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!