Monday, March 28, 2011

West Nile is the Best Nile

The beginning of training is starting to feel like a distant dream as we get closer and closer to being sworn in. Only a month now!

Before my last post about going to Kampala, I had a fairly stressful week in which us primary people went to P.T.C.'s (Primary teacher colleges) to teach classes and observe. Peace Corps wants us to have exposure to PTC teaching because we will all probably be doign some sort of pre-service training like workshops at PTC throughout our service. The idea of teaching still frightens me, and when coupled with the assignment of teaching college level students, I felt like a fainting-goat. I taught three lessons in all- and while the first one felt like a slow and painful train wreck, the subsequent two went well. I taught the intro to poetry to my first class, with absolutely no materials or references, whereas all of my colleagues had plenty because they were teaching things like ITC, math, and science. Awesome. This was sort of great though because it basically gave me free reign to teach whatever I wanted. I think that besides my obvious nervousness and speed of speech, that the lesson went fairly well. I used the Langston Hughes poem "Dreams" to illustrate the different elements in poetry and then at the end had a group activity that basically forced the students to generate metaphors. That sort of flopped, but I wasn't too surprised. HTe next two classes went much better and I team-taught with Erica. This time we taught how to teach poetry to primary students and essentially provided a model class to them. It was really fun because we started out the class by singing "Blackbird" by the Beatles, using the song as an example of a poem. The students loved that we sang and were mch more engaged for the class. It was exciting to realize that I can integrate song and music into my teaching; it definitely resonates with the students.

After our Kampala tour on Saturday, we embarked EARLY Sunday morning for our four days of language immersion. My group had the longest journey; 7 hours to Arua. The bus trip itself felt like a week becase we had to get to tKampala to get on the bus and then sit packed together like sardines on a speeding bus for hours. The landscape however was incredible; we watched it progress from teh moist fertility of the south/central to the more dry savannah of the north. WE drove past the falls and the Nile, saw elephants, hippos and baboons! We also saw the more harrowing site of still existing refugee camps from the long war up north.

Arua was well worth the long journey. I'll try my best to explain why. Arua is the main town in Arua district, which spans from Congo to Sudan. We didn't see much else of Arua distrcit other than the town, but it was great getting to kno the city that we will be living close to for the next two years. I heard that we will all be living within an hour bike ride of the town, which is fantastic. Arua is a bustling little trading center. It does not encompass a large area but it still has the noise, exciemtent, and feel of a larger town. THere is a plethora of markets, food, clothing, bikes, adn the town is absolutely dominated by bikes! We spent our time eating rolexes (a divine combination of grease, ciapatti and eggs), bartering at markets, greeting everyone we saw, making commubnity contacts, meeting with community leaders, learning about the language and culture, and eating out! We also went dancing one night, which was hilarious. Apparently in West Nile, it is taboo for men and women to dance with each other at clubs, so instead what you see when you enter such a place, are a few guys grinding together in a corner, and women dancing in front of mirrors. hehe. I introduced myself using my Lugbara name that my family gave me, "Ayikoru" which means joy or happiness, and everyone cracked up every time. I think that I will definitely keep that name when I livei n West Nile because Ilse is rreally hard for most people, and I love the name Ayikoru.

In general, I was most excited about the p[eople that I met in West Nile. They are known for their friendliness, especially the Lugbara, and there was not one person that I met who didn't have a huge grin on their face when I greeted them or walked past them. The entire town echoes with laughter and loud music, and of these things, I am very fond.

In other news, this weekend I went to my first Ugandan celebration, a graduation party, in which apparently people form giant congo lines to give gifts to the graduate. Once you get to the front of the line, you have to have a dance off with teh graduate before you give them your gift. Awesome. See picture above.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Guest Post: Brenda (my host sister)

hi everyone am brenda and i would to meet you its nice staying with ilse she is really sweet .good bye

Saturday, March 19, 2011

You are just my size!

Today my training group descended on the capital like a swarm of drunkards at a country fair. This is not to say that we were intoxicated; rather we were dazed with a big city and all the possibilities that accompany it. Our main goal of the day was to orient us to Kampala and give us a sense of its basic layout, but my personal goal was to eat food until \i vomited. Almost immediately upon arriving, at 10 in the morning, my friend Leah and I ordered and ate a vegetarian pizza. \bliss. An hour an a half later, I ate an entire Indian meal. I didn't vomit but I still consider the day an overall success. #
Kampala is nuts. I had the strange experience of drinking a delicious latte that had a heart made of foam and then walking 10 minutes to a street where I stepped on a chicken, almost got run over by 89 motorcycles, and had my arms pinched by men who told me that i was "just their size!"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Safari ants will carry away children and elderly


I have time for a brief post. It is Sunday here which is the only day that we trainees are not swamped with training. It is in good form to spend much of our weekends with our families, seeing as we see them so rarely during the week. Today I woke up early to go to mass with my host sister. I figured it was an experience that I could not miss, even though I am not religious. It was really nice--- the music was beautiful and the sermon was in English (as many things are here). After that, I had an epic battle with my laundry while my family watched me in hysterics. I'll totally get the hang of it someday.

