Time has really flown by – it’s been 6 months since I arrived in Uganda with a group of 45 new Peace Corps Volunteers, and we’re all still here! That’s a big deal – it’s pretty common for a few people to drop out during training or within the first few months at site. I absolutely love my group and honestly can’t imagine life without knowing them. They are incredible, wonderful people! While the days move slowly, and sometimes America seems like it was years ago, I still can’t believe we’re already 6 months in. We’re also now Peace Corps “sophomores” as the newest group of volunteers arrived yesterday, exactly 6 months after us. Only 19 more months to go!
While I still feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster (some days I’m super happy to be here, other days I dream of going home, even if just for a few minutes), I know I wouldn’t trade this for anything and I’m praying that presidential elections on February 18 go smoothly so we can all stay here. While it would have been different leaving a few months ago before getting settled into my community, I’m finally becoming pretty busy at my site and have a lot of projects I am starting – leaving now would be heartbreaking and I would feel like I left so many things unfinished. I can’t imagine leaving within two weeks. Everyone at home, please keep your fingers crossed and pray that I can stay and finish what I came here to do.
So what am I working on these days? I’ve just started a girls’ group at a local primary school to teach life skills, English, and health, I’m planning an HIV and Gender Inequality workshop put on by The Hunger Project, I’m trying to coordinate a group of PCVs to do something big for World Malaria Day on April 25, I’m organizing the dairy farmers to apply to become a formal group, I’m soon hosting a composting demonstration, and I’m planning visits to other PCVs’ sites to help them with dairy cattle and rabbit projects. I’m trying to motivate myself to work more on learning the language, and I have a lot of little things I’m pushing for, too – things as simple as an announcement board where we post a calendar of events at The Hunger Project, or finding new ways of storing the beans we collect from farmers to avoid pest damage.
I’m debating whether to bring my SLR out in my village. It would take such better pics than my little point-and-shoot, and I could spend hours taking photos, showing people, getting prints made for friends (which would be SO appreciated here), and have photos I could really cherish for a lifetime. I don’t really want to reveal that I have a nice camera, but people here already know I have a computer, an iPod, solar power, a small camera... and I feel very safe in my house and in my village. I also have insurance on all my valuables. I’ll probably give in soon and share the photos with you.
I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my Ugandan name, given to me by my host family during training – Kamusiime (Kaam-see-may), which basically means “Giving thanks to God.” Since Ugandans often have difficulty pronouncing my name, I often tell them they can call me Kamusiime. I also get called “Betty” a lot because the “Br” sound is somehow hard to pronounce.
I’m savoring the ability to make an entire crowd laugh with just two words in Runyankore-Rukiga (sometimes nothing more complicated than “I don’t want” to a persistent seller or “We are here” to emphasize that we don’t want a taxi) because people can’t believe I’m speaking the local language. It will be strange to go back to the U.S. and never get noticed in a crowd (although it will also be a relief).
Speaking of life after Peace Corps, I can already see myself changing, although I’m sure the full extent of these changes won’t be visible to me for some time to come. I’m more patient but also more clear about my personal boundaries on what I’ll put up with and what I won’t. I’m learning to pick my battles, when to push to get something done and when I need to realize that something should just be left alone (the perfect quote for this is “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference) . I know I’ll be shopping at more farmers markets when I get back and trying to live a simpler lifestyle. I’m learning to somewhat enjoy cooking, and I’m not too bad at experimenting in the kitchen. I’m also realizing just how good the American life really is.