Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hello and how is there? For me, I am trying, slowly by slowly, as they say here. The journey from America back to Uganda was anything but quick and easy. There was a twelve-hour layover in Chicago, and then a turbulence-filled, ten and a half hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. I spent my four-hour layover here charging my laptop and doing a little bit of shopping in the duty-free shops. I bought some nice soap and one of those fancy Chinese style fans that fold up nicely. Then there was a red eye flight from Istanbul to Entebbe, Uganda, and we touched down on African soil at two in the morning, at last! I was feeling very relieved, as I was becoming slightly delirious from lack of sleep (I can’t sleep on airplanes, even with Benadryl). And then! Then, only one of my bags arrived with our plane in Uganda! I had to get a room in Kampala for the next three nights while I waited for Turkish Airlines to send it on the next flight. I finally got it back, travelled back to my village, six days after I left Rhode Island. Oh, the humanity! The humanity!!! Since then, I’ve gone back out to town for some food shopping, and one other trip to another volunteer’s site near Kampala for a 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Our team, the Jive Turkeys, placed 3rd out of ten teams, not bad I’d say. After all of this activity, I’ve been happily back at site in the village for the last couple of weeks. It is nice and quiet compared to the last three months of my life.
So, what have I been doing here, you ask? Oh, well thanks for asking! I’ve been settling back into life in the village… taking care of my plants, feeding Pearl and watching her eat the catnip growing in front of the porch and then playing with some birds, strumming the guitar, running a bit, and just relaxing. That is, when I’m not taking care of business! Business has been starting a third microfinance group with thirty of the community members (a fourth in the works!), and managing the first contract water tank that our business is building. We are building it at the primary school next door to the Health Centre, and as I write this, we have just ended the first day of brick making. Also, I’ve started a project the likes of which I’ve been pining to do for some good stretch of time now. I’ve been working with some students from the primary school on a school gardening club! We have a big composting operation, we’ve planted some border plants along the future fence line, and we’ve set some garden pathways so far! We’ve also done some container planting of moringa trees, because the rainy season hasn’t really gotten fully underway, and as we wait for the fence to be built we are having a problem with goats eating plants. Just being able to get involved with teaching some hands-on organic agricultural work with kids is a real joy for me. I mean, we’re collecting food waste from all over the village for composting and the kids love it! That rocks!
So that’s my life in a nutshell right now. I love being in the village, not going anywhere for weeks at a time, and getting the most out of my Peace Corps experience, knowing that it won’t last forever. Being a PCV creates the experience of a different lifetime, condensed and filled with an array of events and emotions that come only through the 27 months of life abroad. It is a true testament to the endless possibilities of life’s journey. Sometimes I think about reapplying as soon as I return to the states, maybe heading to South America or Polynesia. Or Mongolia… But then I think of friends and family back home and it’s hard to imagine life without them for another two years. The ocean, the seasons of New England, the food, the culture! Anyways, there is still time to create, to discover the way.
In closing, I’d like to wish you all well through the end of winter and beyond! Time to start planting indoors, tuning up the motorcycles, and buffing that windsurfer! As always, looking forward to any questions or comments, and may the force be with you!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hey guys! Sorry to be a bit late in sending this, as always, there have been obstacles in the way of getting stuff done here. But I’m glad to have the time to sit down and write to you now (sending it is another issue!).
I’ve read all of your letters to me, thanks for writing to me with all of those great questions. I’ve done my best in responding to each of you. It’s really great to be able to share this experience with you through these letters. Also, Miss Fusco and I are trying to find a good time to skype, so that we can all see each other face to face soon!
Alright, let me tell you all a little bit about what has been happening with me in Uganda lately. I remember writing the last letter to you and thinking that it wasn’t all that positive, and that I wasn’t really having a great time with things here. Well, I’m happy to say that my attitude has gotten a lot better since then. I think it’s because I’ve gotten back to my village and have been warmly welcomed by everyone here, combined with the work going pretty good lately. Oh and one other thing too, but I have to keep that a secret for a little while :)
Being back in my village is like being back at home with family and friends. Almost all of the frustrations of being a white person in Uganda, alone and stared at constantly, the object of everyone’s attention, has left me when I return to the village where everyone knows me and is glad that I’m around. I can sleep in my own bed again, and I can make myself afternoon tea whenever I please. I can go and play in my garden, spreading mulch and picking a few veggies here and there. The sunflowers are a warm welcome back, and the strawberries too!
