Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Learning at the Speed of Cobra Venom

     Yesterday while walking home from the primary school (incidentally it's the route Cassandra prefers for jogging) we happened upon a cobra getting down to business with a frog. Its funny how many things you can learn in less than one second. Among these insta-lessons were the following:

1. Just the sight of a highly-venomouse snake puffing its neck out is enough to render the speech centers in Cassandra's brain nigh inoperable.

2. My supervisor has a vertical leap of nearly a furlong, and the reflexes of a cat/genetically-engineered mongoose. It helps arm me against the day we may need to face off in hand-to-hand combat.

3. I apparently lack some deep seated, life-saving aversion to snakes, which had me following the sucker into the bush fumbling for my camera.

What I can glean from these lessons is the following:

1. If I am ever in an argument with Cassandra, be sure to have a live cobra on hand.

2. If I am ever in hand-to-hand combat with my supervisor, rolling into a ball and protecting my soft underbelly is my only option. It worked great for the hedgehog I brought into the house last night.

3. If I am going to die in Uganda (a statistical certainty), it won't be on public transport-as I had previously assumed-but by blatantly disregarding the dangers of venomous African fauna.

All in all, I think I was able to turn that little episode to my educational benefit.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm a Terrible Host (unless you're gastrointestinal parasite)

To be frank, I had a whole workup of all these differences between Ugandan hosting style and ours, then a copy/paste error destroyed it all. In keeping with my character I refuse to retype it. Suffice it to say that we hosted a few Trainees last week and one of them got a huge gaping leg wound in our backyard.

Cassandra = happy to have a friend.

Visitor = in deifinite pain.

Neighbors = unimpressed with our hosting skills.


     On a lighter note, one of my friends was recently robbed at machete blade. We can all agree that the point of a machete is much less intimidating than the blade. I sent a message of condolences and offers to help any way I could, but failed to recognize that the phone would also be stolen. At least my friend's assailant can sleep easy knowing he has a friend in Uganda who is there for him if he needs it...

When we visit Lamu, I'm gonna take a lesson from Crocodile Dundee and trump those bitches with a claymore. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

About the title and running out of airtime.

    Ugandatronics? What the hell is Ugandatronics?
I wish I had a better explanation than the one I'm about to give. Something insightful, that makes the nonsense of this title mean something...
The truth is that now, every time I visit my own blog, I have to suppress a twinge of embarrassment.
 Like the picture of you as a kid dressed up like a girl and loving it. Like the recording someone found of post-pubescent you pretending to be a master thespian. You just kinda wish you could change it... or something.
What about the blog settings? Can't you go in and change it to something witty like "Uganda-believe-its-not-butter" or, "Uganda-hell-in-a-handbasket"?
The sad fact is that, coupled with an overall laziness that will ensure no change to the title will occur, It grows on me in some way. How else are we going to differentiate our blog from everybody else's? I guess nonsense is as good a way as any.

     We are visiting home for most of July, and I judged it prudent to call and verify with the Entebbe Airpoirt that our flights were scheduled properly and we will be having no travel-day surprises. What was less prudent was that I made the call with only 1500 shillings airtime on my phone. I knew out the gate that it was a gambit, but I figured "these people are in charge of shooting people through the air, maybe they will have their crap together and do the old flight-number-verification-respond-quickly routine."

Alas, this is Uganda.

   After asking to verify my flight, I was instantly placed on hold, then listened to the same 5 second loop of something Kenny G-ey ten times in a row, not because they only had that much of the song, but because someone kept taking me off hold, then putting me back on again.
This continued until the nice voice-lady for MTN notified me that my call would be dropped due to "insufficient funds" - as if I was some kind of checking account delinquent. I need to do some real planning on how I can double check our info - will it cost me more to hang on the line for thousands of shillings worth of airtime, or to just hop a taxi to Mbale, a bus to Kampala, a taxi to Entebbe, jump on a businessman's back, and get this done face-to-face?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


     This is Bumba. You won't find him at the local drinking circle. More likely than not he is at home building some doors, or off building a house. He provides for his family and plays with his kids. I wanted to take an opportunity to recognize a Ugandan man who doesn't follow the norms of his culture. He has helped us since we moved in to our new place to make it somewhere that feels like home, and has never asked for a shilling for all of his work. He helped me (and is still helping me) build my thatched hut, again trying to dodge my offers of payment. He has been a translator, policeman, and friend to us. I am happy to know that there are people like him in this country.

