Thursday, August 28, 2008

Farewell Uganda

My farewell to Uganda has come suddenly but apparently logically according to some higher power... so, due to circumstances that I did not foresee, I have returned to my homeland... America, the land I love. I guess this will be my final blog and it's ok for me. I have enjoyed writing and sharing to whomever has come across these entries and I wish you all well.

Over the past year and a half I have learned more than I ever imagined and I am so grateful for my experiences. It's difficult to express even a portion of what I have learned or experienced over the past 18 months, but I do know that there were times I hated it and other times I loved it so much I couldn't get enough. Each day was a surprise and time could be fast and slow all at once and I never knew what the next day would bring. I have grown to love Uganda so much and I am so sad to leave but at the same time I am ready to be home. I met some of the most amazing people and I've been so happy to have had the chance to meet everyone and see all the things I've seen. Just to have these opportunities has been a blessing and I am so thankful for the time I have had in Uganda.

Just to do a quick reflection on some of my general thoughts... I will never understand how a country can be so incredibly poor and another so rich. If only we could balance it out more evenly we could make the world a better place. And although the average Ugandan is living a life of extreme poverty, they are rich with love and laughter that is probably more than some of the richest people in the world. It's been amazing to see and come to know the people of Uganda and I can't express enough how grateful I am for the time I have had.

One of the greatest things I think I have learned over this time has been simple and I wish everyone could live by it, although sometimes I forget myself...
I've learned that I can love everyone and everything that I see because I'll never know when or if I'll pass that way again or what the next day will bring. To live each day like it's the last and laugh as often as I can, then I can live the best life imaginable.
Music can heal our souls and so will laughter and love, don't ever be without. and if you are, change. Music is sweet, so is laughing, and love and I believe that it's what makes life worth living...

Thank you to my Mom and Dad, family and friends for all the support you have shown me during my time in Uganda. And to my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers who I have had the incredible opportunity of sharing the past 18 months with, we have given up so much and are doing such great work... it has been a privilege to work with you all.

As I close this little book of my short lived life in Uganda, I'd like to leave you with a few thoughts from my head...

Twist off bottle caps are don't take them for granted.

The most hilarious Olympic sport ever created is power walking... and if you get the chance, watch it, I think you'll agree... So, if you're ever down and out, just watch some power walking and you'll cheer right up.

I'll send my love and my happy thoughts through this blog and I hope they reach everyone and everything! Do that 'pass it on' thing... and don't forget to SMILE... even if it's a cheezer smile and people make fun of you for it... haha... at least we're all still laughing!

Send me on my way...

Kristy :)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Taking a bath is like going to McDonald's....
I usually dislike both places, but once you have lived in Uganda for a while, those seem like amazing, glorious prizes out of your reach.

Buildings in Uganda
There are these buildings… they are small, brick, one story buildings that are stores. People sell things in them, like fresh produce, soap, toilet paper, radios, and about a billion other things people need. Some are stores selling cell phones or hardware.
Big companies come in and paint these buildings. They probably give a certain amount of money to the owner of the building and then some people come in and paint the entire outside of their building the main color of whatever company has bought the right to advertise on the building. For example, Coke has a huge marketing campaign here in Uganda and I suppose all over Africa, so they come in and paint entire buildings the color red and then put their logo at the top for everyone to see. They do this to about all the buildings, so there is this huge array of bright colors lining the streets.
Recently, a new company has come in and their color is hot pink. Because they are a new company, they have purchased tons of buildings to paint and advertise and now everywhere I look down the streets, in my village, everywhere, the cute little stores are radiating with this hot hot pink color.
I have thought about this idea that a big company with lots of money comes to a developing country such as Uganda, gives a small amount of money to a store owner, and then they are painting their logo all over the walls. I am not sure what I think of this, but it’s a good topic of conversation and just something to think about. Sometimes I think it’s not fair because the country is poor and so are its people so I wonder, are the big companies basically taking advantage of the developing world by shoving their products in their faces, paintings their logos, etc? And of course the store owner will not say no to painting their walls… it’s money. You would have to be crazy to turn down free cash… especially when you’re poor. Anyway, I’m not really saying I’m against it, I just like to see both sides and think about what’s actually going on. Are these big companies using the developing world to market their product when the people don’t have much say. At home if I own a business I wouldn’t want some company painting all over my store… I would want to paint it a color I wanted and then write MY company name on the outside or my stores name… I feel like here they don’t really have a choice. Haha, I don’t know really, but just something I thought about before looking at all these colors.

