Thursday, February 16, 2012

There was an article out recently about 12 reasons to date a returned Peace Corps volunteer, including the perks of having someone whisper a tribal language sultrily into your ear, or the general low-maintenance of girls who have just returned after two years of having no hair dryers or high heels. High heels? That’s hilarious. I can’t remember a time in the last year when I have had an easy time walking down the dirt road I live on. In rainy season, the road is impassible and muddy in an evil way, a quick sand way, that sucks down motorcycles, vehicles, and pedestrians. I have fond memories of getting out of the parish vehicle with Tom, Father Lino, and the secondary school head teacher, on the way back from a church function, to all push the car out of a gigantic pile of mud, in the middle of a tropical storm. During dry season, just when you are getting the taste and texture of mud out of your mouth, the roads become somehow even worse, but this time are completely impassible because all the dirt turns into sand. Ever tried biking or running in sand? I digress.

I’m not asking any of you to date me once I return from peace corps, completely shell-shocked and socially-awkward after two years of living in Africa, I’m just trying to inspire some awe in you, until you actually come visit me and realize that I live like an African princess. An African princess with perpetually dirty feet, who pees into a bucket at night. I’m having a moment, I must confess, in which I fantasize strongly about the magical existences and lives of PCVs in other countries. Surely I live in the worst PC host country, at least in terms of environment and awesomeness. I envision hazy, magical scenes where volunteers frolic with water buffalo in clear streams, and walk hand in hand with monkeys to pick coconuts off trees. My friend Beth in Guyana has just written a blog where she states that she and her fellow trainees are permitted to use any of the below forms of travel: bike, kayak, horse, foot…Wait, what? Kayak? HORSE? I live in a country where I can’t even go WADING or stone-skipping or even really think about bodies of water because I’ll get a terrible tropical disease (which I in all likelihood already have), let alone do watersports! Horses? Unless I jump on one my neighbor’s starving-from-dry-season cows, I won’t be travelling anywhere by animal anytime soon. This Peace Corps “moment” that I was having continued aggressively, after I read on that the food in Guyana was delicious; a savory blend of Indian, Mexican, and Caribbean. Excuse me? Everyday I eat an uncooked cassava bread that has the texture of bloated play-dough and tastes like centuries of misery, with a side of plain beans. People here call anything vaguely spicy or flavorful, “self-punishment.” I wonder what they would think of sriracha. Oh, but in Guyana (which sounds painfully close to Uganda), I’ll just jump on my horse and ride off into the jungle-sunset with my belly full of curry. Did I mention that Guyana is all jungly? And how, even though I somehow live 2 k from the Congo and smack dab on the equator, the environment around here sweetly recalls an aging shanty town from the wild west? WITHOUT HORSES.

The inspiration for this blog came in a minute when Tom looked me in the eye after my long diatribe, and seemingly inspired, blurted, “Yeah what is there fun to do in Uganda? We can’t even ride on trucks! There aren’t even any cool animals, just a shit ton of chickens! We can’t go swimming! All we can do here is…Walk around and get hot!” That’s exactly right. I spend my days in a feverish daze, and slip into a heat coma the minute I step outside of my house.

The funny part, is how cool Uganda actually is, especially when I take a moment to step back and examine it. Even though I do have these moments of irrational jealousy, which usually have to do with camels, horses, and curries. What does Uganda show me every day? I hear drumming almost every night, I walk past women pounding on the ground to simulate rain fall to draw “white ants” out of their underground homes, I see large groups of elders drinking homebrew out of empty coconut shells under the shade of trees, I watch a tiny 6 year old girl teach her even tinier sister how to correctly throw a spear, I watch life stir as the first morning light eases above the thatch roof huts and rolling hills on morning runs.

I can't wait to show this world to my friend Lauren who will be here in a week, and then my parents a few weeks after!

Love and lima beans,


  1. I think "tastes like centuries of misery" takes the cake for one of the best Ilse-lines in awhile. I'm sorry it had to come at the expense of your culinary enjoyment, however. Love you Ils!

  2. PS I would TOTALLY date you after returning from PC. Dreadlocks and all ;)

  3. I knew the last paragraph would be a beautiful description of the Uganda you have embraced - and we'll bring you more sriracha!! Love, Mumsy

  4. whisper sweet peace corps nothings in my ear anytime, sis!! Have a wonderful time with Lauren!! How much fun is ya to bits