Greetings everyone! First let me apologize for, as Ugandans say, being lost. Shortly after my last entry my keyboard on my computer stopped working. It’s a long story about me listening to music on my computer while taking a bath and deciding to change the song. I don’t know if those couple little drops of water on the keyboard are the cause or not. All I know that the next day it stopped working. As everything in Uganda, it is taking months to get fixed. Thankfully, Amber allowed me to use her computer to update you all!
Let me first tell you about my new love. Her name is Mugezi and she is the cutest little puppy ever. Okay, maybe not ever, but I think she is pretty darn cute. When I first got her I thought I would use this as an opportunity to show my village how intelligent and wonderful dogs could be and that they don’t need to fear and beat them. Knowing that teaching her tricks would make her seem extra clever, I named her Mugezi meaning clever. However, somehow it has been shorten to Gezi (or Moo if you’re talking to my sister Ashley who can figure out how to pronounce it). I have had her for a couple months now and it has been an up and down experience. When I first got her at four weeks old she was the not so proud owner of a bazillion fleas and a belly full of worms. In the first couple of weeks I took her to the vet a few times; once in tears because I was pretty sure she was almost dead. Luckily, after finding a competent vet (you wouldn’t believe how hard one is to find around here) and being de-wormed somewhere around five times she started acting like a normal puppy. The villagers thought I had lost my mind. I speak and worry about Mugezi more than they do their own children. At first, they thought it was crazy that I would walk her on a leash and take her just about everywhere I go. After a few weeks they started buying into it. Not only do they greet me, they greet Mugezi. If she is not with me, they are sure to ask where and how she is. They cannot believe she is a village dog because you cannot see her bones and her coat is so shiny. They are amazed that she can sit when I ask her. They laugh hysterically when she shakes and rolls over on command. When they ask me why she is so beautiful I say because I feed her. When they ask why she is so smart I tell them all dogs are. When they ask why she likes people so much I say because I don’t beat her.
Right now, having Mugezi is really working out and I feel like we are making a bit of a difference. Carol’s family is the owner of Mugezi’s mother. I have never seen them beat her and they feed her a bit better than most Ugandans feed their dogs, but for the most part they ignore her. When I have to leave Kiyumba Carol will stay at my house with Mugezi. In the beginning Carol acted like she liked Mugezi, but you could tell she couldn’t care less about her. She thought I was crazy for all the commotion I was making over her. At first, I let Mugezi sleep with me and she thought I was nuts. Last week I had to go away for some training and we sprayed for the bats (six dead and yet there are still more). Mugezi couldn’t stay in the house after spraying so Carol’s family offered to let her stay in their house. I couldn’t believe it. I do not know a Ugandan that lets their dog stay indoors. I get a call from Carol one night saying that because their mattresses are on the floor Mugezi keeps sneaking into bed with her. I assumed that she was rather annoyed by this, but when I returned she admitted that she actually enjoyed sleeping with Mugezi! She actually walked in just now and I told her about how I am writing about her sleeping with Mugezi. She told me she got a bed, but she will still let Mugezi sleep with her. It is outrageous and wonderful.
Ugandans are fearful of dogs, no matter how small, and the first few days of schools were ridiculously difficult. Mugezi was so excited to have all of these new friends, but they were terrified of her. They would come to my house to greet me, but Mugezi would make it out the door first and they would take of screaming and flailing their arms like a bunch of wild hoodlums. Of course Mugezi loves this and takes off after them. Sweet little Dissan, who knows Mugezi, did this. I thought he was joking, but after running in circles for a while hitting his head on my window and falling in a hole, he was in tears. On top of dealing with Mugezi, she has a brother that comes over to play first thing in the morning. So not only was I chasing one cute little puppy I was looking like a lunatic chasing two cute little puppies. However, it is now week two and the students and teachers love her. She has stopped chasing them and they now love scratching her belly and trying to get her to put her paw out to shake for them. Usually if I am going somewhere and cannot bring Mugezi, I leave her in the house. However, today I was meeting with several people at the school and I was able to leave her out without worrying too much. Every time I would check on her a child was playing with her or she would be sitting with someone under a tree while they were listening to the radio. My one fear is the road. She loves to visit her brother and Carol’s family across the street and while it is just a dirt road sometimes lorries and motorcycles are driving rather quickly. Overall, I’m glad I love having Mugezi around and I cannot wait for you all to meet her when she comes to the states!
Martin is one of my favorite kids in the village. I guess I shouldn’t say kid, he is sixteen, but in the seventh grade so sometimes I think of him in that way. When I first came to Kiyumba he asked me to explain what a “volunteer” was. I explained that it is someone who does work without pay. Most people here have a very hard time understanding this concept. They always wonder why we would do such a thing. One day, I asked Martin if he would fetch water for me and offered to pay him two hundred shillings. However, he refused to take the money. He said, “Madam Nalubega, I don’t want money; I am a volunteer.” He made my day. He actually makes my day everyday I see him.
On Valentines Day I will have been in Uganda for a whole year! I cannot believe how fast this year has flown by. I can remember my first day in home stay. I was not used to feeling so awkward and out of place and I was feeling a bit worried that I was not going to be able to make it two years. I have come a long way. No longer do I feel out of place and rarely am I awkward anymore. While one year seems like a long time, it does not feel like I have accomplished much of anything. I know that is not completely true; I have accomplished a lot of things on a personal level. I have many wonderful friendships here in Kiyumba, I am growing as a person, and I am realizing how truly amazing my family are friends in the states are. However, this second year I am hoping to accomplish more tangible things. When joining Peace Corps I remember thinking that two years was a long time, but they knew what they were doing when they required a two-year contract. I would say that most volunteers would agree with me when I say that it takes most of the first year at site to figure out how to work within this culture. Just now am I beginning to understand how and why schools work the way they do. Just now I am figuring out whom I can work with and who is just wasting my time. Hopefully, this next year will be as great as the first!
