Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Birds, The Bees, and The Aunt

Nicholas is Back!

To describe it in a word: overwhelming. Breathtaking. Miraculous. Joyful. Nicholas paid us a visit this week at the Compassion Center with his grandfather. And to see him walking around and smiling from ear to ear was… overwhelming! It brought a tear to my eye even. Nicholas was one of the children we believed had HIV. He has a really special place in my heart too. He had been tested positive for HIV before I arrived. Shortly after my arrival I was sent to Kampala to the Mulago Hospital there to visit him. I would always try to stock up on some sweets or stickers before I would go to visit. A hospital visit in a 3rd world country is an experience in and of itself. Blood on the walls. People tending to their sick family members and sleeping under the patients’ bed or on the lawn. Few doctors. Nurses who just stand around or spend more time cleaning than tending to patience. Anyway, Nicolas was in the hospital because he had lost his balance. It was the strangest thing. He couldn’t walk, stand, or even sit up without completely losing his balance and crashing to the ground. It was like this strange, drunken state he was in. The doctors had done a variety of tests and thought of a number of possibilities ranging from a neurological disorder to an ear infection. In conclusion they really didn’t know what was the problem other than the HIV or the ARVs had somehow caused this. Both of Nicholas’ parents died from AIDS. After some time they decided to re-test Nicholas only to find that he DIDN’T have HIV, that the original test was faulty and that he may improve completely if he were taken off the ARV drugs. These faulty tests have reeked havoc on all of us here as we are now trying to sort out who does and who does not have HIV. Right now we are down to only 8 kids testing positive, down from what was 49. So here we are, around 6 weeks after Nicholas has been off the medicine and he is once again a healthy, happy boy and it’s truly a joy and blessing to see. One of those moments where you can’t help but say a ‘Thank You’ prayer to Jesus.

The Birds, The Bees, and The Aunt

For those of you contemplating getting married, consider this: in Uganda it’s not uncommon for the Aunt of the Bride to spend the first night of marriage with the couple to ensure they are ‘doing things right.’ Yup, you read that correctly. It’s a cultural thing for the Aunt to give the ‘sex talk’ to the teenaged girls here and for the Uncle to give the talk to the boys. And on the wedding night the Aunt might sleep under the bed or somewhere in the room to observe. Now this might be practiced more deep in the village, but it definitely goes on. Also, if a couple is having problems or experiencing pain then the Aunt is again called to intervene… Can…you…imagine.

The Peace Corps Dating Scene

A few of you have asked what it’s like in the ‘interpersonal relationship’ world of the Peace Corps. How do you cope with being single for 2 years, etc. The fact of the matter is that the Peace Corps dating scene is alive and kicking. First of all there are around 60 PCVs serving in Uganda. We’re all roughly in our mid 20s and we all, to a great extent, have similar passion for serving people. We’ve all given up something to be here, we’ve gone through such a similar experience that only a PCV can fully understand so we, on several levels, have a deep connection to one another and it’s easy to see that a spark of romance can easily flare up. Throw in the fact that most of us are somewhat lonely at our sites, longing for someone to talk to who understands what it’s like to be missing Pizza, Cheeseburgers and Lost episodes. So we frequently travel and visit each other or get together for group hangout sessions.

It also, so happens, that people will date a local, a Ugandan. I remember one of our trainers at staging telling us, “You say you aren’t attracted to Ugandans… give it 6 months.” And he was right. You become attracted people and the barriers that you had previously had up sort of melt away. I’ve talked to returned PCVs who had boyfriends/girlfriends who were locals and I know current PCVs in Uganda who are dating locals. The PC makes it a point to show a very intense video of 5 former volunteers who contracted HIV from their local boyfriends/girlfriends. The PC also provides you with enough condoms to ‘build a raft’ and encourages you to have yourself and your partner tested for HIV before becoming sexually active. The fact is that 2 years is a long time to go without a relationship. I can really only speak for myself, but I believe that most of us prepared for being here by preparing to be without a relationship for 2 years but we’re finding that those relationships somehow found us. As for me… sorry, I don’t kiss and tell J

