Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My first assist

So before I get into the fantastic Thanksgiving I had, let me first update on the mosquito nets. I just found out that they are infact in Kampala and are with the Red Cross. Now I just need the government to ship them out to the village and then we'll be square. Looking at a distribution happening the first week of January. Once they get to the village I will relax slightly, but when they are all handed out, that's when my Christmas will be made! Stay tuned.

Last weekend I gave credibility to my meat eating practices by assisting in the killing of my first animal. I know it's partly hypocritical to eat meat but not see or participate in how it gets from the farm to my plate. I did this by holding the head of a turkey and stretching it out while this other guy cut off the head with a machete. It wasn't pretty, but it was necessary. The thing is, I didn't feel that bad. Maybe it'd be different if I actually killed it myself (i'll let you know when it happens), but I didn't think twice about it. After it was killed, this girl from North Carolina deep-fryed it for us and it was the best thing I've ever eaten! And that's not just months of village food talking!

December will be a traveling month for me. I have to go to Kampala on 3 different occasions. One to meet the PC Director who is flying in from Washington, another to tell the government about the nets, and the last for a workshop on teaching life skills in schools. I also have to travel to my friend Derek's place again for some local brew! :) Lots of traveling, stress, and fun this month...feels like home...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Africa is scary!

I have been have grumbling since I first got here that there weren't any animals around like you see on the Discovery Channel. No Lions, Tigers, or ... ok, i won't say bears, cause there aren't any...actually aren't tigers in Asia? Anyways, no cool stuff like Lions! There are your typical animals in the national parks, but in most of the land there are nothing but domestic animals and a few monkeys (which I've only seen once when i first got to Uganda). Then things livened up a little when I saw a cobra, that's right, a COBRA! at the pool. Fortunately it wasn't actually in the pool but was hiding behind a fridge in an outdoor kitchen. I got to see it (from a safe distance) come out from behind the fridge and strike at the nearest worker. Luckily it didn't get him and he rewarded the cobra by jamming a metal rod in it's back. Ok, scary snake sighting number 1... Luckily (knock on wood), no scary spiders yet... Me and spiders do NOT get along...

Ok, the cobra incident was a few weeks ago and I didn't have my second scary animal episode till yesterday. So i was laying around my house reading because I didn't have any work that day and my supervisor didn't contact me. Plus I was just tired. I had my back door open because it was a beautiful day (80ish, sunny, cool november!). I absentmindedly walked out back to check on my solar charger. As i stepped through the open door, I was suprised by movement just to the right of me. I looked over and running away (cause it was scared of me naturally :) ), was what I swore was a crocodile! I silently screamed many curse words in my head as I jumped back with my eyes super wide and suprised. On second glance, I realized it was just a HUGE lizard. Had to be about 3-4 feet long. Scared the #$*@ out of me and put me on edge for the rest of the day. I had noticed a big hole in my yard earlier and just assumed that it belonged to some sort of hedgehog type animal I saw once. Now I'm going to stay FAR away from that hole! I wish I could have gotten a picture of this lizard cause it was seriously big. Now I'm convinced that that lizard is conspiring with the geckos in my house to take over in a coup! ... ok, it's easy for your imagination to run a little wild out in the village... I'll let you know when I wake up to a Cheetah in my bed! :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Are YOU ready for CHOGM?

So as most of you do not know, there is a huge meeting going on in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, this week called CHOGM. What CHOGM is, is a meeting of 53 heads of state of all the British Commonwealth nations. These include coutries like India, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Singapore, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Belize, and of course, England. The Queen is coming for the first time in 50 something years and it's a huge deal.

Since this meeting will have international exposure and possibly open up many business opportunities in Uganda, the stakes are pretty high. The government has been working like crazy to upgrade and modernize Kampala as much as possible before the main delegates arrive. So far, the city looks really nice and the improvements will have positive long term effects on the city. Everyone is talking about it and there is a huge amount of anticipation and excitement from all Ugandans, even people out in the village. One of the main slogans the government is using is "Are you ready for CHOGM?" This slogan is on billboards and posters all over the city and is now a running joke that you can say to anyone from the Boda Boda men to the bank tellers. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see what happens when all is said and done.

Speaking of CHOGM, the mosquito nets that everyone worked so hard for back in the states will be arriving in Kampala on Nov. 21st, right before the Heads of State come. Luckily for us, the Red Cross will be handling the customs and arrival details and will hold onto the nets in a wherehouse till we can get them. It would be impossible for us to get into the city, and have the government help us to get the nets out to the village during that time. They will be so busy during CHOGM that they would not be able to help us much. Once the nets get to storage at the local police station, we are set. We have to meetings set up with staff and community members to arrange details and do training. I am starting to get nervous because I really, really, really want things to go well! However, I am pretty confident because my supervisor is really organized, I'll have some camera help from some volunteer friends, and I'll be watching everything like a hawk. The true test of course will be months later when we can determine if the rates of malaria have gone down. That is where the training of the community and follow-up will come in so crucial. I've donated my bed and mattress to be used as a model and we'll have about 5 staff members of the nursing school, all of which are medical professionals, to help sensitize the community on proper usage of the nets and other ways to prevent malaria. This whole process is going to be an amazing, and hopefully positive experience. Being involved in projects like this is why I wanted to join the Peace Corps and come to Africa. That, and doing fun stuff like joining a clan! :)

