Sunday, November 1, 2015

Another Birthday... and some thoughts

It has come and gone.....another birthday down in Uganda.
Last year was the first year I was actually alone on my birthday without family or friends. Matthew had gone back to America to be with his family during some hard times and I was left here in Uganda. It was hard for me to be alone on a day that is usually spent with friends and family, celebration and cake...I love cake. 

The past few month have been hard ones. They say that every Peace Corps experience is different. You can't judge yours based on anyone else; what they are doing, how many projects they complete or the relationships they form. This has been so true for me in so many aspects. I came into my service married, which was far different from the other single volunteers that swore in with us.  I spent my first year in Uganda with someone. It made it easier, I do not doubt, when it comes to cultural issues and having someone who understands your frustration, someone to joke with that actually gets your jokes, someone who understands you.

They showed us a roller coaster of emotions as they call it that generalizes the Peace Corps experience. I would always look at the picture and think....well that's not me. It wasn't me, it wasn't how I felt. Unlike the pictures that showed the ups and downs, moments of lows and highs, I hadn't felt that way. My first year of service was a high, slowly creeping up the tracks. Then it hit, in a blink of an eye. I had reached the top and was rushing down, faster and faster and deeper than I ever thought I could go. 

Needless to say, this year I told myself I would not be alone on my birthday and thanks to some amazing friends I have made, I wasn't. They trekked the now muddy, clay roads of Kibaale to spend the day with me. We enjoyed homemade lasagna made on the stove and chocolate fudge cake brought back from America. We joked about life here and dreamed about life back in America, we planned out our "enjoy the rest of Uganda" trips and talked about what comes next. It's hard to imagine how fast time really has gone by, especially these past 6 or so months, and now starts the "what am I going to do next" phase. Something I, as a major planner, am not ready to start looking into yet. I wasn't suppose to start thinking about this until next year, but with my new Close of Service date sooner than I imagined it is something I have to do. On the upside, my rapid downhill decent has slowed as I have reached the bottom for now. Now I am steadily, if at all, moving upward again to what I hope will be more highs before my service is over.

Another Birthday in Uganda

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Banda Island

A brief post on my weekend getaway to one of Lake Victoria's many islands and a check-off of one of my Ugandan Sites Bucket List. 

To get to the island, you must first get to a little dock town, for our case it was outside of Entebbe. We had booked a boat to take us out, but as it goes there was some miscommunication and we ended up having to take the local transport to the island. This meant going by one of this boats.

And having one of these porters carry us and our things to the boats.

After 4 hours on what was not a bad ride for an over-sized row boat we made it to Banda Island.

As far as the trip goes, it was a weekend of relaxing, taking a sail boat without the sail out on the lake with one paddle, sitting around a bonfire, eating some good fish and hanging out with friends.
We had the opportunity to venture to the other side of the island and meet some of the 400 or so locals. Of course the children were excited to see us and fought over holding our hands, in my case each holding a different one point I was sure I was going to loose one. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Visiting Another Volunteer

I have spent the majority of  my past year at my site getting to know the people and making it my home. This past weekend I ventured out and did something I have yet to do, I traveled to another volunteers site and got to see how she lives her day-to-day life. 

Travelling in Uganda, as I have said countless times, is not something I enjoy. It may be one of the real reasons I have decided to stay at my home and not travel as much as I could. Regardless, it is not usually a pleasurable experience. Travelling this past weekend was one of the easiest trips I have had so far. My counterpart was nice enough to offer to take me, meaning I didn't have to squeeze myself into a Toyota Corolla with 12 other people. 

Even though I hate travelling because of the transport, I love travelling because of the scenery. Uganda is beautiful; it is hands down one of the most beautiful places I have seen as far as natural beauty. My trips out to the villages for training always remind me why I love living here; besides the people who are amazing, the country itself is beautiful. My area is covered in forests and rolling green and rocky hills that dip down into swampy valleys filled with papyrus and it is common to look up and see monkey staring down at you as you pass by. Coming from the dry and desert landscape of Southwestern New Mexico, it is a complete 180. Travelling to visit my friend, I was reminded once again why I love Uganda. On the way as the previous post highlighted, I visited baby Lucky, who I met in what could have been a tragic ordeal a year ago. 

