Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012 12:30 PM

As I went up to school today, I noticed that the computer lab was already open.  So, naturally, I looked in to see who was using it.  I often feel a bit protective of it because when things get disorganized or destroyed it impedes on my classes.  Anyway, the reason the lab was open was because they had brought in new computer desks this morning!  Last term, the school had chopped down quite a few trees in order to get the lumber, but I wasn’t sure what they were going to use it for.  Apparently, they were making desks for the computer lab and tables for the staff room.  But when I found out we were getting desks, I figured they would just be regular tables and I also thought I wouldn’t get that many tables.  But instead we got actual computer desks and there are enough to accommodate at least 30 computers!  They have partitions to indicate where each computer workspace should be.  This may seem somewhat inconsequential, but it isn’t.  Normally the tables in the computer lab can be taken from the lab and used for different events and functions in different places.  This is the main reason the lab gets disorganized and destroyed.  But because of the way these are designed, they are not very likely to be able to use them for anything but computers.  They are also nicely stained in a reddish-brown color.  They look really nice.  Hopefully over the next couple weeks I’ll get the okay to move the few computers we have to these new desks, because as it is, the old computers are still on the old tables.  Not only are the new desks in the way of the old tables but the old tables are also not wide enough for a computer.  You can tell they are just makeshift.  They are not meant for computers.

All of this is so exciting because it means the school is really trying.  They are preparing to get new computers.  All I need now is for my grant to actually go through.  Sometimes I doubt whether it will ever go through.  Not only is this just disappointing because we won’t get new computers, but it will also be very discouraging to the school because they are doing so many preparations for these computers.  I would feel really awful if we couldn’t get the grant and the computers.  I guess I should try harder to work this out with Peace Corps.  At least now, if I get the computers I’ll have desks for them.  Before, I was a little afraid if I did get computers that we would have nothing to put them on.  This is no longer a concern.  For now, we are putting one foot in front of the other and celebrating the small achievements.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25, 2012 8:30 PM

Just this week I was asked to help co-direct Camp Glow in the West.  We are having the camp in Fort Portal in August.  We need to submit the grant proposal soon, so we’ve been working on it to hopefully submit it this week.  This camp will have about 80 female campers from the age of 12 to 15.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to take a few girls from my school, because all the girls for this camp glow will be from the West and Southwest region of the country.  This should be a good project and it should keep me pretty busy for the next few months.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012 5:00 PM

As many people know, I hit my one year mark about a month ago.  It’s funny how much you can adapt to a society in a year.  I find myself doing things that many Ugandans do that I was initially appalled by and I don’t even think twice about it. 

For example, I often throw trash on the ground or out the window of a bus or taxi.  This may sound awful, but the reality of it is that there isn’t any kind of trash receptacles, anywhere!  I guess after a while you get used to the fact that things like this are totally acceptable and there is no other practical alternative.  You just get used to it eventually.

Another example is that I’ve started arriving to meeting late.  This is not because I don’t value timeliness or that I have so little respect for the people I’m meeting with that I can’t show up on time.  The fact of the matter is that if I show up on time, I end up wasting at least an hour or two (or three or four) of my own time.  I would rather run the chance of showing up a few minutes after the meeting has started (which is never the time that was initially stated) than waste my time.  My time is worth more than that.  And as it turns out, showing up for meetings late is so common here that no even thinks twice when you show up late.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17, 2012

It's official!!  Kevin and Alyssa are coming in August!!!!  I have no idea what we are going to do while they are here, yet, but we have 152 days to figure it out.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March 14, 2012 8:15 AM

Sometimes things seem to change here on a daily basis.  As of the beginning of this week I was still only teaching Senior 2 computers, but now I’m teaching Senior 1, Senior 2, Senior 5.  Luckily there is only one stream for both Senior 1 and Senior 5, although I have a lot more girls taking computers in Senior 5 than I expected.  In Senior 5, each student takes three principle subjects.  If one of those subjects isn’t math then they have to take a subsidiary subject of either math or computers.  So computers is somewhat voluntary.  I have 48 girls who are willing taking computers!  I think that’s bigger than any other stream I have.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11, 2012 8:00 PM--Compromising Principles

Being here and travelling around so much has caused me to give up on some of my principles, especially when it comes to certain electronic devices.

