Saturday, September 15, 2012

"No, I'm not Catholic. I'm Norweigen."

At the start of the third term, I am somehow keeping busy.  I went to school all 5 days this week.  What? I'm focusing on my literacy classes for Primary 7, my female adult literacy program, and also life skills in both primary and secondary.  I am using a program called SKILLZ, which teaches life skills (mostly regarding HIV and health) through football and other interactive activities.  The small things that you do in Peace Corps really add up to keep you busy, and I'm actually really thankful that I can focus on my village rather than having a larger country-wide project.  It's the small things.   I'm gathering herbs daily from my chaotic garden.  The best growing crops? Basil, cilantro, parsley, and spinach.  Awesome.  The neighbors have bought two fresh, roly-poly puppies from Kampala, and are starting them on the future-watch-dog regimen.  Tom and I have named these tiny and excitable puppies "Doo" and "Hoo."  Because DOO-HOO! completely exemplifies their existence.  They run around, falling over each other, in bright-eyed excitement for the world and its infinite possibilities.  Also, they spend most of their time locked in a latrine, so whenever they are liberated, they go crazy.  They also smell horrible, so it's always with a mixture of revulsion and delight that I greet their fat, squirming enthusiastic greetings to me. Also, they are crawling with lice and worms, so we try to keep them out of the house, even though we hate to deflect their affection. 

It is still rainy season, and almost daily the sky dumps unthinkable amounts on our tin roof.  Places are flooding, and transport is becoming difficult on our muddy, dirt road.  However, I don't think that I could be any happier, because our water catchment tank is always full, and we never want for water.  I'm already flat- out dreading dry season.  I skipped part of it last year when I was in Italy, but this year, I will be around for the entire onslaught.  It will also characterize my final few months in country, and will leave a dry, dehydrated, and hellish reminder of Uganda on my tongue when I come back state-side.  Speaking of hell, I am down to 3 more trips to Kampala, before I leave.  I can do that.  It's odd to be getting down to the single digits; 6 more months before I finish Peace Corps, 3 more trips to Kampala, 1 more dry season...

Apparently there is ebola and civil war raging in the countries around us, but as always, my little corner of Uganda remains peaceful and friendly.  It's such a quiet life.  Back in the land of milk and honey, I'll probably need some major assistance with cross-cultural adjustment (and drinking more than 1 beer at a time).  I'm undoubtedly really excited for Post-Peace Corps; for the month or two of traveling around after, and for the moment that I get on my plane headed for Minnesota.  But, I still have 6 months left here, and I'm starting to notice and enjoy more deeply the relationships that I have made with people in my community. 

Last week, when we came back to our village after several weeks of traveling, a village mummy dressed in Congolese fabrics and touting something outrageously large on her head stopped me on the road outside my home; "AYIKORU!" I cringed immediately, expecting the worse; a plea for money or a long strain of incomprehensible Lugbara.  But, this village mummy, who has probably never stepped outside of Arua, addressed me in perfect English.  She told me she was so happy to see me back.  That every time that Tom and I leave for vacation or a workshop, people half expect us to never come back again, and that she was so happy to see that I had returned to her village.  When I remarked on her English, she smiled and told me about her two daughters who she hoped would do better than she, and continue past Primary 6.  She told me she wanted to learn more English and join the female adult literacy.  This woman, who would ordinarily blend along with the hundreds of other village women at the local market, was named Rose.  And she was happy that I was still living and working in Adumi.  And that interaction, that came shortly after I had been harassed and mocked by a large group of young girls, meant oceans of significance to me. 

I might live in a country where people get arrested for GLBT pride parades, but I also live in a place where teachers come over to deliver me bags full of ground-nuts from their fields, where priests often drink me under the table, and where people show me long videos on their cell phones of their bean fields and goats for entertainment.  (As a brief side, I have decided to respond with "Norwegian" when people here ask me what my religion is.)

Love and Labyrinths,

Ilse

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