Burora Village, where my friend stays, is a nice sized village located about 15 minutes from a larger town where she can get items not found in the village, like bread and honey, and a hour and a half away from me. She has made the journey to visit me a couple of times and now it was my turn and I am happy I did.

After spending the first half of my service living with someone, the last few months have been a drastic change. It was nice to have some muzungu (foreigner, as in not from Uganda or the African Continent)  interactions. The trip was initially only for the weekend, but I ended up staying a few extra days to help with a nutrition and permigarden project she is doing with a church group. 


The Father (Catholic) she stays with tells us there is waterfall not far from her home. Knowing Ugandans well enough by now, we questioned the size, it could very well be a 3 foot fall....we were wrong and it did not disappoint us. Hidden only 30 minutes from the village is an actual waterfall, a double waterfall at that. How many feet I can't say as I am not the best at making estimates.... 

Teaching basic nutrition to lots of Ugandans is always fun.

This huge permigarden my friend has been working on. (This is only a small portion)

Teaching how to build local hand washing tippy taps. (One bottle has a soap and water mix, the other water)

This set-up she has at her home that they just installed. Bio Gas. It uses manure to create gas and for now is used for cooking. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Update: Miracles do Happen

About a year ago we shared the story of baby Emmanuel, who after only being brought into the world hours before, was thrown into a pit latrine in an attempt to end his short life.

Going back, it is crazy to think a year has already passed. Over the past year, I have received lots of questions about the event and many people asking how is he doing now. And for the past year, I have also thought about this little miracle and wondered about his fate....The truth is, for the past year I could not bring myself to visit him. In response, I would always just answer, "oh I heard he is doing great", but in reality, I had no idea how he was actually doing. It sounds bad, I know, but it was just something I could not bring myself to face.
The fear....I have heard horror stories of the conditions in many of children’s homes in Uganda and could not bring myself to see him survive only to live in such harsh conditions. It was easier to just imagine him living happily other than face the reality. I was afraid.

This past weekend I traveled to Burora, a small village about a hour and a half from my home, to visit another volunteer and saw the sign for the Children’s Home. I was traveling with my counterpart, who played a part in the newborn's rescue, and he asked if I wanted to stop in and see the baby.  I was very hesitant, in fact I almost said no but we made the turn and headed down the dirt road. So many things went through my mind, Is he still there or did they give him back to his mother?, What will it be like?..I hope it's not too bad., Is he ok?..I hope he doesn't have any long term effects from the fall.

As we pulled into the area compound, I noticed how clean and well maintained the area was. We were greeted by the director and taken around the facility for a short tour, as is customary for any visitors in Uganda. The facility itself is connected to a primary school where the children study from. There is a baby's home and dorm buildings where all the children stay. A peek into one of the dorms revealed one of the cleanest I have seen, and unlike others not stuffed full of beds wall to wall. When we stepped outside into the play yard we were greeted by dozens of excited children as they left to bring me Lucky, as he is now called.

As they walked over my eyes filled with tears to see him happy and healthy. This little baby, the one I had fought so hard to get out of his mother’s intended resting place and cared for in my home was healthy, happy and living in what I cannot believe even exists because it is such a wonderful place.
I spent awhile playing with the children, so many children, with so many different stories. Stories that make you wonder about people and how they can do such things to precious little children. 
I learned that I was Lucky's first visitor. In one whole year, no one else had come to visit him but I am happy I did. The fear I had about his life is gone, because at least for now I know he is being cared and loved for. 

I found out the organization is actually based out of Tulsa, small world, and they are funded through donations and volunteers. The founders came to Uganda years ago and fell in love with the people and decided to give to the community by supporting a baby's home. Well, I sure am grateful they are here and next time someone asks I can say he is doing just fine.