It took more than a day to get here, but I have made it to Uganda! I, along with all the other Peace Corps volunteers, arrived late on a Wednesday night and jumped right into training, bright and early the next day. Our first stop in Uganda was the Lweza training center, not far from the Entebbe airport, where we stayed for four days. While at Lweza, we had a crash course in Luganda (the most widely spoken language in Uganda), met with the Peace Corps medical staff (who administered our malaria medication and the beginning of a variety of series of shots) and also interviewed with the Ugandan Peace Corps staff, who are still working on selecting organizations for us to work with post-training. On our last day at Lweza, we were assigned to our language groups. While all of the volunteers were excited to find out what language they would be speaking for the next two years, there was the added perk of getting a general idea of where we will be placed after training. While some of the volunteers will continue learning Luganda, there are about 5 or 6 other languages that the volunteers are learning. I am learning Lumasaaba, a Bantu language spoken in Eastern Uganda. While I don't know exactly what village I will be working with, I know that I will be living outside Mbale, the third largest city in Uganda.
So, after finding out our language groups, and after only four days in Uganda, we packed up our stuff at the Lweza training center and moved to Wakiso, a village about 30-60 minutes (depending on traffic) away from the capital, Kampala. There, we nervously met our host families. While one of my biggest fears was not getting along with my host family, all things considered, I would have to say that the living situation at my house is pretty good. I am living with a Muslim family in a very comfortable house. There are three children in the family, who are fascinated by everything I do and like to hover around me, but manage not to drive me totally crazy. And the host family also has a house girl, who I really enjoy hanging out with.
So when I am not at home with my host family, I am at training. Training started the day after we arrived in Wakiso and I am currently beginning my third week of training. Training is good, but the days are long, and I like to remind myself of how far I have come when each week is said and done. I have training 5-6 days a week and a typical day for me looks like this: I wake up sometime between 6-6:30, whenever I can get myself out of bed, I take a bucket bath, brush my teeth and then have tea. I leave my house no later than 7:25 and walk to training, which begins at 8. I study Lumasaaba from 8:00 to 10:00, at which point we have a tea break. After tea, we usually have training on something related to field work, then have lunch at 12:30, then have more field-work based training. I finish training at 5, then either walk home, or go into Wakiso and hang out with PC friends, shop at the market, or use the internet. It gets dark at 7:30 here, so I am virtually always home by then. I take tea around 7 p.m., have dinner at 8 or 9 (Ugandans eat dinner much later than Americans, actually normally they eat even later than this, typically at 10 or 11) and then bathe again. The rest of the night I generally spend studying or hanging out with my host family. I go to bed around 10 or 10:30 and then I do it all over again.
So, as the majority of my time is spent at training, perhaps I should elaborate a little more on what exactly we are learning. Training covers a wide variety of topics. We learn practical things that we need to know for surviving in Uganda, like how to clean our drinking water or cook, and then we learn about topics related to our field of work. Our group is a mixture of economic development volunteers and community health volunteers. So some days we split up and the health people study one thing and the econ people another, but most days we are together. Our training so far has included sessions on malaria, HIV/AIDS, addressing American diversity in Uganda, Ugandan history/economy/government/education, agriculture etc, etc. The training has been highly informative and has also has given me a plethora of ideas concerning projects I might try at my future site. Today, we learned about gardening, composting and solar drying. We spent most of the day outside, where we planted a variety of vegetables and also built a keyhole garden. I took a lot of pictures of the construction of the keyhole garden, which I am hoping to post on the blog soon. I was really excited to learn about gardening and composting because I hope to have a home garden at my future site. We also learned how to build a solar dryer, which can be used to dry fruits and vegetables. I also want to build a solar dryer once I get to site, so hopefully I will be enjoying some dried pineapple and bananas in a few months time!