Finally all of this talk of a library is finally coming along! Now that school is back in session, after ten long weeks, I met with the deputy of the school and talked about a way forward in the development of the library. After taking another look at the room where the library will be, I realized that the school has way more books than I realized. While they are mostly textbooks, they are still something. Thankfully, my cousin Shane, his wife Christen, and their church have also donated seven boxes of books! I was super excited to receive them because they are storybooks instead of textbooks, which is hard to come by in Uganda. During holiday I had kids at my house overwhelmed with the wonderful selection of books and so far I have only received one of the seven boxes (even though all seven were sent together). The box I received also contained a lot of novels, mostly Hardy Boys, and the older kids have become bookworms. Carol and Kennedy will come over and we will just all sit around reading. It has been great to see because Ugandans do not read for fun; I have never seen a Ugandan reading a book other than a textbook. However, as with Kennedy and Carol, I am hoping to change that and create a culture of reading here at Kiyumba Primary. The room where the books are stored is a complete disaster with books everywhere and no shelving. Of course, the school has no money to purchase shelving. After awhile of discussing possible solutions to no avail, it dawned on me that when I went home in September many of my wonderful friends and family purchased some of the paper beads my students made. Because of that money, we are able to purchase shelving and hopefully buy some mats so the students can lie in the grass and read. I am super excited about the project finally taking off and cannot wait until we can begin using the library. Oh, and before I forget! My friend Carla and her classroom in Chicago have been saving their money for the library as well! With that money I am hoping to purchase some books in local language for the young ones who have not yet learned English. Thank you for all of your contributions!
Bonny is another one of my favorites. Not only is he incredibly polite and funny, he is also very intelligent. Bonny has lost both of his parents while he was young, but has since lived with his elderly grandfather in a village near Kiyumba. The first week of school Bonny was nowhere to be seen. Paol had told me before hand that Bonny would not be back at school, but I did not believe him; Bonny loves school. Towards the end of the week the p6 teacher came to ask me why my friend Bonny is not in school. Poal is there and informs us that Bonny’s grandfather kicked him out of the house so he had to go to Nyendo, the nearest town, to find a job and place to live. We made a plan for his two best friends, Paol and Martin, and I to go to Nyendo on Sunday to find Bonny and see if we can get him to come back to school. In the meantime Mr.Kisuli would visit the grandfather. Because I am cheap and the boys have no money, we decide we will walk to Nyendo. And because I am not very bright sometimes I bring Mugezi along, wear flip-flops, and no sunscreen because it wasn’t sunny. It took us two hours and ten minutes. Towards the end Paol took turns with me carrying Mugezi which passersby thought was more amusing than me carrying Mugezi. While we were exhausted it was a great to spend the day with the boys.
When we got to Nyendo I met many people in Paol’s family whom stay in Nyendo. We made it to the bakery where Bonny works and lives to find many other boys his age with bad manners. One passed me a note saying, “Will you play sex with me? My name is Mike. What is yours?” Bonny comes out with the biggest smile on his face and I forgot how much I missed having him around the past few months. I talk to Bonny a bit about why he is not in school and he tells me that his grandfather has refused to pay his school fees and has kicked him out, but he cannot tell me why. I’m not sure if he, himself, doesn’t know the answer, doesn’t have the English to explain it to me, or just doesn’t want to tell me. I’m not even sure if he is telling the whole truth. Many students leave school to take jobs making money. I talk to Bonny about how he wants to be an engineer; he always told me he wanted to be an engineer because he wanted people to call him Engineer Bonny. I ask him how he is going to reach his goal without finishing primary school. He says it is impossible to become an engineer because he doesn’t have the money for schooling. I have offered to pay his school fees and he told me he will return in a few weeks, but I am not sure if he is telling the truth.
I have been so impressed by a few teachers who have went out of their way to get Bonny back in school; I have never seen a teacher here go out of their way for a student. I told Bonny how all of the teachers have been asking about him and how everyone wants him back. He asked, why the three of us would walk all the way to Nyendo and I told him because, like everyone at Kiyumba, we miss him a lot and want him to come back. By the look on his face, you could tell he was surprised. I have talked with Bonny about his grandfather before and it seems that he is abusive and as though Bonny does not realize that even though his grandfather may not want him, we do. Tonight Mr. Kisuli said he would visit with the grandfather so I guess we’ll know his side of the story tomorrow.
Okay, perhaps this is enough for now. I know some people were asking about my holidays. They were wonderful. My friend Rachelle came and we cooked potatoes, green beans, apple crisp, and chicken. However, we were invited last minute to Carol’s house and they fed us so much food we couldn’t touch our own. Mr. Serwadda also brought us some food. That day Mugezi probably ate her body weight in meat we just could not physically eat. While it could not compare to spending the day with my family, it was great to stay in my village and spend it with my family of sorts here in Uganda.
Anyway, I apologize again for taking so long to update you all. I am not sure when I will be able to write again. hopefully I will have my computer back soon! Thanks for taking the time out of your busy lives to see what I have been up to! Miss you all!
Peace and love,
p.s. I just read a book by Kelly Corrigan called The Middle Place and it was great memoir about a father and daughter, both, diagnosed with cancer. If you are looking for something to read you should pick it up!