In other news, I had a great weekend at site with my girlfriend who came out to stay for the first time. It super relaxing and enjoyable. Usually on the weekends, I'm traveling or busy doing something, but it was nice to just be able to hang out and relax with someone cool. We went hiking up to the local rocks near my house and were rewarded by a beautiful view from the top. Of course we had some children guide us up to the top which is standard practice with any hike in rural Uganda. There are no nature paths or signs, so you kinda just have to walk through people's compounds and ask them how to get to the rocks. We came across a group of girls by a water source on our way and I said "Ntake Kwabba Rocks. Njabe Yaina?" which is "I want to go to the Rocks, I go where?". Very basic language and all I had in my Lugwere arsenal. The oldest girl laughs and promptly says in perfect English "You go just there" pointing down an obvious path. Fun times :)

Ok, I need to go get ready for CHOGM, so I'll talk to you guys later :)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Clan meeting version 2.0

On Saturday, I was introduced to the whole Bakomba clan during thier general meeting as a new member. There was about 400 people there and it was quite the day. Days like that are why I joined the Peace Corps. Days where it is so surreal and so outside of what you know and expect that you can't really believe that it is happening. So here's the scoop:

I knew that the general meeting would be like the first meeting with the clan leaders, but bigger and more, was I right! To witness the spectacle, I invited my friend Derek to come to the meeting. So we get there in style (ie, in a car, the only members to arrive in something other than a bike or motorcycle) about 2 hours late, which is standard here. Everyone is already assembled and as we get out of the car, the music starts and women start dancing around us and greeting us. After we were sat down in the front, or VIP benches under the Mango tree, the meeting officially started. After introductions they started on general clan business, recounting what happened at last meeting, deaths of members, etc. The most amazing and surreal part of this entire day, was the fact that there were interpreters translating the whole time. Into English from local language you ask? NO! From one local language into another. My clan speaks 2 languages that are totally not related at all. Lugwere, a Bantu language and the one I struggle with, and Ateso, the one that Derek speaks in his area and a Nialotic language. It was amazing to see how quick they would translate. Of course Derek and I don't know enough of either of our languages to understand what's going on, so my supervisor, Kateu told us in English what was going on. The fact that under educated villagers are so skillful in language continues to blow me away.

After an hour or two of boringness, the fun times start. Derek and I both get to give speeches. Derek starts off and kills it in Ateso. He talks for like 10 minutes, which is super impressive. A real crowd pleaser and showman! Of course he's stealing my thunder, cause it's MY clan, who is this guy!! I get over my jealously and stutter through my speech in Lugwere and is not as impressive or even close. They still appreciate me trying and all is good. Then Derek is sworn in as an impromptu member of the clan. Neither him or the clan leadership knew beforehand that he was going to be a new member. He was there and white, so they decided to make him a member and gave him the name of a retired member named Seku and "all the powers that he used to have." As a guy who always jokes about having super powers and being a super hero, Derek ate this up. Return of jealousy on my part... Then he sits on the chair and they do the whole ceremony where they give him a walking stick and tell him that his family is representatives in America. Jealousy is out of control now. MY parents are the reps, not his!! So as I'm stewing, they tell me to come up and go through the ceremony. Here's where the Wesman makes a comeback and claims his dominance as the superior token white guy in the Bakomba clan! They invite me up and it's clear that they have stuff for me that beats Dereks stick. First they give me a Kansu, which is a ceremonial robe. As the Papa Bakomba slips it on, I sense some excitement from the masses. So as a goofy showman myself, I raise my arms out to a huge cheer and yell "ABANTU WANGE" or MY PEOPLE! It was amazing. I was then presented with a clay pot, the stool I sat on, and a cane with a knife concealed. Way better than Derek's cane... :) So after that, the music starts and they want me to dance to tribal music. I break it down and the crowd is going nuts! That's the highlights folks, hope you enjoyed! The moral of this story is that if you can't speak the language, dance around like a fool and people will love you :) Take care America and talk to you soon...

Monday, October 15, 2007

New clan, same Wes

So on saturday I was officially sworn in as a member of the Bakomba clan in Eastern Uganda. Normally, clan membership is reserved for extended family members, but since I asked the head of the clan, who is also my supervisor's father to join, he readily agreed to ask the executive council to let me join. They agreed and I am now a member! My new name is Mukomba Kampanya, which as you remember from previous posts, Kampanya is my local name (small, he-goat) and from this post you know that Mukomba is someone from the Bakomba clan. I have an ID card that I will receive shortly and will be named to a leadership postion at the general clan meeting on Nov 3rd. I love Africa! So many fun, unique things to do that I would never be able to experience in America. But seriously, I am honored that they accept me as one of them and they have already started making arrangements to introduce my parents as members too when they come to visit! However, the folks don't seem too thrilled, but unfortunately, they won't have much choice! :)

How the ceremony worked, was the head of the clan, the Papa Bakomba, asked the executive members if they would accept me as a member. After verbal agreement, the Papa asked me if I accepted. Then I sat on this super small stool while everyone surrounded me and congratulated me. After a woman let out a joyful scream (which suprised me), everyone started singing and dancing to the clan theme song, which sounds exactly like the Friends theme....ok, that's a lie! I didn't understand the words, but it had to do something about destroying your enemies...

