Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New photos

So, I still haven't figured out the best way to do this....But I added some new pics from PST and swearing in to my facebook album. Check them out!

new pics - click here!


Everything grows in Uganda!

Since we’ve been here, one of the phrases we’ve heard over and over again is, “EVERYTHING grows in Uganda!” It’s been said in positive ways: flowers and herbs, beautiful plants and trees, etc. and in negative ways: funky things in your drinking water, diseases in your GI tract, etc. So...we’re starting to test this theory (in its positive aspects) at our new little home in Bushenyi!

We brought with us a plethora of seeds from home, and yesterday we started a little seed nursery with some of them! Since Term 2 (the first term in which we will teach) doesn’t start until near the end of May, we have some time to kill before we really have to get to work. So, along with getting to know our new community and setting up our house, we are starting our garden and our compost! So far, we’ve planted oregano, basil, big boy and roma tomatoes, watermelons, and morenga trees. We have lots more seeds but will wait and plant some directly in the ground. We will have to experiment a little with the best seasons for growing here, but nothing should have much problem as long as we water when it is dry season. So, we’re enjoying our own little tribute to spring right here in Uganda!

We are supremely fortunate to have an incredible backyard! On top of our many banana trees, 2 avocado trees, and passion fruit vines, we have a great space ready for us to garden. We’ve already spotted pumpkins and rosemary already growing there, and are certain if someone with a discerning eye came over to help us out, they would be able to spot lots more growing hidden in the weeds! So, that’s a lot of fun and something to be excited about before we get started with our teaching next term. We’ll keep you posted on our garden’s progress!

Missing you all!



Monday, April 25, 2011

These are a few of our favorite things...

Hey Everyone,
A few people have asked us what things we would like sent to us if they were going to send us a package. So here are a few ideas/cravings we have had:
  • Seasonings - Poultry, Onion Powder, Garlic, seasoning blends (Mrs. Dash type), and Penzye's cheese sprinkles (Brady street, sandwich sprinkle, etc.)
  • Parmesan cheese

  • Candy-Emily likes almost anything dark chocolate related (especially lindt and ghiradelli), peppermint chocolate, gummy bears, chocolate covered raisins, and red vines licorice. Ryan likes fruity type things (like Starburst Jelly Beans), Peanut Butter chocolate things, peanuts (especially honey roasted), and carmel chocolate type candies.

  • Crystal Light packets

  • Just-add-water oregon chai mix packet
  • Mac N' Cheese cheese package
  • Dried Black Beans
  • New music

  • Pictures from home!!
Well that is what we can think of so far, but we will keep this updated as we miss more things.

Thanks for asking!

Ryan and Emily

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Home Sweet Home... Eventually

It is true we are finally PCV!!! Hard to believe that 10 weeks of training are over and we have been sworn in. The last two weeks since we have written have been filled with many very exciting things and some harder things. The week after we got back from our Future Site Visit was our last week of training. We had a lot of wrapping up of things to do. So on Wednesday we took our Round Robin assessment. This consisted of us going around to meet with people from various areas of Peace Corps (Security, Cultural, Medical, Primary Education, and our Country Director). It was pretty straight forward, and we both passed with flying colors. A couple questions that stumped some people were:

  • How do you tell which beans are good and which are bad?
  • Who created Peace Corps, and why?
  • If you have latent TB how long do you have to take the medication?
  • How do you prepare rice in Uganda? (the basic rice here has twigs and stones that you must pick out)
  • If you get in a car crash in Uganda what must you have on you? (Answer: Your Peace Corps ID)

So these were some of the interesting questions.

Then on Friday we had our big Language Proficiency Interview *Dramatic Gasp*. This has been the single day of training that I had been dreading the most. The good news is that Emily passed!!!! Emily scored an Intermediate Mid (one above where she needed to be). The bad news is that Ryan did not :-(. I scored a Novice High (one below where I needed to be). So I will get to retake in about three months! My frustration was palpable on Saturday when I got my score but it has subsided since.

