Monday, December 10, 2007
so, since the grant got turned in and school's out of session, i've not got much to do these days. i'm cooking up a few new ideas for projects, one of which is a peanut shelling machine that can generate income for my community. i'd also like to see about teaching people some new crops to grow (namely ginger and okra) that are a bit more profitable than the sweet potatoes and kasava that dominate the region. just kicking around ideas though, i'll update if anything comes of any of them.
i know that all of my pictures are with american friends, but that's because i don't get my camera out enough, so i rely on their photographic skills. i promise i'm going to do better. starting soon.
my parents are coming in a few weeks, from india! they'll be my first visitors, which is exciting and a bit scary. it'll be weird for someone from the states to be in my village, or running around the country with me. mutatus (share-hire taxis that are crammed full of people) are not exactly an internationally renowned way to travel.
That's all for now, keep the e-mails coming!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
so, big ups and downs right now, i'll start with updates, and end with pictures!
firstly, rick left the country yesterday. this sucks, since he was one of my good friends here, but we all wish him the best in the usa. this is also good because i will now force him to send me new music from the states. and he needs to get back here pronto...
anyways, i just got back from rwanda, as many of you may know. brett, joe, amy, brad, and I went, and it was amazing. jesus, my writing has gotten bad. i've lost all sense of grandeur and flair. It was scrumtelescient. Between tantalizing scenery, loquacious nationals, powerful memorials, and gi-fucking-normous beers, the country was awesome. In addition, they served Hoegarden at a restaurant, which was well worth the seven dollars i paid to drink it. i only get one good beer or so a year, so i take the opportunities when they come.
We started off our trip in Kigale, then had a delectable array of gustatory pleasures dancing on our palates in Gitarama. The next day, we travelled to Gisenyi where we enjoyed the quiet beach and the Primus Brewery tour.
Primus is a Rwandan beer that comes in 72 cl bottles. It tastes good enough. The tour was quite different to the Sam Adams tour i took just before my departure for Uganda. Instead of plasma screens with animated brewers making beer, we were taken around the factory by a security guard. we had to wear goggles because bottles would occasionally explode. In our tour, there were no walkways, but we just walked around the floor. It was insane. We were ducking under conveyer belts and picking bottles off the line (empty bottles, don't worry).
We later went hiking in Parc du Volcanes Nationale, which is a group of volcanos in the northern part of the country. It is also where Diane Fossey (gorrilas in the mist) did her research. We didn't see the gorrilas (tracking them for a day costs 500 USD), but we did see some gorrila poop, as well as some incredible views and a crater lake at the top of the mountain we climbed (Mt. Bisoke, 3711 meters). I decided to undertake the climb in the only shoes with me, whose soles are closer to skis than hiking treads. I made it in one piece, although i ruined the track jacket that i had purchased the day before.
While in Kigale, we visited a genocide memorial museum that was incredibly well done. It focused largely on the build-up and cause of the genocide, and is attached to an educational center which aims to prevent such catastrophe from happening again.
The other memorial we visited in Gikongoro was very different. At a technical college where 50,000 Rwandans were massacred, bodies of victims had been exhumed and preserved with lime powder, then set in rooms by the score to be seen by visitors. It was very intense, and I don't know how to comment on it.
We ended our trip back in Kigale after a brief respite in Butare. There was food, there was dance, there was drink, and we had a blast. We also played tennis at the Hotel Milles Collines, which is the hotel from Hotel Rwanda!
Now, it's back to site and back to work. I'm throwing a Diwali party on saturday, so i'll post about that as soon as i get a chance.
Also, thanks to sheila for sending me a shit ton of hot sauce. it has greatly alleviated the blandness problem of ugandan food. unfortunately, imbibing copious amounts of tobasco sauce leads to a level of tolerance that depreciates the effectiveness of each successive bottle. coupled with a dependence rarely seen outside of class IV narcotics, this could be the beginning of a desparate slide into hot sauce addiction... more to come
Monday, September 24, 2007
CUBS ARE IN FIRST PLACE!!! magic number is 4. WVU is still undefeated (although we've been jumped twice now in the rankings) as are the colts. in short, i've picked a wonderful time to leave the country.
of course, no one reads my blog for sports news, so i should talk a bit about uganda.
a lot of people have been asking about the flooding that has rocked eastern and northern uganda. actually, this isn't true at all. only my parents have asked me. that's okay though, i'll respond as if to a flood of concerned e-mails, texts, and sky-writings.
the floods have washed out several improtant bridges and main roads. this has made travel difficult, but it is still possible and safe. also, i live on a hill ("mukura" actually is derived from the ateso word for hill) so i'm not really in any danger. the big concern is how it will decimate the economy of our region. the vast majority of people around me are subsistence farmers, and the floods have ruined thousands of acres of crops in low-lying areas. many of these people don't have any other source of income, so our region is going to be in a lot of trouble. this is compounded by the fact that eastern and northern uganda have been the regions most affected by the insurgencies and cattle raids of the last twenty years.
this situation made me think about how horrible it is to be completely reliant on agriculture in a world with increasingly unstable climate patterns (earlier in the year crops were ruined by a drought). i've decided that i am going to attempt to build a computer training center in my village, to provide training for youth who are pretty much locked into a life of farming, and to provide vocational training for adults. this project is in its most formative stages, and will probably look pretty different when implemented, but i'm cautiously optimistic about its feasibility and sustainability.
sustainability is an enormous concern in all NGOs and international aid, but specifically peace corps due to our short terms of service. many volunteers just work for their organizations for two years and leave, which limits their impact to the duration of their service. ideally, we should train people to work in a better capacity, creating opportunities for future development once we have left.
