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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Julie & Julia

Here is another tale of an attempt to make a snack gone terribly wrong.

I had recently picked up some popcorn and had it sitting on the shelf for quite some time when I decided today was going to be the day I attempted to make popcorn to snack on while watching yet another episode of Skins (a complete waste of my life). Bear in mind, this was my first attempt at making popcorn the old fashioned way. So, I get all excited and pour a bit of oil into the pot and open the popcorn container. To my surprise (and horror) I am greeted by little black bugs. Awesome. I decide I don’t want to waste all the popcorn so I pour it all out and wash and rinse it. I put in one kernel and turn on the heat on the stove. After less than a minute I hear a pop and feel something graze my cheek. Curious as to what potentially blinded me, I looked inside the pot and found the kernel had disappeared. I put another one in and within a second it came flying back out. I realized I severely miscalculated the time it would take the oil to heat up and in my idiocy completely forgot the lid to the pot. I put a third kernel in (still having no idea where the first two ended up landing) and heard a pop within seconds. I took this as a cue to add the rest of the popcorn so I lifted the lid and poured the rest in only to be met by billowing smoke and the sound of something going terribly wrong. After a second or two everything went back to normal so I thought the initial panic I had was unnecessary. I stand back and listen as the popcorn pops vigorously for some time then decreases in frequency. I turn the stove and gas off and lift the lid of the pot, only this time greeted by black billowing smoke and the smell of death (okay, burnt popcorn, but it smelled rancid). After the smoke clears (filling up my bedroom and living room/kitchen areas) I peer into the pot and find charred remains of the popcorn. At this point, I feel utterly defeated and decide to clean up and snack on a bag of Skittles. I had to keep the doors open for a good thirty minutes before the smoke cleared.

Why do I even bother?

In work related news, we had the launch of the Red Cross Student LINK group at RCSN. The date had been moved up from February 23rd to February 22nd. I was worried it would be a complete disaster. The only real problem was the low initial participation by the students and the late start. Power had been out all morning so we (“we” being more the students in the LINK group than me) decided to wait until we had power to begin the event (why we didn’t use the generator still puzzles me). The event was supposed to begin at 10 am (I was told 9 am but I am assuming that was for preparation because on the invitations the time was 10 am) but we didn’t begin until 1:30 pm. It was very slow at the beginning (much like most programs I’ve attended here) but the ball got rolling eventually. For the most part, the event was fun, there were some questionable performances and speeches in Luganda, which I obviously didn’t understand, but for the most part everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves. THERE WAS EVEN CAKE (I know I’m probably going to get some flak for not inviting more PCVs…Sully)! Some donations were even made (granted, it seemed to be a strange part of the program, almost an implied tradition at some points) which makes me feel more confident about being the assistant patron to the group. Hopefully this means more people in the community will be willing to help us in financing some of our programs. Mama Prima, the mayor of Rakai, seemed very enthusiastic about the launch of the group and the potential for more outreach (I even got her mobile number after the event, which probably isn’t a big deal to anyone but me, but it made me feel special). I hope to be able to work more with her in her outreach initiatives. She seemed to be receptive to my passion for outreach and education, namely working in the field and being more active in communities. Hopefully things come to fruition.

Things are starting to be a bit more “normal” here. The day to day is getting better (on most days) and I feel a little more useful and appreciated. One of the tutors has asked me to teach the skeletal system to his anatomy and physiology course, which should be interesting. I continue to express my lack of interest in teaching (not that teaching is beneath me, on the contrary, I feel I need more knowledge and experience in order to be a useful educator, especially for future nurses. I simply don’t feel knowledgeable enough…) but it seems I won’t be able to really get around it, so at least in this case I will be able to teach something I’m interested in. I hope to be able to teach more psychology lectures in the future as well. I think if I teach twice a week at most, I won’t be going too far out of my comfort zone but will still be filling in the need the school seems to have.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Queen of the Damned

And the saga continues…

OF COURSE I would get attacked by a rogue bat flying into the Pastor’s house this evening. Why do I even pretend to be surprised?

Let’s back it up.