Miss White
As I walk down the street or through my village, I am always shouted at. People that know my name will call me, some yell, “mzungu”, others are quiet, but mostly people have something to say. The other day this man yelled, "Ms. White" to get my attention and it cracked me up.

I have a few freckles and beauty marks on my arms and face… some Ugandans think those are mosquito bites. I have been asked more than once, “oh, sorry, did the mosquito bite you?” and they will point to a freckle on my arm. I then explain to them, that no, that is a freckle that I was born with and also called a beauty mark… When I say that it’s called a “beauty mark”, that cracks them up.

I referenced Spiderman in my last blog and I would just like to say that Rambo, Arnold Swarsenagger? And most other superheroes or fighting men such as those are all considered real. Playing with the kids, they are always telling me about Rambo, how he will cut your head off and then they usually demonstrate with each other by pretending and then falling to the ground as if they were dead. Haha, one kid told me that Rambo is definitely the best and he can beat anybody. Side not, the kid is like 4 years old.
Oh, and by the way… not only is he 4 years old, he also knows like 4 different languages. He knows Lugisu, Lugwere, Luganda and English! The whole time he is telling me about Rambo, it’s in English… smart kid.

I went to a burial last Friday. The gardener at our school… his wife died and I am also good friends with their son. He had been telling me his mother was really sick and she died on Thursday. It was a really sad day. We arrived at the burial and there are tons of people standing around… under trees in the shade, around houses, standing all over the place. The people… there are always so many! And the sun… the sun always seems to be blazing at these burials. I think it knows that there is gonna be tons of people with little shade, so it just shines away… maybe it helps the tears just turn to sweat and no one even knows. The problem for me is that I am white. Everyone else with their dark black skin can stand in the blazing sun all day without even showing… I’ll turn red after a while... People are gathered everywhere to give their condolences to the family. The women, men and children gathered around singing beautiful songs. They are so beautiful that I guess it helps put us all to peace for the moment. And I don’t really know the words so I just hum along. At a certain point a man will come and stand in a big crowd of people preaching. This goes on for a while. Once they have finished, they take the body to where it will be buried. In Uganda they burry their loved ones together on their land. This particular family already had 2 of their children die, so the mother was to be buried next to them. When they bring her out, women begin to cry… they cry loud, sob, sadness all around. They don’t hold in their feelings at all. They let whatever they have in them come out, really whaling crying. It is also a tradition for the immediate family to wrap torn fabric, (all different colors and patterns) around their wastes and it looks pretty. Once it’s time, we walk over as a big group to watch the actual burial. I stood a little behind and prayed with the others. People are all crying and I even wanted to cry. Once they have lowered her down, it’s up to each person to pick a little bit of the soil and toss it on to help cover the space. I threw a tiny bit on and you say goodbye.

There is an offering… the teachers at our school collected and all together we offer it to the family of the person who has died. I contributed and as I was doing this, one teacher asked me if this is what we do where I come from. I said, “Well we don’t really give money, usually people send flowers.” He laughed a little and said, “Now what would we do with that (flowers)?” haha… it’s funny and pretty true.

And after, when we are all leaving, people always come up to me and ask, “is that how they do it where you come from?” And then I try and explain… I tell them about graveyards, wearing black, and what we might do at home for our funerals… I tell them how I haven’t really been to many and I guess I’m lucky, but they think that’s crazy. I guess cause it seems like here there’s a burial every week…

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Light it up

Burning trash is the bomb- it's awesome and I really never realized it until yesterday when I burned a bunch of papers and other rubbish I don't really need anymore. The kids were helping me burn and they kept asking me... "You are burning that!!!???" They thought I was crazy for burning a cereal box, papers or the most prized possession among us was a wedding invitation that had a car on it... the kids loved this so much that a few hours after burning they were all gathered on my veranda looking at it in amazement... pretty cool. Also during the burning process I was burning a lot of papers that had my name on them, and this was agreed upon by the kids that I should burn them because otherwise I could be bewitched... the little girl did not want her brother to keep the paper with my name on it because if it got lost then a witchdoctor could bewitch me... this is all very true, look out...

