Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21, 2012 9:00 AM--They Just Keep Coming Back

A few weeks ago I saw two crested cranes in my backyard.  For anyone who doesn’t know, the crested crane is Uganda’s national bird.  They even appear on the Ugandan flag.  Up until that point I had never seen any up close like that outside of the national parks.  I never even thought I would, especially because I live so close to the main road.  Since that first sighting, I’ve seen them at least a half dozen more times.  Now I’m just assuming that they are the same two, but I feel like considering I’ve never seen any here before, they probably are the same one’s coming back.  So I guess I’m just wondering if I’m going to keep seeing them or if they’ll eventually move on.  I hope they stay, because I love watching them and it is just so pleasant to wake up in the morning and see crested cranes in your backyard!

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20, 2012 9:40 AM--Sports in Uganda

Ugandans often enjoy sports, but not usually the same sports that Americans would normally watch.  The English Premier League is probably the biggest thing in sports here.  Ugandans love football (aka soccer).  Sometimes I think people like teams like Manchester United more than they like the Ugandan Cranes (Uganda’s national football team).  Almost everyone here finds an allegiance to one premier league team.  It is kind of like how Americans are loyal to their local sports teams, except the premier league teams aren’t local.

Occasionally Ugandans get into American sports, but the American sports that they will watch are not what you might expect.  Sometimes Ugandans will watch basketball or even golf.  Many Ugandans even know who Tiger Woods is.  However, they don’t know what American football and baseball are.  I’ve tried explaining both to people here and they just think that Football is the same as rugby and baseball is the same as cricket.  This can also be seen as kind of funny, because you can often see people wearing t-shirts and hats with AmericanFootball and Baseball team logos on them.  Although this just goes to the fact that many Ugandans wear clothes with American brands and logos on them without understanding anything about what they mean.  It blows my mind that they know so much about America, but they have no idea about America’s two biggest sports.  Personally, I find this a bit depressing because my love for the Philadelphia Phillies is not usually understood by Ugandans because they don’t even know what baseball is.  It’s also a little mind boggling because the Ugandan little league team qualified to go to the little league world series last year, yet the average Ugandan doesn’t even know what baseball is.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17, 2012 5:45 PM--African History

I’m often asked by Ugandans the differences between schools here and schools in America.  One time I was asked what students in America learn in history class.  The answer shocked them.  I told them that we learn American history and “World history”.  I explained that we usually learn about European history, but not much more than that.  I was then asked what we learn about African history and I had to explain that we don’t really get much African history, that we learn more just African geography, if anything.  The response I got was all too appropriate… “Do we not have history here in Africa?”  I didn’t quite know how to respond.

Students here learn about a lot more history than students in America do.  Ugandan students learn about African history, European history, American history, and even some Asian history I think.  Why don’t students in America learn African history?  I remember when I was in high school in Philadelphia this problem in history curriculums came up (mostly just in public schools), because in the city of Philadelphia there are more African American students than any other race (in the city as a whole) and yet they didn’t learn their own history.  I think if Americans got more of well-rounded history lesson throughout their schooling maybe people wouldn’t be so ignorant about Africa.  They wouldn’t think that South Africa and Africa are the same thing.  They would understand the difference between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.  They would realize things like the fact that Rwanda is safe to travel to because what happened there in 1994 is no longer happening.  They would also understand the similarities and differences between Africa and wherever they live in America.  I think all of this is incredibly important to come out as a well-adjusted adult who makes educated decisions.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12, 2012 8:30 AM

So my parents will be here in about 3 weeks (as long as my Dad gets his birth certificate and passport **fingers crossed**)!!  Then my vacation begins!  They will be here at the very end of my Mid-Service Conference.  We are going to Murchison Falls for a few days, then we fly to Tanzania and spend about 3 days in Zanzibar and after that we are flying to Madagascar where we are spending about a week.  This should be a lot of fun and it will be my first big trip since being here!

