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,


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