Afterwards, they talked over clan business, like how to kick out the member who murdered his son, when the next meeting was, and how much next year's dues will be. I had a huge lunch of Wita (millet/cassava bready doughy thing), rice, matoke (smashed plantains), chicken and beef.

Ok, that's it for now. Still buzzing from my induction.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I'm back

Ok, this is a new record for me to update my blog. I'm obviously pretty awesome like that! Anyways, I have some more things to talk about.

So in other posts I've talked about different projects that my organization is trying to develop, especially the mosquito net project ( hint!) and working with orphans and starting a SACCO. But the most important thing my organization is trying to do now, for long term sustainability is to open up a health institute that trains people in a 3 year program to be comprehensive enrolled nurses (basically RN's in the states). Not only will this bring financial stability to my organization, it will be great for the country to have more skilled health professionals available. There is a shortage of nurses in this country especially in the east where there are only 2 schools that provide nurse training and they turn away many applicants. The health institute will be a boom to the economy of my sub county as well as providing them with better medical services. But as with everything, we are hitting roadblocks. To be accredited by the government to become a nursing institute, you have to have things already in place before you can start recieving students (and payment). Those things include books, a coaster van to haul students, teaching materials, and things like desks and chairs. Unfortunately, we don't have the funds for those things yet so we can't start. However, we are working hard at getting these items ASAP.

I just got back from training the new batch of volunteers on the VAC (volunteer advisory committee) committee that I am on (think student council). It was a blast to meet the new group and give out in words of wisdom that they were willing to listen too! It was surreal going back to the training town and remembering that it was only 4 months ago that I was here nervous and unsure about my future here. I also got to see my host family who were hosting one of the new volunteers and it was great to chat with them and keep in contact. They are a great family and my folks will get to meet them when they visit.

Ok, other net stuff to do, till next time...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ok, Fam, here's my update!

So I've been slacking on the blog posts and there are many excuses that I won't waste your time with. In my last post, apparently I had lots of cool stuff to say, but I forgot what those cool things were... sorry or "bambi" as they say in Luganda. So I'll start fresh for you all...

The mosquito net project is hitting a major hurdle in the form of transport costs. But lets get to the good news first. Thanks to the help of people back in Seattle as well as the Against Malaria Foundation, we were approved to receive 6,185 long lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets in early December. This is a huge thing for us out in the village. There is some minor politics involved because the nets are to be distributed to 4 of the 7 parishes in the sub county. Lots of people are not happy, but if all goes well with this distribution and we can get the remaining 7,000 nets funded on your side, then every woman and child in Kakoro Sub County will be covered in a mosquito net that will bring down malaria rates significantly. Now...back to the other issue. Due to a lack of communication with the donor org, we were unaware that we needed to cover the shipping costs from the supplier into Uganda. This is coming out to be over $1000 which is impossible for my small organization to fund. However, we are currently working the Government angle and hope they will help us out. We're getting a little nervous though and really don't wanna mess this up and have the donor org not trust us with future distribution. Wish us luck!

In other organization news, we got approved by the Government to receive money from their "Bonna Bagaga Wane" (Prosperity for All) program that gives money to 1 SACCO (savings and credit cooperative organization) in each Sub County. A savings and credit org is basically a village bank. We give out loans for people to start small businesses and also encourage people to save money. It's a really good thing and I look forward to helping that program grow.

In other Wes news, I've lost a staggering 40 pounds since I've been here! I know it sounds dramatic, but I did the math and it works out to be little over a pound a week. So with the weight loss and an impressive display of facial hair, the Wes you know is now one good looking PCV! :)

I've also discovered the wonderful world of Ugandan markets. You can get some pretty amazing novelty items there including my latest purchase of a belt with a hologram picture of late rapper Tupac that turns into Michael Jordan dunking a basketball when you angle the buckle. It's pretty incredible!

Ok, that's it for now, and as I always say, I'll try to update on a more regular basis....or something :)

Friday, August 31, 2007


So I'm doing good. Got a 5 packages in one day the other day and it was pretty amazing! I'm going to be loaded up on junk food. Man, so those 3 sentences are all that saved of my blog post when power at internet cafe cut out. I'm exausted so I'm not gonna finish right now. I had a lot of cool stuff to say, but I'm about to throw the computer out the window! All is well and I'll try again soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More more more

I'm back! So the mosquito net project is going really well. My family and friends at home are working really hard and doing a great job at fundraising. And for their part, people here are doing a great job of waiting. We still don't know how many nets we may receive or when. The donor organization, Against Malaria (featured in July National Geographic fyi), is still scrambling for funds to add on to the funds raised at home to get as close as possible to the 12,000 + nets we need. Thanks everyone!

