Saturday, September 15, 2012

Welcome Back to Uganda

After a wonderful trip home I was quickly welcomed back to Uganda with the sweet smells of burning trash and body odor.

On the plane yelling and demanding to be served Bond 7 (a nasty Ugandan whiskey that they obviously would never serve anywhere other than Uganda) and my flight not coming in until 5am when it was supposed to arrive at 3am. Then my ride who was supposed to arrive at 7:30am did not arrive until just after 9am and had to be the slowest driver in Uganda.

One good thing about coming back was that I had to go directly to the All Volunteer Conference, so I was able to ease back in and see many pale faces while doing so. I had spent the past few months planning this conference with some other volunteers and it turned into a great time to see everyone and catch up. We had a trivia night one night, and I am not the best at trivia since I obviously hate knowledge, but I was obviously able to help with at least one question and we may have been the only team to answer 2 jersey shore cast members real full names correctly.

Upon returning to site and reality I had a taxi driver that started going “you give me sex sex” this was my first experience with this since coming to Uganda and I couldn’t help but laugh at him and tell him he had bad manners. Ugandans do not like to be told they have bad manners and he quickly stopped and said “oh you don’t do that?” Oh Uganda.

I was however very excited to see all the kids at school they were very excited that I was back and to ask me about my trip. I relieved many comments about how I have been lost and returned fat, which was odd because all the pale faces at all vol kept telling me I looked as if I had lost weight in America. 

AMUUURICA...The greatest country in the world

I recently went home to Ohio for a few weeks. After being in Uganda for a year I am now Americas #1 fan. The little things are the things you miss most about our great country, things like driving (or at least not sitting on others laps to get places), toilets, elevators, food, washing machines, hot water, sinks, microwaves, refrigerators, grocery stores, and so many more, I could go on for pages.

American food is one thing that I miss the most while in Uganda, and boy did I make up for it while I was home (14.4lbs worth). I had a list of places and things I wanted to eat while in America, it was a very long list and all were not accomplished. One thing that often becomes taken for granted is the wide accessibility to so many different foods in America and the easiness of preparation.  How many people do you know in America that have to go to the market, buy green peppers, tomatoes, and onions (good luck finding much else), wash them with bleach so you don’t die, cook (by cook I dont mean microwave I mean charcoal stove) everything from scratch and then wash the dishes by hand after going to fetch water? The answer is not many (esp with the fetching water part) and if they do do this, they don’t do it everyday let alone every meal.  Walking into the grocery store was one of the most amazing experiences of being back, I think I just stood and stared the the isles and variety of food (where else other than America can you find 6 different carrot choices)

Surprisingly enough I did do things other than eat. I drank a lot of good American booze and was able to see most of my friends and family, many of whom took me out for breakfast/lunch/dinner/4th meal (taco bell might be one of the best places ever after 230am).  I was able to attend my yearly Red Sox/Indians game with some fantastic people as well as the beautiful wedding of Mr And Mrs Brian Lindsay J.

Everyone says everything at home has changed people are growing up, not doing as much or hanging out with one another as much as they used to. I didn’t notice that much change and it could have been because more people were more willing to go out because I was home. One thing I do know is EVERYONE seems to be getting married and/or having babies and im not going to have any friends left when I go home for good!

Overall, I had a wonderful trip home and it was very difficult to come back to Uganda.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Lack of Excitement

It has been awhile since I have last updated this due to the lack of excitement, well everyday is an adventure but I do not want to write about the same adventures over and over. The same travel adventures have been happening, for some reason I don’t think I will ever get the pleasure of sitting next to someone who is not vomiting into a plastic bag or onto my feet next to me. 

Somethings that have happened though:

I was graced with the presence of a group of 10 white people for almost 2 weeks. They were great and even shared some of their American food with me J. They kept me busy though bringing over 1200 pieces of clothing or the kids, 1000 pairs of underwear, stuffed animals which all needed sorted and distributed. They also did small projects like paint the bathing room doors, put up screens etc.

