Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 12:00 PM--Rafting the Nile

Yesterday we went white water rafting on the Nile.  It was nothing short of amazing!  There were nine boats in total and we filled more than three of them.  In my boat was me, Emily, Ryan, Chelsea, Audrey, and Ali.  We had a really good group.  We didn’t go too crazy but we still had a lot of fun.  Most of the rapids were grade four and five.  We only managing to flip over once, but we got stuck in a tree at the same time.  The entire trip took up almost the entire day and the rafting company had a barbeque waiting for us at the end with some amazing American food.  Overall, I would say it was nothing short of spectacular and I would totally do it again!

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26, 2011 10:30 PM

Ugandans get so caught up in getting certificates and awards for meaningless things.  They gave out certificates at the end of the training and that was large reason why many of the Ugandans came; whereas us Americans didn’t care.  They are just so proud of that certificate and none of us can understand this.  I can only imagine it is because of ignorance of the fact that the certificate doesn’t mean anything.  This will be something that I may or may not ever figure out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24, 2011 9:00 PM

All day yesterday I was thinking that no one from my school was coming as my counterpart for the training, but then at evening tea I saw my headteacher.  He said that the deputy headmistress was supposed to come but couldn’t at the last minute, so he came instead and that was why he was late.  I was really happy to see him there and I thought it was really nice that he felt that if no one else can come, he will.  It was supposed to be my counterpart and not my supervisor, but I didn’t really have a definitive counterpart anyway.  My counterpart was originally Marion, the other computer teacher, but she is not around all the time and she is very quiet and I don’t really work with her.  My headteacher told me today that my counterpart was leaving the school.  Although he was saying my counterpart was a different teacher, Allen.  I know her and I think she teaches physics, but she is still not someone I really work with.  And apparently she is transferring schools, so she will not be back this term.  So the headteacher has identified a new counterpart for me, teacher Rovian.  She teaches physics and math.  He really wants me to work with her to try to integrate into the community better.  So hopefully this will work out better than my previous two counterparts.

This training is based on us, as PCVs, working on secondary projects.  So it sometimes feels like we are constantly being given ideas for secondary projects and coming up with our own ideas.  We can even apply for grants if we want to work on a project that needs money.  This idea bothers me a little, because giving money is not sustainable.  It also gives people the idea that white people just come in and give money, so when they see us they expect and often demand money.  However, I feel like I have a good project idea and for this giving money might not turn out bad.  My school is pretty self-sustainable and operates almost solely off of school fees.  They also request more school fees if they have a specific project.  They have never asked me for money and therefore, I feel pretty comfortable trying to get a grant for this project.  The project is to build up the computer lab.  Right now we have only two working computer and a fairly large lab that is being used also as a multi-purpose room.  The biggest thing they do in there is let the non-teaching staff take tea and lunch in there.  So I guess my first goal is to get the room totally dedicated to being just a computer lab.  After that is where the grant comes in.  I want to get more computers.  I want enough to be able to teach classes in there.  So I’m thinking maybe ten in total (this is including the two they already have).  Because at that rate, even if there is a class of 50, you can break it in half and take half to the lab at one time.  The way the grants work is that the community (in this case the school) needs to be able to provide 25% of the funding, so that they have some ownership in the project and it is not just us giving them money.  I don’t think this is a problem, because they can get more school fees for this purpose.  And 25% of ten computers among 600 girls is not that much money even here.

So I proposed this idea to the headteacher and he really likes the idea and seems really willing to work with me on it.  He said he wants to have me meet with the Old Girls (school alumni) when I get back and have us come up with a proposal.  However, I feel like he can be a little idealistic sometimes.  But I think if I keep pushing for this, that it will happen before I leave.  It is the kind of project that I might be working on the entire time I’m here and I may never get the benefits from it.  But that’s okay, as long as I can get them to love the project as much as I do, so that it will not just waste away when I leave.  I guess I will need to work on making it a sustainable asset, but that is way down the road.

We had a session today on gender roles.  We had these in our pre-service training as well, but it wasn’t until now that I realized how nice it is to be at an all girls school.  This issue of gender roles is almost a non-issue for me.  My school is so focused on educating girls and they have a good respect for women, which is not always seen as important in this culture.  I also found out recently that it is almost unheard of to have a male headteacher at an all girls school, but I finally found out why my headteacher is where he is.  He apparently didn’t start school until he was 12 and it was only because of the help he got from his aunt and his sister that he made it all the way through Senior 6.  So this plays into why he is so intense about educating “the girls child”.  He was also telling me that he has only been at Kinoni Girls for three years.  When he got there, there were 180 students and now three years later there are 600.  I feel like he genuinely cares about the school and the girls in it.  Many volunteers don’t have this kind of support and I think that is all the more reason for me to try and do something that can really help the school, because when I leave I have faith that he will continue to make the school better and better.

