Monday, December 19, 2011

Didn't your mother teach you to NEVER talk to strangers?

Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas and all through the bus,
 not a creature was stirring, no child with fuss.
 Khayla sat quietly and reading in her seat, 
when the person in front of her, she thought she should meet. 
 Who regrets this fateful decision?, I assure you tis this fool, for now she knows of her bathroom ghoul.

Gather round’ as I tell you of my chance conversation with a stranger. It happened back in September as I was heading home from my Future Site Visit, (if you’ve already forgotten what this is… maaaaybe you should go back and reread a few entries) One of the most nerve wrecking/infuriating parts of Peace Corps that I hadn’t considered was traveling, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION WILL BE THE END OF ME. I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe I was hoping that by then I would have received my acceptance letter to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy and I would be zooming around Uganda on my Firebolt. (it’s a cultural reference, and if you didn’t get it… it’s probably best for our friendship that you don’t tell me, just knowingly laugh and act like it didn’t happen) Travel, for the most part is up to Peace Corps volunteers to figure out on their own. A few times we were given crash courses, i.e. filed onto a taxi bus (which fits 14 legally, and frequently 23 illegally) and told to just get off when our stage comes up! Even though we didn’t really know what our stage looked like, it being our first time and all.  

        Anyways, taxi’s come in four main forms. From smallest to largest they are; motorcycles (in country, called botabotas), Toyota corollas (which I’ve now ridden in with 9 other people), vans (or mutatus, pronounced Moo-Taught-Twos), and Charter buses from the prehistoric era. The farther you are traveling, the bigger the vehicle you take. Except BotaBotas, they are not an option, Peace Corps has a rule against riding them, there are a few volunteers who chose to bend this rule because let’s face it, the chances of running into a Peace Corps official at our site are slim, but I’m proud to say my tushy has yet to sit on a botabota cushy. Just ask any local hospital what problem they most frequently treat, and the answer is botabota accidents. That’s all I need to know, kthanx. My stance on survival here, I refuse to die from something that wouldn’t have killed me if I was in America. If I was going to die anyways, like cancer, or the end of the world (hellooooo 2012) then that is okay. There are things in the water, in the ground, and in the air already trying to kill me, why would I help them out?!

        Back to the modes of transportation. There is no set schedule for when these vehicles come and go. Larger cities have taxi/bus parks,  and smaller cities have dirt paths that lead to larger cities. (On these paths only botabotas can drive, which is why I understand that there are those volunteers who need to take them. It’s that or walk for an hour, or be ridiculously over charged for a private hire…yay for white people prices.) So when you need to go somewhere you head to a taxi park, but as you will shortly learn, taxis don’t go anywhere until they are completely packed to capacity. Even if it means sitting in the taxi park for 3 ½ hours (at least I’m learning patience here).  The trick is to stand on the side of the road where it leaves the city and be picked up by a full taxi. Sure you have to cram in, but going to add more people after you anyways, and now you don’t have to wait. But before you get in the taxi, you must remember to ask what price you are being given. Once you are given said price, you must argue that you live here and know that is the wrong price, again…. Yaaaay Mzungu prices. Sidenote: Ugandans may be the worst liars I have ever met, and that is not a complaint. I can read them like a blaring radio. Subtlety and sarcasm have not hit this country yet, probably because they have bigger things to worry about.  
        So I was finished visiting my future site and it was time to head back to the training site in Wakiso, I headed to the bus park in town and met up with Jake Carpenter, a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer, PCV, who is in my training group, and placed in the same town as me. Jake is from Macon, Georgia, so it feels good to have a southern gentleman nearby who I can always call for help. He’s a 3 minute car ride and 30 minute walk away.  Never in my life have I been more aware/ constantly reminded of my gender. I’ll save that for another post. Jake and I were shown to a bus by a man who swore up and down the bus was leaving nownow (because in Uganda if you really mean it, you say the word twice)  3 hours later our bus slowly began to leave the bus park. By slowly I mean, go forward ten feet, wait ten minutes to see if anyone else comes. Repeat this process till we finally reach the gate. Quick shout out to my Kindle. Because without it, I surely would’ve gone mad. When I would begin to see red tinges of anger fill the peripheral of my vision as frustration filled my soul, I’d simply whip out my treasure trove of book collections (Thanks Chris Rokicki!) and read away. I really should keep a list somewhere, cause I’ve read a lot of books here.
        Finally we are en route to the capital city, Kampala. About 3 hours into our journey I get a glance at what the woman in front of me is reading. Well, not so much reading as looking at, since it is a large diagram of a vagina. Muscles, tendons, and bones all just labeled away. Shocked that a woman would have such graphic material on display in a country drowning in conservatism, I leaned in and asked if she was a health worker. She replied “Yes, I am a practicing nurse, and am now in midwifery school continuing my studies” I informed her I myself was coming just now from a nursing school where I was going to spend the next two years. A few more exchanges and we established that her old nursing school, and my new nursing school, were in fact, the same school.  

