December 31, 2010
December 21, 2010
It may come as some surprise to those back home but until two days ago I hadn't updated my journal since August. My track record with letter writing is even worse and you can see how poorly I've been updating my blog. The first months at site have been a struggle. Though hardly the black death of loneliness and isolation I expected, it has taken all of my available faculties to tread water. Apparently those water treading faculties are also requisite for my journaling and letter writing. Something like winning the war but losing the battle.
I recently (and smugly) underlined the passage: "A neck tie is a noose inverted and if you're not careful it will hang you just the same" from the "The Life of Pi" as if it were a reaffirmation of my beard, pony tail, and flip flop life style. Occasionally I have these moments of (mostly imagined) bohemianism. But it got me thinking about why I'm here rather than over there.
One of the things that enticed me, and I imagine others like me, to the Peace Corps was the idea of living on the edge of the known world. Going farther, deeper, better, faster, harder, stronger than would otherwise be available via the more traditional school-to-more-school-to-cubicle-to-office-railway. In private pre-departure moments I imagined myself a yogi of the African grassland, personally growing through rich cultural experiences followed by careful meditation and quiet reflection.
As I roll up on a year and half of skipping around the the world, my experience has been more "square peg pounded through round hole" than "Buddah of the Serengeti." I run, but sometimes walk, face first into brick walls nearly every day. That is to say, rewarding though it has been, the experience has not been without it's discomfort and contortions. Some of the very basic ideas about myself and society at large have been re-opened for debate and debate can be uncomfortable because it is uncertain. I won't be quite sure until I return home to my friends and family but I feel as if squared edges are being rounded.
November 30, 2010
August 12, 2010
Teaching in Lira during training.
My students dug up a giant termite mound and proudly brought me the queen termite.
These guys are our friends. They eat mosquitoes.
Three months of running on dusty roads caught up to me and my lungs to the point where I could barely breathe. For the past week I've been taking an extensive battery of drugs for breakfast lunch and dinner. Six pills, a shot of cough syrup, and a beer.
August 9, 2010
Between a severe shortage of internet, a busy schedule, and just honest lethargy I haven't put a post up in months. I just wrapped up my first term as a math teacher and I'll be spending my holiday attending seminars for language and technical training before starting up with school again in late August.
meetings" for some lawyer in Gulu who is the OB of my head teacher.
This entails mostly sitting around and nominating each other to
various offices of power which is to say we do next to nothing for
about three hours every Sunday.
Now it has thus far been a breeze...I show up, throw down some cash,
sip my VIP Coca Cola, and carefully weigh the pros and cons of whether
Mr. Ojok or Mr. Odong would make a better Deputy Secretary of Litrugy
(Mr. Odong by a landslide by the way). Things have been humming along
You see I have photographed a couple of the events at the school and
church with my snap shooter and apparently the Head Teacher has taken
notice. He nominated me for the post (naturally neglecting to inform
me of his intentions prior to the meeting) telling the assembly of the
Gulu business set that "Mr. Jacob is a photographer at the MASTER
LEVEL. He will take wonderful pictures I am CERTAIN."
That's actually how he talks...he always puts tons of emphasis on the
last word of any sentence.
Anyways at first I was mildly (majorly) alarmed. I've never
photographed any event seriously and certainly nothing like a wedding! The guys throwing
down this wedding have the scrilla to hire a professional so I'm
assuming they're expecting professional quality. My nomination was
immediately called into question by the chairman of the planning
And sweet baby Jesus can my Head Teacher talk, he once gave a rousing
hour long speech to the morning assembly that touched on brochial
pnuemonia, poverty in Bolivia (of all places) and the importance of
sweeping the dirt outside your compound. Now I'm no fan of hour long
speeches but this one was down right majestic. When he gets some
momentum he can just roll like a freight train.
Anyways he's going on and on about how I should be the photographer
and eventually my mild (major) alarm gives way to righteous
indignation. How dare they! Goddamnit, I am a photographer at the
MASTER LEVEL! Who are they to question my nomination!
Naturally he convinced them (and me) that I was the only one for the
job so that is how I now find myself as the wedding photographer for
an event planned for the 24th of August. Guys, all of this has been a
very long and indirect way to get to my direct point:
If I don't have a decent camera for this thing I'm boned.
