Sunday, September 9, 2012


Hi (again) everyone!

I wanted to post an article I'm submitting to our national Peace Corps newsletter.  I had something of an epiphany while listening to music last night and cooking by candlelight with Ryan.  Since it kinda follows up some of the thoughts on my last post, here it is!

Thanks for reading - we love and miss you all!


All This Beauty

I’ve been in Uganda over eighteen months now, and I’ll be completely honest that I’ve been at a bit of a low for the last week or so.  Since the beginning of May, we traveled on an incredible trip to Italy, spent time with each of our families, hosted the last of our visitors (two of my very best friends!), and jumped into a school term that was unbelievably fulfilling and busy.  It’s been difficult to come off of all of those wonderful experiences.  Even if we know it’s not completely true, it’s hard to imagine that the next six or seven months in Uganda will have anything to offer that can even compare to the excitement of what we’ve already experienced.  And, naturally, many stresses and frustrations with Uganda are compiling by this point, directly impacting my feelings toward public transportation, mzungu crazed children, and people outside of our close community.  All of that to say, I’ve been finding that my usually very positive self has, in the last week or so been…not so positive.

Today we traveled home from All Vol.  On the way, I talked with a great friend who is about to COS.  Among the many things we talked about, he shared with me that he’s trying to really take in all the beauty and amazing opportunities that his last month in Uganda will hold.  Then, tonight I was cooking homemade flour tortillas with Ryan by candlelight, listening to The Weepies, and was totally struck by the words of one of my favorite of their songs – All This Beauty.

All this beauty
You might have to close your eyes
And slowly open wide
All this beauty, we traveled all night
We drank the ocean dry
And watched the sun rise

You can ask about it, but nobody knows the way
No breadcrumb trail to follow through your days
It takes an axe, sometimes a feather
In the sunshine and bad weather
It's a matter of getting deeper in, any way you can

I can see your new awake
Let me assure you friend:
Every day is ice cream and chocolate cake
And what you make of it, let me say
You get what you take from it so be amazed
And never stop, never stop, never stop
You gotta be brave

I must have listened to it four or more times (thank goodness for a patient husband!), and couldn’t believe what I was hearing – it was as if the song was speaking directly to me, reminding me of what I know to be true about my Peace Corps service: My experience depends entirely on what I put into it; nobody can give me a bread crumb trail to follow through service; the experience is so rich and fulfilling, even with the plentiful amounts of both sunshine and bad weather.  It might take closing my eyes and reopening them to truly appreciate the beauty around me.  And, ultimately, I’ve got to be brave.  Every day I get deeper in, and it really is about seeing the beauty surrounding me and appreciating the sweetness of my days here, even if there’s not a lot of ice cream and chocolate cake! 

I know that as things pick up at the school and in the community, opportunities will surprise me, relationships will continue to develop, and I will frequently be reminded why I have often said that I really do *love* being a PCV in Uganda.  Even in the week since I hit my low, my feelings and attitude have improved tremendously.  And, when the hard times come – and they inevitably will – I’ll try to stay focused on “All This Beauty” surrounding us in the people and the places of Uganda. 

When it comes down to it, I think we all can learn a lesson from The Weepies – whether remaining with days, months, or years, Peace Corps service in Uganda really is an incredible experience full of truly beautiful moments.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Catching up...

Hey everyone!

Well, we're back in Uganda!  It has been a whirlwind of a month!  First - ending the term and hosting two wonderful friends, and then an awesome time in Europe!  Thanks to those of you who checked out our *many* pictures - I think they tell a better story of our trip than I ever could in words...

But let me try all the same!  Our trip was a-m-a-z-i-n-g!  We fell in love with Italy!!!  I'll do my best to keep this recap to a nutshell version, but there is just so much to share!