On Saturday we had our Homestay family good bye ceremony. It was good but got very long by the end of our time. Each language group (9 total) presented twice once for 10 minutes and one for 5, which ended up being more like 20 minutes and 15 minutes. So the day got long. Our group presented a video thanking our homestay parents for our longer presentation, and then we did a mock cooking show for our other making PBJ! Afterwords we had a picnic lunch Ugandan style.

Then on Monday morning we left our homestay family, to stay at a hotel for our last week. Monday half of our group was going to go shopping and the other half was going to visit the Peace Corps Office. But in the end both groups just ended up visiting the hotel pool. Because due to riots that have been happening in larger cities in Uganda recently we were put on “Standfast” once again. So this meant that no Volunteers were allowed to leave their sites, or in our case the hotel. But on Tuesday the riots had subsided and we got to pump our day full of many things.

We started by visiting the US Embassy. It was a very interesting visit where we got to learn many facts about what embassies do and what the one here specifically does. One fact that was a little bit unnerving is the fact that the US supplies 85% of the ARV drugs for Ugandan’s who have AIDS, and it represents hundreds of billions of USAID dollars. The USAID officer told us that America could never really back out of this commitment now that it has made it, unless the Ugandan government took it over, or we would be responsible for millions of deaths. Another fact that was hopeful was that America tends to spend significantly less on many projects that European countries spend more on but make a larger difference by the strings attached to the money. So it is good to know that our trusty embassy will be there to support us if we lose our passport or go to jail. Following our embassy visit we went to the Peace Corps office to tour and get our final vaccination. Then we went to a shopping center called Garden City to do some shopping. We got a few of the more essential things that we would need at our house.

On Wednesday all of our supervisors (except for a few which sent replacements, like ours) came to the hotel for a supervisors conference. This lasted for a day and a half. The conference was pretty repetitive from the rest of our training and we had to sit through it all. The evenings were fun times to reconnect with all of our new friends before we were miles and miles away from each other. We got a last few chances to play bridge, before our gang split up across the country from each other.

On Thursday we had our official Peace Corps swear-in. It happened in the afternoon at the deputy ambassador’s house. It felt like a graduation with the training manager presenting us to the Education program manager, who then introduced us to the PC Country Director. The Country director then passed us to the US ambassador for swearing-in, and then he presented us to the representative for the Ugandan Ministry of Education. Following our swearing in where we vowed to defend the constitution of the USA, we had appetizers and drinks. It all felt very formal and celebrative, and a good conclusion to training.

Now as for Friday, the reason I put “... Eventually” in the title of this post. The best way to sum up the day is to provide you with a timeline:

7:30 - We leave the hotel (in Kampala) in route for Bushanyi

8:48 - We stopped at a supermarket called “Game” in Kampala to get bikes. It didn’t open until 10, because of the holiday.

11:00 - We get to downtown “crazy” Kampala to buy bikes from shady basements. Note: We thought walking through markets in Kampala was nerve racking, but it is significantly more frightening driving through crowded markets with all of your possessions in the back of truck.

11:45 - We realize after sitting in traffic for a significant amount of time that our car wasn’t working right so we went to a garage in Kampala.

3 - The mechanics return with the parts for our car. They had to ride on a motorcycle to get them fixed somewhere else because the garage had no power. Then we finally are able to leave the city we started in.

5 - Our brand new bikes fly off the back of the truck.

6 - They decide to pick up two large bags of charcoal and squish them on all of our stuff in the back.

6:05 - Things start flying out the back of the truck that they had moved when they put the charcoal in.

7:30 - We reach Mbarara. While leaving we rear-end someone.

8 - We finish leaving Mbarara after they are done arguing about the collision.

9:30 - 207 Miles and 13.5 hours later... Home Sweet Home

9:35 - We find the things they told us we could leave in our home, because no one would be using it, were gone because someone had stayed there. Additionally mud is slowly seeping from our pipes, until it stop all together.

This morning we woke up ready to have a fresh start in our new home, and we did. We listened to music, settled in, went shopping, dreamed of our soon to be garden, got the water turned back on, found Akatunda (passion fruit) growing in our backyard, and hung a hammock (and if you know Emily you know how happy this made her). Our day has been a wonderful relief after yesterday. Tomorrow we plan to have a traditional Easter Chili dinner with some other PCVs at our house! Happy Easter everyone! We are wishing we could be at home with you all and here at the same time!! Eat lots of candy for us, and maybe send us a little to!!