So maybe my ideas are really idealistic and challenging, but I think they are also realistic and doable.  I guess only time will tell…

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22, 2011 10:30 PM--IST

So far training has been pretty uneventful.  Last week from Wednesday to Saturday we had our language IST.  It was really unstructured.  We had a schedule, but we kind of just did whatever we wanted.  To me, it seems like if you aren’t making it at site with the amount of language skills you already have, you’re not going to make it at site at all.  If we need our language, we will pick it up along the way.  So last week we did not spend a lot of time in training sessions.  Starting this morning we were supposed to start the rest of our in-service training, however, no one informed us of our schedule or when we had to be awake and productive.  But once we figured it out we started with legit training sessions.  Our counterparts were all supposed to arrive today, as well.  I don’t know if any counterpart is coming for me.  I don’t really work with any particular counterpart.  So when Peace Corps asked for my counterpart’s name and number, I just gave them the number for my headmaster.  And I figured that if he wanted to send someone, he will.  In a way, I’m kind of hoping no one comes, although it may be a good thing if the school sends someone.  So I guess I will see tomorrow whether or not a counterpart comes from my school.  I don’t feel too bad though, because I don’t know that many of the counterparts will come because Peace Corps was so unorganized with inviting them.

I think after today, most of us are sick of training already.  It is really nice to see everyone.  There were about 10 people in my group that I hadn’t seen since our swear-in.  But training is much more intensive than the laid-back atmosphere at most of our sites.  Most of us are just looking forward to going white water rafting this Saturday when we are done with training.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 16, 2011 9:00 PM--Mount Sabinyo

So last weekend a bunch of us went to climb Mount Sabinya.  We left on Saturday and got there Saturday night fairly late.  

Sabinya from our ride to Kisoro

We left to go hiking at around 8 on Sunday morning.  We had been told by some of the other volunteers (athletic male volunteers) who had done this hike before that it was a “narly” hike.  And I’d have to agree that it was pretty wicked.  One volunteer hiking with me even said that if a hike is ever referred to as narly, maybe we should think twice about going.  I only made it to the top of the first peak.

There are three peaks in total.  Even just to get to the first peak there were a lot of ladders, but I heard that to get to the third peak it is vertical ladders straight up for about 40 minutes.

Some of the bridges we had to cross

The ladders got pretty long closer to the top of the first peak, but apparently that wasn't even the worst of it

Someone told me today that it is the hardest UWA (Ugandan Wildlife Association) hike in the country.  There were four of us that didn’t make it past the first peak and we all had our own reasons/problems.  I wasn’t feeling well in the morning and I thought I was going to get sick on the hike, I didn’t have good shoes to hike in, I was really out of shape and I went at a really slow pace.  Other than the four of us who stopped at the first peak, everyone else made it all the way to the third peak.

View of the DRC before we got too far up in the clouds

The first two peaks are in Uganda and Rwanda and the third peak is in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC.  The four of us ended up eating lunch and hanging out on top of the first peak for a few hours.  We weren’t allowed to go back until the rest came back, but when it started raining and thundering, we insisted that we go back.  But the rest eventually caught up.  Even though I didn’t make it to the third peak, I’m still really glad that I went.  And I kind of want to go back at some point and try it again.  I just need to get in shape, get some hiking boots and maybe leave earlier so we would be able to get back before dark.  I also think hiking with a smaller group might be easier too.

Now after going back to my site for one night, I am at my In-service training (IST).  It was supposed to be at the Rydar Hotel, however they kept holding out to confirm that.  And finally on our way to Kisoro, we all got a text saying that it was going to be at the Lweza Training Center, which is where we had our pre-service training.  It’s okay, but the food is awful and we don’t have a pool and we have to share a bathroom.  Basically, it’s no Rydar.  I was intitially really bummed, but now that I’m here I’m okay with it.  It’s kind of nostalgic.  It reminds me of the first few days I was in Uganda.  I also took a hot shower tonight for the first time in over a month and it was awesome.  So I guess I can’t complain too much.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9, 2011 5:00 PM

I started running again yesterday.  It’s not always easy to run here.  I run at around 6:30 AM because it is still dark out and no one is out.  This is good because it is cooler and there aren’t people to stare at me while I run (not that they don’t stare at me when I don’t run).  But this is challenging because it is dark and the ground is uneven.  I also don’t have the easiest time to get up at that hour of the morning.  I guess I also find it hard to run because I have no goal.  At home, I would run in training for 5K’s, but here I have no real goal accept maybe a 5K that I may run after I get back.  So needless to say, it is not easy to run here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8, 2011 7:00 AM