I rode an ostrich! We went down to the boarder of Tanzinia which is only about 17km from my house and spent part o the day there looking around the market, eating lunch just over the boarder and drinking Tanzanian beer. After a ew warm beers since the power had been out we decided it was a good idea to go to a town about 5km from my house and ride an ostrich. The ostrich was trying to buck both myself and another PCV off of it during eah of our rides. I got the pleasure of riding first, right after watching a Ugandan all off of it. We also later found out that we were put on the male ostrich which they normally don’t let people ride because he is crazy or stubborn as they say here. Well low and behold they sometimes think its funny to make mzungus come who come in ride him so they are thrown off. I did not fall off, but I was laying completely flat on my stomach at one point because he was bucking me off and I couldn’t sit up anymore!

I have been chosen to help plan our all volunteer conference which has been somehow stressful. Any people are refusing to present because they do not want to attend it if it is at the current venue, which is not the normal high quality venue they are used to the conference being at. Believe me if I could make it somewhere where we would get regular hotel rooms, hot showers, good food, pool and booze id be all for it but PC is not allowing it to happen. They want it to be at the baseball complex which is dorm style rooms, cold showers, no pool opr booze.

4th of July was defiantly different than it is in the past, well not that different the only difference was that I was with a different group of people and not boozing it up out on a sandbar of the lake. Instead a group of us went to the west part of Uganda and celebrated America the best way we know how, by drinking and cooking delicious American food. The weekend was great and I wish we were all able to spend more time hanging out like that! There were jorts everywhere and tshirts ranging from those with hamburgers and hotdogs on them to mine a gem which I found it the market stating “terrorist fist jab” on it.

A mouse recently discovered his way into my house. I think he has gotten into my adderall because he has been running around like a maniac keeping me up all night. I first discovered he was there when my head was against my mosquito net reading and he decides to climb the net up onto the rafters right where my head is.  

Not too much else happening, not boring just not worth blogging about. On the upside I will be in America in less than a month and I cannot wait for real food, hot showers, being clean and getting to see my friends and family!!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cooking with Erin

I recently brought an egg in a basket sandwich I had made with me over to the school since I was running late (you know late to sit there and read my book)and had everyone looking at it trying to figure out what it was. I decided to give half away for others to try, since then I have been asked about this sandwich nonstop and asked to make more for others to try. Tonight, my counterpart called me and asked me to come over to the school, all I could think is what does this lady want I just wanna go to bed. When I got over there she informed me she had sent for bread and had eggs and I needed to teach her and others at the school how to make this sandwich because she had been thinking about it nonstop since I brought it over.

So there I was, in the dark, teaching ugandan women how to cook an egg sandwich. Each one needed directions with their sandwich and others came to watch what was going out. There amazement and excitement made it seem like I was turning water into wine or something. They had never seen or had a sandwich before one girl was even calling her friends in Kampala, the capital, to see if they have ever had a sandwich before. I tried explaining to them that it was a sandwich because it was between 2 pieces of bread and you can make all sorts of different types of sandwiches but they were not having it. A loaf of bread later and everyone had made their own sandwich and were all eagerly awaiting tomorrow morning so they can go together to a nearby town and buy frying pans so they can impress their friends with their new found cooking skills.

Who would have thought that my lack of cooking skills could bring such enjoyment to ones life. Maybe ill start my own show here and become the next Betty Crooker or Rachael Ray. Next up on Cooking with Erin: pouring a bowl of cereal. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Travel and Medical Adventures

As you can tell there is never a dull moment when it comes to transport in this country. On the way to the camp Joey and I were traveling and noticed our driver kept pulling his money out of his shirt pocket and putting it in his pants pocket then would take it out of his pants pocket and put it in his shirt pocket. This went on most of the way until finally his money blew out the window. We then had to stop and look for his money for over half and hour, which he never found. THEN on the way home from camp we were all exhausted and ready to get back to site when a truck hits our bus which resulted in us having to sit outside on the side of the road for over 2 hours waiting for the police to walk there (yes if you have read previous posts this is the 2nd time iv had to wait for police to walk to a situation).