Stay Well and don’t get stuck in the traffic jam around Kampala,


Monday, April 11, 2011


Hi Everyone!

The time has finally come that I can post some pictures! We got internet today (woo hoo!) and I've been dying to share with you some of the things we've been seeing and doing!

I intended to put all my pics on my flickr photostream, but am having some problems with it today. So, instead, I posted about 100 pictures from the last 9 weeks on facebook. I'm not sure whether it will be a permanent solution or not....I'm still holding out some hope for flickr, but we'll see.

Anyhow, here's a link for you to check them out - I think it should work regardless of if you have facebook or not. Enjoy!



Future Site Visit!

This week we traveled to Bushenyi to visit our future site! It was so great to see where we would be working and living for the next two years! Two current volunteers from the nearby regions rode with us on the bus on the way there and pointed out where we should get off, which was super nice. So, all was well in our journey.

When we arrived at the college we were greeted by the many boda drivers who park at the stage in front of the college, as well as another PC volunteer, Jean. Jean is a Community Health & Economic Development volunteer and has been in Uganda for a year. She works with an organization called Bushenyi Honey. She was excited to have some other volunteers with her in Bushenyi, and our sites are really close together. So, that was a lot of fun. She has promised to show us the ropes in Bushenyi and she knows lots of good hiking and jogging routes that she is willing to share!

So, I want to tell you all about our college....Bushenyi Primary Teacher’s College. After passing the gates you come upon a beautifully groomed campus with tons of trees and flowers and many brick buildings. We were welcomed into the administration block of the college and quickly met many of the administrative staff. Everyone was so friendly and seemed genuinely happy that we were there. The college has had PC volunteers a number of years ago and recently hosted some VSO volunteers from Britain, so they are quite familiar with having volunteers in their school.

At BPTC, there are currently about 250 first year students, and 150 second year students (who were out in the schools doing practice teaching). They also have many projects happening on the campus: a tea farm, a dairy farm (which means I can have fresh milk delivered to my doorstep every morning!), an apiary (bee keeping), & chickens and goats. The school also has an outreach program that works with currently serving teachers, a coordinating center (resource center for the regional primary schools), and a model primary school. It is quite a beautiful and there are many good things happening there!

We also got to stay in what will be our future house. It is very, very nice! We live in an an area with many other of the teaching staff. In our house, we have a kitchen with a sink and running water, living/dining/sitting room, 2 bedrooms, a flushing toilet, and a shower (freezing, but a shower nonetheless!). It is more than we could have asked for and we cant wait to move in and make it home! In our backyard we have bogoya trees (large, sweet bananas), avocado trees, and tons of space for gardening! I know that we will love it there! We have already gotten permission to paint and can’t wait to add some color to the walls and fill the home with the things we have brought from home. Very exciting!

We also got a chance to walk into Bushenyi town (about a 40 minute walk) and see some of the surrounding country. It is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!! It’s hard to believe we will be surrounded with such incredible views every day for the next 2 years!!! Everything is green, and there are gorgeous rolling hills, many trees, and lots of cows (with HUGE texas-style horns), chickens, and goats. The people are kind and everyone has been more than gracious with our limited Runyankore! We love Bushenyi and can’t wait to return!

Our journey back was a bit more eventful than the way there. I thought I’d share some “Ugandecdotes” (clever, aren’t I?!) from our day yesterday:

We took a taxi from Bushenyi into Mbarara (about an hour ride). For much of the trip, there were 10 people crammed into a car the size of a honda civic: 6 men, 2 women, and 2 teenage girls. This was the first time I have ever seen two people in the driver’s seat of a car - and a manual at that! To make matters more interesting, at one point the driver pulled over and left all of us crammed in the car while he helped himself to a “short call.”

