Saturday, April 30, 2011

Happy Easter!

In Uganda, both Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays, so the long weekend was a perfect excuse to get together with some other volunteers to celebrate the holiday.

Not only did we get to eat delicious food (including chicken mole, pizza, and pancakes), but we also got to visit some waterfalls and enjoy a nice picnic lunch: 

For Easter dinner, we had a lovely pork dinner, and in Uganda that means slaughtering your own pig and grilling it over a fire pit on a metal bed frame. My role in the dinner cooking involved grating cabbage and carrots for the coleslaw rather than killing the pig, but observing was quite the experience. About halfway through the kill, one PCV yells "IT'S DYING!! IT'S DYING!!" to which another PCV responds "that's not the same as dead!":

The before shot

The after shot

Just grilling up some pork on a bedframe

World Malaria Day 2011

After Easter, I traveled back to my site to celebrate World Malaria Day with an event I coordinated at the health center III in my town. A local NGO came to conduct an education session about malaria and sell long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets at a reduced price. After their session, we wrapped up by playing a malaria jeopardy game testing the crowd’s knowledge of malaria.

Women and babies watching the malaria presentation

Teaching people about malaria

What better way to show people how to use a mosquito than to put children under one!

People lining up to buy mosquito nets

Malaria jeopardy

ttfn - ta ta for now! :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Live like a PCV challenge

Can you hack it and “Live Like a Peace Corps Volunteer” for a week?  Check out this innovative Challenge launched by a team of currently serving Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) around the world, along with the growing support of others including the National Peace Corps Association. The "Live Like a Peace Corps Volunteer Challenge" started with a simple dare to a PCV’s family to give up a microwave for a week.  That dare wasn't accepted, but the story of it inspired another Volunteer to make a game of the whole thing and tie it into the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and the 20th anniversary of Peace Corps/ Mongolia where this all started.

The goal of this project is to raise awareness of Peace Corps in America and give those participating in the Challenge a small taste of Peace Corps life, hopefully while having some fun. PCVs in Kenya adapted the challenge to reflect realities of serving in Kenya.  The challenge celebrates our 50th anniversary while at the same time addressing our 3rd goal.  Perhaps the only things missing from this challenge, things that are extremely difficult to replicate in other settings, are the inherent benefits of service- the sense of accomplishment in mastering your new language, the joy of making a new friend in spite of massive cultural differences, the beauty of the environments in which we serve… Nevertheless, this is a great activity for stimulating discussion about how two-thirds of the world lives. 

The Challenge: Kenyan Rules (There are no Ugandan-specific rules yet)

For one week you are asked to give up some of the everyday conveniences that we PCVs and our communities do without. The levels are arranged from more common to less common living conditions of PCVs in Kenya while also taking into account the difficulty of completing the challenge in the US.  So while none of us here have a car, it ranks quite high in the challenge as it is much more difficult to do without one in the states.  Kenya is known for its beautiful safaris in which you can spot the “The Big Five” animals, for which we’ve named our levels (they are in order of rareness in the Mara).

First, decide which month you want to participate.  The first week of the month you choose (the 1st-7th) will be when you need to forgo certain items.
Next, look through the list below and decide which one of the five levels of difficulty you want to take on, and which items you will abstain from  (although your items may come from multiple difficulty levels you are only trying to complete one level, the most difficult you think you can manage).
Finally, let us know that you’ve taken up the challenge by completing the Accept the Challenge section of the general “Live Like a PCV”  at

Lion: Difficulty Level I
(choose two)
  • Forgo the use of the microwave.
  • No checks, no debit cards or credit cards, cash only all week.
  • No washing machine or dish washers - plus you must attempt laundry by hand once. (Let’s be honest you probably have enough clothes to easily go a week without washing.)
  • Cook dinner by candlelight.
  • Keep a journal or write a handwritten letter to a friend about your experiences this week.

Buffalo: Difficulty Level II
(choose two plus one item from Level I)
  • No television (This includes Hulu and Adult Swim online, they are not available outside the US)--You can listen to the radio and read local newspapers.
  • Baths or showers allowed only every other day-  You can wash yourself at the sink with a cloth each day.
  • No fast food, no restaurants (this includes coffee places, bars, and delivery).
  • Internet only every other day. (You can use the internet for your job but you're on the honor system here.)
  • Start and finish a book this week.
  • Buy your fruits and vegetables for the week locally.
  • Wild Animals! You can't leave your yard between 7:30 PM and 6:30 AM unless accompanied by 3 or more people.

