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Monday, July 25, 2016

Growing Up

 I woke up this morning in my typical way. Actually, it was a bit worse than normal. The chickens woke me up at 7:00 pm, and I could hardly open my eyes until 7:40 am. By the time I got out of bed, it was 8:10 am. I knew I needed to bathe, but I also knew I didn’t have any pressing reason to be at school until tea at 11:00 am. After my bath, I took the time to wash my feet because I’ve been in Kyenjojo a lot recently, which is much dustier than Fort Poral, and I was ready to head to school by about 10:00 am. When I looked in the mirror as I was brushing my teeth, though, I saw something new: I look like an adult.

This weekend, I directed a one-day camp for the PCTs and some students in Kyenjojo. I signed up for this responsibility, excited to be able to try something new and also because it didn’t sound like it would be tooooooo much work. It turned out to be more work than I thought but still manageable. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I know everyone involved did. The PCTs taught the students about HIV/STIs and budgeting and savings, and I brought my youth with me who went to YTT as well as the ones who attended YTT with another PCV. They facilitated sessions on Leadership and Gender along with a couple of PCTs who wanted some extra practice facilitating. Everyone did a wonderful job facilitating, and the students learned so much! I even got to teach some Team Building exercises to lead into the leadership session. It was easier than I expected to release control to all twelve facilitators even though I’ve never seen them facilitate before.

Get to know you in English

Get to know you in Rutooro

Practicing Rutooro

Budgeting and Saving

What business could you open if you saved 10,000 =/ per week?

Human knot!


Do you trust the driver?


The whole day ran behind schedule in proper Ugandan fashion, and I seemed to be the only American who was completely unbothered by it. I had not been able to properly reflect on my growth in that aspect before then, but I remember internally freaking out about our mini-camp running behind schedule. I had gotten to the point that it no longer made me angry, but I was still annoyed that we were so far behind schedule. On Saturday, though, I inherently knew that it was more important for learning to happen than for us to remain on schedule. Although this has been an ideology of mine for years, I have had difficulty acting on it until now. I did not interfere except on the prompting of others to move the schedule along. As long as people are learning, the schedule can go jump off a roof.

Maybe I shouldn’t make this post about me. Maybe I should focus on the participants and on the facilitators. But today I am proud of myself in a way I have never been proud of myself before. I am growing in myself and in God while I am here. Never have I loved myself like I do now. Never have I studied the Word like I do now. Never have I felt closer to God or closer to my true life’s purpose. Never have I taken on a huge project like this and not even stressed out about things not coming together until the day before the camp. (We were still working with the caterer on the morning of the event….) Never before have I been able to lead an event without micromanaging, truly just checking in and following up instead of wanting to know every single step. Never before have I been such an … adult.

Sure, there are days when I hole up in my house and refuse to come out because of something petty. There will always be days like that. Along the same vein, there will always be days like today when I wear a wrinkly shirt to work and pretend it’s supposed to be like that. (I cannot stand irons!) Today, though, I feel like I have accomplished the next step towards feeling comfortable in my adult skin. If I can put together this mini-camp (with SO MUCH help from my language trainers), what is next?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

In Light of Recent Events

In many ways, living abroad is incredibly difficult. You’re separated from your family. You’re thrust into a different culture. Every day is a day full of learning from your mistakes and from those of others. In many places, you face discrimination for your nationality, your race, your religion…. Most days are exhausting, but it’s the thrilling, enthralling days that keep you going. The challenges change your life.

Since moving to Uganda, something strange has happened to me. I actually care about the news. At home, I would read headlines on Facebook and listen to the news if it so happened to be on, but here I have this deep desire to know what’s going on in the world. I hate weekends because I don’t get my daily BBC headlines. (Okay, who could actually hate weekends?) I spend at least an hour every day reading the news, local, US, and international. I feel much more informed, at least on a US national and international level, than I did when I was at home. Perhaps it’s because I could be completely disconnected from the rest of the world if I avoided it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve matured in the last year.  Regardless of the reason, I need the news.

