04 April 2008


Do not consider painful what is good for you.

Well... I'm home: Tyler, Texas, USA.
Here's the very very short version of a long story:
While I haven't written about it (it's not the most fun topic for a blog), I've been having stomach/intestinal problems for quite a while now. After tests, doctors, pills, and still more feeling terrible, Peace Corps sent me home.
In a large part, the decision to come home was actually mine; there are a lot of things I wish I could have finished up in Uganda, but doing those things while continuing to feel the way I feel would not have been very fun at all. While it was ultimately up to me to say that I'd had enough, the Peace Corps medical staff in Uganda did recommend that I leave, and the Peace Corps medical staff in Washington DC were very quick to approve that recommendation. So, I was officially "medically separated" from Peace Corps Uganda on March 28th, and after one-two-three-four! flights, arrived at my parents' house in Tyler on March 29th!
After first talking to Peace Corps about things, I did have a couple days back at my site to pack up and say my goodbyes there.

Last visit with my host family (this was actually earlier on in the month- so glad I got to see them again one last time!!!):

Saying farewell to some friends in a nearby village- a camera is a curious thing...

Last meeting with our Peer Educators (my counterpart Frank is also in the front row, left):

Last day at work, with my coworker Prossy, who always let me use the computer:

The night before I left my site I had a last supper with my favorite nuns. My last Ugandan meal- rice, greens, matooke, meat, fish, and coke- very fancy!

Cutting my "cake"

My favorite nuns of all time- Sr. Zitona, Sr. Scholastica, me, & Sr. Nankya

I also got to hang out with several of my best friends (other volunteers) right before I left- Sarah, Amanda, and Erin even came to the airport with me, as did Frank, my Ugandan counterpart. I'm confident that I will see all of them again, but it was still a difficult goodbye. My friends have been through just about everything with me (and I with them), and Frank and I have enjoyed working with each other immensely. I know that I'm doing what's best, but leaving so abruptly is just really hard- that's all there is to it. No matter how much I know it's right, it's still painful.

For now, I plan to hang out in Texas and get back on my feet health-wise! It's so wonderful to see my family again, and my mom is having a blast watching me thoroughly enjoy every bite of good ol' American food.

Just from the airport, first meal back at my house: veggie pizza and champagne! YUM!!!
Since this blog was solely about Uganda, I suppose this is the last entry. (Well, unless I decide to go back and visit in a few years!) Thanks so much to all of my readers- it's been really fun to share my experiences with you, and I have so appreciated your comments and support! If I do anything exciting in the future (which I undoubtedly will...) I might start another blog for whatever that happens to be.

Until then...

20 March 2008


I have already got my hands in the pig farm.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one of my main projects has been working with community support groups for HIV+ people. A few months ago we received a grant for two such groups- one for a group in Bigasa Sub-county, and another for a group in Kitanda Sub-county. The grant is funding the construction of a “piggery” (pig sty/shelter) and two improved-breed pigs for each group. The group members will practice community farming to rear the pigs, and piglets will be distributed to group members for personal rearing. Things are still underway with the project, but here's what has gone on so far!

The Bigasa Piggery...

Group members unloading cement:


Members clearing the land for the project:

A load full of sand is delivered:


They start making the foundation!

Me pretending to help smoosh down the concrete:

My counterpart Frank (right) discussing things with Nakiwala, the chairperson of the group. (Nakiwala is a name from the same clan as my name-Nakivumbi- so she and I are "sisters.")

On World AIDS Day, lots of important people visited the project.
Me and the District Agricultural Officer (center):

The almost-finished structure:The group members gave me a chicken:

Group members and the piggery!

The Kitanda Piggery...

Group members unloading bricks:

The foundation:

Bena (group chairperson) and my counterpart Frank discussing what to feed the pigs:
Bena has a really awesome matooke plantation, and she gave me a huge bunch:
Bena and me:

The Kitanda Piggery!

There are going to be more educational sessions and a group study trip to a really well-run piggery in a nearby village, and we plan to get the pigs in May!

08 March 2008


Back in December I helped out with a camp for HIV+ kids that was sponsored by the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

The camp included kids from 11-18 years who were identified by their psychosocial counselors at the health centers where they seek treatment. The camp was a really great way for them to meet other kids who face the same challenges as they do!

With campers Kenneth, Shamimu, and Fred:
During the camp, we had a lot of get-to-know-each-other activities, lessons and discussions about dealing with the social aspects of having HIV, a lot of singing and dancing, and a lot of fun! Here are pictures from some of the events...

One day we took the kids to see the Nile River. On the way there, with the girls in the back of the bus:
Mayi, Babirye, & Stella

The kids at Bugagali Falls:
They had a lot of fun watching the daredevil men who make it down the falls by holding on to nothing but a 20-liter jerrycan full of air to help keep them afloat. They also really enjoyed watching an acrobat:
On another day we had a much-anticipated talent show:

There was lots of singing:
Fred, with backup singers Nasta, Ivan, Lucy, & Vivian

The show also included traditional dancing:
Which I eventually joining in...
As well as modern dancing:
Featuring counselors Robert and Seth- the latter came from LA to help with the camp!

There was also a fashion show-
Shamimu's outfit is made from paper bags that once held cement- amazing!

And, what is the end of camp without a celebratory cake?

I think that the best thing about the camp was that the kids got to be in a place where there was no discrimination against them by their peers or by their caretakers- which is usually not the case. But, at the camp, every single one of their fellow campers was HIV+ just like them, and every single one of their counselors knew that they deserved as much of a chance as any other kid.
It was a week that no one will soon forget!

