Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28, 2011 4:30 PM--Teachers Strike

So the teachers finally went on strike today.  It was interesting because I was the only one teaching today.  At first I didn’t even know they went on strike until after my first class.  For the first two classes most of the students came to class and the rest of the students in the other classes were constantly being chased back to their classrooms even though they had nothing to do there.  For my last class, which wasn’t until after lunch, I don’t even think I had half the students so I left it up to them.  I asked if they wanted me to teach and they asked me to go over their exam.  After we went over the exam, I let them go.  Teaching while the teachers are on strike really isn’t that bad.  They don’t picket or anything like that.  So it’s not quite like crossing the picket line like you would do in a strike situation in the states.  They don’t even seem to care that I was teaching.  It was more that they didn’t quite understand why I wasn’t striking with them.  I don’t think some of them really realize that I’m a volunteer and not an employee.  It’s actually kind of funny how they strike here.  The teachers either stayed home or they came to school and did everything as normal except they didn’t teach.  They took tea and lunch as normal.  They were even grading their papers like normal.  The only thing that wasn’t done was teaching.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27, 2011 4:30 PM

It’s Official!  The school is officially closing on the 3rd of August and classes are finished after this week.  So tomorrow is my last day of classes until September.  It was kind of funny because they posted a schedule for what is going on for the next week in the staff room after lunch today.  So when I went to my 3 o’clock class at the end of class I told them this was our last computer class for the term and that we would pick up where we left off next term.  They all started clapping and cheering and asking when they were going home.  This is the point when I realized that no one had told them yet.  Oops.  It had been discussed in the staff room for about a week now, but I guess the students had no idea.  Luckily, the same thing that was posted in the staff room was also posted for the students and they were all hovering around it when class was over.  So I didn’t leave too much suspense.

July 26, 2011 4:00 PM--Kobusingye

The headmaster introduced me to the school’s Board of Governors today.  It was kind of nice and kind of annoying at the same time.  No one informed me that they were having a meeting until it was upon us.  So I was called up to the school because the headmaster wanted to see me, only to find that I was actually being invited to eat lunch with them.  Unfortunately I wasn’t hungry.  Luckily after we ate I was free to go.  But one good thing that came out of today was that the Board of Governors gave me a local name.  Finally someone gave me a local name!  The teachers have been asking me for a while what my local name is and when they find out I don’t have one, they say that the girls should give me one.  And seeing as how the girls still haven’t given me one, I was still without a local name.  So the Board of Governors called me Kobusingye, which means peace.  This is something that happens to most volunteers at some point or another.  It is a nice alternative to the locals calling you Mzungu.  It is a word in their language that they can pronounce and understand and it makes you less of an outsider.  So now I may have to get used to being called Obusingye Jennifer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011 11:00 AM

Today at morning tea all the teachers were talking about some teachers strike.  It sounds like to me that the teachers may go on strike.  They were arguing about whether it mattered or not about whether they were paid by the government or the school.  I found this kind of funny because I’m not paid by either.  So no matter what this strike has no effect on me teaching.  It sounds like it is a country wide thing.  I guess all the teachers from government schools are threatening to go on strike.  We will see how this all plays out.

July 24, 2011 8:00 AM

So my bathroom is definitely making progress.  I have water now.  So my tap and my shower both work.  Of course, it is a cold shower, but whose complaining.  Now I just need to get my toilet fixed and I’d be all set.  As it stands, the toilet is leaking and the handle is broken.  I think it is pretty simple to fix but unfortunately I don’t know how to do it myself.  So, slow progress is still progress.  We are definitely moving in the right direction.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

July 21, 2011 12:30 PM

Because I work at an all girls school there is a huge emphasis on educating girls, which is obviously a good thing.  But I feel like the people here still lose the message a little sometimes.  They emphasize educating girls and they tell the students to stay in school and work hard, but just so they can get a husband and get married.  I think they are missing the point.  They should be emphasizing to these girls to get an education to make something of themselves, so they can get a job and be successful and independent.  Instead they just think it is so they can get a better husband.  They have even used the quotes “Behind every successful man is a strong woman.”  It is a good point but it shouldn’t be the whole point.  They want these girls to get an education to support men in society, not to make something of themselves.

July 19, 2011 7:20 PM

Today the headmaster at my school made an announcement that we are probably closing a week early.  So instead of classes ending on August 12th, it will probably end on August 5th.  That means I only have two weeks of teaching left before the holiday.  This term went by really fast.  I wonder if the rest of the terms will go by just as fast.