The Money Experiment

OK…so that lasted about a day. I was more worried about having anything to feed the cat than anything (yes, that is the best excuse I can come up with… I’m an animal lover for crying out loud!). I just figured, why suffer when I can borrow money and go into debt. That is, after all, the American Dream, isn’t it? So I started running a tab a the local restaurant and I borrowed some money from a friend. So, I lost. I quit. I am a quitter and a loser. And this is the worst part… do you know what I bought with this borrowed money? Chocolate. And not even real, American chocolate. No, it’s this watered down African chocolate which shouldn’t even be permitted to be called chocolate. So there… So much for living a life of self depravity while living in the peace corps. Just give me back my VISA card, OK? Sheesh!


Lastly, I was talking to Jennifer Wetter who gave me my kitten, Akamogo, and we were talking about what some of the differences were between Uganda and America (and believe me that could have been a week long conversation). She proceeded to get into the matter that one of the big differences between life here in Africa and back home boils down to one major topic: hope. There’s a line in one of my favorite movies that says, “Dreams are what make life tolerable” (Rudy). And from Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and a good thing never dies.” I quit teaching after 2 years. I was burnt out completely. I didn’t want to teach again…ever. I had this 4 year degree which I wasn’t going to ever use again, but because I live in America, ‘The Land of Opportunity’ it wasn’t a problem. Within a short time I had a decent job, good hours, benefits, etc. The transition was smooth. 9 months later I again changed jobs, making quite a bit more than I was making by teaching. It was easy to change jobs. I was doing more than changing jobs, I was changing careers at that. But here, there’s no hope. There’s no future, no ‘Land of Opportunity’. If it’s in the cards for you to load your bicycle with green bananas and push that bike into town 3 times a day and sell those bananas, then that’s what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life to support your family of 10 kids. There’s no bank that’s going to give you a loan. They don’t have any sitcoms to talk about over the water cooler at work tomorrow. They spent the day digging in the garden they use for sustenance for mere survival, eating the food they grow off the land. Their hope is a day to day hope. Maybe that’s why they seem to have such a deep faith in God, believing that He is truly the giver of everything they have. They are truly thankful to have been given another day of life, another plate of food.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for the emails and cards! Birthday wishes to Mark N, Mila and to Henry! My 2 fantasy football teams split this week, winning 1, losing 1. Not bad considering both my #1s were on a bye week (if you understood that last sentence, then congrats, you’re in the loop). And the Colts improved to 3-0!! Rock On!! Go Horse!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Great Expectations

Caroline’s Story

I was going through some of the databases that I had recently created and I came across a girl named Caroline. I remember her name easily because she looks like someone I met in Mexico on a mission trip. I can remember things very well if I can associate them. I noticed that she stayed with the same caregiver that 2 other sisters stay with. These 2 sisters look alike, as sisters commonly do. But Caroline doesn’t (you can’t compare last names. Everyone in every family has different names). I asked Barbra about her and here’s what she told me.

Caroline was found about 1km away from here in a swamp. Similar to the Moses story except that she wasn’t in a basket floating down the Nile (which begins in Uganda). Unfortunately it’s fairly common for a mother to ‘dump’ a child who is unwanted here in hopes that someone will take them in. Sometimes, however, the child winds up at the bottom of a pit latrine…

So Caroline was found by the mother of these 2 girls and she has raised her as her own child. Now several people over the years have tried to claim Caroline as their own child. Now why would someone want to claim an orphan when there are so many in this country, I asked Barbra. She told me that families who are barren and have no children or who have had children die would claim one. People were even approaching Caroline and telling her that they were her father or mother and that she should go home with them. She would reply by telling them that her father had died and that her mother was at home, confused as to why they would make such bogus claims. Her (adopted) mother explained to her that these people were up to no good and were trying to kidnap her.