anyways, enough of that shit. onto humorous anecdotes:
my gustatory exploits are limited, but exquisite. aside from the aforementioned rolex, i partake in many local delicacies such as posho (picture dried cream of wheat), matooke (picture mashed plantains), and beans (picture beans). some more american dishes that i cook myself are grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, and porridge. my diet is sensational. i dabble in some stranger foods, like white ants (a winged ant-like insect), termites, and various parts of animals that we tend to avoid.
also, rwanda has just entered into some sort of east african trade agreement, so we're going to get rwandan beers!!!!
i made the newspaper!!! the luganda paper (the bukedde) printed a picture of me at the Uganda v. Niger football match. i had painted my face, wore a soccer ball hat, and draped a flag across my back, thus turning an ordinary muhindi into a spectacle. the picture is of me getting my face painted. i'll be sure to show you when you visit.
happy birthday to the rest of my family!!! my sister, mother, and father, all have been born in the week of sept 18-24th, and i hope you all send them your best wishes.
okay, thanks for reading, that's all for now.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
life's pretty good. spent some time at the pool, and got sunburned for the first time!!! some days, i can't believe that i'm actually in peace corps. then i spend the better part of an afternoon trying to save 3 cents on a bushel of potatos, and remember.
people often ask about my work, and my friends. this is unfortunate because i mainly enjoy talking about breakin 2: electric boogaloo. however, just this once, i'll make an exception.
i can't get too detailed into my work (sensitivity issues. no seriously, not kidding). but i spend most of my day going to schools and asking teachers to improve their work habits. i feel like i just wrote this out... if there's one thing i hate more than clarity, it's redundancy. enough on the subject of work.
as to my friends, what can i say. i'm a lucky guy. you should come and meet them.
blech... that was too much.
back to breakin 2: electric boogaloo.
definitely the most underrated breakdancing movie sequel of the 20th century (although i hear you got served 2 is going to blow our minds) i wish i had brought it to country. at least the kids in my village are willing to reenact the most crucial scenes.
actually, this brings up a more relevant story. i was walking to the tarmac the other day (a road, not a fast food restaurant), and a bunch of 7 or 8 year old kids were doing acrobatic tumbling runs up and down a field. back-flips, back hand springs, and everything. this may have been a mefloquin related hallucination. but i'm 70% sure this actually happened.
i've got language IST on the 17th, which means i spend 5 days learning some more ateso. then i've got a big education conference sometime after that. it's gonna be huge. and i'll definitely be there because they give free food.
okay, that's all i've got time for. keep the shine alive!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
firstly, the things that you absolutely MUST bring, and will be helpless in Uganda without:
that's right, this is a country that sustains a population of 27 million people, most of whom do not go to REI before waking up every morning. everything you need is here. seriously, if you brought two changes of clothes and some cash, you'd be perfectly content.
however, that is not to say that there aren't plenty of things that make your life easier here. hence, i think it is best to think of everything as a luxury item. in fact, if i could go back in time, i would have brought nothing but luxury items.
so, things i brought in excruciatingly tough to read format:
|only needed one (tip for guys: bring all clothes that go with brown shoes or black shoes, not some of each. plan belt-wise accordingly)|
|forgot this at home. if anyone wants to bring me a replacement, that'd be great. also didn't need because i picked up a slick indiana jones style hat in Mbale|
|Don't really need, but damn i look good in them. actually, they're pretty good for long bike rides.|
|still haven't used them, but if i start a garden, or become delusional and need to peel matooke, they'll come in handy|
|Cotton or Polyester blend slacks||2|
|Don't bring light colored kakhis. darker browns are best|
|not very descriptive, they're polos. worn frequently|
|don't need more than one, unless, like me, you need to look really, really, ridiculously good. then bring ten, because you'll need at least that to one-up me|
|Button down shirts||2|
|i don't know why i wrote two. i brought four. wish i had brought five, because it's a nice round number. worn all the time during training. these are READILY available here, so i guess you should ignore the first sentence. bring two, buy more here.|
|should've brought two. worn to hell all the time. they're great for around the house and despite peace corps's strongest recommendation, i wear them around the village too. you can't keep calves like these to yourself.|
|tons of t-shirts available here. bring ones that say where you're from for convenient pointing, but you don't really need to bring more than one or two|
|okay, i stand by the statement that you don't need to bring everything, but you will hate ugandan underwear. bring plenty, have more sent later.|
|socks are available here, but not so comfy and huggable. bring plenty|
|i lost mine in a horrific memory lapse accident. wish i still had them, you will be able to use them if you want to|
|used all the time|
|Work Shoes (comfortable)||1|
|wish i had brought one really sturdy pair of brown dress shoes that were comfortable and could be worn on any occasion. alas, it was not meant to be|
|see note on camping equipment|
|buy them 50% off through the peace corps discount. that's a command, not a suggestion. everyone who doesn't have a pair is scrambling to get some.|
|no explanation necessary|
|available here, but doesn't leave my skin silky smooth like Aveeno. Bring your own pretty boy!|
|i'm particular to my brand of deodorant, so i don't regret this at all. also, when you get here, carry it with you everywhere.|
|your brand of shampoo may be available here, but it's really expensive. bring it if you're particular|
|i dropped mine down the pit latrine, and had to buy one here. it works fine. bring travel sized for the journey|
|it's here, bring travel size|
|you can get a razor here, but it's steep|
|should've brought a thousand|
|again, available here, but easier to bring one from home|
|had these sent, best decision ever. don't worry about packing them, just mail em to kampala before you leave since you're not going to be cooking much during homestay|
|coffee lovers: BRING A FRENCH PRESS|
|towels? seriously? why did i bring 3? because i'm an idiot. one is probably one too many, but if you're particular about your towels, bring one nice fluffy one|
|Swiss Army Knife||1|
|used everyday, glad i brought it|
