Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013 3:40 PM

In a typical day of a white person in Uganda, you will hear someone yell “Mzungu”, which literally means “white person”, at you at least once.  This is totally normal.  However, I’ve found that if you wear certain articles of clothing you could have other things yelled at you instead.  These comments still annoy me, but I do prefer them over being called mzungu.  Some of these other comments include but are not limited to:

   1.)    If I’m wearing a football jersey of any kind, I will get comments based on which jersey it is.  For example, if I wear my Chelsea jersey I get “CHELSEA” yelled at me (if only my name was Chelsea).  Wearing my Zanzibar jersey I get “ZANZIBAR” (or for the less literate “ZAMBIA”).  Even when I wear my Uganda jersey I get “UGANDA”.

This kind of attention I don’t usually enjoy.  It is better than being called Mzungu, but it is still not wanted.  If I was a Ugandan wearing the same thing, nothing would be said.  And it is very common to see Ugandans wearing Chelsea and Uganda jersey.



2.) If I’m wearing a Peace Corps shirt of any kind, people may walk past me and say “Peace” or “Peace CorPS” (pronouncing every letter).

      3.)    I have a hat with the number “1” on it (yes, there is a story behind the hat) and when I wear this sometimes people will even say “One” as I walk past.

These last two instances are less annoying because it is basically Ugandans just reading out loud what they should really just be reading internally.  They aren’t really yelling it at you.  It’s more something that maybe you’re not even meant to hear.

If you couldn’t tell, discrimination is rampant here in Uganda.  It’s not always malicious or even understood, for that matter.  It is simply a learned behavior that is totally acceptable to most Ugandans.  It’s only when you are called “Mzungu” by someone who knows your name that it is really understood to be rude.

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013 10:15 AM—COS Trip!

After I officially COS on April 24th, I’m planning on travelling for about 2 months in Europe.  I think my itinerary is finally set.  I fly into Casablanca on April 24th.  So here is my itinerary:

Casablanca, Morocco—April 24-25
Fez, Morocco—April 25-26
Tangier, Morocco—April 26-27

Taking the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar

Granada, Spain—April 27-29
Seville, Spain—April 29-30
Faro, Portugal—April 30-May 2
Lisbon, Portugal—May 2-4

Taking the night train from Lisbon to Madrid and then a day train from Madrid to Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain—May 5-6
Lyon, France—May 6-8
Geneva, Switzerland—May 8-9
Lucerne, Switzerland—May 9-10
Munich, Germany—May 10-13
Salzburg, Austria—May 13-15
Innsbruck, Austria—May 15-16
Verona, Italy—May 16-17
Naples, Italy—May 17-20

Taking the ferry from the Italian Adriatic coast to Zadar, Croatia

Zagreb, Croatia—May 21-23
Budapest, Hungary—May 23-25
Vienna, Austria—May 25-28
Prague, Czech Republic—May 28-30
Krakow, Poland—May 30-June 2
Warsaw, Poland—June 2-3

Taking the ferry from Northern Germany to Malmo, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden—June 4-7
Copenhagen, Denmark—June 7-10
Cologne, Germany—June 10-12
Luxembourg, Luxembourg—June 12-13
Paris, France—June 13-15
Normandy, France—June 15-17
Bruge, Belguim—June 17-19
Amsterdam, Netherlands—June 19-21

Taking the ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle, England

Newcastle, UK—June 22-23
York, UK—June 23-24
Manchester, UK—June 24-25
Liverpool, UK—June 25-26

Taking the ferry from Liverpool to Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, UK/Northern Irish Coast—June 27-29
Dublin, Ireland—June 29-July 2

This trip is about 70 days long.  My Dad’s going to meet me in Naples and leave after Amsterdam.  So he will be with me from May 17th to June 21st.  If anyone is interested in meeting me for any of the rest of the trip, let me know.  Looks like I’ll be home in a little more than 5 months!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013 4:00 PM—Sipi Falls

After my COS Conference ended I took the opportunity to travel up to Sipi Falls considering I was already in the East.  Sipi Falls is a series of 3 (or in my opinion, more than 3) waterfalls that are at the base of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda somehow near the Kenyan boarder.  It was one of the few things I had never done in this country and almost everyone else I know raves about it, so I wanted to see what the big deal is.  It was beautiful!!!!  The hike was a bit more challenging than everyone led me to believe, but nonetheless I was fully capable and it was totally worth it.  I stayed at a place called The Crows Nest which is a hostel/campsite that was started by a Peace Corps volunteer back in the day.  That whole area was really pretty and it was nice that it wasn’t very touristy.  I would definitely suggest Sipi Falls to anyone who comes to Uganda.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 24, 2013 9:30 AM—COS Date!

So it’s official!  I got my COS (Close of Service) date!  I can officially leave this country for good as an RPCV (Return Peace Corps Volunteer) as of April 24th.  So that means I have exactly 3 months left of being here.

I plan to be home by July 1st.  My trip itinerary is still not quite finalized yet, but I will post more details soon.

Something small to add to this post I took from a Tumblr page called What Should Peace Corps Volunteers Call Me.  For the most part the posts on this page are not funny to anyone who isn't a Peace Corps volunteer, but this one that I posted below should be amusing to most people.

