Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ninsiima!


In Runyankore, “ninsiima” literally means “I am appreciating.”  Today, I’m using it to say “I am thankful!”  And I am!  Happy thanksgiving everyone!  We all have so much to be thankful for!  We hope your thanksgiving season is full of wonderful times with family and friends, good conversations over delicious dinners,and not too much crazy shopping!  We will greatly miss time with family and friends for yet another holiday - but this will be our last major holiday spent in Africa!  Knowing that we will be home to visit in less than a month and spending Christmas together is a wonderful feeling!  We can’t wait to see you all!

I have so many things to be thankful for this year!  I’m thankful for an extraordinary two years spent in such an incredible and beautiful place.  I’m thankful for the students, coworkers, and neighbors that have truly become our family here in Uganda.  I’m thankful for the family and friends at home who have believed in our dreams from the very beginning and supported us and loved us through the many ups and downs of the last two years.  I’m thankful for a wonderful relationship with my husband and best friend, and the ways our time in Uganda has strengthened us and helped us grow closer as a couple.  I’m thankful for the memories we have made with each other, our visitors from home, and some of our dearest PCV friends.  I’m thankful for good health in a place where bizarre epidemics and tragedies are a way of life.  And...I’m thankful to now be thinking now about the next adventure our life will hold!

It was almost exactly two years ago that we were telling family and friends that we had received our Peace Corps invitation to Uganda!  Although we’d originally expected placement in the Caribbean, right around thanksgiving, we got a call from our PC recruiter about a change of plans - sub-Saharan Africa!  We were thankful that an invitation was on its way and thankful for the opportunity to embark on a wonderful, thrilling, and frightening adventure!  Before we knew it, our invitations had arrived.  I remember the craziness of getting ready to go, the sorrow of leaving the people, places, and work that we loved, and most importantly the way our family and friends encouraged us and supported us in the major transition we were going through!

It’s surreal that two years have passed since that Thanksgiving!  Some days it feels like we have been in Uganda for *such* a long time.  Thinking about the last times we spent with family, friends, in our home, and at our jobs, feels like far more than two years ago.  But, at the same time, it’s hard to believe we’re coming to the end.  Days, weeks, and months truly have flown by.  We’ve gotten lots done, but there has always been so much more to do.  

But - here we are!  Two years down, and just a few months left.  Although our original Close of Service (COS) date was expected to be in March or April, Ryan and I received word this morning that we would be granted an early COS on January 31!  We’ll be home a bit earlier than planned!  Our renters are moving out at the end of January, so we’ll be back in our *home* at the start of February!  I’ve been offered a 7th grade teaching position in Saint Paul, and Ryan has some good leads on jobs too.  We are so thankful that the pieces are coming together for our future.  We are blessed beyond belief!  We’re looking forward to wrapping up our life here, saying some heartbreaking good byes, and moving on to the wonderful things that await us in America.  It will be bittersweet, but fabulous to be home!  

The two weeks before Christmas will hold a lot of exciting things too!  Ryan will be here at the college, helping “invigilate” exams, packing and organizing (what a good man I have!), and wrapping things up with students and staff.  I’ll be spending just over a week helping to train the brand new group of education PCVs that arrived in country last week and then going off to counsel at National Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World).  GLOW is a girls leadership and empowerment camp for 12-15 year olds from all over the country.  I’m also bringing four of my girls club students as Ugandan counselors for the camp.  I’m excited to get to counsel the girls who come to the camp, and help my young women grow into the fantastic counselors and leaders that they are!  Then, back home for a weekend and to help our VSLA finish their amazing one year cycle.  And then...home for Christmas!!!  We really can’t wait to see you all!

I wish you all the best in your thanksgiving celebrations.  Thank you for reading our blog, supporting us, and encouraging us all along this journey!  We could not be more thankful!  Tusiima munonga!  We are so very thankful!

We love and miss you all!  And...we’ll be SEEING you soon!

~emily~

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Eat that Food!* (+ New Pics!)


First of all - new pictures!  Check out the end of this album to see pics from Halloween and also some to go along with this post!

Now, on to the good stuff...Yesterday Ryan and I, but mostly Ryan, took our cultural adventures in Uganda to a whole new level!  

We’d gone out to our trading center to do some shopping, and found a huge commotion at our stage.  There was a large group of people, talking excitedly, grouped around a truck.  As we got closer, we realized what it was - a truck full of grasshoppers!  Fried grasshoppers are a common road snack in Uganda - and my dear Ryan does enjoy them - but we’d never seen them being sold (live) by the bagful!  We started talking with a motorcycle (boda) driver friend of ours, Nelson, about the market happening in front of us, and...before we knew it...we’d spent 50 cents on a large plastic bag full of living, breathing, soon to be eaten grasshoppers!

Seeing our bewilderment at what we had just done, Nelson pulled us away from the crowd to do a little one-on-one grasshopper instruction.  He started by pulling a grasshopper out of the bag, still moving, and demonstrating how to remove its wings and legs in preparation for cooking.    Then, before we knew it, he’d found two boys from the village and promised them each a bitano (20 cents!) if they would come to our house with us and remove all of the wings and legs from the bag full of grasshoppers!  Done!  So, we walked back to our house, trailed by two little boys and a big bag of insects.

