I am planning to spend my Fourth of July weekend in Gulu with a lot people from the North. This is kind of a challenge for me, because I’m obviously in the Southwest and the only way to get to the North is to go through Kampala. Not that it is hard to go through Kampala, but it will take me a long time. I get to look forward to a 6 to 7 hour bus ride to Kampala and then another 6 hours or so to Gulu. I can’t say I’m gonna be doing this often, but we’ll see how it goes.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
So I started teaching Math classes today. I had 3 double lessons. 2 of them were my normal computer lessons and 1 was Math. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t too thrilled with teaching Math, but I really like the idea of teaching all my lessons to the same classes. I teach Math to the same girls that I teach computers. I feel like I can really get to know them and it makes my Math lessons easier because they are already used to me teaching them. At the end of my last lesson today, I asked the class if they had any questions. I didn’t specify, but I meant about the lesson I just taught. The girls, in turn, asked if I would take them to America. I do really like teaching these girls. They are good girls and they obviously have a good sense of humor.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Electricity goes out a lot here. It’s funny to think of how I react when it goes out sometimes. For instance, I often times turn my computer off if I’m not using it so I can save the battery for later, if power is out for a long time. I also can’t cook if power is out because my gas stove still isn’t working. All I have is an electric burner and an electric toaster oven. This is probably my biggest challenge. Luckily power hasn’t been out for days at a time (at least not yet), so I won’t starve. Plus, I usually take lunch at school anyway. And I can take dinner there too if I want to. However, I find myself considering going to bed at 7 o’clock at night and getting up in the middle of the night (or whenever power comes back) to cook dinner. To me, this seems totally logical and normal. I guess the longest power has been out so far is about 12 hours. It was out all day one day. There was a joint sigh of relief from the staff members in the staff room when it finally came back. People here do alter their lives because of power. No one really sits in the staff room if the power is out and it has nothing to do with the fact that it may be a little dark without power. The staff members just really like watching TV and without power they don’t see the point in staying in the staff room. I feel bad for those volunteers that don’t have power. A volunteer in the West Nile, who has solar power, once told me that he doesn’t use his computer that much because he wants to save his power for his fan because where he is it is so so hot. It’s these kinds of thoughts that go through your head that make it sound so crazy. And being in the U.S. it’s hard to image living without power for days or weeks.
I had a really interesting and eventful day today. This morning I got up and went running with the girls at 6. Today we went down to the school’s football pitch and ran laps. This morning I also got a visit from Peace Corps. My program manager, Mary, and another PCV who is about to COS came to visit my site and see how things are going. When Mary realized how little I’ve been teaching, she insisted to talk to my director of studies. Somehow now I have 6 more double lessons every week. I’m now teaching Senior 1 Math. So I now have 18 lessons (8 doubles and 2 singles). I wasn’t too thrilled about teaching math, but I’m kind of glad that I have a little more to do. Peace Corps also sent all my packages. So now I don’t have to bring them back myself after IST. This afternoon I took a trip into Mbarara. My first stop was at the Peace Corps’ new resource room. Now I know where it is and how to get in. I also made a stop at the post office. I got to go in the back of the post office and find my own package today because they were unable to find one of my packages. After I returned this evening I went to see the girls get water from the lagoon. They had to go get their water down there because the pump that pumps water up to the school is still broken. To get to the lagoon we went up to the church past my house, behind a pit latrine, under a fence with barbed wire, down a steep hill, and threw some bushes. The girls all came down with their buckets and jerry cans and climbed down to these concrete slabs on top of the lagoon to get water.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I finally got out running today. I went out at about 6AM with the girls and a couple of the other teachers. They do a very quick run. They basically do laps around my house. They go from the school gate and run down on the tarmac and then they make their way up to the church and back down past my house. They do two laps and then they cool down and stretch. They go out and run every morning, so I’m going to go again tomorrow. It was really short but not very easy because I can’t remember the last time I ran.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
This morning I awoke at 6:15 and I heard footsteps. A lot of footsteps. When I fully woke up I realized what it was. The girls were out running. To me, this was fantastic. The headmaster had mentioned getting the girls out running, but I didn’t really know if that would happen. It also just seemed a little unbelievable because it was still pitch black out when I woke up to this. They are taking these girls out running before the sun comes up, but maybe that’s a good thing that they aren’t running in the heat. When I went to the school today I talked to one of the teachers who is involved in athletic and she said she will let me know when they are going to run and do other exercises. So, now I’ll be back to running, just like before I left.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
I really don’t understand how Ugandan meetings are so long. I feel like they aren’t even happy there after an hour or two. But then again, I guess the person with the microphone always likes to hear their own voice, so they talk for an hour and a half instead of a half hour. Today I was asked to go to career day for the Senior 4s and Senior 6s. Their parents came and they had what they called career day. It was more like lecturers telling the girls not to drop out of school. It was long and drawn out and in the local language (mostly), not to mention that it started over two hours late. Afterwards we had lunch. Another thing I will never understand is how Ugandans mix all their food together. Now I know this seems kind of childish and picky, but they actually mix their pineapple and watermelon with the sauce from their meat. It’s also disgusting to watch them eat. They kind of eat like animals even at the nicest occasions.
