Sunday, September 28, 2008

Been even a longer time

So after persistent "encouragement" from my family to update this thing, here i am again on my blog. I'm finding it hard to write on this thing because all the people that really seem interested in what I'm doing just call me and then they usually update everyone else who asks them. I assume this blog is for the casually interested person and for you, I don't know what you want to hear. It's hard to write anymore because what happens to me here isn't new or strange anymore, it's just my life. Awkward, funny, and surreal things still happen to me, but i don't even notice it because that's just how things are. So the only things i have to talk about are the occasional trip or big news from my work. That can get a little boring to me, so what I need from you is some feedback. What do you wanna know about? What's interesting to you about my life here in Uganda? I feel like I've answered everything in my previous 40 odd posts, but I know that's not true. I also have no idea who is reading this thing. I'm really happy when I get an occasional comment from someone in my past who has found me and taking interest in my life. So for now, I have 2 things for you:

One is that I just got back in early September from a trip that took me to Mozambique and Swaziland. Not too much to talk about except that the roads are way nicer there, they have beaches, and there are olives, cheese, fresh bread, and a KFC available which are all completely foreign in Uganda. I had a great time on the trip and it was really nice seeing another, and very different part of Africa. Sitting on a beach and "learning" how to surf wasn't too bad either! :)

Second thing is that I've started a program at the nursing school that would bring in other Peace Corps Volunteers with specific skill sets to train the tutors in different skills that will improve their ability to effectively teach and to strengthen the quality and reputation of the institution. Also, it's a good chance to have volunteers come visit my site who have never been there before. The first workshop was on alternative teaching techniques. I got 2 of the best education volunteers to come and train our tutors on different learning styles and ways to adapt to them in your teaching style. Instead of just talking at the students, the tutors were taught how to involve the students in their learning using various different methods. The second workshop involved nutrition and I had 2 volunteers with strong nutrition and dietitian backgrounds come. The tutors learned all the latest information on proper nutrition, where to find it in the local diet, and how to properly relay that info to the students. Both workshops were a huge success and i'm planning on bringing volunteers who specialize in HIV/AIDS and Savings and Credit Schemes to come and do similar workshops at the school and in the community.

I wanna leave you with a plea to help support Peace Corps in a time where it's funding is getting cut drastically and is affecting all programs all over the world. We know that there's a big financial crisis going on over there right now, but it doesn't mean that programs as essential as the Peace Corps should be cut. What follows is an essay/letter that my friend Rishi Desai, who serves as an education volunteer in Kumi district, just north east of me, sent in to his congresswoman and senator in West Virginia to plead for support for Peace Corps. Please write or contact your local congressman and/or senator and help save Peace Corps from shirking budgets and a following inability to fulfill our mission. Thanks, Wes:

During Nelson Mandela's incarceration , his jailers would bring him too much lunch and too little dinner. Mr. Mandela would save some of his lunch in order to satisfy his appetite, but the food would be cold and unpalatable by the time dinner was finally served. He requested a hotplate from his jailer to remedy the situation, but was met by the white Afrikaner's cold rejection. With time on his hands, he decided to read and study rugby, the unassailable passion of South Africa's Afrikaner community. The next time he passed his jailer in the hallway, he launched into a conversation about the nation's rugby team and what he had learned about the sport. After an engaging talk, the now noticeably warmer jailer immediately shouted to a subordinate to "get Mandela a hotplate!" Mr. Mandela's brief foray into his captor's culture melted walls of mutual contempt that had been built across generations.

Too often does the veil of ignorance cloud the world's perception of America. Though it may be the world's misconceptions that foster anti-American prejudice, it is our duty to correct them. The time is past to sit idly by and ignore the sentiments of our friends and enemies beyond our borders. We are a proud people, and rightly so. We can be proud of our resiliency in the face of adversity, our dedication to peace and freedom, and our willingness to face down the demons of intolerance. But these qualities must push beyond American shores. The greatest tool we have for showing the world the ideals and passions that make Americans a great people, are the American people themselves.

Perhaps no group of people serve this purpose so great as the men and women of the United States Peace Corps. Since President Kennedy called upon his constituents to serve their country in an army of volunteers, highly qualified men and women have been giving two years of their life overseas to help those who need American assistance. We spend our days fighting to eradicate the worlds plagues, not just of germs and disease, but the plagues of ignorance and poverty, of intolerance and injustice. We do this under the banner of the American flag without reservation for race, creed, nation, or status, and we do this because that is what we would expect our fellow Americans to do for us.

I am an American Peace Corps Volunteer, and am more privileged and proud to be a part of this group than any other in my life. My colleagues come from across the nation, brought together by the belief that the American people can help the poorest of the world, and that it is our duty to do so. Nothing has strengthened my patriotism like the passion I have seen amongst my fellow volunteers for their adopted communities. We work long and hard every day of our service to make a positive impact on our communities.

And we're good at it. No other organization addresses grass roots community needs like the American Peace Corps. Other development workers are astonished by our language skills, by our level of integration, by the vast network of contacts we develop in our villages, towns, and cities. When others throw money at problems in the pursuit of hard numerical data of progress in pursuit of more money, they neglect the communities they are trying to help. We live and work in the field, and we live a lifestyle similar to that of our community making us extremely sensitive to its needs. I don't need to look at a map to see if my village needs a new water source, I walk the distance to the bore-hole every morning and pump my water myself (despite my frequent complaints, it is easily manageable).

So I ask the members of Congress to support the volunteers of the United States Peace Corps. The thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers across the globe donate their time, skills, and abilities to the organization, it would be a pity if our Congressional leaders didn't support them financially. Please show your support for these hard working men and women by considering our needs in this year's federal budget.

Rishi Desai
Peace Corps Volunteer, Uganda