        I told her how I’d be living on the hospital grounds.  Sylvia said she bet she knew where I was staying, she proceeded to describe in great detail the house I had spent my last few nights in. Front porch facing where the new chapel was being built, Ben the surgical nurse living next door, and attached to the guest house which frequently hosts Belgium Medical Students. There are easily 30 people who live at the hospital, but clearly this woman knew which house was mine. I asked how she was so familiar with my home and she told me a nice Danish Doctor used to live there, after her first year of nursing school, Sylvia had some financial problems and was going to have to drop out if she couldn’t find the money for school. At this point, the kind doctor offered to sponsor her. This continued happily for a year. Then one day the doctor called her to his house and wrote her a check to cover all the remaining costs of her schooling. Sylvia was so excited, this was the first check she had seen in her entire life.  She held it with pride and quickly went to the bank to deposit the money. She says looking back she should have wondered why the doctor didn’t want to continue his monthly payments. Later that evening, the doctors housekeeper found him dead in the bathroom. MY BATHROOM.  He’d taken a knife and ended his life.  I’ll give you a few seconds to really let this set in . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I hope you are handling this better than I did. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Okay, that’s enough time.  What was I thinking talking to this stranger just because she had female anatomy on display??!?!?!! Curse my curiosity.  It killed the cat, and made Khayla paranoid to live in her own house.

        What were the chances of talking to this women? Of all the buses, and of all the days, and of all the seats. I ended up next to Sylvia. That’ll teach me to talk to strangers. Doing the math this all happened about a decade ago, and even if I met someone here at the hospital who had been here that long, I will never have the courage to ask about the dangerously depressed Danish doctor’s death. (see children, even when the topic is sad, alliteration can be fun!)  The initial shock seems to have worn off, and I actually don’t think about it anymore. But while I pride myself on being non-superstitious, handling scary movies decently, and overall being a strong independent woman, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jumpy at night that first week. My extra 10 inch kitchen knife is still tucked away in my night stand.  But I swear I’m all better now. =)  I forgot to mention that about an hour later our bus broke down and Jake and I had no clue where we were and just hoped on the first taxi driving by who said they were heading to Kampala. I tried not to take this as an omen since breaking down is a common occurrence. We did eventually make it home safely after an 11 hour adventure. I’ve since made that same trip in 6 hours. And in America that distance would take 3 hours. Once again… yaaaay public transportation.

I hope you enjoyed my scary story, I highly doubt you found it boring.  =)

Merry Christmas Everyone! 
I will be missing you all more than you could possibly know. 

Friday, December 9, 2011


TWO IN A ROW what is going on?!?!?!

It's not nearly as much effort as you think. I'm just posting a speech I gave at our swearing-in ceremony. At the end of our ten weeks of training, Peace Corps and the US Embassy put together a fancy shindig with drinks and appeteasers. (seriously they were a giant tease, reminding us how good food could be if it wanted to) And a couple people from our group were selected to give speeches during the processions. Yours truly was the middle presenter. The high-larious and entertaining cream filling of an intellectual sandwich. Below is my sugary input. I put a few comments in parenthesis to explain some of the inside jokes. Enjoy peeps. =)

         I can’t remember the look on my parents face when I told them I was joining the Peace Corps… mostly because I wasn’t there. My 19 year old sister (at the time, now she is 21.  Time sure is funny, started applying to Peace Corps two years before I actually departed. Two years of your past sure seem a lot shorter than two years of your future.) Kelley had taken advantage of a rare opportunity where she possessed information my parents did not.  And once the cat was out of the bag, Ugandans, that means secret’s out! My parents blind sighted me with one giant bombardment of a phone call. (It wasn’t that much of a bombardment, I just wanted to use the word.  My stepdad was calm, cool, and collected, anything else would mean the world was ending) After the initial shock of their call, A face, which  I’m sure was similar to the one my parents were hosting only minutes earlier, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of, return the favor and tell my parents the secret I’d been keeping about my sister. “Well Kelley got a dog from the pound!” Looking back… I see now why my pebble of information didn’t make nearly the splash Kelley’s boulder did.