This is one of the biggest benefits in Peace Corps.  You get 2 vacation days for every month you serve (about 48 in total), so you can travel around.  This gives you a chance to explore the countries that are nearby (or even the ones that aren’t nearby) and a chance to go home to visit if you want.  Me, I prefer the former.  I don’t intend to go home for any reason, so I’m just gonna travel until every last vacation day is used.  So far, I’ve only been to Rwanda, but I have this trip planned with my parents in May and a few other perspective trips as well.  Hopefully, I’ll be meeting my mom in Tunisia for about 10 days in October (Happy 25th Birthday to Me!!) and then between December and January I hope to be travelling for almost a month.  If everything works out, I’ll be going to Dar es Salaam for Christmas and Zanzibar for New Years (yes, again) with a large group of people from my training group as one last hooray before we COS (Close of Service).  After that a smaller group of us are planning on going to Cape Town, where I’m hoping I have a couple of friends from home meet me.  And after Cape Town, I intend to go to Victoria Falls before heading back to Uganda whether anyone wants to come or not.  Now I’m just hoping all my plans work out.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 2012 11:20 AM--Book Review: The White Masai

Peace Corps is a great place to get a lot of reading in.  Some volunteers will even read an unfathomable amount of books in their two years.  And, I guess, you can say that those who don’t have power end up reading more than those with power, but nonetheless the majority of volunteers read a massive amount of books.

All this reading also leads to a plethora of books at my disposal.  Many volunteers, including myself, have Kindles, but there are still many who read paper books.  And even those with Kindles often read paper books, because there is such a wealth of good books floating around.

This past weekend I went to Jinja to celebrate Easter.  On my way to Mbarara (the very beginning of my journey), I realized that I forgot my Kindle, which at first was very upsetting.  So, when I got to town I stopped at the Peace Corps resource room to pick up another book to read for the weekend.  I ended up taking two books, with at least a handful of others that I wanted, because there were too many good books to choose from.

One of the books that I took was called The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann.  It was so good that I managed to finish it in two days (which is unheard of for me because I’m a fairly slow reader).  So if from nothing else but the swiftness at which I read this book, you can tell it was pretty good.  It’s about a Swiss woman who marries a Masai warrior.  It’s very interesting because it talks about many of the unique customs and traditions of the Masai.

So with all these reading options we’ll see what my book record becomes by the end of two years.  So far, I think I’ve read about 15 or 20 books.  I know it won’t be a Peace Corps record, because I know people who have already read more than a hundred.  But for me, maybe it will be a personal record.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1, 2012 9:00 AM--Living on a Dollar a Day

“X amount of people live on less than a dollar a day”.  This is a statement that I feel is thrown around all too often.  In fact, it is a statement that I get quite sick of hearing.  Yes there are so many people in the world that live on less than a dollar a day, but you can’t take it the same as saying “X amount of people IN THE U.S. live on less than a dollar a day”.  THAT, I think would be an interesting statistic.

When someone gives you that statistic of however many people in the world live on less than a dollar a day, they are trying to play on your sympathy and on your ignorance.  Many Americans (or westerns in general) don’t realize how easy it is to live on less than a dollar a day in some countries.  For example, here in Uganda the currency (the Ugandan Shilling) has a very low value, especially compared to a dollar.  $1 is currently equal to 2500 USH.  Many volunteers, including myself, often refer to it as Monopoly money because of its low value.  So to live on 2500 shillings a day is not that difficult.  I wouldn’t say it is a high standard of living, but it is definitely not as extreme as you think.  I would say that I’ve even had days where I’ve lived on less than a dollar.  Not out of need (like many local people), but just not living extravagantly (as I often do). 

Many Ugandans will ask me how much it would cost for them to live in the U.S. and when I tell them they don’t believe me.  They can’t believe that a person could make so much money that they could live in the U.S.  I think this is part of why many locals think that America is a Utopia, because people make more money than they can fathom.  Little do they realize how much of that money goes to their personal cost of living.  So I guess you could say that the pendulum swings both ways.  Americans don’t understand the cost of living in Uganda and Ugandans don’t understand the cost of living in America.

So the next time someone gives the statistic of how many people in this world live on less than a dollar a day, try to put it in context to get a feel for what they are actually telling you, because odds are they are trying to convince you of something that is rather normal in many parts of the world.