Monday, August 28, 2006

PC Training and A Story

PC Training We have language training and technical training this week and next so we’re all away from our sites. The language training has been helpful. We’re given the opportunity to ask questions about some things we wish to say. They do some strange things with the English language here. They use some unique and confusing phrases that may be direct translations from the Runyankore language but doesn’t translate well into English. For example, if they haven’t seen you for a while they will say ‘Obuzire’ (oh-boo-ZEE-reh) which means ‘you have been lost’. Now my translation of this phrase, along with most other English speaking people, would mean that you have been in a place where you didn’t know where you were. But to them it means, ‘You have been lost, aka missing, from this place’. Do you see why it’s confusing? Another one is ‘extend’. If you are sitting in a taxi and someone is going to sit next to you but there is no room and they want you to move over they say ‘extend’. Now my initial reaction to hearing ‘extend’ is to stretch my arms out as far as possible as to ‘extend’ myself, but what they mean is to ‘extend’ your body further down the seat, i.e. ‘move over’. But they say ‘extend’ instead, so it takes a little time to get used to. What’s sad is that in a short few months we have found ourselves saying thins like ‘extend’ or ‘you have been lost’ to one another. Maybe that’s a good sign that we are fitting into our society. It’s good to be together with all of the other volunteers. They say that we get together after the first 3 months at site because on average this time can be the lowest point in the volunteers experience. The psychological experience for the average PCV is in a wave that starts high with nervous energy and anticipation of changing the world. So much is new and adventurous in the beginning. Then training begins and it’s still new, then you begin to realize that training is LOOOOONNNGG and as Jeffery, our APCD just put it, ‘Training Sucks”. It’s a necessary evil, to an extent, but it’s long and filled with hours of workshops and language training and all you want to do is find out where you’re going and then to just go there. Then when you do finally get to your site, that’s exciting! You have a new home, a new area to explore, new people to meet… and then… you realize “my site sucks!” for various reasons. So we all meet, gripe about our sites, about transportation, our counterparts, etc and tell some hilarious and borderline unbelievable stories about what is happening in our villages (teachers getting students pregnant, a woman getting her head chopped off, witnessing a fatal moped accident, having countless marriage proposals, etc). Our group is our group, they are our families away from home. The support us, they understand us, we’ve gone through training together and we are going through similar though varied experiences together. A LOOOONG Night Saturday night was interesting. We were put up by the PC in a hotel in Mbarara for those of us who speak the Runyankore language. Because it was Saturday night some of us went drinking and dancing, not an uncommon thing for us to do when we get together. Now if you know me, then you know that I rarely drink and NEVER dance, but at the endless pleading of everyone else, I decided to join them. Why people would want the guy tagging along who doesn’t drink or dance, I don’t know, but they were pretty insistent. So I joined them for an hour or so before heading back to the hotel for sleep. I’m training for the Kampala Marathon in November and Sundays are my long run days, so I didn’t want to stay out too late. The music they had there and the bass was much, much louder than anywhere I’ve been before, it was unreal, and this is a personal opinion but why is it perceived as fun to go out dancing where you can’t talk because the music is so loud, you can’t hear yourself think for that matter and you spend so much money to buy drink after drink only to watch some guys play pool and to yell to your friends trying in vain to make conversation with them… ??? Again, just my opinion. So I left the place, not really feeling tired but realizing that I needed to sleep. As I left the nightclub and walked the ½ block to the hotel, I realized that the music wasn’t getting any softer, it was in fact getting louder! I went in and up to my room, keyed in and looked out the window. RIGHT outside my window in the patio area of the hotel which was located right next to another hotel was a wedding party and the music was being played at FULL VOLUME! I had some earplugs, so I put them in in a desperate attempt to acquire some silence…didn’t help. I tried putting my hands over my ears and pressing as hard as I could…I could STILL hear the music!! This was at 1:30am mind you. I tried to read a book…couldn’t think straight. And this music, by the way isn’t in English. Some of it is, but most of it is in Luganda or Runyankore! So, I flipped on the TV to see what was on and the only station that worked was a Nigerian movie, which is a common program to be on TV, however, watching a Nigerian movie is just slightly less thrilling than watching your aunt and uncles summer vacation home videos! The main difference is that the sound, video and acting quality of your Aunt and Uncle would be supremely better! The Ugandans LOVE Nigerian movies, despite the horrific quality (you seriously could use a 20 year old VHS camcorder and record these movies). Fantasy Football Well, it’s almost football season, which means that it’s also almost Fantays Football season. The only thing better than watching the NFL is playing Fantasy Football. What could probably be a poster for Fantasy Football was 8 us having a mock draftfor the upcoming fantasy football season, sitting