Termites are good for eating...
A couple days ago I woke to kids screaming my name to come outside... I got out of bed to tell them to go away, but then I realized they were extracting termites from a hole in my house on the outside... gross... They were sticking a piece of long grass into the hole and the termites would latch on, the kids would grab the butt and put it in a container... When they started biting into them raw I told them to go home and cook them. Termites actually look really gross close up and they have these clamper things like a scorpion or something... they will bite you. Lovely morning... ha, really though it was fun.

Spiderman is alive and well and living in New York City?? I was looking through a magazine from home with my neighbor and we saw an add for Spiderman. He told me that this is how rumors get started... and I was like, wait a minute.. what do you mean?? He said that most people think Spiderman is real...
This is just one example of how American culture seen in the eyes of a Ugandan can be scewed? word? Point being... what else do some think is real?? hehe.

Yet again another hilarious BBC headline was as follows:
"it looks like green wool and actually... it smells like over cooked spinach" - this was a report referring to algae in the waters where sailing competitions will take place at the Bejing Olympics.. haha

Also random... one day I was talking with some girls at my school and one of the girls held up my hand and started examining it as well as my arm... as she looked down at my wrist she gasped and told the other girls to look at my blue veins that they could see... they thought it was crazy that you could see the vein (and as I almost threw up) because they have black skin so you can't see the veins...

I have started becoming a book reviewer and now a movie reviewer... I saw Adaptation and it sucks. I feel sorry for Susan Orlean because her book looked sweet, but the movie made it suck. Nicholas Cage makes the movie bad, but Merel Streep and Chris Cooper make it worth watching until then end... those are my reviews..

A couple weeks ago I lost my flash drive and today as I am entering the computer room, the computer man tells me that they have miraculously found my flash! woo hoo! It really made my day. Hold tight to the things you love, because you never know when they'll be gone, and if you're lucky they may return to you someday.. haha... goodness.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Struggle

“The Struggle” is a statement written on taxis and coasters that travel around Uganda. I see them around where I live and in Kampala.
“The Struggle”… it used to make me laugh because it conjures up thoughts of rap songs, but now when I see it, I think yep… the struggle.
I see the struggle, feel the struggle and live the struggle. I guess we all do here in Uganda, at least a few times throughout the day. The struggle to get by, to carry your water, wash, teach, travel, live, provide, speak, wake, at night, in the day, always… there’s no getting around it. It’s basically what you do to survive. I guess to a certain extent people do it all around the world, but for some you just have to struggle harder.
When I visit schools, sometimes their motto is: “Struggle and succeed” I guess that’s true too. Thought it sounded strange at first, but here, it’s what you gotta do.
And, I think they like the word “struggle”… apparently I like it today too.

I heard the most hilarious BBC headline of all my time. The headline was approximately as follows:
Chinese people living in South Africa are now to be considered black people because of different rights or some sort of privilege they will get if they are considered black. Haha… what?

Hairy = Hotty

I have always been a trend setter since I can remember. (haha, not really). Anyway, the new black is hair. You should grow your armpit hairs and legs hairs out and you will be cool. Look and see, look and see.

Reflections and thoughts
I have been living in Uganda for about 16 months now, and sometimes it feels like forever, sometimes it feels like less. Lately I’ve been anxious and having feelings of being ready to move on thinking “I’ve been here for some time now, gotten to know people, the culture, helped out here and there, lived it, and now ready for a change” Not because I think I can or should or will or who knows… but the thoughts just run through your mind. Sometimes when I think about foreign aid, me being here, the world, life, my life, how short life is, my Dad, Mom, family, friends, etc. … then I think, ok, maybe it’s time to give back to where I am from. Even if that means just seeing and spending time with my family and friends, getting a job at home, volunteering at home… Anyway, the point of me putting this information on my blog is to just make anyone who cares aware of what thoughts and what it’s like sometimes being away for so long. I’m sure some can relate, some can’t, some think they can or can’t, but for me, I’m here, I’m doing this, and I’m writing this. I know what I know and I have what I have and for now there it is in short… ha.
Being here can be exciting, exhausting, fun, sad, boring, fast, slow, scary, fearless, thrilling, adventurous, and everything in between… I guess just like anywhere else except that I am in Uganda. Ha, before I came here, when I was first told I was assigned to Uganda, the honest truth is that I didn’t even know where it was on a map… and now I live here!

