Monday, March 28, 2011

What we've been reading.....

Lot's of people have told us that we will never read more in our lives than we do in the Peace Corps. So far, that seems to be holding true. Just for fun, we thought we'd keep a list of our Uganda readings. We'll keep updating as we keep reading! (Kinda like book-it for PC! If only there was the free pizza that you didn't have to make from scratch to go along with it...)

Ryan's Book list:
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson
  • The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
  • True Religion by Palmer Chinchen
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larson
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • The Last Juror by John Grisham
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larson
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Mobilizing Hope by Adam Taylor
  • Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo & Niall Ferguson
  • Sahara by Clive Cussler
  • Too Close to the Sun by Sara Wheeler
  • How The West Was Lost by Dambisa Moyo
  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
  • Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Mystery of Capital by Hernando DeSoto
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • Zoo Story by Thomas French
  • Into the Wild By Jon Krakauer
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
  • The Great Gatsbey by F. Scott Fitzgerals
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
  • A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson
  • Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis
Emily's Book list:
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Last Juror by John Grisham
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (don't judge me!)
  • True Religion by Palmer Chinchen
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson
  • The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larson
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larson
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Too Small to Ignore by Wes Stafford
  • Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo & Niall Ferguson
  • The Awakening & Other Stories by Kate Chopin
  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Naked by David Sedaris
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • Kings of the Earth by Jon Clinch
  • In a Strange Room: Three Journeys by Damon Galgut
  • The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  • The Broken Tea Glass by Emily Arsenault
  • The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
  • Magic with Everything by Roger Burt
  • House Rules by Jodi Picoult
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • The Terror of Living by Urban Waite
  • A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson
  • Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  • Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • Swamplandia by Karen Russel
  • Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
  • The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong'o 
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Postcard Killers by James Patterson
  • Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
  • Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
  • Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need by Dave Barry
  • Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
  • The Lighthouse by P.D. James
  • The Cactus Eaters by Dan White
  • No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
*** Here began my undertaking of Time Magazines 100 best novels of all time!
A Peace Corps worthy challenge I think! :-)
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • American Pastoral by Phillip Roth
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • Neruomancer by William Gibson
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Deliverance by James Dickey
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John leCarre
Books we read together:
  • Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
  • The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Time Travelers Wife By Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Feb 20 (better late than never!)

Hi everyone,

We had written this post a while ago, but hadn't gotten the opportunity to post it yet. So, I guess, better late than never!

Feb 20

Welcome to Uganda!

We have successfully completed our first week of PST (pre-service training)! We have been in Uganda a little over a week now and are absolutely loving it! The weather is warm, the people are kind, and the country is beautiful! So far we have had training sessions on medical (and received shots for rabies, hepatitis, meningitis, and started taking our malaria prophylaxis), culture/current events, “survival” Luganda, group building, and tech training (secondary education or primary teacher training). Many of the volunteers in our group have undergone mini makeovers this week - shaving beards, taking out piercings, cutting hair and covering tattoos. We’ve learned how to wash our clothes by hand and have already done many loads of laundry. We’ve played lots of card games too! Currently the game we are learning is Bridge - not an easy game but fun! We got an opportunity to try cooking in the kitchen at our compound. My small group made Mexican for 50 people and even made tortillas by hand!

We’ve been treated like valued guests here - life has been very good. We eat three great meals each day as well as break tea every day, have hot showers, electricity, and running water. Since we are on standfast (a heightened security level because of the elections that took place on Friday) our activites outside of the training compound are fairly limited, but we have been given 4 locations in the community that we can explore in our free time - a shopping mall area, really nice hotel with views of Lake Victoria that we can walk around, a bar, and a gas/convenience station. So we’ve been able to see some of the country side and meet some people outside of the training center. None of us are very confident in our Luganda language, but we are having fun trying to speak with the community members and everyone has been very gracious as we are learning! We have been given walk-around money and have been able to buy the things we need (we make about $2.50 per day during training, but it’s far more than enough since all of our basic needs are met!). Ryan and I bought a cell phone this week and have even been able to call home for the first time since we’ve been here.

So far things are going very well. We are forming great relationships with our awesome PST group and are seeing the time on Standfast as a great opportunity to get to know our fellow trainees. If all goes as planned, we will be moving to our homestay families on Saturday Feb 26 and will be on the training compound only during the training sessions, lunch and break tea after that.

We got some other big news this week. First, my assignment is changing from being a secondary teacher to a primary teacher trainer. This means that I will work at a Primary Teacher’s college, teaching math (and maybe some pedagogy?) to future primary teachers. There will be an emphasis on creative teaching methods, learning aids with sustainable resources, and trying to encourage future teachers to move away from rote memorization with students. From what I understand, the PTC is not like what we think of college in the USA, and it is more like what we think of as high school. Students in the PTC are there because either 1) they are choosing to become primary teachers, 2) they do not have the funds to continue with advanced secondary school or university, or 3) they do not have the test scores to continue with advanced secondary school or university. As a teacher at a PTC, I will still have the opportunity to work on secondary projects and life skills trainings, which I am excited about. Also, since Ryan and I will both be working at the same PTC (and living on the compound too!) we will have the neat opportunity to collaborate on secondary projects and try to work on needs that we see arise at the school. I think it will be a good fit even though it is a little different than what I had originally expected. I have confidence that the excellent staff here at Peace Corps Uganda will put me where I am best fit!

