July 29, 2006

The Tale of Two … um, Rivers? (The Nile Resort & The Nile)

by Lonnie Hughes

Background information:

Kathy and I are the “old” married couple of this new Ugandan group. We had joined the Peace Corps 25 years ago, but a pregnancy kept us from traveling to the Philippines. So, four children and a quarter of a century later (serving with volunteers the age of our own kids back home) we have decided to try again…

This year’s PCV conference was held in Jinja at a 4½ star Nile Resort. It was simply magnificent, complete with a pool, a swim-up-to-and-order-drinks bar, as well as beautiful cottages huddled along the rim of the Nile. After our meetings, several of the volunteers elected to go rafting. (Kathy and some of her friends decided to stay and relax by the pool.)

Rafting / Relaxing Day:

6:00 am… I wake up / exercise and shower… Kathy stayed in her bed.

7:00 am… Near the courtyard I join some slightly hung-over volunteers for breakfast and coffee. Kathy is still asleep.

8:00 am… With my gear I head towards our transport. I catch Kathy coming down for coffee, and with a farewell kiss board the bus with some two-dozen slightly less hung-over colleagues.

9:00 am… Kathy eats fruit and finishes her second cup of coffee. The rafting group disembarks at the rafting compound, has morning tea and watches a terrifying rafting highlight video.

10:00 am… Our group has now expanded to some 70 souls (some slightly hung-over). We crawl in the back of some elderly bent-up trucks and with rafts & equipment in tow bounce carelessly down the road. My wife decides to take a pleasing long hot shower.

10:30 am… As Kathy’s shower continues we unload our stuff, find helmets and paddles… don our life-vests, break up into crews and drag our rafts into the water. We are given a quick Ben Hur lesson on rowing together, starting and stopping together, and finally crouching down & holding on for dear life together. The final practice session consists flipping our boats, swimming out from beneath it, and dragging ourselves back aboard. We are declared ready and paddle eagerly towards our first set of rapids. We start off small… a 1½ beginner’s ride… then a 3 and finally a class 5 set of rapids that knocks us around and excitingly fills our raft with water.

12:06 pm… Back at the resort, Kathy and her friends chat happily about this and that. Meanwhile, our boat has just spun into what is colorfully called the “Dead Dutchman”. We smash into the boiling mess sideways, flip upside-down spilling all onboard. I surfaced quickly; swallowing a bucketful of river as a wave and then a bigger wave crashes over me. I float down the Nile until a kayak comes to rescue me and returns me to my vessel and those nearly not hung-over shipmates.

Lunchtime… The armada drifts together and we dine on fresh pineapple, seedy watermelon, a yellow sticky juice, and biscuits. At the Nile Resort my wife enjoys fresh pineapple, barbecued chicken, potatoes, a selection of vegetables, passion-fruit juice, and chocolate cake.

Lunchtime… The armada drifts together and we dine on fresh pineapple, seedy watermelon, a yellow sticky juice, and biscuits. At the Nile Resort my wife enjoys fresh pineapple, barbecued chicken, potatoes, a selection of vegetables, passion-fruit juice, and chocolate cake.

2:12 pm… As Kathy sips on water with lemon she is wondering whether or not to take a nap, to cool off in the pool, or to continue reading her book. At precisely the same moment I’m talking with God… With a class 5 rapid ahead we watched as Boat #1, her crew whooping and yelling, slip over the edge of the falls. Their shouts are cut off abruptly and we watch as the raft explodes back into sight, paddles and paddle-ers flinging skyward. Our guide grins and informs us that this section of water (adultly called the “G-Spot”) is very fast and rough. “No joke”, I think to myself. You can’t see any of the dangerous water as the ride starts with a quick drop… you can’t see it but you sure can hear it! As we near the falls the rumble turns into a riotous roar… An instant before we plummet over the crest of the waterfall we witness what awaits us. Deafening white water. Misshapen waves, splash and swirl… smashing and crashing into, above, over and under each other. It is rolling frolicking disaster. My conversation with the Almighty takes place in the wink of an an eye.

"Oh good God.."
“Uh – sorry, but I think I’ve gotten in over my head. "
“I can see that.”
“Well now what do I do?”
“Hold on tight and try not to frighten the others.”

With a nanosecond prayer we drop in and slide over the first obstacle…

2:12 and 30 seconds pm… Kathy decides to keep reading. I’m frantically searching for air. Our boat has capsized and I cannot find. I’m trying my best not to panic underwater but everything is green and I’m… underwater. When I at last make it back above the green swirl, a Ugandan in a rescue kayak once again comes and fishes me out. This time I have to sit in another boat while the other my now not-so-hung-over shipmates are gathered up. We raft for another couple of hours before calling it a day. The trip was a blast even if I did nearly drown. (Thanks again for listening Lord.)

