Friday, September 24, 2010

Scampering Protein Pills

A recent email to my group:

“Today, I awoke as on any other morning. I went into my living
room/kitchen/hammock-clothesline/tool-shed/pantry/library and grabbed the remaining two pieces of bread from the bag that I had slung from my clothes line to avoid the intrusion of those bastard, nearly microscopic brown ants that invade all bread (and everything else) no matter how well hung (he, he, he... well hung)...

Much to my dismay, and as I have just suggested, no level of protection save encasing said bread in epoxy resin between meals can save the food from these little guys. My bread was swarming. What to do...

Now, I admit it. I have been in this situation two times before.

On the first, the half loaf of bread was so well saturated with ants that I threw it out.

On the second, it was late at night and I did not notice the ants until I was sitting down to eat my sandwich, when... hey, what the hell is that?... why is my skin crawling...

oh dear god, I am covered in ants...




So, as much out of spite ("you to NOT swarm MY sandwich covered in REAL peanut butter from the US, bitches!") as frantic hunger (the pantry portion of my living room/etc... was bare), I grabbed my nalgene, said "aw, fuggit" and ate the damn sandwich; ants'n'all.

[Once finished, I felt satisfied and slightly like the Giant in Jack and the Beanstalk.]

Where was I?... oh yes, this morning.

Ants. Two pieces of bread. Hungry. Irritable. Uh, ohhh.

I pop a frying pan on the stove (my toaster), crank the heat, and throw two pieces of bread on. I feel, only slightly bad about the ants who begin their frantic movements... which soon stop.

The bread browns. I remove it. I cover it in Heather's sim-sim, sugar it, and enjoy a long chapter of "The Naked and the Dead" toast and tea before going to school.

Long story short: I've come to view bugs in my food as nothing more than a protein supplement; cheaper and more prevalent than Whey.”

Thanks for reading!

I love you all (But especially you, Michelle!)


Monday, September 13, 2010

Magezi Matooro

My how time flies. While I have done a decent job keeping up with my journal, I realize that I have been terrible about posting on the blog keeping you all up to day with my life here in Uganda. I’ve promised to remedy that in the past and failed… “something’s gotta give, something’s gotta give something’s gotta give!”

I’m feeling musical.

What is the root cause of my long absences from blogspot? In a previous post I chalked it up to complacency. The things about Uganda that first blew my mind are becoming daily occurrences, and I’m just not as inclined to write about them. Aware of this, however, I began to view my world with more scrutiny, and sure enough, amazing stories began to show themselves again… so why, why, WHY am I not posting? I think David “The MaChine” Chi (a legendary fellow PCV) put it best recently in an email to me…

“Don’t be too much of a perfectionist!” he wrote.

There it is. perfectionism. Like syphilis, it fries the brain, makes us feverish and carries a stigma that keeps the infected walking around with zipped lips, discussing their infliction only with other like-minded OCD’ers.

My brother Dan’s mother once told me something along the lines of, “you need to get over yourself” regarding my stage fright. My writing in this blog is a similar hurdle that I need to get over… the writing doesn’t have to be publishable! It needs only to be readable and informative. Hmm… perhaps this post is better suited for a journal?

Have we been here before?

So where am I? What am I doing? Well, I am back in Kyenjojo (at the moment, I am actually in Fort Portal about to meet up with TheOtherDevon and her father who is visiting from the states, taking advantage of the QUICK QUICK internet). School started two weeks ago, and I missed the first week due to the Uganda All Volunteer Conference held just outside Kampala. The conference was a blast, but also exhausting. The heavy drinking, lack of sleep, over-eating and lack of exercise took a club to my immune system and I came down with a nasty sickness on the day the conferences ended. Still, I learned a SHIT-TON… nearly every session conducted in the conference was put on by a volunteer, so the information we received was APPLICABLE, WELL VERSED and CONCISE! If only every training were as good! The few days we had together also served as a meet-and-greet for the 100+ volunteers of Uganda to meet the Newbies (that’s US) and on one occasion even meet the newest group of Peace Corps Trainees for lunch. Good times.

On the Saturday of conference closing, a large group of us went to a soccer game at the National Football Stadium outside Kampala. After passing through the main gates with our 10,000 shilling tickets (less than $5 US), we were carried in a flood of people, eventually choosing a section at random to sit. We showed our tickets and were allowed into a nearly empty section… turns out, with our courteous greeting of the guards in the local language, we were allowed into the VIP section located nearly at the 50 yard line. Shortly through the game, we friend from one section over spotted us, jumped the fence and pointed out that President Museveni was sitting in their section. We sat ON the wall next to the track and watched for 90 minutes as Uganda trounced Angola 3-0, nibbling on munchies and sipping on beer… real class acts, all of us.

I stuck around in Kampala until Tuesday of last week, as the sickness that ravaged me on Sunday warranted generous donations of, ahem, samples to the PC medical offices. The results for all tests came back negative which made me sad (I was still feeling pretty ill in the middle and wanted to treat it with something), but it also meant that I didn’t have to drop a nuclear bomb on my bodies bacteria population (does anyone else think treating EVERY bacteria, amoeba, etc… ailment with CIPRO (sp) is a bad idea, or is just me?...) and I was given the green light to go home.