Monday, June 7, 2010

About hiking and human skulls.

     I think you can really consider yourself a soft, out-of-shape, sorry excuse for a hiker when a group of heavily-laden Ugandan women shout words of encouragement to you as you ascend a slope that they have been going up and down all day. In my defense, this was no baby slope. We were in the foothills of Mt. Elgon and the last several hundred yards of our hike to "the cave" was one degree shy of vertical (if my mental level is any guide). Imagine my surprise to find that even these unforgiving tracts are still farmed to the gills by the locals. Beans and maize on an 89 degree angle... it was magnificent...to use for foot/handholds (we can discuss the wisdom of cultivating at such a landslide-inducing angle later).

     We finally crested the top and gazed in wonder at our feet while we caught our breaths and congratulated ourselves.
     We took a break that was certainly too long for our high/middle school age guides who, incidentally, spent some of the time deliberating about whether or not we were faster than the 2 fully-habited nuns that they had come up with some time before. It was agreed that we were faster, but I wasn't convinced that they weren't just saying that.

     On we went, and soon found ourselves at the base of a small rock. In the small alcove created by this rock there was a pile of human skulls.

     Apparently this is a pile of human skulls with no story, since we tried for rest of the weekend to get the story from someone, anyone, to no avail.
     About halfway down the mountain (let's call it) we discovered why our guides were nervous about our leisurely pace and long breaks. It began to dump rain. Not to be put out, we used the occasion to take another very long break, and under the eaves of a nearby primary school got our fill of being stared at by children and mimicked with that accursed nasal voice. (apparently it's what we sound like, which makes me even madder.) 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My blog, my rules

     A short update: I'm not going to try to recap the events since last posting, we all know I'm much too lazy for that. I really am trying to turn over a new leaf with the blog, and have downloaded the Scribefire extension for Firefox to make the whole experience easier (might do the trick).
     Perusing the last blog post brings up an interesting tidbit. The very snake that I dragged out of the house those months ago struck again. Unfortunately it was on its A-game this time. No, it didn't get me or Cassandra, but one of the teachers at my primary school. he is mostly recovered at this point (about 2 weeks later), but he was down for 2 days with a severely swollen leg, then had to adopt the crab walk before being able to use a stick to walk. Turns out that the snake really is poisonous.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recap - Cassandra

So yeah, we're in Uganda now.

Our first little stint was training, which was at a site about 45 minutes outside of Kampala. The family that we stayed with was great, but I think I struggled with it a lot more than Caleb did. Its hard for me to live in someone elses house, and not have much of a say in what I do everyday, and when I do it. I did have a good time getting to know some awesome people in my training class, and enjoying the initial excitement of living in Africa.
Long story short, Im freakin glad its over.

On to site.

Caleb mentioned a bit about our housing issues, but he left out the best part. Wait, let me back up. the first place we lived in wasnt finished, and was the Mecca for lizards. Not the cute little geckos that eat bugs, these were the ones as long as my arm that excrete waste the size of my little finger. They were all over the house. At any given time of day I could stand in the middle of the house and look up (no ceilings) and see somewhere in the ballpark of 10 lizards just chillin on the walls. Aside from the large amounts of crap that we had to sweep on on a bidaily basis, the lizards would run along the rafters and the tin roof and make a horrible scratching noise. Oh, and they seemed to really enjoy divebombing off the roof into the house. I'd be sitting in the living room reading, only to be scared out of my panties by a stupid-ass lizard flying at my feet.
So back to the best part. Im in the kitchen one night makin some food when I hear Caleb call from the hallway, "Cassandra stay in the kitchen". I instantly know this is bad. I climbed up onto one of our plastic chairs, only to see in my periphery Caleb dragging something out the back door. I knew what it was. The only thing he would tell me to stay in the kitchen for. A damn snake! I hate snakes!! Caleb had grabbed the live thing by the tail, drug it out back, and whacked it over the head to kill it. Well, we found out the next day when Caleb's supervisor over to check it out that the snake was actually poisonous, and apparently if Caleb had been bitten he would have needed medical attention swiftly to stay alive.

