1. Friday, May 19, 2006

    a letter from Chris in Uganda 

    Hi Friends!

    I hope this email finds you happy and healthy! I miss you all very much. Hopefully, you won’t mind the group email. I have limited time to respond to a lot of emails but many have asked how it’s going on the other side of the world. Well, so far so good. I am still in Uganda and I’ve just completed training. I am now an official PC Volunteer. A whole day! It’s been a whirlwind, roller coaster of an adventure so far and there’s a ton more to come. I love it here though and in two months I’ve become pretty comfortable with my life here. It hasn’t always been easy and I’m sure I will experience more challenges down the road. There are some cultural situations I’m not always prepared for but handle them by asking questions and trying not to judge.

    Now the real work begins.

    My assignment will take me to a small town called Nkokonjero right above Lake Victoria and about an hour and a half East of Kampala… I will be working with several nuns who run a very special home for 220 residents. The residents that live there are disabled children, orphans whose parents have died from AIDS and an elderly population. The home offers vocational training for the few that can learn a trade (crafts, animal husbandry, shoe-making, baking, small business skills, sewing etc.) and they have a variety of income generating projects to help keep the organization going.

    My job as I currently see it will be community outreach to the 12 surrounding villages about HIV AIDS education as well as to help take the home to the next level to make the quality of living better for the residents who live in the home. This will take a variety of shapes including: business training for the staff and some of the older residents, teaching computers skills, grant writing, marketing the bakery products that they just started making … and getting to know some incredible children. I will also use my degree to some extent to help understand what some of the disabled children may need to make their lives a bit easier. My supervisor is leaving a lot up to me, which is typical PC anyway. There are very special people that live here and I feel lucky to have been assigned such a job as it really encompasses not only the populations of people I’ve served in the past, but also the types of jobs I’ve held as well. I intend to serve them well.

    The community is beautiful and I’m looking forward to living in such a wonderful place. Currently I”m living in a rectory of sorts until my house is ready for me to live in which is about a month down the road… It’s strange being in a place with so many crosses but I feel safe and comfortable. Plus, I have power and water so that’s a nice surprise as well since many of the others in my group don’t have these luxuries and will have to get water hauled from a nearby water source and rely on kerosene and flashlights at night.

    The last two months were long and tiring but necessary to help acclimate to Uganda. I lived with a family where there were no less than 14 people at any given time. There were no ceilings in the house so you could always here what’s going on. I’m used to being on my own so it was a bit of an adjustment having very little control over my environment. But it was a great introduction to Ugandan life and an opportunity to get an idea about what to expect. I played and talked a lot with the children in my home and neighborhood and they helped me learn Luganda.

    Life is slow in the outlying areas and time passes very differently here. With training over, I plan to send a lot more mail. So if you haven’t heard from me yet, you will.

    I am happy and comfortable here and it’s nice to be living a simpler life at the moment. People here work extremely hard. Some of what is seen on the news about Uganda is correct: that many NGOs are corrupt and that money isn’t going where it should… however, there are also a lot of dedicated and committed Ugandans and volunteers who are ready for things to be different here as well. So we will work and do what we can. Yes, I know. Idealism at its finest. Well, we shall see how it goes.

    I’m in Kampala at the moment and getting ready to take my VERY bumpy and crowded taxi ride back to my community. I had to get some cookware so I can finally begin cooking for myself…

    The skies here are as beautiful as they say. Hope to hear from you.

    Be well~!

    Chris

    p.s. i miss tony the most

    ok she didnt write that part but if you read between the lines thats what it says. above photo taken on polk street in sf