Friday, April 23, 2010

When it Rains...

I've been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster lately. Last week, I found out my future site. This is the place that I'm going to be living and working in for the next two years. I have been assigned to work as an eco-tourism advisor near Lake Mburo National Park. I was absolutely ecstatic about this placement. I feel it is one of the most exciting fields that Peace Corps works in, and I was lucky enough to be the only person in my group selected for this program. Eco-tourism is exactly what my dream job would have been here with the Peace Corps, and although Lake Mburo isn't as well known as some of Uganda's other parks (probably due to it's lack of lions and gorillas), it is supposed to be an amazing little park, and one that is fairly untapped when it comes to tourism.

A quick rundown for those of you who aren't sure what eco-tourism is: it is the idea of creating communities of environmentally and economically sustainable tourist destinations. As it is now, many of the villagers feel as if they are at ends with the parks that they live near. For example, lions are absent in the park because neighboring cattle herders have poisoned them into extinction for preying on the cows which represent their livlihoods. Deforestation is also a problem because people have been chopping down trees in and around the park for years for firewood. The general duty of the eco-tourism volunteer is to not only educate the surrounding communities about the dangers of these actions, but to teach them to live harmoniously with the park, and to hopefully use that park as a source of income to enrich their lives.

This past weekend, while I was visiting my future site, the mental pendulum started to swing the other way. I arrived in the town of Biharwe, which is 3km away from my site, and was less than excited by what I saw. Biharwe is a transient town right along the highway. It is loud and dirty with the heavy traffic of people traveling between Masaka and Mbarara, and the road construction is definitely not helping. I knew that Biharwe was not my site, however, and I kept my hopes up that those 3km would be a world away from the town I was seeing. After meeting my new supervisor, counterpart, and chairman of my organization, we hopped into a car a took a dirt road away from the highway toward my site, Rwenjeru Campsite. Rwenjeru is supposed to be my home and basecamp for work for the rest of my time here in Uganda. The campsite is quite luckily nothing like Biharwe. It is beautiful there. No more construction and traffic, no more dirt, no more people harrassing me. As my future collegues were showing me around, they pointed out a pile of bricks to me, which I thought I was supposed to be admiring. "Nice bricks," I said. "Yes, we are glad you like them. They are for your house. Where would you like it?" I was a bit taken aback by this. There was less than two weeks before I was supposed to be moving into this pile of bricks, and I had been told that Peace Corps had signed off on my housing as meeting their standards just a few days before.

To make a long story short, my organization had had a temporary house for me in the beautiful town of Biharwe to live in during construction which Peace Corps had signed off on, but it has been made unfit to live in by the road construction. My organization then found different housing for me in the town of Mbarara, which is completely amazing, however Peace Corps will most likely veto this location because it is too far away. I don't know what is being done, but I am told things will "probably still work out" with the organization, and to just sit tight and wait for them to decide something.

This, in and of itself, is really not the worst thing in the world, although the not knowing is a bit frustrating but as I said the pendulum had started to swing. I am aware that it is completely mental, but I can't help but think that all the things that usually go my way throughout the course of the day have started going against me. Some stomach issues have set in for the first time since I've been here, there has been some controversey between my host family and PC which I am unfortunately caught in the middle of, even the weather seems to be conspiring against me. Little things that I would not ordinarily care about are piling up and just making things worse.

I know that this is not a feeling that is unique to me. It happened to me back in the states, and I am sure you can probably relate to what I am saying. It's just a rut, and I can see myself in it so I feel like I can work my way out of it. Training will be over in just a few days, and with its end comes yet another fresh start. I may not know where I'll be living, but I am sure the change is exactly what I need.

1 comment:

  1. Was the brick house in the Park? Is it legal to live and build a house in the park? Is the park owned by the city or government? Is it contested? What was the job at the brick house? Do people live in the park or use it's facilitates a lot like fishing or hunting? Is this what is wanted by the city or government? Why was the second housing inadequate. Was it too close to the park land? Was it on park land? Is the housing PC will write off in a proper city? Is this not the park? Would it be safer not to be in the park, but help with tourism through the park and not be someone who lives in it? How do the people who spend a lot of time in the park feel about the tourists? Do they live there?