Tuesday, May 25, 2010

experiences nonetheless

Last week a group of students from the University of London came to visit my site for a research project on the role of tourism in development. I have to say that their visit was really my saving grace last week. The truth is things have kind of ground to a halt lately here. My house is still not finished, and I find myself with less and less to do as each day goes by, and because of the restrictions on travel, I will often just sit in my Mbarara apartment for days on end. Even when I do get to go out to site, my organization frustrates me in almost every conceivable way, but I won't go into that now.

I actually wasn't even supposed to be there for the student visit, as I was going to travel to visit my friends Charlene and Brian in a neighboring town, but due to my supervisors unrelenting insistence, I ended up cancelling the trip. I was a little upset about having to cancel, but when a van rolled up and I saw that the group of visiting students were all girls my mood picked up slightly. I was only supposed be with them for a few hours, but after my supervisor Enock hijacked everything he turned their two hour morning visit into an all-day affair. Even though I was embarrassed by Enock's imposition, I was actually relieved to have someone else to talk to that day. The alternative being just Enock and me...

I ended up hanging out with the group for the rest of the week, and I got to be pretty close with some of them despite only having met them a few days ago. I actually even went on a Safari with one of the girls (Lorraine- from Zimbabwe but has lived in England for the past 7 years) and a couple of other friends that live here in town. These past few days have easily been the best I've had since coming to site. It made me feel like myself again.

Their presence however, both when they were here and in their absence, has highlighted what my life has actually become. It made me think of what things must look like to somebody just stepping off a plane from London, and it also helped me remember what life outside of this place was like for a few days. "Yes, I do see this kind of poverty every day." "Yes, I do actually work with this man." "Yes, I do eat this every day." "Yes, I spend every waking hour either alone or with people that treat me as more of a novelty than an actual person." "Yes, I will be here for the next two years..." The list goes on, and while more than one of them told me they think what I am doing is noble, I also know that not one of them envies my position. It's probably safe to say that many of you reading this at home wouldn't trade positions with me either.

The point is that this is my life, and it's what I've come to know and accept. Hopefully it will get better as I continue to integrate into my community more fully (assuming my house ever gets finished), but for now it's my reality. It can be lonely, boring, difficult, and definitely frustrating, but I also hope it's giving me the chance to experience something unique. Even if those experiences are hard, and the good ones only happen by every once, and even those are often short-lived, they are all experiences nonetheless.

Check out the photos from my safari with Lorraine, Brendon and Dennis here:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

a day in pictures

So I have been getting some requests to add some more about my day-to-day life as well as some pictures. Here's my attempt at doing both of those at the same time. I tried to create an album that takes you through a typical day in my life, and at the bottom of each picture there is a caption explaining it. I tried to set up it so you could view it from here, but it didn't really work out so you have to view it from my Picasa page.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rock Bottom

I don't know what to say. I am saddened, shocked, and disappointed. I have worked so hard. Wanted it so badly. I felt like this time, I really deserved it. I have even been waking up at 3:00 AM with this one goal in mind. Now I see it was all for nothing.

I guess I just thought that if I put my whole heart into something, devoted the time to it, and believed with my entire being that maybe this time would be different that it actually would be.

Then the Cavs go and put on a performance like that...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

High Tide Low Tide

Yesterday started out pretty neutral. I woke up and ate breakfast (leftover rice and beans - Asian style), then got ready for my 9:00 meeting with some local man about goat husbandry. By 11:30 sharp, the man had picked me up and we were on our way. It was raining, so we had to keep the windows down as we drove around for the next 1-2 hours picking up various people who weren't yet ready for our 9:00 meeting. After the car was packed (6 wet people in a compact with no AC and the windows up) we drove down one of the most poorly maintained roads with some of the most nauseating driving I have seen in Africa for at least a week, and that is really saying something. After arriving at the project site, I picked the smallest, least fresh pile of goat shit I could find to stand in and listen to two men argue in a language I didn't understand (not Runyankore or English) about whether one man's goats were fit enough for the government to buy and give to the other man for free. After the meeting was over, I explained to the driver that I was not feeling well enough to continue on. I withheld the information that this was probably 50% attributable to his driving and 50% attributable to the neglect of my rumbling stomach. After another hour ride back, my mood at this point could have best been described as "pissy".

Once out of the car, the tide began to turn almost immediately. The sun came out (literally) as I sat down to a nice heaping plate of rice and beans (African-style). I then went home, ate about 5 kabaragara which are these amazing little yellow bananas, listened to a Podcast of the Avett Brothers live in concert (thanks to Ally and Charlene for the intro), and laid around for about an hour. Next, I got up and went to my new gym and, despite the 6'X15' space available for the dozen of us there, got in an amazing workout. I then went to the store where I bought some yogurt and a scone which I slathered in peanut-butter and inhaled while listening to another live concert Podcast - this time Passion Pit. After a few more hours and a few more kabaragara, I made dinner. I had eaten rice and beans African-style or Asian-style for the last four meals in a row so I decided to treat myself and switch things up. After an immensely satisfying bowl of Mexican-style rice and beans with a Decemberists Podcast to keep me company, I watched the movie Avatar (available locally for the low, low price of UGX 2,ooo = $1), ate the rest of my kabaragara, and called it a night

Peace Corps is a dichotomy. I've heard it said a by a number of more experienced PC Volunteers, but it is just now starting to become apparent to me. I have never had such peaks and valleys in the course of a single day. In one moment I might be completely lost and miserable. An anxiety will grip me and I'll start to wonder what on earth possessed me to do this. Am I out of my mind? A few hours later, you might find me at peace with everything, grinning from ear to ear. Sometimes the change is brought on by something as simple as the sun coming out or getting a decent meal, and sometimes it is brought on by seemingly nothing at all. I guess that's just the nature of this thing. Sometimes it feels like you're on top of the world, and sometimes it feels like nothing is ever going to go your way. I think the trick will be to learn as much as I can from the bad and soak up as much as I can from the good.