About a year ago an elderly man came to Compassion with a story that fit (Sounds like Anne to me). He told how his son had impregnated a house girl who had a child and dumped it in the swamp 10-11 years ago. The son has since died or run of (I can’t remember) and this man only wanted to be reunited with his granddaughter. He was mildly hysterical about finding where she lived and who she lived with, but he was also a man who was financially well off.

So Compassion told him that Caroline might be too young to know the truth of her situation and that if he wanted to see her than he could do so through them. He left, however, and they haven’t heard from him since. And to this day Caroline still doesn’t know.

Great Expectations

Apparently Jacob and I were both believed to be women. At least that’s what our organizations had gathered before our arrival. The APCD of Health (Associate Peace Corps Director) resigned recently. Where’s the tie-in with the afore mentioned statements…let me explain.

The APCD of Health, to the best of my understanding, has a responsibility of being “John the Baptist” so to speak (minus the camel-skin loincloth and eating locus). Preparing the way for our arrival to our site by investigating the organization we’re working with, visiting our housing, etc. I found out this week that Compassion here at Kyamate were really confused upon my initial arrival. First, they thought I was a supposed to be a woman. 2nd that I would be bringing a car that I would be leaving that car for them when I left. 3rd that I would be bringing several computers to donate to Compassion. Now that’s a great deal of information to be mis-communicated…but wait…and it gets better…

Jacob was also supposedly a woman who has a degree in social work a great deal of work with orphans. Jacob isn’t a woman (that I know of) and he has a degree in Mechanical Engineering… They had no idea he was coming and also didn’t have any housing arrangements made for him whatsoever.

Other examples: PCV #3 – The organization thought PCV #3 was only staying for 2 weeks and that he/she was a medical doctor…PCV #3 actually has a degree in engineering. They also thought that the Peace Corps, which they had never heard of, was a military organization and that he/she was in possession of a firearm given by the PC.

PCV #4 – was placed at a site where transportation was a major problem. There was no way to get around on PC approved transportation in order to get the necessary weekly supplies like food.

PCV #5 – Was expected (by the organization) to live with her supervisor, a married man.

PCV #6 – Was living in the same building he/she was working in. This is against PC regulations.

So…the APCD of health has now resigned.

Living on a little

My computer and my flash drive contracted a virus last week. I had to make an emergency trip to Mbarara to get it fixed. I was already low on cash and was on a tight budget, but my computer has become like my child, demanding much of my attention (except that I get to turn it off when I want). We’re at the end of our pay period, so money is tight already. Factor in that I am owed a great deal of money by the Peace Corps for my Bicycle plus a couple of trips into Kampala they asked me to make. So my already low stash of cash became much lower. It’s basically this, for the next 2 weeks I have about $2 to live off of. $1 per week. Now I can do this! It’s an experiment but I want to try it. I can always borrow money from Jacob if I need it, he spends money like a 92 year old woman who clips coupons from the Sunday paper. I figure it’s like this, I’ve surrounded myself with creature comforts from home. My house looks like a college dorm room with pictures and art hanging up. But I’m in Africa, I’m in the Peace Corps, yet I eat at a nice restaurant several times a week with not much regard for money, in part, because it’s the wonderful taxpayers of American who are paying my salary. It’s not my money, really. (see the list below) And I’m not really ‘struggling’ to survive like many of the kids whom I’m visiting. So I’m going to try this. A loaf of bread here costs between $.35 and $.75. Eggs are $.08 each. Beans and Rice I have and are super cheap regardless(you just have to be careful when you’re eating them not to hit a rock and chip a tooth!!!) Water is free. Flour I have. My only concern is that I don’t have much money to feed my cat, so I may break down because of that…we’ll see.


I’ll leave you with this. It’s a list of things Chapman is experiencing now that he’s back in the states:

1.People asking really dumb questions about Africa (i.e. "Did you eat there?" "Was there meat?" "Did you see Brad and Angelina?")

