All Volunteer Conference

September 27, 2010

I left site on Sept 1st to attend the All Volunteer Conference held over the next two days.  Before I got to the hotel, I stopped by the Wild Life Club Office.  Procured a permit card for the college.  Yay! Now we officially have a live Wild Life Club at the college partnered with a parent organization.  I’m so excited.  I really can’t wait for one of the staff members to come and give talks & show documentaries.  It would be incredible if the students could visit one of the parks.  Gosh! That would be a great opportunity for them.

I rushed to get a facial after a downpour while I was at the Wild Life Club.  I know, facial in Africa.  Totally! A friend at a salon gives me awesome facials.  She is friendly and professional–2 things I look for before I do business with someone.  The saloon uses high grade skin products.

I met up with Fractal in Garden City and had mouthwatering vegetable pies at Uchumi before we headed to Hotel Ridar.  Finding a taxi around rush hour on Jinja Road was a headache but the broker whom I greeted found us a private car who was going that way & we paid the nice lady for the ride.

We checked in and found a room with a double bed, which is unbelievably hard sometimes.  After checking in, we went downstairs for dinner.  I wasn’t hungry since the veggie pies were still digesting.  We saw PCV’s we hadn’t seen for ages.  It was a wonderful reunion.

Over the next two days I spend time with some incredible people, met Ambassador Lanier (I mentioned to him that I send him a letter addressing my concerns about how Ugandan visitors are treated at the Embassy), sat through interesting sessions (Raising Voices, Family Planning, secondary projects–I never knew making soap would so rewarding)ate delicious food, caught up on my sleep, and hung out with the kitchen staff.  The kitchen staff @ Ridar were welcoming and super cool.  On the last day of the conference we had some delectable pizza.  My mouth waters when I think how delightful it was.

I also danced @ the Talent Show because someone from my group signed me up.  Even though I love performing, I don’t always take the initiative and was glad some one gave me the push.  It was an impromptu performance but it worked out.  A friend from my group asked me whether I could go to her site and show some of the girls in her area Bollywood dancing, which I gladly agreed to.  That gave me another idea of starting a dance club.  Dancing is an integral part of African culture and empowering girls through creative movement may be a way to break the initial ice and give them opportunities to express themselves where they feel in charge and comfortable to be themselves.

After the conference Fractal went back to site.  I wanted to visit homestay but an emergency came up.  I heard from our host mom that our host sister’s baby was in the hospital.  I made my way to Kololo hospital where I stayed the whole day. Baby I is an adorable baby, happy & the least fussiest baby I’ve ever met; it was painful to see a 7-month old baby with tubes inserted in his nose and arms.

I don’t know how pediatric nurses, doctors & other medical professionals tolerate all that pain their little patients take; it takes incredible strength to do what they do.  Even though I’ve respect for pediatric doctors, I was annoyed by Baby I’s doctor.  Baby I’s grandma (my host mom) managed to calm him down; soon after he calmed down, the doctor entered the scene, picked up the baby, and asked him how he was doing.  Baby I started shrieking.  Seeing the infant’s response, the doctor asked him why he was crying.  What’s the doc thinking? Or is he not? Why would you take a child who’s comfortable on his grandma’s lap, raise him in mid air, and ask him how he’s doing.  I was later introduced to the doc and found out he did an exchange program in the twin cities in MN.  I wanted to ask him where he learned to interact with his patients the way I just saw but decided to hold my tongue.  In the evening my host sister, her husband, Baby I’s nanny & I headed back to their apartment while the grandma cared for the baby.

I had a restful sleep and headed back into the city the next morning.  I had my first tennis lesson at the American Rec Association.  The coach was amazingly encouraging and patient.  I learned forehand and backhand.  Met some really nice and friendly staff.  I was introduced to the ARA cat Jerry; I thought the name was slightly odd for a female cat, even though giving girls traditionally male names is not uncommon here.  She was the fattest and the oldest cat I’ve seen in Uganda.

After the tennis lesson, I made my way to the taxi park to catch a matatu to I-town.  That leads me to a lesson I learned that day: if you can help it, then avoid taking late afternoon taxi because the drivers think they’re infallible.  I had a gravity defying experience and felt I was in an airplane at various points of the voyage.  I did make it home in an intact piece.  I was glad to be home to Fractal, Kunda the cat & Peace the duck after a long rewarding day.

“philosophical jaunts”

September 14, 2010

Due to the recent email from my brother about his limitations in reading my “philosophical jaunts,” I promised him that I would stay relatively level-headed and include the daily life events at my site.  I’m working on an entry about the All Volunteer Conference that was held in Kampala from Sept 2nd to 3rd.  I also have another entry in mind that I’ll work on about the initial work in starting up various clubs with my counterpart/s.   I’m a slow writer, so I appreciate every reader’s patience in the delay.  Hope you guys have an awesome week & thanks for taking the time to read my “jaunts” and thoughts.  A shout out to my brother for being honest with me & politely letting me know how he feels about my writing.  Thanks, bro! I love you & please I welcome polite & critical opinion about my writing.  Peace Out.

Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers

September 7, 2010

This morning I found out that a PCV was fatally shot in Lesotho.  The news was shocking.  The Inspector General’s(Lesotho’s police force) response was not surprising where he indirectly blamed the victim for walking out on the street rather than choosing a private car.  Yes, the victim chose to get killed because he decided to walk out of the building in what was quoted by IG as a low crime area.  If it’s a low crime area, then why isn’t it safe to walk outside? It is hard enough to hear a death of a PCV, should the victim be blamed? Does that help in coping with someone’s death? Did this person think of the victim’s family, friends, or colleagues? Would this person appreciate if someone said this about someone he cared about?

Since I believe Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers have the same right as other service people to be remembered, I started a Facebook group for the Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers.  PCV’s sacrifice their time and energy to make a difference in people’s lives and in the communities they reside.  The ones who die in service should never be forgotten.  There is a memorial website for Fallen PCV’s–http://www.fpcv.org/.  I hope they accomplish their goal of constructing a physical memorial for those volunteers who died during their service.

While I was exploring their website, I ran into a link to Kate Puzey–the volunteer who was murdered in Benin during our Pre-service Training last year.  PC didn’t provide any information about her death at the time, or wanted to stay tight lipped in fear of offending PC headquarters.  The Government of Benin had pledged full cooperation and support in the investigation at the time. A year and a half later from what I’ve looked up there hasn’t been any arrest.  A year and a half ago Jody Olsen, former acting Peace Corps Director, commended Kate for her service and expressed sorrow for the loss.

Is that all? Just a few words.  Is that all what we–Peace Corps Volunteers–mean to the headquarters? Are we just a mere number that a few words will do? A number that is needed to fill a quota that is required in a country of service so the US government can gloat what kind of humanitarian work it supports.

When I read about Kate Puzey, I feel for those who knew her.  Her family who lost their daughter.  Her community who lost a leader.  Her students who lost a teacher.  Even though I never met Kate, I feel I lost a PC sister.

Can Kate’s family rely on Peace Corps to put pressure on the Government of Benin to bring her attacker/s to justice? Or is Peace Corps just going to put on a diplomatic face and add a few more words? If what happened to Kate occurred to one of the top Washington officials’ children, what would the response be? Is Peace Corps the kind of organization that Kate believed in? “one that’s transparent, efficient and respects and protects and empowers their volunteers.”(http://www.wsbtv.com/news/22798759/detail.html).

Time will tell.

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Update: I learned from PC staff members & a RPCV that Kate Puzey’s perpetrator was found.  The perpetrator was her language instructor who killed her because she was going to blow the whistle on the instructor’s relative who was allegedly abusing children.  The US government wanted the perpetrator extradited to a US court and the government of Benin refused.

We are murderers

September 1, 2010

I was saddened by the cabinet’s recent decision to give away part of Mabira Forest to sugar cane plantation owners.  Mabira Forest is the only standing forest in central Uganda.  It is home to diverse species of birds, mammals, and insects.  A few years ago there was a huge outcry when the cabinet made the same decision.  Now that people have quiet down, they are probably hoping their recent decision would not make much of a difference because people have other things to worry about: like the primary elections.

We’re murdering other species of living organisms.  I feel ashamed on behalf of my species, who’re self-centered and care only about our progress, our short-term happiness, and our welfare.  If we cannot live in harmony with Mother Nature, then we’re also setting ourselves up closer to our extinction.  Let us look at the history of our planet.  Look at the organisms that dominated during the Paleozoic or the Mesozoic.  Trilobites and the dinosaurs became extinct.  Why wouldn’t we?

While we rape and murder our planet, I’m grateful for those who sow and plant the seeds so all species have an equal chance of survival.  Meanwhile, I’m going to stop sitting on my glutes and staying depressed and getting in touch with Trees for the Future.

Trees for the Future @ http://www.plant-trees.org/

I am the earth.  You are the earth.  The Earth is dying.  You and I are murderers.  (Ymber Delecto)

Running

August 31, 2010

Running is my religion. I find it mentally and physically challenging. It pushes me out of my comfort zone. When I pay attention to my breathing to keep track of my heart rate, I focus. I feel happy. I feel fit.

The most important reason why I continue to run in Africa is for the women. When I run, they see another woman running. Well, an odd one but nevertheless a woman. They see another woman doing something she wants to do. No coercion. No obligation. Just doing something for herself.

They see me train four days a week. Run my short, medium & long runs. They see me wave. They smile when I acknowledge them. Even if they don’t remember me years from now, I won’t be offended as long as they remember that a woman can run for miles because she wants and that women are as much entitled as men to do something just for themselves. Not for their children. Their families. Just for themselves. At least one thing.