            Some of us had 8 months to mentally and physically prepare for this next chapter of our life, others of us had 5 weeks thanks to a combination of essay writing procrastination and failure of the United States Postal Service. (At this point in the speech I raised my hand and pointed to myself =)) Regardless we all found the nerves to show up in Philadelphia with forty-something equally crazy strangers who were looking to save the world and maybe learn a little more about themselves along the way.

        One of the Peace Corps Slogans is “How far are you willing to go” On August 3rd we found our answer to that question when we traveled roughly 7714 miles to our new home. Or in Spanish, Casa nueva, because my malfunctioning brain has never in my life pushed so many Spanish words to the front of my mind as it did during my Runyankore language test. Poor Kabayo (my language tester, and yes I see the Irony that Caballo is Spanish for horse)… There were points during that interview where I looked so confused he probably thought I’d been bitten by one of those rabid bats hiding in our homestay rooms.

            Anyways, back to our arrival in Uganda. Months of anticipation and excitement building up, culminating in finally landing at the Entebbe airport. We’d read about the beautiful rolling hills, flourishing greenery, and breathtaking sunsets. And upon arrival, we had to trust that what we’d read on Wikipedia was true because beyond the “Mzungu!” shouting taxi drivers, the darkness obscured our view.

I explained to mom back home that Training is kinda like Chemistry 1; A weed-out class. If you can make it through that first class, you’ll have no problem making it through the rest. For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, training was our weed out class. And our first night here was our first pop quiz. Think about it… we didn’t shower or sleep for a day and a half, landed in Africa Darkness, pushed through the tears as some of us realized our belongings  had been stolen (again I raise my hand and point to myself, RIP  brandnewbirthdaygifttomyselfnevergottouseyou Nintendo 3DS, and Zelda Ocarina of Time for the 3DS) unloaded our luggage at 1am in our first delightful combination of the aforementioned Africa Darkness and newfound Uganda Mud, and proceeded to cram more women into a single room than I thought possible. That little gem of a guesthouse, later affectionately called the orphanage, and renamed even later to pee-tree dish room of death, will give me nightmares for the rest of my life. Next we were hustled  to our first official African meal of Peanut Butter and Bread. Interesting how a meal we originally thought so little of, now has the potential to be the highlight of our week. And finally were introduced to people who just couldn’t wait the 5 hours  till breakfast time to meet us. Like we’re thaaat exciting anyways. Needless to say, it was a doosie of a pop quiz. But we are stronger than we know, and in every sense, that is why we are here.

             As our first meal and introduction came to an end, we were told by a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer)  that we aren’t going to save the world, which sidenote: may not be the best motivational tool. Either way, I beg to differ. I think that if any organization has the potential to irreversibly make a difference, it’s the Peace Corps. Sure, one of us alone can only do so much. But as we learned yesterday, we aren’t alone, we are 45 being added to the 1081 Uganda Peace Corps Volunteers who came before us. Change is inevitable, it is up to us to shape that change for the better. Good luck PCVS and Congratulations on passing Chem 1!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Liquid Number Two.

So if you go back two blog entries I seemed to have made an empty promise about another liquid story. Well, I am anything but a liar. (Unless I’m talking about my morals to a Ugandan… then I need to stretch the truth a little… “oh yes I was baptized in the Catholic church, oh I can’t go to 5 hours of church with you on Sunday because Americans only pray in their rooms…alone,  oh yes absolutely pre-marital sex is Satan on earth” this could go on for a while, so I’ll stop)

A few months ago, in the middle of training, all the volunteers in my training group learned their future site location. It was time to learn because in a few days we would be jet-setting off into the wild to visit these sites, in what is called our “Future Site Visit.” During these three days you see where you are going to be living,  and  test the waters of your organization, sniffing for any large signs of corruption. Emphasis on the large, because small corruption, will absolutely be there.  At our sites, every volunteer is given a counterpart and supervisor. The supervisor you report to (in theory) over your two years, and your counterpart serves as your local helper, guide to the inside, co-worker, person you go to with all of your eki buzzo, (pronounced “etchy booze-oh”, or “questions” in my local language). Moral of the story, you should be comfortable with your counterpart. This story, as you will soon learn, sadly did not get my opinion of my counterpart off to a good start.

