Monday, May 28, 2012

Almost June......Really?!

Hey Everybody!

We can't believe it is already almost June!  Where has the time gone!

Things are continuing on here in Uganda.  I feel like we aren't posting as much recently, although I'm sure that's really common for PCVs in their second year.  Life goes on, day to day, and not as much seems as noteworthy.  But, at the same time, we are always trying to live in the moment here, enjoy the little things, and try to really "suck the marrow" out of our life here in Uganda. (Anyone love Thorough as much as I do?!)  Time is flying and we know before long we will wonder where our two years spent in Uganda have gone!

A few updates - today starts the second term here at BPTC.  If you remember last year, around this time, we were forced to send our students away after receiving only about 66% of the budget needed to run the college.  Well, this year we only received 33% from the Ministry, so the principals got together and decided to postpone the beginning of term until more funds came.  We thought it would be two weeks or more, but after only a week delay, the students *should* arrive today!  So far we've only seen two, but we'll remain optimistic until at least lunchtime :-) 

 We are excited to get going on another new term!  Term 2 at the PTC is the heavy teaching/extracurricular term.  Since there is no school practice with child study and student teaching, the students are physically here at the college the entire time.  So, it should be a great term for getting teaching done, having lots of great club activities, and helping out with other extracurricular (sports and games, music dance and drama maybe?) like last year.

 I'm also very excited to begin/expand a girls empowerment project that began on a small scale in the girls club I was working with last term.  The project involves teaching about women's health and the creation of reusable menstrual pads.  Since pads are very expensive here, many young women resort to using uncomfortable, unhygienic options (feathers, rags, leaves, etc.) rather that purchasing them.  Others skip school for the entire duration of their periods, and still others resort to selling sex to get money for pads and other necessary items.  It's a little thing that can make a big difference for the girls.  So, I'm using a model a PCV created a couple of years ago to use local materials to make washable, hygienic and very inexpensive pads.   The other component of the program is education related - teaching about the menstrual cycle, female anatomy, family planning, and offering a question and answer session.  The idea is that I will lead an example workshop for the girls at the college, then support them to lead similar, age appropriate workshops for the upper primary girls they work with during third term school practice.  I'm currently working on the printing of 280 manuals providing information for leading the workshops.  Next up - buying and cutting materials for 280 reusable pad "kits."  I am very, very excited about the scope and significance of this project, and will definitely update as the work progresses!

Another neat event we are looking forward to this term is a collaboration with Silent Voices, a local NGO working with the parents of deaf children.  Ryan and I will be working with them on their (somehow) annual activity day - a day to bring deaf children from all over the region of Bushenyi together for a day of fun and games at the college.  I'll be recruiting students to help run games and "make the day colorful" as they say here, as well as practice what I've been teaching them the last year in my Special Education classes.  Since students with special needs are often stigmatized and isolated, the day is a neat chance to bring together children with similar special needs - to realize that they are not alone, and just have fun!  We're hoping to bring back some of the successful games from the CarniBull we did last fall, and are really looking forward to it!

And...of course other things will come up, others will delay, and others won't happen at all!  But we're excited for a new term to start.  It's crazy to think that a year ago we were beginning our first term here at the college.  And next year at this time we'll be on the job hunt back in America!  I am thankful every day for this crazy ride that is the Peace Corps, the adventure of a lifetime with my best friend.  Here goes another term!

Love and miss you all,



Monday, May 21, 2012

Parent's Trip Part II

Well our anticipation grew and our hearts were broken once again by the coming and going of my parents this time.  My parents flew in a couple of weeks ago, for the trip of a lifetime!!  Their first trip off the continent, first trip to Africa, and most definitely first time to a crazy place like Uganda.  They were no doubt in for a treat!

We started our time in Entebbe staying at a nice little guesthouse near the airport, that we had also stayed at with Emily’s parents.  Being in Entebbe allowed us a nice chance to catch up, walk to the botanical gardens, and eat good western style meals.  Then after a day in Entebbe they got their first chance to see what sarcastically became their favorite part of Uganda, Transportation!  You will have to ask them in person why they loved it so much, but I think they got close to the full experience by the time they left.

When we got back to our site we got a chance to show them what our everyday life looks like, from washing clothes by hand to cooking absolutely everything you plan to meet (no buying a bag of tortilla chips here).  We got to spend some time gardening with them.  I think my dad was a bit surprised when I told him we were going to get manure for fertilizer, and we literally just walked into the field and starting picking up pies.  But time at site was quiet and relaxing.

While they were here we had to give them the full African experience so we took them to the National Park near us (Queen Elizabeth National Park).  We had a good time staying at a local lodge, and enjoying the views overlooking the park.  Then we got up early to go on a game drive.  We had much better luck then the first time Emily and I went to QENP.  On the drive we saw elephants, kob, waterbuck, warthog, baboon, monkeys, LION, and more that I can no longer think of.  Then we went on a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel.  We got to see hippos and Nile crocodiles, as well as a ton of amazing birds.  Queen Elizabeth was a great experience overall and we had great luck.  On another day we tried to push our luck at tracking chimps but our luck had run out. 

The final experience that we had with my parents was some time in Jinja, which is a fun place to spend a few days.  We got a chance to ride horses by the Nile, and take a boat trip on the Nile as well.  We stayed in fun tents that overlooked the river, and was a peaceful conclusion to the end of our trip. 
I think I can say that my parents had a true Africa experience.  From hippos and elephants, to hand washing clothes, to seeing the Nile, to hordes of Ugandan children yelling Mazungu at them, to riding on Uganda’s wonderful transportation system.  I loved having them here and it was hard to see them go.  If you want to see pictures from our time the link is: HERE.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Midservice + New Pictures!

First of all, I added some new pictures to my day to day album on facebook! Click Here if you'd like to check them out!

In other news, we had our Peace Corps Mid-service conference this week!  It was a great time to getting together with the other 42 volunteers we traveled to Uganda with (we are all *still* here 14 months from when we arrived!!!) and getting some training to help us continue to serve effectively at site.  Although the training was mainly idea sharing and trouble shooting, the best part by far was seeing our friends and fellow volunteers from all over the country.  While sitting in a discussion group with the other 8 or so volunteers placed at PTCs, it was amazing to hear their struggles and successes and realize that we are not alone in the challenges we have at site.  What a great perspective to be given!  At one point we made posters to visually describe our year at site.  It's crazy to think back on all of the details last year - friendships made, discouragements weathered, new things learned, successes celebrated - all the day to day ups and downs of life as a PCV.  I have to say, though, at the end of it all, I'm really happy with where we are at, and also really happy to know that in less than a year we will be home!

We also got checked out by our medical unit, and had our first visit to a Ugandan dentist's office.  We are both foot fungus and cavity free (sort of funny the things they check for!) and survived both visits without too much pain! :-)

And, Ryan's parents flew in yesterday!!!  So, the Johnsons and Kjesbo-Johnsons will be enjoying Uganda together this week!  Also, Mom just booked tickets to come in June, and Bryan and Jen will be here in August!  We have a great few months ahead of us!

Love and miss you all!