The other big news we got tonight is that now we know which language group we will be studying! Out of the 54 (that’s a lot of languages!!!) languages spoken in Luganda, our PST group will be learning 9. We are in a group with three other trainees, and we will be learning a language called Runyankore. From what we understand, this is the language spoken in the South Western part of Uganda, just southeast of Queen Elizabeth National Park. We’ve been told that the largest city in the region that speaks Runyankore is Mbarara. We hear that this part of the country is among the most beautiful in Uganda, and we are so thrilled that this will be our future home!

We will have lots more to report in the days to come, but for now I thought I’d write a quick update letting everyone know that we are safe and sound and doing very well.


PST happenings

Hi Everyone!

We are now in week 7 of training and so anxious to get to site! We still don’t have internet of our own, but hope to get it in the next couple of weeks. So, soon we hope to make our blog posts a little more interesting and less rushed! :-)

Here’s a little bit about what we’ve been up to since we last blogged...

Saturday we had our first real excursion into Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. We had been given many, many warnings about security and safety while there, so we weren’t sure what all to expect. It is certainly a bustling city, but we enjoyed the chance to get to explore a little. We left the day having bought gum boots (rain boots), pizza (mmm...), and a map of the country. We got oriented to the taxi park (I was so certain I was going to get run over!) and bus park, and waded our way through the mud! The city is built so that all the excess water (by the way, it’s rainy season now!) runs down to the taxi park. So on top of the crowded streets with taxis, matatus, and buses going every which way, vendors aggressively trying to sell their goods, you are also wading through thick mud that some in our group coined “fecal mud” (sewage literally seeps through the ground on a heavy day of rain). Nice. But we had a lot of fun seeing the city and getting some of the things we needed. The overall feeling of the group was mixed - Kampala is definitely not a city for the claustrophobic or faint of heart!

We also got a surprise visit to the PC medical office. As it turns out, Ryan is allergic to Kampala! Just as we were sitting down for pizza (divine!) he began to have an allergic reaction. Oddly enough, as we went through Kampala again the following weekend, he had the exact same reaction. We think it might be the dust or fumes from the congested taxi park, but hopefully it doesn’t become an issue while we are here.

Then last week we spent the majority of the week with our language group in a town called Ibanda in the southwestern part of the country. We were there primarily to work on “language immersion” - getting practice greeting community members, buying and bargaining in the market, ordering meals at restaurants, communicating with taxi drivers, etc. It was one of our favorite weeks of training. We loved hanging out with our fellow Runyankore-learning PCTs and fabulous LTF (language training facilitator) Mr. B, and it was wonderful getting to meet some of the hospitable people of Ibanda.

While away, we also got to experience some extra things. First, we had the chance to visit a government aided village secondary school. The 5 of us PCTs crammed in the backseat of a car (and Ryan and Silas have long legs!!) and traveled out to this beautiful hilly village about 10 km away from the town. We were taken to each classroom to introduce ourselves (in Runyankore, of course), and even had our picture taken with the 500 students that went to the school! Before we could leave, we were flooded with secondary students wanting to shake our hands, and touch our hair and skin. They were excited to see us and I think it made all of us really excited to get to our sites and begin working with students full time!

Also, we spent an evening at a Primary Teacher’s College with a PCV who works there. We had a wonderful time seeing the school, chatting with the PCV, and cooking American style. Ryan and I are both so excited to find out which PTC we will be stationed at, and begin to set up a home there.

In Ibanda town we even got some sweet new African garb. All of us ladies chose fabric and got measured for dresses. They were done in 2 days and cost a total of less than 20 American dollars. We all sported our new styles at training the next day, and according to Mr. B, made all the other language groups jealous. It was a really fun week.

Oh - and another big success: we successfully navigated Uganda’s public transportation system! Our trip took a total of 6.5 hours each way, and we utilized buses, matatus (large van taxis), and taxis along the way. We didn’t realize before hand that the buses were a regular mall, selling everything from bananas to picture frames of HIllary Duff. A traveling salesman even boarded the bus for a portion of the journey, selling a miracle vicks Vapor-rub-ish balm as well as a pill that will cure tapeworm. Go figure! Additionally, we saw some gorgeous scenery, animals (the SW is known for its cows!) and got to practice our language a little along the way as well. The trip is definitely not without bumps (craters) in the road, but a great experience and nice to know we will be able to handle it when we get out on our own in just a few short weeks.