I called Peace Corps the next day. It wasnt just the snake or the snake food (lizards) that was the problem. The house wasnt finished, and there were security concerns. So we moved, and are loving our new place. Except the goats making weirdly humanish moans outside our window all night. We think its because the goats are in heat, so hopefully they'll stop soon.

Christmas is in less than a week, and I've been making Caleb listen to the same 18 Christmas songs every day, at least once a day for the entire month. He likes to tell me what he finds most annoying about each song. Mariah Carey and Celine Dion ruin the songs by diva-ing them up too much, Jewel is too nasaly, the Frank Sinatra songs have the overzelous horns, the classical version of God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen is too choppy, and dont get him started on the song with the lyrics about being a gentleman's lady (we think the song is about prostitution). The music is really all I have to remind me that Christmas is soon. There's no snow, no decorations, no family hanging out, and I sweat my ass off daily. We were in Kampala a week or 2 ago, and i was so excited when we went into a big store that had decorations and Christmas music playing. I turned to Caleb and said " I feel like we're at Walmart during Christmas" and I was so happy. Then I realized just how white trash and sad that sounded, but I didnt care. I basked in the whitetrashness of it all.

So I think the big thing thats happened lately, was the Piki incident. A couple of evenings ago I really wanted to get out of the house, so we decided to go for a walk to enjoy the sun setting. Our area is really pretty. We dont have to green rolling hills like in the central or western parts of the country, but the flatter land really opens up the sky, making it seem huge, so the sunsets are amazing. We were walking a little ways from our house when we heard a motorbike coming up behind us. Not too uncommon. We started stepping off the road to let it pass when I found myself on my ass in the mud with a ton of pain in my right calf. I turned to look at the man expecting him to stop, he turned to look at me, then he turned back to face forward so he could drive off effectively.

My leg hurt like hell! I was pissed that the man looked at me and drove off. What did he think, he was going to hit the only white woman for miles and no one would notice? While I was crying loudly on the ground, Caleb called his supervisor to come take us to the hospital. The hospital was pointless, they cleaned my cuts and poked the bruised muscle and sent us on our way. Well they wanted to give me a tetanus shot, but Ive had one very recently, and they wanted to give me a shot in the ass for the pain, but Peace Corps advises against intramuscular shots, so I didnt get it. The doctor who saw me didnt bother to ask about my allergies, so he prescribed an antibiotic that Im allergic to, and they were out of the kind that I requested in its place, so really it was pointless to go to the hospital.

So I've been limping around the house for the past 3 days feeling lazy and useless as all get out. Today I actually left the house to watch a football game. My stupid leg ruined our plans to go to Sipi Falls this week, we we're planning on chillin in the village for Christmas anyways, but my leg better be ready to party it up in Kampala for New Years. I'm trying not to be bitter. I do have a kankle which makes keeping my bitterness at bay difficult.

Caleb is giving me crap about writting "The Great American Novel" so I guess I'm done.

Hi family and friends, I love you and miss you! Have a good Christmas!