I remember when I moved to Kirksville for university. I was 20, a transfer student after completing my AA in Psychology, seeking a BA in Psychology. While I was at Truman, I hardly had time to read the headlines, let alone actually take the time to understand something that didn’t directly affect me. (Never mind all the time I spent on Facebook, Wikipedia, Mario Kart….) This became eerily apparent when the riots broke out in Ferguson, MO in 2014. Ferguson is only about 40 minutes from my hometown, so in theory I should have been very, very interested in what was happening. However, these things just so happened to occur during some crazy week I was having, one of the majority of my weeks during this time.I told myself I would figure it out later. I saw the headlines on Facebook, and I knew things were not going to calm down any time soon. My friends were all in similar places, a majority of whom were from the St. Louis area as well. We would talk about how this crazy thing was happening, but we didn’t really know about it or what we could or should do. There was a vigil on campus for Michael Brown, and I simply did not care enough to put aside my homework to attend. In addition, the Black Lives Matter movement was very new to me, and I had not yet formed an opinion on it. In short, it did not affect me directly, and so I chose apathy.

Going home for break was almost alienating. My parents and friends, who were able and apt to watch the St. Louis news, knew everything that was going on. They knew far more than I would have figured out even if I had taken the time to look it up. All people talked about was Ferguson. It was all over every news station, and my family and friends demanded we keep up with what was happening. With opinions flying everywhere, I felt incredibly uneducated, out of the loop. It was like I couldn’t hold conversations with people because all they wanted to talk about was Ferguson.  How much news had I missed?

To say I have changed since my time at Truman would be a gross understatement. I may have only graduated a year ago (A WHOLE YEAR?!), but my life is so different now. When everything happened in Ferguson, I had only just begun to think about joining the Peace Corps. Living abroad has always been a dream for me, but I didn’t know that I was going to pursue it so quickly. Now I crave the news. I need to know what’s going on in the world. I am also inspired by more “causes” than I was then. I learned a lot about myself and about the world while I was at Truman.

Violence always has and always will be a part of the human existence. I truly believe that unless we give up our humanity, violence will always exist somewhere in the world. However, the violence in the US as of late has physically sickened me. As much as I need to know what is going on in the world, I can’t bear to read about my country being torn apart. The last month has been especially hard. How do you process the deadliest mass shooting in American history? Or what about the deadliest day for any American police force since 9/11? As much pain as I had been in reading about more police brutality against young black men, this headline shook me to the core. I have never understood the “life for a life” mentality, let alone “lives for a life.” I was raised to forgive people, no matter how difficult or how long it took.  I was also raised to respect a person based on their character, not their color (not to say anything about institutional racism).

Although the gun violence has been the most difficult thing to read about recently (There’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to American gun violence alone.), it is not, by far, the only thing to make me feel physically sick. The stark racism that still exists today, the talks of deporting entire religions, the light sentences for star athletes…. The list goes on and on. America is broken. They’re not the only one in this world, but that’s hardly comforting. The idea of coming home to a broken country, even more broken than when I left it, is maddening. I don’t know how to fix America. I really don’t. This is not a persuasive post about politics. This is a personal post about how hard it is to be abroad during these times.

At home, there is constant discussion of what is going on around America and around the world. I’m sure you read at least a headline or two about the Ugandan election, and Uganda is rarely in the international news. Here, I have to search for anything other than the single top headline in the UK and the single top headline in the US, which get preempted for African headlines, rightfully so. The only exception is my near-daily conversations with my colleagues about. I could choose to be apathetic. It would be the easier choice, trust me. I could choose to vent my feelings on Facebook and feel like I’m doing something when really I’m just ranting to a bunch of people who aren’t going to change anything. Plenty of expats choose this option. Instead, I am going to keep reading, and when my service finishes, I’m going to come back. As much as it hurts to read about these things, it’s the only thing I’ve got. I refuse to become apathetic just because there’s an ocean and eight time zones between home and here, and I can’t stay on this side of the Atlantic when my countrymen are hurting, mentally or physically. I can no longer choose apathy because I am busy, and neither should you. The only way we’re going to change America, to heal America, is to get out there and do something for it.

 “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only love can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are born to protect.” – Trevor Noah
“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” – Elie Wiesel, Night