It should be noted that during this adventuresome day, my wife also had some excitement. As the rafters rode back to the campsite drinking beer in the back of a dusty truck, Kathy had a gecko drop into her Pepsi at the Indian food restaurant.

More stories to come… miss you all!!

-Lonnie & Kathy

June 21, 2006

Hi Hi From Allie Muehe

by Allie Muehe

Well even though I have my own blog, I will write a quick note here on our community blog. I'm one of the new volunteers who arrived in March of 2006 and I have been placed in Kangulumira, a small town North West of Jinja. I am in the education program and although my background is in engineering, I am finding many things to do with the schools in my area. Lucky for me, my DEO (District Education Officer) wants to focus on incorporating practical knowledge in the area of agriculture and have each school start a garden that the students will keep. I am very interested in environmental conservation, so while making a garden at the school, I also want to teach them about composting and waste disposal. Right now if the schools are good enough to not leave garbage and waste on the ground, they burn everything, including garden and food wastes. Therefore, I have started with some workshops and I am going to follow up with the schools to see how much information was actually ingrained during the session. Between workshops I have been coaching the schools soccer (football) team which is awesome but if you look on my blog you will see the challenges that I go through. I am so excited because the teams first round of games is on Friday but unfortunately I have a conference and cannot be there, but I'm confident we will win so I will be able to see the next game. Unlike in America, a soccer season begins with a day that resembles a tournament of local schools (in the sub-zone) who compete all day and the best team continues to the zonal level. After zonal, the winner continues to area, district, region, and then national level for a game in Kampala. The other major event that is taking up my time is getting my house livable because when I arrived the house didn't have anything in the windows, no locks on the doors or windows, and the washroom wasn't finished. Getting the builder, carpenter, and electrician to complete the work has been a hassle, but a rewarding one because I just moved in yesterday! Granted I have no furniture but a bed, it's ok because I have a place to sleep and bathe. Until now I have been staying at my CCT's (Coordinating Center Tutor, like my co-worker) house which is two doors away from my house. She has been great and she has two of her family members that have been very nice and very helpful for me so it was almost bitter sweet to move into my house. In the next few weeks I am going to help the local schools improve their resource centers/librarys then I have to facilitate a training on AIDS education and how to incorporate it into the classroom. I am trying to keep myself busy and while enjoying the beautiful and green scenary of Uganda.

June 20, 2006

slowly but surely

by Stoops

template has been redone, PCV's have been invited, and i think we can go ahead and re-introduce this thing. kanoni isn't exactly known for its internet access, so not quite sure how often i can blog, but hopefully enough people join that we'll get a nice mix of people up here.

as for me, i've been busy with this PIASCY II and guidance & counselling workshop, both in kanoni and in kazo. getting teachers to give practical, specific, and creative answers to my questions has been ... difficult ... but at least i've got time. i'm lucky to be working with lots of great people: my counterpart (whose name, and i'm not kidding, is charles dickens), my headteacher and teachers at the coordinating center, my DPO, and my principal are all pleasant at worst, incredibly helpful and appreciative at best.

at my house i've spent a considerable amount of time painting the walls, and now two of my three rooms are a nice, bright white. shiny white is much better than dull yellow. all i need to do now is finishing painting the bedroom, order the second half of my furniture, get rid of the termites, buy the rest of my cooking supplies, and build some sort of oven.

in conclusion, here's a direct chain-of-command from me to bush:

me (lowly PCV)
jeff (associate PC director for education)
mcgrath (PC country director, uganda)
henry (PC regional director, east africa)
gaddhi (PC director)
bush (president ... for now)

i think this places me at 795,678th place in line for the presidency. awesome.

April 22, 2006

Test 1,2,3

by Stoops

I'm trying this a 2nd time to see if it works. I'm in Uganda w/ Jon. Check out my blog for more info...


