Sunday, May 19, 2013
This morning I walked out to the trash pit behind my house to throw away some food scraps. I've been extremely paranoid about snakes, so I carefully watched where I stepped. Unfortunately I missed seeing the wasps nest above my head and I got attacked. They only stung me twice - once on my arm and once on my leg. But the stingers are so big that both punctures started bleeding (remember, African insects are HUGE). Thankfully my mini-fridge has a freezer section (with an ice cube tray) and the swelling has gone down.
You win this round Africa.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Last week was Northern Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). I had applied to be a logistics staff member, but due to recent events, several PCVs dropped out and I filled in as a counselor instead. This was my fourth time as a camp counselor (which is unheard of because it’s such an exhausting position). I’m officially retiring now.
Every Camp GLOW generally covers the same topics: money management skills, reproductive health, HIV, communication, gender equality, and teamwork. There are also lots of sports and games to break up the sessions. Rather than go into the details of the sessions, I’ll just give you the highs and lows. Let’s start with the lows . . .
- My Ugandan co-counselor. Every team has one PCV counselor and one Ugandan counselor to give support and guidance from different perspectives. The Ugandan counselors are nominated by PCVs all over the country and are told what camps are about and what their roles are. Sometimes the counselors are awesome; sometimes they’re not. My co-counselor this time was terrible. She would disappear for hours at a time (and not tell me where she was); she broke several rules, like picking fruit from the trees at the school after we had specifically lectured the girls about not doing that; she didn’t contribute to any of the girls projects during the week; on Gender Equality day, she said that it was a waste of time to discuss it; and on the last day, which is full of fun activities and parties, she laid on blanket under a tree and did nothing all day. I was basically on my own for the whole camp and had to constantly reassure the girls to make up for the negativity from my co-counselor.
- Illness. In the middle of the night on Wednesday, I got sick. I vomited in the middle of a field, as I was on my way to the latrines with diarrhea. It was miserable. I told the camp directors the next morning that I needed to rest, and it turns out 4 other people had the same illness. Not everyone was vomiting; some were just nauseous and weak. We never figured out what it was – it only affected PCVs, not the campers or Ugandan counselors. We suspect it was some bacteria that American immune systems were not used to. Within 48 hours, we were better.
- No ropes course. As a result of the illness, I had to stay in bed all day Thursday – and Thursday was the day at the ropes course, which is full of obstacle courses, zip lines, climbing walls, etc. It’s my favorite part of Northern Camp GLOW (it’s only in Gulu, so no other camp offers it). I was so upset that I had to miss the ropes course, but I had absolutely no strength to go. A PCV staff member covered my counselor role (because my co-counselor was of no help).
- The schedule. Previous camps had some slow sessions where the girls didn’t understand the lesson or activity. But this time, everything was clear and engaging. The directors did a great job of modifying past activities to really include every camper. For example, last year we played the Game of Life and were divided into our teams during the game. A lot of girls ended up just sitting around, because only one person could play at a time. This year, there were many consecutive games going on, so everyone got a turn, and the girls had a lot more fun.
- Gold stars! Again, kudos to the directors for coming up with filler activities. Camp songs can get really annoying when you have to kill time waiting for a guest speaker. But this year, the directors had a list of 40+ activities to keep the girls occupied during down time and used the ‘gold star’ reward system to motivate them. It worked beautifully. And the activities were related to the session topics - for instance, a crossword puzzle about malaria. At the end of camp, the team with the most starts got a prize (i.e. a mosquito net, ha ha). My team came in third place and we were super excited about it. :)
- My girls. The girls on my team were awesome. Usually, there are only one or two strong leaders in a group, who raise their hands in session and get the group projects started. This time almost all of my girls were contributing and enthusiastic. It’s a lot of work to constantly encourage the girls to speak up and participate, so this camp was a lot of fun for me to sit back and watch them be creative on their own. At the end of camp, I wrote each girl a little note telling them how special they are. They loved it. And because they are so awesome, they gave me a little book with a note from each one telling me how much they will miss me. I totally love those girls!
Friday, May 3, 2013
When you go away for an extended period of time, Ugandans will say to you (upon your return), “Eh! You are lost!” Meaning: “I haven’t seen you for a while. Where have you been?”
After I returned from Rwanda last month, I had to hang out Kampala for a dentist appointment. I’ve had tooth pain in one of my molars for the past few months – it turns out I needed a root canal. Thankfully, the dentist here is pretty good (he graduated from Northwestern!). He did the majority of the root canal, but I still have to go back in a few weeks to finish, and then again to get a new crown.
So I got back to Kuluva a little over a week ago. It’s always a surprise to go into my house after being gone for a while: there are lots of spiders to kill, lots of lizard poop to clean up, and dirt & cobwebs everywhere. This time there was the added bonus a dead mouse decomposing in my sitting room.
I was just starting to get back into my routine (bike ride, market, school, etc.), when last Saturday, there was a tragic accident in Gulu and a PCV lost her life. We received notification from Peace Corps Security that three girls were hit by a truck as they walked to the bus park early in the morning. I didn’t know the girl who died (she was from the new group that I haven't met yet), but I was emotionally crippled at the thought of losing a member of my Peace Corps family. It’s been very difficult to deal with this incident, and the thought of her family constantly brings tears to my eyes. I send them strength and love every time I think about what happened.
(*My friend Nancy is a PCV in Gulu, and posted a more in-depth blog about Danielle's accident. http://atexangoesquesting.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-loss-of-sweet-spirit.html?spref=fb )
I’ve been able to keep busy at school this week, typing notes for the principal and preparing the Computing exam for the diploma students. I never been so grateful for secretarial work to keep my mind occupied.
May 1st was Uganda’s Labor Day and I was invited to a picnic in a town called Rhino Camp (about 2 hours east of Arua). It would have been a lot more impressive if there were actual rhinos there, but sadly they have all been poached or moved to the Rhino Sanctuary in Masindi. (The Ugandans kept reminding us [the PCVs] that Teddy Roosevelt came here and hunted rhinos.) Anyway, the picnic was lovely – we were on a hill overlooking the Nile River, and enjoyed local food (beans, potatoes, cabbage, and pineapple for me, everyone else indulged in chicken and pork).
But now, after one week at site, it’s time to leave again. I’m going to be a counselor Northern Camp GLOW (again)! I’m really looking forward to another camp – it's my favorite part of Peace Corps.