I can't reflect anymore right now.
By the way, I finally shaved those pits... and I ended up losing the bet, but seriously, it was the concept. Also, For some odd reason I ended up shaving at 2am on a Wednesday night or something... random and couldn't sleep...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Get on the Night Train

choo, choo... They sell night train here like a fine wine... haha, Night Train. I've been seeing posters and advertisements around in Kampala and on the shelves near me.

To get someone's attention here, it seems as though clapping or hissing are acceptable... for me, I don't really like it that much. Sometimes I will be walking down the street while people are hissing at me for their attention. I don't know... it makes me somehow feel like a dog.. although I think whistling is okay. Waiters and Waitresses are treated the worst. They are clapped at, yelled out, hissed at and about any rude forms of communication I have seen. They can sometimes be treated as though they are lesser of a person... They are sometimes not thanked, rarely tipped and treated like a slave. Seems pretty harsh. Maybe it's just not what I'm used to, but it just doesn't always seem right. I mean, we're all people. ha.

Lunch time can really be anytime here. I have eaten "Lunch" from times between 11am and 7pm... haha... they are calling it "lunch" no matter. At workshops a lunch may be delayed until 4 in the afternoon, but it's still called lunch. Once at my neighbors I ate "lunch" at 7pm and after we finished they told me to hurry home so I could prepare my dinner. hehe... I was thinking, that was dinner... but not in their book.

I just finished reading The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It was pretty good, hard to follow at first, but I liked it... love story. I hear they're making a movie of it with Rachel McAdams, I like that girl. I am still reading The Poisonwood Bible too. While being here in Uganda I read more than one book at once... sometimes 2 or 3 at the same time, going back and forth... haha, I would never do that at home. Probably wouldn't have the time. The Poisonwood Bible is good... about a missionary family from the U.S. living in the Congo in the 1960's... as of now, it seems like the worst has yet to come... sometimes when I read it, the descriptions and details of life there reminds me of mine here.

I saw the new Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, ha... probably beat some of you readers to it. It was the first movie I have ever heard of as coming to Uganda on time. Usually the movies come out later than at home... by a few weeks, maybe a month. Indiana, however, came out Thursday... right on time. I liked the movie, thought it was pretty sweet.

I read a Vanity Fair article called "Continent Adrift" by Paul Theroux (guy who wrote Dark Star Safari) the article is talking about basically the state of Africa and in it, he says this..."Into that gap step the international superstars, Oxfam... the Peace Corps... However well intentioned, there is no real logic or long term plan; it just seems like a good idea, and it's not a bad way to add to your personal myth. But the simple truth is that nothing will change as long as the governments are corrupt, indifferent or merely posturing."
I'm sure the rest of the article can be found online...
So, I guess I am mentioning it in my blog because he mentions the Peace Corps, and that's me. Somehow I agree, somehow I am not sure, but it's there anyway.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mid-service, been here 15 months, woah dude.

I have just returned from our mid-service conference for the Peace Corps. This means that we have exactly one year left until we end our service and say goodbye. One year may seem long, but in reality I am thinking it will fly and next May will be here before I know it. The workshop was nice, relaxing and a good time to sort of sum up our thoughts and organize plans for the last year. We have been in country for 15 months now and I feel like I have learned so much over the past year but still have so much more to learn and see and understand about life here, my life and a lot more. The group that I came with last March was 50 volunteers. For various reasons we are now 44, but the workshop also gave us a good chance to hear what we are all doing at their sites and all the great work in general throughout Uganda.

Akon was supposed to come to Uganda, but he canceled so far... the papers say he's canceled 5 times in Kenya and now here... let down, woah.

Kampala has 7 main hills, and it's a beautiful city. The afternoons and evenings are especially nice, the wind blows and everything. I have been here now for a few days because I had to go to the dentist again. That wasn't really fun, but I am saving my tooth somehow.

Since I have been away for about 2 weeks, with the workshop and dentist, when I return, all of my neighbors will say, "you have been lost". They will ask me where I was, what I was doing, and the best is when every single one always asks, "what did you bring for me?"