Monday, March 28, 2011

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.


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