As usual, I was greeted with my communities open arms once arriving in Kyenjojo. However, upon seeing my teachers at school the next day I got the strange feeling that I had made a doody on the floor of the staff room. Now, if I had to guess, I’d say that the reason for the barely concealed glares and rustling discussion at my entering the school premises lies heavily on the fact that I have, with the exception of 5 or so days, been missing from the school since right around the middle of July. I could hear the thoughts: “Now just where in the hell as THIS guy been?” “So, he thinks he can just come and go as he pleases?” “This volunteer is a joke… he isn’t taking his job seriously.” “BURN HIM AT THE STAKE!”

Ok, so it probably wasn’t that bad. Let’s face it, exaggeration is fun(ny). Nonetheless, I am of the current mindset that some damage control is in order. Yeah, I traveled to the US. And then, by a stroke of terrible luck, Language training, Technical training and then All Volunteer Conference fell nearly back to back through a period of three weeks. I have not been around nearly as much as I should have been, and I need to start spending more time at school… so: I have decided to ask for a key to the computer lab so that I may set up an office there. I see it like this: if I am always there, students can be in there at all times during the day, it gives me an opportunity to teach, work on the computers, be at school and get work done away from the blaring TV in the staff lounge. It’s win-win. I’ll let you know how this goes.

In other news, it turns out my school is something of a demonstration school. Along with the MANY computers it currently has, we just got… wait for it… INTERNET! Two days ago, a man from MTN came and set up an antenna. Coupling it with our big switch, I’ll be able to hook multiple computers up to share in the bandwidth. Kids are FINALLY going to get a chance to see what GOOGLE and WIKIPEDIA are all about. I think I will begin teaching the teachers first, as I want them to begin using the computer lab as not only a place to do their research for lesson plans, but as a resource for their students to look up information for reports. I figure, introduce Google Chrome and Google Search, set them up with a Gmail account, show them Wikipedia and one of the better news agencies, and they are well on their way to being internet pros. Now, I need to figure out how to limit time spent on the net AND what websites are visited. Ideas? Let me know: Also, if you have topics that you think should be taught in my computer class, feel free to submit them too.

At my actual house, things are carrying on as usual. Despite my DISGUSTING stove top (I do very little in the way of cleaning it… none actually), the bugs have been pretty minimal. I awoke the other night to a moth the size of a bat flying around the room, and I had to use some spray on it so I could get back to sleep. Walking around in a daze I happened to pause a bit and be looking at the middle of a floor when what I can only assume is a mouse made a b-line for the door. I haven’t seen any rodents since.

The kids are still noisy… terribly-depressingly-madness inducing noisy. I tell myself constantly that I want to move, but a piece of me wants to ride it out. “They’ll get older and the crying will lessen.” This is a fallacy; I just hate the idea of moving. Who does?

So site is good. I will focus on getting back on the good graces of my fellow teachers over the next weeks. I am also very hopeful for my classes. I spent a full term on what I consider the fundamentals of mechanics and mathematics, and I believe they are ready for the next subjects. My students are finally discovering my notes… that if they READ them FIRST, they can learn on their own. A slow introduction to book learning, self learning, the BEST way to learn.

I’ll leave you with a short story from this week:

On Wednesday, I broke out my netbook for class so that the kids could see Riemann Sums (the fundamental concept behind integral calculus) using a Wolfram demonstration, a program useful in making the teaching/learning of math and sciences visual.

In seconds, 10 students are piled around the 6’’x9’’ computer, manipulating the functions on the screen observing the results. They are shifting positions, taking turns.

And up comes Moses… a smart, quiet but inquisitive boy who takes both my math and physics classes.

“Eh!” He says looking down at his finger after touching the mouse pad. Whenever he touches the mouse pad, the pointer doesn’t seem to want to move. Frustrated, he relinquishes his spot to another student.

I turn away from the group to write another example problem on the board. Minutes later, I turn back around and sit down. I am spaced out until one of the other students begins to chastise Moses who has regained position of the keyboard.

“You are dirtying it!” says Leonard as Suzie grabs a handkerchief and tries to wipe away the chalk smear on the pad. My computer, typically a shiny black, now has an almost completely white mouse pad, and the smears are creeping outwards.

Snapping out of it, I look over and I see that while four of Moses’ fingers are clean, one is pure white on the tip as if he dragged it through the chalk pile gathered beneath the chalk board.

“Moses, of all the fingers you have, why would you choose to use the dirty one on my computer?”

“Sir. It seems that my fingers are too rough to use the computer. I am trying to smooth them.”

Those gathered around the computer burst into hoots and shouts. I too have lost myself in a fit of laughter.

I have just witnessed “Magezi Matooro”… A Mutooro’s* Common sense.

*Mutooro (sing.) – a person from the kingdom of Tooro in the western region of Uganda.

Thanks for reading!

I love you all (but especially you, Michelle!)