|used often, also glad i brought it. most people only need one or the other though. leatherman has pliers, but is more bulky. i carry my swiss around, and use the leatherman mostly around the house|
|good to have, but only if you cook a lot|
|see camping equipment|
|Color visa size photos||6|
|i don't think i used all of these, but i feel like they could be needed just around the corner|
|Black and white visa size photos||4|
|don't think i used any of these. then again, maybe i did.|
|useful eventually, but available here too. you'll need some during training though. just do what peace corps tells you on this one, you'll be fine.|
|things tear in uganda too, didn't need this, but didn't have to buy one. available here, but mine's so small and convenient...|
|i use my watch, didn't need this|
|mine was stolen on the way here!!! i'd bring 2|
|Slumberjack and inflatable pad||1|
|see camping equipment|
|most people here (at least the cool ones that i hang out with) say this is the best thing they brought. this is extremely useful|
|used sometimes, but more often wanted when it isn't around. more useful for when headlamp runs out of batteries|
|used all the time. buy a good sturdy one|
|if you're into birding, you don't need to be told to bring them. uganda's a birder's paradise|
|used every day|
|um... didn't actually bring this, and i don't miss it.|
|iPod solar charger||1|
|used a lot, though often just as an auxillary battery. still, i recommend bringing it. i have the solio, and so do a lot of people here. it works, and it's handy.|
|bring one, even if you don't play. rick and i need company|
|there's a ton of books here, so bring the ones that you don't think you can go two years without. also, i recommend bringing extremely pretentious titles that you don't actually want to read (ulysees, de profundis, and anything by david foster wallace will do fine)|
|eh, i would rather have saved the space and used the paper you can find here. i'm not a big sketcher though, so if you're hardcore, you should bring it|
|i need them|
|not recommended for people who aren't bringing a musical instrument. buy hey, maybe you're going to build a wash-tub bass. bring one just in case|
|see camping equipment|
note one bringing electronic equipment:
i wish i'd brought a laptop. i like to write, and listen to a lot of music, so it would be useful. i don't have power, so i would only really use it as my own personal computer at the computer lab at my college. for many education volunteers, a laptop would be a complete waste of space. for some, it is (or was) a godsend (see: jessica). health volunteers are a bit more likely to have power, but i would say bring it if you think you'll need it. it's a tough call for anyone.
i'd say bring one if you have one, if not, assess your situation when you're here and have someone wire you cash to buy one in country if you really need one.
as for iPods... it is the thing that keeps me going more than anything (aside from friends, and albatrixces). however, i listen to a lot of music. those of you who can't live without music, definitely bring it. in fact, i don't know anyone who regrets bringing their mp3 players. so bring it. although i haven't known anyone who has lost their mp3 player. well, i recommend bringing it. and the solio. and the new radiohead CD if it ever comes out.
there are great opportunities to camp in uganda. i really wish i had brought a tent. i pretty much brought everything else i need. if you have a tent, bring it, you can camp out at places for cheap instead of booking a bed. if you like to camp, bring everything you can bring on the plane. if you don't, then don't.
things i wish i had brought:
everything's available here. stop worrying about your packing list. even the things i wish i'd brought, i don't really need.
last note: if you're bringing cash, bring it in $100 bills dated after 2003. you get a better exchange rate for bigger, newer bills than you do for small bills. it's silly, i know. someone's making a killing off of those 20s, but it isn't me.
and bring me a gift, because i'm lovable.
p.s. spanish wine botas was eventually sent. it is very aesthetically pleasing, but not exactly useful.
so, what have i been up to these days?
well, i'm part of the education program of peace corps uganda. this means that i'll be working for the ugandan ministry of education and sports (abbreviated MOES, one ministry, and no, silly walks is not a sport). i'm assigned to a counterpart, who is a ugandan national. mine - and most of the rest of the education volunteers - is a Coordinating Center Tutor. i assist him in his work at the coordinating center, our catchment area, and i work on my own on secondary projects, which could pretty much be whatever i want.
now, what is a coordinating center? uganda is divided up into districts (not states), which in turn is divided into sub-counties. each sub-county (or group of sub-counties) is given a primary school coordinating center, through which information flows from the MOES to the primary schools. the schools to which the coordinating center is assigned is called a catchment area, and the person in charge of the coordinating center (and the only staff until the trusty PCV arrived!) is the coordinating center tutor. he/she also lives on the compound.
more specifically, the coordinating center tutor holds workshops for current primary school teachers, and also visits the schools in his or her catchment area to provide support and supervision (evaluating the teacher's performance, then meeting with them to discuss strengths and weaknesses).
what i do, or at least what i was doing, was basically that. support/supervision at schools all day every day. this was fun, but a little monotonous. luckily, the CCT and I decided to divide up some of his responsibilities, so i have made it my job - nay, mission - to put PIASCY/life-skills and instructional materials in the schools.
man, every paragraph i write, i explain one thing, and in turn have to explain two others.
PIASCY is a presidential initiative to bring HIV/AIDS education to schools. Life-skills are other social messages and practical skills that are useful for ugandan children. for instance, teaching kids about gender equity, or about farming, or more important things like frisbee golf.
so, i'll be going around to schools giving demonstrative lessons on PIASCY and life skills. then, i'll follow up to see if they are taking my advice. then i'll drop the hammer, and really let em know that they need to be doing this. then they'll do it, and name a road after me. not really, but you gotta dream big.
instructional materials are self-explanatory. i'll just keep guilting people into making them.
thanks for the stuff everyone, but i left the pre-prepared thank you at home, so i'll post that some other time.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
i've started working, so you can quit asking me if i'm just here for a two year vacation. so far, my job consists pretty much of going to schools, watching teachers teach a class, and afterwards i talk to them about my evaluation. i'm not a big fan of chewing people out all day, so i'm going to try to see if i can find other ways to help out my counterpart.
