The views expressed on this website are entirely my own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cause there is always something there to remind me

I have two full days left in Orlando and three full days left in the U.S.


Just kidding!

In the past few days I have been able to turn this pile of madness...

...into this set of completely packed luggage...

I am amazed to say I had it all packed seven days early. A whole week! Imagine that. While sitting around staring at the packed luggage and twiddling my thumbs, a thought occurred to me: What am I going to do about my sleeping bag and yoga mat? Now you can't tell in the picture, but the sleeping bag isn't exactly carry-on friendly. With no straps or handles, it is fairly cumbersome. The yoga mat, on the other hand, could be easily taken aboard the plane. I have room for one more carry-on (a savvy traveler like myself always plans to be in this situation). With this, plus all the additions my parents decided to have (also planned by this very savvy traveler) I decided to add an extra carry-on bag, shifting some things from the large red suitcase into it making room, hopefully, for my sleeping bag and some other amenities that were last minute additions to my load.

Here's hoping it all fits!

WARNING:The rest of this will be somewhat boring.

After finishing packing, I realized how real this whole adventure is going to be. I know what you're thinking: Aditi, you are JUST NOW realizing this is real? No, my faithful readers, this is not a new revelation, it is merely a more vivid awareness (if my English is correct). The whole application, evaluation, interview, and general madness of the process pre-assignment and pre-departure has made this whole adventure so surreal, it was hard to ever imagine it really coming into fruition. However, thanks to the wonderful invention of social networking, I can actually picture what my life might be like in Uganda, on my days off. Using Facebook to stalk current PCVs I became more and more excited about the prospect of seeing new sites and having new adventures. At the same time, I realize how secluded I will be, how far away I will be from my family and friends....everything I know. That's a scary thought. Not necessarily the fact that I will be away from everything I know, but that it will be for two years. The longest I have been away from my known world has been for six months and I was in Australia, so that is completely incomparable. I keep thinking about how nervous I was then and how nervous I am now and it seems ridiculous for me to have been nervous at all about going to Australia.

How am I supposed to mentally prepare for this? I wonder if I need to physically prepare for this? I have been taking cold showers recently, more so as a result of the extreme heat wave crossing through central Florida than in actual preparation for cold bucket baths in Uganda. That's beside the point. While I am very excited for this adventure and I look forward to each and every challenge it is sure to bring me, I am also quite nervous.

That's normal, right?

With all this focus on the nervousness, I almost lose sight of what I am doing, the reason behind all the madness. Yes, there are many uncertainties regarding this adventure, but isn't that what will make it more interesting? That and, well, I'm moving to Uganda. Sometimes the idea of moving to Uganda completely overshadows what I'm actually going there to do. Then I get back into excitement mode. I'm going to be working on an HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Nutrition project. Shut the front door! I can mold the minds of the little African babies. Ok, maybe a little extreme, but hey, someone's got to do it! Alright, alright, I won't get carried away. My roller coaster of mental stability is less interesting to you than it probably is to me. I find it amazing I can wake up having a near full on panic attack thinking about moving to Uganda and within ten minutes be smiling from ear to ear thinking about taking pictures at the famous rings on the Equator or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, or even white water rafting the Nile (swimming with them hippos and crocs too...ok that puts me back into panic attack mode). Then I get even more excited thinking about the potential good I will be doing for whichever community I end up working in, all the children I will surely fall in love with while I am there, all the news friends I will make, and above all else, how much help I can be to the people there.

The human mind is so interesting.

And now, I have entered nerd mode.


Now I have less than 24 hours left in Florida. I've spent my last day driving to and from Tampa in order to get an internet modem USB for use in Uganda (from my best friend Gina who recently came back from Uganda), went shopping (yet again!) for a new suitcase, got a rolling bag from the flea market for $20 (I hope it doesn't fall apart en route to Uganda), and finally ate something around 15:00. Holy crab cakes. I'm happy I got to see Gina again though. While our adventure at Disney surely was entertaining, it was good to see one last familiar COPH face before I headed out of the sunshine state. There are so many people I wish I got to see one last time, Vivis, Susi, and so many other friends from COPH (and those not from COPH). The past few days have been so crazy with packing and shopping I haven't really had time to sit and think about all the faces I'll miss seeing. All my friends who will be coming back from their IFEs (International Fiend Experience) just as I am leaving for mine!

Oh, the irony.

Packing has sucked almost all the joy out of this trip. Oh, complete exaggeration, but honestly, I have packed, unpacked, packed, unpacked, packed, unpacked, and FINALLY packed. I am still overweight by at least ten pounds. It sucks because I feel as though most of my items are completely necessary. Ugh. Ok, maybe not all of them, the 10+ tote bags aren't necessary, but I swear they aren't for me, they are to give to people in Uganda. So much of my luggage is full of gifts, my nickname will be Santa.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making a list, checking it twice