We found a bus going to Kampala that promised they were leaving right away. They were revving their engine and starting to move. We considered ourselves very lucky to have such great luck. Hours later, we realized this was not the case. We sat on the bus while it revved it’s engine and drove back and forth for more about 2 and a half hours! Ugh!

At one point along the way, we stopped along the side of the road to pick up more passengers. (This happened frequently, but this particular time was very interesting.) There was an elderly woman with a large sack of stuff and there were people pulling her sack in different directions and talking very animatedly. When we asked a fellow passenger what was going on, he explained that the taxi and bus conductors were fighting for her to be their passenger. They fought for a considerable amount of time, but eventually she got on the bus with us. Then the taxi people started yelling more and eventually began throwing rocks at the bus. The bus put on its brakes, rolled backwards towards the taxi conductors (and the crowd of villagers who had been gathering during the ordeal). A group of people got off the bus and armed themselves with rocks and started back towards the taxi conductors. (Incidentally, this was also when I began to freak out!!!) Somehow we got out of there before things got too out of hand, and we pulled away while the crowd yelled angry things at the bus and the people on the bus yelled angry things right back at them. Eeek!

*The moral of the story: take the morning bus!!!!*

That’s all for now. I hope to post some pictures soon, as we are getting internet tomorrow (yea!) Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!!! We love you and miss you all!


PS - 10 days until we are sworn in as PC volunteers!!! The countdown begins!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Our Site!

Hey Everyone,

Well it seemed liked the day that we would find out our site would never arrive, but today was the day! It seemed like the day that we would find out our site would almost be the end of training, and it feels like it almost is. Our group was all buzzing this morning until we found out where we were going. So today after we “suffered” through a language lesson, and break tea, we were given our sites. Each person was called up separately and handed an envelope that showed their host school on the front. And we found out that we are going to Bushenyi Core Primary Teachers College!

Bushenyi is a small to medium sized town in the southwest region of Uganda. If you are looking at a map it is about 60 km west of Mbarara. We were a little nervous at first because our job descriptions both seemed to be technology volunteers (good for me, questionable for Emily). So we asked Mary, the staff person in charge of site placements, for some more details about our site. We found out that the descriptions are not set in stone and will be worked out when we get there. So that was comforting. We also were told that our site will have running water and electricity, which was not needed, but we are also not complaining. We are in the same vicinity as a few other current volunteers and another person in our language group. Everything we heard about our site today just made us that much more excited and ready to get to site.

So that was definitely the climax of our last week of training, which was definitely filled with many other exciting events. On Wednesday we took our “Mock LPI,” or language practice test. I think everyone in our language group felt pretty good about their test. Emily and I both got the score of Novice High that is about one step below where we need to be by next week. So passing the LPI seems within our grasp. A couple of other sessions we had last week were a health session on nutrition, a session on working with youth in war torn areas, and working with NGO’s. Then on Friday we celebrated the Peace Corps 50th anniversary. During the day we did various service projects at a local primary school. Emily worked on cleaning, sanding, and painting the dorm rooms. I worked on setting up/fixing a water (amaizi) catchment system (thanks Jill and Myron for equipping me with these skills!). The barrel was probably only about 25 times larger then our wimpy 55-gallon tank we have at home. Maybe an upgrade will be in order when we get back to St. Paul! Then in the evening we had a banquet at a local reception area. There were various speeches, singing of happy birthday to Peace Corps, and lots of dancing. It was also great getting to interact more with current Peace Corps volunteers.

On Saturday we had cooking (ku-teeka) with our language group. We got up early and went shopping. Then we came back to our homestay for cooking. We made spaghetti, American style, not Ugandan style. In Uganda they make spaghetti by breaking it up really small and cooking it like you would rice (until the water is gone). Then covering it with the typical beans. But we made a homemade tomato sauce, green beans, and French bread. I think we sold our homestay family on American food after we made that and Lasagna (thanks to Emily’s mom bringing supplies) earlier in the week. And who wouldn’t fall in love with Americanesque foods after you have lasagna… I thought not! Anyways that has been our past week.

The second part of this week we go to our future site visit in Bushenyi, and we will tell you more about that when it comes!

Stay Well,

Ryan KJ