I arrived anxiously at Nyakibale Hospital and Karoli Lwanga Nursing School and was shortly (20 min standing alone deflecting the ongoing bombardment of stares, Eminem’s song lyrics “you act like you never seen a white person before” blaring in my head) greeted by my counterpart Sister Florence. Sidenote: she is not a nun I eventually learned. Nurses who teach are called Sister. And they aren’t Teachers, they are Tutors… yay for small differences no one teaches me and just let me slowly piece together like a moron.

 Anywho… Sister Florence shows me to her house and invites me to sit on her couch. I smell a faintly familiar and pungent smell emanating throughout the house, but cast aside those thoughts as Sister Florence introduces me to her child Emma. Emma is wearing a pink sweat-pant set with princesses on them. I've never really been a big fan of children or “shi-theads” as I affectionately call them.  (I hope the hyphen helps you, the reader, understand that I’m just mispronouncing shitheads. =)) Florence and I awkwardly chat for a few minutes before she is called away to deal with a situation between two nursing students. She asks me, nay, casually requests I watch after Emma as the door is closing behind her.  Emma stares at me as we both sip our sodas through straws.  I sniff the air again… what is that smell? I continue sniffing as Emma and I size each other up.  Emma finishes her drink and begins walking around the living room.

No signs of danger yet.

Emma’s soda kicks in and she picks up the pace.

Yellow warning lights begin flashing in my mind.

But I am distracted…What is that smell?... why can’t I figure it out?

Focus on the child Khayla!

Emma is now circling the room at full throttle shouting in what I thought was the local language, but I am now convinced was tongues.  Because I have yet, even to this day, heard  this child speak one word I understand.  Finding herself in front of the bookshelf/entertainment set, Emma begins King Kong-ing up the furniture. Looking back, I see how this might have been a good moment to step in, but… it all happened so fast, okay?! As my mind flashes again in a vain attempt to identify the mystery smell,  Emma jumps/falls/ launches off the furniture and stands in the middle of the room staring at me. Then with eyes intently locked on each other, hers reflecting insanity, mine reflecting a look of “what the fuckery” Emma begins to piss her pants.  Then is hits me. THAT IS WHAT THE SMELL IS. It’s urine. This child regularly golden showers this entire place.  As the wet stain spreads over most of this 4 year old child’s sweatpants she kicks her bottoms off, and I learn something I didn't know before. Emma is a boy.  Whoops.  Doesn’t really rank up there with my surprises of the day.  Besides;  Emma… Pink clothes.

 If you only learn one thing from my adventures… Don’t assume anything in Africa.

Emma begins to pull on “little Emma”, our eyes still locked, and then she charges me.   I remain seated on the couch staring in disbelief, too dumbfounded to act.  At the last second Emma removes her hands from her crotch and clutches both grubby little grabbers onto my soda and straw.  Congratulations Emma, your crazy ass has just won a half empty soda. Not half full. I place the soda on the table concedingly in defeat. Emma disregards her winnings and jumps on the couch next to me where she… no HE, proceeds to play and tug on herself, spread eagle, pointed directly at me.

 At this point I assume I just kinda blacked out, because my memory gets fuzzy. I remember thinking, “there is no way to know where in this house is safe to sit, any form of communication with this child has already proved futile, I can’t believe I couldn't figure out that smell before because it’s totes obvi (totally obvious for you old people) now. “  SIDENOTE: as if bragging, my new little puppy Brutus just went outside through the doggy door (simplified term for open hole where a glass panel broke) in the torrential downpour to pee, because even at two months old, she knows better than pissing in the house.
Taken today during a Blog writing break. Spoiled. I know. 

When Emma gets bored joyriding himself, he finds a nice spot in the corner of the room to pee AGAIN and playfully splashes around in it. My children IF I EVEN HAVE ANY NOW, will never drink soda until they are old enough to have a job and buy it themselves. When Sister Florence returns, I’m not sure what her reaction will be… but as her eyes full upon her bottomless, sticky, only child, a smile spreads across her face as she affectionately proclaims “there’s my sweet little Emma?” Not able to trust my mouth if I stay any longer I grab my purse, thank Sister Florence for half of a soda, and say good evening.

I haven’t spent more than a few seconds with Emma since this fateful day. But I’m sure I can’t put it off forever. Recently Sister Florence came to my house to say hello and saw the yoga ball I brought with me to use as my office chair. (I hate yoga, but I LOVE yoga balls, they are the perfect piece of furniture ; chair, footrest, back popper etc…) I explain to Florence that in America, some people use this as a chair. Her immediate response, “I bet Emma can’t wait to play with it!” I'm positive it's Ugandans  who coined the term, “In one ear and out the other” Before I can figure out how to say “over my dead body” in the local language, I changed the topic for the sake of our relationship.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have your tubes tie themselves, but I’m pretty sure mine did on that fateful day. Notify CNN,  I am the reverse Virgin Mary.  Merry Christmas Everybody!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Photo Test

View across from the hospital.
No new post just yet! But I'm working on it! Instead I thought I'd experiment with posting photos. (You can click on the photo to make it bigger =))

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Swallow Sadness. and a few ants too.