Now that I’m back in my village, I can get back to work as well. The work that I came here to do. FINALLY, the grant money has come for me to begin the biggest project I am undertaking in my time here, that of making bricks and water tanks as a business for my health centre. It’s intimidating and I’m a bit nervous about it, but at last it is under way, and I am committed to doing the best I can with it. I just ordered the machine to make bricks, which cost about $1,600. Soon we will build a 20,000 Liter water tank at the health centre in order to train our workers to build the tanks.
Also, I’ve been working with a group in the village to do some micro-finance activities. It’s called a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). Every saturday, we meet and the people put some small money into savings, and other members use that money to take out small loans, which they pay back with interest. In the beginning, we had some problems with keeping records of everything, but we have really improved since then and we now have meetings that run quite well. That really helps me feel good about the work I’m doing. There are even several people who want to start another group to do the same thing, since they have heard good things about our group.
I mentioned earlier the garden I have been keeping. This has given me something really nice to do when I have finished my work for the day, which often can be after only a few hours in the morning. I’m growing lots and lots of different things, many of which are tropical species like vanilla, tomato tree, coffee, papaya, avocado, coconut, and aloe vera. And I’m learning so much in the garden lately, like how to save the seeds from many different kinds of plants. I’m also growing lots of herbs, like basil, thyme, cilantro, dill, and lavender. We are soon putting up a sign to encourage villagers to visit the garden and learn from it.
So I think you can see from what I’ve written that I’ve become much happier recently with life in Uganda. I am now midway through service here, and every day I think about how fortunate I am to be able to have this experience. I know it’s going to be over before I know it, so I am really appreciating my time here lately. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what to do after I leave Uganda, and I have a tentative plan. I am thinking of going back to school for environmental engineering. This would allow me to pursue my interests in helping people to better manage the natural resources like air and water quality, or advising for waste management, or for providing guidance in environmental stewardship. I admit that I am intimidated also by the difficulty of pursuing an engineering degree, but I think we all need to challenge ourselves if we’re going to achieve our goals in life.
I’m getting a cat tomorrow also, which means I’ll have had it for probably a few days by the time you read this letter. I am hoping things will work out better than they did with my old dog Oliver. It will be nice to have a little friend running around, and maybe chasing lizards and mice here and there. I’m naming her “Pearl”, as Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” some time ago.
Okay for now I’ll say farewell. I hope you’re enjoying autumn in Rhode Island these days, it’s something I really miss here. Enjoy the cool and crisp beginnings of winter, look forward to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! I’ll be thinking of you all!
Disclaimer! I wrote this initially as a letter to my correspondence match program classroom, so forgive me if this and the rest of my updates make it sound like you're in high school!

Greetings! And welcome to the second year of our Ugandan/American exchange program! I hope you all had great summers, are rejuvenated, and have a positive attitude about the coming school year. For me, I also feel as though a new beginning is happening. I’ve taken almost a month away from my site work, traveling to different areas of Uganda for a little work and a little playtime. But now I have returned and am ready to get stuff done! So, we are all starting something new, both in Rhode Island and in Uganda. Except that I didn’t get to go to the beach like I’m sure most or all of you have! I’m not complaining though... As I write this, it’s a beautiful day and I’m relaxing in my new hammock on my porch, with a very pleasant breeze to enjoy. I can hear the drumming and singing from the church behind my house, and I watch the people coming and going from the health centre compound. Work will begin tomorrow, but today is Sunday and it’s time to relax and enjoy the atmosphere here.
Let me tell you all a little bit about life here lately. I know it’s been maybe three months since I last wrote you, and I think there are some of you who are new to the program, so I’ll share with you some of the experiences and thoughts that I’ve had recently.
In general, the past few months have been a bit difficult. For many Peace Corps Volunteers, the time about midway through service can be stressful. There are lots of reasons this can happen, and for me it has been a combination of things. I really, really miss my family and friends. It helps to talk with them on the phone, but nothing can change the fact that I haven’t seen them in over a year, and I know that I won’t see any of them for the next six months or so. In addition, although there have been some projects that have been going well, a couple of the projects that I’ve been trying to organize have been taking far too long to get going. Things here can happen very, very slowly.
