Last Night At Shimoni

Tonight is our last night at Shimoni. Tomorrow morning we go off to our separate schools to visit for a few days, meet the administrators, see the town, see our future housing, and just generally get to know the area. After that, we go to our satellite locations and meet and stay with our host families.
We've only known each other for a month, and now we are all spending a month apart. We will still see our language groups every day for language/culture training, but the whole group will be split up all over the country.

As I mentioned earlier, it feels like we are perpetually saying goodbye. First it was to America, then to some volunteers who had to ET, now it is saying goodbye to living as an entire group. The truth is that we have not been having a Peace Corps experience, but a Peace Corps training experience. True Peace Corps is adapting to situations on your own or perhaps with one or two other people, not knowing the language and not being able to express yourself as much as you want to, and being frustrated when things don't work out the way you are expecting.

I've enjoyed training so far, even if at times it's been hectic. Learning how to teach in Uganda, bonding with my fellow teachers, and learning a new language and culture while supporting each other has been a valuable experience. But it's been comfortable. Even with pit latrines and unfamiliar foods, it's been comfortable. Leaving each other will be uncomfortable.

I remember getting here and being super stressed about it, and now everything feels fine again. And we are going to do the same thing again, be super stressed about homestay and more training, but it will probably be fine. A series of events taking us out of our comfort zones further and further.

I'm not really sure where I was going with this other than I wanted to document how I was feeling tonight to be able to look back. The country is beautiful, the sun sets in about five minutes and at exactly the same time every day, and tomorrow I leave behind most of my group. To any in my group reading this, I've had a really good time. I hope to travel to all of your regions at some point. Let's rock our service.


Uganda's Education System and Pictures!

Okay so.

Uganda's education system breaks down like this:
First there's Nursery school, which not everyone attends because of monetary concerns. This is like kindergarten. Then comes Primary school, with grades P1-P7 (Primary 1 through Primary 7). This somewhat equates to elementary and junior high combined. Usually, pupils are around 6 years old when they enter P1, but there are still a wide range of ages in all grades, for a multitude of reasons. Most of Uganda's industry is still agricultural, and so many students have to help tend farmland, banana gardens, and animals at home, as well as helping out with household chores. That may keep them from school. Or they may have started school and not had the fees to continue, and so dropped out for a year or so and then came back in.

Primary school is separated into Lower Primary and Upper Primary, where the lower grades are P1-P3, and upper are P4-P7. In Lower Primary, all instruction is in the local language, but the pupils do have English classes. P4 is the transition grade where they begin to teach in English. After P4 all instruction is in English.

After graduation from Primary, students go to Secondary school (like high school.) This is also split like Primary into Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary. There are four years of Lower Secondary and then the students take exams. If their marks (grades) are good enough, and if they can afford it, they can go to Upper Secondary, which is two years. That path generally leads to Post Secondary education, like University or a National Teacher's College, which is a higher prestige teacher training facility.

Many students whose marks are not good enough after Lower Secondary come to the Primary Teacher's College (PTC). It's unfortunate because many of them do not want to be teachers, but it is the path which is open to them. There are other options, like vocational school, technical institutions, and nursing school, but PTCs are the most common. Teaching classes at a PTC (primary teacher's college) means that you are teaching future teachers content as well as teaching methods. It's sort of like in the US if you took the education department of a college and made it it's own school and campus and only focused on teaching. Since these are primary teachers, they review the content that they will be teaching primary students.

We finished our two weeks of practice teaching yesterday (Thursday). The first week, I taught two math classes, one with another volunteer and the other by myself. Both classes were to do with converting fractions and decimals to percentages, and then the reverse process as well. This week, I taught Science lesson planning. On Wednesday, I taught the structure of a lesson and had a song to help them remember the parts of the lesson, and gave them time to write lesson plans. On Thursday, they presented them! I think it went very well and I was pretty proud of them.

We had so many sessions about teaching and classroom management and lesson planning, but it was all so overwhelming before we came here (has anyone read Teach Like a Champion?). When it was just a concept, I was terrified about it.
I was so nervous about teaching here, as many of the other volunteers have a lot more teaching experience than I do. But it worked out far better than I expected. I think living here and being out of my element has forced me to become who I've wanted to be. No one here knows me, or knows who I've been, so I can be whoever I want to be. Currently, it's been manifesting as a musician. I'm becoming known as the person who writes songs and never stops singing. I wrote a lesson planning song, and I wrote a song for the holiday celebration we're having tonight, which if I can get enough internet, I'll upload a video of. But I also just sing randomly throughout the day, and until people pointed it out to me I didn't even notice I was doing it. And singing/dancing just works with this culture.

