital in Kampala (IE the best hospital in the country) but he still passed away from kidney failure.

He had requested to be buried here in Uganda, so his son Darryl flew out here and Clifford was laid to rest just outside Iganga. It was unlike any other funeral I've ever been to. They don't believe in denominations here, so it didn't follow any kind of a service; several pastors simply got up and talked about what a good guy Clifford was, and then told everyone that they should follow Jesus like he did by going to whatever church that particular pastor belonged to. Weird! Darryl also spoke about his father (that part was sad) and pledged to continue supporting the orphanage. The only part of the funeral that was familar to me was the "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" when the first dirt was thrown onto the coffin.

In other news, this will probably be my last update from Africa, as we leave Wednesday afternoon to begin the journey to Entebbe, then to Amsterdam, Chicago, and finally Detroit. I will be home sometime early Thursday evening, and should be decently well recovered by Friday. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, having some variety in my diet, and sleeping in my own bed. At the same time, I am going to miss some things about Africa, especially my host family. They have been absolutely amazing and unfortunately none of them use email so I won't have an affordable way to communicate with them after I leave.

See you soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New, and a bit alarming...

So, I really can't think of anything exciting to report. The last couple of days we've just been working on drafting the policy that we are going to submit to the city council to begin the municipal composting project. I think we are going back to Jinja this weekend to do some shopping and have some Western food.

I have gotten a lot of reading done, which is nice justification for bringing so many books with me. It's looking like I'll finish all of them!

Sondra, I will be home the evening of July 9th (which is a Thursday). We for sure will have to hang out. I'm sorry I won't get to see your sunburn- take pictures for me! =]

Monday, June 22, 2009

An inconvenient truth about roaches...

One of those things that the predeparture packet didn't warn us about was cockroaches.

Prior to coming to Africa I had never actually seen a cockroach. I was okay with this. However, our bathroom (you know, the one that is inside of our room and is really only separate because it is eight inches below the level of our room) is infested with roaches.

Fortunately they hide during the day time and all it (usually) takes to make them run away during the night is a flashlight. Also fortunate is the fact that Chelsea and I are not afraid of them. I mean, I don't want to be friends with them but I'm not scared to go to the bathroom or anything- as opposed to Jen and Michelle, who either use the pit latrine out back, or come use our bathroom, when their infestation is threatening them.

Did you know that roaches play dead? That's why it's so hard to scare them away sometimes. You shine the light on them and they stay still, so you think they're dead. Then you step down into the bathroom next to them and they scurry away. Other times they stay where they are until you spill some water on the floor while flushing the toilet (if I haven't posted about that before, we don't have running water in our room so we have to haul in buckets of water from the outdoor tap to fill the commode).

The other night we were having a going away party for Brin, when Troy realized he had stepped on something (in his bare feet, no less). A flashlight revealed it to be a cockroach. We thought he had killed it until he tried to pick it up with some toilet paper, at which point it started scurrying around, in the midst of lots of other people with bare feet (never fear, I had shoes on). Katie eventually squished it with her stool. Don't ever let anyone tell you that life in Africa is uneventful!

The bug issue does mean that while packing to leave I'm going to have to take everything out of my suitcase and turn it upside down to try to get everything out. Brin found a slug in her suitcase while she was packing!

Sondra, I am jealous of your job- it sounds awesome! We should have another shrimp stir fry making night when I come home. And it should also involve dessert. =]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

White people don't have secrets?

Oh, man. Sunday night was crazy.

So, this neighbor guy, Richard, has been coming over a lot and obviously he has a thing for Chelsea. She's been really weirded out by it but didn't really know how to handle it. On Sunday evening he came over with his brother's cousin (or cousin's brother, I forget). Chelsea said she was going to go take a nap. She didn't actually fall asleep, and since I was sitting right outside our room with Richard and Angel (the relative) she got to hear my whole conversation with Richard.

Basically, it consisted of him telling me that Angel was going to be my friend, then my boyfriend, and he was going to date Chelsea!!!

This obviously led to a big fight about how neither of us are going to date any African boys, and anyway Chelsea has a boyfriend (she doesn't, but it's a convenient lie).

I also found out that Angel had apparently fallen in love with me at first sight, which was kind of exciting since that's never happened to me before. =P And I have "strong eyes." And when I said that there were Ugandan women with strong eyes I was told I was mistaken, so I assume that he just likes that I have blue eyes.