So I have not been too busy lately. My organization has been wrapped up trying to get our new nursing school building finished so that we can move into it, start a 3-year enrolled nursing course and free up some money to work on other projects. We're still trying to do many things in the community ie orphans, AIDS patients, etc... The latest endeavor has been to start a coalition of local community based organizations and work on larger projects. The first one we're developing involves a sub county wide bee-keeping project with the help of a potential donor. I think bee-keeping would be a great income generating activity because a.) it's relatively easy to do, b.) the start up costs are pretty low, c.) there is a market for honey and wax products that has not been developed in the area. The hardest parts are getting the proper gear (bee suit, mask, smoker) and marketing it to the public. The donor org we want to help us assists with those main things. What is also good is that they make the farmers re-pay the costs of the hive interest free over 5 years. This gives the people a sense of ownership and responsibility. The problem is this donor is backed up, so I'll be looking at other ways to start a project like this in my area. The problem we're facing with the CBO coalition is that they don't want to contribute to operating costs like for meetings, travel, computer time, etc. These things add up and my org as well as myself cannot afford to do work for others without some contribution. Sounds cold, but some people want things for free and that isn't how life works. However, I'm here to help so i'll figure out something!

In less serious news, I finally go furniture for my living room! I now have a house that is resembling a home that is mine, not a half complete place with someone else's things (previous PCV's). As most of you know, I'm a huge fan of couches and all that goes with them (the sitting, sleeping, etc.) so I'm very happy. Buying and transporting back to my place was less painful than I anticipated, but not flawless (ie 20 people riding in the back of the truck sitting on my furniture and causing a crack in my couch). I spent 325,000 Ugsh ($188) on everything including couch and chairs, cushions, coffee table and 4 end tables, and transport. So that's almost a full months salary for me, but it had to be done. Guilt for spending so much money is there because of the rampant poverty all around, but I need to do what makes me the most comfortable while i'm here. Having a couch, though silly, is part of my quest for sanity! :)

So the next month or so is going to be filled with a bunch of Peace Corps stuff. Language in-service training next week in Pallisa, meeting in Kampala after that for the Volunteer Advisory Committee that I'm on (think student council), and then technical in-service training in Kla in September. We'll see if I can update, but I'm not sure. I haven't had a lot of internet time to download my photos to my flickr account so sorry for the out-dated photos. Take care...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Random Stuff

Ok, after pleading for help with the nets (which we still need a lot more help if we are to receive any) and describing the troubles of been insanely different then everyone else, I'll talk a little about some of the fun stuff I've been doing. First of all, I got to raft the Nile river which was fun/intense/scary. We rafted 30km up the Nile and went through 12 rapids. My boat flipped 3 times but the first time, when i was pushed under for about 5-10 seconds not knowing which way was up, was the scariest. That may be the only time I get to do it because they are building a dam which will shut down rafting. Anyways, good times.

Last weekend, I traveled out to literally the middle of nowhere to visit my buddy Derek who may win for "most remote site" at least among the volunteer group that came with me. He lives about an hour north of Pallisa town and you can't reach there by car, only bike. Once we got there, it was quite an experience. The people there are so not used to white people that they went crazy with the arrival of us. It was a huge deal and the kids where absolutely blown away. They didn't know what to make of us. However, everyone was extremely friendly and "forced" us to partake in the local custom, which is drinking home-made millet beer in a circle out of a clay pot. It really wasn't too bad. You drink out of a super long straw and sometimes they bring out the bowl that you slurp out of. Needless to say, you can get in a lot of trouble doing this! We had to duck out after a while to avoid ending up sleeping in a random ditch somewhere. In a way, I envy his site, because it is so remote and he has become really integrated into his community. He speaks the language (Ateso) really well and the community really has his back. My location is on a main road and much of my business is done during the day in Mbale and not in my trading center. However, i'm a rock star of the taxi system and enjoy the isolation that my house grants me when I want it.

Oh, and I don't think I've talked about my local Lugwere name yet! It is quite amusing and everyone either laughes and says how great it is or laughes and askes me who gave that name to me. My name is Kampanya (com-pong-ya) and means....wait for it...small he-goat! My language teacher gave it to me during training and it happens to be his family name too. I of course was a little put off at first because most people's local names mean strength or hope or something to do with crops and life. What killed me was the "small" part of the goat reference. However, it was explained to me that small he-goats are tough and stubborn, so it's a compliment. Oh well, it is memorable and it serves me well. Everytime I tell someone, they really open up to me and declare that I am one of them. This is what I want blend in as much as possible.

This weekend, I'm staying in and relaxing. Traveling out to no-man's land, while exciting and fun, takes a lot out of you. I'll clean my house and do a lot of reading.

Thanks for all the packages I've gotten, they have really helped me get through some tough days. I'll try to update soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Help if you can!

So my sister hooked me up with this UK group who is sending a shipment of mosquito nets to Uganda in 2-3 weeks. They are will to throw some more on for my community and for the last week we have been working like crazy to make it happen. My organization mobilized local leaders to collect lists of everyone in Kakoro Sub County that is a child under 15 or a woman. 2 people from every village (38 in S/C) worked super hard and got a list of 12,390 women and children to me that I'm now trying to send in with the official proposal. I personally met the Minister of Health who assured us that the nets would get to our site free and fast. We are ready to go, we just need some help on your end. My sister has set up a donation site to help pay the group, Against Malaria, for the nets. Each net is $5. Please help if you can. Thanks,

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Unwanted Attention

Ok, it's something that has to come up sometime. It is impossible to truly portray what it is like to be a complete outsider who cannot leave your house without being stared at, talked to, and judged. Now this isn't bad all the time, but if the right circumstances arise, it can test the patience of even the most calm person. Most of the time, I handle it well, but I've cracked a couple of times and yelled at people and told kids to get away.