Ugandans know a million songs and dances that they can teach you or bust out at any moment. It's just an integral part of who they are as people. It's so great, and helps in the classroom because they are willing to sing and dance about any subject. Today we had an end of two-week celebration, and the students presented songs and dances to us that were just phenomenal.

I feel like I've got so much to say, but I'm still figuring out how to say it. So here's some pictures to tide you over until I can find the words.

My first bed in Uganda, at our training centre near Kampala.

 The view from the porch of the main training hall. Kulika is an organic farm.

 These pictures are from driving around Kampala and Entebbe. I just wanted to give an idea of what traffic is like. There's a lot of roundabouts.

 This is a matatu (taxi). It says 14 passengers, but really they pack about 20-30 people plus animals and luggage on them (including the top storage rack).

 Water tanks at the teacher's college.

The students danced and sang for us today and yesterday as well. 

 The view from the front of the main training hall at the teacher's college.

 The back/side porch of the training hall.

 The beginnings of our Christmas tree. It has a lot more decorations on it now.

The view down the road from the girls' dorm at the college. 

 The view up the road from the girls' dorm.

 The building where I'm staying. The girls' dorm has a barbed wire fence surrounding it.

 Some of us made snowflakes!

 Our schedule for today. CHAKPE stands for the name of our personal party, Christmas Hannukah Atheist Kwanzaa Party for Everyone.

 Wall of folders/warm fuzzies. Basically we write notes to each other and drop them in the folder.

 More performances from the students.

 My current bed at the college. The mosquito net is so pretty!


Thanksgiving and Kampala

Last week all the trainees, trainers, current Volunteers, and lots of PC staff converged on PC Headquarters in Kampala for PC Thanksgiving. The neighborhood where HQ is sits on one of the many hills with a beautiful view of the city. Lots of red roofs, red dirt roads, palm trees and giant storks, and miles (or kilometers, rather) of hills.

Backtracking a little bit, on Sunday the 24th we all went to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Normally, Volunteers don't travel in the city for safety reasons, but we were all in groups getting a city tour. We saw a couple of malls, and figured out where to go to get to the PC HQ, and had to sort of find our own way back to the training centre. I say sort of, because the trainers showed us the taxi park and where to go.

The taxi park was completely packed, and we went to the New Taxi Park, which was very slightly less crowded than the old one. Taxis in Uganda all look exactly the same. They're imported vehicles that look like a mix between a minivan and a VW bus with Asian language characters printed all over them. Sometimes the seatbelts work, sometimes they don't. They also have pulldown seats in the middle of the aisle we're calling jumpseats. When they're all down, the aisle disappears.

I walked through the city with my backpack slung around my front because they recommended it. I don't currently have a purse that zips, just a backpack or a tote bag. It was not recommended to go to the city with a bag that doesn't close. It felt strange, but a large group of non-Ugandans are consp

The city is very busy. There were boda bodas (small motorcycle taxis) zipping around between all the matatus (bus/van taxis) and the cars and the larger coach buses and the many supply trucks. In short, the visit made me happy that I will be going to a rural site in the north rather than a larger city site somewhere urban. Though it was nice to have modern malls and flush toilets and cellphone stores, I think I will prefer the slower pace and fewer people of rural life.

We've since moved from our initial training site to a Primary Teacher's College (PTC) where we are doing school practice (student teaching) for two weeks before moving on to visiting our future site and staying with our homestay families. I have a lot to talk about regarding teaching but I'm going to leave that for a future post because at this point I am super tired and happy it is Friday. When we're not teaching, we're observing other Volunteers and Ugandan teachers teach, so our days are pretty full. 

P.S. If there's anything you are curious about, feel free to ask and I can elaborate!


After dinner.

It smells like coleslaw and rain
and the moon is beautiful.
We are inside people;
the in holds us
like the sky holds the moon.
Holding until time passes.
Holding until it's safe to go out.

It smells like humidity and
charcoal and hears like

It touches like a damp towel
and bites like a fly.
It thinks like an overreaching tree.



