On April 19, I finally received an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps! And for some reason, I haven't blogged about it for over 2 months... so here it goes! I will be leaving for Uganda on August 9th to serve as an Agricultural Extension Volunteer within the Community Health and Economic Development program! My original nomination (a tentative placement) that I received in August 2009 was for Animal Husbandry, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get involved with livestock work during my service. However, no volunteer works on solely one project; we are encouraged to take on secondary projects, which are anything your community may need and varies widely - after school clubs or programs, water system or latrine construction, building a library, HIV/AIDS education... the possibilities are endless.
Uganda is a land-locked country in East Africa. It is relatively small (about the size of Oregon) and is bordered by Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan. It shares Lake Victoria with Tanzania, and has many other smaller lakes within its borders. Uganda is bisected by the equator, but temperatures are moderated by the altitude (highs in the 70s and 80s, lows in the 60s... aka summer year-round!). Rather than hot and cold seasons, there are rainy and dry seasons (which is true in many tropical regions). In the southwest, the higher rainfall supports central African rainforest in the hilly regions bordering Rwanda and the Congo. This is home to the small population of remaining mountain gorillas, which you can visit on an expensive trek through the mountainous jungle (definitely on my to-do list!). The western border also boasts the Rwenzori Mountains, the highest mountain range in Africa (although the highest peak is Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the world's tallest free-standing mountain). The land becomes increasingly arid as you travel north towards Sudan and the Sahara Desert. The source of the Nile is at Jinja in eastern Uganda (and offers awesome whitewater rafting which I plan to do at some point!). While Idi Amin remains Uganda's trademark to most people in the West, the country has come a long way since the 1970s, and since the cessation of most rebel activity in northern Uganda within the last few years, Uganda can be considered relatively peaceful. However, as Peace Corps Volunteers, we are not permitted to visit the northern area towards Sudan or the western border with the DRC due to the turmoil in these areas. I would love to be in the southwest, surrounded by mountains - but would of course be happy to serve anywhere; all the photos I've seen of Uganda are gorgeous!
When I first arrive in Uganda, I will be in training through mid-October with all of the other new Peace Corps Trainees, during which time we will work on language, cultural, and technical skills. Luganda is the most widely-spoken local language, but I could be learning a different language depending on which region I will serve in (Uganda has about 40 languages currently in use, although English and Swahili are the official languages). I will be living with a host family during training. At the end of training, we will swear in as Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) and will then proceed to our individual posts, where we will volunteer for 2 years. There, I will have my own housing (whether my own separate house or an apartment within another compound).
Less than 6 weeks to go! I'm making a packing list, sorting out finances and paperwork, and trying to also mentally prepare myself for this journey. More posts to come soon!