April 08, 2006

Stoops on Stoops: Chapter One - In Memoriam of Herbert

by Stoops

(so, i figure the best way to go about this is to publish exerpts from my upcoming book, "Stoops on Stoops - An Autobiography of Stoops, by Stoops". i believe either jacob or chapman came up with this title. also, there is considerable overlap with the mass email i just sent out, so if you got that, there's nothing new here).

i'm currently finishing up week four of training. i have spent a substantial amount of time learning the local language for my area, which is runyunkore/rukiga. it seems as though i will be able to do most of my job responsibilites in english, and i should be able to get by using it in the village, but picking up with local dialect is key to integrating into the community, and i'm going to be trying to pick up on as much of it as i can. of course, the best way to learn it is not in the classroom but in the community, and the local community at my training site in luwero speaks luganda. did i mention that uganda has over 30 languages?

speaking of job responsibilities, the other major focus of my time has been learning what my role in the ugandan education system is going to be. i will be working closelt with the coordinating center tutor --- the CCT --- in monitoring and mentoring teachers at the primary level. "but stoops," you're thinking, "you've never taught before aside from tutoring --- how can you mentor teachers?" the answer, simply, is that it doesn't take too much to be a primary school teacher around here, and i am more qualified to teach these classes than some, if not most, of them. that's not to say that they're all bad, and most really do want to do well. a major focus of my work is going to be integrating co-opertaive learning techniques in the classroom, so it isn't so much chalk-and-talk. i've spent a lot of time working with my fellow PCV's in devising ways to do this, and i've also gone out to surrounding schools to get a feel for the system.

anyway, it has been a great group of people. i'm with these people for hours each day, and we've gotten along fine. it'll be sad to go our semi-separate ways in may.

the cross-culture element of uganda has been interesting. i should mention that staring in uganda is *not* considered rude, and since i'm white, EVERYONE stares at me. now, normally when someone says "EVERYONE stares at me," you asssume there is some hyperbole involved. that is not the case here. also interesting: as you may or may not know, homosexuality is illegal here in good ol' uganda. *however,* it is common for friends of the same gender to hold hands when walking down the street, but *not* the opposite gender. to imagine how weird this is, imagine scott and brian holding hands if you're from my home group, max and goose holding hands if you're from new york, and robinson and tank holding hands if you're from justin's wedding group. yeah, it's weird.

also, i should mention that i killed a chicken (named Herbert) last saturday and ate it. well, actually, this guy keith drew the straw that meant he killed the chicken. but i did play an instrumental role in its death, and i witnessed the magical transformation of the chicken from a living, breathing creature to an ingredient in chicken fajitas. i wanted to see if i would become a vegetarian, but all it proved to me is that i really like chicken fajitas.

part of the reason i like chicken fajitas is because they taste like something. virtually all of the food in uganda, however, does not. they have this thing called matooke which is steamed, mashed bananas --- which may or may not sound appetizing to you, but imagine if it were served EVERY DAY for EVERY MEAL. yeah.


A Day in the Life Of Brian

by Stoops

Hello! This is my first post. A Little about me, I'm from Indiana and I'm here in Uganda. I taught school in Morristown for 2 years teaching Computers and Construction before becoming an Ironworker before Joining the Peace Corps.
Check out my blog at http://pervispc.blogspot.com

Now… how to get a months worth of activities and pictures into a blog?? Let’s just start and see where we end up!! I have this idea where I’ll pick a topic and just rant and rave on it for a spell. We’ll call them Issues. It’ll be things from my home stay family structure to dinner time to transportation to weather and climate to health and sanitation to education. Maybe I’ll even take suggestions from the reading audience…

Let me take a moment to say that I miss everyone a bunch, but I’m not at all homesick by any means. I miss things, like ketchup, cheese, chocolate, movies, marshmallows, my bike (the Hero bike I’m riding is only SLIGHTLY better than walking), microwaves and refrigeration.

3 of our group have now left and we’re down to 34. By Peace Corps statistics we will lose 1/3 of our group before the 2 years are up. People leave for a variety of reasons from missing a boyfriend/girlfriend to just feeling like they could be doing as much or more back in the states. I absolutely don’t fault anyone for leaving. When you know something isn’t for you then you just know and there’s no point in being miserable. “Goodbye friends. Wish you could have stayed we do miss you and we wish you all the best in all of your future endeavors! Peace be with you!”

