Well, I’ve been home for 3 months now and I haven’t finished telling my leaving story! I probably don’t even remember it all now, and I’m sure I’ll end up leaving out all kinds of stuff. I sincerely hope that none of these end up being false memories (my logic may be infallible, but my memory certainly isn’t! ). The timeline will most certainly be a little inaccurate.
It looks like I left off with the end of the first day of trying to leave, where I was offered to teach at a university at a new site if I would stay.
After leaving the APCD’s office and taking a walk outside, I shortly realized that it didn’t make any difference to me at all. Which was really too bad, because I was hoping that I would have some reason to change my mind. But I didn’t. I spent some time wandering around Kampala and thinking, then talked to Brother Stoz on the phone, and talked to my fellow PCVs who had come with me. A few more came to town, so I got to explain to them why I wanted to go and say goodbye, which made me happy. By the end of the night I was even more certain than I had been before, so I went to bed ready to talk to the CD in the morning and tell him that I had for sure made the decision to leave.
I am BACK IN THE U.S. And, really, it would be difficult for me to be happier. Really difficult.
Why, you ask?
11 days ago, on Thursday, I hit bottom. I had only been at site for two weeks, had been unhappy since I arrived, and then, finally, for no apparent reason, I was tremendously sad all day. Everything around me seemed awful, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, my counterpart slighted me, the students took advantage of the fact that I didn’t know the rules, and I was just completely, absolutely, unhappy.
There’s a nice bicycle shop owner in town (also named John; there isn’t a large diversity in names here) who I’ve been taking my new bike to. I bought it in Kumi last week and it has been giving me all sorts of grief ever since. Its front tire was completely flat when I got home, the back wheel is mis-aligned (and also spins funny), and all of the little nuts and bolts are slowly undoing themselves because, apparently, locking nuts don’t exist in this country. But anyway, John has been taking decent care of me, told me to bring the bike in some morning or early afternoon to get the wheel lined up right.
I headed down to Mbale this yesterday with the two nearby PCVs from my group. We met two more there, plus a few from another training class, and had a great day of eating Indian food, buying things for our houses that aren’t available at site, and otherwise just chillaxing. I came back today, though there was no particular reason for me to do so. I feel like I should be forcing myself to stay at site so that I adjust more quickly, even though I would prefer to be associating with my fellow PCVs. I just need time, but I feel like I have too much of it!
Just a warning: This post is a little on the obese side. I think you’ll get what I mean.
I want to discuss a little the guy that I am trying to help, and why I’m having difficulty figuring out how best to do it. He is 17 and has been out of school for some time, but wants to go back. He would be in Primary 6 (something like 5th grade). His father died, then his mother committed suicide, then his grandmother was poisoned, and, finally, his uncles stole the land that he and his brothers were supposed to inherit. He doesn’t even know where that land is. I don’t yet have a timeline on these events, and I certainly don’t want to prod.
I’m in the computer lab, after meeting with my counterpart to discuss our goals and ambitions for the next term. And under a pile of newspapers in the corner is a large skink. He’s just hanging out down there. There are tons of lizards here, and they are generally fairly large (6 inches or more), which makes my life just a little bit better. Things have settled down since my last post and I am back on an upswing. A kid peaked in the door and told me to give him money and I just glared at him and told him to leave. He did. I’m gaining the upper hand.
There is a well known cycle that all PCVs go through over their time at site. They start out very excited, elated, happy, and any other mood that implies extreme happiness. Everything is new and interesting. Then after some time, the exact length depending on the individual, PCVs get depressed as they wonder if they are achieving anything, find that they miss home, family, and their fellows PCVs at other sites, etc. Then mood goes up and down a few more times, eventually, hopefully, ending with contentment or happiness with the random ups and downs of life.
I started with a negative slope. I was gung ho (sp?) and ready to go on Wednesday, but then left on Thursday. When I arrived I was very excited to meet everyone, but then there was a teachers’ meeting (which I attended) and there were too many people for me to remember names and my mosquito net was too small for the bed etc. BTW, this is going to be a pretty negative post, so (especially you, mother) keep things in perspective and remember that my situation is likely to change rapidly. That said, on we go.
So I got dropped off at site on Thursday, not having any idea what to expect. I called my counterpart when I arrived, and he met me at a shop near to where I got off. I chatted a bit with the shopkeeper and some gentlemen seated outside who were all very nice and welcomed me into their town. They assured me that it is a great place.
Instead of a PCT. “T” for Trainee, “V” for Volunteer (or Vendetta). Anyway, we had our ceremony today, in which I gave a speech without writing it first. Good times. Most new Volunteers went to site today, but the Ateso and Lango language groups (mine being the former) are leaving tomorrow morning because we wouldn’t have gotten to site today before dark. And we absolutely need to be there during the day because I will not have electricity (the Peace Corps dream, right?) and need to be able to move into my new house.
So I just finished staging a few hours ago, and found that the hotel gives us free basic internet access, but that long distance phone calls are costly. So I decided to give a quick blog update.
I got up at 3:45 this morning to drive to Des Moines with my mother and the GF, got to the airport just after 4:30, and got checked in without a problem. The flight from Des Moines to Milwaukee was only 40 minutes and went by without a hitch, followed by a slightly longer flight to Philadelphia. This flight was fine too, but there were serious winds when we landed, which was a little frightening. Apparently there were some other flights that had it even worse, where there were people vomiting and screaming and so on. I didn’t have any of that.
It turns out that my 40 lbs of checked luggage is one of the lightest that there is. Many of my fellow Trainees packed right up (and sometimes over) the limit of 80 lbs. So I feel better about that, though I was one-upped by a few of the more serious travellers.