Monday, March 28, 2011

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!


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