After all that travel I vowed not to leave site and not travel for a while. But what happened 2 days after getting back to site, I’m back on a bus traveling to Kampala for medical. Turns out I developed more staph infections this time one in each eye. It was the worst pain I have ever had to deal with my eyes felt like they had razor blades in them. After my first visit with the doctor he gave me some antibiotics and an ointment and told me I could leave the next day. Well the next day came and my eyes doubled in size due to the swelling and some bruising (one PCV even told me I looked like a beaten wife) so it was back to the medical office. I was then told I could not go back to site for a couple of days so they would not become further infected. Such a sad day learning I couldn’t turn right back around and travel again and had to be stuck in the capital and be forced to eat good food like Italian, Mexican and Chinese. There was only one downside to the Mexican food. The antibiotics hated me and my body hated them and decided to make me sick…Mexican food sure doesn’t taste as good the second time around.  

Northern Camp GLOW

If I wasn’t already exhausted enough from a week long softball adventure I went straight into my next adventure, Northern Camp GLOW. Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World)is a weeklong camp held for girls to empower them and give them skills to be able to hold their own since this country is so driven on males being in charge and being above the girls. There was also a boys camp at the same time Camp BUILD, where boys also learn various skills.

Due to budget cuts I was asked to come as a volunteer, basically meaning I just had to pay my own transport. But in the end they were able to budget and pay for my transport which was an extra bonus because I was really excited just to get to go to the camp to get ideas for the GLOW club I have at my school.  Throughout the week I acted as a staff member and helped with sessions, acted as one of the camp photographers, ran errands (which all the staff members were fighting over due to the fact that running errands meant going into town which meant access to food other than rice and beans) and did whatever else was needed.

The campers were made up of girls from all over northern Uganda and were ages of 14-18. The campers had to be nominated by a PCV and write an essay. Noone was left out of the camp, there was even a number of hearing impared campers and translators brought in. They were able to participate in every activity and were welcomed by the other campers, by the end of the week notes were being passed back and forth asking them to tell them how to sign something.

Throughout the week there were various sessions on IGA’s (income generating activities), Reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, Self Esteem. During the IGA sessions the girls learned various ways inwhih they can make money for themselves and why it is important to have their own income. They learned how to make small change purses, build sack gardens and liquid fertilizer. They also learned money management through a game based off the Game of Life. The Game of Life showed them how they have to manage money for every situation and save because you never know when something is going to happen such as “you dropped your phone down a latrine pay 45,000/=” and Aubrey, another PCV from my group and one of the camp directors, demonstrated how things like this can happen by dropping her phone down the latrine during the camp. (One of my favorites which did not end up in the game was “your latrine fell over with your grandma inside collect 75,000/=”)

Reproductive health session the girls learned the proper way to put on a condom. Let me tell you put 50 girls in a room with 7 wooden penis’s and a bunch of condoms and there are sure to be giggles. I was taking pictures during this session and every time I took someone’s picture while they were putting a condom on a wooden penis others would laugh at them so those who laughed were next in line to for a photo op. The girls were also given Afripads which are reusable menstrual pads that can be washed and reused to cut down on girls missing school due to having their period and having to just use an old towel or piece of clothing because they cannot afford to buy pads.

The girls, counselors and staff were also able to get tested for HIV/AIDS. This was the first camp run by PCV’s where they had this aspect. It went over really well and most were tested. There were no new HIV findings and one girl who thought she had it ended up not having HIV.

We met up with the boys camp twice during the camp once was a field day/registration on the first day and the other was a domestic violence themed day. The campers learned what domestic violence is and how to prevent it and how to treat others. From what I heard this went over much better than past camps as in the past the boys would take it as a joke.