So, please, please, please with extra matoke on top does anyone have a
dSLR that I can borrow for this wedding? I will guard it with my life
and guarantee payment if it is returned to you in a condition in any
way less than it was lent. Hopefully I can get it at IST or after we
go rafting and return it to you in a most expedited manner.
My life is in your hands dudes. Look at me I want to repeat that. My
life is in your hands dudes. Dudes....My. Life. Is. In. Your.
April 30, 2010
Thank you Mom, Dad, Becky, Landon, and Grandma and Grandpa! I was really having a rough period and I got three packages on one day and it was a real turning point, thank you so much!
*Music. Best to put it on a flash disk. Send anything you want although I'd really like Panda Bear "Tomboy" and whatever Top 40 music is out there these days. Shut up AJ.
*Protein powder is also good stuff.
*Gatorade powder is great too, while I'm at it.
*Home baked cookies! Chocolate chip, Kringla, snickerdoodles in that order.
ExOfficio boxer briefs RECIEVED!
My buddy AJ sent me an email asking if there was anything on my list that hadn't been sent. "Let me know and I'll send it...i'm not sending you underwear though. That's just weird." Duly noted AJ, that's what mothers are for. Thanks mom!
I have a big giant American flag and a huge poster of Adrian Peterson doing that thing I like.
April 28, 2010
Net book ~$230
You can get internet access with a modem (available for ~$100 brand new) anywhere you can get cell phone coverage... which is just about everywhere. There are a variety of plans that range from $25-50 per month and you can cover that with your Peace Corps living allowance.
iPod 160gb ~$220 + Sennheiser PX100 headphones ~$40 + Shure SE310 sound isolating ear buds ~$200.
I like listening to music. The Sennheisers are great for around the house and the Shures are ideal for noisy bus and taxi rides.
Portable 500gb hard drive ~$100
You can bring an empty one and fill it when you get here.
I wish I would have brought a Kindle, those things seem pretty cool.
Dress shirts x5
I brought four button down dress shirts and one polo. The best shirts are non-iron or wrinkle resistant and any color but white. You'll be wearing these everyday especially as a teacher. Dress is very important in the culture...it's weird but even though it's hot and dusty the people, especially teachers, dress very well. Most of the teachers at my school wear French cuffs. Seriously. One more endorsement for wrinkle resistant fabric goes here.
One pair dark khaki and one pair black both are wrinkle resistant. I don't mind wearing the same pair of pants multiple times if they're not nasty. My Ugandan colleagues wear dress slacks that are always crisp and pressed. You won't regret bringing nice quality dress clothes. They don't have to be expensive brand names but quality material and workmanship are nice.
Jeans x1 and cotton shorts x2
Nice to have for going out in Kampala, though I rarely wore them during training or even at site. I actually wouldn't bother packing cotton shorts if I were packing again...I rarely wear them. It sounds strange but it's a weird cultural thing. Even though it's hot everyone wears long shirts and pants. It's strange at first but I got used to it.
Quick dry shorts x1 and shirts x3
You can buy just about every piece of clothing you'll need in country. Dress shirts, slacks, t shirts, socks, everything...except any kind of "tech" fabric so it's a good thing to bring with you.
ExOfficio boxer briefs x3 (~$25/pair)
I cannot swear by these enough. Ideal travel and hot weather underwear. They wick away moisture and dry quickly. I wear them into the shower and they're dry by noon the next day if they're hanging in my room. I've been wearing three pair in rotation for the past year. Whoa. I didn't realize we (me and my underwear) had hit our one year anniversary. Good stuff.
I brought a pair of brown suade Cole Haans for more formal occasions. They're going to be trashed by the time I leave but, damnit, I love those shoes.
I chose to buy the Chaco flip flops instead of the Chaco wrap with the Vibram hiking sole. The flip flops are perfect for daily wear, I think the weave/wrap style is too clunky to use on a daily basis. You can also find the weave/wrap style in the second hand market if want them are are willing to look hard enough. They can be had (after serious negotiation) for ~$20.
I brought a pair of Nike running shoes though I wish I would have done my research and bought a good pair of Asics. You can find decent second hand running shoes in the large markets but you never really know how many miles are left in 'em. If you want to be serious about running (I'm training for a marathon) you may want to consider bringing several pair or having them shipped to you from the States.
