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

Monday, February 22, 2010


Ugandan children are super dramatic when they run. They run fast and with their whole bodies but then they get to the end and immediately collapse. Last week, I came home and a teacher ran up to me asking me to do “first-aid” on a girl who had fainted after running. They seem to think I can do anything:) I made her drink sugar and water. It really was all because she collapsed right away instead of letting her body recover naturally from running.

After I had "saved" this girl, the teachers asked me to talk to all the students the following morning at the whole school morning assembly.
The next morning I instructed the student on how to cool down after running – walking and stretching, etc. I gave the talk and afterward, the teacher on duty called the girl who fainted up in front of all the students and proceeded to cane her. She was caned for not taking care of herself and allowing herself to faint! I was horrified and had no idea what to do! It was so horrible. How do you call out a teacher in front of all the students? Yet, how do I let a child be beat? Especially for no real reason! I stood by helplessly with tears in my eyes and my face showing my disdain. The beating in this country breaks my heart every time.

I spoke with the teacher the next day and he didn't understand why I was upset. He claimed to not have hurt her, only showed her she needs to be disciplined with herself and take care of her body. I reminded him that caning is illegal in Uganda and that I could call the Ministry of Education and have his license revoked and job taken away. Of course, we both know that it's illegal and that the Ministry won't really do anything about it so the threat was empty. He told me he wouldn't use the stick on her next time. He'd talk to her about her behavior instead. Again, we both know it's only talk.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rainy Morning

This morning we had out first real downpour of rain since before Christmas. We’ve had a few sprinkles here and there but this was a good downpour with thunder and lightening too. When it rains everyone puts their buckets out at the edge of the eaves to catch the rain coming off the roof. If you are a student you better get your bucket out as soon as it rains because there is only so much space and so many students. For me, I share a block of housing with other teachers and we each put 4 -5 buckets out. Because water is sometimes scarce and troublesome to get (you must go to the bore hole and stand in line then walk your heavy jerry cans of water back home) it is very important to collect as much water as possible when it rains. We use this water to mop our houses, do our laundry, cook and to bathe.

The boy's dorm is directly across from my front window. I often sit at this window in the morning and drink my coffee. My favorite scene this morning was of these little boys out in the rain with their soap and sponges bathing. They were not going to waste any collected water when there was a free shower going on!




Wednesday, February 10, 2010



This has been the hardest week in my 1 year in Uganda. Can you believe I’ve been here a whole year?

Most government jobs are up for relocation at any time. People talk about transfers all the time but I have never had them directly effect me until now. The Ministry of Education can, and does, move their teacher’s around at any given time. This week I found out that 9 of the teacher’s I live with are being transferred all over the country including my neighbor Betty and her sons Fred and Louis. They were told on Monday and expected to move by today, Wednesday. Sister Carol, the head teacher (like the principle of the school) convinced the ministry to not expect these teachers to be there until this weekend. She also negotiated with the ministry helping some teachers get closer placements to here. It is a devastating system. Husbands and wives are not transferred together. One woman teacher was transferred far away but she has a husband, children, and owns a house here. Sister Carol managed to get her transferred to the school directly across from our school. She was not as successful with a male teacher who is being transferred away from his family 4-5 hours.

All these transfers and constant movement does not seem effective. How are teachers suppose to feel invested in their work when they are always on edge knowing they could be moved at any time? And, how can the government encourage faithfulness when they are separating husbands and wives? Teachers do not make much money. There isn’t extra to travel around the country visiting your family. So these couples will be separated until next December when there is a long 2 month break.

While government job transfers are unexpected, religious job transfers have some planning to them. I think this is why I was so hurt this week. On Sunday night I received a call from Sister Pross asking where I was because they were about to start the goodbye party. Goodbye for who, I asked. Sister Jaja and Sister Kizito were being transferred. I hurried to the convent and joined in the goodbye party. I had no idea. I cried for most of the party. Sister Kizito kept leaving the room because she was crying too. My heart hurt so much, and still does. She’s one of the people here who I’ve been able to have in-depth conversations with and who has affirmed me so many times. I just love her and now she’s gone. And it was so sudden to me. I was hurt because I didn’t know and so upset because I probably won’t see her again. Lack of communication and miss communication is one of my biggest frustrations. This week has proved to make that challenge hurt me deeply.

The absence of these people in my life is leaving a void. I feel like I have to start over in many regards. I have to reach out and find new friends, coworkers, and playmates. My heart is broken. These are people I really care about and they are being taken from my life. It’s hard to make good friendships here and some of the best ones I have are being taken from me. I just don’t know if I have the heart to try with new people all over again.

Of course, I will, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt right now.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Color Changing Specks

My neighbor Joshua stepped on and broke my glasses as I was unpacking when I first got back. I had to go to the optical shop in the “mall” in Kampala and get new glasses. As you can imagine, glasses are expensive universally and so it is the last thing Ugandans pay for. Therefore, there are very few options for glasses. I also have a problem in that my face is very narrow and small. They had no children's glasses and only 3 petites. I had to remind myself that I rarely wear glasses out in public so really what did it matter what they looked like. I ended up with a bright blue wire rimmed pair. And to make matters worse as I was leaving the shop the following week when I picked them up, the nice Indian man behind the counter told me he was even able to get me the lenses that change in the sun! He said it with such pride and like I should be very excited.

This was all several weeks ago and I’d forgotten about the color changing feature. We’re in the dry season now which means it is so hot you can barely breathe most days and there is dust everywhere. You can look out and see the dust swirling around. This has irritated my eyes and made it hard to wear contacts all the time. On Friday, I decided to just wear my glasses. I was on my way to a school in the bush and I was stopped to greet a man along the way. After the lengthy greeting process he told me, “Madame, you look so smart in your dark specks.” Ha ha. I started laughing because I’d completely forgotten about that lovely feature. It really was an annoyance though as the day went on. I’d go into a building and have to wait several seconds for my glasses to shade back down. Yet, somehow, the Ugandans I encountered liked the look.