Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Life and Kids

I’ve finally come in contact with my host person in Uganda. Herman has left me several voicemails which are somewhat hard to understand because of sound quality. Anyway, he seems nice and has informed me that I will be staying with his family of 4. He and his wife Annie have a three year-old daughter and a 10 month-old son.

This means that I will be around children pretty much constantly. It’s going to be a change from my normal exposure to kids, which is pretty limited and almost exclusively family. I don’t necessarily love the children I happen to interact with or overhear in public. But, maybe this is just because I only notice the ones who are misbehaving. I don't mean to be a new-aged Miss Hannigan, or anything. It's just that generally the presence of children makes me pretty uncomfortable, because I’m highly unaware of what they like or how to relate to them, I don’t want to do something their parents wouldn’t approve of, and I have a hard time understanding why they do the things they do in general.

I know my idea of the kid throwing a fit at the candy counter isn’t appropriately descriptive of the overall experience of raising, educating or otherwise having children in your life. But I wonder how much of it is cultural. I know American parents are constantly criticized for coddling, spoiling, building their kids up to think that they are already this earth’s gift from God. But an entire trophy generation is now responsible for raising their own kids and I’m curious about how this affects a culture’s expectations for children’s behavior.

My presumptions are that kids are kids. They aren’t exactly critical thinkers or good at considering others. They are messy and unaware, and I was absolutely no exception. I’m sure I won’t have a problem adjusting to being around kids so often, but I am still convinced that there will be a considerable difference in the way these kids act. Which makes sense because their life experience, expectations, etc is so different than those of American children. I would assume that Ugandans have a lot less of the ‘tantrums’ my parents says I got so accustomed to as a toddler.

I would assume that when daily life requires a little more work and less comfort, behavior adjusts accordingly, because everything changes in perspective. It might not be in my best interest to make expectations beforehand, but I hope at least that the children I interact with at the development centre and at my host-home will give me a new perspective of children in general. I hope I can let them teach me in patience and understanding as much as I hope to teach them in school lessons.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

volunteering abroad, (routinely confused with study abroad/mission trip)

When I was given my assignment for Ttenga, they gave me a sample of the weekday schedule.

It looks like I'll have pretty early mornings as I will help serve breakfast at 7am at the center. The sample they gave me suggests that I would work until about 4:30pm, but have a good amount of break time throughout the day.

While I feel as though I won't have a crystal clear vision of what will be expected of me until I arrive, I'm excited to be volunteering while I'm there. People often ask me why I haven't opted for a study-abroad option. While there is a Uganda study abroad trip here at OSU, I think going through IFRE will be more fitting for me.

Firstly, I like the idea that IFRE is a non-profit organization. From a cost-perspective, my 5 week trip costs pretty much the same as the OSU 2-week trip. I decided that if I'm going to pay for airfare to Africa, I'm going to go for longer than 2 weeks, damnit. Also the study abroad trip would obligate me to pay for a quarter of school credit that I, quite frankly, don't really need.

I took this quarter off of school, because I did some calculations and realized that I can easily graduate "on time" in the spring quarter without getting any credit until Winter and Spring quarters.

The best reason for going through IFRE, for me, is the fact that I'll be a lot more integrated with the Ugandans. I'll be living and working with them every day. Whether or not there will be other Americans in the project for the same time period as me is really kind of up to chance, whether someone else chose to go to the same place at the same time as I did. While I think it might be nice to have someone I can really relate to while I'm there, I'm going in expecting to be the only American.
-note: there are IFRE people in the area who are there to help me whenever I need it and from what I hear they are very supportive and accessible.

I didn't really think about how ballsy it was to plan a trip to Africa by myself instead of in a group, until I started getting people's reactions. I think so far they've been pretty evenly split between people being impressed by my initiative, and bewilderment as to why I would to this to myself. Most of the time I think each person has experienced some of both sides, and I can't blame them for the latter.