other than that, i visit schools a lot, look around, meet people, see what needs done, that sort of thing. i'm still trying to figure out what i should try to do here.
big thanks on the packages!!! (annie, mom, katy/ross, bhaiya, zach). they make my life worth living. also, in case this hasn't been made completely clear, everyone on the planet is invited to visit me any time they would like. don't worry about the details, i'll figure it out.
i've been logging quite a few miles on the bike. it's holding in there okay, but the front suspension's coil and oil so i lose a lot of pedal power. i'll just have to get stronger.
the soccer team's doing all right. we had our first match last weekend, and we tied 1-1. i played winger, which isn't quite my strong spot, but i ended up drifting up a lot. the problem is that despite the fact that in practice everyone seems to be able to pass directly and spread out a bit, once we're on the open field everyone just kicks as hard as they can, then it's needlessly headed into nowhere where it's kicked/headed again. it was pretty frustrating.
i miss home sometimes. it's kind of depressing to think about the cubs or wvu football, or the fact that a lot of the people i know are going through pivotal times in their lives and i'm not around to share it. but hey, i'm there in spirit. and if my friends would quit fucking getting engaged, i'd appreciate it.
okay, ususally i'd insert some fun anecdotes, but i'm pretty well exhausted, so i'll cop out by posting the speech from our swearing-in ceremony.
Some 5, 6, 10, 20 months ago, we all picked the road less traveled. It started out pretty easy. Tick a box, ask your old boss for a reference, spend a few hours online. We had an interview, got nominated, pushed through a lot of red tape, got nominated for something entirely different, cursed our forgetful doctors, checked “mytoolkit” like a stockticker, and eventually, reached into our mailbox to find a beaten white envelope that had the words “invitation kit” splashed across its front. We started peeling through Ugandan blogs, wikipedia articles, guidebooks, and packing lists. We found ourselves asking odd questions, like “should I bring a shoehorn, or my Spanish wine botas?”
And we showed up in philadelphia, where we stopped signing up, and started doing something. And there we were, 50 strangers, wild-eyed and giddy, thrown into a hodge-podge amalgam that could be nothing short of a family.
When we arrived in Philadelphia, we were happy that the people around us no longer needed us to justify our joining the peace corps. We simply glided past the issue into more pressing matters of mall talk.
Today, that road less traveled has taken us to a precipice, and in a few hours we’ll be jumping. Tomorrow morning we will wake up alone, quietly, and inside yet another new home and we will again have to justify our decision to come to Uganda. But this time, it’s not to the tall guy from payroll, or your best friend, or the girl at the bar in the green shirt, or your brother-in-law. This time we have to justify it to ourselves.
Why are we here? Boredom, ambition, faith? Escape, ennui, adventure? Altruism, spirituality, guilt, curiosity, conscience? Why are we here, and why will we stay?
We’ve all got talent. We all have skills. We have abilities and experience that can land us cushy jobs, evenings in tacky Irish pubs, and summertime weekend barbecues. But even though we love bloody steaks and reality television as much as anyone, we don’t need them. Maybe that’s what brings us together. We need something else, and maybe we’ll find it here.
I’ve never been privileged to be part of such an amazing group of people, and am astounded at how easily we’ve meshed.
10 weeks ago, we all got along immediately. At the time, it was because we missed real cheese, Grey’s Anatomy, and competent journalism. Now, we’re brought together because we really care about each other.
There was a ridiculous Ugandan saying that came up at the counterparts’ workshop. “People who travel together, live together.” I have no idea what that means. But I think a better saying is “people who travel together take care of each other.” The way we look after one another is closer to familial obligation than “friend-in-deed,” and we’re all better for it.
I’m not sure exactly what I expected from the group when I arrived. I suppose I had images of tie-dyed bush-bashing hippies, proselytizing about love and karma. But somehow, everyong here seems to be one of the most interesting people alive. And we stand here together, strong, prepared.
But where will we stand tomorrow? When T.J. isn’t around to liven up our sessions, and Derek isn’t posing intellectual questions concerning ninjas, and we can’t take comfort in communal groans when people ask inane questions at the end of already far too long workshops?
What do we do when the music stops and we’re faced with a community whose needs, aspirations, and problems rest squarely on our shoulders?
This is an exceptional group of Americans, and the best sort at that. Much of the world sees our country as spoiled, ignorant, loud, arrogant imbeciles. It is our fortunate, and monumental task to show them the rest of it. The majority of it.
We join a proud history of American international aid. Though the world seems to judge our foreign policy on our military follies, it forgets the dedication of the individuals that rush into every natural disaster, every refugee crisis, and every major health epidemic. It’s easy to apologize for our shortcomings, but it takes courage and constitution to let our actions be our answers
So stretch out, pony up, and get your business socks on. We’ve got two years to do something good, and 48 brothers and sisters to do it with.
I love you guys and am proud to be your colleague. Good luck, take care of yourselves, and congratulations all around.no funny anecdotes this time. i guess this is when the quirks of the country give way to the reasons why i'm here. although i assure you, i'll find the funny somewhere.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
how could this possibly have happened?! how could all of these albums become available so quickly after i have left the country (except elvis perkins which i just didn't know about)
Modest Mouse - We were dead before the ship even sank
rufus wainwright - release the stars
the national - boxer
Frog eyes - tears of the validictorian
arctic monkeys - favorite worst nightmare
wilco - sky blue sky
elvis perkins - ash wednesday
the field - from here we go sublime
battles - mirrored
panda bear - person pitch
also, the following books:
The floating opera, and the end of the road - john barth
the steep approach to garbadale - ian banks
v - thomas pynchon
inheritance of loss - kiran desai
the ground beneath her feet - salman rushdie
you are the greatest people ever to have lived. i am eternally grateful for any and all things sent my way. i know it isn't easy for you to send any of these things, since you mostly have student loans and what not, but this would be so amazing. anyways, if you plan on sending any of them, email me and let me know what's on the way so that i can take the stuff off the list that i've already gotten.
