saggy old breasts and dirty ole (thieving) bastards.

bus rides here in uganda are never really what i would describe as a pleasant experience, but there are definitely different levels  of unpleasantness.  i recently experienced two of my more negative trips on a recent trek to kampala.  i was heading to kampala due to the unbearable shooting pains i was experiencing every time inhaled and exhaled, which definitely contributed to the negativity of my experience.

part one: the saggy old breasts. 

the trip to kampala is anywhere from 5 hours on a really good day to 10+ hours on a really bad day (this is especially frustrating because in a private vehicle it can be done in about 3-4 hours tops).  since i was in excruciating pain, this trip was especially taxing.

the journey started out well.  when i arrived at the bus park, i found out there was a line of two-busloads worth of people who already had tickets (meaning i would have to wait for two more buses to come before i would finally be able to even board a bus).  fortunately due to my whiteness (“thank you for coming to help our people”), one of the bus company’s employees allowed me to cut in front of all the ticket-holding locals in line and board the bus that was getting ready to leave (yay white privilege!)

this is where the day started to take a turn for the worst.  there aren’t usually lines of people waiting to get on the bus, so i’m able to secure myself a window seat (window seats are of vital importance here since deodorant isn’t really a thing here.  like, i could seriously get behind the toms shoes campaign if they donated a stick of deodorant for every pair of their ugly shoes that a hipster buys).  today, i wasn’t so lucky and instead ended up in a seat between two ugandan women.  the lady to my right was a young mother holding her maybe 6 month old baby in her lap.  the woman to my left was a bit older and appeared to be holding her 5 year old grandson on her lap.  this was not an ideal situation, but at least i had a seat on the bus that was leaving immediately.

aside from the body odor issue, another advantage of the window seat is the ability to lean against window and fall asleep as the fresh, dust-filled air fills your lungs.  being in between these two hefty ladies did not give me that option, but i somehow managed to fall asleep.  i awoke to find a rather large and saggy uncovered  ugandan breast in my face (this is not even remotely sexy… i would also support a toms campaign that distributed much-needed bras).  the young mother decided that even though her baby was suckling on her right tit, the left one should obviously be out too, especially since i had fallen asleep on her left shoulder.  i turned to my right looking to move my sleepy head to the other ugandan chubster (g. smith reference, ftw), but was shocked to find out that grandma is actually mom too, and that five year old grandson is still breastfeeding.

i guess i don’t really know what the protocol is for what age one should stop breastfeeding, and i can’t be sure what age exactly this kid was.  however, i do know that he was later able to ask for, receive and demolish a bottle of fanta (i’m fairly confident that if you can order and drink a bottle of soda, it’s time for you to stop sucking on your mom’s teat).

part two: the dirty ole thieving bastards.  

i ended up spending a few days at medical before making my return trip.  since i had been treated for what ended up being pleurisy (turns out, it’s not just for old people in the middle ages anymore), i was in a lot less pain this time.  i was even able to secure the window seat and was pleased to share my row with two older gentlemen who did not possess milk-producing breasts nor children to drink from them.

the body odor issue was definitely there, but fortunately i had control of the window and could simply hang my head out the window like a dog and breath in the dust and other mysterious (fecal) particles.  despite their unpleasant scent, these guys seemed pretty nice.  when the conductor came around to collect money, there was a problem: the gentleman in the middle seat only had 24,000 ugandan shillings and the ticket cost 25,000 (for the record the currency exchange rate usually puts the u.s. dollar at about 2300 ugandan shillings).

i’ve recently discovered that i’m perhaps not the nicest person to random ugandans i meet on public transport.  it’s something i’m trying to work on.  so, with this in mind, i ponied up the extra 1,000 shillings so he wouldn’t get kicked off the bus (this is only partially selfless.  i didn’t want to risk having somebody worse take over his place next to me).  he thanked me and i dosed off to sleep proud of the kindness i had just shown (you know, us rich white people can be pretty awesome sometimes).

i awoke to find a skewer of meat being shoved in my face by a street vendor (this is a common thing, and the riskiest part about leaving one’s face hanging out an open window).  what was strange is that the man sitting next to me was handing 3,000 shillings out the window to purchase three skewers for himself (2 chicken, 1 beef).  this was slightly annoying since i had paid the extra 1,000 he seemed to be lacking a couple hours prior when we were departing.  since i’m trying to be nicer, i just ignored it because nothing was really going to come of me making a crazy-white-person scene (i was tempted to take one of his chicken skewers as repayment, but i had purchased a sandwich that morning in kampala, so didn’t really need it).

the sandwich is something that doesn’t really exist here in uganda (well, at least, not outside the capitol city).  one of the biggest perks of going to kampala is getting a “quality cuts” sandwich.  my favorite is the salami with spicy mustard and cheddar cheese.

i fell back asleep only to be awakened by the dude sitting next to me reaching past me to purchase a bottle of soda through the window (it was 2,000 shillings, bringing his total expenditures up to 5,000 shillings).  i decided to reward myself with a bottle of soda to go with my beautiful sandwich.  i reached down to grab my sandwich, but it was no longer in the top of my open bag.  instead it was on the floor of the bus, half-eaten (though thankfully still wrapped up, although i probably would have still eaten if it had touched the floor.  let’s be honest, salami, cheddar cheese and spicy mustard doesn’t happen in the village, ever).

i shockingly managed to keep my cool, despite the fact that he stole half my sandwich after i paid for the remainder of his ticket.  perhaps i’ve turned over a new leaf in my life (that or the other half of the sandwich was delicious enough to calm my anger).

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riding the bus is an unpleasant, but necessary part of being a peace corps volunteer here in uganda.  while these experiences may seemed terrible at the time, i now look at them fondly and look forward to what ridiculousness i’ll be exposed to the next time i ride the bus.

