Well here we are during the fourth week of training and things are going pretty well. We’ve had so many different sessions on Ugandan culture, safety and security, health talks about the scary tropical diseases that some of us will pick up (40% of volunteers get schistosomiasis??), business management, HIV and malaria, permaculture, participatory community assessment tools, our roles are volunteers, etc. I’ve been learning a lot, but the days are long and the weeks are exhausting. All of the current PCVs say that the experience gets a lot better after training, although I’m enjoying being close to all of the other trainees, and I’m sure I’ll miss this time when we’re all scattered across the country. Less than a month until we find out our sites! Couldn’t come soon enough.
Things with my host family are great. My dad and I have the best conversations every night, from the political situation in Uganda and the U.S. to ebola and the education system. We have a running joke that I have an “American stomach”, not a Ugandan stomach because they serve soooo much food here. He’s great and never pushes me to eat more than I want. The food is already getting pretty routine but I’m finding a few favorites (like G-nut, aka groundnut, aka peanut, sauce), and the street food is fantastic. You can get a rolex (omelet-like deliciousness) for 700 shillings (about 40 cents), samosas for 100 shillings (5 cents!), chapattis, “pizza” (egg and onion in a little latke-like patty) for 300 shillings… I might never cook in this country.
My ‘siblings’ are also great, and I’m in love with 7-year-old Tracy (as is everyone else) who is the smartest thing ever. I often forget she’s 7 years old. She’s so incredibly mature and already pretty much fluent in English. Yesterday, she told me I’m her best friend (cue major “Awww!!” now). I don’t get to see my host mom very much – she works in Kampala and so doesn’t get home until around 9:00 on most nights, and sometimes I’m even in bed by the time she gets home. When I do see her, she is so much fun – always laughing at what I have to say. Last night, we all ended up dying of laughter when my host dad recounted my language faux pas this week. Instead of asking for “enyama y’empunu” (“meat of pig” aka pork), I asked for “emanya y’empunu” (vagina of pig). I didn’t learn what I had really said until language class the next day, and now it makes so much sense why my sister was laughing so hard and my dad was so adamant about correcting my pronunciation. But the list doesn’t end there. 2 nights later, I was trying to say “I’m eating” which is “Nindya”, but I said “Ninya” which basically means “I’m getting it on”. Ohhhh lordy, good thing they know I don’t always mean what I say. It definitely provided for some great laughs and great stories!
This past weekend was a great recharge from the routine we’ve been having. On Friday, we visited some groups of women who are working towards income generation and empowerment through craft making. I bought a beautiful bead necklace and basket for amazingly low prices. It was just so great to get out into the community and do something. When we pulled up to one group, it seemed like the whole village erupted into song and dance – everyone was SO excited for the muzungus to arrive! On top of all that, the scenery on the way to the NGO visit was so beautiful. I can’t wait to see the southwest (my future home), which everyone says is stunningly gorgeous. On Saturday, we went to Kavumba Rec Center to go swimming!! The water was the perfect refreshing temperature (you just have to ignore the fact that it wasn’t chlorinated… we had already paid to swim and walked 2 miles to do so, there was no turning back). We all got a nice sunburn from the equatorial sun, even with multiple applications of sunscreen. At first I was upset that they were charging 2,500 shillings for beer whereas the regular price in town is 2,000, then realized that it was equal to $1.25 vs. $1.00. Add on a plate of BBQ chicken and chips for 6,000 shillings ($3.00) and I was a happy camper. But I have to stop thinking in terms of US Dollars since we calculated that we’ll be making somewhere around $3,600 per year (about 3 times higher than the national average salary in Uganda). That night, we went to a local hotel to watch the Uganda-Angola football game (3-0!), and ended up having a dance party and celebrating a PCT’s (Peace Corps Trainee) birthday. But the night ended early, as always (by 7:00ish) since we all have to get home around dusk. Wah wahhhh….
On Sunday, my friend Becca came over to help me cook brunch for my family, which was my first time cooking in Uganda from start to finish. I think they were extremely skeptical during the cooking process (this muzungu doesn’t know how to peel potatoes very well, and I would never dice up potatoes that way… and why does she need so many pots?) but it seemed to be a success – scrambled eggs with tomato and onion, hash browns, toast with butter and jam, and mango juice. YUM!! After weeks of the same food over and over, this was pure bliss. My family even wants to make hash browns again next Sunday, which is impressive since these weren’t even really good hash browns. After brunch, I read a book, took a nap, did some laundry, then headed to a friend’s house to exchange movies and music. A group of us watched a Russian bootleg copy of Salt on my laptop, and the moment (and day) felt so American that it was a shock to look up and see cattle being herded by the window. Yep, we’re still in Africa. We’re all joking that life here starts to feel pretty normal until we remember we have a bucket in our rooms to pee in at night (since there are guard dogs/who knows what roaming around and it’s not safe to go out to the latrine).
In general, I’m so happy here. The training days get long, and life isn’t without its frustrations, but I am so blessed to be in this beautiful country and be given this chance. Looking forward to an immersion week in my region next week, then 3 weeks later I get to visit my actual future site!