April 30, 2010

Things I humbly request via care package

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!

*Recent issues of the Economist or the New Yorker are always appreciated!
*Anything you've read recently and enjoyed.
*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.

I'm pretty well covered as far as clothes go, the second hand markets here are a treasure trove for the intrepid, but if you'd like to send something it would be appreciated all the same. Here are my measurements:
*Shirts M or a 15-34 I've heard merino wool T-shirts are the bees knees and I wouldn't mind trying it out.
*Pants 32 x 32 although I'm probably closer to a 30x 32 on the Peace Corps diet.
*Shoes 10. Some Merino wool socks would probably be a good thing here also.

*Cliff bars are a wonderful treat.
*Protein powder is also good stuff.
*Country Time Lemonade for Arnold Palmers.
*Gatorade powder is great too, while I'm at it.
*Home baked cookies! Chocolate chip, Kringla, snickerdoodles in that order.
*Raisins, craisins, apricots
*Blueberry pancake mix
*Velveeta Mac and Cheese

*Hair ties. Nice, good, thick hair ties. My pony tail is in full effect.

14 Piece Knife Set RECIEVED!
Whoa! This came out of the blue and these knifes are awesome! Another killer care package, Dad!
Single serving french press RECIEVED!
Dad, I use this thing every day! Thank you a thousand times!
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

What I packed

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.

Slacks x2
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.

It's nice to bring a decent chef's knife as well as spices to cook with. I also wish I would have brought seeds for herbs...basil, oregano, rosemary, mint...stuff like that.

Batteries are a good thing to bring as well AA or AAA. You can get them here but they're either cheap and poor quality or expensive and good quality.

If you like coffee you can find great coffee here and it isn't too expensive. Just like in the States the best coffee is freshly ground whole beans but you can buy bags that are already ground. A volunteer that was leaving the country gave me his electric grinder and it's been great. Electric coffee grinders are cheap and small and I haven't seen them for sale anywhere here so if you like coffee it may be a good idea.

Don't bug out about anything on this list...you can get just about EVERYTHING in Kampala at the supermarkets. Also people are always going back and fourth to the States and most people are happy to carry small things when they come back to Uganda. That means you can buy something on Amazon and ship it to someone's house and they'll bring it over for you.

Feel free to email me if you have questions about packing.

A day in the life: training ed.

*disclaimer: I stayed with an awesome AWESOME family so maybe you'll have something like this but probably not.

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


In Gulu I saw a man riding a bicycle with only one finger on each hand to operate the brakes.

In Lira I saw several people with their lips cut off, leaving them forever looking like black face vaudvillians from the 1920's.

Some of my students were abducted and conscripted by the rebels as child soldiers or prostitutes. I particularly remember speaking with one student and as he turned to face me I noticed a scar running from his forehead through his eye socket to his chin.

But markets now hum with energy. School children dance and sing and laugh and study. Life is returning to normal and that's what makes it all so strange. I see the peace but can only imagine the horror that preceded it.