Also, he informed me that white people don't have secrets, and that's why our government is not as corrupt as the Ugandan government.

Anyway, we talked to Michael, the volunteer coordinator, about it and we haven't seen Richard since so hopefully he got warned off.

In other news, a new volunteer arrived yesterday and is going to be living in our house since Brin is leaving on Friday. Her name is Michelle, she is from Wisconsin, and she is going to be working at the hospital. She is nice but has a lot of family issues going on at home so she might have to leave early.

Speaking of leaving, we fly out three weeks from today!!! I'm pumped. Uganda has its good moments but I'm getting ready to come home.

This weekend I think I'm going down to Jinja to go white water rafting on the Nile (it starts down here) so that will be an adventure. Hopefully I don't drown, haha. I've never been rafting before so it will be an experience. The owners of the company are from New Zealand, so apparently the meals are very Western and they have dorms we can stay in with showers! That alone is probably going to be worth the cost of rafting. You can also go bungee jumping but I will not be doing that.

Sondra, I'll have to come by and see Brent's new place. The house with James didn't work out? I'm glad you like your job! And we definitely need some mall Chinese asap when I get home, I've been craving orange chicken.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hey, hey Hockeytown!

Geez, it sounds like I'm fortunate to have been out of the country and not have to watch that game seven. I'm not that annoyed that they lost- they can't win every year- but the Pens fans are going to be absolutely unbearable after this. I'm glad Crosby didn't get the Conn Smythe at least (newsflash, Pens bandwagoners, he's not your best player!). One of my emails about the loss said there was a story on the news about a fan in Pittsburgh that was hyperventilating and said it was the happiest day of her life... she is married with kids... sounds like someone needs to get a life! I'm pumped about next year... I just hope we get rid of Hossa and can keep Hudler, Leino, etc. But in Ken Holland we trust!!! And the Olympics are next year, which will be awesome.

Sarah and Sharifah seem to have made it their personal mission to take care of us. When I took my shower today Sarah asked me multiple times if I had my towel, shampoo, etc. and made me leave my flip flops with her so she could wash them. Sharifah read me some early reading books today, including a Berenstein Bears book! That took me back.

We seem to have finally mastered the fan, so that helps cool things down at night as long as the power stays on. It's not entirely uncommon to have it go on and off. Overall I'd say it's been on 75% of the time. It's only inconvenient at night, because it's pitch black in our room and I hate having to do things by flashlight.

It's occurred to me that I haven't explained anything about the other volunteers. They are:

At Our House:

Room 1- Chelsea and me.

Room 2- Brin and Jen. Brin is the girl that was here before us. She is actually leaving on Friday- I'll miss her. She is very outgoing and was extremely helpful when we first arrived. She also had malaria the week before we got here. Jen has been here for one week now and I haven't seen her much because she's planning on spending her weeks out in a village and her weekends at the house. She is very young and convinced in her (generally uninformed) beliefs.

At The Second House:

Room 1- Serina and Jenny. Serina was here before us and is staying longer. She is a year older than us and is from Kentucky. She is working at the microfinance institution and researching for her senior thesis, which has something do do with development financing. Serina had malaria this week. Jenny is 32 and is a banker from the Netherlands. She speaks almost perfect English but is definitely missing speaking Dutch (it must suck to only be able to speak your second language for a month). She works at a center for women with disabilities.

Room 2- Gwen and Dez. They are med students at University of Alabama and just finished their first year. They are working at the local hospital, primarily in the women's ward. They're both really cool and in general are horrified by how unsanitary the hospital is.

At The Third House:

Room 1- Katie. Katie is from Taiwan and is starting her master's in Public Health at U of M in the fall (Chelsea and I have decided that she needs to learn to play euchre). She is working at an HIV/AIDS clinic but may start helping out at the hospital because there isn't much for her to do at the clinic.

Room 2- Troy. Troy is going to be a senior this fall at... some college in Illinois (where he is from). He is in the process of applying to med schools and is working at the hospital. He is a huge Blackhawks fan and hates Detroit, but I've had some good hockey discussions with him. I think he gets overwhelmed sometimes, being the only boy.

We all hang out pretty regularly... it's nice to be with people that speak English, share a similar culture, and miss the same things.

I have a glass Sprite bottle in my bag, because they actually reuse the glass bottles here! So when I go to the store after this I can take the bottle back for a deposit, which I think is 500 shillings or about fifty cents. But I find it very funny that Uganda has a recycling deposit program and the majority of the US does not.