There is a war.
I am at war.
I am not yet sure who the victor will be.
The casualties have been high, the stakes are higher.
But there can only be one winner.

                         Dear ants in my bedroom,
                                    You are going DOWN.
                                             The Pale Face who keeps poisoning/squishing/drowning you.

            My first few weeks here in my homestay house I noticed a large number of sugar ants crawling along the doorway and corners of the room. At first I ignored the little buggers. They were nothing, and I was a mighty human. I was not to be bothered by the likes of them.  Then one day I noticed a few of them straying from their designated path and venturing forth into a region of the room I thought we mutually understood to be mine. This was unacceptable. So for the next half hour I pulled up a seat (aka sat my happy ass on the ground) and watched the habits of these brave wanderers. (I know, what has my life become that this was, and still is, in my opinion, a good and entertaining way to spend a half hour)

To preface my discoveries I must explain that my floor is cement covered in scraps of “linoleum”; plastic patterned floor covering. I asked my homestay mother what it’s called, so I can ask for some at the local store when I need to cover my own site house in scraps. Her response; “it is carpet”. My response”…then what is the soft stuff that covers floors?” Her response “…carpet”.  With a smile I reply “aaaaand the straw mats people use in doorways to collect dirt?” Her response (with a look in her eyes wondering if I’m missing a chromosome) “…carpet. It is all carpet”

So where are these ants marching one by one?  Under a flap in the middle of my belongings. And what pray tell did mine eyes discover under the flap? A full blown ant colony, multiple dirt hills, paved roads, electricity, and a democratic system.  Ant hills. In muh room.  I quickly stood up, proclaimed a Glee’s Mercedes-esque “Helllll to the no,” and proceeded to go Godzilla on their ass. I scooped up all the dirt onto a piece of paper and tossed it out the window. Sprayed my precious bug spray on the escapees and as a final touch, sprinkled (poured) powdered toilet bowl cleaner over where the hills used to be.

As I fell asleep that night, the first night in a long time where I didn’t include “pulling ants off bed and self” in the pre-bed ritual, I smiled the sweet sweet smile of success to myself.

Stupid. Mzungu.

They were back 3 days later. Two feet from where the massacre had occurred.  Clearly ants have no respect for the dead.  UPDATE: I started this blog entry nearly a month ago and am sad to report that yours truly, was absolutely and unequivocally (in love with Edward Cullen, lol, couldn’t resist a culture reference) but seriously,  the loser of the Ant-2011 war.  Towards the end of my stay at homestay I started keeping a tally when I got home of how many ants I had to pluck off my body. On my worst day I reached 20 in 15 minutes.

So for those of you who are avid readers of this blog, (which if you aren’t, I understand. We can’t all be winners) you know that it’s been a while since my last entry. My deepest apologies, I was in the middle of training, and the electricity at my homestay method was about as reliable as the pull out method (if you have to ask… google it) But as of Friday I have moved to the Southwest of Uganda and into my new home for the next two years. I realized as I was unpacking that this will be the longest duration I’ll be living in the same residence since high school. (Thank you University of Florida Department of Housing) Kinda excited. P.S. That thanks was sarcasm.

So to sum everything up. Anteaters are my new favorite animal. I’m all moved into my own house and loving it. And in the past month of not blogging I seem to have acquired an obscene amount of stories I can’t wait to tell you guys about. I can’t decide if these incidents find me… or if I’m seeking them out.

Mzungu out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bucket Baths and other Fun Facts.

         If last entry’s theme was dirt, this theme would be water. Well… it was going to be water. I had this whole entry planned on my ponderings during bucket bathing. But due to a treasure of an experience from yesterday, today’s theme must sadly be reallocated to “liquid”.  SideBar: People, This post is going to be a little sporadic so just bear with me. Is that the right bear? Eff my English is already slipping. Oh well, it wasn't much to brag about to begin with.