Another aspect of living in Uganda that can be challenging are the cultural differences between life in America and life here. Really, that is a major reason I came to Uganda, to experience life in a different culture, but sometimes this creates as many headaches as it does rewards. For example, it is within Ugandan culture for a boss to have very little communication with his employees. The workplace can be said to be more like a dictatorship than a place of equal respect. The educational system is another source of frustration. The students are generally taught to memorize facts and principles, day after day, year after year. They are not taught to think critically or creatively, and different styles of learning are not catered to. If someone is not a great test-taker, they will simply fail when they would otherwise have done really well in a different setting. And they are taught not to question authority, but simply to accept everything that the teacher tells them is true. I believe this is counter productive and stifles the children’s ability to communicate their thoughts to others. These are some of the things that make it difficult for me to teach Life Skills sessions too. There is no participation in the classroom because they fear to speak.
There is also the “culture of dependency” that many foreign aid organizations have created. Because Uganda and many other developing nations have received so much money from America and Europe over the years, it has become engrained in the minds of Africans that they will continue to receive money from whites, and thus their work ethic is often poor. Why should they work to pay for a good quality water tank when some organization in Denmark or the U.S. will give them a plastic tank? It can be quite difficult to overcome some of these issues as a PCVs in our communities when people think we are here to give them money.
However, I’m happy to say that my attitude is improving, slowly by slowly as they say here. I have been learning to accept those things which I can’t change, working to affect those I can change, and learning to know the difference between the two. I’ve also had the opportunity to help in the training of the newest group of volunteers in Uganda, which has given me a source of positivity, as well as going to a conference in Kampala with all of the other volunteers in Uganda, which are about 150. These interactions have gone a long way in refueling me to be happy in my second year of service. My garden has also been a place of refuge for me, helping me focus on a nice environment and the fruits that it bears. I also know that family and friends are coming to visit me sometime, and just knowing that really helps me find peace. Lastly, just reminding myself that I’m a Peace
Corps Volunteer in the heart of East Africa is comforting because it is, after all, a dream that I’ve been able to achieve and that I live every day here. So there are, as always, many many things to be thankful for in my life! And I just received a package with the most delicious cookies in the whole wide world yesterday! Life is truly wonderful sometimes :)
I hope all of you are enjoying the first few weeks of school, and I really look forward to any questions or comments that you may have!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hey folks! So I find myself on a thursday afternoon, sitting in my little cement and brick house, listening to mellow guitar instrumentals, writing to you! Not a bad way to spend some time, really. It is the 26th of May, according to the calendar Miss Fusco sent me. There is a picture for the month of May that is of a beautiful home in East Greenwich, with a picket fence and stone pillars. A lovely reminder of my home state. I patiently wait for kyamushana (lunch), which is surely some matooke, posho, and g-nut sauce. If we’re especially lucky today, there may be a side of cabbage or dodo (steamed greens). But most likely not. I can see and hear the children playing at the primary school just down the hill, for the children of Uganda the school term has just started. I think this is the second of three terms in their school year. Next week I will again begin leading Life Skills activities, and I am adding some sessions at the secondary school this term as well. These days, life here has been good. Very rarely am I bored, and the work that I do has been my choice to undertake, so that means I enjoy what I do when I’m at work! I hope I’ll be able to say that for the rest of my life.
I’m still writing the grant proposal for the brick making machine. It has taken some good time to work my way through this, partly because I’ve never written a grant before, and partly because I don’t want to fail. I want to be comprehensive enough in the proposal that I feel very confident it will be approved for funding. It may very well be my major addition to my organization, so I have to put my best effort forth, without rushing things.
I’ve finished teaching at Kyera Farm Agricultural College, which I am pleased about. Now I can focus more on the work I do at my site, which I enjoy more. The teaching didn’t go as well as I had hoped it would, for a few reasons. The students were ‘not serious’, as people like to say here. They were very, very late to classes, if they came at all. They didn’t do any of the assignments that I asked them to do, and only one person did any of the reading from the books I left with them. When they did come, they didn’t participate in the discussions very often. I couldn’t tell if they were not understanding my accent, or if they were not following the content of what I was teaching, or if they were just not interested in the stuff I was teaching them. It would be easy to just blame them, but at the same time, this was my first attempt at teaching permaculture, and my first try at teaching at the college level. I’m sure I could have done many things differently to illicit a different response. I will think of it as a learning experience for me.
