A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Times in Uganda

There are countless times I feel completely content and happy with my life in Uganda. There are many times I don’t but let’s not talk about those right now. Many times those feelings of happiness, pride, and contentment overwhelm me when I do something that makes me feel very Ugandan.

Yesterday, I was riding on a taxi with my friend Lizzie. Lizzie loves Jack Fruit and is unable to get it at her site. She has had a craving for it and was determined to get some before going back to site. We scoured the market and all around the town we had been in. There was none to be seen. While in the taxi on the way home, we stopped to let some passengers out and I spotted Jack fruit at a small vender across the street. I tapped on the window furiously trying to get a ladies attention and then I motioned her over to us using the Ugandan come-here wave. This is the wave we use to say hello to little children in the states but in Uganda it means come here. The woman pick-up a giant Jack fruit and ran across the road to us. Lizzie then proceeded to buy the Jack fruit through the taxi door. This exchange is extremely common in Uganda and made me feel very Ugandan.

One of my favorite, and least favorite at the same time, conversations to have with Ugandans is when I ask for directions. They are incredible vague and will admit to being horrible direction givers. Earlier this week I went into the bush to drop off some letters from the Ministry of Education and invite teachers to a workshop on HIV/AIDS education. I have three schools that are relatively close together in the bush but I had only visited them once and this was my first time trying to find them again on my own. I made it to the first school and then asked the Head Mister (principal) to direct me to the next school. He walked me to the road and said, “You go that way (shakes his hand around so I am not sure which way that is) for some time. Then there is a tree somewhat far, turn there. Hmmm, there is a somewhat small path but you might get lost. O.k. o.k. Hmmm. Go that way (again shakes his hand in no apparent direction) for some more time. After the big mango tree you will look and see the school. Climb the hill and you will see. It is somewhat near.” So, I took off “that way.” The amazing part is that I followed his directions and made it to the school without any mishaps. Oh, to understand Ugandan directions. It is a talent, let me tell you.

Another Ugandan moment happened for me this week. I am working with a local health center on HIV/AIDS programs in schools. A program exists in Uganda called, “Education for Life.” I was told the program is working in Katikamu, a village an hour and a half North of where I live. I was asked to go there and find out more information. When I asked for a contact person I was told to just go there and ask around. I was assured people would know where to direct me. So, I packed up and went to Katikamu. After asking around the local trading center, visiting the health center, grilling the father’s at the Catholic parish, and trying to visit the LC1 (like the mayor of the town), I found no one had ever heard of “Education for Life.”

While this would normally frustrate me and I may make some grudging remark about it being very Ugandan, I found this experience very rewarding. I did not find the organization/program I wanted to learn about but in the process I was directed to other NGO’s and community based programs. I found a community that has an active Village Savings and Loans program, a health center that does both in-center care and outreach, and a Catholic parish that is working to promote quality education so that all their students qualify for higher education. I love learning about communities that are building themselves up and seeing how they are doing it.

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