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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rain Proofing My House

I live in a house with tin sheets for a roof. These tin sheets make day time insufferably hot with the sun blazing down on them. They also make the nights loud and unsleepable during rain. For the most part it is the loud factor that keeps me awake. However, there is also the dripping factor. My tin sheets have holes in them. I have patched them, or had others patch them, several times over the last year. The birds continue to pick at these holes making them holes again and the elements, rain, wind, and sun also contribute to the resurfacing of these holes.

I have now changed tactics and simple rain proof the inside. As you see in the picture that follows, I leave an umbrella upside down on top of my mosquito net. In the mornings I simple dump the water it catches outside and thus, I have solved the problem of being awoken by rain drops.

Only in Peace Corps. Only in Peace Corps...

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I've been busy planning World Malaria Day over the last several weeks. World Malaria Day in this Sunday the 25th of April. I'm working with a local CBO (Community Based Organization) and we've invited other organziations to partner with us in making a health fair focused on malaria at the local football field. We're going to have an awareness march from the local hospital to the football field and then a program and fair.

There has been a lot of busy work taking invitations out, finding organizations who have resources we need and covering all our bases as far as protocol is concerned. Since we are having a march the police need to be informed and traffice officers must come with us. Great! When we went to the police to tell them of our event they had no problems and as we were leaving, mentioned how we'd have to be sure to provide lunch and a little "something" for the officers who would be working with us that day. Now, in the States you are paid for your job and you do it. In Uganda you are paid for your job, you don't always do it and if you do you still expect some bribary. We really have to bribe the police to do their job? I told our group we should just not have them. Everyone was horrified and informed me that if we didn't they would then arrest us for having an illegal event and we'd pay a much bigger fine then simply giving them, "a little something."

If you want to get anything done, you have to accept corruption. At least to some degree. And so, the cycle of corruption continues.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I've been really sick for the last few weeks. I've had incredibly intense stomach pains. I haven't had any other symptoms which made a diagnosis hard. I went to PC medical and they sent me to the "western" hospital where I saw a Ugandan doctor. He diagnosed me originally with ulcers and then secondly with an excess acid problem in the stomach. This didn't seem right to me. Ulcers seem like the typical diagnosis for Ugandans when dealing with stomach pain. So I went on the no acidic, no oils/fats diet and took medication just in case. Nothing happened. I was still in pain. I wasn't sleeping because the pain was so great especially in the night. Annet told me I looked like a 90 year old woman - dark circles under my eyes, stooped over in pain all the time and ashen skin.

I went back to the doctor on Friday. This time I saw the British tropical disease specialist and it was discovered that I have an acute case of amoebas! I never thought I'd be so happy to have amoebas. I'm just relieved to have a tangible diagnosis and something so clear that can be treated.

This morning when I got up Annet told me my face was beautiful again and I must be getting better. In truth I felt great. I thought for sure I'd had an overnight miracle with the one night of treatment. However, a little bit later, I was doubled over in pain again. It's hard core medication and then a slow recovery. Only these days of medicine and time will heal. But again, I'm just so happy to know I have amoebas!

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Birthday Party

April 15 is one of the most important days of the year for a few of my dear friends. A best friend from growing up, Ashley, and my current best friend, Grace, call this day their birthday.

Many months ago Grace told me the only thing she wanted was a cake with icing. In Uganda icing/frosting is as hard as a rock. I don't know how to make that kind but I figured she'd like any sugary toping. So, I made her a white cake with pink frosting. I was conducting a workshop in another town and left early in the morning so just left the cake with Annet. When I came back in the late afternoon I found they'd put the cake in the school freezer (that doesn't really freeze and actually only has power to it sparingly) to help the icing, "set" faster. I laughed and told them it was butter frosting and wouldn't harden for some time.

Grace got to pick a few friends to come to her party of eating cake. One thing I really like and appreciate about Ugandan traditions is that the person who is celebrating must serve everyone first before they get their cake. So Grace went around to all her little friends and served them cake first. Then they all split a soda. The party was possibly 10 whole minutes but everyone had a really great time. Despite the frosting not "setting" yet, the cake still went over well:)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Plaiting, Twisting, and being "Smart"

A year ago when I moved to site I made friends with and began working with girls at a near-by vocational and technical school. They learn trades such as tailoring, catering, nursery school teaching and hair dressing. For the last year the girls have been begging me to let them do my hair. I kept putting it off and finally told them they could do it at the end of this term. Well, the term is almost over and I now have a new hair style.

