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!

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