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torturing local children: a (successful) attempt at achieving goal two.

peace corps has three goals:

goal 1: to help the people of interested countries meet their needs for trained men and women.

goal 2: to help promote a better understanding of americans on the part of the peoples served.

goal 3:to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of americans.

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the first goal basically covers my day to day work at my organization (at least in theory).  the second and third goals are much more ambiguous, and allow pcvs to be creative.  some common examples include setting up pen pal programs between youth in the country where they are serving and a classroom back in the states, blogging (some people actually write educational and uplifting  stuff on their blogs.  this obviously doesn’t really apply to me), and simply having conversations with people about their experiences. i have to admit that i don’t do a lot of work that would fall under goal 2 or goal 3, aside from relentlessly trying to convince people here that cheese is god’s gift to mankind.  america recognizes it, so should uganda.  recently i have been on a somewhat serious mission to achieve goal two by explaining america’s love for dogs.

yes, i did cry. mainly because i knew i had just wasted $12 and 2 hours of my life that i’m never going to get back.

this past week i have been dog-sitting for another pcv.  dogs may be known as “man’s best friend” in america, but here in uganda, dogs are terrifying beasts of death.  i imagine that the only part of old yeller a ugandan child would like is the end when the dog gets put down (and they’d probably be thinking something along the lines of, “it took you that long to realize that the dog was bad news?”).  instead of crying at the end of marley and me, they would be cheering and laughing (actually, they’d probably be pissed that they wasted two hours waiting for bob marley to appear only to be disappointed by owen wilson’s nose).

i legit cried at the end of “old yeller”. if you didn’t, you really don’t have a soul (and are thus most likely a ginger).

i’ve showed my neighbors pictures of my family’s dogs, suzy and daisy (note: i did not pick the names.  my mom and chocolate bear are the responsible parties), and tried to explain that dogs can be awesome companions.  i have a hard time convincing them since the only exposure they have to canines are the brutally scary guard dogs in the compound next door (these beasts make cujo seem like air bud) and the anorexic fiends who rabidly tear apart our garbage as soon as it lands on the burning pile.

my beautiful and poorly-named dog, daisy.

due to the fact that i am incredibly irresponsible and selfish, i will never own a dog here in uganda.  this past week, i’ve been hosting a dog named remmy.  this isn’t the first time that they’ve seen him, but this is the first time that remmy has been over for longer than a brief visit.  the adults have been cool with remmy’s presence for the most part (one of the dudes can’t seem to get over the fear of a dog-bite, though).  the children, on the other hand, are terrified.

there aren’t that many things that annoy me more than children.  while most pcvs seem to get off (disturbing phrasing is very much intended) on dirty ugandan children crawling all over them, i get off by torturing them (the disturbing phrasing is again, very much intended).  me, being my evil self, decided to take advantage of remmy’s presence and terrify them.  the goal is that their interactions with the dog will be so traumatizing that they will never bother me again (after remmy returns home, i plan on threatening to bring the dog back if they bother me).

today i put this into action by releasing remmy into the courtyard once the children and their friends got home from school.  i opened the door and then sat down and waited for the screams to begin.  as expected, within 30 seconds, i heard the blood-curdling screams of 8 ugandan children.  “andrew!!!! ka (little) dog is trying to bite me!”  i sat for what seemed like a few minutes (in reality it was probably about 30 seconds, but most likely hours in the minds of my victims) before reacting.  i leisurely strolled out on the balcony overlooking them. “what’s wrong.  the ka dog is nice.  he is your friend.  don’t fear.”  this is met with even more screams of terror, which is especially amusing since remmy is simply lying on his back wanting one of the little brats to scratch his stomach.

remmy is pretty good-looking for being a ugandan dog. too good-looking, in fact. the working theory is that he is the bastard child of a foreign dog who left his mother and him to struggle in the ugandan slums.

after i reach the courtyard i pick up remmy like a baby and reassure them that the dog is their friend.  i put remmy on a leash and slowly convince the children to come up and take turns petting him.  after their nerves have been calmed somewhat, i stealthily removed the leash and let remmy free. i could have just let remmy remain calm, but i thought it would be more fun to rile him up.  upon realizing the dog is free to move about, the children scream and run in all different directions, which helped in the riling up process.  one of the boys, a cute little fattie, maybe 3 years old, attracts all of remmy’s attention.  suddenly the courtyard turns into a scene from gladiator as all of the other children laugh and cheer as their former compatriot runs for his life (my next goal 2 activity is to make these children watch spartacus so they can learn some loyalty to their fellow man).

the little guy was keeping a pretty good pace considering his weight and the shortness of his legs.  things came to a screeching halt when he tripped and face-planted in a fresh pile of dog feces (for being a smaller dog, remmy happens to produce fairly large-sized dumps).  briefly, time stood still as i tried to reconcile in my mind what had just happened.

this was more than i could have ever imagined or hoped for.

once i had finished the first of many laughing fits, i put the leash back on remmy and took him back upstairs to my place.

with remmy safely locked away, i returned to the courtyard to reassess the damage (and perhaps in hopes of mocking the poor little kid a bit more).  the housegirl was washing off his face.  i was surprised to see that he wasn’t crying.  instead, he just had a look of utter shock (he was so joyously pathetic that i waited until i returned to my house before bursting out in laughter again).

i was able to reach these kids with two lessons on american culture:

  1. dogs can be your friend (i guess i kind of messed that one up).
  2. never bother andrew orland rowan, or there will be consequences (not sure if they really understand this, but i am sure that they won’t be coming anywhere near my house in the near future).

flagrantly stalking zee germans, in the most egregious manner possible.

