Wednesday, June 10, 2009

firstblog post

Greetings from the Bukoto District of Uganda! Having a wonderful time so far. Some things are as I expected them to be/ hoped they would be; other things have shocked me.

Written June 9, 2009

I have more independence in terms of my jobs than I expected to. For one thing, although Jo and I thought that we would be working together, we found out this is not the case (note: Jo is from London and the other intern working on my project). We are each working at an NGO and in a high school. We thought we were both working at Kamwokya Christian Caring Community and Ahammadiya Muslim Secondary (High) School. While this is true for me, it is not for Jo, who is working with two different organizations in Kampala. This means that I will be working alone.

The teaching job itself offers more independence than I was anticipating. I was told that I would be teaching an existing curriculum. But contrary to my expectations, it is my job to develop particular lessons in order to teach this curriculum. I am looking forward to this, as I had hoped that this would be the case, and was kind of disappointed when I was told the curriculum was already in place. I guess I just didn’t word my question properly when I asked.

My first lesson will be taught tomorrow. Jo taught her first yesterday. I am fortunate that I can model my lesson after hers, but in the future we will develop lesson plans together. Actually we are planning lesson 2 together after I finish this.

I also feel more independent in terms of traveling. I had expected, of course, to travel to work with Jo each day, but now, although we will likely take the same taxi routes, we will be heading toward different ultimate destinations. Although it would have been comforting to travel together, I think I will be glad for the extra challenge, as I will learn a lot more about the city, and surely gain some useful skills. We will likely get a taxi together in the morning, but I will get off first. I will then walk to my second job (school) around 4:30, and walk to Jo’s school around 6 to get a taxi home together.

The first time I went into Kampala, I was thinking, there’s no way I’ll EVER navigate this by myself. However, having gone back with Jo a couple of times, I feel much more confident. I know that I know enough to get to where I’m working and back. And at the moment that is all I need. I expect to come home with a set of street smarts that I didn’t have before—or that I didn’t know existed. I expect to be able to hail a cab like nobody’s business and cross any street with ease. With much less than I am used to in terms of traffic lights and stop signs, if “extreme J-walking” were a sport, Kampala-dwellers would do quite well.

As far as the family, I am enjoying integrating myself with them and learning about them. Jo and I have entered a world of 7 boys, plus mom and the maids (It is quite common in Africa to have maids and one of the boys was shocked to learn I didn’t have any). I enjoy sitting in the living room by the TV just hanging out. A couple nights ago, I asked them to teach me some Luganda (the local language—lots of people speak English and Luganda, plus the language(s) of their tribe). I’ve learned the basics—“how are you,” the numbers 1 through 10 and “white person.”

I have been often made fun of by the guys for what I call my “movie illiteracy.” Isaac and his brothers are shocked by the list of movies (and TV series) that I haven’t seen. As Isaac put it, they watch “my people” and my home in movies all the time and that I don’t even bother to watch. Food for thought?

We’ve shared a lot about our respective cultures and homes. So far I have shared the following relevant facts… the meaning of “fives” and “shotgun” and the definition of “cougar” (which Isaac has already used in a sentence at least three times).

Jokes aside, I have had more meaningful conversations, too. Comparing education systems and religion, for example. Why the US drinking age is higher than the rest of the world (relevant, considering my current age [20 and exactly 11 months today]). And why the US would dare to steal the word “football” for an unrelated game. I have also explained the rules of baseball.

So this blog posting is occurring a few days into the trip and postings like it will probably be sparse. One thing that I have really come to appreciate is the Internet access I enjoy at home. Internet is joining the growing list of things I take for granted. There are Internet cafes around the area. Two quite close to our home. My second day, I was eager to send an email to my family and said that told Isaac 10 minutes should be fine. But you pay for 20minute intervals, so I took 20. What I did not anticipate was the time I would spend waiting for pages to load. 20 minutes was not even enough to write my email! I ended up getting another 20 minutes and managing to read about 5 of the 24 messages that had accumulated in 2 and a half days. The fact that at home and at school I can sit at the Internet… and for free… at virtually any moment I feel like is now bizarre to me, and something to appreciate. I am actually not online at the moment. I am typing into Word so I can upload this document in a cafĂ© tomorrow or some other time (make note of the time delay, by the way). A crafty technique Jo and I came up with.

One more fun fact before I put an end to this lengthy post. I have found it interesting to see what comes to mind when I say that I am from the US. The principal at the school I work in wanted to know how we in New York were doing after the “big shock.” I initially thought… economic crisis? He meant 9/11 and offered his apologies and prayers. People mostly mention Obama. Everyone that I’ve met seems to be a fan (or maybe it’s just that only the fans feel compelled to mention him). I told a 6 year old where I was from yesterday (after he guessed I was from India, and then China), and he responded that he has seen the US on TV. I asked where and he said something that began with “Barack Obama goes to ____.” Finally, today, I got something along the lines of, “I thought Americans were taller…”

So that’s it for now; hopefully more to some soon.

Thinking of YOU (yes, you),



  1. At school, my friend Tapiwa from Zimbabwe loved to talk about Clint Eastwood movies. The scary thing about being an American is that our prevailing culture is so public. I find that if I go to another country, or if I encounter someone from another country, he will have no trouble interesting me by talking about his home or lifestyle, or interests or anything. However, I'd be hard pressed to find something to talk about, as so much about my interests is probably already known. I find it's hard for us to have an identity outside our borders.

    "Everyone that I’ve met seems to be a fan (or maybe it’s just that only the fans feel compelled to mention him)." This really makes me think about AP Statistics for some reason.

    Hope all is well!

    -Chris L

  2. What does "fives" mean? haha you will have to explain that to me and teach me all the words you learn too.

    I'm so very proud of how brave you are and I have complete confidence that you will be able to, "hail a cab like nobody's business and cross any street with ease."

    Fight on,