Misc. stuff and comments
I brought six pounds of protien powder. I didn't use any during training becasue my family fed me so well but it's nice to have at site. I also brought a bunch of Cliff bars and I'm hoping that more will be sent soon. While we're on food...I also brought Gatorade powder. You can't buy these things here so they're good things to bring with you. If you are under your weight requirements bring food! You know what you like.
Books books books. Hmmmm. If you're not picky you can always find something to read. I've been told there are a bunch of "classics" at the PC library but I didn't find it to be all that great. If you have something you really want to read bring it and swap it with someone later. New releases are always a hot commodity. I also brought some textbooks to keep myself occupied. It's strange how much more interesting calculus or biochemistry is when you're doing it for personal interest. It also makes me feel like I'm keeping my mind sharp.
I wish I would have brought my tent for some camping, though I think you can rent gear at the National parks here. Not essential but if you have extra space, why not.
I didn't bring a raincoat because most of the time raincoats just make me sweaty, though I think it would be nice for when I start hiking. I guess what I mean is I'm leaning towards having one sent.
Do not bring heavy duty hiking boots. You won't wear them.
I wake up at 6:00am each morning about half an hour before the sun rises. If I'm able to get myself up then I do a little yoga session in my room as the sun rises. More often than not I hit the snooze four times and get up fourty minutes past six.
Breakfast is always waiting for me at the kitchen table. The food is different each day. This morning I had corn flakes with fresh milk, a green apple, and tea. Yesterday I had two hard boiled eggs, a banana, and tea. I take my morning tea and review the notes from my language class.
I leave the house on my bike at 7:30am and bike the 5 kilometers to the training center. Along the way I greet everyone I meet. As I pass the school children walking down the road in their uniforms I give them a quick greeting in Swahili ("Jambo!") and they respond with the same. I greet those older than me with the more formal "Wasuzio oteyano, ssebo!" ("good morning, sir!").
I arrive at school ten minutes to eight. I used to need that time to stop sweating but I've learned how to exert myself only to the point before I break the sweat threshold and now I arrive at school free of perspiration. The day begins with a two hour language class in Acholi, the language commonly spoken in the north of Uganda. Language is my favorite and what I believe to be most helpful.
We break for tea and peanuts in the mid morning and continue with sessions in either health, safety/security, local culture, or technical training. These range mostly from mildly boring to excruciatingly boring.
We take lunch around noon thrity and they feed us quite well. There's usually matoke (made out of steamed bananas), baked beans, green beans, mashed potatoes, chicken or pork, and fresh fruit. Sessions continue after lunch until around 4:00 or 5:00pm. I bike home stopping at my family's shop to say hello to my mother or sometimes grabbing a beer or two with the other volunteers.
Afternoon tea is waiting, usually with fresh pineapple, and I take the time to relax by reading or journaling. After tea I hang out with my family making chapati or feeding the pigs or just sitting around talking. Sometimes I bust out the laptop and we watch a movie, my sisters really dig Disney movies.
My Luganda is really bad but I can tell my brother Ronald is a really funny guy, people are always laughing when he's around. As the sun sets my whole family gathers around the television to watch a Brazilian soap opera filmed in Portugese but (badly) dubbed into English called "La Tormenta." It's terrible. Absolutely terrible.
Dinner is served from 9:30 to 10:30pm (the Baganda like to eat late). Usually it's rice, matoke, greens, a couple pieces of beef and french fries ("chips"). Good stuff. I usually bathe before dinner, my family boils some water so I can take a warm bucket bath before going to sleep and doing it all again the next day. I mean that's really all there is to it. Rinse, wash, repeat.
April 20, 2010
February 6, 2010
Here, I'll label them for you:
Pretty cool, huh? I wonder if any of the other refuguinean volunteers have noticed anything similar...
Anyways, I'm flying out of Hawaii tomorrow to Philly for my second staging. I've been reassigned to Uganda. I will once again be a high school science teacher. I'll be traveling a bit light...my bags still haven't made it back from Guinea...but I'm not too worried about it.
Speaking of Guinea, there has been some hopeful news of late. Civilian rule has been restored and there is the usual talk of free and open elections. No one knows if this ultimately will lead to an effective and stable government but the important thing is that this clearly represents a de-escalation from the previous situation. Happy days!
Lastly, many many thanks to my sister and Eric. Three years ago they sold all the stuff out of their apartment and used the money from their wedding to film an independent film about malaria. A year after that they moved to China to work and explore. A year after that and they're working in the Teach for America program in Hawaii and letting me take up their space.