so i love white people.  i’m not a neo-nazi or anything like that.  i love people of all colors (and hate many people of all colors), but there is a shortage of pale-faces here in uganda, so when i see one, i get kind of excited.  and by excited, i mean i turn into what the common man might refer to as creepy/stalkeresque (but who cares. the common man is kind of a loser anyway.  i’m pretty sure his favorite band is nickelback).  since i’m stationed outside uganda’s capital city, kampala, the number of pale-faced-whities is especially low.  outside of the numerous peace corps volunteers in my area, it’s pretty much an exclusively dark chocolate party. when i first arrived in bushenyi, i heard rumors a german who can be best described as a promiscuous berlinian fascist, but aside from random slutty euro-trash hookers heading through town on safari, it wasn’t until recently that i discovered that the is indeed a german presence here.

nick and i, as part of our world malaria day event planning (stuff we do when we’re pretending to be awesome volunteers), took a meeting at the local branch of the red cross.  it was that fateful day that we met max (aka maximus), the german dude (we couldn’t remember his name after this initial meeting, so we referred to him as “wolfgang.”  i wanted “adolf”, but nick found that to be egregiously flagrant).  days passed before we made contact with these germans again.

may 4th was the next time i had an interaction with one of the nazis germans.  this time it was a girl wearing a red cross vest on her way to do some community work. turns out that there is more pale faces than just wolfgang working at red cross (well, it’s just the two of them, but the plurality makes it seem more extreme).  i bid tabea farewell as she went to do her work.  that night i discussed the newly found german with nick and bailey (for the record, this brings the total number of krauts to 3 known in the area).

one of my favorite holidays ever is cinco de mayo (this is a lie).  so this year the peace corps bushenyi crew (also known as a tlc, is comprised of nick, bailey & myself) decided that we needed to do it big.  a party isn’t really a party without more than 3 people (although our regular weekend parties usually does just consist of the three of us, since we have been blacklisted from all other volunteers, joseph mccarthy style.).  my “landlord” was gracious enough to be our chauffer (or whatever the mexican word is for “driver”) since peace corps strictly forbids us from operating motorized vehicles.  after picking up some of the necessary supplies needed to throw a fiesta (i.e. takeaway beans because we’re too lazy to actually cook the beans ourselves), we decided that we needed to find the germans to make it an authentic cinco de mayo (nothing says mexican holiday like the poster children of the third reich). unfortunately we didn’t have contact numbers (or really even known their names), but we did have an idea of where in town they lived.

“there is something pernicious in the air today, holmes.”

sadly there aren’t signs that say “whites live here” posted on any of the houses in bushenyi (which is probably a good thing because it might lead to some unwanted visits from robbers).  so we did some detective work (nick was robert downey, jr, i, being the prettier of the gents, was jude law.  i guess bailey is rachel adams, but she waited in the car, so she doesn’t really count) by asking local children “baazungu, baatura nkahi?” (the white people live where?). after a few very amused and confused conversations, we found ourselves at the gate of the compound where we were led to believe the white-faces lived.  of course, there were 6 houses in the compound, and again there was no “whites here” sign.  so nick and i casually strolled through the compound pretending we were looking for louise, the director of the red cross branch in bushenyi.  after peering through multiple windows and scaring a few ugandan children we finally heard a colonel klink call out to us and ask us if we wanted to come in.  we then stumbled, in a completely coherent manner, through our lie about looking for louise and then invited them to join us that afternoon for some mexican food.  when we stumbled back to the car, we told bailey that based on our performance we doubted that they’d be joining us, let alone ever talk to us again.

tlc celebrates cinco de mayo in typical “cholo” fashion (also, they are a little dyslexic).

luckily we either weren’t as creepy as we thought, or max and tabea have high tolerance for creepiness (they have since been exposed to ms. griffin smith, so they definitely have a high tolerance for dealing with jack-ass americans).  overall the day was a success, complete with excellent food and a piñata named hector (and i only made one holocaust joke and one reference to us kicking german ass in ww2). additionally we had some pretty awesome, not-at-all-racist costumes (as seen above) and mexican names (bailey was juanita, nick was pablo escobar, max was alejandro, and i was rodriquez.  i can’t remember if we gave tabea a name, but i’d like to think that it was selena).

hopefully this won’t be the last time they grace us with their presence.  i’m thinking that a movie night might be fun (inglorious basterds and munich are at the top of the list, but bailey’s pulling for schindler’s list.  perhaps we’ll have to settle on something a little more light, such as sherlock holmes).

my life is a joke: a freshly circumcised penis, a runaway servant, and “the west wing”.

as a peace corps volunteer in uganda (and i would venture to guess that it applies to peace corps volunteers everywhere) i often find myself laughing at the ridiculousness that is my life.  while some of the absurdity has morphed into being a part of everyday life (i.e. hot water is a luxury, sleeping under a mosquito net, coveting nasty processed cheese, sharing toyota corollas with 15 other people, being treated like a middle school student by incompetent members of peace corps admin…), there are some days where i am reminded of just how ridiculous my life is.  this past tuesday was one of those days.

tuesday started out fairly normally (well, as “normal” as a day can be for a white dude in bushenyi).  i went to my office, and subsequently wanted to blow my brains out due to boredom (there was an all-day review of a training of trainers manual which consisted of my co-workers and i evaluating how the manual could be adjusted to best reach the intended audience of rural ugandans- something, as an american, i can provide a lot of insight into- but, hey, at least it wasn’t data entry!). fortunately, i received a phone call about 2 hours into the pointless madness, and somehow failed to make it back inside.  in fact, my entire day at work was fairly normal; it wasn’t until i got home that things started getting weird.

