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,
Ilse

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

Friday, April 8, 2011

My first experience in the bush

I am in Arua Town on my future site visit, in which we all go to our future site to meet our Ugandan counterparts, see our schools/colleges, and approve our housing. Right now I am actually in the town, and have just departed my site this morning, to see the PTC that I will be reporting to (arua core primary teachers college). I live about 8-10 km from town, down a bumpy dusty road called O'dumi, which leads to the Congolese border. The landscape is lovely, lush, and with some rolling hills. I have a very interesting living situation. I seem to live in government housing (?) in a compound that is close to the sub-county office. It seems that a lot of policemen and medical students live in the flats, because there is a health center next door, too. This is great because I have pretty incredible resources in my backyard. My counterpart, mike, who is eastern ugandan, seems to be a very capable coordinating center tutor and has been doing it for many years. i can tell that he takes his job very seriously and i think that we will work well together, and that i will hopefully stay very busy.

when i first arrived in arua town on wednesday, i was picked up by the driver from the ptc, brought to the ptc for a brief introductino, and then driven to my village. although i live only 10 km from town, it is a longer drive because of the bumps and potholes and all of the human traffic from the congo. i know that the first thing iw ill have to do once i move up north is buy a bicycle, because i will have to be going between town, my coordinating center (which is 1.5 km away from my site) a nd the 29 other schools in my catchment area (which spans about 30 km). In short, I will be doing a lot of moving around and since we are not allowed as PC volunteers to ride on boda bodas (motorcycle taxis), i will have to primarily be biking. i am excited about this. also, my good friend tom lives only about 4-5 km away, further towards the congo. we will be able to walk adn bike to see each other fairly easily. the first thing my counterpart did was introduce me to the staff at the sub-county office, who are all women! the sub county chief, the chief of health, th parish chief, the accountant....they are all such amazing resources for me and i know that i will be working with them for secondary projects. they are all very involved in community mobilization and important issues such as womens issues, hiv/aids prevention, etc. they are all young, beautiful, and intelligent women. also, they wear pants, which is pretty rare here.

i think that between the health center next door, the staff at the sub-county office and my counterpart, i will have many collaborative partners.

The downsides of my visit included a random and spectacular tropical illness that i somehow contracted right before i left for Arua. This said illness kept me basically lying flat on my mattress the entire site visit and unable to eat for several days. It also stopped me from seeing my school/coordinating centers or much of the surrounding area around my home. It was a frustrating few days because instead of walking around and meeting community members and neighbors, i was shut up inside of my house, and probably camke off as aloof. Despite being ill, I was still able to meet a lot of people around the area.

More about this later. I need to go study my language for my final this week!

Friday, April 1, 2011