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!!


At 11 September, 2006, Anonymous Jennifer Noble said...

I hope the rats don't try to eat the little kitty!

My dogs have the greatest, most fitting names (Oscar and Chase), but they didn't begin with these names. Chase had 11 names before one stuck. So my suggestion is to give it a bunch of names until one just feels right. It always works for me.

I'm hoping to send you a package within the next 2 or 3 weeks! I figure if I tell you then I'll motivate me to get it done.

At 11 September, 2006, Blogger NanettePC said...

Do the rats just want the honey? If so, why are they sleeping in your bed? Because they think it's comfortable? Darn rats! I hope they're all in Uganda and not in Burkina:) 12 days and counting...

At 14 September, 2006, Anonymous Nathan's Mom Sherry said...

Wow! The experiences just keep accummulating! You have a great gift for writing - will we read your book about your PC adventures one day? We have read The Impenetrable Forest, (were very interested in the fact that Chapman from your group was back in the Biwindi National Forest) and the Nine Hills books and enjoyed both very much. Yours will be even better! Take care, Brian. We're still praying! Sherry


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