Here's a quick debriefing of the previous couple of days:
5 days ago: I received some peanut butter from a volunteer I was visiting. I thought this great, and didn't think much about the fact that this was homemade peanut butter that was maybe 3 months old and currently residing in a soap container.
3 days ago: I was spending more time in the pit than a NASCAR crew member. It felt like ACDC was touring in my bowles. I came to know the latrine intimately, and it knew me. Also, in the midst of maybe my 10th trip to the pit I remembered that it had been brought to my attention that I really have not done a good job with corresponding my daily activities. Plus, I need to post some pictures.
1 day ago: I planned on remedying both of the aforementioned failures.
Now: I currently live with a host family in a small village in central Uganda. The family is made up of a mother, a son, two nieces, an aunt, and a man who we will call an uncle. They are really nice, and actually, when I was feeling a little less than par the other day, they offered to boil me up a weed growing in the back that they claimed was a natural remedy (i denied the first day, accepted the second). They also called to check on me and continually asked about me. I really have learned a lot from them and appreciate them greatly.
Everyday accept for Sunday, I will wake at around 6:30 am, read, brush my teeth, fake taking a shower, and have some morning tea. Then, I meet another of the volunteers and we walk to our training facility about 2 miles away. The morning walk is really great. It's cool, the plants are amazing, it's a great time to catch up, and the bugandan kids are heading to school so we get to say hi to them (or rather, they say hi to us, about a million times). From 8am-5pm the trainees (there are about 30 of us) go through classes in our respective languages, get cultural training, have discussions from current volunteers, and get training in our occupational setting. We have tea and lunch during this time, which means I get to dominate a plate full of rice, some greens, and some fruit that puts the licious in delicious. After 5, I usually start the walk home, though some of the trainees stay at the training site to practice language or just kind of hang out. Once home, I like to run, read, listen to some BBC, meet up with some of the other trainees, or just kind of sit on the wall of my homestay and talk to the family. Ugandans tend to eat dinner pretty late, and about around 9:30pm (which I think is early for them) we sit down do a dinner of beans, maize, rice, fruit, meat, or the like. I really do like the food. We do this each day, but on Saturdays, we typically spice it up a bit with a trip to Kampala or a visit to a volunteer's home. It is at this point that you need to know ahead of time whether or not you are going to eat a chicken on a stick that a vendor is sure to thrust in your window as you pass by. On Sundays I get to go to church, run, hopefully watch soccer, and wash my clothes. I am not good at washing my clothes. The 15 year old helps me, and to be honest, she should probably be getting paid. If the downy bear could be personified in someone, it might be her. She makes the clothes that clean.
So, this is the schedule. I think it will be pretty similar to this until at least late April when hopefully we will all be sworn in as volunteers and go to our respective sights. Of the 30 volunteers, we have been broken up into, I think, maybe 5 groups. There are 4 total people in my group, and we are leaning a language called Lango, which puts our general location in northern Uganda. The Peace Corps is kind of ambiguous when it comes to giving you an exact location, but I think this is probably for good reason. Also, I think I am going to fight my language trainer. He's been talking trash behind my back and I know it! I'm only kidding, I think. Once we go to our actual sights, we will hopefully be there for the next two years. We will be issued homes, and the homes vary greatly from sight to sight so I really don't know what to expect. Once I am there, I believe I will be teaching biology and chemistry at the high school level so Im pretty excited about that. Also, I want to put up a Lord of the Rings poster. I wonder if I'll be the first one ever to hang a LOTR poster up in an Ugandan home. I have to be in the top 100.
Alright, let me know if I wasn't clear on anything, and if you ever want me to put up some specific answer to a question please email me. Heck, email me anyway. Let me know if I can send you a letter. I think I like to send letters. It feels good to drop in the box and have the crowned crane carry it away.
I traveled away from the Peace Corps training center for a couple of days to visit another volunteer. One may think that a four hour bus ride on Ugandan roads would be nightmarish, and to a certain extent you are correct (cramped, hot, people constantly trying to sell you a chicken on a stick), but to another extent, you would be terribly mistaken. Over the four hour trip we passed fields of tea, papyrus, and acre upon acre of sugar cane. We saw the great Lake Victoria, and the fabled River Nile. This was only the beginning of the trip though. The volunteer I went to visit lives in eastern Uganda and about 30 minutes away (by foot) from his home is a place with known rock paintings. You always hear about rock painting, and to tell you the truth these were faded and certainly not the works of the great Mark Kessler, but they had hidden power. Standing in front of of a work 2,000 years old, wondering who, what, why; there is an awe and mystery in it. Also, the rocks contained a natural xylophone where different rocks could be hit to produce these reverberating pitches that archaeologists think were used to call in cattle herders in times past. The rocks were a bit of a climb, but at the top, they offered a 360 degree view of Uganda. It was beautiful. The Peace Corps Volunteer's family had sent him some care packages, so that night, we sat in his living room talking African politics eating candy bars and trail mix. I think that it's times like these, more than any others so far, that I really realize what a blessing it is to be here, how I never could have imagined this. Then though, there are the times that you realize you really are in to something so bizarre, so unique, and so unbelievably exciting that you have to be thankful to God. The next night, we traveled to one of the major cities of Uganda to meet up with some other volunteers. In the midst of conversation, soccer got brought up and before I knew it, at midnight that night, I was sitting in a movie theater type building with wooden chairs watching live, European soccer (Man U vs. Inter Milan) with hundreds of screaming Ugandans who all definitely had a weird, soccer crush on Ronaldo but none of whom would have admitted it! I wish I could bottle that moment and let you all open it up and experience. I don't now do it justice. I don't really know how to end my blog entries. I don't really know how to write them either.
okay kids, this is what we've got going. that's right, im back. back in the saddle again. i've got limited time at this internet cafe here (i might have to strongarm to desk person for some more time) so what i was thinking was that i would simply record three experts from my journal in one new blog. forgive me if my grammer is lacking or if there are things here which you do not agree with as these are my thoughts only in the first 3 weeks and do not necessarily represent developed experiences. but maybe they do. we will see. also, my shift/caps button is off and on so i will be avoiding it like i avoided being tackled by number 27 in my days of middle school football.
