Tuesday, October 17, 2006


PCT Visit

On Thursday Jacob and I received 2 Peace Corps Trainees who came to visit us to see what it’s like to be a ‘real PCV’. The fact remains that every PCV’s experience is so different that it’s difficult to get any real idea of what it’s ‘supposed’ to be, but still, it’s a welcome change to training for them to get out and see another part of the country and to experience the Peace Corps. Plus it’s important to keep in mind that “training isn’t the Peace Corps,” and this helps serve as a reminder to that fact. Jacob and I had been extensively planning the past 2 weeks what all we were going to do with them for the 2 days they would be here, what we would eat and what movies we would watch (and wouldn’t watch. If I have to watch Gorillas In the Mist one more time… We hid that movie, needless to say :-P )

There are 12 people in the new training group…all female. Carrie and Nora arrived on Thursday after a 5 hour bus ride. It’s important to remember that those bus rides don’t get any easier, you just get used to them. Carrie and I had actually been exchanging emails a few months before she arrived. She had been on the internet looking for information about Uganda once she found out she would be coming here, so she’s spent a lot of time reading through my blog and looking through pictures. So when she arrived, you could imagine what it must have been like for her. We were walking them up to where we stay and she was pointing out buildings and things. “Oh Man, there’s the church! And that’s One Tree Hill!! Wow!” When she waked into my room she said it was like “déja vu” after seeing pictures of it. It was almost like having a groupie around, but not in a bad way. I had to start most of my sentences with, “Now maybe you read this in the blog before, but I …” Before I joined the Peace Corps I searched blogs and found Clare Overt’s blog and read through it every day for months. It was so thorough and detailed. Fact is, I couldn’t read it enough. It was a real volunteer, in Africa, living in a hut, working in a village, writing a lot and taking tons of pictures. It was a very good blog and I learned a bunch from it, so Carrie had done something similar, but for her to actually be assigned to come here and see this place… it must have been a strange and surreal experience.

The 2 PCTs first traveled into the village with Jacob to visit some of the fruit drying projects that Africare is doing for income generation. They also saw some singing and dramas that Africare’s COPE clubs performed, along with some wells that Africare had dug, plus some horrible, stagnant wells that the villagers had dug. The water in these wells usually resembles chocolate milk more than water.

Jacob has the unique experience of traveling deep into the villages. He’s quite literally been all over the district. So he had the girls for the morning and then in the afternoon they went with Japheth and I to do some home visits, which is something unique that I get to do that Jacob doesn’t. The girls kind of went from one extreme to another, seeing projects and performances, to seeing poverty and starvation in the homes.

We really tried to both show them what we’re doing here as well as to roll out the red carpet for them. Jacob cooked some amazing spaghetti, sweet and sour stir fry and pancakes and we ended up watching Rudy (hey! It was their choice, honest!) and a couple of episodes of Friends on my laptop. There were several times when they were heard saying, “This is the Peace Corps?”

Work has been keeping me busy but I’ve reached a point where I don’t exactly know what I’m supposed to be doing here. Am I just working in Africa or am I doing something that is going to last? Am I “changing the world” (and who really does that anyway?) or just getting by. I’m trying to refocus my efforts on creating something that will last after I’m gone, but in another culture and with another language there are so many obstacles to overcome. So many of the homes I visit are the poorest of the poor. Making close to $20 a month to feed a family on, living in small homes, even by African standards, on bad, hilly plots of land. I keep being told that it’s difficult to get funding for these families through Compassion unless they have HIV/AIDS which takes first priority. I understand that but I also feel like a grave injustice is being done by neglecting the rest of the poor and needy. AIDS is real. I see it every day. But it’s not the same disease it was 20 years ago. People live long, healthy, productive lives with AIDS now. The government provides free ARVs which boost their immune systems. It’s still a horrible, horrible disease, but more people die each year of starvation and poor nutrition than of Malaria and AIDS combined. So with that in mind, and my recent disdain for doing ‘office work’ I’m going to try to refocus my efforts on providing more for the families of these kids. The 3 basic needs of any person: food, clothing, shelter. Sometimes kids get gifts from their sponsors through Compassion. The great thing about ‘gifts’ is that they go directly to the kid! They get ALL of that money and then the care giver helps decide how that money is spent. If it’s enough then it goes to buying a house or a plot of land. Usually it goes for buying a goat for an income generating activity (IGA). We have several families who receive gifts but because they are renting or live in a bad location we can’t buy goats or chickens for them. What they need is a new house, which may cost as little as $200. Alleviating poverty is, many times, a methodical, stair-step approach with each step building on the previous step. So that’s the problem as I see it.

Upcoming Marathon

The Kampala Marathon is in one month. I’ve been increasing my training a little each week. I’m up to 40+ miles per week. I’m not going to run this marathon super hard like my last one. Too many strange variables here to deal with. I have no problem eating enough carbs here though! Ha! In fact my weight seems to be keeping steady even as I increase miles. This weekend, Jacob rode his bike along side of me as I ran to Itojo, a village about 8 miles away. We of course get some strange looks but I’ve been running that rout for about a month now so they’re basically used to seeing the strange white man running shirtless through their village. I’ve realized lately that I don’t like running. I never really have liked it. I finished almost last every race in high school when I ran cross country. I hated running then. I quit running for a long time after that and then picked it back up after college, running my first mini marathon at 23. Since then I’ve run 4 marathons and 4 mini-marathons even qualifying for the Boston this past November. What I’ve realized is that I like the product of running: being in shape, endorphins, solitude, ideas popping into my head, enjoying the outdoors, being competitive, the simplicity of being able to run anywhere, anytime (I keep a pr of running shoes and shorts in my truck at home), the mere ability for my body to run. I read a book last year called “This Running Life” by Dr Sheehan. Reading that book put into words the way long distance running feels to someone who does it. It doesn’t make sense to everyone but to a runner it’s poetry in motion.

Next week I’m going to try to write more about Jacob. It’s a unique experience to do the Peace Corps with another PCV living and working so closely together so I’m going to try to elaborate more on his thoughts, views and observations from the 3rd world.


At 18 October, 2006, Blogger NanettePC said...

Excellent post Brian. Best of luck with the marathon!


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