around, in Africa, drinking beer and going through, pick by pick, round by round, drafting NFL players for a mock draft…just for fun. I’ve been playing fantasy football since 1994, back in the days before the internet when we had to get box scores out of the newspaper after the game and record the statistics manually. So I invited about 6 guys here to be in one of my leagues this year. It’s a great way to increase the camaraderie and sportsmanship between us from week to week. Truth is I have several friends I haven’t spoken to in years but through fantasy football our friendship is renewed every week on the fantasy gridiron. One Final Story One last story I’ll tell which requires a great deal of humility and loss of dignity. I’m only making this public information at the request of Marcus, my fellow Hoosier who is here. After hearing the story he tells me, “You HAVE to put that on your blog!” So…here goes… We travel with this thing that is typically called a ‘travel sock’. It is a sock that contains medical stuff like Tylenol, anti-malarial medication, pepto-bismal…whatever you want to keep in it for a travel emergency. It’s handy to just grab if you’re heading out of town because it’s usually just packed and ready to go. About a month ago I was in Mbarara staying at the Pelikan Hotel. I awoke early in the morning on Saturday, before the sun had come up, to catch a taxi back to Ntungamo in order to be there for our Center Day when all of our Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) come. As I was walking the mile or so I needed to walk to get to where I was hoping the taxis would be I started to feel a little…queasy. My stomach was turning and I was feeling very nauseous. I kept walking hoping that it was just a passing moment and that I would be OK for the 1 hour ride home. I hadn’t eaten anything or drank anything that morning and I hadn’t hand anything to drink (alcohol wise) the night before. I had felt fine for the past several weeks so I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Before I knew it, it hit me. Hard. Have you ever had to go so bad that you couldn’t walk and couldn’t move? That was me! I had to find somewhere to go, #2, and FAST. I looked around. It was 5:45 in the morning and I wasn’t exactly in a populated area. There was a bank near by and a park. No public toilets anywhere. No bushes that I could see either. There were a few trees in the park but it was getting daylight and the moon was shining like it has never shone before. I didn’t have ANY toilet paper on me, of course, why would I, but I KNEW that there was no choice in the matter… I HAD TO GO! The only ‘shelter’ I could find was a row of hedges nearby. The would serve as a nice barricade from being seen by anybody walking or driving by. The only problem was that they were in the MEDIAN of the road!!! I had no choice. I dashed into the bushes and barely got my trousers down in time, if only barely. As I squatted there between the bushes, cars and trucks passed by. I was hoping that by the time their headlights hit me (there was a narrow opeining in the bushes) they wouldn’t know what that flash of white was that they saw… Now my next problem was what was I to use to wipe with… Possibly a bigger dilemma than where to go! The shrubs provided no help and I wasn’t going to use the clothing I had packed. I immediately remembered my travel sock!! It was perfect in some ways and it would have to do! I got into my bag and quickly dumped the contents out. The advantage to using the travel sock, I thought, would be that I have a mate to it somewhere that isn’t being used, so it can be an easy replacement. I finished my business, felt MUCH better, and continued to Ntungamo with no lingering problems aside from missing a sock… I received a report from a fellow volunteer that Marcel had purchased 15 beds (not sure if they were double decker or triples), mattresses and sheets. They were thrilled and grateful to say the least! Thanks again for making that happen! I’ll post pictures as soon as I can! That’s all for now. The Fantasy Football magazine that you sent, mom and dad, has been passed around all week by the other volunteers and they’ve poured over it page by page! Another week of training and then it’s back to site!


At 28 August, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh Brian, this is the best blog yet!! Thank you so much (and send my thanks to Marcus!) for sharing the emergency trip to the bushes story. I have been convinced for the past few weeks that that is definitely going to happen to me at some point, I just know it! Too funny. You sound great! I leave in 27 days! woohooo! Watch out Burkina!!


At 29 August, 2006, Blogger Jennifer Noble said...

Hahahaha! Wow! That story is way better than mine....I almost started a forest fire when I had to #2 while backpacking through southern Indiana. We had to burn our TP so we wouldn't be was the middle of autumn. Leaves caught on fire and I fell down a steep hill with my pants down and caught a tree. I was laughing at myself outloud until I looked up and saw the fire. I had to pull my pants up and climb up the hill to stomp out the fire.

I don't share that with many people...but at least I wasn't in the median of a road! Hahahaha...I really hope others share their stories now.

At 01 September, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Excellent POST! The stories you all shared all sound really crazy and exciting. I have to take some credit for the Fantasy Football Magazine.... I bought that to send out to you! Sounds like it made it just in time! - Season starts next Sunday. I've actually just got some tickets for the Colts game at Tennessee in December - Should be FUN! Keep up the awesome Work.

Your Lil Bro,



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