How to make a friend in Uganda. business consultant, NGO worker, former Peace Corps volunteer, activist: searching for sustainable solutions to eradicate extreme poverty

August 28, 2010

WEEK 2 — This is Africa?

Filed under: Peace Corps,Uganda — Jeff @ 6:38 am

Thank you to all that read this blog, especially to those parents, friends, and family members who have a trainee in my class. Welcome! Expect posts to be disjointed, brief, and random. And to all those I left behind: you are in my thoughts and prayers. Write and tell me about life at home. Photos to come.

Sunday 15 August 2010 6:54PM

Losing sleep. Worried whether I can succeed in this new endeavor. The struggle is not intellectual or physical but emotional. Seeing ugliness in myself I haven’t noticed in a long time. This is hard. With all the busyness I stay awake late at night to ponder these thoughts. I really wish I hadn’t said those words. I guess there are a lot of words I’d like to take back. My fellow trainees are my only comfort. Tired. So very tired. Didn’t start dreaming until after the morning call to worship — sometime after 4AM. And then I was back up before 7 to get ready for a day trip to Kampala with a group of four and a guide. Lots and lots of walking. Found an internet cafe and a coffee shop, the post office and two taxi parks (old and new). Stopped at a shopping mall to buy a phone.

Monday 16 August 2010

I’ll be living with J and his family for the next two months. Today I met my host “mom” at the training center and rode with her to my new, temporary home. Soon after we arrived, K and I sat down to take water and conversation was slow. Decided to unpack my suitcase and make my bed. Then all of a sudden we were walking down the road to Wakiso to buy a wash basin. I could’t keep pace. Walking was as awkward as the conversation. We met up with Lisa and Mama F to shop. I hadn’t brought any cash with me, so Lisa paid for my wash basin. The women chuckled. Soon thereafter, K returned to her shop and the rest of us continued down the road to meet up with Mama F’s son. As we came near we could hear the clammer of a drum circle. We sache’d our way through. But F’s son was nowhere to be seen. We found a bench outside outside the bar and each sucked up a bag of yoghurt. Finished, we entered. Apparently we had drawn some attention. Shortly after sitting down at a table, a gentleman idled down across from Lisa and I, and his kids knelt before us. The man was talking rapidly and I could not understand him. I asked Mama F to explain and she chuckled again as she relayed that he wanted Lisa and I to adopt his kids. I wasn’t about to take him up on his offer, explaining that I had neither the money nor home necessary to raise two children. I tried to brush off the request with humor but to no avail. We left with the father still pleading his case.

The youngest keeps crying. I try to speak and it only makes it worse.

I am lucky to have Bryce, Tien, and Aregnaz living in my village along with Lisa. Today I visited their homes and met their host families. Each morning we plan to gather and walk to school together.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

I feel like I’m breaking through some of the barriers to communication at my house. The houseboy eagerly greeted me when I arrived home at 7:15 tonight — on my bike. That’s right! I have a new bicycle and I could not be more excited. We rode into Wasila after training and had a few beers with a couple of volunteers who are in town to lead a training class tomorrow. Our bikes have wide tires with huge treads that are great for the deeply rutted roads that we need to transverse. Tomorrow the group from my village is leaving on foot. I’ll try to capture some more pics of the incredible sunrise as we walk the trail through the bush.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Building relationships is all about trust. Today I took what I felt was a big step in friendship with another trainee. I had little choice. It’s hard to keep who you are at the core — your identity — private. I try to be as open as I can but the result can prove painful. I’m hoping that in time that I can learn who to trust so that I can build lasting friendships with both nationals and fellow trainees/volunteers.

Friday 20 August 2010

Laughter at the dinner table.

Saturday 21 August 2010

I’m finding that life in Wakiso is so much more dignified than in the States.

Uganda is beautiful beyond my expectations.

Today Lisa and I joined Mama F at an Anglican baptism, which led to a celebratory party. I was supposed to be J’s “plus one” but he unexpectedly had to work. Lisa and I were both wowed beyond our expectations as we passed through the gates to the house for the the reception. We had not yet seen or expected such extravagance in our little town. Large party tents were set up along with a bouncy castle for the kids. Who knew a baptism could be so much fun? The food was amaaaazing. I ate the rarest beef I’ve had in weeks. It melted in my mouth. Ummm.

I love the Peace Corps.