Yesterday was special because we had a teacher's fair done by Peace COrps Volunteers in Uganda. THe volunteers have been here for about a year now and so we had the opportunity to talk to them about such topics as secondary projects, fitness, making rocket stoves, ugandan counterparts, the school systems, alternative female menstrual pads, etc. It was really nice to meet volunteers who have been here for a while but who were not that long ago in our shoes. After the fair, I went on a long dusty walk to find a phone and finally did! Let me know if you want my digits. Then, I met up with a huge group of trainees and volunteers at this cool bar on the main highway before I had to head home to my family. I try to get home every night before dark, or else they start to worry.

Starting tomorrow, us trainees in the primary school sector are off to see coordinating centers, which are resource centers usually attached to a primary school. Each coordinating center has a catchment of about 50 schools, and it provids in-service training to teachers. I very well may be placed at a CC, and if so, I will work with a variety of local schools, teachers, adn teacher colleges. There are three things that I could end up doing for my primary job:
1. I could be at a Primary Teachers College (teach pre-service teachers)
2. I could be at a Coordinating Center and have many schools that I assess, and teachers that I give in-service training to
3. I could be at a Primary School and be a teacher (AND also provide training to the staff there)

It will be interesting to see which avenue I end up taking. The week after this, we will be spending al ot of time at a Primary Teacher's COllege.

In other news, there is a drought in Uganda. My family is praying that it rains soon. Also, My Uganglish is getting better. People don't understand me here if I speak like I normally do at home. I must make a conscious effort to eliminate fillers like "um" "yah" and speak slowly and generally more British-like. For example, Instead of saying "Where are you going", we say, "you are going where?" for example.

I have two minutes left so I must sign off. OH! I had pizza for the first time in a while a few days ago and it was marvellous. I can't believe I already miss it. AND my host mother has told me seven times today that I will become nice and fat soon. That's the wierd thing asbout Uganda...the guys get skinnier and the girls become fatter.

Sorry about terrible writing/bad grammar.

Love and LIons,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Avoid bad touches, lonely places, and gifts

Hello friends!

I'm sorry tis been so long. I also apologize in advance for bad grammar/spelling. I have 15 minutes to write this blog and the kyboard is terrible.

I have been in Uganda for almost 3 weeks now. The first two weeks my fellow (44 or us) Peace COrps Trainees and I lived ina very secure and beautiful training conference facility near the capital, because of the elections here in mid-february. We lived in dormitory style houseing and enjoyed getting to know each other. A typical day included a full day of training (8-6 pm) followed by playing pick-up soccer, dinner, adn then maybe just hangign out with guitars and conversation. There were indeed monkeys everywhere and we had guard dogs at night and men with AK 47s that kept us safe (although I never felt in danger). Now that elections are over and things have gone smoothly, we were recently moved out to our hometay families on Saturday. I am living with a very nice family in a village. They have 3 sons and 1 daughter who is 18 and wishes to be a doctor. She shows me around a lot and speaks to me in beautiful english. I am very lucky because my homestay family speakxs the language that I need to learn over the next 2 months of training: lugbara. Teh lugbara are a people from the extreme northwest of Uganda, close to sudan and congo. I am in the pioneering group of volunteers that will be going to the West Nile region. It is the most impoverished in Uganda. I am very excited about this and am busy learning lugbara!

Today I had my first day of actual teaching at a local school here. My friend La Toya and I co-taught a primary school class about adjectives. The name of my blog today is an example of one of the many awkward signs hung around the school. THe signs are supposed to promote youth health and safety. In the dorm where I lived there were signs that said, "Avoid cross-generational sex", and "Don't share sharp objects." The class went pretty well. There were about 70 students crammed into a lhot little room and mostly just stared at us because we are "Muzungus" (white people). I get called "Muzungu" everyday by children, and osmetimes adults. Basically, I am a spectacle. My host sister told me that she had never met anyoen as white as me. My family thinks I am very delicate becaue I do not eat as much as they do, becayue my skin burns and is bitten by misquitos, and becaue I cannot haul as much water as they can from the valley. I'm going to work on these things.

In other news, I am busy learning how to successfully use a pit- latrine, hand wash my clothes, and bucket-shower. My host family essentially laughs at me all day, because I do everything wrong. It's hysterical. THe cross cultural interactions here are solid gold. (In all honesty, the people here are among the friendliest that I have ever met. The motto in Uganda is "YOU ARE MOST WELCOME")

I love it here and I am very excited to actually start my service, in April. I have a lot more to learn along the way.

I miss all of you and I will try to update this blog as muich as possible. My internet situation will improve once I move out to my site. Also, I should be getting a phone within the next few days, which people can skype/call me at.

Love and Lions,