By the time we got home, we’d collected one more little child on the way.  So, the three little ones sat down at our table and went to work.  Nelson came up shortly after, and the four Ugandans and Ryan went to work dismembering the grasshoppers.  Flies started pouring into our living room, and there was quite a horrible smell...No wonder....After a good 30 minutes of pulling and prying, the grasshoppers were ready to go.  So, Nelson made his way to our kitchen and began to fry them up in a saucepan.  In case you’re wondering, no oil is needed to fry grasshoppers!  The little guys are chock full of fats that seep out as they cook, resulting in deep fried insects with all natural oils!  (eeeew...)  The grasshoppers took about 15 minutes to go from plump, bright green, very much alive insects, to a crispy, brown, flattened out snack food.  Nelson even compared them to popcorn - a serious offense in my book.  As he cooked, we had a good talk about the fine touches of frying grasshoppers, as well as my vegetarianism.  The best way I could describe it to him was that I don’t eat anything with eyes.  So, he made sure to point out the dozens of eyes staring at me from the frying pan in our kitchen!  Thanks, Nelson...

There’s currently a large tupperware full of grasshoppers in our pantry.  Never thought I’d say that sentence!  Since we’re a one grasshopper eater family, you’re all invited to make the trip to Uganda to take part!  Me - I’ll stick to veggies and popcorn!

If you stuck with me this far, you might be interested in a little live footage of the event!  Not for the feeble stomached among us - I could barely stand it!  But...for your viewing pleasure...The Food Channel, Uganda style!

video


Bon Appetit!  We love and miss you all!

~emily~

*For Daddio - ah, the good ol’ days!  Did grasshoppers ever make it to the cabin or camp?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Goal 2ing It!


Peace Corps worldwide have three primary goals.  The first goal is to train men and women skills identified by the host country.  The third goal is to teach Americans about the countries in which we served.  The second goal and the focus of this post is goal two teaching those in the host country about America.  The ways in which we do goal two range from conversations with students about what it is like to live in America to celebrating holidays like we do in America. 

Typically goal 2 consists of convincing students that Americans are not all homosexual, we do not agree to only 5 year contracts for marriage, we do not have a machine that tells us what to do when we grow up, and that Eleanor Roosevelt did not introduce HIV/AIDS to Africans to kill them off (seriously!).  Yet in the last month we got to hold two really fun events that were great goal 2 activities.  One event was for Halloween and the other was a carnival similar to what we did last year.

The carnival we did as part of a day to commit our students to passing their exams at 100%!  Last year the principal promised them a bull, so we have since called it the carnibull.  Now we had not planned to do these games again unless the school seemed interest, because planning events with students can be hard to do.  But a week before the day was supposed to happen our director of studies said, “We are excited to have those very silly games from last year again.”  Well that was our queue I guess.  We planned a whole morning full of games, and right on schedule the rains came and came. 

The rains finally let up in the afternoon, in time for the commitment and Music/Dance/Drama presentations.  But the principal put the presentations on hold so that we could play the carnival games.  In the end we did four large group games: Musical Chairs, Bottle Race (racing while balancing a bottle on your head, a Ugandan favorite), Water Race (racing to fill a water bottle carrying water in your hands), and water balloon toss.  The students and staff enjoyed the games so much.  It is really funny to see our students get so into a game like musical chairs when no 18 year old in America would dare lower their integrity to play musical chairs.  The day was very colorful, as they say, and we had so much fun once it finally happened.  We concluded by giving the winners a piƱata!

The next big goal 2 event we held was for Halloween.  I have really gotten close to my computer club and thought it could be fun to introduce them to Halloween, a holiday they no absolutely nothing about.  I required them all to dress up, which I thought was going to fail completely but they actually got really into.  Creativity was a challenge as we had 4 Bushenyi PTC principals and 6 traditional African women (I needed my Uncle Mark and Aunt Dawn to be here to really show them how to dress up for Halloween), but they still put a lot of effort into all of their costumes.  We judged costumes and the prizes for the best went to Dracula (who was a spitting image of Freddy Kruger) and a military soldier.  Of course Emily and I got into costume as well, Emily as a black cat and me as a Bushenyi PTC student.  (I borrowed the uniform of our tallest student, and still the uniform was a very tight fit.  I really should have just gone as Gandalf.)

After we judged their costumes we had them go Trick-or-Treating.  We gave bags of sweeties (candy) to various tutors and instructed them to only give candy if the students said, “Trick-or-Treat.”  The students loved it though.  One of the tutors did not understand the number of students they were getting and gave all the candy to the first group, then proceeded to give out bananas and avocadoes after that.  After trick-or-treating the principal and deputy principal came to join in the festivities.  My favorite quote of the night was from the principal when he was talking to the students. “I hope that you have all taken something away from this event, I don’t know what, but learn something from it.”  We finished the evening by watching a scary movie, ‘I am Legend.’

I can’t guarantee that our goal 2 activities have made it so that October 31st will be celebrated across Uganda next year, or that carnivals will happen at every primary school.  But I do think that maybe students learned that they could be creative and plan other events then what they grew up with.  And of course I am sure they have all learned that America is a crazier place then even they can imagine! 

Happy Halloween and Voting Day,
Ryan