The first section of the trip Ryan and I spent in Soriano nel Cimino - a great little Italian town in the hills of the Lazio region of Italy.  We spent our days walking around the community, eating delicious food and gelato, cooking with great ingredients, learning to like coffee, taking pictures, making fun day trips to nearby areas, and trying to just live in the amazingness that was all around us.  We were in Soriano for our 3rd anniversary as well!  I can't imagine a better way to celebrate three wonderful years with my very best friend!  It was an incredible time just to be together and remember what life is like without all of the little daily stresses of Uganda.  After a year and a half without leaving East Africa, it was a culture shock in the best of ways - so low key, such great food, so relaxing!  We loved it!

Next we met up with my family for a week on the Mediterranean!  We were able to visit some incredible places - Genoa Italy, Barcelona Spain, Ajaccio Corsica, Palma de Mallorca Spain, and Cagliari Sardinia.  We  had an incredible time reconnecting with family (it had been over 18 months since I'd seen my brother!!!), relaxing, catching up, and again eating plenty of non-Ugandan food!  Having family dinners every night after over 18 months apart - priceless!

Last but not least - a visit to the eternal city...Rome!  Here we had an amazing time visiting all of the major sites and some little places off the beaten path as well.  A favorite memory of my Dad's (and mine too) was getting on the metro at the station near our hotel, and getting off of it right below the Colosseum.  We walked out of the tunnel and bam - it was like being transported through time!  Ryan also had the great idea to download some free audio guides, which really helped us enjoy all the sites that surrounded us!  And again, more incredible food, great gelato, beautiful surroundings, and amazing culture every where you look!

Then (with our three bottles of wine and a large chunk of parmesan in tow), it was back to Uganda!  (I should mention how comfortable and spacious we thought the airplanes were and how delicious airplane cuisine was - my how our perspectives have changed!!!)  This weekend we are at an all volunteer conference - surrounded by all 150+ volunteers from all over the country - exchanging stories, catching up with old friends, and meeting new volunteers. 

We had also passed the 2/3 mark of our service - 19 months down, 8 or less to go!  It's an interesting place to be.  Although I know there is more to do here, and many things to be excited about (including many that we probably aren't even expecting), it's a little bit hard at the same time.  We had such a busy, fulfilling, and all around awesome term last term, and it's hard to know that some of the aspects of our two remaining terms hold a lot less excitement - at least it looks that way from where we're standing now.  Maybe the best way to describe it is to say that I feel a bit like we'd peaked by August...but still have 8 months to go!  Then of course, it's difficult to come down from a great holiday filled with time with family, friends, and time in the "western" world...
(did I mention the gelato...?)  It's just a lot to think about.  I wrote a letter to a friend today (hi angela!), and in it I forced myself to make a list of some of the things I'm excited about in the time to come.  I can already anticipate many great things to come, and I know there will be more that I can't even expect that will inevitably pop up.  Here's what I came up with:
  • Our two VSLAs close their cycles in December.  It will be really amazing to congratulate them on an incredible year of saving and loaning, and see all the results of their hard work and committment! *yay*
  • Hopefully the girls will take on the RUMPS project and continue it by leading workshops in their primary schools.  I look forward to going out to the schools to support their efforts on such an incredibly important project!
  • Book club - possibly *another* book by Chinua Achebe...
  • Our continually growing garden - it's rainy season again!  Before we left for our conference, we planted artichokes, basil, cilantro, cabbage, strawberries, lettuce, and made a cage for a rogue tomato plant that lived through the dry season!  Kudos, little guy!  I could get used to year round gardening...
  •  Thunderstorms (love the rainy season)
  • Living in such a beautiful place, with such a slower pace of life
  • Time for pleasure reading - I've passed the 100 mark of books read in Peace Corps!  How many more wonderful reads will the next 8 months bring?
  • Shopping at the market - love it!
  • Spending Christmas in America!  (Thanks Mom and Dad!!!!)
  • Continuing to be the neighbors and friends we have worked to become over the last 19 months - sharing and enjoying life in our Ugandan community
So...I'll just stay focused on those things!  I really truly do believe that as the term picks up and things get going, I'll feel really good about that fact that we're still here!  It's just a strange transition from an incredible holiday and into the last third of our time here in Uganda...lots to think about.

Love and miss you all - thanks for reading!