Background: Running water is almost non-existent here in Uganda. If someone does have it, it is coming from a rain tank, has a tint darker than my fairly tan skin, or has a parasite in it that wants to kill you, KILL YOU.  So when the end of the day approaches and I realize I smell like how I imagine a hobo tastes, I grab my 10 gallon plastic bucket, head outside past the covered cooking area and fill-er-up from the rain tank.  For the most part the water is, correction, looks clean. But I find that if I let the water sit long enough in the bucket, and lovely little film will form at the top. (I don’t know why I do these fun little things to torture myself, like when I hold my drinking water bottle up to the light to see if there are enough particles to make a mini tornado by spinning the water around) Some people listen to the voices of experience surrounding them and follow as directed. Then there are those of us who prefer to learn through our own experiences, I believe the aforementioned group calls these folks “morons”.

SideBar: Dang, ooohhh the bittersweet irony of being a member of the latter group;  always needing to learn through my own experiences…::cough going to Africa for 2yrs cough:: As soon as I typed that last line, my entire GI tract lurched letting me know it is once again time to drop the kids off at the pool. (that means shit) Except dropping the kids off would imply I have something solid to deposit. I wish that was the case.

So I fill my bucket up and head inside to the bathing room, aka the tiled room of watery death.  Because there is nothing I have found to be more humbling than carefully bathing and scrubbing for 15 minutes only to slip on the first step towards reaching for your towel. Furthermore, splaying and falling into the giant puddle full of crud which used to be on you. Correction: is on you again…

WRITING BREAK:  I’m currently doing my future site visit. Where I get three days to go see the organization I will be working with for the next two years.  If you go check my facebook you’ll see photos of my future house.  “Ni Kirungi” It is good.  Anywho, just took a writing break to walk for a half hour to town and almost had my 3rd fall in this country about two feet outside my door. I slipped in cow shit. Just another friendly reminder that I’m not in Kansas anymore. I’m  not worried though. I know which little bastard did it. The same little black and white calf circles my house every evening. I’ll get him back…

Back to my story; So if the power is off, I go look for a candle which has been melted to an upside coffee mug for a candle holder. This way I can prop it up on the toilet lid (Don’t start thinking I have it too easy because I used the word toilet. I use that term loosely, and remember? No running water. I’ve still squatted and crap bagged into a hole). But, if I was to be completely honest… sometimes when the power is on, I still use a candle.  It creates a nice glow in the bathroom, kinda romantic. ;) Probably the most romance I’ll see in the next two years… sad panda. I’ve learned though, and write this down folks if you are planning a romantic candle evening for someone special, the lower the candle is to the ground, the larger and less flattering your shadow becomes. One of the first evenings I used the candle I saw something move out of the corner of my eye and thought Shrek’s Shadow was creepin on me.  I collected my cool, raised the candle up a few notches, and continued scooping water up in a cup from the bucket to dump on myself.

BTdubs. (Old folks, that means By.The.Way. If you still don’t get it, go ask a hooligan who can’t remember a time without cell phones) After the water sits all day in the shining sun in a black rain tank, it still manages to achieve a perplexing temperature of “frigid bitch” There are some baths where I’m positive my nipples will be hard for the rest of my life. I could go through the trouble of boiling water to heat things up… but I always manage to burn myself, or the charcoal stoves are being utilized for more important things like cooking dinner for the family, and I don’t think I’ll gain any Africa respect if I ask the fam to stall dinner so the Mzungu can bathe comfortably.  I realize that last sentence might have confused a few people;  I’m staying with a homestay family right now, I’ve been here about a month, and have one more month to go, then I’ll move to my permanent site and home. My homestay mom is Jane Bakubagana, and while she technically has two biological children, through whatever events, there are now 9 teenagers up in this hizz-ouse.  We’ve goooooot Derrick, Dickens, Eddison, Flavia, Goretti, Annett, Rose, Shillah, Becky, and now Khayla! Not so surprising, I’ve yet to hear my name pronounced correctly in this country. Johnson is way easier, but people always laugh when I tell them my “other name” (They don’t have last names here, just other name.) Because in Uganda, only a boy would be named Johnson.  Soooo thanks dad. =)

Returning to the bucket bathing… Final word of advice. Even though the drain is usually in the corner of the room, you don’t have to be that close to it. Give yourself some room to breathe. And Bend. Because after falling, the 2nd worst thing to happen after bucket bathing is; after one last bend/crouch to  dump the rest of the water out, and as you stand back up you feel a gentle scrape against your bare, freezing, ass cheek. Oh yes, you’ve butt grazed the filthy wall. AND you just dumped out the rest of your water.  I’ve done this more times than my pride will allow me to admit. And every time it’s like Africa is literally licking my ass, teasing that until I’m back in America. I will never be 100% clean.