All this stems from being totally different from everyone here. Because of the lack of transportation and communication, most people have never seen anyone outside of their own race. Seeing a white person or an American is cause for curiosity. Most people are curious about a.) what you are (some people deep in the country think you're a ghost), why you are there (why is this rich white person here in our village), and what can you do for them (give me money!).

I don't mind the curious children or the people who want to talk to someone new and find out about what America is like, but there are certain things that can really get on my nerves: means white person in just about every language spoken in country. People refer and classify you by that. This bothers me, cause in America, you'd never be like "hey black guy" or "hey Asian guy", but people do that here. They call out muzungu to get your attention because you are different and they want to talk to you. I don't mind if they describe me to someone else as "the white guy", cause sometimes that's the easiest way to tell someone about you (just like "he's a man"). What bothers me, is when it becomes my name. If you want my attention say "ssebo (sir)" or "hey you" or anything but that classification. If people don't call that out, they just stop and stare. All the time. Literally stop what they were doing or where they were going and stare. Coming from a place where staring is rude and people generally leave each other alone, this is tough to deal with.

I also get tired of people asking for money. I sometimes get mean which is not like me and not something i'm proud of. The thing is, people are REALLY poor with not a lot of opportunities. I don't mind people trying to better there lives in a desperate attempt, that's understandable, but the fact that they assume that since I'm white I have tons of money to just give them, is unfair and annoying. It is true that many international donors have flown in, thrown some money around and then left, but that's not why I'm here. I'm way more receptive when people pump me for info about going or studying in the US. I give them some info and then promptly tell them that they can make their own country better by staying here and fighting for change. I never get a fair price either. I always get the "muzungu" price which is inflated based on skin color. I'm learning to fight for the right price but it's disconcerting sometimes because you realize that you're fighting with someone making under a dollar a day over mere cents. It's the fairness factor that let's me do this. Plus, I'm a volunteer and on a budget.

I know that frustration with people's attitudes are a normal phase of my experience. Some people get really bitter but I don't think I will go down that road. I understand why people do what they do and most people are really friendly and open. It's just about sometimes you have a bad day and want to be left alone. This post is just some venting and I want people to keep in mind that I'm having a great time and have met so many amazing, caring people that the unwanted attention is just something that comes with the job. Take care...and don't call me Muzungu!! :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Food and Transport

Ok, let me tell you a little about the topics mentioned in the title. Cause hey, it's interesting!

I talked in an earlier blog about what i eat, but that's not what the locals eat and what i eat when i'm at someone's house or an event. The locals eat the most carb heavy diet you can imagine. And they eat a lot of it. Rice, pasta, matoke (smashed up plantains), posho (maize bread), wita (millet bread), cassava, sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, beans, and random bitter greens. They grow so many vegetables in this country, but people hardly eat it unless they are put into a broth for meat. Part of it is that they are expensive, and also because they are not as filling as other food. The meats consist of mainly chicken, beef and goat and are served like a stew in broth. The food is good and not scary, but however, there is also not a lot of variety and flavor. People usually just eat a small combo of above listed items every day for lunch and dinner. Coming from a place where I can have any style of food any day, it's a bit of an adjustment.

Transport is a huge problem here. The roads are dilapidated or dirt and dilapidated and with the high price of vehicles and fuel, getting around is not easy. There are 4 main options:
Taxi, called a Matatu is the main source on busy routes. What they are is a minivan, usually a Toyota Hiace, that is licensed to carry 14 passengers (4 rows of 3 plus 2 up front with the driver). However, this never happens. They always cram at least 20 people in there. The most I've had is about 25, but one volunteer had 28 plus a guy on the roof! They will not leave the station until it is completely full. So sometimes you can be sitting in a hot crammed taxi for an hour before you even start driving. These taxis also transport chickens and other animals. On the ride in today a chicken went the bathroom on the lady next to me. I gave her some water to clean up. I'm such a hero! :) Getting from my place, there is about 1 taxi every 2 hours. More in the morning and evening hours when everyone travels. there are no set stops, just whoever is on the side of the road. These can be, and often are extremely unsafe and frightening. The drivers drive like maniacs down these potholed filled dirt roads. It is also kinda fun!
There are also buses and private hire cars. Buses just run from the main cities and are usually more comfortable...barely, than taxis. Private hires are just some guy with a toyota sedan that you pay to drive you places. Pretty expensive but useful.
Third and Fourth option is the Boda Boda's. The bicycle boda consists of a guy on a bike with a pad on a rack in the back that you sit on. Women have to sit side-saddle because of the skirt issue (clothes on another blog). As PCV's we can only ride on bike bodas if we wear our bike helmets. Because of safty issues, we are not allowed to ride motorcycle bodas at all. Sitting on the back of some guys motorcycle is dangerous even in the US so they don't want us doing it here. We get sent home if we do.
Of course there is walking and personal bikes which is utilized quite a bit. The thing about transport here is that everyone has to cram into these packed taxis unless you own a car. Guys with suits and women with nice dresses on get smashed in with the rest of us. If it rains, often times, the dirt roads (which is most of them), get muddy and you can't travel down them.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Ok, this is the post where I tell you my PO Box number so you can send me stuff!

