Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Wicked Bike Wreck and About Blogging

About Blogging

I spent the evening reading blogs of friends I’ve lost contact with over the years. ‘Years’ do that to you. Cause you to lose things. It was nice to catch up from thousands of miles away. One-sided conversations, all of them. Most as plain and ordinary as a slice of Wonder bread. Ordinary days in the lives of ordinary people. Blogs in many ways are today’s version of “Want to see a home video of my vacation?” And for whatever reason… we do want to see. Through blogs I caught up with a friend who is 35 weeks pregnant, a friend who ran a mini-marathon, a friend whose mother came to visit in London and a friend who was recently accepted to med school. It’s mostly only interesting if you know the person. I also think about my blog. Who reads? Who cares? Maybe a future Peace Corps Volunteer? Maybe someone interested in Compassion International? Mostly friends and family, I guess. I have nearly 15,000 hits on my blog since I started and that’s a lot. Overwhelming, really, when I stop to think about it. Especially when I’m reminded that I’m a former shop teacher and not a real writer. Some people randomly ‘hit’ and move on. Some linger. To be honest, mostly I write so that my mom doesn’t say, “Why don’t you ever write home?” It’s my weekly letter home, but one that everyone can read. It saves me from having to repeat myself. “Read my blog if you want to know how I’m doing,” I can say. Blogging brings us closer and that’s rewarding in itself.

PCT Visits

Jacob and I had 4 brand new Peace Corps Trainees visit this weekend. Brand new. Only been in Uganda for 2 weeks. As wide-eyed as freshmen on a big campus for the first time. When the Peace Corps called us and asked if we’d host, they also asked if we wanted boys or girls. Girls! we told them. When they called again and said they were sending 4 boys I said to them – Hey! That’s not what I ordered!

It’s great to have PCTs visit. For some volunteers the PCT visitors will be their only visitors to their sites for the entire 2 years they’re there. PCTs come and they want to know all about what it’s like to be a real Peace Corps Volunteer. They want to know how we shop for food, how we interact with our neighbors, how we get around, how we cook, bathe and how we take our anti-malarials. No stone is left unturned by a PCT in their quest to get as prepared as possible for their own start as an official Peace Corps Volunteer. PCT visits yield themselves to long talks late into the night about a vast number of life topics. As a PCV, I typically am out cold by 10pm, but when a PCT visits I’m still gabby at 1am.

Jacob and I take special pleasure in spoiling our guests and shocking them into what life as a PCV can be. Jacob, who has worked as a chef in an Italian, Mexican and Indian restaurant, concocts 5 star meals for them. This weekend it was a pasta dish with flavorful taco seasoning, Louisiana gumbo which included sausage, and as much French toast and maple syrup as they could eat. And 6 big, hungry guys can eat a lot! We also make sure that we watch movies on the laptop. Movies here are plentiful. I can even buy and rent them in my village. Each DVD has about 6 movies on it. For example, a Bruce Willis, Jack Black or Billy Bob Thornton collection. Not to mention entire seasons of Lost, 24, Friends or Simpson’s on their respective discs.

PCT visits also enable us PCVs to brag about what we’ve been doing for the past year and show off our contributions to our site (whether big or small) and our language skills. My guys ran in the mornings with my running group and we played an intense game of Ultimate Frisbee with the nearby Secondary School. We showed them where we watch 2 NFL games a week, Sports Center and Myth Busters. Then we took them to Mbarara to meet up with the rest of their training group and a bunch of other current PCVs. We share a good meal together (I’m talking lasagna and pizza) at a local restaurant and then go dancing late into the night. It’s almost like a brief glimpse into heaven for them. A carrot to dangle while they trudge through another 2 months of language and culture training sessions and choking down beans and rice.

Accidents Happen

“I haven’t wrecked like that in years!” The last time I did was the first time I ever saw stars… If you’ve seen any of my pictures of this area then you know it’s hilly. I live on one of those hills. It’s a nice bike ride into town. 1 km, all downhill. Coming back up is another story altogether. 2 weeks ago Jacob was forced off the road by a car, hit a rut and tumbled over his handlebars. He scratched up his arm and foot pretty badly and was limping around for about a week. It was my turn today.