So because the school is on holiday until September 5th, I have a nice long break from working.  The even better part is that I get to get out of site for almost the entire time.  This Friday some of the girls who are up North are coming to stay with me, because on Saturday we are all going to Kisoro and we are meeting up with a bunch of other people from our group.  The girls from up North are staying with me a night because it is too far to go all the way to Kisoro in one day.  We are going to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and we are climbing Mount Sabinyo.  It is a one day hike.  It’s 3 or 4 hours up and then another 3 or 4 hours back down.  I think it’s a little late to start getting in shape again, but I started running again today (if that helps at all).  It’s supposed to be kind of challenging but when you get to the top you are straddling Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC all at once.  So we are heading down there on Saturday, hiking on Sunday and leaving on Monday.  I think some of us are coming back to my place for a night because we aren’t due in Kampala until Tuesday.  So then on Tuesday we will head out to Kampala for IST (In-service training).  This goes from the 16th until the 27th.  It’s just more training now that we’ve been at site for four months.  It should be nice though, because my whole training group will be there and we are staying at a really nice hotel.  Then on the 27th, the white water rafting company is picking us up at our hotel and taking us to Jinja.  We are rafting that day and we will be in Jinja for two nights.  On Monday I think I am spending a night at one the volunteer’s places in the East, because we aren’t supposed to be back in Kampala until Tuesday the 30th.  Then from the 30th until September 2nd, we have our all volunteer conference (All-Vol).  So we are staying at the really nice hotel again and it is not just my training group but all volunteers in country.  And then on the 2nd, I’m heading back to site to start my second term of classes.  That, in a nutshell, is my plans for the break.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2, 2011 9:30 PM

My first term is officially over.  We had our end of the term staff meeting today.  It was supposed to start at 11 and this morning I found out it wouldn’t start until 1.  It promptly started at 2:30.  And it only went a short 4 hours.  Note my sarcasm.  But one good thing came out of the meeting.  So up until this point every time the headmaster would introduce me he would say that I was sent by the U.S. Embassy and that I’m from Canada.  I always found this really intriguing because the headmaster is the head of the whole school, yet he doesn’t know the difference between the U.S. and Canada.  I guess I could see some average person not knowing the difference but not the head of a secondary school.  That would be like the head of a school in the U.S. not knowing that Africa is a continent and not a country.  Not being able to distinguish between Africa and South Africa.  Yeah there are definitely many Americans who don’t know the difference, but the principal of high school should and probably would know.  So anyway, up until this point I hadn’t corrected the headmaster on this mistake, because I didn’t want to correct him especially in front of whoever he would be introducing me to.  Well, today in our staff meeting they were reading and correcting the minutes from the last meeting.  And in our last meeting, which was the beginning of term staff meeting, the headmaster introduced me as being from Canada and this was reflected in the minutes.  I didn’t even need to correct the minutes myself on this error.  One of the other teachers pointed it out.  So maybe now the headmaster will introduce as being from the U.S. from now on.  I hope so.

Monday, August 1, 2011

July 31, 2011 6:30 PM--Ugandan Little League

Baseball?  In Uganda?  This weekend I went to Nakirebe, which is between Mpigi and Kampala.  There is a little league baseball complex there.  We had the first annual JICA Peace Corps baseball weekend. 

A little background on baseball in Uganda…Some wealthy American built this facility so there could be a little league team here in Uganda.  Last year was the first time they ever went to the regional championship in Poland.  They are in the African/Middle Eastern region.  Needless to say there usually aren’t very many teams that go to the championship.  Last year they went but didn’t win.  But this year they went and they won, which should send them to the Little League World Series in the U.S..  This is a big deal because they would be the first African team to ever go to the Little League World Series.  Unfortunately, due to some discrepancy in some of their ages and lack of birth certificates, they were denied visas to the U.S.  But hopefully they will make it again next year and they will actually get to go to the Little League World Series.

I know all this because there is a film maker (who is actually from Philly) who is making a documentary about all of this called Opposite Field.  We got to watch the first cut this weekend, which was the entire story from last year, but he said he doesn’t think it is finished yet, because the story isn’t finished.

Jay (The film maker who made the documentary)

Anyway, this weekend was a lot of fun.  A lot of Peace Corps volunteers and JICA volunteers (Japanese volunteers) came together to play baseball and see and stay at the training complex built for the little league.  It was interesting because many of the JICA volunteers don’t speak English any better than Ugandans do, but it was so much different than just spending the weekend with Ugandans.  They were really awesome and we had a really good time.  Peace Corps lost the first game versus JICA on Friday, but we won against the Ugandans and then JICA on Saturday.  Overall, it was an awesome event and it was really different than anything else here.  Hopefully we will do it again next year.

There was no lack of Phillies representation at this event