It's PO Box 1916 Mbale, Uganda...that's it. No Zip code or anything. Now you are asking: what do I send Wes? Well, I'll take anything... :) Any snack food including cheese and dehydrated meat products. Magazines, books, batteries (all types), hand sanitizer, anything else. Mail is awesome and I enjoy it. That's all...

Monday, May 21, 2007

More info

I'm back so soon! I was in Mbale today to work on a grant proposal for my organization. It was already written out by my supervisor, but he wanted me to edit and refine it so that it would be presentable to other Americans. I spent about 5 hours working on it yesterday only to have it not save properly and get lost. So today I re-did it and printed it out. The proposal is for 3 main things: 100 female goats and blankets for 100 orphans in the Sub County, funding to construct and operate an HIV/AIDS testing and care center, and funding for a grinding mill to process local grains such as millet, sorghum, maize, and cassava. The big picture is this: The goats will help generate income for the ophans so they can be financially independant and go to school. The clinic, as well as testing and treating current and possible HIV/AIDS patients (amazingly, there is no such services available in the sub county), will provide preventative treatment for the orphans. The grinding mill will be available for the orphans and AIDS patients to use for free. Grinding staple foods by hand takes a lot of energy that children and disease-weakened adults don't have. Basically, this is for a really good cause and I hope we get the grant. We go to the embassy wednesday to turn it in.

So what do I eat? Well, since I've been to town quite a bit lately for work and supply getting, I've been eating out at restaurants. That's expensive (with volunteer money) and takes a long time. When I'm home, it's been pasta and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is not from lack of food supply in the area, it's because I'm a bachelor and cook like one! I'll get better. There is a ton of fresh veggies and fruit around here. They grow a lot of tomatos and onions as well as cucumbers, potatoes, garlic, herbs...basically everything grows here! Transporting and keeping all these fresh things is another task all together. I have no fridge, so I have to buy according to what i want to make. I have a farmer friend named George who brought me basil and jalapenos last night. I gave him a bunch of seeds I brought from America and he's going to try to grow them. He was so happy that I gave him the seeds, he promised to bring me fresh veggies every time he came over. So that's pretty cool. There are a couple of supermarkets in town that I can get canned goods, but there's not a lot of variety. Like I said in my previous post, as soon as I get effecient systems in place, I will be a lot better off.

Don't remember if I've mentioned it, but I'm about 30-45 minutes by taxi to Mbale. There are small trading centers nearby where I can get some basic items, but I haven't investigated too much. Ok, enough rambling for now...

Friday, May 18, 2007

So far, so good

Ok, so I'm officially a Peace Corps volunteer. Shoutout to me! The ceremony was as the Ambassador's house and was strangely moving. There were some incredible speeches by two of our volunteers as well as by the PC country director and the ambassador. 10 weeks of long, streneous training lead down to this moment, and admittingly, I got a little teary eyed!

After the ceremony, along with our future supervisors and a LOT of luggage, we headed off to site. I rode in a van owned by a hospital that my org. sends it's nursing students to for practicals. They crammed 6 volunteers as well as 4 supervisors in this van with all our stuff. It was cramped. The ride was boring until on a muddy dirt road heading to my house, we spun off the road...twice! That was an adventure! I made it ok and all was well.

My first week at site as been rather boring. My org. doesn't have a lot of work for me yet and has been letting me settle in. The hardest thing so far is getting used to infrequent and inconsistant transportation...wait, scratch that. The hardest part is figuring out effecient systems to deal with everyday tasks, taking out the convienance of electricity and running, treated water. It's not horrible not living without out these things, but I haven't gotten a system down yet. I spend a lot of time dealing with candles! Keeping my phone charged is diffucult. My house is thankfully free of annoying pests like rats and bats. I have a couple of lizards that hang out and take care of other bugs for me. No huge spiders, either! I bought a bike and will be able to use it to get around the sub-county. My org. will have a new school building opening up soon, and it's a bit of a haul to get there, so a bike will be clutch.

Since my place and more generally, Mbale is at a cross-roads of many different cultures and languages, most people speak English. It's amazing that even the most rural people know like 4 languages. I can barely speak English!

Overall, things are good. I'm not completely overwhelmed or lonely yet. It's nice that there's a lot of us in the east so meeting up and socializing is no prob. That's all for now,

Friday, April 27, 2007

New Site, new adventures...