I’m getting more and more used to life in Uganda in general. It’s been nearly ten months here now, and although so many things here don’t make sense to me or leave my mind boggled, I have much more patience and acceptance than I have in the past. People still stare at me all the time, but I have coached myself almost every day to cope with it better. I realize where I am, and that being the object of most people’s attention wherever I go simply comes with the territory. Living in a place the rarely sees white people is what I signed up for. If someone with blue skin and funny facial features lived in Rhode Island, I think we would stare all the time too. There is definitely less awareness here of racial issues, because the people aren’t exposed to people from different parts of the world, so people don’t understand that behaving a certain way towards someone because of the color of their skin is not okay. It is very contextual, these attitudes that we have towards other humans. Thinking of all of these differences and trying to understand them really helps in becoming comfortable here, not driving oneself nuts about how home is sooooo different.
The HIV Post Test Club is going really well too. We have been trained for the last two weekends in several songs, dances, and drama performances. On monday of next week, we are traveling for our first outreach performance, in the parish just north of us called Kaichumu. It’s about six miles away, and we’re all really excited about it! I’ll take lots of pictures to show you afterwards. Our plan is to continue with one outreach effort each week from now on, complete with health counseling, HIV testing, tuberculosis testing, and infant immunizations. I will act as photographer and token white guy, maybe occasionally giving short speeches in the local language for everyone to laugh at. Soon we will start to use this platform to market the brick making machine for those water tanks.
So I find myself happy these days. I’ve began to exercise more, running early in the morning as the sun rises and mist is still in the valleys. I also fill up the jerrycans halfway with water, tie them to a stick, and do some curls. Pushups, situps, and a few other creative lifts have kept my body in good working condition lately. I always miss home, and have been talking on the phone more often with family and friends. See you around the bend... -Jesse

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hello hello! I hope you are well! As I’m writing this, it is Easter Sunday, midday, and I am hearing all of the village churches and their preaching, singing and drumming. I hope all of you reading this have enjoyed your Easter holiday, whether or not you choose to celebrate Easter as Christians do. I also hear that spring is slow in coming, that days still can chill one to the bone. I can’t overstate how strange it is for me to miss my first winter, as the equator has a way of keeping us nice and warm. Despite the seasons, or perhaps because of them, I have found myself daydreaming quite often lately of life back home. Thinking to myself that I still have more than 18 months remaining here can be hard to understand. It has already felt like a really long time away from home, but I still have two thirds of my time here remaining. I’m really beginning to adjust to life here in Uganda, and from that I can get a lot done, but I also realize that the adjustment back to life in America will be a difficult process. It seems easy for me to work here in part because I am an American and people here will listen to me just because of that. Also, Ugandan village standards of getting a lot done is a bit different from American standards. Simply having a computer and a little money to travel also enables me to be extremely productive in some regards. All of these things are different in America, so to continue to be highly productive and valuable, I’ll need to go through another adjustment period. This has got me thinking a lot about what to plan for upon my return, whether that be graduate school or some form of employment.
Alright, so for an update on work related stuff, here goes. I’ve been teaching the permaculture course at Kyera Farm, and that’s going well enough. I’m not entirely comfortable with the material I’m teaching, so it would have been nice to go through a permaculture teacher training course to help prepare. But I didn’t, so I’ll have to do the best I can as is. The HIV Post Test Club has been doing well. We just finished writing our club’s constitution, our garden is growing fast, and we’ve been practicing our songs and dances. We are going to be training by a highly renowned drummer soon, so we’re all excited about that, including yours truly! I’m also busy putting together the grant proposal for the brick making machine that will be an income generating activity for my organization. We’re all very excited about this project, and eager to complete the proposal. This requires gathering lots of information from local villages on water usage, so very soon I’ll be moving around to more remote areas for this purpose. I do really enjoy these adventures, as I get to see people and places that very few white people ever see, and the people are always glad to receive me. I’ve taken a break from teaching Life Skills classes, since the children are on break for the next few weeks. Overall, work has been very enjoyable lately.