1- The first night, arrival. we stepped off the plane, not into a terminal, but down a series of steps onto the tarmac. My first steps on African soil. The fist aspect I noticed was not the temperature of the air against my body, but the way the air felt as I breathed it in. It was warm and comforting the way I took it in. The air was thick with moisture such that I felt like little drops of water were forming inside my nostrils then slowly, silently fading back out to the air with my exhale. My body agree with these thoughts. As I slowly made my way towards customs i felt wrapped in this big warm blanket of mystery and arrival, like finally it had come. These were the first, overwhelming emotions that i took with me to customs. i levitated on these as i stood in line, waiting to give my passport to a man who had no idea what i was doing there, but would trust what i said...hopefully. As i stood in line, i wanted desperately to be back out in the warmth so i went back out the double doors that were near by. This time though, the overwhelming emotion came from sight. i looked up and saw a sky i had seen many times, but never before in such a manner. the stars were bright but just little specks in a larger ocean. what overwhelmed me was this ocean. looking up, i saw a sky, not blue, not even dark blue, but black. i do not know why, or if i'll ever see that again, but that night, the sky was a black bed sheet with tiny spots of light and a yellow, contented moon. we got through customs, received out luggage (which all but one received their luggage which is an amazing blessing and hopefully she will receive this soon) and met some very friendly peace corps directors who would take us 20 minutes by bus to the training site where we would spend the night. sitting shotgun (which is on the left side) in the bus next to our african driver i slid the window back and let my hand feel the breeze of our motion. This is when the african aroma blew in. as we passed villages and stretches of people out celebrating valentines day i caught the smell of what we passed. the smell was that of day old bread rolls and candles burnt down to the wax (no i do not understand this either). i don't know if this is accurate, it's just what the smell brought to my mind. it wasn't particularly pleasant nor was it repulsive. it just was. now though, i try to breath in that same smell and find it not there. i wonder if it was only for that day. it wasn't until just before bed that night that i caught the sound of africa...as i looked at the moon, and stars, and expanse of black, i heard the night. closer than any other of the previous sensations the sound resembled indiana. what was alive at night were the insects. they were active in sound. the night sounded similar to the crickets and cicadas that offer their call to the sinking sun back home. there were subtle differences though. a differing pitch here, a longer shrill there. these were the african bugs, calling out to their diminishing sun.
2-it has been nearly 10 days in africa and though a part of me feels that these 10 days have gone by as the african cheetah runs, another part feels they have trodden as slowly as the ever present bull, and with as much enthusiasm. the lows have been low, such as the first night staying with my host family, sitting as the dinner table with a family that i did not know eating by the light of the kerosene lantern, wondering what they were thinking, who they were, and realizing that i too was a stranger to them, living in their house. that night, i lay motionless in my twin mattress, mosquito net overhead. not only did the darkness surround me physically but it grabbed for my soul and spirit as well. then there was the time in central uganda where i looked out onto the african hillside with the african sun blazing overhead. it was beautiful. i longed for someone to share it with, but there was no one. but as the lows have most assuredly been low, so too have the highs been high. last night i sat on the wall surrounding my host family's house and their young niece (who is maybe 6 years old) sat beside me. With my hand holding hers so she wouldn't fall, she and her unlce taught me words in lugandan. sun, star, moon, flower. dusk had brought in a night fog over the hills and with it came peace in what tomorrow would be a village full of unrest, joy, sorry, hunger, and happiness.
3-some key points after the first few weeks (these are generalizations that i understand do not apply to all, if any for that matter) -the guy that sells rollex continues to rip me off, but these egg rollups are so good that he has power over me and i cannot refuse -after slaughtering a chicken, put it in hot water to remove the feathers more readily -there is a simply joy in riding down ugandan dirt roads on a one speed bike with helmet on and kids yelling at the strange looking muzungu on the bike -one of the girls who lives in the same house is named flavia. her nick name is flava flav -i received a shot for yellow fever and typhoid fever. this was never a life goal of mine and frankly freaks me out a bit -taking a cold bath outside under the african night sky is...somehow special. in the midst of hunger, disease, and maybe even fear, it is crisp and cooling and peaceful -central ugandan's have a dish called matooke at least once a day and sometimes twice. i cannot really describe it except to say that it is a main dish made of a type of cooked bananas with a consistency like mashed potatoes. i asked one of the members of my homestay what his favorite food was. Expecting a rare delicacy, i was surprised when he said, matooke. how could a dish he ate every day be his favorite? i think this describes a piece of the ugandans. they know what they have and they are grateful for it. maybe content is a better word? i don't know yet. -some people the ugandan's like in a tremendous amount: president obama, celene dion, and mr. bean.
Some may say I was a precocious child. Others may say my development resembled a plot from an episode of the 1990's hit series "Full House" (Honestly I don't know what this means except that it may mean I have a fetish for being freakishly neat and/or have at one time wanted to save a horse by bringing it to my house. Both of these are inaccurate though). While still others may say I am simply a finite being inhabiting a place in the space-time continuum. These people are all off-base. I love Christ, I enjoy cereal beyond what is normally considered acceptable, and there's a part of me that thinks the book "The Old Man and The Sea" may turn out to be a biography about my life (minus the whole fishing aspect, and the sailing too as my past has shown that sailing is not my forte).