Monday, April 15, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 15, 2013 (Day 27)

Name: Michelle Claus

Age: 24

Home State: Michigan

What she did before Peace Corps: Seasonal work for the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon

Program Sector: Community Economic Development

Number of months spent in Uganda: 11

Host Organization: Miranda Memorial Primary School

Site location: Southwest region, Rukungiri District, Kigina Village

Language spoken at her site: Runyankore

A couple of the students at Michelle's school
Michelle is working with Miranda Memorial Primary School, which was started in 2006 by two Ugandan sisters after returning from living in the U.S. for 20 years. It is the only school with a bus in Rukungiri. Along with the school they also have an internet café and an Orange phone store in town to help fund the costs for running the school. “My primary project is to help the school grow by creating IGAs [Income Generating Activities], improving water/ sanitation, helping with the organization of the school, and give the students more opportunities to learn. I recently implemented school clubs into the curriculum, dug a compost and rubbish pit, organized the office and I am developing a way to keep track of supplies more efficiently, and we are currently in the process of designing and building a cafeteria/ teacher’s lounge. At my site it’s been difficult being a CED (Community Economic Development) volunteer placed at a school. I feel like I am a late bloomer in the fact that I haven’t been able to start anything on my primary project until a month ago when school started again.”

In addition to her primary project Michelle is also in the process of organizing a fitness class at the school for community members twice a week. She is also a co-director for the upcoming National Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) that will be happening in August. Last year she also helped plan a World Aids day event in Rukungiri.

Michelle does all of her food shopping in Rukungiri Town at the local market there and the supermarket. She can get almost anything she needs as long as it’s in season. Michelle gets her water from a rainwater tank about 30 feet from her house in the rainy season. In the dry season she has to walk about a quarter mile to the school and get her water from their well. Michelle’s house doesn’t have electricity; however there is power at school if she needs to charge things.

Michelle’s favorite thing about her site is the location of her site. She is in a quite area, but she is close enough to town that she can get almost anything she needs. She has trouble naming one favorite moment at site but she loves seeing the faces of the students when they run up to greet her. Her biggest challenges at site are learning the local language and living in such close proximity to the students who board at the school.


This morning I left Tara's house at around 9 AM and got a taxi going to Rukungiri. Rukungiri is almost directly south of Ishaka however, to go direct you have to take a back road. So I got in a taxi that goes on the dirt road. I was previously warned about how bumpy it was going to be, but I didn't mind. So the taxi left at around 9:30 and was fully loaded.

As we drove along people were getting out here and there, so after about 45 minutes we only had about 3 passengers in the vehicle (Note: a full load for a car taxi is about 8 or 9 passengers not including the driver). We finally stopped in a small trading center and everyone else in the car got out. I kind of assumed that I would have to switch taxis based on what was occurring, but I was being difficult and decided to just sit there until someone told me otherwise. Finally someone came over and opened my door, but I still sat there until they vocalized what they wanted. So I got into another taxi and waited for it to fill. After about an hour of waiting, everyone got in the car and we left. The annoying part about waiting was that all the people who eventually got in the taxi were all there the whole time. I could tell we were in a really rural area based on how people were acting and how I was being treated. People in the taxi kept greeting me in the local language as if I was a monkey that does tricks. They just couldn't believe that I understood them. After two years, this is still annoying and really rude, especially when adults do it. I also had someone behind me periodically pulling on my hair. Ugandans are fascinated by “white people” hair, but it is still rude to grab someone's hair, especially without asking. And the final straw for today was that one of the people sitting in the front of this car with me was holding onto the handle above my door, basically taking up all my head space and he simply didn't care.

The view of Rukungiri from the restaurant where we ate lunch
Nonetheless, I finally made it to Rukungiri after about 3 hours and I met up with Michelle. When I got here, we first went to a restaurant for lunch. After lunch, Michelle gave me a quick tour of town. She introduced me to people she knew in town and she showed me the Orange store that her school owns and the internet cafe that is attached to it.

After our tour of town, we went to Jake's house to drop my things off. This is where we are staying tonight and I didn't want to have to carry my heavy bags around anymore. Once I dropped my stuff we headed out to Michelle's site. She showed me her house and her school. Her house is really cute. It is kind of small, but she has it done up really nice. She even painted the walls when she first arrived.

Michelle with one of the students from her school and her supervisor's dog, Big Dog
Then we went to her school. The kids were so cute. Many of them wanted to hold our hands and follow us around. So Michelle gave me a tour of the school and showed me some of the things she has done there since she arrived. It is a rather small school with less than 200 students and it is also a private school, so it is a bit better off than many of the government funded school's in this country. Michelle also has many good ideas on how to improve the school.

Once we finished seeing the school, we headed back towards town to Jake's house. We are now just hanging out for the rest of the day and we will eventually make dinner. I'm really excited about staying at Jake's house because he has a hot shower and even a refrigerator. His house is really large and just the two of us are staying here tonight, so it should be quite nice.

The view of Rukungiri Town from Michelle's village

Tomorrow I'm going to Alia's site in Kisizi and after that I'll make my way down to Kabale and Lake Bunyonyi. The project is almost finished, but we're not there yet.

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