this does not mean that i have anything important, or of substance to share, so please, keep your expectations low.
i've added a bunch of new links to the right hand side of the page, so please check them out.
also, i've noticed that despite the fact that i'm getting a lot of hits on my page, i'm hardly getting any comments. come on now folks. i'm lonely.
there's a strange phenomenon that occurs with people here from the states. it's called uganglish. we take on this wierd ugandish sounding english accent for no real reason whatsoever, probably because we think it sounds like what everyone else is saying. i think i tend to talk like whoever i am talking to regardless, so i think that may carry over to other people as well. so, when you come to visit me, don't be surprised when i talk all funny around ugandans.
my ateso is getting better, but i'm not really learning much new stuff. i'm just getting better at using what i already know. i'm looking for a tutor right now, so hopefully that'll take care of itself soon enough.
my bats have been eradicated. i haven't been back to my house since the carnage, so we'll see what kind of hideous smell their dead bodies may have brought upon my residence since then. it's possible that i won't be sleeping at home for a few days. the unofficial final count was somewhere around sixty.
i'm at a conference in soroti right now, and it'll be over shortly. luckily, after many days of trying, the internet is finally up here, and i can puruse useless information on imdb and wikipedia at a liesurely pace. ah, the joy of knowing derek lee's batting average...
the bike ride took a lot more out of me than i expected. i'm going to have to start training a bit more heavily before i start doing these long trips. i'm only now feeling 100% again. i don't think the diet here is all too condusive to major physical activity. still, i think i'll be able to make longer trips once i start putting some effort into preparing for them.
i've lost some weight. i'll wait until the number gets a bit more impressive before saying how much, but it isn't too hard to lose weight when some evenings you're just not in the mood to spend two hours cooking by headlamp in order to eat an omelette.
champions league final last night went pretty well, but watching soccer really just makes me want to play. i'm finally going to inflate my ball when i get back to site, and begin training for the 2014 world cup.
i really need to spend some money on cooking materials. my camping mess kit is pretty limited. at the same time, i'd rather spend my money on daytrips to mbale, so it's going to be a tough call. i can always just buy rolexes...
the people in my village are still far too interested in me. it's a wierd task to try and make myself as mundane as possible, but i think i can do it.
i hope i'm doing a pretty good job of keeping everyone updated with what's going on over here, but my resources are kind of limited, so sorry if i'm not sending out enough e-mails. i send out what i can whenever i get a chance.
okay, i'm starving. time to go forage for food. thanks to everyone who has e-mailed me, sent me letters, and most of all, sent me packages.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
firstly, i'm a PCV now. i'm no longer a trainee, but a real volunteer. i think it's a silly distinction, and i think that trainee is a bit of a belittling name. regardless, it's nice to be at site, and living la dolce vita.
someone mentioned to me that they only just figured out what my blog's title meant. for those who haven't, my last name is desai, the title is not a horrific error in spelling.
the last couple of weeks of training were tedious, tumultous, sad, and anxious. we all wanted to get to site, but i'm pretty sure we didn't want to leave one another. yeah, i know, sappy as hell. anyways, it hasn't been so lonely yet, but i've only spent a few nights at site.
but rishi, you ask, didn't you guys swear in over a week ago? shouldn't you have been at site for nine days now?
well, i'm glad you asked. swearing in went great, brett and i gave speeches, both of which seemed to go over well. unfortunately, our college had car trouble, and couldn't pick us up that night. they picked us up the next day (free night in kampala = nothing to complain about), and started dropping the six of us associated with the college off at our respective sites. unfortunatley, we ran late, so i ended up sleeping at the college that night. the following night, i slept at my site finally! pictures to come later. then, i needed to buy a mattress, so i went to mbale with my college's truck (don't worry peace corps, i wasn't driving) and picked up a bunch of stuff. as fate once again came between my lovely new home and my lovely old self, we got caught in a massive thunderstorm, and i just crashed at the college again. the following night, i finally got to sleep at my place again, this time with a mattress!!!
[mom and dad, stop reading here]
sadly, i wasn't the only one with such a plan. yes, that's right, i have somewhere between 20 and 40 roommates. they live in the rafters. i call them 'the boys', but you would probably know them better as bats. now, i don't mind bats. they're loud as hell, but i can sleep through the noise. they stay up in the roof, i stay down below, everything's kosher. except that they shit all over the place. i can't keep anything against my walls, because every morning there's a pound of bat guano lining the corners. i mean seriously fellas, if you want to live with me, have the courtesy to shit outside. so all of my things in my bedroom and kitchen are being stored in island formation in the middle of the rooms. hopefully i can get my place fumigated, but that would mean not staying at my place for another few weeks. and i like my place. oh uganda.
[you can come back now]
i got a sweet bike. it's a y-frame full sus mountain bike with shimano parts. pretty slick if i say so myself. i rode it to soroti the other day, which is about 35k from my house. it wouldn't have been so hard if the last 10 weren't through a thunderstorm. man, i bitch way too much. okay, enough complaining.
so, just as my friends and family seem to be reading all of the other uganda pcv blogs, it seems that some of the other pcv friends and family are reading mine. firstly, i would like to tell you that your friends/spouses/children/sibblings/tap-dancing instructors are some of the best people i've ever met. hats off to you for making them that way, then conveniently sending them to me. feel free to drop me a line sometime, human contact is a wonderful thing.
i made contact with the mysterious dutch cheese maker. it's gonna be game time soon enough.
i'm in the process of writing letters to the people who have sent me mail recently. thanks to annie and zach for the latest batch. and thanks to everyone who said that there is mail on the way, i assure you that the mail system here is far less efficient than they told you when you sent it out.
peace out folks, i just realized that i forgot to check out of my hotel.
