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