Some of my extra time lately has been spent planting more and more things on my compound, like Aloe Vera, moringa trees, mulberry trees, strawberries, and lots more. I’ve been playing the guitar a lot, reading some, watching lots of movies on my laptop in the evenings, and trying to improve in the local language, Runyankore. On a very sad note, my dearest dog Oliver has died from an unknown cause. Some think he was beaten or poisoned in town, the vet thought it might have been a tick-borne disease, and another volunteer thinks it may have been a disease called Parvo. Whatever the cause, he is now in doggie heaven and I miss him very much. He was only five months old, and really becoming an overly friendly, playful, well-behaved, and lovable dog. In other news, this week I’m having my 30th birthday pass, and I’ll celebrate it with my friend Britt, who shares the same birthday, and some other volunteers in Mbarara next weekend. There is also World Malaria Day that I will attend nearby in Kashongi with some fellow volunteers. So, some travel is ahead, and that is always good for the mind and soul of PCVs. I hope you all stay well, and I will be in touch. Take care. -Jesse
Howdy y’all! Wow, it’s time to write again? The days have wings lately for sure! I’ve been talking with some friends and family from Rhode Island lately, and they tell me the snow is most likely finally gone. Sorry for the skiers, and snowboarders, ice fisherman/women, dog sledders, igloo contractors, ice climbers, and outdoor hockey enthusiasts reading this, but congrats to the rest of you for making it through another winter! For me, the weather remains the same (Led Zeppelin reference there). Often, there will be a nice breeze that reminds me of the beach in Rhody, and I will long for clam cakes and chowder. My mind will drift, and I will find myself daydreaming of homemade ice cream, salty air, cookouts, campfires, live music, and other niceties of life in America. Somehow, I must endure life without these things for 19 more months.
Things are really getting interesting here lately, in terms of life and especially the work that I am doing. The Post Test Club that we have organized has been very active lately, and participation is great. We have planted a vegetable, flower, and herb garden that is doing well so far. We have several songs with dancing and drumming, and a drama presentation that we will soon be performing through our outreach efforts around the community. We are also looking into beekeeping for an income generating activity for club members. Also, my Life Skills workshops have been going really well at the primary school next door. We have nearly finished the HIV/AIDS sessions, and will be moving on to decision making skills. I’ll be starting with the secondary school (high school) shortly with the same lessons. Another big project I’m getting into is the acquisition and use of an improved brick making technology for the construction of buildings and water storage tanks. This new method is more ecologically appropriate, cost effective, durable, and quicker than the methods that are widely used throughout Uganda and Africa as a whole. This will also act as an income generating activity for the Health Centre that I am working for (LICHI).
I’d also like to share another recent development in my activities here in Uganda. I have agreed to teach a Permaculture course at Kyera Farm Agricultural Training College in Mbarara this semester and beyond. I’m super-excited about this opportunity because I’ve thought about teaching in the past, and now this will give me the chance to see how I like it at the college level! The material is of great use too, so I’ll be getting much more familiar with topics related to sustainable, empowering lifestyles. Sharing this kind of information and perspectives is extremely rewarding, as people can see how much they can do with whatever they have to work with.
As always, the personal side of life here is not consistent. One day, I’ll relish in the fact that I’m in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ll walk through the village greeting everyone, with my dog in close pursuit, and soak in the sunshine. Other days, I’ll look for shade, trying to avoid all of those who want to watch everything I do. I’ll be quick in my responses, shake my head at things, then take an early dinner alone, before an American movie and finally go to bed. It is certainly not the life I expected to find in Africa, and for that I’m sometimes glad but other times I turn to daydreaming of the next path my life will take. What has really helped to keep my sanity has been my doggie, my guitar, telephone conversations, trips to see other volunteers, and thoughts about the future. My inner world and the outer world are becoming places of greater depth and vastness than ever would have been possible if I did not leave the comforts of home. The experience has so far been both wonderfully stimulating and incredibly humbling.
So, as I end this letter, I hope all of you are enjoying the first days of spring. I hope you all are thinking of your future and planning for where you want to go and what you want to do in life. The possibilities are as countless as the stars, so you have every reason to believe you can find something to do that you believe in, that you love, and that will have a positive effect on others. Take care, and as always, ask any questions you like.

Jesse Coker
P.S. The embargo on mail from Africa to the U.S. has been lifted, so expect a little something sometime soon!
P.P.S Remember that this was originally intended for two high school classrooms, if that makes a difference at all.