But I want to get the absolute most learning opportunity from this trip as possible. Instead of having 2 weeks of tours, field trips and museum visits, I want to have 5 weeks of Uganda. Using the same transportation services, eating their food, living in their home, learning their customs and attitudes and daily issues. I didn't enroll in a research project, mostly because I am travelling abroad for the first time and didn't want to stress myself out too much with an added project, But I hope to make this my very own research project, and contrasting Western culture and society against Kampala's. While I'm sure this is something every international traveler does, consciously or subconsciously, I hope my sponge-like curiosity will pay off because I hope to have a lot more international volunteering experience in my near future.
As a Peace Corps applicant I want to get this taste of service living as I would as a PC volunteer, alongside locals. Today I was filling out the different application forms involving skill sets and I realize my experience in education is quite lacking, especially for how strongly I believe in equal, quality education. I get worked up enough talking about Appalachian schools in Ohio and how unacceptable some kids' resources are. I can only plan for the worst for this center serving children who are described as "some of the most disadvantaged children in Kampala and its surrounding area."

I'm so anxious to know exactly what this place is going to be like, but for now it's a wait-and-see.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Party with a Purpose

Some of you might be visiting this blog from the link I included in the thank you notes at my Lodge Bar fundraiser.

The fundraiser went a lot better than I was expecting. I was competing against the rain, combined with our non-walking-distance location and apparently some pretty big football games that people did not want to move during.

20 minutes into my two-hour happy hour and I was getting really nervous, because no one had shown up. At all. I thought I had drug my mom out to Columbus and ran all around the city that day and was going toend up spending more money than what I made. Kami and Steve came to my rescue first, and everyone else rolled in by 8ish. Not a ton of people came (maybe around 15?) but everyone who came was really generous! Between my bake sale and guest bar tending with Patty, we ended up doing pretty well.

As I told the guests at my fundraiser, there isn't any one specific amount I'm trying to raise. Basically, the more I get the more I will be able to commit in the form of time, energy and most directly donations in the form of supplies to the Ttenga Child Development Center I'll be working at.

I'll make a new post about finances for the trip, since that's a whole new story in and of itself! Let me just say there's absolutely no such thing as a cheap trip to Africa (duh).

Here are some pictures* for those of you who haven't seen them:

Thank you SO much, everyone who was pictured
as well as Mike, Dan, Bobby, Amanda, Viral and Leslie!

* also thanks for the stolen pics Patty and Kami =)

I said on my thank you notes that my paypal could be found on this blog. The closest I could get to having a button on my page is to add it at the end of my posts. If anyone is better with this PLEASE help me as I'd like to put it somewhere else, like in the sidebar.

But for now, it's here. Feel free to donate to my PayPal if you couldn't make my happy hour! and maybe I will still make you a drink some time =)

(budget/expense report available upon request, and don't be afraid to ask!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Uganda Basics

Full name: Republic of Uganda
Population: 32.7 million (UN, 2009) - similar to the population of Texas and Virginia combined
Area: 241,038 sq km (93,072 sq miles - More than twice the size of Ohio)
Major languages: English (official), Swahili (official), Luganda, various Bantu and Nilotic languages
Major religions: Christianity (majority), Islam
Life expectancy: 52 years (men), 53 years (women) (UN) - vs an average 78.4 years in the US
Monetary unit: 1 Ugandan shilling = 0.0004 US Dollars
Main exports: Coffee, fish and fish products, tea; tobacco, cotton, corn, beans, sesame
GNI per capita: US $420 (World Bank, 2008) - Compared to US GNI: $48,430

I tried to compare everything to something familiar to us. Sometimes it's hard to see a bunch of numbers and get any sort of impression.

And most importantly: here's where it is:

I'll be volunteering some 13 km outside of Kampala, the capital of Uganda:

I promise my next post will be more insightful and I'll talk more about my volunteering! I'm going to try to post every other day-ish.

Thanks for all of your support!