Friday, April 22, 2011

You mean I'm supposed to go live in rural africa for the next two years???!

Today is commonly seen as the most traumatic day in a Peace Corps Volunteer's life. I'm in no position to disagree with this statement, especially since a mere 15 hours ago, I was waking up in a hotel room with a toilet, shower, electricity, in a hotel with a pool. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A POOL IN UGANDA??? I live in a tropical country where I am legally permitted from swimming in any natural body of water! Because if I do set foot in any body of water, I will immediately get shisto (the second most prevalent tropical disease which includes the acquisition of a colony of snail eggs in your body)and have it forever. Having snails live forever in your body is neither pleasant nor convenient. Pools therefore become a small miracle. Swimming is great. Especially when it doesn't include tropical diseases.

Anyway. For the last 4 days us trainees were staying at a swank hotel in Kampala, sworn in at a swank embassy house, and now suddenly we are confronted with the reality of the next two years of our lives. DOn't get me wrong. We are excited. I am excited. It's just overwhelming. After the last week of relative luxury, good food, and company, we all woke up early this morning, blurry-eyed, and hurriedly packed our things into the bags and containers that somehow no longer fit them properly. Then, we all haphazardly somehow found a ride to our sites, whether it be crammed in the back of a matatu, on a public bus, or if we were lucky, in a private van/truck. I rode up with 3 other PCV's who are part of my PTC in the college truck, with all of our stuff perched precariously in the bed of the truck. The trip was a long one, but it was a good opportunity to stare at the landscape and think about what was happening, at least during the times when I didn't feel in mortal danger from the bewildering and terrifying antics of Ugandan drivers.

It's hard to know how to feel. Right now I am not even at my site yet; I am staying at the PTC in Arua Town with another PCV, and I will be taken to my site in the morning, hopefully after buying a bike in town. It feels like the calm before a storm, at least emotionally. My site is good for so many reasons, and I know this. In my mind, I have a mental list of all the advantages of where I live, but I also have a short list of concerns. My goals is to eliminate this short list from my mind. I need to infuse my life with positivity and flexibility these first few months, and also these two years, and I want to start by not letting the downfalls of any situation stand out more than the advantages.

It feels good to finally be a volunteer. I can feel this latent confidence starting to manifest itself, and I'm itching to start working. My first month is filled with workshops, trainings, and also just settling into my house and village. I'm planning on getting a PO box this week so that people can mail me directly here in Arua.

That's all for now. I will blog whenever I can, and I should have the time to, now.

I'll post pictures as soon as I can. I have internet now but I almost used it all up by uploading my pictures onto facebook, so check them out there if you want to see them.

Love and lions,

ps saw a herd of elephants and a family of baboons on the way up north today!


  1. Hey Ilse,

    Don't worry too much about your list of concerns. You might not be able to fully deal with them right now. Things tend to work themselves out as you go along. Just keep learning, moving and you'll be fine. Remember to have fun too!

    Love Leif

  2. Ah yes, that "short" list of concerns. I feel like that short list is always going to be there...whether it is full of real, legitimate concerns or those things we worry about even though we probably don't need to spend time worrying about them. Those things always seem to weigh down our thoughts.

    However, as always you have this incredibly brave and positive outlook on your future in Uganda (and in general). Thinking about your moving out to your site reminds me of the night before we all left for college, or the night before you left for Italy, or the night before I left in December to come back're on the brink of something that is going to be so amazingly wonderful, challenging, and fantastic but you have to GET there. The getting there is full of that scary new-ness that comes when we do something that we have never done before. That we don't know HOW to do. But the beauty in that is that you know you will be able to look back on this moment RIGHT NOT and say "what was i so worried about?"

    You will go from being the new muzungu (spelling??) in town to the friendly face that everyone says hello to on the street. You will meet new friends, strengthen the bonds you have with your community and make a significant difference in life around Arua Town. In short, you will be fabulously Ilse!

    As you move, as you settle in, and as you flourish, my heart and my thoughts and all of my support are completely yours babycakes. Keep making me proud!!

    annnnnnd to summarize: don't get tipsy and wander into the congo...cause I kind of need you. Like whoa. ;)