Thursday, May 27, 2010

We Made It!

Hello yet again, here is another special treat for you, an update about me. Spencer, Dave, and I all made it back from Uganda together and all in one piece. I wasn't sure it was going to work out so well, considering I waited until the day we left to approach the Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture for an export permit for Spence, but luckily by 2:30 that afternoon with only 8 hours until our departure time, they handed it over. The red tape wasn't too bad, I only had to get a form from the National Agriculture Research Organization, take it over to the Ministry of Agriculture for a bank pay-in slip, take that to the Stanbic Bank in town to pay for the permit, then take the receipt from the bank back to NARO to be handed the permit. All in all it only took from 9am until 2:30pm, so not too shabby for the old UG. After that we headed off to the airport and got checked in ok, told by the Brussels Airlines people that all our bags and Spencer would be checked through to Chicago. Too bad American Airlines didn't agree.

We reached Brussels, worried about whether or not we had to pick up Spencer, but were once again reassured by Brussels Airlines that he would be checked through. We relaxed, and waited until someone showed up at the American Airlines counter so we could go through our security interviews and get our boarding passes for the next flight. By the time we reached the desk where we were to get the passes, it was 8:30, and our flight was boarding at 10:10, and the worker at the desk told us we now had to go through customs to the baggage claim, pick up our dog, then take him up to the outside check in desk and go through the hassle of security yet again. After much running around the baggage claim area, Spencer eventually appeared, and we made our way very quickly up to the check in desk. When we got there they told us the whole point of picking up the dog in between the flights is to walk, feed, and water him, so with about 20 minutes remaining until we had to be through security, I attached his leash and took him out into the 50 degree rainy Belgian morning. The desk workers were very helpful and allowed us the time we needed to take care of Spence while still getting onto our flights on time, and I think they knew Dave and I were a bit stressed out at that point, so I'd like to say thanks to them for helping us out and making the transition a little easier. Then we went through security again, which was about 40 times busier the second time around, but made it to our gate just in time for boarding. Let's just say the layover of 5 hours is not as long as you might think.

We made it to Chicago and that was that. Mom and Dan were waiting for us, and Chicago even has a little fenced in area where dogs can have long and short calls, so Spence got to relieve himself before the five hour drive back to good old Prairie du Chien. So now we're back, and living the American Dream. Well, I guess we'll see about that, I'm only a day in, so I'm still a little confused about where I'm at and what hour of the day I'm supposed to be sleeping, but that should get better, I hope. Anyway, that's about it, and I hope everyone is well, and if anyone in Uganda is reading this, I miss you all already and I hope you'll dedicate a few dances to me at the next PC get together.

peace out for now

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Say Goodbye, and I say Hello

Well hello again. Thought the last one was the end didn't you? HA! I fooled you! You are soooo gullible. Ok, gloating aside, I just got back from Egypt this morning, after a, shall we say interesting, trip. The museums, pyramids, tombs, and other historical sights and monuments were absolutely fantastic, and something everyone should see in their lifetimes. The heat, especially in Luxor, is best avoided, although that could be our mistake of going in the summer instead of the winter, although I don't imagine it gets a whole lot cooler at any point during the year. The hassle of the Egyptian men of Luxor is something I will NOT miss, nor would wish upon my worst enemy, so there you have it. A love/hate relationship with a country, something I've never experienced before. There are places I've been that haven't blown my mind, or haven't made me want to return particularly badly, but this was something else entirely. I don't want you to go away thinking I didn't have a good time in Egypt, because I did, but being harassed by at least 30 different men in a 10 meter walk is not an experience I wish to repeat.

So needless to say Casey and I were happy when our vacation ended, because every person in Egypt thinking we were twins didn't help the catcall factor AT ALL. But now she's leaving, saying goodbye to her 2 months in Uganda, and I have a whole 12 hours alone until my brother arrives tonight for his two week vacation. I have a lot planned for us, including toting my dog all over the country and then out of it, and also going to Lake Bunyonyi and my house and going on a safari, so it should be a very busy 2 weeks. But I'm excited, because it will go faster than I realize, and we'll have a ton of fun. And then I'll be coming home, and I know you all are holding your breath with anticipation at my return, but please, be sensible, I don't want you to turn blue and pass out. Continue breathing at a normal rate, and I'll be home before you know it.