2. Having to be on time

3. Going through the check out line at the grocery store and having to look at pictures in US Weekly and People of Tom Cruise's ugly ass baby and Brad and Angelina in Africa

4. My beer now only has 3 to 4% alcohol in it as opposed to 5-6%

5. Paying $4 for a beer!!

6. Having to care about my appearance

7. Mindless TV programs (Bridezilla, CBS Nightly News with Kaite Couric, the entire programming schedule of Fox News)

8. Knowing that the money I spend is mine and not provide by the wonderful US taxpayers

9. Waking up and having nothing to do

10. Driving (haha) in traffic

11. Constant stimulation (lots and lots of family)

12. Knowing if I get sick, Anni and Liz are not there (the PC nurses)

13. Not being able to make fun of Keith

14. No more fishing with Stoops (inside joke)

15. Spending time with all of you and learning form the people of Uganda

Monday, September 11, 2006



My dad, whenever he’s fixing the lawn mower (and by that, I mean changing the air filter) says ‘nuts!’ whenever something goes wrong. If a piece breaks off or the filter doesn’t fit in properly or he injures himself he exclaims the word ‘Nuts!’. That’s all. Nothing more. If he’s particularly upset he says it multiple times. ‘Nuts! Nuts, nuts, nuts! NUTS!’ My word for the week isn’t ‘nuts’ it’s RATS. And this isn’t something I’m exclaiming out of frustration, exactly. I’m saying this because the past 5 nights I haven’t been able to sleep because I’ve been chasing them out of my room!!!

I came back from my 2 weeks of training to find a single oddity in my residence. My squeeze-bottle of honey had the top chewed off as if something needed a bigger hole to eat the honey. I reasoned that perhaps ants had caused the malaise and I dismissed it as a rare oddity, however, that night I was treated to a visit by at least 2 and possibly 3 rats! Not mice…Rats! Before going to bed I ran my hand across my bed only to find rat-droppings. Apparently they had been sleeping in my bed (why does this sound almost like a Goldilocks story gone awry?) I’ve mentioned how we have electricity in Ntungamo almost all the time, it goes off about 15 minutes a week total. Other areas of Uganda are on ‘load shedding’ where they are on a schedule of on-24 hrs, off-24 hrs. Well, that particular night, wouldn’t you know, the power was OFF. So I slept close to my glasses and flashlight and each time I heard a noise (and there were 5 times), I shined my light and they would scamper under the door. On one occasion I found one in a care package that I had recently received. Fortunately the contents were unscathed. (fortunately for the rat, I mean. That could have meant world war III)

So…I bought some poison, mixed it with peanut butter and set some traps. Went to bed the next night, expecting to find a half dozen dead rats in my room the next morning…nothing. They returned alright, but didn’t take the bait. I discovered that they were into my maize-flour, so I mixed THAT with some poison and went to bed the next night…nothing. I tried mixing some honey with the poison the following night…nothing. I woke up one night even and found rat droppings ON ME!! Now I sleep under a mosquito net, so I feel I have some protection from a sneak attack. Last night I swear I heard and felt one jump off my bed and scurry out the door. I actually think I felt my concrete floor shaking as it ran away, but I could be imagining things.

So… I made a decision to deal with the problem once and for all! I brought in a professional. This morning I went and picked up a cat that a nearby PCV was trying to get rid of. A kitten actually. Don’t have a name yet. Jacob wants to give it the name ‘Rat’ in Runyankore. The jury is still out on that. It’s about 6 weeks old and I’m pretty sure that it’ll be more afraid of the rats than I have been, but I’m hoping that the mere presence of a cat will ward the rats off. I’ll post a picture. If you have any ideas for names, I’d be open to hearing them.

My Work

There’s an Israeli man named Joseph who lives in Ntungamo. He looks like he could be in some kind mafia or something. He’s large but not tall, in his early 50’s I’d say and has a long, grey ponytail. We saw him about 6 times before we could get up the courage to approach him. Come to find out that he’s in charge of constructing some of the roads that have been built around here. And, if I may say so, they are the best roads built in all of Uganda. Very smooth, they have shoulder room (a rarity). Just nice roads. Well, this Joseph guy LOVES to have company and he LOVES to invite people over for crackers and cheese. He lives in a mansion (by local standards) he has one room in his house that we call “the fridge room” because that’s the only thing in it. And that’s not his main fridge, that’s in the dining room. You would think you had walked into the twilight zone if you saw this place.