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18, 2011 4:30 PM

So I thought that teaching these girls about programming languages would be a little harder than it was.  Because they already speak two languages, the whole idea of the computer not understanding our language was a pretty simple concept to them.  They even really enjoyed my example of if they spoke in their local language, I wouldn’t understand much and how the computer doesn’t understand their language either.

Also, in other news, for those of you who don’t already know, my stove situation has been solved.  I only needed to buy two stoves and two regulators and now I have one regulator that works and one single burner stove that actually works.

July 17, 2011 7:40 AM--It's Not THAT Hot Here

I know I live practically on the equator, but it really isn’t as hot as you may think.  The hottest region in Uganda is in the North.  The region that is on the equator (where I am) is the coolest region in the country.  I don’t think it gets much above 80 degrees here and there is almost never humidity.  In the morning I usually wear a jacket and at night I can sometimes see my breath.  I don’t have a thermometer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it got down to 50 degrees at night.  I usually find it amusing when it is hotter back home in Philly than it is here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 11, 2011 11:00 PM--Movie Review: Blood Diamond

I just watched the movie Blood Diamond.  It’s about diamond mining in Sierra Leone and the wars that happened there because of it.  I feel like this movie is a good emphasis of the relationship between devastation in Africa and the news that people see in America.  Some of the world’s worst tragedies and wars happen in Africa and odds are most Americans will never hear about it in their news.  Most of the time when these stories do make it to American news, they are short stories in the back of the newspaper.  They never seem to make the front page or the headlines.  You very rarely hear about these kinds of conflicts on TV news like CNN or MSNBC.  For some reason it is just not of interest to them.  I don’t understand why this is, because I think these stories are interesting and they definitely need to be heard.  After watching a movie like this, you realize that these wars affect us as Americans and we sometimes attribute to the causes of them.  These stories need to be heard by people around the world, so that even if you can’t do anything about it, you can appreciate what you have just a little bit more.  My dad likes to find interesting articles in the newspaper and send them to me.  They are often these kinds of stories that will never make the front page.  They aren’t always about war or even about Africa, but they are usually things that we find interesting and different, that most other people wouldn’t give a second glance.  So, if you find an interesting article that you think I might like, feel free to send it to me.  I like to hang them on my wall.  And if you get a chance, watch Blood Diamond.  It gives you a good perspective on what happens all too often in many African countries.

July 11, 2011 6:15 PM

I’ve found that Ugandans don’t really use please and thank you very much or if they do use them, they don’t use them in the right context.  I think they don’t use please very much because in Runyankore (I’m not sure about other languages spoken in this country) there isn’t really a word that means please.  But even when I thank people, they don’t always seem to understand why I’m thanking them.  It’s not at all seen as rude to not thank people.  This culture is a lot more abrupt.  They say things how they are and they never wonder if what they are saying offends people.  In that same context, they don’t even think about being polite or worry about people who aren’t polite.  Politeness is something that is sometimes lost here.  I’ve also heard people say “please thank you” instead of just saying thank you.  It’s like they know this word, “please”, and they kind of know what it means, so they try to throw it in the conversation, but it doesn’t really work.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10, 2011 8:30 AM

If I had a dime for every time I was asked to compare America and Uganda, I’d be a millionaire already.  People ask me this all the time and they don’t believe me when I say they aren’t comparable.  When you are asked such a question, where do you even begin?  For one thing, you don’t want people to feel bad about their country, so you don’t want to just tell them that America is 100 times better (which it isn’t).  But on the same note, that’s kind of what they want to hear.  They often ask about our staple crops.  And sometimes I don’t know what to tell them.  In the U.S. it is sometimes harder to know what we grow and what is imported.  A lot of people here have a hard time understanding that Americans are not necessarily as close to their agriculture and what they eat as Ugandans are.  They also ask a lot about whether or not we have villages or if it’s just big cities.  I guess in movies all they see are American cities, but it’s hard to explain that we have cities and suburbs (not quite villages).  They don’t usually believe me when I tell them that we have plenty of open space in the U.S.  They also don’t really understand that in different parts of the country things can be very different.  The people think differently, we grow different things and we live differently.  This one seems really funny to me because Uganda is a much smaller country than the U.S., yet there are many more different cultures here than in the U.S.  And there are definitely more languages.  So I don’t understand why Ugandans have such a hard time understand that America is kind of like that.  And then there is the end all be all question, “Which do you like better, Ugandan or America?”  This kind of goes back to my first point that you can’t really compare the two.  I try to explain that I can’t really answer that question and again they don’t believe me.  If they don’t really believe what I tell them, I’m not really sure why they ask me such questions in the first place…go figure!

