So sorry that’s been a month, but things have been crazy town and then we lost power for a week and then I was tired and preoccupied. But whatever.
So when we last left our traveler she was going to Lira for tech week. I loved it! We lived with a current volunteer in her living room and it was great. We built a mosquito forest there, took turns cooking dinner, and watched Fargo. Fargo forced us all to speak in Minnesotan Uganglish and we couldn’t turn it off. We later went to Gulu to visit a WASH project and have a little nightlife. That was also really fun!
We went back to Kampala for swearing in and supervisor’s workshop. It’s nice to be a real volunteer! This trainee business was nuts…it felt like the freshmen orientation that never ended. I’ll never say that PST isn’t necessary, because it totally is. It’s long, it’s tiring, it’s repetitive, but it’s all important. You want the degree, you need to go to class.
Now I’m at site and have been here about two weeks. It’s strange. I’m in this weird limbo area where I’m not supposed to be doing anything really hardcore, just observing. But it’s hard to find a place for me in the mix of things. So I’ve really just been following my counterpart (Irene) around, meeting important people in the area, and working in the home. I cause a little bit of a stir when I go into the toddler area though. They get a lot of white visitors to tour the home, and they tend to give the kids a lot of attention. So when I walk in they all rush over to me, crying and demanding to be picked up. So I avoid that area a little, introducing myself mapola-mapola (slowly by slowly). If I don’t have anyone to meet or things to see, I’m usually in the babies’ part of the house, changing diapers, feeding them, and refereeing the various squabbles. It’s hard doing things there. Like really hard not to go full American. Never go full American. I don’t think the caregivers like it when I change diapers. I make too much laundry for them because I wash the bottoms and dry them. It’s hard to not just do things the way I’ve been raised and trained to do. Much of what I do is leading by example, but I can’t be the freight train undoing and redoing everything that they do, especially during the first three months I’m there. I also hate how much I say “but in America”, “Oh well, in America…” It’s word vomit. I can’t stop. I don’t even realize I’ve done it until it’s too late. It usually happens when I’ve done something that the HCNs think is completely nuts, and it’s how I excuse myself. I still hate it.
So with the power outage I’ve been reading a lot by candle light. Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer is exactly what I should be reading but it’s kind of a depressing read when you’re in a depressing situation. The water is also out right now so I’m rationing water, living in the dark, and reading about how big government in many countries has furthered its own agenda at the expense of the poor (specifically healthcare). One of the babies in the home recently passed away from malaria and that just fuels the dismay. But I’m still in good spirits… haven’t been beaten down just yet.
On a happier note, there is this one baby that is just a star. She chirps and screeches (happy screeches). She hasn’t figured out crawling yet, so if she wants to get somewhere she rolls herself sideways. She never cries (unless she’s hungry) and loves holding other babies’ hands. It’s adorable. I tell the nuns and the caregivers that she is going to be president. Presidents love to hear the sound of their own voices and so does this little girl. The Ugandans laugh, and reply “Presidents can’t be ladies”. My response is just, “She’ll be president.”
Speaking of president, we were in Mutoto for the festival to mark the opening day for circumcision season and Musevini was there. I’ve been closer to the Ugandan president than Obama….is that funny? That was trip btw. It helped if I thought of it more as a graduation ceremony. Seeing the traditional dances and garb was really cool. And we got on national Ugandan TV. Cool, huh?
So I’ve mostly been getting my house together, visiting babies, going to church, and trying to figure this whole African thing out. My house is coming together. Still looks like a homeless person is squatting in there but eventually I’ll get some decorations going. On a good day I have power and running water, which I wasn’t so stoked about initially. I really wanted to live deep in the village with a pit latrine and whatever. But I’ve come to realize that the biggest part of Peace Corps is going where you are called to serve. That’s the very beginning of being flexible because things are never going to go the way you wanted, planned or envisioned in that big wonderful full of liberty American brain of yours. That’s why I’m a little skeptical of the new Peace Corps application. People can apply to the region and the job that they want. Which sounds cool, you get to have some input on what you do, great. But what kind of volunteer are they attracting now? The kind that will go with the flow? Or the kind that when she buys a box of chocolates googles the exact flavor map so there’s never a surprise? The one that is confident in her ability to adapt or the one that freaks when things get hairy? I get that it’s been rough with people site changing all over the world because it just wasn’t a good fit. And that sucks too. And if you really hate your site you should change because two years is a long time. But part of Peace Corps is accepting what you have and working within it anyway. "Here are my skills, where do you need me?" I think this new process is going to attract the wrong kind of volunteer.
Alright off my soap box and getting in a taxi to Jinja and then Kampala for an all volunteer conference tomorrow!
P.S sorry back on the soap box for a hot second….theres a missionary giving a dissertation to a poor Ugandan waitress on how to cook over medium eggs. They don’t do those here…order rice and beans and shut up like a normal person. I don’t care that you used to be a short order cook or that you're here in the name of Jesus.