We also went to a ropes course which was a blast. I was lucky enough to run one of the stations, the train tracks, where the girls had to figure out how to get the pieces of wood over to the oth3er side without their feet touching the ground. It was difficult to get the counselors to not tell them how to do it since they were involved in all the other activities. The course focused mainly on team building and with some personal facing of fears thrown in as well. There was a leap of faith which they were hooked up to harnesses and had to climb a long 60ft or so in the air and then jump out to a bar that was swinging in the air as well as a zipline. I was able to do the zipline but there was not enough time for us staff members to do the leap of faith.

Over all it was a fun, exciting and EXAHUSTING week. 

Traveling Around Uganda...One Softball Team at a Time...

The last month has been crazy busy…and since I have actually been busy it must mean I was not at my site. Since the school term ended it was the perfect time for me to do some secondary projects, many people like to do secondary projects in their community but since mine wants me to be there all the time, even if it means I am sitting there reading a book waiting for something to come along that I can do, I decided I would make my other projects be in other areas. Sure I have to pay for everything on my own including travel, lodging and meals but it is worth it and there are volunteers spread out all over Uganda so there is likely to be someone nearby to stay with.  

The secondary project I have been doing is softball. Myself and another volunteer traveled to Soroti, in eastern Uganda, to help their team with pitching and other basic skills and drills. We met a few players and their coach at the camp in January and wanted to help more. We were set to practice with them Sat and Sun, Saturday was great, the girls were on time worked hard and were excited about us being there to help them. Then came Sunday, we had originally planned on practicing all day but the girls said they had to attend church and wouldn’t be able to practice until after lunch so they decided they wanted to meet at 1pm. Well Joey and I got there and 1pm came and went and by 3 when only 2 girls showed up and no equipment was there yet we decided it was time to go (the 2 hours of waiting was thanks to Joey if it were up to me I woulda left after half an hour). So in reality I traveled 9 hours to practice for a team for 5 hours.

After Soroti we crammed into a matatu that was wayyyy too full (I had the luxury of sitting half on a metal rod sticking out of the seat and half on a fire extinguisher) we traveled to Lira. Uganda has a new program where there will be one school in each district that will focus on a sport, a girls school Lira is the softball school that has been chosen for the trial run. Lucky for us again there was a volunteer, Nikki, placed at this school who was willing to take us in for the week. We had met the coaches at the camp in January and if someone would have told me that they would be doing as good of a job as they have been doing I would have told them they were crazy. The coaches had volunteered to coach and were not getting anything extra out of it other than being able to help the team, boy does that make a difference the coaches are just as excited about the game as the girls are and it defiantly showed. The girls had only learned about the game at the beginning of the term in February and already had a lot of the basic skills from playing everyday. Nikki had a great idea and taught them using the game of kickball to start. They picked up the basis quickly. They already had the pitchers and catchers chosen and other than that everyone else had just been filling the field (imagine 30 girls on a field at one time). We went through basic skills with them like positions, base running, hitting, fielding, and throwing.

(On a side note, Ugandan are hilarious sometimes. The coaches would stand on the side lines yelling “you aim,” “you throw better,” “you catch well”, etc instead of teaching them how to properly do it but it was entertaining to say the least)

You can really tell the difference between coaches who really want to be there and coaches who are there for another reason. The Soroti teams coach is a baseball player and also works with the baseball team so most of his time and energy go to the boys. Also, when you combine girls and boys sports at a school and there is a shortage of equipment it almost always goes to the boys. The Lira coaches may not know everything about the game but they want to be there to help the girls and want and are willing to learn. They read all the books and were even mapping out a field using kitchen ash for the foul lines.

 It is exciting to see the excitement in the girls and their willingness to learn new things. The athletic ability in this country is crazy, I only wish I was half as athletic as all these girls. We also decided that we want to put on a camp for the teams to be able to play one another and learn new skills, Im not sure if we will be able to get funding for this from Peace Corps or not. If not, don’t be surprised if I come asking for donations!!

**If anyone has any mitts laying around that they do not use anymore and would like to donate to teams here in Uganda let me know and I can give you an address to drop them off/mail them too and I can bring them back with me from the states when I come home in Aug**