So Angela and Genia came this weekend and they went up to Josephs with Jacob and had PIZZA!! Cooked in his oven! OK, so it had ketchup as the tomato base, but it had real cheese which is a rarity in a country that doesn’t have many refrigerators due to a lack of power. Afterwards, Angla and I were talking and she was explaining to me how she doesn’t feel like she’s doing much at her site. “It feels like,” she says, “ I’m job hunting all the time by trying to find activities to do, and job hunting isn’t exactly a pleasant thing to do.” Welcome to the Peace Corps. Sometimes your organization doesn’t have things for you to do, so you have to go out into the community and find things to do. Jacob and I have more like 9-5 jobs where we’re busy almost all of the time. Compassion doesn’t have a job description for what I do, so I just find needs and plug myself into those areas. I take my abilities and compassions needs and see where they cross. Here’s what I’ve been doing in the first 3 months at site:

Mr Olan Mills – taking digital pictures of all 292 of our kids so that we have a databse on our computers where we can look up what a child looks like, plus creating a display with their pictures.

Database – I’ve created a spreadsheet that has the childs name, number, school, birthday, grade in school, school, village, and caregiver. This has proven to be VERY handy because information can be accessed and sorted with a click of a button rather than by visually looking for the information. Often the information was in SEVERAL different locations so I had to search and compile it.

Create a brochure – I’m working on creating a brochure for the organization which has our goals, objectives, pictures, vision, etc.

Home visits – Compassion says we should be visiting the kids once every 6 months and the HIV kids once every month. There is some coordinating that must take place for this to happen.

Teaching Health – As a trained health volunteer I have been stuffed full with health information by the PC which I then teach to our kids.

Organizing the Center Days – these are the days the kids come, I help to plan what will go on that day.

Ultimate Frisbee – Jacob and I have gone out to the local high schools on our own accord to teach a new game – Ultimate Frisbee. They have really enjoyed the game and our interactions with the students, teachers and headmasters. Plus, it’s something for us to do in the evenings, a way to get into the school systems, and good exercise to boot!

Computer Technician – Updating and maintaining the new computers we have received.


In this walking society there are dirt paths along both sides of the paved roads where people, no matter how deep you are in the village, are walking along the roadside. It’s a walking society. They also take these junky ‘hero’ bicycles which they ride, load up with bananas, 80lb bags of flour, or people and ride or push. The problem comes when these big trucks and busses are flying down these roads with no regard to the people they are passing. We came upon an obstruction in the road way. When there is an accident or a vehicle blocking the road, they break off branches and lay them in the road like you would put orange cones in America. Upon reacing the scene I saw what I thought was a small cow in the road. There were skid marks leading up to it about 100 feet or more. When I arrived I could see that it was a teenaged boy who had been hit by, I would guess, a truck or bus. I can only surmise, but I think he was hit at the beginning of the skid marks and either flew or was dragged to where he lie. I couldn’t tell if he was merely hurt or dead. The driver, no doubt, sped off to avoid being the victim of mob justice. There was a small crowd of people who had gathered. Nobody was helping the boy which was another reason I suspicioned he was dead. It was just tragic to see and further reminded me that you can’t be too careful when you are walking or riding a bike on these roads. The larger vehicle just takes the right of way.