last week i went to a weeklong in-service training where i got to see everyone from my training class again and sit through pointless meaningful sessions.  i also got to retake the language proficiency interview (which i surprisingly passed.  i can now say that i officially speak runyankore at an intermediate low level!).  when i arrived back at home i discovered something horrible:  my house girl (maid/servant/slave… whichever term you prefer) had disappeared.  the only explanation i received was from my neighbor, with whom i shared my maid/servant/slave, who told me cryptically, “sylvia is gone, and she’s never coming back.” while i was, of course, concerned for her well-being, i was more concerned for the bag of dirty clothes i was returning with and who exactly was going to be cleaning them.  it wasn’t until after work on tuesday that i finally learned of the reason behind her mysterious disappearance.  it turns out that sylvia left me, in my time of need, to marry a boda boda driver (boda bodas are the super-fun motorcycle taxis of which pcvs are strictly forbidden from riding).  i haven’t met this particular driver, but boda boda drivers tend to be at the lower/seedier end of society (day-drinking entire bottles of gin, hassling females, etc), but i’m sure sylvia found herself a winner.  i’ll never know for sure because, unlike my neighbors, i didn’t get an invite to the wedding which is happening this saturday.

jjingo is a good driver. he wears a helmet and he'd never think of stealing my house girl.

i learned about sylvia’s betrayal from my landlord when he stopped by to visit.  it isn’t unusual for him to visit me.  he often comes up to drink a beer and have a chat about our days (read: it isn’t really about the conversation so much as it is about him wanting to steal my beer).  today was a little strange since he was wearing a wrap-around skirt that greatly resembled the pattern of his curtains.  he proceeded to lay down across my couch and grab my laptop.  this was a little annoying since i was in the middle of watching “the west wing”, but even more annoying since i knew i’d spend the next hour or so explaining what exactly is going on (“what do you mean, i thought obama was the president?”…).  before the questioning regarding president bartlett and the objectification of the female cast
(shocker: he prefers cj over donna.  no offense to allison janney or janel moloney, but i think we can all agree that rob lowe is the prettiest member of the west wing staff) can begin, i’m informed that he’ll take a tusker lager.  unfortunately for him, i only have a nile
special in the fridge (and if i did have the elusive brown bottle tusker lager, there is no chance that i’d be sharing it with him).  “oh and make sure you bring me a glass too” (i guess the free bottle of beer isn’t enough).  i return from the kitchen with the nile special and glass in hand to find him lying spread eagle on my couch with no clothing except a shirt.

thank you, aaron sorkin. without you, i'd be as irrelevant as the rest of the brat pack.

now public nudity isn’t really that big of shocker here (granted it’s usually neighborhood children), and i’m not that big into wearing clothes all the time (ask my parents about the “naked dance”).  however, this is not the usual scenario in which i find myself exposed (word choice, for the win) to random nudity.  the nudity itself isn’t even the most shocking part.  aside from the fact that my landlord wasn’t wearing anything below the waist, his exposed penis inexplicably covered in gauze and medical tape.  i handed him the beer and sat down, expecting an unsolicited explanation on his part.  however, instead of him explaining why his penis was both exposed and bandaged up, we talked about how attractive cj cregg is.  finally, after we had finished the episode, he explained to me that his penis was in its current condition due to the circumcision he had do this afternoon.

you know, nothing unusual, just had a circumcision done this afternoon.  no big deal.  in uganda this isn’t actually that unusual.  newborns just aren’t circumcised here like they are in the states, especially not 30 years ago when my landlord was born.  following some (questionable) studies which declared that circumcision significantly decreasing one’s likelihood of contracting hiv, there has been a major push in uganda and other sub-saharan african countries towards adult male circumcision (thankfully my parents chopped my foreskin off when i was still an infant).  i actually applaud my landlord for seeking a way of preventing himself from contracting hiv (now he just needs to slow down the continuous rotation of random sluts).  i’d just prefer that he keep his penis in his pants, especially when he’s laying on my couch discussing the virtues of cj cregg and drinking my last beer.

somebody shoot me: a friday night in africa spent watching “out of africa”.

this is almost as depressing as that time i watched blue valentine and drank a bottle of wine by myself.

it’s a friday night and i’m lying in bed at 8pm.  sadly this is not an unusual event.  the biggest thing i have planned for the rest of evening: writing this blog post and trying to power through the meryl streep/robert redford disaster out of africa (seriously.  it’s awful).  i would try sleeping, but unfortunately that isn’t really an option at my house.  when you look out from my balcony you can see the beautiful rolling hills of bushenyi, uganda.  unfortunately, if you look just immediately out from the balcony, you can see the “bushenyi miracle center.” now there isn’t necessarily anything wrong aesthetically or architecturally with the miracle center (aside from it’s creepy circular shape- you can never trust a building that is circular), however on friday nights (and other random nights throughout the week) the people in attendance start chanting and “singing” in an unreasonably loud and outrageously annoying manner (and we’re not talking about people passionately singing “shout to the lord” or “how great is our god,” this is bloodcurdling howls and screams- i sometimes wonder what exactly they are doing).  it’s about 8 pm, which means that they’ll be wailing for at least another 6 hours (that guess in on the conservative side.  sometimes i’ve awoken at 8 am to hear them still at it, a good 12-13 hours after they had begun).

out of africa. this movie is just awful- you know it’s a bad movie when you can’t even stand robert redford (just kidding.  aside from his work behind the camera on quiz show and his appearances opposite paul newman, he’s pretty lackluster).  i can’t decide what’s worse: meryl streep’s accent or how awful white people in africa are (seriously, white people in africa are terrible people, especially american ladies with phony danish accents).  fun fact: do you know how you can tell that meryl streep isn’t really danish?  because danish women are a ridiculously attractive (yes.  i am saying that meryl streep isn’t ridiculously attractive).

nothing sexier than having the sundance kid washing your hair with schisto-infested water.