I'm in Mbale now after spending 4 days at my future site...exciting! My house is located in Kakoro sub-county, Pallisa district. It was previously occupied by a married couple who left me many things to get going, ie. cooking supplies, some furniture, skittles and twinkies and unfortunately, some trash! Overall, I am very happy with the house. I still need to get a few things, but I am well ahead of other volunteers who do not have a house ready or have just the bare minimum furniture (ie, a bed and some chairs). I have a bore-hole very close that has really clean water. No electricity, but plenty of candles and lamps. I have an indoor bathing area and a private, locked latrine. The area is extremely beautiful with views of Mt. Elgon and Kakoro rocks. My nearest volunteer, also from Seattle, is only 10 minutes by car and 30 by bike.

I look forward to working with my organization who is a small community based organization that has only been around for a few years. They have a nurses college that holds classes next door and are looking to expand to having a medical clinic for AIDS patients, a micro-finance office, and what I'm looking forward to the most, support for a group of AIDS orphans and widows who are in exteme poverty right now. We visited them yesterday and it was overwhelming. They had so little, but were so positive and hopeful. I gave a short speech (on the fly as I'm getting used to here) where I told them that they were strong and that the future was bright for them because people cared. The response was a high shrill from a woman in the back. It suprised me, but I was told that the scream meant joy. Those people are a large part of why I am here. If I can help them in any way, I will. I think most of my work with the org. will be in grant writing and securing funding. The previous volunteers, though they didn't work directly for my org, helped them secure funding from the embassy for a new school building. My supervisor, who is only 28, is looking for me to pick up right where they left off. I tried to explain to him that I need a few weeks to settle in and assess what is going on before I can really start working. He wants me to train his students on HIV/AIDS the first day I move in (which is May 10, right after swearing in)! I told him slowly by slowly, I will be there for 2 years and will be able to do plenty of work.

I would like to thank all those who have commented. I haven't figured out how to respond, but you can send me an email and I'll be able to respond that way. Take it easy and until next time....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

closer to the next 2 years

Ok, found an internet place in the town of Luwero that is pretty consistent. All is well, I'm plodding along in training. We are in week 6 with 4 more to go. I find out on friday exactly where i will be. I have a wild guest based on the fact that I am the only health volunteer in the language group and I know, based on talking to current volunteers, about a site opening up in my language area. If it is said site, it sounds like it is a great opportunity. i'll keep everyone posted.

On saturday, we went on a tour of some falls (don't remember the name...starts with 2 ss's) and a national forest that might be torn down for sugar cane fields and a tour of Jinja. We saw the source of the nile, wear the nile river flows from lake victoria and flows north up to
Egypt. Very beautiful.

As part of our training as health volunteers, we have been touring different health facilities and traditional healers and birth attendants. Every experience has been educational, heartbreaking, and hopeful, all at once.

After riding several cramped, fast driving taxis, I have decided that I am, as my 6'2" friend Derrick says, "not travel-sized." I think the taxis or matatus (spelling?) are made for people under 5'8'. It is not fun to travel in this country, i have the knee and head bruises to prove it! The roads are insane here, there are so many close calls, that i just fall asleep so I don't have to watch what's going on.

that's it for now, i don't know when i'll get on again. once i get to site, I will have more time to use internet. hope all is well...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

First Uganda post!

Hey everyone, I'm in Uganda and all is well. I don't have a lot of time, so this is just a check in. Hopefully I'll be able to update more soon. I'm in Mbale in the east right now visiting a current volunteer. Having a great time and really enjoy Mbale. It reminds me of North Bend, for all those Washingtonians. There is a great view of Mt. Elgon and it is a nice town. Got to go swimming today at a hotel here and am going out to a nice dinner tonight.

I'm 3 weeks into training and things are progressing slowly but surely. I'm learning a language called Lugwere (it's a Bantu language) and it will put me in the Pallisa district of Uganda, which is really clost to Mbale. Ok, I'm out of time, hope all is well!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Goodbye USA

After a good last night in America where I had excellent fajitas at a restaurant nearby and the went out on the town with some friends from DC, it is now time to organize my luggage and head to the airport. I have nothing profound to say at this point, but just want to throw out one last goodbye to everyone out there. The next time I post, I will have learned and seen so much new stuff that hopefully this blog will get a lot more interesting. Talk to you soon...

Saturday, March 3, 2007


Well, I made it to Philly with no hassle and started off my time as a volunteer. After turning in paperwork and doing some "getting to know you" games with the other volunteers, we spent about 4 hours starting off orientation. The lectures were broad Peace Corps lectures about what it is to be a volunteer and what are expectations are and what is expected of us. It was a very particapatory 4 hours and we got to really speak honestly about what happens next. Today has been a reassuring process that has helped evolve my volunteer experience from a broad abstraction to something real that is happening. Lots of questions were answered and I feel a lot more content with what I signed up for. Afterwards I had some really good Thai food with a group of people and then have since retired to my room. We have a full day of orientation tomorrow where we go over more general Peace Corps stuff with logistical answers to what we do for the first week before we go to training. I know for sure that we will stay in a resort called Banana Village just north of the airport in Entebbe. Here we will get a crash course in basic cultural and logistical things while we recuperate from the jetlag. During this time, I will have no internet or phone access. They said that they'll try to get us 3 minutes to call family to tell them that we made it, but we'll see. Also, I know that internet access in Luwero (2 hours north of Kampala), where the 10 weeks of training will be, will have limited internet access and no phone access. If you don't hear from me for a while, that's why.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Last days with family

Well, my time in Florida with the family is coming to an end and it has been exactly what I wanted. We've shared some quality time and done some fun stuff. Yesterday we went to the Busch Gardens "Africa" themed amusement park in Tampa. I have to say, if Africa is nothing but a place that promotes American beer and sells worthless memoribilia, then I will be shocked! It was cool to see some of the animals, but I didn't take any pictures cause, hey, it's not that impressive to see a wild animal that was imported and placed in a confined environment. I'll wait to see them in their own space without any fences or concrete trees.

