hello from Jinja!

Or, alternatively titled: “Stoz should be embarrassed.” Because I am posting more frequently than he is and I am in the middle of Uganda. But hey, he’s busy, right? So I’m in the middle of my PCV visit, which is where all of us trainees (PCTs) are scattered across the country to visit current volunteers. We are doing this for several reasons: We need to reevaluate our decisions to do the Peace Corps, we need to practice using public transport, and we need a break from the monotony of training.

My PCV is great, and we have been hanging out with another PCV for the past day. His project was income generation for women, and he is only a month or so away from leaving the Peace Corps (called “COS”ing in PC lingo, meaning Close Of Service). The project he set up is now completely in the hands of about 25 women, and he has been able to spend the last few months sitting back and doing advisery/supervisery stuff instead of having to run the show. It’s pretty impressive, and the women are now investing in a maize grinding machine that will be purchased tomorrow in Kampala. This was also part of the PCV’s plan, and he’ll be helping get the new operation set up. The first goal for the machine is to provide cheaper food for the primary school in the town, and the second is as a source of income. It’s nice to see a successful project that ended up being sustainable.

Everything is going well here in Uganda. My main complaint is that it’s hot. But who would have expected otherwise? Training is a bit slow for my taste, and the language that I am learning (Ateso) is not spoken in the area in which we are training (they speak Luganda), which simultaneously removes motivation and makes the training difficult. Plus, I had been under the impression that we would have a great, intensive course. But it’s only 2 hours a day 3-5 days a week. So I figure I’ll learn as many words as I can and then actually learn the language when I get to site. I will have to pass a language test but, hey, if I fail it’s the Peace Corps’ fault! So I think they’ll let it slide.

The people here are great. They are mostly extremely nice, but things are a lot more difficult for the female volunteers. Women are not equal here, though it’s getting better, and the women have to deal with being ignored, harrassed, and told things like “you’re my size.” It’s mostly non-threatening, I think, but gets expectedly tiresome. Being a white male, my only concern so far is that everyone assumes that I have money and so people will (infrequently) ask me for things. Only they’ll just say “give me money,” which sounds quite rude, but is the literal translation of how you would politely ask for money in Luganda. And they always shake hands first, so at least they’re nice about it.

We all have to deal with constantly being called “muzungu,” which translates into a bunch of things including rich person, traveller, white person, foreigner, etc. It isn’t negative (0r isn’t supposed to be), but if you imagine walking for two hours a day with children lining the road literally screaming “MUZUNGU BYEEE” 5-20 times each, you can guess that it gets extremely tiresome and feels like harassment. This has gotten a little better, and I guess gets WAY better once we get to site (one more reason why I want to be done with training) and we are able to get to know everyone in our villages.

Tangent!

Kampala is insane. Absolutely insane. I had heard about what a giant city in a developing country would be like, seen pictures and videos, but without being there it is completely impossible to understand. One of my fellow PCTs made the most apt metaphor for when we tried to navigate the place: “It’s like playing Frogger.” But I would had to that that it’s like playing Frogger on the fastest level, where the alligators are cars, bikes, and motorcycles, and you only have one life.

There is no way that I can describe the past 3 weeks, which have seemed like a lifetime, in any single post, and I won’t have the Internet access to do it on the blog in general. Sorry! But I’ll update when I can and do my best to convey what it’s like to be here. But you won’t understand it unless you actually do it. I’m still confident that I’ll be sticking it through the entire 2 years, but I don’t know that I can really judge after 3 measly weeks. I already feel like it would be wierd to be back in the US, and I can barely imagine the reverse culture shock that I’ll feel after 2 years. But hey, I could use a little more character.

3 thoughts on “hello from Jinja!

  1. Glad everything is going well so far. I really liked the frogger metaphor, sounds like some intense transit disorder. I am going to send an email and a letter to you soon. Enjoy your adventures.
    -Joe

  2. I’m glad I never played “Frogger” with you guys, because I’d now be having (additional) nightmares structured like THAT!

  3. Very descriptive. I can use my imagination to visualize what you have going on there. Keep posting when you get a chance. Yes, your little brothers are no good at keeping the site going!

    Love,
    Mom

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