OK…so, Africa. Wow! Or as we’ve become accustomed to saying here, “Freakin’ Uganda” Let me just tell you what a day in the life of a PCT (Peace Corps Trainee) is. Each morning I wake up at 5:45 am to the sound of my cell phone/alarm clock and to the rooster crowing. How is it that they crow WELL before the sun comes up and continue to do so well into the afternoon??? I’m usually pretty desperate to hit the pit latrine at this point, that is if I haven’t had to use the bucket in my room that night. My family considers it ‘dangerous’ to be out late after dark, and in the words of my ‘father’ here Rev Simon Kyazze, “we don’t go out at night. It’s not dangerous, but you might be ‘tempted’.” …And I left that one alone. So after a few minutes crouching over a hole in the ground I do my morning devotions and then by 6:30 it is light enough to see so I lace up my running shoes and am greeted my an African morning coolness. I’ve found that whether you are in Indiana or Africa, the morning still smells like the morning. I run down the main road, past children in their uniforms heading to their various schools. Many of the younger children are barefooted and they make it a point to yell “Muzungu” as I run by which means ‘white traveler’. It’s not a bad thing that they are yelling, more like just a descriptive term for you because they don’t know your name and you clearly stick out. I get many stares and many laughs when I greet them in Luganda. “Oliotia” I say or “Nkulamusizza” I stop along the way to wait for the long horned cattle to cross the road. I run past chickens, goats, boda-boda drivers (bike taxi) who have some smart-remark for me like ‘give me money’ or ‘how are you, Muzungu?’ The kids LOVE it when you wave to them. The get the biggest smile on their face and the harder you wave the more they light up. I always end up with 1, 2 or 6 kids running with me. I let them run for a while then I crank it up and out-run them to see if they’ll keep up.
After the run it’s time for the bucket bath which takes place inside in basically a shower room. A bucket bath sounds unpleasant, but the temp never really gets cool here so it’s always somehow refreshing. They do heat water when they do have electricity to take warm bucket baths, but the electricity so far has only been on for a few hours each day and that’s every other day… Then on to milk-tea with my father accompanied with pineapple and bread & butter or eggs and tomato. At 8am we begin training. Typically we will spend about 4 hours learning language and another 4 hours doing ‘technical training’ where we are learning about some of the many many topics we can be teaching about when we are at our own site. I’m in the Health group so we’re learning: Water treatment, basic sanitation, sex education, STDs, crop growing, HIV/AIDS, support groups, living positively with HIV/AIDS just to name a few… We also mix in to the day medical sessions and cultural session where we learn about the do’s and don’ts, safety, rape, basic cooking skills and so on. At noon several of us head to the market (now there’s a topic to write about) for ‘chipates’ with egg, tomato, and shredded cabbage! Delish!! Accompany it w/ a fresh pineapple and wash it down with a sometimes cold Coca-Cola (remember: electricity every other day so that means cold cokes every other day) and you have yourself a Muzungu favorite!!

5pm and training is over and we’re free to do whatever, which can include a game of volleyball, 4-square (our new favorite! If you’ve never seen or played competitive 4-square, and I mean other than when you were in 3rd grade, you’re missing out!), studying language, visiting the “Joy Bar” for a few drinks, shopping (if you can really call it that) in Luweero (where we are training), writing letters, or my newest activity: helping my host family prepare supper which is nearly a 4 hour ordeal that begins around 5:30 and ends when supper is served at 9:30!! That’s right kids, 9:30!! They eat LATE here! And that doesn’t include the milk-tea they serve at 7:30 including donuts (they’re not really donuts but they’re closer to that than to anything else). And cooking: the kitchen is outside! In a ‘shack’ that is separate from the house using 2 charcoal stoves, but I’ll save the details for another blog…

At night, before the movie, we’ve gotten into the habit of watching movies on my laptop. They LOVE it. Their favorite so far has been “The God’s Must Be Crazy” and tomorrow they’ll see “Hoosiers” for a little culture lesson! Then around 10 or so (whether the movie is over or not) it’s time for bed and we start the routine all over again.

We did find out about the NGOs we’ll be working for in our 2 years here. We don’t know exactly who will be going where but there are some interesting ones. One of which is going to be studying the relation of disease from animals (Gorillas) to humans in the far SouthWest!!! Another that I’m hoping to get is working with what I’ve heard is a fabulous organization called “World Vision” that is doing a variety of things from working with orphanages and doing water sanitation.

Well, I better wrap up. I miss everyone so much but I’m finding a new home in Uganda. A different home. One incomprehensible before now, but so real and friendly and alive!


March 16, 2006

Hello and Welcome!

by Stoops

Hi everybody,

This is the inaugaural post for "In the Pearl of Africa" and I think I'll just lay out my thoughts and hopes for the blog. I'm creating this in able to allow friends and families of Peace Corps Vollunteers to have more than one perspective on what might be happening with us here in Uganda. It will give people an opportunity to hear about a wider variety of experiences and get a fuller idea of what the Peace Corps is about as well as what Uganda is like. For us vollunteers I just ask that if you decide to post, you're reasonable in what you post and that you post with your name. Sorry that there isn't any real content yet, but that will be coming.


Jonathan Moler, PCT