friday nights in america are something i like to idealize when i’m alone lying in bed in uganda.  particularly on evenings such as this where i’m stuck watching a crappy 1980’s cinema “classic” and listening to wailing miracle center attendees.  in america i’d be out partying and living it up.  not really, but i like to think that i would be doing something better than lying under a mosquito net after taking a freezing cold shower (also, the electricity wouldn’t be intermittent).  it is more likely that instead of “living it up”, i’d be at the goodman community center chilling with mr. michael schulenberg, mr. santana flint, ms. lumber-jack laurel, ms. kassidy rosenthal, and ms. rachel eve olsen.  we’d be listening to some local punk and/or metal bands pretending to be great.  we’d also be relentlessly mocking the “scene kids” for their unfortunate choices in clothing and hairstyles (ah, the good old days).   after the concert was over, i’d drive home and pass out.  the passing out wouldn’t be due to drugs or alcohol i’d been taking while “rocking out” at the concert (bands nights at the goodman community center are strictly substance-free events for madison area teens).  no, the passing out would be due to the fact that i had just worked 16 hours at three different jobs (i lived a very glamorous life in the states- but, hey, at least i had hot water!).

while friday night seems like it’s been a bit of a wash, at least i can hit up the pool tomorrow with some white faces.  the pool serves in two capacities: therapy for my recovering knee (i’m thinking about even trying to ditch the crutch tomorrow! although that might be a bad idea since it hurt so badly today that i barely left bed) and the good white faces are therapy for my mental stability (especially since robert redford and meryl streep are really making me hate my own race).

i’m not the only white person in the office this morning.

during meetings/trainings i tend to lose focus and not pay attention. some people doodle. others day dream. i usually find myself writing about my observations (observations that have nothing to do whatsoever with what is being covered). i was going through my notebook the other day and found this gem. in late november, the american director of my organization visited bushenyi to train us on “criteria referenced instruction”. i’d try to explain exactly what “criteria referenced instruction” is, but that’d be boring. much more interesting are the notes i took during the meeting:

i’m not the only white person in the office this morning. it’s rather bizarre. i’m used to seeing white people around bushenyi (there’s that lady from the cdc who is here investigating something that will probably end up killing me and everyone else in uganda. there are those snobby german volunteers who are too cool to talk to an american. there are a couple dutch people who are much more friendly- and they didn’t kill millions of jews back in the 20th century. they are here to help start a waste management system- good luck with that. of course, there are also the numerous other pcvs who are in a close proximity to me). this is my office though, i’m supposed to be the only white dude (this is before i knew that nicholas was coming. up until this point, i had held out hope that the peace corps response volunteer would be an attractive female with loose to no morals). instead there are two other white people (mid-westerners, no less) who are invading my space.

the most important of the two is the female. she’s the u.s.-based director of my organization. i wasn’t sure what to expect since the only previous interactions i’ve had with her have been via email. she is younger and prettier than i imagined. her voice is rather soothing (i’m unsure as to why, but i had imagined her as a decrepit old hag/non-sexy librarian with a grating voice). the second, while less important, is more intimidating. he is a younger white dude, which of course means that we are competitors (competing for what, i’m unsure). until he arrived, i was, by default, everyone’s favorite young white dude (that is until nicholas comes in december and usurps me). also, he’s wearing a tie. i considered wearing tie. i don’t usually wear a tie to the office (just slacks and a button down shirt), but i figured if i had worn a tie it would have looked like i was putting in an extra effect simply because the american visitors are here (although i doubt anybody would have noticed or care- much like they didn’t seem to notice or care that i woke up an extra half hour early to actually shower before coming in). in addition to showing me up by wearing that tie, he, like the director, is so clean. his hair is neatly trimmed and facial hair is well kept (i’d like to say that this was the case with me when i stepped off the plane, but everyone knows i still looked like a slob despite the fact that i was freshly arriving from america, the land of hot showers and trust-worthy barbers). i really wish, for once, that i didn’t look like someone transitioning from bieber to hippie.

this weekly meeting definitely has a difference air about it than usual, and it isn’t just the two additional white faces sitting around the table (nor is it the fact that i haven’t heard the word “like” this often or heard english spoken so quickly). everyone seems like students afraid of their teacher after returning from a long weekend even though those students have been doing the work they were supposed to be doing, they all seem nervous that they may have missed something and that their teacher knows this or at least assumes that they’ve been slacking off and not fully-completing their assignments (note: i resisted using the female pronoun when referring to the hypothetical teacher despite the fact that the hypothetical teacher is referring to a non-hypothetical female director. you’re welcome, women’s studies majors). it is refreshing. i feel like people are on their toes; not necessarily in a bad or negative way, but rather in a spiritedly intellectual manner. our meetings are usually well-managed, time-wise, especially when compared to most ugandan organizations (i.e. meetings here scheduled for 9am will usually start by 9:15 at the latest, as opposed to 9am meetings which end up starting at noon, as is the case with many other organizations). today, things are even more timely and on topic than usual. the director seems to be able to impede the usual small amount of wasted time and keeps extremely efficient. i’m not sure what is about her that allows her this power (oh, wait. yes. i do know. it’s probably the fact that she signs off on their paychecks).

i think i could get used to having these white people around if they decided to stay around longer than the couple of weeks they have scheduled. i could even see myself being okay with not being the only young white dude in the office (as long as he stops wearing ties and being well-groomed).

well, turns out that i’m no longer the only young white dude in the office. nicholas is here until december. thankfully he doesn’t wear ties. now i just need him to stop doing a good job, so that he doesn’t outshine me.

so now i’m 25 years old (that’s, like, really old).

today i turn 25.  that’s one quarter of a century.  i’ve lived through 4 presidents (5 if you include the last year reagan was in office) and one ugandan president (term limits? what term limits?).   i’m now half-way between 20 and 30.  i’m at an age where i need to start acting like an adult (granted, i said the same thing when i turned 24.  and 23.  and 22).