So this post is looking a little long, I’m gonna save the mysterious liquid story for the next blog. I hope your anticipation of said story wasn’t the only reason you were hanging on this far. My bad.

Mzungu out!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Shit or Mud? You decide.

          If today's post had a theme... which there is no reason it couldn't, so I guess it will. The theme is dirt. Mud. Clay. Crap. Dust. Filth. You name it, I've had it on me, or in my mouth, or in proximity to me at some point in the past month. =)

          Before I continue, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what type of blogger I want to be. I’ve never done anything like this before, keeping a journal. I tried multiple times as a girl growing up.  I’d buy a super cool hello kitty journal, write in it for about a week then call it quits. I don’t want that to happen with this. So please harass me if you feel me beginning to neglect this blog. Which form of harassment is up to you.
Furthermore, I’ve been torn on what type of tone to take in my writing. I’ve read other  Peace Corps blogs and good God some of them are so boring. Sometimes I have inappropriate (and in my opinion High-Larious) perspectives on things and I want to be able to be myself and write it all down without PG censorship.  It wouldn’t be right to have a blog for my friends and a tamer blog for family members. So I’m going to just put it all out there and hope you all still love me anyways when I get back (this means you Grandmas, both mommy skip and abuela chuchu) Besides, if I reeeeeally upset anyone, it’s not like any of you can even reach me. Suckas! Also don’t want to worry anyone back home if I have a bad day and vent about it on here.  I will have my cynical days, days where I exaggerate things. Please don’t immediately go to and begin looking for the fastest way to get me home. Everything will be okay. I wasn’t sure of this at first if I was going to be honest. The first few days my emotions felt like a Mexican jumping bean. (I’m not racist, that is a real thing, I swear) But today is my one month anniversary with the Peace Corps, and I’m here to say I’m doing great!

Okay, back to the dirt. Today I had a “I hope Africa doesn’t turn me native” moment. I looked down and saw a reddish brown smudge on my calf and thought… “is that shit or mud?” and while my immediate next thought a month ago would have been “where the eff is some soap and water, asap!” all I managed to think today was “eh, whatever it is, I’ll get at it later if I find some water” And people I wish I could call that my filth low… Also, come to think of it… that wasn’t the first time I had to ask myself that exact same question. PREFACE: about 80 percent of the roads in this godforsaken place are just slick clay mud. And something tells me 80 is too generous of a number. Another Preface: It rains all the fucking time here. I walk to training every morning in industrial second hand rain boots I bought for 14,000 shillings, (about $5) my North Face rain jacket, and a poncho in my backpack just in case. To have anything less than this would be asking for trouble. Where was I?... oh yes, shit or mud. So my first week at the training site I didn’t have my boots yet and I bit it big time. (grandma, that means I fell. Hard. On my ass.) and the mud here is like melted peanut butter, just thick and slick. My skirt, legs, and everything else was covered. And God bless those little children, they didn’t laugh at me, but just kept on shouting “see you Mzungu!” (if you don’t understand, please go read my first post. Why the eff wouldn’t you read these bad-boys in order? Also note I have learned the correct spelling of Mzungu) Anyways, I got home and tossed my skirt and shirt in a basin to start soaking. It wasn’t until later that I took off my underwear before bucket bathing (I’ll save that little gem for the next entry) and saw a giant brown stain covering 60% of the backside of my drawers. At first I panicked and thought I must have gotten some super form of diarrhea where you lose any, and all, control of your anal sphincter and you ghost crap your own pants. (Because apparently this is the type of life I live now, where this is a functional thought) Upon leaning in and sniffing (you would have done it too bitches) I recalled my earlier splash in the mud. This mud made it through my jean skirt, thick bike shorts and my underwear. Touché Mud. Touché.  

Wow, at first glance, this long post looks like I really accomplished telling you all about how my life is going here. And instead I managed to tell you about the two times I thought I had brown butt fudge on me. I’ll try harder next time… maybe.

Love you all and miss you! Mzungu Out!

P.S. Hope you appreciated the font color. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Meh, I guess I'll finally do this thing.

So I've arrived in Africa safely... about 25 days ago. And while internet and phone access was a bitch at first, I seem to have a decent handle on them now.  The power is out so I'm gonna be super stingy and post an email I sent home. So if you are a family member... you've already read this. Stop reading and go do something else, but if you aren't... well then have at it.