Friday, April 27, 2007
and that'll get right to my site.
the site is sweet. according to peace corps policy, i'm not allowed to write any funny anecdotes that might in any way be critical of ugandan culture, so i can't really talk about the quirky things that strangers say to me. this sucks, but at the same time, it makes sense. i think ugandans have a great sense of humor though, so the policy is kind of lame.
i joined the local soccer team i think. i tried to tell my counterpart that i'm not very good, but he didn't seem to think that would be an issue.
my counterpart is good people. we get along well, and he laughs at all of my jokes. or maybe we get along well because he laughs at all my jokes.
the college i'm going to work at kicks ass. when i had asked my trainers to tell me about the Teso region, specifically if they had mountains or not, they told me that it's flat, and there's a bunch of rocks. i was pretty disappointed, expecting a wasteland. instead, by rocks, they didn't mean a few small rocks, or even a few small boulders, they meant beginning-of-lion-king-hold-simba-up-to-the-light type rocks. massive rock piles that you can scale. at the top of these you can see for miles. it's gorgeous. also, out east there's a few mountains, the king of which is the towering mount elgon. i'm going to try to climb it this winter.
i added amy's blog to the list on the right (http://www.amy-olson.blogspot.com/) check all of them out, and leave them comments. in fact, if you want to send them letters in stead of me, i won't take offense. they're all good people. mostly.
if you get a letter from me, let me know. i'm not sure if the ones i'm sending are actually going through. at the same time, i don't want to take away from the surprise of getting mail, so i don't want to ask anyone specifically.
if you want to call me, call me in the afternoon wherever you live. except ben, you need to figure something else out.
okay, i've gotta peace out. thanks for the comments, and i'll try and post again soon.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
things here are awesome. right now at least. i know where my site is, i met my counterpart, and i had macaroni and cheese on tuesday. i'm pretty krafty.
my site's near a town called kumi in the kumi district in eastern uganda. i'm right off the main road, so transport shouldn't be too big of a problem.
language is stalling a bit, since i feel like i'm reaching my capacity for learning ateso words and not getting a chance to use them. next week when i'm visiting my site i'll get a chance to practice.
ah yes, i'll get to see my site next week. oh blissful release. i finally see where i will live. i've already seen a picture, and it looks lovely. no electricity or running water, and it's not done being built, but it's brand new, so it'll be clean and nice.
i talked about how things are going awesome, and they are, but they are right now. a lot of volunteers and i have talked about this, and emotions fluxuate instantaneously here. i think the reason is that we all only have one thing going on: peace corps. at home, there's family, school, work, friends at home, friends in chicago, friends abroad, camp, etc. even when some things are going tough, the rest are okay, so they temper each other. here, it's all or nothing: either peace corps is going well, or it's not.
i realize that my last post contained a lot of complaining. i don't want it to sound like i was criticizing ugandan culture, or the way that they do things. it's just really different, and it takes some getting used to. i'm pretty sure i've figured out the whole pit latrine thing, and i've more or less found a way around the matooke issue (it's called a rolex - an omelette rolled in a chapati. sweet baby ray's it's delicious.)
thanks to all who have sent letters (zach (2), george, and parents), and thanks to those of you who have send some and i have yet to receive them (the rest of you i'm sure). it's hard to describe how great it is to hear from everyone back at home.
to touch on that fact, despite the fact that i really like it here, it's hard to maintain an identity. i'm constantly an american in the peace corps training in uganda. there's so much to deal with there, that other parts of who i am get obscured, and i don't get to visit them. i haven't drawn so much as a smiley face since i've been here. so when i get to reconnect with who i am (playing guitar, listening to my ipod, talking about movies, writing), it's exhilerrating(sp?). this isn't embellishment, exhillerating is the only way to describe it. thus, getting a letter is more than just pleasant. it's one of the few moments when i get to reconnect with the most defining aspect of my personality: my friends and family.
okay, enough of this lovie-dubie shit (cursing for extra man points). on to the anecdotes:
i am now completely immune to the sound of crying children. i have 8 host sibblings, and chances are, someone is crying at any given moment. at first i was concerned, and wanted to know why they were crying, then i started faking concern, and trying to awkwardly get back to what i was doing. now i don't even bother, since no one else really does. and it isn't cold hearted either. they're really never crying about anything important, and if no one pays attention, they stop. i think we might spoon-feed our kids too much.
we visited this awesome organization last saturday called Aidchild. it was started by an american 6 years ago and provides care for orphaned children with AIDS. there are two aidchild centers, one of which is self-funded by an income generating activity (a cool cafe on the equator), and each one houses 35 kids. it was unbelievable. i can't talk about it too much without being cheezy, and that would cheapen the whole enterprise. i'm sure they have a website, and if the internet was a bit faster, i'd direct you to it.
a pcv in country (who i won't name for his/her security) was kind enough to give me a half-bottle of tobasco sauce a couple of weeks ago. being quite resourceful, i've been able to stretch it for quite some time. last night, for the first time, i broke it out in front of my host family. my brothers and sisters were curious, so i told them they could each have one drop, only one. i dilligently obliged them, and they each took a tiny bit. for my host-mom and i, it was comedy gold. i have never seen such writhing demolition of hubris. spicy food isn't exactly common in these parts.
to those who are concerned about what happened in kampala a few days ago, don't worry, i'm fine, and i'll continue to be fine. it was an isolated incident, and i've got a strong head on my shoulders. you may remember me as someone who often does risky things, but i hope you don't remember me as someone who does stupid things.
okay, i'm out of time. please send packages/letters, and e-mails as well (although the first two are much more gratifying). i'll have extended access to the internet sometime next week, so i'll make another post, and i'll respond to the e-mails that people have sent me with long gratifying treatises on life, the universe, and everything in between.