So, a few staff members and I were just having normal, after-supper conversation at the Pastor’s house. I was in a great mood, even after having a fairly controversial conversation about adoption and abortions (yeah, I definitely crossed that line). Suddenly, something flies in through the open door (rule #1: ALWAYS shut the door), hits the wall, and comes flying at me. I duck down in my chair, allowing the thing to pass and hit another wall. It turns around and starts heading towards the door only to hit a chair, causing it to be disoriented (because hitting everything else apparently didn’t do a thing to this beast’s navigation system) and come back towards me. At this moment I’m still confused as to what this thing is, so I’m relatively calm and remain in my chair. The thing hits my leg, resulting in it getting caught in my skirt (rule #2: wear shorter skirts). I shake it out where it flies and hits another chair and falls to the ground. I make the mistake of asking what the thing was and the Pastor says the second two words I never want to hear regarding something I just shook out of my skirt (the first being a snake)…a bat.

I freak out a little, but assuming the bat escaped out the still open door, I calm down. That is, until the bat begins flapping about on the floor like a fish out of water (apparently, getting caught in my skirt caused it to lose its ability to fly). I let out a very cliché, high-pitched scream (think Michael Jackson’s singing during the crotch grab, but more terrified…go ahead, laugh) and the Pastor stomps on the bat.

Five minutes later I find myself feeling the need to be escorted to my house, a mere ten feet away.

Just another night for the bat whisperer (copyright Alia Fry).


Monday, February 6, 2012


It’s always funny talking to other PCVs, especially when we are talking in large groups. The conversation follows a very specific pattern:
-Update on site (which usually starts with “So, do you have work to do yet?” followed by a scoff and “I wish!”)
-Gossip about PCVs from our training class and others

It seems no matter what circumstance we meet in, the conversation always ends up about food. What foods we’ve been eating for the past four months at site, what foods we have gotten in care packages, what food we have attempted to cook, what food we hope to be able to cook, and finally, what food we miss the most. Some of us (okay, mostly me) talk about the food we see in television shows and movies we’ve watched recently, which only leads to an angry exchange of words between PCVs because it only serves to remind us what we are missing out on in the U.S. Also, just an F.Y.I. for all you Facebook picture-posters, PLEASE STOP POSTING PICTURES OF AWESOME FOOD! It just hurts. Really, every time I see a picture of a home cooked meal with all the trimmings, my soul dies a little. Even the dishes I wouldn’t eat (i.e. meat dishes) become appealing to me.

Case in point: My craving for barbeque wings (sorry mom).

I was watching some of the most recent Modern Family episodes (if you haven’t seen this show, please watch the first season, it is pure hilarity) and I began the episode where Phil takes his eldest daughter to visit his alma mater. They go to a pub where they have the best wings in town. I don’t really know what the major point of the episode was; all I can remember is realizing how hungry I became every time they had a shot of the two eating the wings or talking about the wings (reminder: I'm a vegetarian). This also happened during another episode of Modern Family, where Claire is at her father’s house baking cupcakes. Sigh. Having become deprived of the glory of cupcakes, I realize how serious my obsession has become. I have even been shown a website where there are instructions on how to make cake using my rice cooker…desperate?

TRIVIA TIME: If you can guess what food I miss the most (right now), I’ll send you a postcard!

In other news, I survived the 6 month mark! Time flew by faster than I imagined, making me more confident I can make it to the end…you have to begin with the end in mind, right? Projects and real work have definitely picked up, making me feel slightly more useful and appreciated here. It’s also good to know I have a few staff members backing me up in many of my initiatives to impact the nursing school and the community. I still miss my friends and family everyday (Facebook definitely does not help) but I know you’re all there supporting me and sending good thoughts my way.

I recently had a meeting with the Red Cross Student LINK Group at the nursing school, which I have been elected the Patron of, and we’ve made a list of programs and projects we want to work on throughout the year:
-Launch event – something similar to the community clean up
-Basic First AID/Prevention method Tip of the Week
-RCSN Grounds Clean Up
-Dormitory Clean Up here on the grounds
-Sanitation education for the students
-AFRIPads Promotion (within the school and around the Rakai community, including secondary schools)

Hopefully we’ll be able to get some of these programs accomplished, along with heaps of outreach and community service.

I also started working at the newly opened library between 8:30pm and 10:30pm. Initially I was supposed to work from 6:30pm to 10:30pm, but of course the individual who had the keys was nowhere to be found and it took some convincing to get the extra set of keys given to me (why, I’m not really sure). Either way, the first evening was a success. I thought I would be overwhelmed, working the library by myself, but its small and manageable and the students seem to respect me (at least to the extent that they don’t want to piss me off for fear I won’t help them find a way to the U.S.)…hopefully things continue on this upward slope!