Friday, July 8, 2011

July 8, 2011 11:00 PM--Gulu for the 4th of July and Some Fun Facts

So I spent last weekend in Gulu.  I left here very early on Friday morning and I came back on Tuesday.  It was a lot of fun.  I got to see a lot of my favorite volunteers, eat a lot of good food and take in some sun.  It took me about 11 hours to get there on Friday.  Friday night we went to an American restaurant called the coffee hut for dinner.  On Saturday we went to a hotel right outside of the town center which has a pool.  That night we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant that I don’t know if I could ever find again.  On Sunday we didn’t have much else to do, so we went back to the pool and we got dinner at a really good Indian restaurant.  On Monday morning the last of us left Gulu.  I headed to Lira with Liz.  While we were waiting for our taxi to leave I saw a guy wearing a Philadelphia Eagles hat (the first sign of Philly that day).

When we got to Lira, we got lunch at an American restaurant where I got a Ugandan cheesesteak (second sign of Philly that day).

It wasn’t as good as an actual cheesesteak but it may be the closest thing I can get for the next two years.  After lunch and a little shopping, we went back to Liz’s site, which is about 10 km from Lira town.  That night we made Mexican food for dinner and hung out.  Overall, it was a really good weekend and a great way to celebrate the 4th of July.  It was the longest I’ve been away from site since I got here and it is the farthest I’ve been from here too.  It was really interesting seeing the differences from the south to the north.  Most of the people there have been totally devastated by war in recent years.  The first major difference I noticed is the amount of mud huts there.  Where I am in the southwest, I don’t see very many mud huts, but in the north you see them everywhere.

A lot of the people in that region have been in IDP/work camps up until just a few years ago, so they don’t have much money.  And mud huts are much cheaper to build than actual houses.

Another major difference between the south and the north is the amount of white people or Mzungus you see up there.  Around here I see them sometimes when I go to town, but it’s not expected to see any.  In Gulu, they are everywhere!  This is because there are a lot of NGO’s in the north that are trying to help the people there because of all the war.  The north is also much hotter than it is here.  I finally understand why people here say it is so cold here.  It seemed cold to me when I got back.

A couple fun facts from this weekend:

1.)    Gulu is the second largest town in Uganda.
Kampala is the first, Lira is third, and Mbrara (my home) is fourth.

2.)    There is no such thing as Peace Corps Amsterdam.
We were talking to a white woman at the pool who told us she had a friend who did Peace Corps Amsterdam.  After she left, we all looked at each other and said “Peace Corp Amsterdam?”  I think if Peace Corps were in Amsterdam everyone would be trying to get in, not to mention that Amsterdam is a city not a country.  And just to clarify, Peace Corps has never been in Western Europe.

3.)    FUFA is the Federation for Uganda Football Association.
One of my friends was trying to buy a football jersey and she was amazingly quotable in saying “It says Ubanda and FUFA…I’m not paying full price for this!”  As it turns out it said Uganda and only looked like Ubanda and FUFA is a real thing not just a typo for FIFA.

I also got a pretty awesome map while I was in Gulu (all those who know me well know how much I like really interesting maps).  I bought it in a craft shop in town.  It is one of a kind and hand-carved out of one solid piece of wood.  One of the other volunteers pointed out that it will soon be out of date when South Sudan gets there independence on July 9th.  She pointed it out as almost a negative thing, whereas I saw it as a positive.  I find it really interesting when you can date the map by looking at the countries on it.  And as of tomorrow my map will be old and dated and that’s part of what I like about it.

On another note, I would have posted this sooner, except that my power was gone when I got home on Tuesday and I didn’t get it back until tonight (Friday).  My neighbor never paid the electric bill so they shut off my power.  They now put in a separate meter for my house, so I don’t have to rely on someone else paying the bill.  I don’t know if this means that I will have to pay an electric bill now or if the school will cover it, but I don’t care.  I will gladly pay an electric bill if it means my power won’t be out for 3 solid days.  The power being out was most troublesome for me because I can’t cook without power.  So I ate a lot at school (Matooke and beans…not ideal) and snacking a lot at home (wearing down on all the “rations” mom sent me).

June 30, 2011 6:30 PM

Today two guys from my school brought me furniture.  I now have a new couch and two arm chairs.  They are red valor.  I put the couch and one of the chairs in my sitting room and the other chair went in my spare bedroom.  This was a great surprise.  I don’t know why they brought this to me, but I’m really glad they did.  Getting a couch was something I was going to get, but I gave up on it, so it was really nice they brought me one.  Now all I need is for my bathroom to get finished and to get another table in my kitchen and my house would be all set.