Sondra, I am all about going ice skating when we get back! We'll have to go spend some of your paychecks, haha. And get mall Chinese (you have no idea how good that sounds right now).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Walking fast, faces pass and I'm home-bound

And we're going to game seven! Well, I'm not, exactly, since I won't be able to watch it. My dad just informed me via email that the Wings are going to win 3-2... I hope he's right!

It's silly but I've had a couple of bad days in a row and a Stanley Cup win would be a huge pick-me-up! I think the worst of it has passed... my moods here have been very closely tied to how I'm feeling physically, and I was quite dehydrated with an upset stomach. I spent most of yesterday sleeping and have felt better today. In any case we are now 1/3 of the way through our trip, which is an encouraging thought.

We didn't have to go in to work today so we've basically just been reading all day. Tomorrow there is an expedition to Jinja to go rafting on the Nile (it begins down here) but we'll have to see how I'm feeling.

It's becoming harder to avoid the creepers. Yesterday one came in my room while I was laying down and sat on the edge of my bed! Maybe they just think they're being friendly...?

Today has been semi-cool, probably only around 70, which is really nice. The power was out last night, but it came back on today so we had the fan running in our room for a while, which brings it down to a comfortable temperature. Biti also brought us an air freshener for our bathroom, which is helpful.

Sondra, is that the camp that your dad wanted to send your brother to? Taco Bell might not be too bad, I'm sure you get a discount on food.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tonight will be the night that I will fall for you over again

I remember saying before I left that I wasn't sure who would win the series but that it would go to seven, so it looks like I was right about that one. If the goalie of the winning team gets the Conn Smythe then I'll be two for two! =] Lord knows Ozzie deserves a Conn Smythe by now.

A couple of the kids are guys, and Kaka is 17 so I guess he's kind of a man. A relative that lives out in a village but is a vet in town lives with us during the week so that the commute isn't as bad. And there are other uncles and things that visit sometimes... but mostly it's just a lot of estrogen, haha.

We are technically here in the rainy season (although it's only rained, like, twice) so there is a lot of fruit and things right now. Tropical fruits don't need as much water to grow, so I would guess that they do pretty well year-round.

It is quite sunny here. Prescription sunglasses would have been a good choice... oh well.

Somehow one of the kids found out that we have a deck of cards so that's been the big thing the last couple of nights. We taught them Go Fish and Crazy 8s and they taught us some Ugandan card game. And then we tried playing Hearts but that didn't go as well. Sharifah and Sarah love playing war but someone has to watch them and mediate because they both try to cheat.

The first night we were playing cards some friend of the family named Richard was there, and he seems pretty informed on Western culture and whatnot so he was asking us about our full names, where we're from, etc. I told him that my middle name is Elizabeth, and Chelsea and I were joking about how I should just go by that because people here can actually say it... and now some of the kids are calling me Liz!

There are lots of varying symptoms for malaria. And apparently if you catch it early it's not a big deal, you just go to the clinic for the day and have some IVs and then it's all better. But I'd still rather not get it.

Yesterday was a public holiday called Heroes Day, so there was no school or work or anything, but our boss invited us to go with him to some land that he is operating for a friend because the friend is in the United States. So we went with him to a tree nursery and got 3000 eucalyptus seedlings and then drove out to one farm and left 1000 of the eucalyptus seedlings and got 1000 pine tree seedlings, then drove to another farm and dropped off the pine trees, and then went to a third farm to drop off the rest of the eucalyptus. We were quite dirty by the end of all this and when we got home Sharifah (who is 8) lectured us about our dirty feet and made us wash them, which was pretty cute.

Basically it's hot every day here, so we try to stay in the shade and if there is a breeze we sit where we can feel it. The grandmas sit on mats outside with the baby kids and they basically migrate around the house as the shadows move. If it rains it does cool down some, but sadly that doesn't happen very often. It's a nice temperature at night, but there are lots of mosquitos even with bug spray and also no light. Last night it was sweltering in our room when we went to bed and a good fifteen degrees cooler outside but we couldn't leave the window open due to mosquitos and neighborhood creepers. I could definitely do with some cold, Michigan weather right now.

Sondra, you aren't really going to name your cat Piddles are you? I mean, I guess it's more creative than Kitten but I think you're just asking for some bathroom problems with that name. =P