Today, we took canoes down the Myaaka river. After mastering the art of not crashing into the bank, I had a great time viewing gators and the tropical landscape. There was even some park rangers driving one of those fan boats like in the Rescuers...anybody?! :)

Now it's 10pm, I've had a couple of goodbye drinks with the fam and we're watching Ice Age with 2 year old nephew Gus. My sister has gotten him to say "Uncle Wesss, Gaganda?" when asked where I was going. It pretty much makes my year every time he says it. She corrects him to say Uganda, but I don't hold it against him!

So this is it for America unless I can steal someone's laptop in Philly. All I have to say is : Thank you for your well-wishes and we'll see what happens next!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Address and Oscars

So here is what my address will be during the 10 weeks of training:
Wesley Carter, PCT
PO Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Also, I saw the Oscars last night and Forest Whitaker gave a great shoutout to Uganda. I wish I was in country to hear people's reactions. I will be scouring blogs to hear about how current PCV's spent Oscar morning if they did at all.

Also, FYI, the time that all my posts are listed at are in East African Time, which is +3 Greenwich Mean Time, or +11 Pacific Standard Time for you Left Coasters...

Vacation at last!

So after a night in Dallas, 2 cancelled flights and one standby miss and 30 hours since leaving Seattle, we made our way to Tampa after all. Now I'm in a nice condo on the beach with my family and can't wait to enjoy the sun and my last week in America. Yes!

Sunday, February 25, 2007


After a fantastic night out on the town with my friends (thanks everyone!) and a 3am cab ride to the airport with a couple of groupies (you rule Alex and Mike!), I am not yet in sunny Florida as I should be. Instead I'm stuck in the dustball they call Dallas at the hotel airport. 60 mph winds and threatening t-storms and tornados have kept us stuck here. I am not happy! I just wanted to be sleeping on a beach by now instead of in a Dallas hotel. To top it off, the hotel's computer was shut down so we had to hang out in the lobby for an hour.

My life's possessions for 2 years is sitting in a pile somewhere, but I'm not stressing cause I'm too tired...and it's all good, things will come around.

Talk to you all from a sunny warm location tomorrow...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Last night in Seattle

So today was a busy day for me. I finalized the packing which wasn't as painful as first advertised. I am a few pounds heavier than I'm supposed to be (80lbs. is the limit), but I'm hoping to get by without too much trouble. I'll have to discard a few items in Florida, but it'll probably be socks or something that I won't cry over.

I said goodbye to my best friend Josh today which was very hard to do. Tonight will be one last time downtown with the rest of the crew. From there I take a cab to the airport (it's REAL early flight) and then on the Florida.

The last hour is being spent writing emails and loading up my mp3 player. It's starting to hit home that I am actually leaving. I'm very positive and can't wait for what's next. Talk to you from Florida,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The guys in Vancouver

The guys in Vancouver
The guys in Vancouver,
originally uploaded by wesman1.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

First Post EVER!

I want to welcome everyone to my blog. If you think that the setup is unsatisfactory, then you can let me know. I'm hardly a web designer...

I am now entering my final week in the Seattle area. Next Saturday I go to Florida for a family vacation and then fly straight from there to Philadelphia on March 2nd. After 2 days of orientation, shots, completion of legal forms, and the receiving of my new passport and visas, they ship me off to Uganda. We fly from JFK in New York to Brussels, Belgium and then 0n to Entebbe, Uganda with a stop in Nairobi, Kenya. I should arrive Monday night after 20 or so hours of travel time.

To unnecessarily increase my stress levels, I have decided to wait way to long to get serious about packing. I still need a large duffel, some running shoes, a decision about what carry-on to bring and whether to buy a laptop (or use an old heavy one that my sister has), and whether I should bring a sleeping bag and pad. One great thing that I've found out with the generous help of past and current PCV's (Peace Corps Volunteers), is that you can buy many things in the capital of Kampala. They have a big store there called Game that is similar to Fred Meyer or Wal-Mart:
I'll have my Visa card and what I've heard is a reasonable stipend from the PC (Peace Corps). However, I always feel like I'm not going to bring something important and feel horrible about it. Maybe I've had too many of those dreams where I went to school forgetting to put my pants on and was extremely embarrassed! Oh well, lets see how I am next Friday...

Ok, that's it for now. Keep in mind that there's many factors that I have to think about in this blog. Most importantly is who my audience is and how I am portraying the Peace Corps, Uganda, and Africa in general. I will refrain from using names for the most part, unless I get the permission of the people I'm with. I will be representing the US Government and I realize the responsibility that goes with it. Please let me know how I can make this blog more informative and enjoyable to you. Thanks!