I told them they could do whatever they wanted but I wanted the twist style. Celeste also wanted her hair done so she came too. I went to a meeting in the morning and let Celeste and one of the girls go and buy the hair we needed. When I got there they'd bought me black and light brown curls! I was very leary but I'd promised so how could I back out now? The girls told me they knew I had curly hair and so I'd already know how to take care of it. Ha ha. Is real natural curly hair anything like fake hair extensions? But at least they had a logical rational for their choices.

Well, 4 hour later, after having 2, 3, even 4 girls pulling, twisting, and tying my hair it was complete. I prayed those painful hours would have produced a beautiful scene. However, my first look made my heart stop in dread. I looked like a two toned lion. I was shocked at how awful I thought I looked.

The girls did a good job but white scalped people are not meant to have braided hair - I'm convinced. After the initial dread (knowing this hair is good for 3-4 weeks!) the girls helped me experiment with different "styles" and I'm slowly getting used to this new look.

My neighbors and fellow teachers at St. Thereza were thrilled that I'd tried an African hairstyle. They tell me I look, "SO smart!"

Celeste had a tough time too! Her lovely hairdo took 8 hours! They said her hair was too slippery. She also got a different style called kiswahili which means it is plaited not twisted and the ends curl slightly. She fears she has a braided mullet when it is down so has fashionably learned to braid it back.

All in all, we're learning about the pain and sacrifice these African women put themselves through in the name of beauty.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Death in Uganda

My friend Frederick died last week. He had a sinus problem that was operated on. Several days after this operation he got an infection. He went to Mulago Hospital which is the big government hospital in Uganda. It was Easter and there were no doctors around. So he died.

Frederick was very social and involved in everything at the community level. His funeral was a big production with many people attending. I liked Frederick. He always had a big smile for me.

Death in Uganda is always present. Sadly enough, many times it is preventable but due to lack of facilities, medications or personnel people die.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tycoon Children

I get tired of hearing about the rich tycoons in Uganda. Whenever a wealthy area or school is mentioned it is always followed with disgust for the tycoons who are obviously there. I am always facing being an outsider. I was blessed to be born in the United States of America where I received a good education and because of my citizenship hold many freedoms. I did not choose to be born there. I did not choose the color of my skin. So while I am constantly facing these guilts and frustrations I sometimes get upset with those who point fingers at the rich or priviledged in Uganda because I can identify with them on some levels. Yes, many times they are the corrupt and immoral people but sometimes they just worked really hard to get there. Or sometimes they are just innocent children who were born into those blessings.

My area is near the capital and fairly well educated. We have one of the best and oldest schools in Uganda in my town. It was started for the Bugandan princesses back in the 1800's. We also are surrounded by village where many of the older generations are illiterate. We have many government schools that don't pay their teachers and health centers that can't meet the sick demands of the community. This population snears at the local rich schools that are full of students from ambassadors, big doctors, government and foriegn business families. But these children haven't had any choice in who they were born to or where they were sent for school.

I was at church yesterday when 8 -10 girls walked in. They were beautiful young girls with manicured hair and nails, their uniforms were spotless and pressed, and their skin was flawless. What really caught my attention was the way they walked. They walked in confidently with their heads held high. They nodded to their elders and smiled at the children. They were polite in finding a section of bench to sit on. I admired these girls and leaned over to ask my friend where they were from. She informed me they were tycoon children from one of the best schools in Uganda.

After church I went home and told Annet about seeing these girls. I expected her to lament about them being tycoon children but she surprised me. She said, "Oh yes. Those are ambassadors children. But those girls at that school are good. They bring things to the needy. And they are always so kind to people in the trading center. Many grow up and go abroad to do great things. They are the Ugandans we should be proud of."

While many blame others for the priviledges they were born into it's nice to hear once in a while that those (myself included) are still good people who can do great things with the freedoms and wealth we possess.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Think It's Over

Many times I find I don't understand what Ugandans are actually telling me. I take things more literal than they intend them to be. Sometimes this is a big frustration when I find out what I wanted done isn't happening. But sometimes it is a pleasant surprise that things have actually been taken care of.

I went to talk to Annet last weekend to really sort things out before I went and talked to this man. I told her I was intending to talk to him and she asked me why. I told her I felt it was important to be honest and upfront with this man and since she wasn't, I was going to. Then she smiled and said, "But Amanda, I already told him you won't marry him, ever. I even told him you wouldn't play sex with him. He knows. He knows." "But Annet," I said, "you told me you told him I need to get my life in order and there was still hope." To which she laughs and shakes her head and said, "O.k. yes. I did say that. But then I told him the rest."

At first I was still a little unsure of how truthful this was. Now, after a week, I have not seen him nor has he been by to "visit" Annet. So, I think it's over...