29 December 2007

Pictures Past

I have been really lax about posting pictures! I’ll try to do better, but for now, here are some highlights of the past couple months...


*Peace Corps Volunteers threw a big costume party out in the eastern part of Uganda, at a place called Sipi Falls. Here is one of the falls, which we hiked to the base of! Brett, Hannah, Christina, Me:

The area has really beautiful hills: Here are the bandas where we stayed…we had one king-sized bed so Sarah, Hannah, Erin, and I all snuggled tight! There were tons of rainbows (if you look really close, you can see a double rainbow- to the right of the first one):

The costume party was a lot of fun! Several members of my group went as parts of the immune system (since we’re HIV/AIDS volunteers). I was CD-4, the “captain” of the immune system. Here I am with Hannah, who was an adorable Rainbow Brite:

But the overall costume winner was…none other than the Flintstones! Brad, Chris, Teresa, and Wes:Everyone had a really great time!

*Toward the end of October, my host parents (the ones I lived with back in training last year) had an introduction. An introduction is like a Ugandan wedding- it’s where the man and woman’s families are introduced to each other! It’s a big huge celebration held out in the village of the woman’s family. The two families (the man’s and the woman’s) sit facing each other, and the man's family has to pick which of the women is the right wife. It’s a big joke- the woman’s side brings out several groups of girls for the man’s side to choose from, and after that, the aunts of the woman's side have to look in the crowd to find the right man. I sat on my host dad’s side, so I only got a picture of the back of them, but here are my host parents, after my host dad’s family finally chose the right woman for him:
I attended the celebration along with two other Peace Corps Volunteers who have also been hosted by these host parents- it was really special for us to be a part of it!


*One of my former Ugandan coworkers had a baby boy! His name is Raphael- he’s about a week old here:
*My friends and I walked to Tanzania! Yes, you read that right. My friend Sarah lives on the road that goes to Tanzania, about 26 km from the border. So, we walked 26 km (16ish miles) to Tanzania.

First, we strapped ipod speakers onto my bag so that we could dance our way there: (This caused a lot of funny looks and laughs along the way, as I was emanating music but people didn’t know where it was coming from!)

We set off on our way, stopping for a picture at every single kilometer marker- and believe me, we were counting! Us with the first marker (26 km to go…):

It rained for the great majority of our walk, but that didn’t stop us! (The big hump on my back is my bag with the speakers, we didn’t want them to get wet!): Still going strong with 17 km to go:

We stopped for a quick pancake break (we brought leftovers from breakfast):

At some point, the YMCA played on our speakers, so we did the YMCA through a village in the rain, much to the delight of the village. 11km to go: We’re getting close… (Mutukula is the border town).

Yeah! We made it!
Amanda, Erin, Me, Sarah, Hannah: It took us about 7.5 hours total- our feet were blistered and bleeding by the time we got there, but we were really proud of our accomplishment. Thankfully, there is public transport that goes back to Sarah’s house, so we caught a car back!

*Other fun things in November that I unfortunately don’t have too many pictures for are Dewali (Indian festival of lights celebration), and not one, but TWO delicious Thanksgivings! Here is one of the Thanksgivings though!
*At the very end of the month, my group (the volunteers I originally came with) had our “Mid-Service Training,” a workshop by Peace Corps that happens halfway through your service. On November 30th, we completed one year of service! For the conference, Peace Corps put us up in a really fancy hotel that is right on the Nile River! Sunrise over the Nile: It’s been a long long year of service, but we made it!


What’s gone on so far is a lot to do with work!

*As you may know, World AIDS Day is celebrated worldwide on December 1st of every year. For World AIDS Day this year, the hospital I work with had a big event out in one of the villages. (We celebrated it on Dec. 6th…nothing really happens on time in Uganda)

Here are women the day before, peeling matooke (unripe bananas) in preparation for the next day’s meal:There was a lot to be done- organizing food, getting firewood to cook it, setting up chairs… an old man looks on:

The celebration the next day was well attended:
SO well attended that people started sitting on the sides:
It included really cute kids dancing:
School children singing about HIV:
A performance by a HIV+ adult drama group:
Lots of drumming and dancing: And of course, lots of speeches!

We ended the day with the dedication of one of our new pig projects (we were awarded the grant I applied for!!!), but I’ll save that for a future post!

*The next week, Ron Tschetter (the director of all of Peace Corps) paid a visit to Uganda! I met him briefly as I was passing through the Peace Corps office on my way to help with a camp for HIV+ kids (also coming in a future post), and we got to take a quick picture:
Henry McKoy (PC Africa Regional Director), McGrath Jean Thomas (Uganda Country Director), Me, and Ron Tschetter (PC Director).

*I went to another introduction (this time for one of the doctors I work with), and when you sit on the man's side of the family, as I did, you have to bring in gifts from his family in baskets- carried on your head. The first time around I carried a basket of garlic, which wasn't so bad. The second time, I had a big basket full of yams. Yams in a basket on your head are HEAVY. But, I didn't trip or drop anything, impressing everyone including myself!

*For Christmas everyone in Uganda travels back to his/her home village to celebrate. I went with my counterpart Frank, to celebrate with him and his family! They gave me a really nice African outfit too!
Frank, Me wearing my new outfit!, and Frank's wife Desi

So, that's the news for now- more soon about the pig projects, the HIV+ kids' camp, and my upcoming New Year's celebration! Happy New Year!