Last few days @ Home

April 22, 2009

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April 17, 2009

The marathon’s almost over. I presented my qualifying project on Wednesday. I worked on it till the very last moment; it probably wouldn’t be the last time I procrasinate. Fractal who helped me organize the logistics of the presentation looked more nervous than I. The presentation went better than I thought. Surprisingly, the Language Proficiency Interview went well too. I didn’t interject my Lusoga with English, and used the right tenses. I tried to appear confident asking questions back in Lusoga. One has to score intermediate low to pass the test, and if I fail, I’ll be glad to get a private tutor. I wouldn’t be too unhappy if I fail since the night before the LPI, I was involved in a rescue mission. At least, the three young chicks in the homestay have a Momma.

The building that shelters poultry was mostly empty except for the three very young lonely chicks who lost their mother. The two-day old chicks didn’t know how to fed for themselves, or to stay warm. One of the host brothers helped me pick them up. I had never held a chicken before and was thrilled to handle the little ones. Noticing that one chick went to sleep right when I started stoking the back of its neck, I decided that they needed a mom. I took them to the patio where my host-mom was seated weaving her mat. Jenny sighed seeing them and added that she wasn’t sure whether the chick would survive without a mom. I asked Jenny if one of the hens who lost their chicks would adopt these young. She said I could introduce them to those hens and observe whether they accept them. The first two attempts failed, as those hens didn’t show any interest in the little chicks (maybe, they don’t even remember they had young ones). The third time, I brought them close to a mother hen who lost three of her five chicks. The hen and her two chicks were also attracted to the food near the other chicks. Then hen didn’t peck at the 2-day old chicks and they went close to her. They weren’t really sure what to do, but after half an hour they figured out what to do. They went underneath her breast to get some warmth. I felt relieved knowing those little chicks would be cared for by a mother. I recommended to Jenny that if she leaves the mother and her chicks in the poultry house until they grow big enough to defend themselves from predators, then she would have 5 additional chickens. She followed my suggestion, and now the fowl safely reside in their new shelter.

April 18, 2009

I found out at the Homestay Thankyou festivities that I passed the LPI. I was thrilled, but I still plan to hire a tutor to improve my language skills. My day got better when most of my host family came to the talent show. I dedicated a dance to them for opening up their home to us and welcoming us to their lives. The day was filled with other fun performances; the Lusoga language group shared an important tradition that was a part of every presidential inauguration—the Hokey Pokey. We hokey pokied in English & Lusoga. We were pretty famished by lunch time. I had some beans, chappatis , avocado-salad, matooke (steamed plaintain that’s a staple of an Ugandan’s every meal), and Fanta. I probably had more sodas in the last two months than I’ve had in the last 5 years back home. I would probably stick to the healthy H2O option if it were safer. I rather be stuck with those lipids than be glued to the pit latrine. After lunch I met some people Fractal visited during his field trip to a women’s craft co-op, who supported at women who were HIV postive. They had an amazing collection of paper bead necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. I wanted to buy a necklace of every color, but unfortunately a volunteer’s wallet doesn’t support such an ambition. I was happy with the pink necklace I finally settled for at the end. We finally left after four when we saw the dark heavy clouds roll into the sky. There was a downpour right before we got back home. I was grateful that the rain didn’t spoil our day.

April 19, 2009

Last day of homestay. Packing was a drag, but I managed to stuff most of our possessions in the four matching REI duffel bags, 3 buckets, and 2 sleeping-bag sacks. I can’t believe how many books we accrued over two months. I’m not looking forward to the move in two years. Fractal washed most of our laundry in couple of hours. After sending off our luggage in the Peace Corps pickup, we went to town to say good-bye to Faluna (aka chocolate lady), and Pina (my fav fruit vendor). I found Faluna seated near the stove frying small donuts that filled up a 5L can. She said she was making our farewell gift—a snack for us to share with the other trainees. Pina offered us an avocado and mango. Their generosity touched us. Fractal who wasn’t that emotional about leaving Wakiso felt a tear slip his eyes as we walked back home from the market.

Saying goodbye to our family is going to be difficult. They have shared so much with us in the last two months. I truly feel I’ve a family in this new country. We promise to visit and keep in touch. We’ll go to Kampala tomorrow and stay there till we swear in as Peace Corps Volunteers. Then we start our life as PCV’s in our African corner without electricity, running water, but very own pit latrine, solar panel, and a deep cycle battery! Peace Corps. The toughest job you’ll ever love.

“The contents of this Web site are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.”