Recap - Caleb

Maybe I'm just a procrastinator, but this blog is like the dishes.
I need to recap about 3 months worth of events and I'm not sure how to do it. I begin:

We touched down in Uganda in August and after a few recovery days at Lweza (near Kampala) started with our training. Training lasts for 10 weeks, which we spent in Wakiso town, at the home of Jackson and Karen. The homestay itself was fine, except for the standard complaints of not being in control of bathings or feedings, and overall I would say that our homestay was as good as could be asked for. By the time 10 weeks was up, we had both had enough of sitting all day, only to rush home past the hordes of Muzungu-screaming children, to make it before the sun went down (which is when the boogeyman comes). We got some intensive instruction in Lugwere, the language spoken in our future sites, which prepared us quite well to look like fools (our instructor, Mica, was quite good, and his class was one of the things to look forward to each day, but you never really start learning the language until you are consistently embarrased in it). For the most part training was a series of training sessions and activities designed to make sure we could at least function on a base level once we hit the ground. Forgive the lack of detail, but the memory fades, and the typing hands tire.

So on to Site. We landed in our village, Uganda in mid-October. The house we were first in was somewhat unfinished, and there was another house in a smaller village (nearby) that had been prepared, but we decided to stick it out and try to make the first place work. After about a month or so we decided to relocate to the other house, and we were allowed to move. The move itself was an overburdened-truck, dudes-riding-on-top, stare-inducing, pampered-white-people debacle that introduced us to the community as "those muzungus that have way too many things".
We have been her now for about a month, and things are going well. My Lugwere is more embarrasing than ever, but our longsuffering neighbors are always willing to happily look confused and ask me in english what I am trying to say. Our neighbor, Paul, is also very good at policing the area, and we have only had one person come the the house asking for money. The person was later tracked down by the same Paul and reminded how to act with us.

Lets see... frisbee instruction to the children, kids playing with toys made out of old jerry cans and soccer balls made of plastic bags, beautiful lavender sunsets, the double-handed greeting wave, trees that grow every way but up, the red/green/blue of dirt/trees/sky, millions of lizards, smiles and men stomping around in mud to make bricks, people saying "well done" when you've been sitting on your ass for a few hours, Legit indian food in Mbale... there are some snapshot memories of mine from here.

If I wasn't battling what I'm sure is Giardia i would relate Cassandra's "getting clipped by the out-of-control boda" story, but right now it's a trip to the pit latrine for me......Adios!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

San Diego Pictures

So, every year Cassandra's family takes us on a trip to San Diego for a week on the beach playing, boogie-boarding, swimming, and such. this will be the last year for quite awhile, and we are trying our best to live it up before we make the big move to Africa.

Check out some of our San Diego trip pictures

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Milford Visit

Here are some pictures from our visit to Milford, UT. You wouldn't expect it to be so pretty there, but we went to several completely fantastic places.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Yard Sale!!

CALEB: So we loaded the front yard with our stuff and invited the whole world to come scrutinize our existence. They complied. We made out ok, but it was a bit weird having erbody root through our goods. Next step, trashing/donating what didn't sell, storing the memorables, and packing up tight for the big move.

CASSANDRA: I was shocked how excited everyone seemed about our boxes o' trash. We had 50 cent, $1, and 2$ bins full of absolute garbage, and people went nuts with it! Someone even bought a bottle of used scented hand soap for 25 cents. Our house is weird now, we have our bed, a piano chair and piano, our computer, and a camp chair still and thats really it. We did the sale a bit early cause we're gonna be out of town for half the month of July, and wanted to get everything gone before it was too late.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Invite!!!

Caleb: We got the official Peace Corps Invite today to go to Uganda on Aug 2, 2009. We are both totally stoked and can finally start shedding all of our unnecessary belongings. It has been a long process, but we are finally headed down the home stretch. It's crazy to think that we will be standing in Uganda 2 months from now. Now we just need to hammer out all of the paperwork, and we're home free.

Cassandra: Finally yay! Wholly year of uncertainty. We just got back from a Utah Peace Corps dinner in Salt Lake, and it was so awesome to talk to people who are in a similar situation to us. I don't think most people realize how much stress, uncertainty, and patience are involved with the application process. When I tell people that we got the official invite, they're like "I thought you were already going to Africa". It still doesn't seem real, but I'm sure it will in 2 months!