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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lord of the Flies

Let me just start by saying I guarantee flies and mosquitoes will be the most annoying thing here in Uganda, besides pee butt.

My first night and morning at site have proved to be nothing more than interesting. Luckily, no bats were seen in the experiencing of this story.

So, the Rakai group (Trimmer, Sullivan, Griffin, Leslie and Aaron [a.k.a. Stramero], and me) bought out a coaster bus and made our way down to Rakai. We easily filled up more than half of the coaster with all our stuff. I slept for most of the way, sadly I left my iPod in my backpack (which was at the back of the bus) so I got to enjoy the smooth rhythms of Ugandan radio, which played lovely 80s hits and a good hour of Enrique Iglesias. Sweet. I woke up just in time for Sullivan’s bladder to cause a short call stop AT THE EQUATOR! Thank you Sullivan (I should also thank Trimmer here, since he actually took the picture of me)! I got my Equator pictures (officially crossed off my African bucket list) and we moved right along. *Side note: Does anyone notice how movies and books have shaped our lives so greatly? I have always noticed, but it seems a noteworthy statement to make as I use “bucket list” above when I would otherwise use another term for “the list of things I want to do in Africa before I leave”. Maybe it’s just a matter of being lazy, or maybe it’s a matter of actually being a useful phrase. Either way, I think it’s interesting to notice how different words and phrases from movies and books have become integrated into our daily conversation.*

After the equator we stopped in Masaka (in an attempt to find gas tanks, which turned into a last minute shopping venture where I got some things I needed, however I found upon arrival I am severely unprepared for this). I notice Masaka is almost like Kampala (a microscale Kampala I suppose). It has a great smelling bakery, though I haven’t been there long enough to actually partake. It has a cafĂ© that has real burgers (says the vegetarian). Last, but not least, there is a BEACH! Okay, it’s on the banks of Lake Victoria (a.k.a. Lake Shistosomiasis) but hey, a beach is a beach, right? We failed on the gas tank front, but we continued on to Kyotera, stopping in Kalisizo first to drop off Trimmer. After saying goodbye to yet another PCV (and we can officially call ourselves that now) we moved along to Kyotera. We dropped Griffin off at her vocational school then went into town and got our tanks. Too bad we couldn’t do more shopping because the driver began to get inpatient. Is it awful that I was a little annoyed with this? After all we were paying him for the use of his coaster. Oh well, I guess I should have just been happy enough that he stopped for us to do things that we needed to do. We next dropped Sullivan off in Sanjje and continued on to Rakai town.

We got to the gates of the nursing school, only to not be let in. We had to call my supervisor and have him talk to the guards in order for us to be allowed into the gates. Once in, we unloaded (with the help of some staff and nursing students) and started to load my house (or apartment I guess). *Side note: I guess everyone was in a hurry because they definitely unloaded Stramero’s gas tank along with mine. Just a warning, Ugandans really go with the flow of things so make sure you make them aware of what is going on.* So once all my things were in my apartment, I was at a loss for where to start. Lucky for me, my supervisor enlisted some of the students to help me. Apparently they were told not to just help me, but to almost do everything for me because they made my bed, hung up my mosquito net, swept and mopped my floor, and helped me set up my stove. I felt bad and kept saying I could do things but most of the time I was just observing and guiding. I felt completely useless. I was glad when they asked me what next and I finally got a chance to free them of their duties. *Side note: When you purchase a gas tank, make sure the hose will fit onto your stove. It took a few hours and the minds of about 8 people to get my hose to fit onto my stove. I think they ended up melting it a little to allow the piping to widen and stretch around the fitting on the stove, however if you do not want to go through this hassle, please keep this note in mind.*

After I was left alone, I repacked all my things (because of course I have no furniture besides a bed, a table, and two stools. I used one of the stools as a nightstand and the table as a table for my stove. I have put in an order for a drawer set and should have it by Thursday which will make my apartment feel more like a home. I am getting the walls repainted and then my supervisor has said someone can paint the Peace Corps logo along with the Ugandan and American flags on one of the walls. I am also planning on hanging numerous items on the walls and hopefully getting my parents to send some things from my place over.

I went to Rakai town with Stramero after a very long day of reading and writing my first report for my MI experience (yes, I’m THAT person who write their report that is not due for another month, although keep in mind I do have to get the country director to sign something and I’m kicking myself for not getting it signed during training when it was definitely easier). The town is pretty small but it has all the essentials I need. On Wednesday there is a bigger market in town, so I will definitely have to go and check that out. Hopefully between now (Saturday) and then I’ll have gone to Kyotera to get some money from the bank (and also to get internet time to actually post this post). The walk to and from the nursing school is somehow intense though. *Side note: I also think it is interesting how quickly I have integrated Ugandan English into my daily conversation. I may have said this before, but I use “somehow”, “cold cold” and “now now” quite often (these mean “somewhat”, “cold”, and “right now” respectively). I think it’s a good sign, that I am integrating somehow fast (see, I did it again).*

Que story.

So, I left Stramero’s house and started my trek towards the nursing school. Bear in mind that I live on a mountain (legitimately) and there is a short cut which cuts a good half the walk, however half of the short cut is straight uphill (as I found out today). When I was walking back (this time taking the shortcut alone because on the way to town Stramero was with me) I realized I wasn’t sure where the turnoff was to cut into the field towards the school. I found one cut off which looked legitimate so I took it only to find a dead end. I walked back out and found two men sitting on the grass in the shade and asked if this was the path to the nursing school, only to be greeted with a “no thank you” and a finger pointing in the direction of the long way. I decided it was better to actually know where I was going than risk getting lost in the fields than dying because a black mamba bit me, so I came to terms with taking the long way (with my empty jerry can and bag full of goodies bought in town). As I walked I noticed a full on longhorn bull on the left side of the road staring me down. *Flashback: three of the volunteers in my training group have gotten attacked by cattle since being in Uganda.* Awesome. I hesitantly continue on the path, going further and further to the right, practically off the road and I hear a distant voice calling “you can turn off just there”. I hesitantly turn around and request a repeat and turn back to notice a turn off on the side of the road. Too bad I have to go a few feet towards the glaring cow to do so. Either way, I figure I have to pass the cow. So I inch closer and closer, while still walking somehow diagonally towards the path and successfully make it to the path. I turn and the cow is none the wiser, now staring down another pedestrian on the road. I’m glad it didn’t turn into a “me getting attacked by a cow” story.

I’m sorry this post is so long, but I have another story from my recent trip to Masaka on Sunday.

Moses, one of the staff members at the nursing school, accompanied me to Masaka to make sure I arrived there safely. There were no problems getting to Kyotera, but from Kyotera, we sat in a taxi (the size of a corolla) with 5 people in the back seat, 3 people in the front seat, plus a child in the front seat, and two people in the driver’s seat. My foot went numb at an alarmingly fast rate and at one point I asked Sullivan and Ging what the point of no return was when it comes to numbness (a question which I now pose to you. At what point does the leg go so numb that you have to amputate it? That would probably be a good thing to know). By the time we got to Masaka, I had no motor function in my right leg. I was pressed against the door and when the driver opened it (because I had no way of getting to the handle) I toppled out backwards and when I stood up, nearly fell again because I could not feel my foot. I had to balance against the taxi until I could move my foot again. The taxi driver, of course, stared and laughed. On the way back to Rakai town, the same thing happened with my left leg.

This is sure going to be an interesting 2 years!


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