i’m usually the kind of person who hates team-building activities, ice-breakers, name games, etc.  as i write this, i realize that blogging is something i should probably hate doing as well (i may try to tell people that i got one simply so i could “keep the people back home up to date”, however, that would only be a partial truth.   i, in fact, love blogging).  i wanted to sit down and write something funny and in-my-own-mind witty about turning 25.  it’s a pretty big deal and i’m sure there are a lot of pop culture references and questionable/politically incorrect things (in the most douchey-manner possible) i could have thrown together to amuse myself and the 2 people who read my blog (that’s you, mom & asami).  however, i couldn’t come up with anything.  instead i started writing some introspective b.s. (the kind of crap that people used to write on their xanga blogs.  i’m looking at you, asami :p)

one of those “feel-good” activities that i hate the most is that “writing a letter to your future self” malarkey.  thus, i never really put a lot of thought into (and certainly didn’t bother to save them).  today i really wish that i put some thought into one had saved it for myself.  25 is by no means very old, but my younger self couldn’t even imagine being 21, so 25 would have been ancient.  since i don’t have any documentation of what my 12 year old self would have written to my present day self, i tried to recall where i thought i’d be (without letting what actually transpired effect the recollection).

if you had asked me what i’d be doing on my 25th birthday when i was younger, i would have said that i’d be mourning the loss of my youth.  i’d probably say that my future self would be finishing up law school and getting ready to become one of those “evil” lawyers who makes a ton of money (i had a slight obsession with john grisham novels in my younger years- except i always wanted to be the bad lawyer who was getting rich, not the young lawyer with morals who gets caught up in the middle of something  the bad lawyer is doing).  i would have probably told you that i’d be planning for a june wedding to someone who is ridiculously more attractive than i am (being an evil lawyer with a lot of money has its perks).  i would have told you that i’d be signing a lease on a brand new bmw (using the money from the bonus i got from signing with the law firm who represents big tobacco and chemical companies).

i would probably not have told you that i would have an msw instead of jd.  i would not have told you that i’d be in uganda of all places (especially not doing something “meanful” like the peace corps- the peace corps is something hippies and do-gooders do).  i would have not predicted that i’d be single and somehow content with it (although, let’s be honest, i wouldn’t turn away somebody who is ridiculously more attractive than i am.  hit me up ladies, i’m the dude helping the little starving black hiv babies in africa).  i probably would not have thought that instead of driving, i’d be relying on public taxis (i.e. toyota corollas packed with, not even joking, 8 to 15 foul-smelling individuals) and deathtrap buses (“oh, the window just spontaneously shattered and the bus is on fire.  no big deal.”).  i also would never have thought that i’d be wanting to car-free once i return to the states.

while i wouldn’t have predicted that i’d be where i am today, i am surprisingly content.  i may not have always enjoyed my msw program, i do appreciate where it has lead me, and i recognize how it shaped me (even if it meant i was being shaped by disagreeing with what i was being taught).  it was my msw that first lead me to uganda summer of 2010 for an internship.  it was during that trip that i solidified my desire to do the peace corps and pursue a career in a international public health-esque arena (of course who knows if that’ll still be the case by the end of my two years here).  i was fortunate enough to be placed back in uganda for peace corps.

my life here in uganda is pretty spectacular.  it’s beautiful in the region where i live.  there isn’t any snow (this is the first birthday i remember celebrating without snow).  i have a great placement with nice co-workers.  my house is pretty swank (i mean, aside from the lack of air conditioning and hot water, this place is nicer than any apartment i had in the states).  i certainly miss the creature comforts (and my family and friends) back in america, but i feel like i’m in the right place now.  it’s not always easy, but i know that this is where i’m supposed to be, because if i wasn’t, the cultural differences and lack of good food (and the multiple pooping myself incidents.  and the dislocated knee.  and the schisto) would be overwhelming.

i think the biggest thing that my younger self wouldn’t have even thought to predict is that i’d be content and happy with my life.  while i’m sure that it’s possible that there are some evil lawyers with a bmw and a super-model wife, who are fulfilled, i know i wouldn’t be if i had ended up pursuing that path.  it’s a good thing that i’m secretly a good person (and that i bombed the lsat).  i’m extremely pleased that i’m satisfied with my life, and even more pleased with the fact that i value and recognize the importance enjoying what i’m doing.

i am now 25 (well, at least in uganda.  i’m way too lazy and math-deficient to figure out exactly when i’ll turn 25 given the time difference and actual time of birth).  it’s a pretty big birthday.  the quarter-life birthday.  i’ve always joked about hoping that my 25th birthday would be the half-way point in my life (i mean, really, life after 50 seems terribly dull.  since my parents have both recently past that mark, i’ve began to realize that life after 50 doesn’t seem all that bad).

now, i can’t imagine only wanting to have 25 more years to live.  i am fairly confident that i’ll still be happy and content with my life at 50 (perhaps even more so than i am now).  by that time i’ll have no more student loans and will maybe be able to travel abroad and stay in places that cost more than $5 a night.  perhaps i’ll even end up being one of those crazy “older” peace corps volunteers (god help me if i subject myself to the peace corps admin’s ridiculousness again), who come with money and, as griffin says, make it “rain”.

i now think 70 is where i’ll want to kick the bucket (i mean, after all, life after 70 seems terribly dull).

community integration: knee, dislocated. dance-off, won.

i’m used to getting a lot of attention when i’m walking through bushenyi.  after all, white people aren’t super-common here.  recently, however, the amount of attention has increased significantly.  in addition to the usual “mzungu!” (aka white person) and the ever-popular “mzungu! you give me money!”,  i’ve been getting a lot of “mzungu! you got an accident?!” and “sorry, sorry, sorry.”  the reason behind this sudden shift is probably due to the sweet polio crutches i’m using (yes, exactly like tucker in there’s something about mary, except i’m not faking it in order to get closer to cameron diaz).

this is the best peace corps medical could come up with.

how exactly did i come to need these “personal support devices?”  dancing.  of course.

shortly after christmas i was in a nearby city, mbarara.  in the great city of mbarara there is a discotheque which my co-workers often speak of called club heat.  i decided that since i was in mbarara, i would use this opportunity to integrate into ugandan society by checking it out.  inside i found a fairly large number of ugandans dancing to a mix of local, nigerian and western dance music.  while i can’t claim to be a good dancer technically-speaking, i would argue that i more than make up for my lack of skills with my willingness to make an absolute fool out of myself.