The Novelty

For the first several months I was here, waking up each morning was refreshing. I had to pinch myself to remind myself (allow myself to introduce…myself) that I was in fact in Africa. But now, the novelty has worn off. Things aren’t new any more. The sites I see have been the same now for the past 6 months. Only rare things really surprise me and I’m finding that I have to reach in and find some extra motivation at times. It’s the same with any job, relationship or vacation for that matter. It’s fun and exciting when it’s new. You breeze through the days in what seems like effortless joy as you bask in the newness of everyting. The job isn’t mundane…just yet. The relationship is exciting and new as you learn new things about each other daily. The vacation is a place you haven’t yet explored each nook. But in time, that phase passes and you must re-discover, re-invent and remind yourself why you’re there, what your purpose is, what really matters. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing. Reminding myself why I’m here, what it took for me to get here. I remember some of the jobs I had before I came and how I desperately wanted to be doing anything but what I was doing. The Peace Corps has been a roller coaster ride so far, but now it’s settling into a plateau. Not a bad thing, just another level of what is normal. I think, as Americans, who watch too many movies and have too many gadgets, we expect novelty around every corner. I remember my grandfather, how he would just sit outside under a shade tree and listen to the birds all afternoon and evening. I can’t do that. I immediately go for my phone or my computer or a book. I need stimulation. Coming here was supposed to get me away from stimulation and into a more contemplative life…hasn’t happened. I think that to achieve something like that, it must be achieved within. And I think it hits on this quote I mentioned before, “the pain of discipline is less than the pain of regret.” It takes discipline, doing intentionally without at times. Fasting if you will.

So…as I sign off: Andy, good luck with teaching! Melanie and CJ…Happy Birthday!! Todd…good luck with the Job search! Karen…thanks for the Kung-Fu card! Quite hilarious!!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Force Out at 2nd

The Taxi from Hell

I had one of my Fantasy Football drafts last night. I thought I’d be able to do it at Africare, where I do all of my internet. They are closed on Saturdays but the night watchman usually lets me in to do internet, however, upon arriving they told me that the new administration has taken the keys from them and they cannot get into the building anymore (I think they might have been blowing me off…). Now, I had planned for just such a situation (always be prepared in Africa, this usually involves bringing a good book along wherever you go), so I boarded a taxi-van going to Mbarara where I knew I could use the internet. The driver peeled out after picking me up, barely giving me a chance to sit down. People don’t ‘peel out’ here, mainly because they drive vehicles like Honda Civics that have the horsepower of a lawnmower. I thought to myself (SWEET! We’ll make good time getting there!) However, after this doofus proceeded to drive at an excessively high rate of speed in this run down, rusted metal box on wheels. He was even racing another taxi along the way, apparently some friend of his. He was talking on his phone for a time, FLYING through towns where there were many people, kids, goats, cattle, etc. I was clutching the underneath part of my seat trying to decide if I should just go with it or get off. The thing is, I LIKE speed and a certain degree of recklessness when driving, but usually only when I’m in control. Finally, the last straw was when he sped past a potential passenger, then decided to slam on the brakes and drive in reverse to pick them up. While he was doing this there was a car coming in the opposite direction. The driver of the van couldn’t back up well enough to save his life and he didn’t even acknowledge this car coming (the larger vehicle always has the right of way in this country). He was taking up 2 lanes and the car had to stop and wait on him, which is surprising because they’ll pass any vehicle on any curve or hill here. So I told them I was getting out. Now, getting out isn’t as simple as it sounds. There is a conductor that sits by the door and WILL NOT let you pass until you have paid whatever amt they have decided, so I had to negotiate a price which ended up being almost what it would have cost me for the entire trip, though I was only half way to my destination. If you don’t negotiate then they will just keep driving until you agree with their price. What didn’t help matters, I’m sure, is that I was telling this guy (in the local language) that he had bad manners and he couldn’t drive. Then in English I told him that he was endangering the lives of these passengers whom he had a responsibility for delivering safely to their destinations and that he was trying to make more orphans in Uganda by killing their parents through reckless driving and that he should NEVER be permitted to drive again. He said he would drive slower if I remained in the vehicle, and I told him that he in fact would, but that I wouldn’t be there to witness it.

So I got out and walked some 2 miles through the middle of nowhere while people again gawked at the strange white man who was WALKING in the middle of nowhere. People saw me coming and called their kids to come out and see the “Clown” who was passing through their village. Eventually another taxi came by and I rode safely the rest of the way there. Ahh…life in Uganda.