Elephant: Difficulty Level III
(choose two plus one item from Level II or two items from Level I)
  • You can use your toilet but you must manually fill the tank or do a bucket flush. (Turn off the water to the toilet.)
  • Lack of temperature control - No heater or air conditioner in your car.
  • Greet everyone you know with a handshake and genuine questions about their family, home, and health.
  • You can only use one burner on your stove and no oven.
  • Ration your water to only 10 gallons a day.  This includes cooking, drinking, bathing, and washing clothes.
  • Teach someone the 4 ways the HIV virus is transmitted

Leopard: Difficulty Level IV
(choose two plus one item from Level III, or two items from Level II, or three items from Level I)
  • Reduced living space.  You may only use your living room, bathroom and kitchen.
  • Bathe only once this week. (You may wash yourself with a cloth at the sink each day.)
  • No driving.  You can use public transport, bicycle, and walking.
  • Internet one day this week.  (Again, you can use it for your work only.)
  • Power outage.  Throw a dice (6 sides) every day for how many hours you will be without power sometime between 5.00pm -11.00pm (turn off your power breakers).

Rhino: Difficulty Level V
(choose one item from each Level)
  • No running water from your house, you must go fetch it from somewhere else (a neighbor’s house is fine).
  • No English for the entire week.  (You can speak English at work only.)
  • You can’t use any toilet in your house, you must go somewhere else or improvise.
  • No refrigerator.
  • Spend the whole weekend in one room of your house. Using no electricity - you are allowed 3 books and the battery life of your computer (no recharging).

Questions for Reflection:
  • How did you find this challenge- difficult?  Easier than you had anticipated?
  • What surprised you about participating in this challenge?
  • What did this challenge teach about how people in developing countries live? 

When you’ve successfully completed your Challenge check out our “Show Support” page at  for gear to let others know of your triumph and help us spread the word.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Peace Corps turns 50!

March 1, 2011 was the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps – In 1961 JFK created the Peace Corps to send American volunteers to countries all over the world. To celebrate, we held a service event and reception last week with about 120 current volunteers and 20 RPCVs in Uganda. It was a great day where I got to help paint (mostly help kids paint, since my painting skills aren’t great) a mural at a primary school and hang out with a lot of other volunteers. Other projects volunteers participated in included planting a garden, teaching students about waste management and life skills, training teachers, painting classrooms, repairing rain water catchment systems, building an improved air quality stove, and playing sports with the students. Here are some pictures from the day:

120 volunteers gearing up for the event

Some primary school students painting the mural

Students posing in front of the mural

Me, Christy, and Jenny

The finished project!

In other news...

Why I’m lucky to have great neighbors

For a few weeks there had been a large spider making my bedroom his home. This spider was huge, particularly ugly, and on one occasion even crawled over my foot. However, I let the spider be for a while because I only saw him at night, and it’s too difficult to chase and eliminate a spider in the dark. One day, the spider made an appearance in the afternoon, and I stared him down. I decided that this was it: the spider was going down. I wanted to simply sweep him outside, quick and easy. I took my broom and aimed carefully…and the spider ran off. He was much faster than I anticipated, and I swept the broom around the room frantically trying to get him. In my eagerness, I hadn’t realized that I was making quite a racket until my neighbor came to the door to ask if I was all right. I told her, breathlessly, that I was trying to get rid of a spider. She calmly walked past me (while I was looking disheveled and still clutching my broom), grabbed the spider by one of his legs, and tossed him outside. She walked back to her house laughing at the commotion I had made over a spider.

A few weeks later, I was held hostage under my mosquito net by a small bat. I was innocently reading a book one evening when I saw my mosquito net make an odd flutter. I turned my head to see a bat clutching to the side of the net, inches from my face. I poked him to see what would happen (it seemed like a reasonable idea at the time), and he flew off spastically. He refused to settle down, and I spent the night listening to the bat fluttering around my room and crawling over my stuff. Worst of all, every ten minutes or so he would fly, torpedo-like, into my mosquito net, forcing me to grab a light and make sure he hadn’t infiltrated the net. I decided the darkness and the ferocious energy of the bat made it unlikely that I would catch him that night, so I patiently waited (curled up under the safety of my mosquito net) until morning. The first thing I did when I woke up was, of course, tell my neighbor about the bat. Her reaction: why don’t you just fight it? I tried to explain that I have no experience fighting a bat, and I was afraid I would lose. Once again, she calmly walked into my house, grabbed the bat in a scarf, and took him outside to beat him to death with a stone.

The moral of these stories: I am a wimp and my neighbor is an awesome pest remover. I’m lucky to have her around J

When it rains, it pours

Also when it rains, life in Uganda seems to pause. Things you can’t do when it rains:

  • Drink milk – my neighbors don’t milk the cows in the rain
  • Travel – taxis get stuck in the mud
  • Charge electronics – the power usually goes out
  • Charge a solar light – too cloudy!
  • Call someone – phone networks go out in the rain
  • Use the internet – same networks as above
  • Use the latrine without getting your clothes and toilet paper soaked
  • Sleep in peace – rain makes quite a racket on a tin roof
  • Walk down the street without falling in the mud (this may just be me and my clumsiness…)
  • Bathe – it seems like the rain would only help the process, but my feet always get very muddy on the way back, making the bath useless. Also, I’m more likely to fall, making the bath even more useless. 

ttfn - ta ta for now! :)