Hello hello! Greetings from Uganda! I hope everyone reading or listening to this is doing well, looking forward to springtime, gardens, chickens, surfing, riding horses, climbing trees, and playing kickball. Things are fine here, but my oh my, how time is flying by! It seems I just wrote you all yesterday. Maybe it’s the realization that six and one half months have passed since I came to Africa. Now my group are the sophomores, as there have come forty five new volunteers this month, all of whom will work in the education sector of Peace Corps Uganda. So the experience is well under way. I am getting into the meat of the term of service, finally beginning to develop projects in my community. I even have some prospects of a few secondary projects well outside of my village. I am making more and more friends here, and I now have a puppy, Oliver, to keep me company. He is an African mutt, he is a handful, and he is constantly testing my patience (as if this whole experience didn’t test my patience enough). On another note, the Ugandan presidential elections have come and gone, with very few problems. This was a worry for all of the volunteers here, as the potential for problems was high, and none of us wanted to have to leave our service preemptively. President YK Museveni has been elected to another term, extending his position to 30 years in office. It’s hard for me to imagine America being led by the same person for that long!
Okay, a little bit about work here lately. I have a list of projects that have either started or are in the process of getting started. We have had several meetings for the Post-Test Club, and are starting our club garden on the 26th of February. We’ve developed an outline for our project development strategies, complete with a mission statement, goals, objectives, and some ways to monitor and evaluate our success. We’re also trying to develop some income generating activities within the club, possibly looking into an apiary project (beekeeping). This could be a great way to make money by selling a health-promoting product that also will help in the success of local crop growing also, through the bees pollinating the crops and eating some garden pests. Speaking of gardens, we have started our PTC demonstration garden on the compound of my health centre. We are ‘demonstrating’ better ways to manage rainwater in your garden, mulching techniques, contour planning, companion planting, organic practices, and seed saving strategies, among others. It’s a lot of fun to get involved, hands on, with the people I’m working with. They also really enjoy seeing a white person actually working next to them, sweating, and getting blisters. Another project that I am trying to put together is that of forming a small group of villagers who will be trained in constructing rainwater tanks. People here desperately need better access to water throughout the year, and the government will pay 60% of the cost for those who qualify. I have also started doing Life Skills workshops with the primary school next door to my organization. These are kids aged twelve and above, and we’re talking about things such as decision making skills, relationship skills, information on HIV/AIDS, communication skills, etc. There are so many negative influences these children here are facing day to day, so equipping them with some tools to handle tough situations is critical to them growing up to be happy, healthy, and productive members of their communities. These Life Skills activities are fun too! In other news, I’m also having the local carpenter build me a wooden sign so that I can keep the village informed about different talks that I will be giving. I’ve given one presentation to a nearby village about soil health and techniques for improving it in gardens. There was a good response, so I’ll continue with other topics too. Community outreach programs are still in the works also. The major setback for us has been transportation. We don’t have a vehicle at LICHI, and I’m not allowed to ride the motorcycles here, so that leaves us with the intention of bicycling to different villages around my sub-county. I have a bicycle, but we need another one so that two of us can go together. Hopefully that will come soon.
So that’s a bit of work talk, now a bit of personal talk, eh? My spirits have lifted as of the past few days, but for a little while I was struggling with some of the common frustrations of life here. I have always been a spectacle in my village, something for everyone to stare at and talk about. Now, with Oliver, the attention has seemingly doubled. They don’t treat animals very well here, so for them to see a white man carrying a dog down the street is like nothing they could have ever imagined. Being this person in a rural African village can be fun, but also very tiring. Never have I been so self conscious, and never did I think I’d have to answer a million times, “Eh! Embwa yange nomanya Orujungu?” (“Eh! Your dog knows English?”) Then I explain to them that dogs are treated with respect in America, and they are our friends. Here, they are used only for security purposes, and they often are not fed and sometimes they are beaten or have rocks thrown at them. So, the people don’t really understand why I have Oliver. Also, my organization has been understaffed for about two months now. This puts more responsibility on the people who are here, meaning that there is less time available for someone to work with me. This can be quite frustrating, as I am eager to develop projects but find myself unable to do them alone, mostly due to the language barrier. One thing that has kept me sane through some of these frustrations has been the guitar. I’m not all that good, but playing for an hour after a long day is a great way to relax, and it puts a smile on everyone’s face. Then I’ll turn to Oliver and say, “It’s doggie time!”, and play with him for a bit. Then I’ll sit and watch the sunset through the acacia trees from my porch and think to myself, “I am deep in the African bush. This isn’t so bad at all.” As much as I can’t believe it’s already been seven months here, and as much as I can’t believe I have twenty months left, life is good. As always, I hope everyone in Rhode Island is doing well. I heard there has been more snow, but I’m sure the flowers will be coming up pretty soon. Happy trails!