Yesterday I was given the Senior 1s beginning of term exams to record the grades and give them back to the students. This is the first time I was given a class list for the students. I was looking at some of the names, because they are somehow interesting. Some of them have names we would consider “normal”, some are a little unusual and some are what we would consider really unusual. So I have some named Susan, Lillian, Brenda and Anita. Some of the slightly unusual ones are Charity, Hope, Patience, and Faith. And some of the really unusual names are Fortunate, Believe and Comfort. Ugandans often name their children in order to symbolize things. They want their children to have faith or patience, so that is what they name them. They often do the same thing with their dog’s names. They might name their dog defense or revenge in order to make them seem scary. Ugandans also write their name with their last name (or surname as they refer to it) first and then their first name. They call their first name their Christian name. Maybe this is because their last name is so African that I can’t seem to pronounce any of them.
I think I’ve just come up with my first real secondary project! One of my best students asked me today to talk to me after class. So after the school debate, she approached me again to talk to me. She wanted to know if I could get her a pen pal in the United States. I told her I would try to. I think I will try to work with the teacher I was set up with in the Correspondence Match program to try and set up pen pals between her students and mine. I guess this idea has come to me before, but I didn’t really know if the girls here would really be into it or even understand what a pen pal is. So now that I know that there is an interest, I’m going to try to make this happen.
So on my way back from Rakai on Sunday, I had the best and the worst bus ride all in one bus. We first took a taxi to Masaka and then got a bus from there. The first bus that came by was full so we didn’t get on. The next bus that came was also full, but the conductor told us to get on anyway and stand “for now.” “For now” meant an hour. It’s funny the things that go through your head when all you want to do it sit down. I thought about sitting on the floor, but it’s so dirty it almost didn’t seem worth it. I thought about offering someone money for their seat, but I wasn’t sure if that would work. Eventually we actually got seats. I thought we were about half way there, but I didn’t really care how long it took from that point. I was just so glad to be sitting. I almost instantaneously fell asleep. When I woke up I thought things looked familiar, like we were there, but when I looked at my watched I didn’t believe it. But it was true, it took us only an hour and 45 minutes to get from Masaka to Mbarara when it probably should have taken almost two and a half hours. So, needless to say, it was the worst bus ride because we had to stand for so long, but it was also the best bus ride because we got there so quickly.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Right now I’m still in Rakai (that is about an hour south of Masaka). And the only reason I’m up so early is because Liz was leaving with Jackie and Stella to get back to Lira at 6 this morning. This weekend we had the 50th Anniversary Service Project. I think it went pretty well. We painted murals and we taught life skills. A lot of people from my training group came, some that I haven’t even seen since we left training. It was nice to reconnect. Today we are heading back west to get back to site. We are planning to stop in Mbarara for lunch before we go all the way back.
I really like weekends like this because they remotivate me. I heard a lot of horror stories about some people’s houses. Some just moved in and still have problems and some haven’t even moved in yet. Sorry to say but it makes me feel better about my minor problems.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
So yesterday the government announced that they have a new budget. They also made a very long (Ugandan style) address about what the budget was and where the money was going to be spent. Unfortunately, the budget does not give any money to Primary Teacher Colleges (PTC). This is where some of my volunteer friends work. This means that all PTCs are closing until they get more money. I’m not sure what that means for my friends, but I don’t think it’s good.