Well, this one isn't long, and it'll probably be my last one on the African continent, at least for a few years anyway. So, despite what the title says, I'm not only saying hello to my brother, but goodbye to Uganda, which is of course sad, but I think it's time. Although I have to say I've gained a whole new perspective of and appreciation for Ugandan culture after surviving the deserts of Egypt, I should begin the next chapter of whatever this thing called life is. So, tata for now, and mayhaps I'll keep writing once I start grad school. My summer exploits could also be tales of hilarity, considering how many idiotic mistakes and cultural slip-ups I'm going to make. One of which Casey already reminded me I cannot do once I get home, the eyebrow lift that means yes has to be released from my repertoire of replies giving a positive response to a question. Let's see how many you can spot once I get back.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Hello again my peoples! I hope all is well, and that the anticipation of my homecoming isn't causing you to lose sleep and concentration at work. I'm currently in Egypt, and am having a wonderful time, if you can't tell from the pictures I've uploaded. Yesterday Casey and I went to the Egyptian National Museum to enjoy all the wonders that place has to offer. We got to see the mummified remains of multiple past Egyptian kings, queens, and pharaohs, along with their mummified pets and other goods they wanted to tote with them to the afterlife. It was pretty cool, and a long day considering how much they have in that place! But we made it, and feel that we have gained a fair bit of knowledge about Egyptian history, although it's a bit patchy considering how few placards were there labeling the pieces.

Today was even better, as we went out to Giza to see the pyramids and the Sphinx. I had an incredible time, and I think Casey did to despite the fact that I basically forced her onto the back of a camel and then proceeded to make her pay for the long tour on the camel through the pyramids. In the end we completely enjoyed ourselves, and we got a ton of really great pictures. The place is amazing, although very surreal, I felt like I was on a movie set instead of actually in the desert at the real McCoy. After seeing the monuments, we wandered around the town of Giza and eventually had a glorious lunch at a place where no english existed, and it was a ton of fun. We ended up getting way more than we expected and for a great price, not to mention how delicious it all was. So today has been good, and we haven't even done that much yet! Needless to say I would highly suggest everyone come to Cairo and explore Egypt a bit, it's a ton of fun and not too pricey. Anyway, besides trying to get a job with the Egyptian board of tourism, I've got to take a nap. Riding camels takes a lot out of you.

A little description of the pictures in case you can't tell, the first one is pretty self explanatory, being the incredibly mature and wise person that I am, I thought it would be best if I had a picture of myself picking the nose of the Sphinx. In the second one Casey and I have just climbed onto one of the smaller pyramids, which is apparently not allowed. Our guide had to argue with the tourist police for the better part of a half hour and then had to pay a fine. Since we didn't want to go up there in the first place, we didn't feel to badly for him. The last picture is just of Casey and I upon our dromedaries in front of the largest of the three big pyramids. I was thoroughly entertained by the camels, despite the fact that hers had a fly problem and mine kept growling and burping at Casey. It even spit it's cud at the guide, I think it had an attitude problem.


Friday, April 30, 2010

It's Official

Well, finally, it's official. I am now an RPCV, which stands for Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, despite the fact that I have not yet technically returned. I had my ID card punched and all my forms signed off on, so now I can do whatever I want, including riding Boda Bodas! Whoo hoo! Well I know this is incredibly short and uninformative, but I don't have a whole lot else to say, I have to go and reserve the places for Dave and I for our safar to Murchison Falls park here in Uganda so we can see the big five, and then it's a little R&R at the hotel before Casey and I leave for Egypt on Sunday. So maybe I'll write another one once I've had some awesome experiences going through the pyramids.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Rescues and Farewells

Well everybody, it's about that time again. I'm almost finished. I've got a butt load of crap to do to make sure I can bring Spencer back with me, which is definitely turning into more work than I had planned in the first place, but I'll get er done. I talked to the district veterinary officer today, who seems to think I need a fancy trip to Kampala and a crap ton of shots, even though I've tried telling him the US is not the UK and has far fewer restrictions, but we'll see what can be done. I'll probably end up spending my whole return stipend on getting my freakin dog back home, but I suppose it'll be worth it since the total amount I've spent on him up to this point is about $3.00.

Other than that, I had a banner week. On Tuesday I saved a chameleon from certain death. It was walking along, all nonchalant, in front of the school's office, which any place that puts a chameleon in front of Ugandan eyes is not safe because they consider them armed and dangerous. I picked it up, saving it from a thorough stomping, and everyone about popped a nut screaming at me to put the poisonous evil creature back on the ground where they could take care of it. I held it in my hand, where it remained motionless, and calmly told everyone that it was perfectly safe, not poisonous, and even if it did bite me I would come to no harm. They laughed and let the weirdo mazungu go on with her business. I put it in some very camouflaging foliage up near my house and hoped for the best. I believe it is still safe and sound, because I haven't yet seen a flattened chameleon body anywhere near the area.