nearby i saw a group of ugandans having some type of dance circle.  they were all waving sweatshirts up in the air.  since i didn’t have any extra clothing items with me, i, logically, removed my shirt and began to whip it around in the air as i made my way across the dance hall (for into your arms, i knew i would fall.– that’s for you, liz) to the group.  given my sporadic dance moves and bare chest, it only took a few moments for me to make myself the center of attention .  one gentleman in particular seemed to be interested in challenging me (most likely he was simply mocking my dance moves, but i prefer to think that he was intimidated by my enthusiasm).  soon it was just him and i on the dance floor. well, there were other people, but they were merely props we used in our semi-synchronized dance-off.

for the remainder of the song, we challenged and taunted each other with our mad-skills. once the song had ended, i was easily declared the winner (both in my own mind and by my interpretation of the crowd’s response- granted they were probably just cheering for my opponent, since he had just made a fool out of the white dude).  just moments after the next song had begun, i felt a tap on my shoulder.  it was my adversary.  he wasn’t there to congratulate me, but rather there to challenge me to another dance-off (clearly evidence that i was indeed the winner of the first round).  me and shameless self accepted the challenge.

this is where it gets a little fuzzy.  i remember swinging my body downward and to the left. then i remember landing on the ground with my right kneecap protruding from underneath my skin, a couple inches from where it usually is.  as i was seated on the ground in agonizing pain, no one around me seemed to notice that there was something wrong. instead, a local woman, assuming that perhaps this was part of my choreography started to dance on top of me.  fortunately, it didn’t take long for someone to notice and clear the random back-up dancers from around me.  as i was being carried out, my knee magically and painfully shifted back into place.

this is the first time that i’ve ever had an injury.  luckily, i won’t be needing an operation (well, if i’m able to build my muscles back up through physical therapy).  while it may be annoying to have people ask about my leg constantly, i don’t think i’ll ever get tired of proudly explaining how it happened.  i’m recovering fairly well, and shouldn’t be needing my polio crutches for much longer (although i’m hoping to hold onto them until halloween so i can go as fdr.  still looking for someone willing to play my probably-not-into-dudes fifth cousin and wife, eleanor).

"but that wife of his, eleanor. big dyke! huge dyke. a real rug muncher. looked like a big lesbian mule."

do cocaine (or grow a penis and move to uganda).

there is a world-wide obsession with losing weight.  instead of exercising or eating healthy, most people decide to take drastic measures to look like the coke (as in the illegal but fun white powder, not the second best brand of cola) whore models who seem to embody the “ideal woman” (for the record ladies, kate moss is no-way representative of what most men want- at least not men who are worth your time).  i have never really been a part of the weight-loss mania, most likely because i have always looked like i do a lot of meth (fortunately i don’t, as evidenced by my perfect teeth).  during the 2010-11 school year i started to develop something closely resembling the beginnings of the so-called “beer belly” (in my case i think a more accurate title would be the “lazy/cheese/new glarus belly”).  for the first time, my brother, chocolate bear, (who is now super-athletic and built in the way that pleases women) was able to retaliate at me for all those “love handles” comments i used to torture him back when he was a chunky little boy.

i worship the moon man, and he made me fat.

when i first arrived in uganda, i was determined to start an exercise routine.  however, due to my aching knee and general laziness that idea hasn’t happened (i am still toying with the idea of training for the mtn marathon which is held every november in kampala).  fortunately for me, the only pre-requisite for losing weight in uganda is to have a penis.   i’m unsure if this is a general rule for this geographic location, or if it is just for the americans who spend a somehow significant period of time here.  early on in training, we were told that the dudes generally tend to lose weight (the exact wording might have been something along the lines of: “they all start to look emaciated.”) and the ladies tend to gain weight.  i relished the thought of this since i’ve found it to be quite enjoyable making fun of girls who are obsessing over their weight (especially because a majority of the girls freaking out about their weight and other body issues are beautiful and really don’t need to worry about it).

well, turns out that the whole “dudes losing weight” thing is definitely not a myth (and unfortunately neither is the chicks gaining weight; sorry, ladies).  i, as you can’t see below, have lost a significant amount of weight.  i unfortunately don’t have any “before” pictures, because i rarely took shirtless photos back when i was temporarily fat.   as of christmas, i am down to just below 140 lbs (i haven’t weighed this low since 8th grade) from about 170-175lbs.  (somewhere, oprah is booking a sex-change operation and ticket to uganda).

"i'm so glad my fluctuating weight has kept me relevant."- kirstie alley.

how was this amazing (and slightly scary) kind of weight loss possible?  i didn’t eat subway (screw you jared, we all know you have aid(e)s).  i didn’t do p90x (well, i did for about 2 weeks before i decided that i’d rather look like chris farley than let tony horton demean me).  i did start eating a little bit healthier (and a lot less tastier) meals since i’ve arrived.  i don’t have a car here, so i end up walking a lot more than i did back in the states.  the diet and slight uptick in exercise can account for some of the weight i’ve lost, but the biggest reason behind this miracle weight loss is jenny craig (kidding of course, but if they are willing to pay me some kirstie alley-money, i’m willing to parade around in a bathing suit and declare it).

actually it’s the continued pee-butt and mysterious illness that is probably to blame.  while i’m still slightly freaked out by the fact they still haven’t figured out what it is that seems to be destroying me (“it sounds like schisto, hiv, or depression”- unnamed peace corps medical professional), i am glad that its helping me get into shape (especially because it doesn’t require me watching what i eat or being physically active whatsoever).  i would like to have them figure out what it is though soon, before i waste away into something more kate moss-like (marky mark –except “entourage”, boogie nights, & the fighter– really isn’t my style, and i’m afraid that a female version of him might be my only option if i continue to waste away into nothing.  on the plus side, i’d probably look great modeling calvin klein).