A Rude…Departure

We’re losing another PCV this week. This one isn’t going home on his own accord, however. He’s (more or less) being sent home by the Peace Corps for violating one of their no-nonsense rules. Chapman (you can check out the link to his blog on the Right for what I’m sure will be a thorough explanation) had the most coveted site of all of the health volunteers. He was assigned to work in Bwindi National Park…ie to work with the GORILLAS! Bwindi had requested a health volunteer to help to improve the health in the general area of the park, believing that the improved health of the people there would directly improve the health of the animals, especially the gorillas in the park. When people have diseases, inevitably the animals sometimes can acquire those diseases by rummaging through the rubbish and waste left behind. So they requested a volunteer.

The stories I heard Chapman tell through his first 3 months was that he was in a VERY rural place and transportation was difficult there. It was especially difficult to get food to his site. Peace Corps Volunteers are not permitted to ride motorbikes and that is the most accessible and cheapest mode of transportation around. They are also not permitted to drive a vehicle or ride in the back of a truck. (did you hear that, Rus?) Now from what I’ve heard, the PC does make some exeptions to those rule, but I believe they would be more likely to move a person to another site than to make a transportation exception. He had also said that there was some corruption within his organization and that he hadn’t received the warmest of welcomes there. To make a long story short, the Peace Corps Administration found out (because he told them) that his organization had given him a car and that he had been driving it around. So… they called him into Kampala, talked for a bit, then drove him back to Bwindi where he got all his stuff and now he’s leaving this week for home (there’s several days of paperwork and medical stuff before you actually leave).

It’s truly a sad situation and there is a group of PCVs that have written a letter detailing the circumstances that surrounded the episode and are sending it to some higher powers in an attempt to reconcile the situation, but from my understanding, at this point there’s nothing that can be done. The fact remains that he broke a major rule, the consequences were made very clear early on in training, and now he’s leaving. If there is a good side to the story it is that he is not being Admin Sepd (administratively separated) but he is given the option to ET (early termination), the latter meaning that if he wanted to do the PC again in the future, he could. The problem with that is it took him 18 months from start to finish to get to Uganda (it took me 9 months) and that’s a long time to wait… Another good part, not to belittle the situation, is that his new dog gets to go back to Atlanta with him. I’ll throw that in for the animal lovers out there.

Chained Up

I was at a workshop a few weeks ago and I saw a decent sized church that I wanted to check out. One of my favorite things is to go into an old church in America, one with cool architecture, tall tall ceilings and arches and that has stained glass showing various scenes of the Bible in pictures that only stained glass can truly capture. (stained glass is truly a lost art in my opinion!) It was a Pentecostal church and I could hear people singing and praying loudly several feet before I reached the door. The church itself wasn’t all that, really. It’s rare to find much architecture of note anywhere in Uganda in my opinion. It was a big open room where people were walking around praying and praising. I didn’t really need to stay long and I certainly didn’t want to go in to be the only white man for everyone to gawk at, so I turned to leave. Upon turning, however, I saw a young woman whom I thought was just sleeping there at the front door. When I looked closer I saw that she had a chain around her with a padlock. Apparently she was chained up to the railing of the church! I was, of course, shocked, so I asked Alice the nurse, who was with me at the time, why in the world this girl would be chained up to the church, thinking that it was some personal act of submission or servantude like wearing a chalice (can you tell I just finished reading the Davinci Code?) or something. Alice the nurse told me that someone had chained here there. Reason being was that she was ‘mad’ and that her family, in all likelihood, had chained her there for people to pray for her! …now I try to find a ‘place’ in my mind to put things that don’t make sense. Some instances are cultural or due to general lack of education or ignorance if you will. And I can deal with many situations by having a ‘place’ to put things. However, more often than not I come upon something that has no place, no box to store it in and my mind can hardly grasp things like: what it really means? what impact it has? what should be done? what can I do?