I was on my way into town, down my path which leads to a main dirt road. The path/road I was on is small, but wide enough for a car. It’s dirt and well maintained, but when you’re a kamikaze biker like I am, you enjoy the speed down the hill. When biking fast down a dirt road your eyes are poised a few feet in front of you in order to choose the best path to take. The path changes week to week as rain carves new grooves into the road, but there’s a clear, smooth path which is packed down by bikers and mopeds that travel this route. It’s a route I take every single day.

I don’t know how I didn’t see it, really. It was in full view for at least 300 yards, plain as the nose on my face and as big as a small mud hut. The only thing I can think is that it was earth colored and that my eyes were fixed just a short distance in front of my bike as I was choosing my path.

By the time I saw it, it was too late. A branch. Laying completely across the road. A big branch completely covering the road like a road block that had been put there to divert traffic from entering. In Uganda, they don’t use orange cones or barrels to mark road construction or accidents. They break off branches and put them in the road. It looked positioned to me, like someone put it there and that I was supposed to stop… and I never saw it for some reason.

Things always seem to happen in slow motion in accidents, and mine was no different. In a matter of moments that must have been less than one full second these thoughts raced through my mind: What??!! There’s a branch! Brakes! Going too fast stop. (I heard a pop as my front brakes failed from being applied too hard) Can I go around? No. Where should I hit it? Center looks best. Too bushy on one end and too thick a branch on the other. Can’t go around. I might make it through. Hang on! BANG!! (a frozen moment, waiting for whatever just happened to finish happening…finally) Lost control. Going to crash. Ground approaching. Embrace for impact… BANG!! Over the handle bars. Rolling slightly. Stopped. It’s over. Ouch! Wow! Did anyone see me? Hope not.

I immediately knew that I was alright afterwards and this next sentence will make no sense to you whatsoever. It felt good. I was hurting. I had road burns and blood on my elbow and hip from skidding the ground. My knee was in pain from hitting the bike I think. My head was spinning from the rush of adrenaline. I had to walk it off afterwards and I was concerned that my laptop which was in my backpack may have snapped in half! But I had crashed and crashed well. I won’t incriminate myself by saying whether or not I was wearing a helmet as is required by the Peace Corps. I know how to fall well for some reason in a way that neutralizes the fall. For some strange reason, still unknown to me it felt really good to crash. I played football in high school and for a moment I felt like I had just been hit by a 230 lb. linebacker. There’s a line from a Goo Goo Dolls song that came to mind immediately afterwards, “Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive.” I limped back to my bike and coasted very carefully the rest of the way into town, like a wounded soldier returning from a battle…which I had in some strange way, won.

The tank which I call my bike itself was undamaged aside from the front break which had popped before the collision.

Unsponsored Children

Each month we receive a list from the head office of Compassion International regarding which children are currently unsponsored. Each Compassion child has a sponsor whom they write letters with back and forth. The sponsor pays around $30 a month in order for the child to receive proper education, health services, personal hygiene supplies like soap, and a variety of additional services. An unsponsored child still receives everything that the sponsored children receive. They aren’t kicked out of the program or anything. They just don’t have anyone to write to or receive letters from. The following kids are our unsponsored children within our organization. A few people have asked me about sponsoring kids. At the risk of sounding like one of those “Feed the Children” commercials which air at 2am on Christian Television, if you are genuinely interested in sponsoring a Compassion child from here specifically, you’ll have to call the Compassion headquarters in the US (800) 336-7676 and tell them you want to sponsor a child from program UG-221 Kyamate. In the year I’ve spent here, I’ve seen precisely just how ‘life saving’ organizations like Compassion really provide a hope for a better future. These kids come from families that are the poorest of the poor in this area. If you are waiting for the US Government to step in and save 3rd world countries… this is how you, personally, can significantly and make a difference in one child’s life.

Edina, Martin, Barbarah, Evas, Brighton


Take just a moment and read this link to a friend’s blog (the one whose mother visited her in London) about ‘World AIDS Day’, Bono and RED.

Random Factoid

Cigarettes here are sold in packs and individually. You can go into a store and buy a single cigarette for about $.05. It makes sense for a 3rd world country if you think about it. Of course there aren’t many smokers here and I’ve never seen a woman smoking, it’s culturally inappropriate.


At 04 April, 2007, Blogger marytranthitho said...

Thank you for all the information,pictures in your blogs, I like to read it very much, it is wonderful to learn about the country that my son will call home for the next 2 years.
Keep it coming.


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