Friday, March 02, 2007

Living on a Peace Corps Salary

Ultimate Frisbee Tourney

Ultimate Frisbee isn’t a game that’s commonly played and unless you’ve been on a college campus in the last 20 years or had a gym teacher that had a decent bag of tricks you haven’t seen much of it either. There’s no national TV coverage or stadiums that hold 50,000 fans, but for those who play it’s a serious endeavor. So I’m finding out at least. Peace Corps Uganda put together a team to compete in the Kampala tourney recently. Jacob and I have been teaching Ultimate Frisbee to the local high schools here as a way to get into the schools and to teach a low cost new game. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this tourney but a part of me was expecting to play against kids who were at about the same level of my protégés… wrong!

There were 5 total teams in the tourney, one of which was students who were thrown together at the last minute from the international high school whose field we were playing on. The other 3 teams were composed of a mix of Ugandans and ex-pats who played weekly in an Ultimate league. We had some pretty good players on our team, players that had played very competitively in college, but we were still far-reaching from adequately competing with the big boys. Games are played to 13 or to 1hr 15min, whichever is first. The first game we lost 13-3. The rest of the games pretty much followed that pace, except for the high school team which we beat twice to muster a 2-4 record by the end of the two days. What was worse than the beatings was the pain of playing 2 days of Frisbee. After the first day I, along with many of my teammates were scarcely able to walk due to running 5 hours of sprints up and down the field. We still had at least 2 more games to play the following day. Trying to repeat that the second day was like asking a kid to pee on an electrical fence for a second time. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, WHAT WAS I THINKING! Not to mention the fact that none of us wear shorts during the day so we all suffered burns on the backs of our legs with Caty getting the worst of it. When it was all said and done we had met some neat people and had a great time. The highlight of my weekend was going deep and scoring on a guy who was a top notch player.

Last King of Scotland

I saw The Last King of Scotland this weekend, the movie featuring Oscar Award winner Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin. It’s a fictional story but it’s based on actual events. It was filmed in Uganda and the scenery in the movie is exactly what Uganda looks like. Many times when I see a movie in the theaters here I want to be taken away from Africa for a few hours, but it was neat to see my new ‘home’ in a film. From what I know of Amin, he was known as being a cruel but sly dictator who could be joking with the media one minute while hundreds of people were being innocently slaughtered. He only finished his education up to 2nd grade and is alleged to have killed 300,000 people during his reign. Forest was truly amazing in the film. He had transformed himself into a Ugandan - including eating with his hands in one scene. He truly deserved Best Actor for his portrayal.

I was surprised to watch it though and see some extras whom I recognized. My doctor was in the film as a Times Reporter and Ruth from Peace Corps was the Health Minister’s replacement. There were many local actors that were used in the filming.

Daily Living Expenses

I earn about $200 a month as a PCV in Uganda. PCVs earn different amounts based on the cost of living in their respective countries. To put that into place, I earn less than the director of Compassion who earns the most and I earn more than Serinah who earns the least. It’s enough to get by, but not a lot more. I don’t live in a nice house, my organization pays for my housing which for me is provided free by the local religious leader of the Church of Uganda. Soon I’ll be moving into new housing being constructed by Compassion. Transportation into Kampala is around $7.50 for a 6 hour, 200 mile bus trip. It’s $2.50 into Mbarara which is the nearest decent sized town. My meals at Sky Blue are around $2.50, but I’ve been eating lately at a small place in town where it’s $0.75 for a full meal of posho, millet bread (not really bread, more like posho), rice, meat, greens, g-nut sauce, etc. A full meal to say the least. 500ml of water costs between $.25 and $.50, 300ml bottle of coke is the same. Jacob and I pay $2 per week to have our laundry done 2x a week which is a lot to pay for that but it’s what we decided to pay. Bread costs between $.35 and $.60 and it’s not that good. You couldn’t enjoy a sandwich (even if you had lunch meat, which we of course don’t) with this, it’s too dry. Eggs are around $.10 a piece, big pineapples are $.50 and big bunches of bananas (over a dozen) ar also around $.50.. I get 2nd hand shirts and trousers (not pants… ‘pants’ are underwear here) in the market for $2 each or so. One thing that ceases to amaze me is people selling things here. People walk around larger cities like Mbarara and Kampala and sell baskets of peanuts, bananas, and passion fruit for $.10 a piece. People also walk the streets (again in those bigger cities, not here) and sell shoes, suit coats, and socks. It’s hard to believe that people make a living this way but they must, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

Fire Starter

We have a rubbish pit at Compassion where we burn our trash. I had some things to throw away and burn the other day so I set off looking for matches. I have some at my house but not at Compassion where I work. The cooks at Compassion arrive early and spend most of the day cooking breakfast and lunch. I don’t know how much they make but I’d be surprised if it was much more than $7 a week. Cheeza who knows a fair amount of English took me to get some fire. In the kitchen where they cook he took a stick and began to stir up the place where the coals were yesterday. Sure enough there were still some glowing embers. He had a stash of firewood which had been stripped into small kindling to get the fire going. He hand picked out some of the glowing embers and put them onto a piece of cardboard for me to take to start the fire. I’m sure this is something people do in camping or the army or something like that but it was really cool to me. This is how you do it if you don’t want to waste the money for matches.

What Dry Season?

December-March is supposed to be the 2nd dry season of the year. The first dry season was awful. It didn’t rain a drop for 6 weeks straight and what is usually a sea of rolling, green hills turned to an ugly brown and most things were covered in brown dust which never seemed to settle due to the lack of rain. This second dry season has come and gone and unless you would have told me it was the dry season I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s rained almost every day here without exception.

6 weeks remaining…

Only 6 weeks to go before I get to come home for a vacation. I’m so looking forward to being home. I think about it every single day. I know what I want to eat, what I want to watch on TV and where I want to go. I have bookended my trip with 2 runs. First is the elusive Boston Marathon and before I come back it’s my hometown Indy Mini Marathon. Who runs the Boston Marathon on their vacation anyway??

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At 06 March, 2007, Blogger borderst said...

Thanks for the updates concerning your life in Uganda. My daughter, Erin, is serving with the Peace Corps in Uganda. Her last name begins with M. We live in southern NH, 1 hr. from Boston. Do you need accomodations when you run the Boston Marathon? We'd be happy to host you.


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