I trust you’re all as resolution-free as me. Since my 2010 paraded me around with a dogged resolve that more than compensates for two years, I think I’m square in 2011. And to justify, allow me to recapitulate: I packed up and moved to Uganda with two bags of shit and an idealistic determination; spent two months becoming intimately aware of all of my bodily functions during training; packed up and moved for a second time to a NGO in the central, Buganda, region to work with dairy farmers; hit a number of snafus that prompted me to pack up and hit the open road within two weeks, branding me a vagabond for three months, after which I moved for a third time, with no less than a sense of urgent desperation, to my second site to teach computers in St. Thomas Vocational Secondary School; lived, actually lived, happy-as-a-clam, for a handful of months before being stabbed with a few more gut-punches that effectively nullified my contentment and necessitated a relocation; packed up for a fourth (fifth? I’ve lost count…) time before taking off for a little TLC in A Nice Place to Live (that would be Darien, IL, for all of those unfamiliar with its exceptional mantra), with the knowledge that I would be calling a new place home upon my return to Uganda. And that is where I sit presently: in my small, two-room crackerjack box with shoddy wall circuits, outdoor kitchen, take-your-breath-away-cold shower, pit latrine john, and bedbugs. But I love it! The privacy, sense of ownership, independence, solitude, quietude, or whatever else you want to call it, placates my single most important ability: I can eat whatever the F I want. But allow me to fill you in on a few events that have brought me to noshing on a carrot with peanut butter for lunch and cauliflower coconut curry on brown rice for dinner on my floor with Arwen.
Beginning of December. The school year ends and I head to Kampala with Sanyu (yes, still my absolute best friend in the village) as co-counselors for 150 Ugandan girls aged 12-16 during a week of empowerment, knowledge, and fun befitting your stereotypical American summer camp. Peace Corps has called it Camp GLOW: Girls Leading Our World. The girls, the majority of whom had never set foot outside of their villages, had a ball. They learned the ways of the capital and made friends from different tribes all over the country. They listened to female guest speakers who have “made it” and planned for their own future. They danced and played sports; learned about health and HIV/AIDS. I got the flu.
Three hours before my flight home. I was still on a bus coming from Mbale, a city 5 hours East of Kampala. I’d been in Uganda too long; my priorities and time-sensitivity were all out of whack. I opted to head East with one day remaining in the countdown, to keep myself from toe-tapping anxiousness and to catch the bi-annual male circumcision ceremonies (aged-16, no anesthesia, dull blade, drums, booze and costumes). I opted to wait it out when the ceremonies began at noon instead of 10am. And I opted to wait for the Elgon Flyer bus I had already bought a ticket for when it got a flat tire minutes before departure, pushing that back from 2pm to 4pm. I did not opt to sit in traffic heading into Kampala. I did not opt to sit in traffic on my way from the hotel (and a face-scratchingly panicked shower) to the airport. I did not opt to leave half of my Christmas presents at a volunteer’s site en route to the airport, poorly assuming that I’d have time to snag them on the way. I did not opt to drop my money belt with passport, credit card and cash in the airport waiting room, as I, blissfully-unaware, fiddled with the gadgetry of an international flight jumbo jet. But thanks St. Christopher medallion at the bottom of my purse: my idiocy was overlooked, my life (seriously I would have been identity-less in Istanbul without that crap) was relocated and my flight only left an hour late. Dear Mom tracking it online at home: that was because of your daughter.
Beginning of January. Home’d been great. A vacation. Eden. Idyllic. But you all know that, you live in The States, dammit. So why was I leaving? Family, friends, a pretty rad boyfriend, soy milk, yogurt and salmon, a hot shower, potable tap water, daily runs, McDonald’s hot fudge sundaes, yoga classes, you get the gist. What was making me go back to a place with daily struggles, twelve-hour bus rides without a bathroom stop, and cockroaches? And then I got off the plane at 2:30am, sans hotel room booking and thus the prospect of sleeping on an airport bench until dawn, only to find Arwen and Elizabeth jumping up and down, waving frantically at me through some glass doors. That’s why I came back to Uganda. And after an enjoyable yet sleepless and abbreviated stay with the girls, I was back on the bus to Bururuma, contemplating my judgment in returning to the place I’d struggled in for the past 2 months, only to find a village that came out in swarms to welcome me back and an extended family (that would be Sanyu, Brenda, Kakulu Mukulu, Fred, Muhumuza, Robert, Ronald, Devis, Kakulu Muto, Somiya, and Renette; seriously, there are a lot of them) who tried every day to call my U.S. phone number without success because they missed me. They’re why I came back to Bururuma.
Today. I’m comfortably settled in a new house. I get my fill of the village life as I wile away the time at no more than a saunter, waiting until next week when I play the tourist in Egypt before returning to the beginning of a new school year and the prospect of 150 of my favorite students back on campus! Peace Corps 2011, you are most welcome!