until then, keep it classy rest of the world.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I've been here for three weeks now, and i'm starting to get settled in. my fellow PCTs (peace corps trainees) are awesome, and it's been easy getting to know everyone. other things have taken some getting used to.
firstly, there are no toilets here. i thought that i was fine with this, since there weren't toilets in india either. unfortunately, the ugandan pit latrine is a bit of a step down from that. it's just a cement floor with a small hole in the middle, about the size of a brick. this makes aiming an issue, but still not too big of a deal. the problem is that at night, it becomes party central for monsterous cockroaches. the first night i thought about using it, i opened the door and there were probably 30-40 waiting for me, moving their antennae back and forth for no other reason than to make the scene creepier. i held it.
the food here is also getting a bit tired. it isn't bad, but it's just a bit on the bland side. we eat almost nothing but starches. matooke is the staple, it's mashed up plantains. other than that, there's sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, posho (think cream of wheat without so much cream), millet (don't think about it), and usually some beans (my personal favorite).
training is tedious, but it's fun to hang out with everyone all day. the language is coming along all right. i'm learning ateso, which has no rhyme or reason to it, and happens to be tonal, which means that the pitch and vocal inflection used to say a word can sometimes determine its meaning. it's interesting though.
by virtue of the fact that i'm learning this language, i now have a reasonable idea as to where i'll be headed in a couple of months. the teso region is out east (all of us new volunteers are heading out east) and a bit north. it's near the karamahjong (sp?) tribe, which is a tribe of cattle herders (look it up on wikipedia, it's pretty interesting stuff). it's also a bit warm, so i guess i won't get the endless san diego weather i was hoping for.
okay, that's the basics, i'll throw down an anecdote or two.
on my first day with my host family, i was sitting in the living room doing nothing. this of course was quite the event in the neighborhood, so a small crowd grew outside our window looking inside. when i would wave, they would giggle and some would run away. it was a lot of fun. at the same time, my little brother jacob, who is 5 and always looks like he's done some mischief, decided that i looked like sadaam hussein, and began to call me musadaamhussein. here in uganda, they call foreigners muzungu, which is harmless. they also call asians muchina, and indians muhindi, or muindia, or something of the sort. apparently this has a negative connotation. it's no skin off my teeth, seeing as there's nothing i can do about it.
speaking of which, there's a wall calendar that's posted in a few places called the rise and fall of sadam hussein. there are a bunch of candid shots of him with fun captions beneath. i guess you had to be there.
on sunday, my host dad has decided that we are going to watch indiana jones and the temple of doom. he wants me to explain all of the religious symbolism in it. i tried to explain that most of it isn't very true, but i don't think it quite worked.
i feel bad that i haven't posted anything about the other volunteers here, but i'm not sure if i'm allowed to mention names, so i'll leave it mysterious.
i've been riding around a hero bicycle. it's a single gear, made in india, and it takes a lot of strength to get going. it's nice though, being able to get around town quickly.
my nalgene got stolen on the flight over here, but luckily a friend of mine here is letting me use one of hers. not a big deal, but i felt like a big dork drinking out of my camel bak during training sessions.
i made quite a few enemies a couple of weeks ago at a bar. everyone here supports manchester united, aresenal, chelsea, or liverpool. on st. patrick's day, i happened to be at a local establishment that was playing a man u game. of course, eevryone in the bar was rooting for manchester united. i decided that it was time to teach them about the evils of the top 5 clubs, and how they just try to buy championships, and the usual "how can you root for the yankees" speech. this didn't go so well. they told me that fulham wasn't as good, and i agreed but said that wasn't the point, and they didn't understand and stopped finding me funny. well, i tried.
i received a letter (thanks zach) and it made my week. any and all mail is extremely welcome.
so, my host family is great, they're all really nice, and my host dad knows a lot about international politics, so there's plenty to talk about. they're also really accomodating to my muzungu needs, and i appreciate it greatly.
we've started a PCT writing group, and hopefully i'll have something to post sooner or later. also, i'm trying to drub up interest for a nanowrimo attempt, since genius loves company, and so do i.
okay, i just decided to torture myself by looking at metacritic, and here is my official wish list of cds that people could send me:
The Besnard Lakes
this may grow, so perhaps a cd full of mp3s is what i want for christmas. please. i'll love you forever.
also, if there are any strangers reading this blog, feel free to contact me as well. i'd like to know if anyone is reading this besides my friends and family. and leave some comments.
okay, i don't really have much to say, and it's really hot, and i'm running out of time. hopefully i'll have access to e-mail every few weeks or so, so feel free to shoot one over my way.
Saturday, March 3, 2007
Staging has been a lot of fun. There are a lot of cool people here, and i'm really happy with the group. I'd like to write more about it, but I don't want to ruin it for any future volunteers that might be reading this (I know i've read pretty much every peace corps blog on the internet).
Internet access is going to be really sparse for the next few weeks, so it might be a while before my next post
Okay, I don't have too much time, so this is it. Farewell folks, and keep in touch. My mailing address was posted below.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Last night (Tuesday) Zach, Odessa, Brian, and I went to Blossom Dairy for an excellent goodbye meal. The conversation was good, the company was better, and the sad goodbyes followed thereafter. As I explained during dinner though, I can't think about that sort of thing. I'm going to miss everyone, but I just have to tell myself not to think about it, otherwise I'll be miserable for far too long. So, I'd like to apologize to those persons to whom I have said goodbye and seemed a bit unaffected. It isn't that I am not upset, it's that I'll go insane if I allow myself to start regretting the things that I am leaving behind.