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Easter Sunday

April 13, 2009

April 12, 2009

Many Ugandans were in high spirits on Easter Sunday, but it was still a laundry day for me. Doing laundry is a big deal when one doesn’t have a washing machine. My fingers feel as rough as sandpaper after spending couple of hours washing our clothes. I volunteered to wash my husband Fractal”s clothes since he meticulously tidied our room yesterday. Our host brother David glanced across the patio as I was washing our clothes.  I felt a bit self-conscious, as I wasn’t heeding his instructions. David told me that I washed like a 3-year old when he first saw me wash clothes. I informed him that I didn’t have to wash that hard since all my clothes were colored and I preferred them to last a bit longer than a few months. He still took the shirt from my hands and scrubbed it to make sure I knew how to clean the shirt.  As he proceeded to tightly wring it, he noticed a distraught expression on my face as if I was feeling the cloth fibers scream in pain. The moment he stopped, I gently took the shirt and told him that washing instructions said not to wring clothes unless you want them stretched out and last for a few months.  He got a good laugh when I showed him the white piece of “instruction” tag. David couldn’t understand why one would need directions for a simple task of washing clothes–an activity a 7-year old Ugandan would know. I informed him that I lack the expertise of hand-washing clothes as machines wash and dry clothes for me back home. After asking me whether washing machines were common in the US, he added that he would never trust machines with his clothes; he believed that only his hands could up hold those high standards of cleanliness. David fortunately didn’t give me any more advice on washing laundry for the couple of hours. &nbsp;Having assembled a line of buckets—one with soapy water, the second with plain water, and the third without any water—I wasted no time as I dipped one article of clothing in the soapy water bucket and squeezed the soap out before I placed it in the next bucket. I had a long way to go and didn’t have much daylight left since I started kind of late in the afternoon. We would have damp laundry drying in our room tonight. &nbsp;I really don’t like the smell of wet clothes in a room without adequate ventilation (we leave our windows closed for fear of Anopheles mosquitoes and door shut to keep our privacy).

Our room is large enough to fit our beds and some of our luggage. The house has three other bedrooms. The host mom Jenny, niece, cook’s daughter, and a cousin live in the main house with us. A living and dining room, an indoor toilet and a separate bathroom, a small kitchen, and a garage are in the main building. Most of the meals are prepared in another kitchen outside the main house, which also houses some hens that are incubating their eggs,in a rectangular building with three other rooms. The host brother James lives in one, the host-mom’s aunt and the cook sleep in another, and the goats stay in the other. There are couple of rooms in the main house adjacent to the exit door that one cannot access from inside the house. Our host brother’s fiancée Tara and nephew David live in those rooms. In addition to these members, there’re couple of men who live in a third building that has another room, which accommodates the rest of the domestic fowl. The house is always alive with some kind of activity. There’s always someone washing dishes, cooking the next meal, or weaving mats in the patio. I like coming back from Raco, where we have our language classes and technical training, to someone calling out, “Kuli Kayo” (welcome back).

I actually wish I had more time with our homestay. The long six working days/week training didn’t give us that much time with our host family. I truly hoped we had more time for conversations with Jenny. Now we’ve just another week before we go to Kampala for swearing in as Peace Corps Volunteers at the US Embassy. I still have to prepare for a qualifying project and a language proficiency interview. At least, the laundry is done.

“The contents of this Web site are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.”

April Fools Day

April 13, 2009

Less than two weeks to go before the end of training.  We were pretty close to losing our site because we played a joke on some of the trainers and the country director on April Fools’. We told them that we were expecting a child. Our Ugandan trainers were pretty excited about it and hugged us. Our country director, on the other hand, was clearly not happy to hear we were “expecting” a child. We asked him whether we could still stay (Peace Corps Uganda medically separates pregnant female volunteers due to possible malaria infection and effect of the malarial prophylaxis on the fetus) and he was trying hard to figure something out. The pain of our good news was so clear on his face that I couldn’t hold the truth any longer. After he figured out it was a April Fools’ joke, he  joked that we were getting a hut in the middle of nowhere. After a training session, our country director got back at us by congratulating our group on the new member who was arriving in 9 months. He added that we played a joke on him, but the joke was really on Fractal.  He said that I came to him and told him that I was still pregnant, but the baby wasn’t Fractal”s.  We deserved the comeback.

“The contents of this Web site are mine personally and do not reflect any
position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.”

Life in this training

April 13, 2009

April 11, 2009

Seated on a cushioned chair leaning against a pillow, I’m thinking about the myriad of things I should be doing: washing our clothes, learning Lusoga, and preparing for my final qualifying project.  Instead of doing any of these useful activities, I’m reveling in the satisfaction of finishing Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl–the one activity that would not help me in my presentation on Wednesday, or Language Proficiency Interview on Friday.  There isn’t another better procrastinator than I; I picked up Into the Wild and finished reading it.  I find it ironic that in the midst of no deadlines, I can never focus enough to finish a book in a few days, but when I’ve a pressing commitment, I find time to read a book.  Even though it isn’t as critical as the essay I had to write before I got my Montessori teaching certificate, I should really put these books away and work on the presentation.

“The contents of this Web site are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.”