Last night my friend Sharon brought over two chickens, headless and featherless but still with their insides and feet, and we proceeded to clean and cut them up so that I could do something fun with them. I decided to give fried chicken a whirl, which I've never done before in my life, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. It was delicious! Who knew that flour, salt, paprika, curry powder, rosemary, and a bit of cooking oil could make something that wonderful? Everyone was impressed with my cooking skills once again, and we made a little going away party of it, with me providing not only the deliciously fried chicken and mashed potatoes, but also the beverages. We even did a little singing and dancing since my ipod battery was dead, and everyone was pleased with the turnout and the amount of food. We finished everything off, and I even bought the right amount of drinks. All in all, it was a really fun little going away party. I'll miss my friends, neighbors, and teachers and sincerely hope we can stay in touch, although I know it's going to be difficult. We'll see what I can do.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Well, it's official, I've finally made a decision about what to do with myself once I get back from Uganda. I'm going to attend Marquette University in the fall to get a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering in the program of Water Resources Engineering. I have decided this because they offered me the Trinity Fellowship, which pays for my tuition and gives me a monthly living stipend, which is difficult to turn down when you don't have any money :). I'm pretty excited about it now that I've finally picked what I'm doing, and already have an army of people on helping me figure out the next step. Mom and Dan are going to go apartment scouting for me even before I get back, so we'll see what those two pick out, it could be interesting. Although I guess I trust their judgment, so fire away kids. Watch out Milwaukee, because here I come...

Casey arrived about a week and a half ago, and has been enjoying the busy and exciting life offered by the village of Kantare. I think she's gotten about 12 hours or more of sleep every day and finished about 6 books in the time she's been here, but she says she's enjoying it, so I hope she's not lying to me to make me feel better. Her respite is about to end however, she leaves today for Kisiizi Hospital and will begin her work doctoring people on Monday. In the meantime she'll settle into the guest house and enjoy the comforts of hot water showers and a constant supply of internet and electricity again. Not to mention cell phone coverage. She did enjoy getting to know my cows, and even could name a few by site by the time we left the village. The goats however, I have a feeling she'll never miss. I'm not sure if you know this about them but they all sound like children being tortured, and it's not a pretty sound. I apparently can tune it out completely at this point, but for someone new it can be quite distracting and disconcerting. Hopefully she can also learn to tune them out because I'm fairly certain that even Kisiizi has a constant stream of goats going by there, but again I could be wrong.

So, it's nearing the end, and I've got a lot to look forward to still. Next week final exams begin at the school, so only one day left of actual teaching (Monday is a holiday here) then it's time to start grading their finals. I have to enter the grades into the report forms then it's time for me to head off to Kampala to complete all of the paperwork I have to do to close out my service. As soon as that's over, Casey and I head off to the magical land of Egypt, where we plan to ride camels off into the desert and view the pyramids astride the backs of the dromedaries. Should be fun, although I don't think Casey is looking forward to it, considering her last stint riding animals involved some fierce tree gripping to avoid broken legs and a nasty spill into some burning nettles. I've told her the desert doesn't have trees or nettles, but she's still a bit apprehensive. Wish us luck, and hopefully we won't run into any returned mummies or cursed pyramids. Happy Easter everybody!


Friday, March 19, 2010

A Farewell to Arms

Well hello again. I hope this day is finding you all well, and enjoying life. I've been busy showing the trainees who are staying with me around my site and village, and showing them the ropes of life at a secondary school in the middle of nowhere. I think they've been enjoying it, and Spencer has been showing them around the trails and hills near my house, so they are pleased to be escorted by such a fine guide. I recently had my first rat in the house in a long time, it chewed a hole through the bread that I had just bought because silly me, I left it out thinking it would be fine since I hadn't seen a rat in over a month. I think I know the reason for their long disappearance, and will relate the story shortly, but am completely bamboozled by their sudden re-entrance into my life. Oh well, I guess that's how it goes.

So I had been away from site for a few days, probably for some training or other, I can't recall the exact circumstances, but at any rate I was coming home from a short time away, but longer than a weekend. I walked into my house as usual, checking on everything important, opening windows, finding Spencer and putting his collar back on, checking to see if the water was working, and last but not least, checking the rat trap. To my great surprise, it was empty. It was not however still set, something had made the bar spring closed. And I could immediately tell something had at one time been under that bar, but escaped. The reason I could tell is the mess, there was grey fur everywhere, stuck to the bar and piles of it next to the trap. I was confused by this, but figured a rat had been trapped and somehow freed itself. I only figured out how it freed itself after walking into my bathroom and seeing a completely free and lonely front leg of a rat. I put two and two together, as I am a math teacher currently, and realized the rat had chewed it's own arm off to escape the certain death of my broom handle. I removed the discombobulated limb from my bathroom with a plastic bag over my hand and went about my business. Apparently the 3 legged soldier warned all of his friends, because they were afraid to enter my house for a while afterward. Unfortunately the fear has faded, and I've got to think of some new cruel and unusual punishment to keep them away. If you think of anything, please feel free to let me know.

Other than that, life goes on. We saw President Museveni today as he was making a tour of the villages where elections will shortly be held, so I'm away from home for a bit. Not sure exactly when I'll get to return, but by the time I do, I'll have Casey with me! Hopefully Kampala stays secure and no more riots stop me from getting to pick her up from the airport! Anyway, that's all for now, so keep on truckin.