As Lisa and I prepared to leave the party, the absurd happened. The theme from Disney’s Lion King blared from the speakers as a costumed performer danced in the yard with a multitude of children following him. Shakira came next and we walked out to Alicia Keys. Me dancing all the way.

Sunday (morning) 22 August 2010

Off to the market. Later I’ll meet up with friends to study and converse. Laundry.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Its very early in the morning and I can’t sleep. Yesterday I kissed barbed wire. Hoping for a softer target today.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Sweet rejection. I did not come to Uganda looking for love or romance. Unexpected as those feelings were, I’m finding that I may be more open to explore what might happen.

August 15, 2010

WEEK ONE

Filed under: Peace Corps,Uganda — Jeff @ 3:00 am

Friday 13 August 2010

Africa is a beautiful and dynamic place. My Peace Corps experience is already more than i could have dreamed. We eat, study, and sleep together. Peace and friendship abounds within the group. I hope it continues and that we will be able to share the same love with the Ugandan people.

Today I met with staff from the economic development team. Our director sat in on the meeting, making it a four-person panel. It was wonderful to chat about the economic opportunities within the country and how I might be able to support the entrepreneurial spirit of the people in my future site community. Yet, I’ve decided that I only need to make one Ugandan friend to be successful in my mission.

We are still abiding at a conference center outside Kampala. Every day is a luxury. Hot showers in the morning before a prepared breakfast of traditional and British foods. Service continues to morning tea at 10:30, lunch at 12:30, afternoon tea at 3:30, and dinner at 7:30. I think I will miss this place. However, I yearn for more freedom and my first sunrise in the bush.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Living with 45 new people does have its ups and downs. I had my first argument with another trainee during lunch today. We were talking about substance abuse and homelessness. Our experiences with the issues could not have been more different. I;m an activist. It took a year of cultivating relationships with the people who live on the streets in Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts to learn that drunks living on the street should be offered, friendship, compassion, and, yes, sometimes money. On the other hand, my new friend came to the table with different, personal experiences that influenced his perspective. Neither was inherently more valid and neither was mutually exclusive. While we did not come to a mutual understanding, I definitely left with a new appreciation for a different perspective. I appreciate that I was pushed in my thinking. I’m sure that will happen many more times and in many new ways before I leave Uganda.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Made my first apology this morning. I can be such an unintentional ass.

August 5, 2010

Peace Corps application process breakdown

Filed under: Peace Corps — Jeff @ 8:33 pm

December 31, 2009 . . . application submitted
January 7, 2010 . . . fingerprinted for background check
February 24, 2010 . . . interview and nomination for Central/South America
March 1, 2010 . . . medical and dental forms mailed to me
March 11, 2010 . . . very thorough medical exam at VA ADTC clinic in Jamaica Plain
March 23, 2010 . . . dental exam
March 25, 2010 . . . medical and dental forms sent
March 31, 2010 . . . medical packet arrives in the District of Columbia
April 5, 2010 . . . receive dental clearance
May 18, 2010 . . . medically cleared
June 28, 2010 . . . placement officer calls, removes me from the South American pool and asks if I’d be okay with an invitation to Africa
July 7, 2010 . . . official invitation arrives
July 8, 2010 . . . accept invitation
July 9, 2010 . . receive reporting instructions for staging
August 9, 2010 . . . staging in Philadelphia
August 11, 2010 . . . 10 week training in Uganda

August 2, 2010

goodbye boston. hello uganda.

Filed under: Peace Corps,Uganda — Jeff @ 3:32 pm

This past weekend was one of long goodbyes to some of the many good friends that I made while living in Boston and Cambridge. Hugs were substituted for conversation as we fumbled for the right words. How does one know what to say in this situation? Sadness sweeps over me and tears well up in my eyes even now as I think about the many months that will pass before I see any of them again. I feel as though part of my heart will always belong to these friends I leave behind to pursue a dream I do not yet fully understand.

Opportunity lost is opportunity gained? At a party on Saturday I met Katiti Kironde, the wife of a friend. In the past, Bill and I had talked about her new apparel line and the work that they both do to raise funds for an orphanage in Uganda. Katiti and I chatted for the first time about what I might expect when I arrive and we also discussed the possibility of meeting up the next time that they both travel to Uganda. I’m quite excited to visit the Kigalama Children’s Initiative with them to see the incredible work they support.

kigalama kids

and the famous cover from 1968:

Katiti Kironde

This weekend I say goodbye to my family.

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