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Monday, January 14, 2013

Everything Changes

I hope everyone’s New Year is starting off wonderfully…mine sure has! As most of you are probably aware, my birthday was on January 8th. While I’ve been here I had been wanting to hike Mt. Sabinyo for my birthday, a dormant volcano which is on the border of DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. When one reaches the peak, he or she is in all three countries at once. It was a goal of mine to do this on my birthday. Unfortunately, planning and time was not on my side. My birthday snuck up on me and I didn’t have time to put anything together, so instead I decided to go to Rwanda (who says that?). Overall it was a fun trip, though quite somber. Most of the tourist sites in Rwanda are centered on the genocides of the 90’s. One of the sites visited was a church at Nyamata, where some Tutsis (the targeted clan of the genocide) were taking refuge from the Hutus (the clan doing the targeting). The church had been attacked by the Hutus and grenades were thrown into the hiding crowds. Inside the church (which has since been used primarily as a memorial for those lost) are numerous piles of clothing from the victims as well as skeletal remains of the victims who were hiding in the church and the remains found in mass graves around the area. It was very surreal, being at a site that was actually attacked and had blood shed over it. It really made me wonder how humans can do this to one another. What makes them think killing other men, women and children, is okay?

Kigali also has a genocide memorial museum which is more informational in nature. It explained the series of events, from the colonial times, leading up to the genocide as well as the aftermath of it. There were personal testimonials from survivors recalling the events and members of their families that they had lost. Also at the Kigali memorial are mass graves. The sheer number of people lost during the genocide is unfathomable. The numbers given were up to the 200,000’s. It really saddened my heart to know that people where (and still are) capable of doing this to one another. There was also a section at the Kigali site describing genocides around the world. It seems that it just takes one notion, one person to spark hatred in a group. I wish there was a way to promote understand in a more effective way…I hope organizations that are working to heal are also working to prevent further bloodshed. 

While my birthday was somber, it was still fun. Kigali, much like Kampala, has a great deal of good food. Throughout the week I was able to partake in gelato, baked goods, pizza, and Indian food. The Rwandan beer (Primus) is also quite good. Overall, I’d say it was a very educational and rewarding birthday, even if I didn’t get to climb the volcanoes. I guess that will just have to happen another time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Catch - 22

As you all know, about a month ago I had my mid-service conference, marking my one year as an official Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda. Part of this conference is a mid-service medical check-up. This used to entail a full physical exam, as well as eye and dental exams (giving us volunteers an entire week of fun in Kampala). Now, thanks to budget cuts, it is a brief visit to the Peace Corps Medical Office (PCMO) where we talk about things which may be of concern regarding our health and then a dental check-up. We fill out a brief questionnaire on our health habits of the past year and indicate any concerns you may have that you want to address.

So, for me, I decided to address the issue of my digestive system. You are all familiar with my past episodes of pee butt, which have thankfully diminished, however over time I have noticed that, while I do not suffer from acute episodes of pee butt, I do seem to suffer from perpetual episodes of loose stool…sometimes very loose stool. I decided it was time to get this figured out. Of course, being the na├»ve individual that I am, I thought it would entail a conversation regarding my eating habits and some suggestions on changes and finally, a promise to observe and communicate any changes.

Oh Aditi, how silly you are.

After the anticipated conversation about my eating habits, the nurse decided I should give a stool sample just to see if there is anything that needs to be treated. That’s right; I had to poop in a cup. Lucky for me she didn’t demand it right away and I had a good 24 hours until the dreaded deed had to be done. Unfortunately, saying you’ll poop in a cup and actually performing the task are two very different things. The first question that entered my mind was how exactly does one poop in a cup? After pondering this question I decided the best course of action would be to poop in a cavera (a plastic bag) and then transfer it into my sample cup. I am sure the maids at the annex (the hostel I was staying at) wondered what I was doing taking a plastic bag into the toilet, but then again so many PCVs come through the establishment for medical reasons they may be used to such weird habits. The next morning, when I felt my usual bowel movement coming on, I decided to try and do the deed. Unfortunately, my body decided against this and I couldn’t perform. It took twenty minutes of me walking around, eating some chips, and drinking some soda before I could successfully give a sample. Luckily I didn’t have to give a very large sample. Hopefully they find something worth finding and fix my digestive system, otherwise all this work will have been in vain.

Prior to my pooping in a cup fiasco, I had a dentist appointment. It was supposed to be a routine cleaning and check-up, but it ended up being a full on let’s make Aditi’s gums bleed session. Initially things seemed to be going as normal, the dentist seemed to think I grind my teeth at night and they indicated my receding gum line which is the cause of my sensitivity (at least one mystery is solved), but when the cleaning began it was an all-out assault on my mouth. The dentist was scraping at my gums and showing me the contents (all I could do was slightly nod my head because of course my mouth was wide open with her working at my teeth), then she brought out the floss and was, what I thought to be, over-aggressive with it. Then when she “polished” my teeth, it felt more like she was grinding them down with sand paper or something. My face was covered in white residue by the end of the appointment and my t-shirt was wet from excess water drooling out of my mouth. I guess on the up side, I didn’t have any cavities!

After all this madness in Kampala, you’d think it was smooth sailing back to site.

Heck no.

On the day I was returning to site, I got a private hire to the taxi park because I had more baggage than I anticipated (thank you Kampala). The driver took me to the wrong bus park, so I was trying to direct him to the real location I was trying to go to. He pulled over the car and said either I add him some 5,000 shillings or I get out and get another taxi and give him the 15,000 shillings I was supposed to pay this first guy. He said “I would rather get paid nothing than go the extra distance and not get more”. I asked him to repeat and confirm what he had just said and he did, saying it would out of the kindness of his heart that he took me this far. So I decided, fine, you won’t get paid. As I was climbing out, he grabbed my purse and would not give it back until I gave him his “deserved” 15,000 shillings. Of course, me being the hot-head I am, I started yelling at him and tried to pry my purse from his grasp. He called a boda driver to help and I tried explaining the situation. Finally, realizing my purse was going to break, I told the driver I’d give him the money, which I did. The rest of my travel encompassed me being short and angry with pretty much everyone as well as me acquiring a major headache. After I got home and showered I felt better…I took the situation and my anger, put it into a ball and just let it go…washed myself clean of the anger. Too bad it was with cold water!

With that, I will you all a Happy New Year!