"remember when i was just marky mark?" yes.

it’s going to be a white christmas: peace corps is giving me a nicholas this year.

this is my first christmas away from my family, which might seem rough if my family didn’t continually ditch me for other holidays such as thanksgiving (okay, it didn’t happen continually, only twice).  i’ve been coerced into missing my family since i started feeling a little out of place when the other volunteers mention how much they miss theirs (“oh, yah, me too.  i miss my family so much!”).  i’ve decided that perhaps i will reply with the following retort the next time somebody mentions missing their grandmother during the upcoming holiday season: “i miss my grandmother everyday, and if you really loved yours, you would too.”

"i read someplace that when a lady faints, you should loosen her clothing."

christmas (like every other holiday) has never been that big of a deal to me.  i like seeing my family, especially if it means ditching wisconsin to visit some of the more intelligent members of my extended family who live in warmer places (score for a snow-free christmas in uganda. while the song “there won’t be snow in africa this year” is a piece of crap and untrue, fortunately the snow-free part is applicable here in uganda).  i also enjoy the holiday movies (well, “we’re no angels”- the 1955 film with humphrey bogart, not the piece-of-crap 1989 mess with sean penn & robert deniro- is easily the best, and most underrated christmas classic of all time.  it’s followed closely by “die hard” and “gremlins”.  i also have an affinity for “mean girls,” and while it isn’t technically a christmas movie, it does feature a great rendition of “jingle bell rock”- remember when lindsay lohan wasn’t a nasty whore?  me neither.  “it’s a wonderful life” had potential to be great, if only george bailey had really drowned).  christmas music, on the other hand, is something about this season that i completely loathe.  whether its the incessantly overplayed mariah carey disaster “all i want for christmas is you” (which up until today i thought was the worst christmas song of all time- only to be proven wrong when i heard the justin bieber/mariah carey remake) or the trying way-too-hard-pull-at-your-heartstrings “christmas shoes” (seriously, kid, i hope your mom dies before you get home to give her those shoes so she doesn’t have to hear about you conned a ball-less man to get them for her by being a whiny little bitch).

this is what happens when you don't have a proper father figure growing up.

i haven’t really been in christmas-mode (which for me is something more like hating-on-christmas-mode) lately.  i think it’s because i’ve always associated the lead-up to christmas with snow, cheesy “happy holiday” greetings from the local news anchors, and when the radio starts to play awful music (well, more awful than usual).  today was the first time that i heard christmas music.  it was classy, an energetic gospel choir version of “angels we have heard on high.”  the christmas music invasion continued later in the day and took a turn for the worse, as the music video for afore-mentioned justin bieber-mariah carey atrocity was featured on ntv, uganda’s #1 network.  following the music video, the “ntv news at 9” anchor wished me and my family a safe and happy holiday.  while i don’t think the snow part will ever happen here, 2 of 3 indicators for christmas have occurred, indicating that it is legitimately on its way.

i would have posted the video here, but i don't endorse child pornography (or bad music). side note: justin bieber looks like more a lesbian than ever.

another part of christmas that kind of annoys me is the gift-giving part.  i love receiving gifts, but hate having to spend my time and money trying to find the “perfect” gift for others (especially since i’m only getting them gifts because society tells me that’s what i’m supposed to do).  while there won’t be snow in my town, christmas will be a little more white than usual.  this year peace corps uganda is giving me the ultimate gift: a returned peace corps volunteer named nicholas (i am assuming he’s white, because, well, peace corps is at least 95% white).  he will be living in my town and working at my organization for a year.

i don’t really know a lot about nicholas other than his name, and that he will be arriving december 19th to bushenyi.  i’ve thought a lot about him lately, mainly because i’ve been sick and haven’t really had anything to think about (aside from the ridiculous peace corps rumor mill, which makes middle school girls look tame and sophisticated).  i have been desperately scouring the web for signs of him.  this would be a lot easier if i had a last name.  i have searched the following terms in different combinations on google: “johns hopkins” “stomp out malaria” “bushenyi, uganda”, “peace corps response”, “nick”, “nicholas”, “nicky”, etc. (my browser history is pretty creepy).  unfortunately i have been unable to locate a myspace, facebook, or linkedin profile that might give me more details.

since i haven’t been able to secure actual information via the inter-web, i’ve been relegated to imagining what he will be like.  i’ve been doing most of the imagining with asami gwen cormier (aka my best friend- we have not one, not two, but three, matching LOST t-shirts.  yah, we’re a pretty cool) via facebook.  with her help, i’ve come up with the following profile of nicholas, or at least the ideal version of him (taken from an actual facebook messaging session. which took place on pearl harbor day.  i still regret not making fun of asami’s japanese half in honor of the holiday.  it would have been a more than appropriate way to commemorate the day that caused the world to suffer through michael bay’s pearl harbor):

andrew orland rowan: so i found out that the volunteer who is coming to work at my org is named nicholas.  i really hope he goes by nicholas. nick is just dumb. i plan on calling him nicholas no matter what his preference is.

asami gwen cormier:  are you already creating an assumed personality based on his name alone? i agree, nicholas is much better.  he sounds polite. i think i like him.

andrew orland rowan:  i imagine that he is super-cool (super-cool is my book, not society’s). he is good-looking (i am only friends with good-looking people), but not as good-looking as me, since i need to remain the most attractive white male in the area.

we are going to be best friends. or the worst of enemies. no room for anything in between.

asami gwen cormier: well, surely there is no room for reality to be a disappointment there.

andrew rowan rowan:  also, i just assume he’s white. he could be something else, but the peace corps is mainly made up rich white kids and a few token asians/indians who weren’t smart enough to go to med school like their parents wanted them to.

asami gwen cormier: nice. 🙂

——————————————————————————————————-

dear nicholas,

if you eventually read this, i hope you realize i’m not actually as creepy as this might make me seem.

sincerely,

andrew orland rowan