On another note, I tried to make a cake in my new toaster oven last night. I’m hoping I can eventually make it work, but this cake was too well done on the top and not cooked through in the middle. Any suggestions? I was thinking maybe I should try baking it at a lower temperature for a longer time. I guess in two years I will have mastered this.
Sometimes I don’t really like to sit in the staff room for long, but sometimes I find it totally fascinating. I don’t always like it because the other staff members usually talk in Runyankore or a mix of Runyankore and English (which sometimes is just as hard to understand). On the other hand, sometimes I really enjoy sitting in the staff room like a fly on the wall. I know enough Runyankore to know when that is the language they are speaking, but you can also find them sometimes speaking in other languages (not English). Swahili is pulled out quite often because it is taught in the schools. I talk to the Swahili teacher sometimes and he likes to teach me a word or two here and there. You can also hear some Lugandan. Sometimes people on the TV might be speaking it and those who know it will do a little translating. Today they even started talking about French. Of course, all together they might know only twenty words, but I still found it interesting. I guess I also find all of this so interesting because many Americans wouldn’t even be able to know what language you are speaking, let alone actually know a second language. Of course, I don’t know too many people like that especially considering I surround myself with people who like to speak Spanish on and off just for the fun of it (not that I mind at all…I love trying to learn Spanish). I usually don’t think of Ugandans as being very well educated. There are some serious flaws in their education system, but yet they are definitely ahead of the game when it comes to languages. Think about it. All Ugandan children learn in English, a language that is not a first language for anyone here. Although on the other hand, this is one of their flaws in their education system. Yes, they know English, but do they know it well enough to be able to understand the lessons being taught. Some of these kids have trouble learning anything in school because they don’t know English well enough. Uganda is a country full of languages. I think there are 54 languages spoken throughout the country. 54! Imagine being only a few hours from your home and not being able to understand the local language and to have the only way to effectively communicate by speaking in a national language (which are English and Swahili). It’s hard to imagine, but for Ugandans, this is reality. No wonder they have a hard time advancing their economy. If you can’t effectively communicate, how are you going to get anywhere?
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I finally bought a toaster oven! I’ve been talking about it for a while now and I finally bought one today. So far, it is pretty amazing even though all I’ve done with it so far is make toast. But the fact that it actually works is a start. I’m hoping that I can even make cakes and bread in. Maybe I’ll make pizza too.
I also talked to my neighbor today about my bathroom (again!). He was looking at what still needs to be done. He has been trying to get the headmaster to get a plumber to finish it, but apparently the headmaster is very preoccupied with the term just starting. My neighbor said he is going to try using the ploy that people from Peace Corps are going to come and we should be able to show them that my house is finished. It is true. People from Peace Corps are coming…eventually. I actually don’t have any idea when, but someone will come to see me at my site eventually. Also, they won’t care if my bathroom is finished or not, because what I am currently using is up to their standards. However, we are not going to tell the headmaster this and maybe it will get him to get my bathroom finished.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Every Wednesday afternoon the entire school participates in a debate. Yesterday was the first one of the term and the first one I went to. It was interesting. At first I thought they did these debates to get the girls to practice critical thinking, which is usually lost in this education system. However, the real reason they have debates is so they can practice their English. I was a little surprised that they girls themselves run the whole thing. There is very little intervention from the faculty. And they actually seem to really get into what is going on.
I finally got my stove back today…unfortunately, it still doesn’t quite work right. But it isn’t leaking anymore, which is a lot better. As of right now I need a new regulator for my gas tank and even when I get that I think I may only be able to use one of the burners. Nonetheless, this is progress. When my neighbor brought me the stove, I asked him about getting another table in my kitchen. He said he would inquire about it. He had hoped that they would put shelves up for me, so I could better store my things in my kitchen. However, he openly admitted that getting shelves or even a table may take a long time. Which for a Ugandan to say it is going to take a long time, means that we hope it will happen before I leave in two years. Luckily, I’m getting used to coping with my limited cooking abilities and limit counter space. I also haven’t seen the plumber or heard anything about his whereabouts either. This experience is the ultimate test in patience.