This weekend we had the chance to visit our host mom’s chicken farm. It was fun to see the chickens, though it is sort of empty right now. Since the majority of the chickens become food at wedding receptions, they don’t supply as many chickens right now because lent is a season with few weddings. We also got to meet the 1 week old chicks who will become “layers”. The men who work the farm were cleaning the bodies of the chickens who had just been “harvested.” Not being a farm girl, this is a little hard for me! I sat there wondering if I would ever be able to bring myself to eat chicken again!

On Sunday we got the chance to go to visitation day at the boarding school where our 16 year old sister goes to school. We packed up the car with all of us and an enormous lunch for a” picnic” with the family. (By “picnic” I mean our dining room table literally transported an hour and a half away!) Boarding schools are much more common here in Uganda, and students often attend as young as 6 years old. Visitation days happen about twice a term (every 6 weeks or so) and students are not permitted to leave or be visited in between them. So, these days are a big deal for family connection and checking in with teachers and staff at the school. We enjoyed it a lot.

This week we have our mock LPI (Language Proficiency Interview), to give us a sense of how we will perform on the real test during week 10. We are a little nervous but looking forward to knowing how we should prepare with the weeks we have left. (We have to score a level of “intermediate low” to be sworn in to serve as PCVs.)

Well, that’s the news from our end. We think of you often and would love to hear from you if you get the chance to write. That’s my subtle way of saying.....SHOOT US AN EMAIL! ;-)

Thanks for sticking with us through this long post! I hope we have the chance to post some pictures soon and take the time to write you more personally. Until then, we love you all and hope you are well!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Four Weeks In!

Hi Everybody!
On Friday we realized that we'd been in Uganda for 4 weeks! In someways the time has really flown by, and in others it feels like we'vealready been here for much longer!

I thought I'd tell you a little about what training is like for us,then give you some specifics about what we've been doing! Thankseveryone who emailed and checked in. We absolutely love hearing fromyou and miss knowing what is going on in your lives! We still don'thave internet so we're using our minutes at an internet cafe, sohopefully soon we will be able to write more personal replies toeveryone.

So, our day usually starts around 7am, when we get up. We arefortunate that our homestay is closer to the training center so wedon't have to plan for such a long walk in the morning. Annet usuallymakes us eggs every morning, and we have tea and bread from the bakerydown the street. Delicious! Then, we walk to training and arrivearound 8. The last few weeks we have had 2 hours of language in themorning (I think RYan mentioned that we are learning a language called Runyankore/Rukiga, spoken 4 regions in Southwestern Uganda). Languageis going pretty well so far! We also usually take "break tea," atradition I have full intention of keeping when we get back to thestates! :-) After that we usually spend some time at SBT(School-Based-Training). Since we are in the primary educationsector, our 3 weeks of SBT are split between a primary school, aCoordinating Center, and a Primary Teacher's College. This way we getto see multiple aspects of the primary education system here inUganda.

Last week we spent our time at a Primary school here in Lweza. Wewere in a group with 2 other trainees, and we each taught 3 classesbefore the week was through. I think we all really enjoyed theopporunity to work with Ugandan teachers and students and experiencelife in the primary school! I taught English, and Ryan taught scienceand math. Our classes were P4, P5, and P6. This meant they aresimilar to the US grades 4, 5, and 6, but are not as strictly dividedby age. Students are not promoted unless they pass the promotionalexams at the end of the year, and if they started school late theystill must begin at the beginning. So, the ages really varied in theclass. Each of our classes had between 55-70 students in them. It was a great experience.

Then this week we spent time in a "Coordinating Center." Here we leada workshop on literacy for in service primary teachers. Thecoordinating center acts as a resource and intermediary betweenprimary schools and the national ministry of education. Onecoordinating center may serve more than 100 primary schools, so theirjob is big! It was good to be there are learn about what they do, assome of our group will be stationed there.

In the coming week, we will observe and teach at a Primary Teacher'scollege (the name is self explanatory!). I don't know very much aboutthem yet, but we will be learning soon. We think that Ryan and I willultimately be placed at a PTC, so we are looking forward to learningabout what happens there.

After this week of training, we get to have some exciting experiences. Next weekend we get to tour Kampala. It has been off limits due tosecurity reasons, so we are excited to get to visit it soon. Also,Sunday we leave for a week of language immersion in a village thatspeaks the language we are learning. We will travel with our languagegroup and teacher to practice speaking Runyankore. I'm excited.

In a couple of weeks we will also learn about the specifics of oursite, and do a future site visit. We are of course very excited toknow where we will be calling home for the next 2 years.

So, training is ticking along and I think before we know it we will beswearing in as volunteers and moving out on our own. It's hard tothink of not seeing our training group regularly (we've gotten reallyclose!) but we are all excited!

We're doing really good! We've gotten better at doing our laundry byhand, and are working on improving our aim into pit latrines! :-)We're learning every day and really enjoying the experience!

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers and keeping in touch. We will write again soon!

Much love,

PS - Osiibe gye! (Spend the day well!)