Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Leaving Soon, A Friend Visit, Post PC Plans

I’ve been away from blogging for the past few weeks, so I apologize. It’s been a combination of things. First, we had our final COS party to bid farewell to our fellow PCVs who will be leaving in May. It was a theme party where we all dressed up as movie characters. Fortunately there is a plethora of second hand clothing all over this country so piecing together a costume isn’t terribly difficult and is actually quite fun and feels quite ‘normal’, as in it’s a break from the daily routine of what always feels the same. The party was great. It was held at a Turkish restaurant near Garden City called Effandy’s. It wasn’t just my group that was in attendance but a number of other PCVs from the other groups to bid us farewell and also for just a reason to party.

The party also served as an opportunity to show a slide show video set to music of our past 2 years in Uganda. I begged, borrowed and stole over 4,000 pictures from my fellow PCVs and put it to 45 minutes of music. Songs ranged from “Find Yourself” by Brad Paisley to “Africa” by Toto to “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by Animals. I just tried to take the pictures and music and create a range of feelings and experiences that we all felt and experienced over our 2 years. 45 minutes of pictures may sound like an eternity of hell, especially if you’d compare it to Aunt Helga’s vacation videos or something like that, but it was different. It was a chance to see everyone’s point of view, their villages, their experiences, their Ugandan friends and families.

Friend Visit

My friend, Nanette, came and visited for a week. She had served in the PC in Burkina Faso, so she was already “Africa ready” once she arrived. We traveled around a bit and saw my village. We also visited her Compassion Child who lived in one of the slums of Kampala. I’d never been to the slums. It was moving to say the least. People living in cramped conditions. It had just rained, so you can imagine the mud, muck and whatever else we were traipsing through. We visited her 8 year old girl’s home where 7 people slept. The girl’s father had died, presumably of HIV. The mother was HIV positive, but the 3 children were negative. The mother sold tea to neighbors to earn a small living and the step father drove a car owned by another man as a special hire taxi. It’s a difficult way to earn a living because motor bike taxis are cheaper and can maneuver Kampala’s frequent traffic jams quicker and easier than cars. The step father earns around $7 a day but sometimes comes home with no earnings. This ‘home’ they live in is only a single room that is 8 ft by 12 ft. There are 7 that sleep there including the mother’s 2 siblings. Nanette’s girl often sleeps with her grandmother who lives about 1 km away but who also lives in a single room. They share a bed. The grandmother whom we also visited, says that she enjoys her grand daughter’s company and that she’s a hard worker when she comes over. The slums are compounded by the fact that Ugandans have no regard for trash disposal, so they just throw their trash outside and expect it to just wash away or magically disappear.

The Compassion staff accompanied us on our visit. They were so friendly and kind. We really had a nice time with them. Each Compassion center has 4 staff members that work there full time plus a handful of teachers that come once a week when the kids come to give them supplemental education and care. This particular Compassion was a new center. When I first arrived I was told there were around 155 Compassion centers around Uganda, but on this visit I was told there are now 212. Each center has around 280 children. That equals a total of around 60,000 Ugandan children who receive education, clothing, a mattress and mosquito net, free health care and social services in addition to Christian education that would otherwise be without. And the children are identified by community members as being the poorest of the poor and the neediest of the needy.

Nanette went on to comment on how drastically different Burkina Faso and Uganda are. Burkina Faso, she said, is extremely hot year round, even at night and it’s very dry and dusty all over. Uganda is lush and green and the temperatures are comfortable and even cool in the evenings, at least in the mountainous south west. She also said that there are very few tourists or touristy places in Burkina, where as Uganda has a number of tourist attractions including the Nile River, a number of National Parks including Gorilla Trekking.

New Volunteers

Jacob and I are both getting PC replacements for our organizations for when we are gone. There will be a small overlap due to when training was scheduled for them. We met the new couple. It’s a married couple. The guy is going to work with Compassion and his wife is going to work with Jacob’s organization. My village is a nicely sized place with a decent array of restaurants and decent electricity plus it’s nestled in a beautiful valley with scenic mountains all around that are begging to be climbed.

We had a great visit with them. They seem anxious to just get here and get started. They also just seem to have a great attitude about what they want to do and what their expectations are. That is so essential to being a PCV. Living a simple life, the ability to ‘make lemonade’ when you are given lemons and the willingness to just kind of go with the flow. Those elements can make or break a PC experience. It sounded like, mostly, they were just ready to get here and to start working as a PCV. Typical. Those weeks of training seem to always drag on as the fantasy of the real PCV life looms where you are free to come and go as you please and free to get your hands dirty and start working on your own projects. It should be a great next few weeks that we all spend together before I leave.

Leaving Soon

Speaking of leaving, I have 8 weeks remaining in Uganda. To be honest, I’m ready to go home. I know that I’ll look back with very fond memories, but for now I’m focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

This whole 2 years was supposed to give me an idea of what I was supposed to with the rest of my life. What I’ve found instead was that it was the same 2 years of uncertainty that I would have had in the US, just in a different place. Without actively searching out purpose, it’ll never be attained. So, about a year ago I actively tried to tackle that exact issue. I searched deep within myself as well as far beyond myself (thanks internet). I decided, after much thought and prayer, that after the PC I’ll be going into campus ministry somewhere, hopefully around May of ’09. I looked back on all my work and life experiences in addition to my own gifts and talents and I feel, and have always somehow felt called to ministry though have also felt like I had to find myself first and pursue my own objectives. I’m reminded how Jesus didn’t begin his ministry until the age of 30. I wouldn’t trade my experiences, in fact, I believe they all shaped who I am, from teaching to working construction and working at Applebee’s to being in Uganda. I feel I have more to offer and am more equipped than I otherwise would have been had I jumped in straight after college. But I also feel like I’ve taken the role of Jonah and have tried to flee from a calling, if you will, and that fleeing has led to general unsatisfaction in the careers that I’ve pursued. They just didn’t jive with me, so to speak.

So, the plan in full is to ride my bicycle across the US from June to the end of July to raise money for a building project here for Compassion (http://bikeforcompassion.blogspot.com) and then to move to Knoxville to work with my friend and former minister Mark Nelson (http://standingonthedesk.blogspot.com) for 10 months, training and learning how to minister and manage a church before taking the plunge myself in May of ’09.


At 02 April, 2008, Blogger newcreationart said...

Hey Brian (fuzzy shirt guy)!

It looks like I found you right at the end of your time in Africa. It's awesome to read what you've been up to and what your plans are for the near future.

I'm glad you put on your Bike for Compassion blog what $10 can do. It certainly puts into perspective how even a little bit helps and that we in America have so much. I know that, but it was good to be reminded today.

Carrie Poisel


Post a Comment

<< Home