Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kamp town girls won't blow you away...

i'm in kampala, getting some things done. it's been a while since my last post, so i'll give some updates. firstly, the bat situation is more or less (more less) handled. eh, i've had roommates that i didn't like before.

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.