I never used to understand why people needed a device like a Kindle.  Are people really too lazy to carry around a book if they want to read?  Do we really need to read on a screen as opposed to reading on paper?  I think that a lot of people have Kindles (and other similar devices) because they think it’s cool because it is the latest technology.  But being here where I can’t get any book I want like in America, travelling around so much and having a lot of time to read, I find having a Kindle very useful.  If I want a certain book I don’t have to wait for someone to mail it to me (which can take weeks).  I just buy it on Amazon, download it, and put it on my Kindle.  It couldn’t be easier.

Another device that I never liked when I was back home but have now found a need for, is a netbook.  I used to find netbooks more annoying than useful.  With the smaller keyboard it was more difficult to type and the smaller screen made it more difficult to see what you were doing.  But I think I only needed to travel around with my 15”+ computer a few times to realize when these netbooks would be useful.  Today, in fact, I just ordered an Acer netbook that my parents are going to bring me in May.  Travelling here is hard enough, I don’t need any extra pounds to be lugging around with me.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t know if I will still like these devices when I go home.  I may find them as useless as before.  But for now, especially with all the travelling I do and will do, these devices have found a purpose in my life.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6, 2012 5:00 PM

Today we had a visitor at school during lunch that was pretty interesting.  He was working with an organization that is trying to prevent counterfeiting money.  So he did a short presentation in the staff room about how Ugandans have been counterfeiting money and how you can tell if money is counterfeit.  He said that counterfeit money is often times passed off in taxis.  The taxi conductor will either put some counterfeit bills in you change when you pay for your ride or he will ask if anyone can break a large bill, but that large bill will be counterfeit.  He also said that another place that money is counterfeited here is in banks (believe it or not!).  In the banks when someone deposits money the bank checks to see if the money they are receiving is counterfeit, but when someone is withdrawing money the bank teller never checks the money going out.  I’m assuming he was insinuating that the bank teller is putting in fake money and keeping the real money he or she should have given to the customer. 

All of this was a little eye-opening but what I found most interesting was that this man was telling us that part of the reason for the extremely high inflation last year was because there was so much counterfeit money introduced into the economy.  And with a greater money supply the price of goods goes up.  I guess I never realized how much money was counterfeit in this country.

Another good thing that happened today is that I think I finally got the ball rolling on my grant project for the computer lab.  Peace Corps told me that they still don’t have money for that kind of grant, but that it would probably be there by the end of the month.  And my school has started to ask about it again.  My Headteacher even told me today that he has a bit of a plan on how to accomplish this.  I wrote up a draft for the grant proposal and he wants me to sit down with a few of the teachers and work out all the details and perfect it.  Then I can submit it to Peace Corps.  He was also talking about opening up a bank account for the project, so that the Old Girls Association (that’s the alumni) can deposit the money they have already have for the project.  This is something that Peace Corps requires we do for the grant project, so it was nice to know that they Headteacher was really thinking about this.  There was a point where I had practically given up on this project because things weren’t going right.  And there were also many times where I found the project to be more discouraging than inspiring.  But now I’m back in it!

My Headteacher also asked me today (for the first time) if my contract was able to be extended (aka can I stay longer than one more year).  Don’t worry, I’m not staying!  But it was nice hearing him say that he wanted me to stay longer.  That in and of itself almost inspires me to try to do more while I’m still here.  I told him that I couldn’t stay (a little white lie), but that he could always apply for another volunteer and maybe Peace Corps would send someone else after I leave, either right after or a few years down the line.  Many of the other teachers have asked me this before and the girls have asked me as well, but never the headteacher.  Many of the girls were actually asking me last week how much longer I was going to be here and if I could stay longer.  Currently I’m teaching computers in Senior 2, but it is not required for the students to take in Senior 3.  So the girls were telling me that if I wasn’t going to be here for the entirety of next year to teach them, that they didn’t want to take computers because it was too hard.  Now there is a new challenge for me to conquer before I leave…how to inspire the girls to take computers even if I’m not their teacher.  I guess I still have a year to figure that out.