I would have never thought while living back in good ole Wisconsin that I would miss so many things and not only from Wisconsin but from America in general. I have done many travels across Europe, Central America and China but I was only in those places for a short period of time and the majority of the places I visited are much more developed than Africa. After being in Africa for only a couple of weeks I realized this experience was going to be nothing like those trips and nothing like I had thought it would be like. I know many PCV’s had warned us not to have any expectations before coming to Uganda but let’s be real here, everyone still has some expectations. I knew this experience would be challenging but I didn’t think leaving my family and the comforts of America would be so difficult to live without. I think I was so ready to get away from Wisconsin and live in another country that I’m not sure I really appreciated what I had and what I would be living without.
Now that I have been living in Uganda for almost 6 months I have come to appreciate the little things in this country that make me happy as well as the little accomplishments I’ve made. It is amazing how some of these small accomplishments motivate me to do more and achieve as many goals as I can before the end of my service. Sadly, a big comfort is when I get a chance to eat muzungu (western) food. Thanks mom and dad for the AMAZING packages full of America :) A majority of the time this also means that I am around other muzungu’s cooking which is another huge comfort. Sometimes being surrounded by Ugandan’s for weeks can get to be a bit much and I get a need for muzungu time. Also, it’s a great break away from speaking Uganglish. Uganglish, as many of you may be wondering, is Ugandan English. Uganda was a part of the British Empire and they have many remnants of this still present today which is especially noticeable in their language. So in order for Ugandan’s to understand our American accents we basically have to pronounce each word and speak with a hint of a British accent. Some volunteers have a hard time switching their Uganglish off even around all Muzungu’s. You all know who you are :)
While living in Omungari I have gotten to know the fabulous family of Asian Muzungu’s living there as well. The children have become like my niece and nephew. Not replacing my four nieces back home but definitely filling a bit of that void. They are great kids and visit me every day. The mother and father are just as fabulous and I have begun to really appreciate the times I get to vent with them about Uganda and Ugandans that tend to drive us a little crazy sometimes. For the most part Ugandans have been very welcoming and overall just curious about us but there are some that make it frustrating just trying to do every day things. I am very thankful for having them around and for them adopting me into their family. While I am still quite new to my village I do not really have many Ugandan friends besides my staff so it is wonderful having them there.
As of recently LICHI has begun to receive volunteers through an international volunteer service which has been great having more muzungu’s around. Many of the volunteers are helping LICHI at the health center and assisting at the secondary school in Engari. I hope to collaborate with some of them on various projects LICHI is working on while they are here. Although many of them are short calls (only here for a short period of time) they are helping to make LICHI a stronger organization and I have already noticed an increase in patients at the health center which is amazing! The first two months I was living in Engari, the health center had maybe 10-15 patients a day and sometimes even less.
The other day I went to go talk to the director of the secondary school in my village and I was blown away by how many of the students remembered my name from when I did a health talk there last month. Since there are now many muzungu’s living in Engari I kinda figured they would blend us all together and call me one of the other ladies names but they remembered mine. I think many of them are still amazed that I know a bit of Runyankore because they greeted me in four different ways trying to see if I wouldn’t know one of them but of course I’m awesome and knew them all! One of the girl students came up to me and began to pick off all the loose hair I had on my shirt. I have always shed hair like crazy even back in the states when I took a shower I would put the hair that came out on the side of the shower so I wouldn’t clog the drain. I know other people do this too so I’m not totally weird :) All I could do was giggle that this Ugandan girl was deshedding me and yes I know that’s not a word but is sounds good to me :)
Other little simple things include cold ANYTHING! Water, beer, pop and the list goes on! A little extra room on a taxi or matatu is heaven. Being able to make it to the bathroom in the morning without peeing on myself means it’s going to be a good day. Washing my clothes during the rainy season and having my clothes dry before the rain sets in also means it is going to be a good day. Making friends with people in my village or learning a new Runyankore word (especially if it is one to tell creepy men to leave me alone). Nowadays being able to sleep through the night without my kitten attacking me in my sleep makes my day. Oh a big one is having a small bit of access to internet or electricity. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like doing the Peace Corps 20 years ago without phones or computers to use for resources. I definitely give props to all Returned Peace Corps Volunteers that make it through their service without using internet or having phones. Although I think nowadays it is a requirement to have a phone. I’m sure I will think of more little things to appreciate in the coming months and year.