Packing is the bane of my existence. Not to brag, but my packing skills are top notch (ok, maybe bragging a little). They have to be, I've been to over 25 different countries in the 25 years I have been alive (OK, I promise after this no more bragging). Either way, just because I'm good at it, I still hate it. I hate having to figure out what I will need to survive and live somewhat comfortably for a certain amount of time. Going on vacations, packing was always left to the absolute last minute, usually 2 or 3 days before I left (ok, maybe not ABSOLUTE last minute, but for me that is pretty bad). Usually a vacation composes of a month at the most. This I can do, knowing what facilities I will have and what accommodations I will expect, I can pack for a month or two. However, right now I am having to pack for two years. How in the world do I pack for two years? Ok, that doesn't sound completely impossible. The restrictions posed by the Peace Corps, airlines, and the unknown accommodations, however, make this task seemingly impossible. I can only take 80 pounds. Each of my bags that are to be checked in can't weigh more than 50 pounds. I have no idea what my accommodations will be. Talk about stressful. I relieve some of the stress I feel, and to hopefully stop the panic attacks from further occurring, I have made a list. The list, adapted from the Peace Corps packing list sent with the Welcome Book as well as from helpful hints from current PCVs, illustrates that I seem to be preparing for an extended vacation. With the exception of cutting knives and bed sheets, my list mirrors all other lists I have made for vacations. I do have to realize that I can do this, I have spend a semester abroad before, however that was Australia which is completely incomparable to Uganda. I don't even know why I brought that up.

So, instead of dealing with this stress, what am I doing? Listening to the initial language lessons for Luganda, the language which I will be learning in Uganda.

Apparently in Luganda, "water" and "feces" sound alike and "to kill" and "to release" sound alike. This is going to be a very interesting 27 months.

Here are a few other phrases I have learned (or mimicked to the best of my abilities). Please keep in mind the spelling is probably completely wrong as these are all audio lessons:

Sevoe - formal male greeting
Nyevoe - formal female greeting

Olyiota Herbert - Hello Herbet!
Je Valy Ko - Thank you Herbert!
Jen di - I'm fine.
Enze Herbert - I am Herbet.
Mmmm va ... - I come from ...

I am also reading "The Last King of Scotland" by Giles Foden and have learned some phrases:

Matooke (or Matoke) - common dish made of steamed green bananas mixed with various vegetables and meats served with rice.
Muganda - a single Ganda person
Baganda - the people
Luganda - the Ganda tongue
Buganda - the land of Ganda

I can only presume that "Ganda" refers to the country of Uganda.

The language uses a lot of "mmmm" sounds too. I presume this sound is a positive sound after listening to the whole sentence. I love that I have listened to five lessons and have "learned" introductions, formal greetings, and "other useful phrases". Now the "other useful phrases" include things like "repeat", "thank you, but I'm full", and "I did not understand". Too bad Lonely Planet doesn't have a phrasebook for Luganda. That would be somewhat useful, to say the least. Apparently the word for "chicken" sounds like "cocoa". Of course I could be wrong, these language lessons are somewhat confusing and very short. They say Luganda is spoken in the central park of Uganda. I pray that I am in the central part otherwise God only knows what language baganda will speak (oh yeah, just used a Lugandan word in a sentence!).

I have also found similarities in the sound of words between Gujurati (my ethnically native language) and Luganda however the meanings are completely different. For example, "poop" and "what is that" sound the same in both languages...this is going to be interesting.

I guess it is good for me to get some exposure to the language so when I land and potentially hear it, I won't look and be completely thrown off guard.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.

WARNING: The following will be a photo montage of many of the wonderful people in my life.

I'm leaving Tampa tomorrow, for good. Well at least for the next 27 months. I won't see most, if any, of my friends here for the next 27 months. So many thoughts go through my mind, the fear of being forgotten, the fear of losing everyone. The experience is going to be amazing (or so I've been told) and yet I still have so many fears. I'm going to miss all the people I've gotten to know over the years.


Monday, July 11, 2011

This time for Africa

I have three weeks and one day until my departure.

I would be lying if I said I were completely ready. I would also be lying if I said I wasn't scared. I have never been to Africa before, nor have I really thought about what it would be like to live there for two years, until I applied to the Peace Corps. Even after the long, rigorous application was complete, I still never really gave living in Africa that much thought. There were so many more pressing matters, getting a placement and knowing where I would be living for the next two years was far from my mind. I am constantly thinking about what it will be like to live in Africa. Everything I do seems to remind me about my future residence in Uganda. When I'm at work, on my computer, I realize I won't have internet or computer access on a regular basis, at least not as regularly as I have them now. I won't have running water, I won't have any of the conveniences I have now. This often begs the question, asked by everyone in my family as well as many of my friends, why the hell am I doing this?

This, I can answer.

I am doing this for many reasons. I want to help people, I want to see new things, meet new people. I want to know what it is really like to be on the front lines of international health. Africa is where its at. There are so many issues going on right now in Africa with HIV/AIDS, Malaria, lack of nutrition, drought, etc.

While I find myself waking up in the middle of the night worrying about what it will be like, I also find myself waking up with smiles, realizing that this time next year I will be in Africa. This time next year, I will be in Uganda saving people (yes, I dare to dream!), helping people. It is so easy for people to focus on the negative aspects of my future, it seems that not too many people are looking towards the positive, how much experience I will surely gain from this, how much I will grow up. While I like to think of myself as somewhat of an adult, I know I am still a little kid. I still depend so much on my parents, this placement will do nothing but help me grow.

Two years from now I will be preparing for my return. While I know I am anxious for good reason about going, I know I will be even more anxious to come back. My biggest fear regarding this trip is that all my friends will forget about me. I'm really afraid that when I come back I'll have to start over again, find new friends. As childish and unrealistic as it sounds, its true and its how I feel. I have made and lost so many good friends in my life it is hard for me to think that I will still have these friends after my adventures in Africa. On the same side, I hope to make new friends and family in Africa, however I do not want to lose them after I leave. I have so many fears and so many desires, I guess at some point I guess I just have to let things go and take things as they happen.