Hello Everyone and Greetings from Africa!
                I’m writing this email by candlelight. I know that seems contradictory, typing…by candle light… but electricity is on an off here and more recently it has been the later.  Sorry I haven’t updated sooner! I try to charge my laptop when I can, and usually by the end of the day after a bucket bath, super (dinner isn’t really used here), language homework, and a quick “I’m safe” text home, I have just enough energy to pull the mosquito net up over my head and pop my earplugs in before I’m fast asleep in Uganda dream world. Tonight, the forces seem to have aligned because I not only find myself with a charged laptop, but also the energy to update my loved ones on my life. I have no idea how to begin summing up my adventure into coherent, well planned and thought out sentences… but here goes nothing.
                Currently I am in a town called Wakiso. Because this is where the Uganda Peace Corps training center, RACO resides. I should probably find out what RACO stands for… but..meh. Technically I am right on the outskirts of Wakiso town in a village called Kasangombe. Not to be confused with the neighboring village, Gombe. (someone got a littttle lazy with names around here) Don’t bother trying to Google maps my village, stick to searching Wakiso. That will get you more accurate results.  From Monday through Saturday (we only get Sunday off to do bucket laundry, get caught up on language homework, and enjoy what little privacy we can carve from the day) I wake up around 6am (your 11pm) and by 7:15 begin my 40 minute walk to RACO. I’ll try to attach photos in the next email, but in the whole walk, I’d say about 50 feet of it are on paved road, or tarmac as they call it here.  The rest is a really pleasant walk along dirt paths through gentle hills of farm land. And with a banana in one hand, and my University of Florida Nalgene bottle of water in the other, I quite enjoy my morning walks. The odd cow and goat appear here and there, but they don’t seem to mind the Muzungus.
Oh what’s that?? You don’t know what a Muzungu (Moo-zoon-goo). I hear it about fifty thousand times a day I just figured everyone else knew. Here, muzungu means “traveler” aka, the white folks, the pale faces, the foreigners. Little children here must have hawk eyes, because they can spot me a mile away and begin shouting “See you muzungu!” or “Bye Muzungu!” They all mean well when they shout it. A few will follow me a little while, wanting to touch my hand or my arm, but being here as a Community Health Volunteer, all I see are all the tropical diseases they may be carrying. (side note: the care packages with hand sanitizer cannot come fast enough) By the looks on the children’s faces, I’m probably the most exciting thing they will see that day. Well, second exciting. I’m not sure if it’s because they just woke up, but they are even more excited to see me on the walk home, you know, the second time around. It’s like I’m the best TV show on earth and their whole day waiting for me was just one giant commercial. I keep waiting for the novelty of me to wear off… I’m starting to fear this will never be the case. I should be honest and say it’s not always an excited smile. Once or twice, I’ve made a child cry when they see my skin color. Both times the child pointed, screamed and went to cry and hide behind their mothers’ skirts. The mothers give me a slightly sympathetic look, mixed with a hint of, …ehhhh you’ll get over it muzungu.
                I’m in two hour training classes from 8am till 5pm, they consist of Ugandan culture, history, and acclimation, to tropical diseases (I’m up to around 12 shots total for vaccinations. Still a few rabies rounds to go, got my typhoid shot last week) And most importantly my language class. I’m learning to speak Runyankore/Rukiga. They two are basically the same language with a few minor pronunciation differences. The most exciting part about learning which language class you were assigned to was figuring out the corresponding part of the country it meant you were being send to in mid-October. I’m elated to announce I’ll be moving to the Southwest part of Uganda. The most luscious, scenic, green, and cool (temperature wise) part of Uganda. Mountains, valleys, lakes, the southwest has it all. The other Peace Corps trainers have made it clear, we are the region to envy. Learning this has of course only come with the task of not setting my expectations too high. Otherwise I will most certainly be placed in the only dry sandy patch the SW has to offer.  Because I’m sure you are curious, below I will show a little bit of my mad language skills acquired thus far.
Greetings! My name is Khayla, I am from Florida, in America, but now I live in Wakiso. I am learning runyankore.

Agandi! Ninye Khayla, ninduga Florida, omuri America, kwonka hati nintuura wakiso, Ninshoma Runyankore.

TA-DA =)

I have so much more to share, but if I give it all away now, what will keep you coming back for more???  So thank you for reading this and especially caring about me enough to read it all the way to the end.  And since you love me enough to have read this far, I’d like to say I love you back! Talk to you soon!

Oraare gye! (good night)
Khayla in Uganda