In much brighter news, I purchased a digital camera this morning! This means that it is possible that there will be fun pictures to be seen throughout my stay in Uganda. At least, there will be fun pictures every three months or so. The camera is pretty much exactly what I need, small, runs on batteries, and not so expensive that I'm going to be insanely possessive over it.
Tomorrow I'm meeting my cousin Dharmeen in Philadelphia for lunch. He lives in New Jersey, but he's taking a train over to see me. It's too bad that I haven't seen him since he's been here for 18 months. Luckily, I can remedy that, albeit briefly, tomorrow. Hopefully I'll take some pictures tomorrow as well. Think cheesy family vacation.
In related news, friday is my birthday. This is also the day in which i begin my Peace Corps staging. I'm not the type of person to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and say "It's my birthday, I demand that you pretend we're friends and bring me some cake", so it's going to be a quiet one. I'll have to quietly raid the minibar that night, so i hope you all have a birthday drink for me on your own time.
Finally, I have narrowed my top 10 list to 10 albums, so now all that is left is for me to rank them. Will I finish before I leave? Most probably not. This sounds like a good secondary assignment.
Okay, it's glaringly apparent that i don't actually have much to say, but feel that I should post something since i'm not going to be posting much anymore. Just a reminder, you can subscribe to this blog's RSS feed in the sidebar (the column to the right). There are a few other things on the sidebar as well. You can subscribe to receive an e-mail every time the blog is updated. You can also check out some blogs from fellow volunteers who are going to Uganda with me. Thus far they are all ladies, so excuse the differences in packing lists. And speaking of packing lists, if you got me a going away present and it isn't on the list, don't worry, I'm bringing it, I just didn't post it.
peace out cub scouts
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The last couple of weeks have been my farewell tour. I started in Chicago, where the boys and I had one last weekend together. If Matt ever figures out how to use his camera i'll post the pictures here.
Friday night we went to a house party, filled with the typical rock-star atmosphere that tends to follow us around. There was a soul train, the worm, and an exciting limbo contest in which patrick decided to participate during every round despite the fact that he failed in each of the previous ones. Later that night there was chicago's pizza, a dislocated shoulder (sorry again), and an excruciating conversation about something.
Saturday night was pretty much all me. We went to my favorite places (Ginger's, The Map Room, and now The Old Towne Ale House). Here are a few completely uncensored pictures from that evening of wholesome fun:
left to right: Rishi, Patrick, Vik, Matt
pictured: Me (pointing), Kremer (w/ ketchup)
We ended up at Clarke's (where they DO pay their waitresses) as was befitting, and i had the lion's share of a baked apple pancake.
Sunday night we all went out for dinner, which was also when the goodbyes happened. I said goodbye to everyone that night, and to matt the next morning before driving back home. On the drive home i finally started to realize that i was leaving a lot behind, and i hope that those of you reading this who know me know that i will miss you all more than my jovial stoicism allows me to show in person.
So, i came home, hung out for a day, and on wednesday it was off to boston to see Sheila, my sister. Once again, no pictures, so you'll have to just believe me that it happened. I got to see fenway, i ate veal, and enjoyed the glamorous night life of beantown. i also got to meet a lot of my sister's friends, who were all very cool. the sam adams brewery was very educational, and i actually met up with one of the other Rishis of southern west virginia (there are three of us total). Finally, i said goodbye to sheila as well, and barely made it onto my plane in time.
Sunday night was the oscars, and i took my exhausted self to zach's to watch. of course, everyone i wanted to win won, since it is my year. i obnoxiously took all of the credit for scorcese's victory, but i feel like i deserve it.
So, here i am, my final hours at home. I've been doing laundry, ripping CDs, and sending out e-mails. my family and i are going out for lunch in a little bit, and tonight i'm going to go out to dinner with zach, odessa and brian.
I've also been working hard on my top 10 list. i have it down to 13 albums. 8 of them are locked in, so it's a battle between 5 for the last two spots. i realize that my list is pretty much meaningless, and i'm going to forget it as soon as i'm done with its assembly, but let me have my pleasures. I'll post it when it's finished, so perhaps this won't be my last post after all.
I leave for philadelphia tomorrow morning (feb 28) with my parents. we're going to hang out in philly til the morning of the 2nd, when i will enjoy my birthday anonymously. on the 2nd and 3rd, i'll be in staging which is like a freshmen orientation for the peace corps, except not on the site. we'll be getting shots and attending seminars and getting to know one another. on the morning of the 4th i will be leaving for uganda, and that'll be that. For those of you wonderful people who want my address in order to send me letters, cds, or care packages, for the first ten weeks you can send them to:
Rishi Desai PCT
P.O. Box 29348
please, please, please send me stuff. if you want to send a postcard, put it in an envelope otherwise it probably won't reach me.
okay, my dad needs to use the computer, so farewell my dear sweet friends, and i will see see you in a couple of years (and don't any of you go getting married while i'm on the other side of the world).
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
The second packing run has been a resounding success, and I have somehow managed to pack everything into one small bag (the kind that is just an 8x10 inch nylon bag with strings instead of straps), one piece of carry-on luggage (in stylish electric blue), and previously described 5400 cubic inch backpack. I will have to also carry on my sleeping bag, which i plan on claiming to be my pillow. Thus, i will probably not have to pay a hefty fine, and i will have reduced my load to a much more manageable size. The spanish wine botas hasn't been included, but i think i may be able to squeeze it in somewhere.
And of course, here are my packing list and some photos:
|Cotton or Polyester blend slacks||2|
|Button down shirts||2|
|Work Shoes (comfortable)||1|
|Swiss Army Knife||1|
|Color visa size photos||6|
|Black and white visa size photos||4|
|Slumberjack and inflatable pad||1|
|iPod solar charger||1|
Here are my luggage containers:
This is what's going in my backpack:
and this is what's going in my small electric blue carry-on luggage: