Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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.

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