Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two weeks. Too long.

Yo yo! What is the good word, fools?

I'm hanging out in the Peace Corps lounge here in Kampala, and this thought rocketed through my brain. So here I am.

Amakuru (the news):

I've been in Kampala going on two weeks now. I left two fridays back to, as I posted briefly about on my facebook status, to race down the Nile with fellow Peace Corps Volunteers. The race was put on by a rafting company with the goal of raising money to save Rhino's somewhere in Uganda. The boats were a million shillings (500 US) a piece to race in, but ours was covered by a generous donor, so all in all we paid about 25k shillings (+more for the beers) for two sick-ridiculous races. Long story short: There were 8 heats of 3 boats a piece that raced eachother. The best of each went to the finals. We conquered our competition and advanced. The course was a flat-water section of the nile starting somehwere around the Jinja dam and ending near Bujigali Falls. At the start, you paddle as hard as you can with your 5 team members until you feel like crying. Then you paddle some more. And then you switch seats with the person next to you to use the other arm. You paddle until you want to vomit. And then you cry. And then you switch again. 24 minutes after the start you pull in to the bank to the cheers of masses.

One might ask, "Why submit yourself to such pains?" The answer is clear... Things are cooler when you are doing them on the nile... even painful things.

Anywho, we won the first race. We sat around for about 5 hours, eating, sleeping, reading, playing cards, and then the second race came. Back to the dam.

There were supposed to be 9 boats racing, but a team had dropped out... and then picked up at the last minute. The result: Only 8 boats showed up to the start. The logical thing to do, to keep things fair, was so say "Welp, you should not have quit in the first place, you drunk bastards", but alas, logic is spread thinly over these here parts. So the guide and 6 boaters were spread out beautifully-unequally among other boats giving some 9 rowers, others 8, leaving only a few the fair-square 7 (six on the team plus guide). We lined up on the edge with the boats. Listened for the "GO!" and began rowing.

Trouble struck immediately. In the furious paddling, we began a desperate game of bumper-boats as people gunned for the fast water at the center of the river. As 5 boats headed out into the front, one boat stayed behind and our boat got slammed 4 or so times until we were facing the dam (i.e. South, up river). Screaming-pissed, we backpaddle and turn and begin a desperate race to catch up.

Why is it that my short stories are always long?

Over the course of the next 24 minutes, we corrected our direction, we passed two boats and we gained on the 3rd place boat such that it was nearly a photo-finish. We were the only boat to pass boats, and we closed a gap of at least 50 meters between us and the top three boats.

Coming into the finish, we were screaming, our muscles were failing and we were on the edge of projectile vomiting all the emptiness in our stomachs. We pulled in fourth. But here is the kicker! Only the 3rd place boat and our boat in the top 4 had the required number of boaters (first place had 9, second place had 8). So technically, we came in 2nd. And I know for a fact that the third placers had some fresh rowers on board... punks.

We allowed ourselves 1 hour of pure rage to course through our lines, and then we shrugged it and drank ourselves into hilarity. Nothing like an Eagle and a chapatt+nutella+banana rolex on the edge of the nile.

What else is there...

Oh yes. Life skills, the point of traveling into Kampala. At 6 months, PCVs are required to take a Life Skills training in which we learn to conduct skills sessions to teach students about everything we learned in our early high school health classes. The sessions were "somehow" (Ugandan for, "slightly") alright. It was more a training for counterparts than us I think. Still, it was mainly PCV administered, so that made it bearable.

Speaking of counterparts, I invited my young friend Moses to come to the event. He did a great job of staying engaged, and he really impressed the other volunteers, especially when they heard that he was only S3. We couldn't believe how well he handled himself while public speaking in front of such a large crowd.

As always, it was great to see friends, and our evenings consisted of hanging out by the bar with cold-ones.

Last Saturday, we played the US embassy soccer team and tied 3-3. We will play again, and we WILL win. I've missed soccer terribly. Following the game, we were invited to the house of one of the players for a BBQ where, get this, I ate a T-BONE STEAK! Too tasty.

After the embassy party, we had our own volunteer Halloween Party on the roof top of our hotel. I hope beyond hope that this becomes a tradition. It turned into a surreal dance party with some stellar costumes, and the pong table really got people fired up.

I meant to leave home on Monday, but I was asked to stay in KLA for the week to help with the planning of Pre-Service Training for new recruits to Peace Corps Uganda's Education program next February. Me and 3 other volunteers will spend 4 days (we're done with two) planning every minute of service for the new kids coming in referencing ours and previous trainings. So far we are ditching most of the sitting around in a classroom listening type of instruction, and in its place we are giving the new volunteers practical instruction (they will learn by doing, i.e. they will be TEACHING actual classes at near by schools) no less than 3 days a week. I'm stoked... the staff has been completely receptive to our ideas, and we are literally re-writing the book on training.

In other news, I had a small, self induced pain in the tooth that required attention. Turns out, my dad was right when he said you could brush your teeth too much. Combining a harder tooth brush and a few too many strokes, I wore a slight groove on the front of a tooth and had to have it patched up. She found two other cavities in the mean time and patched those too. To do this, she numbed my mouth with a needle and drungs, and I looked very much like a stroke victim for about 3 hours. Horrible. And, go figure, now that my problems have been patched, my mouth is more sensitive to food (read: it hurts all the time when I eat), than it EVER was before I went to get the problem fixed. DAMN! DAMN DAMN! More on this as pain arrises.

Oh, I started grinding my teeth. Stress and strange dreams are mixing in bad ways it seems. I will now be THAT guy who sleeps with a mouth guard.

I saw the movie The Social Network last night... all I can say is "BOO." Why is it that creativity, hard work and intelligence are not enough to engage people? Why does great success have to be supported by BS scenes of drugs, sex and backstabbing? The Social Network did nothing but make an intelligent, hardworking geek look like a genius, back-stabbing, thieving asshole.

Where has all the creativity gone?

Furthermore, I'm convinced that young kids watch shows like this and think, "I'm not genius... I'll never get 1600 (or is it 2400 now?) on my SATs, and I don't know how to HACK... I can't compare to this guy!"

KIDS!!! YOU CAN!!! OPEN A C++ book and GET GOING! THINK THINK THINK! Synthesize syhthesize synthesize! You can do anything you want!

Why can't we glorify the power of steady hard work by an intelligent person that leads to mild or even great successes? Because in todays world, real life is boring. Sad really.

Alright, enough of me. It seems we are all hungry for Ugandan Chinese food. YEAH!

Thanks for reading.

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


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