When I got my official invitation to Peace Corps

When I got my official COS date

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 2013—Swearing-In

Today was the Swearing-in ceremony for the new volunteers.  As a Peace Corps volunteer trainer, I was invited to attend.  It was really nice seeing them all get to become actual volunteers.  I actually felt like it took me full circle in my Peace Corps service, especially because these are the first education volunteers to be sworn-in since all of my group swore-in.  I feel one step closer to leaving now that we have passed off the torch to the new volunteers.

Some of the nicest aspects of the ceremony and the reception were:

1.)    We got to go to the Ambassador’s house
I had never been there before nor had I ever met the Ambassador.  He also had some awesome dogs!
2.)    Many of the trainees had locally made outfits
They got local fabric and many of the girls had new dresses, plus the guys had anything from shirts to bow ties made out of local fabric
3.)    Speeches were given by a few of the volunteers
One of the volunteers even read for us “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.  The other two speaks included many thank yous and appreciations for everyone in Peace Corps and all of those who helped with training.
4.)    Food
The best finger foods are always given at Swearing-in including chicken and beef on a stick, spring rolls, fish fingers and mini pizzas.  They also had a variety of beverages, such as juice and soda

Overall, I think it was a great day for everyone, the new volunteers and us, as their trainers.  A few quotes that sum up the day:

“Their success is your success as well.”

Volunteer (to trainee): Are you glad to be done finally?
Me: They aren’t done.  They are just beginning!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

January 15, 2013 3:00 PM—COS Conference

So my COS conference is fast approaching, which is very exciting!  COS stands for Close of Service.  This is basically when we finish Peace Corps and we are all free people again.  Our COS Conference is a get-together that we have as a group about 3 months before we COS.  It’s a time for us to share many of our successes from the last two years, look to our own personal futures and have one last hurrah as a group.  This conference is next week from the 22nd to the 25th and it will be at Jinja Nile Resort.  Generally Peace Corps splurges on COS conferences.  I guess it is like a “way-to –go you made it two years”, so they send us somewhere nice. 

The biggest thing that happens at our COS conference is that we get our official COS date.  Currently there are 32 people left in my original training group of 44 and 2 of those are extending their service for another year (Crazy People!).  That leaves 30 of us COSing, but we don’t all leave on the same day because it is too much for the Peace Corps office to process, so we will gradually all COS over the course of about 2 months.  Our COS date for our group is April 22nd, which is 2 years to the day from when we swore-in as volunteers.  So what that means is that we can COS from up to 30 days before and 30 days after that date.  So we will start leaving on March 22nd and it will probably continue through to about mid-May, because they only COS about 4 people a week.

This is a point of stress for a lot of people because so many of us are mentally finished and so ready to leave.  There may possibly be a battle royal at our COS conference next week, but I have faith that everything will work out the way that it should.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 9, 2013—Another Christmas Down in Africa (Part 6)

So I’m finally back at site after my massively long journey!  First things first…Ethiopia!

For the last leg of our Christmas vacation we flew from Dar to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.  We only had about 4 days in Ethiopia so we stayed in the capital the whole time.  Nonetheless it was amazing!  Ethiopia is not like the rest of East Africa.  It is a place unto itself.  Ethiopia was one of the only countries in Africa that was never colonized by the Europeans, so it is very rich in its own culture.  However, it was occupied by the Italians (apparently the Italians weren't very good at taking over) so there is A LOT of really good Italian food in Ethiopia.  Another interesting fact…Christmas is celebrated in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church when most other Christian religions celebrate the Epiphany.  So this year I had 2 Christmases down in Africa!  Religion in Ethiopia seems to be a bigger thing than it does even here in Uganda, which is surprising because most of Uganda is very religious.  There was also a very strong Middle Eastern influence there and white people were not singled out nearly as much.  All in all, Ethiopia, from what I saw, seemed like an awesome place.

While we were there we took a very laid back approach.  We went to two different museums, The National Museum and The Ethnological Museum.  We saw Lucy, the oldest human remains ever found.  And we ate a lot of Ethiopian food and Italian food.

Bottom line…I think I have to go back to Ethiopia and do the whole Northern circuit to fully see what that country really has to offer.  This was just a small taste of what is there.

Now I’m back at site, but I’m only here for less than a week, because next week I’m going back to training.  I have to talk to the trainees about VAC (the Volunteer Action Committee) and I’m attending their swearing-in.  Before I know it I will know the date when I’m leaving this country seeing as my COS conference is in less than 2 weeks.  Things are about to get real!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January 1, 2013 9:30 AM—Another Christmas Down in Africa (Part 5)

Happy New Year!!  Last night we rang in the New Year in Zanzibar!  We spent New Year’s Eve Snorkeling.  We took a boat out to three different islands and saw two different reefs.  We also had an amazing seafood lunch on one of the islands.  I got to see some really cool fish.  I saw a few star fish and fish that look like zebra.  There were even schools of fish.  We also got to spend some time just chilling on the beach.

Tomorrow we are taking the ferry back to Dar and flying to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.  My trip is coming to an end, but it’s not over yet.