The Christmas break is a long one here in Uganda. It is their summer vacation; this next term starts the beginning of the school year. I have managed to do quite a few things during the over two months I’ve had off from teaching.
I spent most of my time hanging out in SW Uganda. Right now it is the dry season and possibly the hottest part of the year but in the mountains in the southwest the air is cool, the grass is green, and the banana trees are spitting up more fruit than can be consumed locally. As I toured the region, I caught up with other volunteers and picked up a few new recipe ideas. Let’s just say that I am definitely going to start making my own cheese. And pizza. And cheese pizza. (…And, if I can get ahold of some pepperoni, then I can make…PEPPERONI PIZZA! My favorite!)
I hung out with Kirk a bit and we started to put together some documents for the new Peace Corps Uganda Tech Committee. For starters, any technical resources or advice is only found by word of mouth from other tech-savvy volunteers. We are going to make such information easier for volunteers to acquire. As we travelled, I got more ideas about what technical issues volunteers face and even found some nifty solutions.
For example, after some tinkering, I NOW HAVE GOOD INTERNET AT MY HOUSE! I can video Skype without having to travel somewhere to use the good connection! So if you are dying to chat, look me up!
My Christmas and New Years were good. Hot, but good. I keep hearing about all the snow in Seattle as I sweat quietly in my room. Hah. For Christmas I was with over a dozen of other volunteers (hanging out in the SW) and we made some fine frame cooked chicken and goat with a fruit salad and potato salad and such on the side. Mmm. For the New Year, Kirk and I were with Emily and Ryan (married PCVs) and they opened my eyes to the possibilities of making some great food from scratch. The first night they had made a three or four cheese lasagna. Then they made some a Mediterranean dish. Then we made soya Phad Thai. And soya enchiladas with corn-tortillas chips and salsa and guac. All made from scratch locally. So good!
From the city of Kasese I headed to Queen Elizabeth National Park and did my first safari drive and boat expedition. I saw too many cob and buffalo to count, at least 30 elephants, probably over a hundred hippopotami, and a couple of crocs and lizards and monkeys and warthogs. Seeing these creatures roaming freely in their natural habitat is something else, for sure.
I also got to go to Rwanda! Boy, Kigali (the capital) is a world apart from Kampala. There are traffic lights, maintained streets, no litter, the power is reliable, and the motorcyclists all where helmets and carry helmets for their passengers. It was truly a nice vacation. Also, Peace Corps Rwanda has had some major renovations in the last couple years so I was able to stay at their headquarters for free. The lodging there is a dorm for PCVs (from any country) to stay in. There is a kitchen with TWO refrigerators, a stove, a flippin’ ice cream maker and a nice drinking water setup. Also, (this blew my mind!) there were showers. Legit showers. Scalding hot showers. Scalding hot, high pressure showers that would make Kramer from Seinfeld very envious. So that was nice. I had some jelly doughnuts and we bought fresh ingredients from the German Bakery nearby and made tons of ham and salami sandwiches. The showers and the sandwiches alone make me want to spend some more time in Rwanda.
While in the country, I went trekking and so the famous Mountain Gorillas! Some of the photos are already up on Facebook if you want to see them. My friend Kevin and I got lucky on the trek: we got to spend an hour with the most popular and largest of the gorilla families. You don’t have any say on where you go – you buy the permits, show up and see where the trackers place you. We saw almost all of the 30-some gorillas in the family, including the 6-month old twins and the menacing silverback leader. We were standing no less than four feet from the gorillas for a large portion of the time. Kevin and I on separate occasions were pushed out of the way when a gorilla decided to pass through where we were standing. Now I can take “Being spanked by a gorilla” off my bucket list.
I had a blast in the SW and am now back at my house as I post this blog. The new term and the start of my first full year of teaching begins in about two weeks. I will continue teaching my old students (now in S4 mathematics) and will take on the new group of third year students. Supposedly there will be some new teachers so I am praying that this next year starts off smoothly as I change my focus from touring to teaching.
As if they were trying to welcome me home, when I entered my region again I saw wild giraffe first the first time in my life on the side of the road, munching on some trees. It is good to be back.