The sun will set soon, mostly because the sun sets at the same time every day, about seven o'clock. We've been here less than two weeks but to me and to most of the people I've talked to it feels like two months.
There was so much packed into the first week of training, not to mention getting to know each other at staging, that we sort of have this artificial deepness to our relationships. We are still in the honeymoon phase of our Peace Corps service, but because we are the only other Americans we know, we are forced to depend on each other.
In the last few days we were separated into language/region groups, and it was pretty exciting. Our lead teacher trainer did a Harry Potter sorting hat thing, and we got sorted into regions. Everyone cheered when people got sorted, and we started talking about things we wanted for our houses at our sites. But when everyone was sorted, there was a deflating feeling.
We had been living all together for only a week, listening to multiple presentations about our responsibilities as volunteers, medical information, technology/phone information, transportation information, and the beginnings of teacher/education information. We had meals together, lamented the lack of hot water and varying availability of electricity together, and taken very long bus rides together. But it still had only been a week.
Now that we are separated into groups, it's obvious that some people will be around a lot less often, and the group dynamics are shifting. I'm placed in the far North of the country, which is a long bus ride down to any of the other Volunteers. People in the far Southwest have the same problem. Traveling long distances is expensive and tiring and puts you on your guard much more than normal.
And so in our minds we've begun to say goodbye to people, knowing that the last time we'll all be together after this training centre is our swearing in ceremony at the end of January.

I had a lot of notions about service before I came, but I think the one I didn't even think about was the idea that I'd have to say goodbye so early. One of our Volunteers had to go home for good today for family reasons. Our lead teacher trainer told us that no matter the group, Education or otherwise, there are always Volunteers who ET, or early terminate. It feels strange, knowing that we can say goodbye at anytime, especially because there is no chance to say it in person. Sometimes people just leave, for personal reasons, family reasons, medical reasons, basically just life reasons. And here there is no stigma, because life just happens.

I suppose the whole point of this is that I never expected to get close to people this fast, and I expect I will have the same experience when I arrive at my permanent site in January.

I know that some talk about site placement/training/scheduling is confusing and I haven't explained it fully, but that will be next time. Right now I just wanted to get this down to remember later.


Staging and Flights

Hello! So I was going to post a great and wonderful post about staging and it was going to have video and witty commentary. That may still be coming later, but the internet here is not good enough to upload video, so! I will try to paint a picture with my words.

Left Michigan on Monday flying out of Detroit, whose airport tripped me out because they had some crazy lightshow going on between terminals. Short flights, not bad.  Landed in Philadelphia at about 1:30pm. Training started about an hour later after I had dumped my stuff in the room and met my roommate for the night, who was from Connecticut.

It was very obvious that we had all been in the same boat leading up to staging. Reading faces it seemed all of us had a hard time believing everyone we had been speaking with online were real people that we were now meeting. We, coming from different backgrounds and views, were now coming together to do exactly the same thing, leaving our friends and family behind. To me, it seemed like these are the people I had been wanting to find since I applied last year.

We were able to speak about anxieties and fears that we had which were shared among all of us, which may have been harder to talk about at home, since people may have wanted to talk us out of it. It was nice and felt like I could get things off my chest that I had been holding back. We also talked about the expectations PC has of us, and what we should expect as volunteers. They were things we had all heard before, but they seemed realer on the eve of our journey.

After training was done for the night, we got some walk-around money to go to dinner, and the smaller group I was with (12 or so people out of the whole group of 44) went to an Irish pub. Had a beer and some meatloaf, the ultimate comfort food, then went back to the room and crashed.

The next morning we left around 8:30 on a bus to JFK. It took about two hours and I could not sleep at all, but I figured the sleeping would come later. We traveled on a typical coach bus, with multiple luggage bays and big blue seats and and it made me think of all the other times I had traveled on a similar bus. Band trips, mostly. Each time we left on those buses there was always an understanding we'd be returning that night, or in the case of longer trips, that we'd be returning the next week. For this trip, there were different stakes. We were busing to the airport to start our job for the next two years. The people we were sitting with would become our family, more so than other groups we had been a part of.

It took about two hours to get to the terminal, and I'd never been to NYC. Driving through Times Square and the rest of the boroughs, I thought about how little I'd seen of the United States, let alone the entire world. My fellow Volunteers thought it brave that I was joining PC without having ever been overseas. For me it never felt brave or courageous, just the place for me, and the people for me, and the job for me.

We got to the terminal pretty early and none of us could figure out why, but it was definitely made clear when 44 of us had to check in, check our baggage, and get through customs. Hooray traveling in big groups! We finally got to our gate and by that point we only had an hour and a half or so until boarding. I charged my electronics in the hope of watching a lot of movies on the plane, which it turns out was completely unnecessary as Air Brussels had monitors installed in the back of the seats with a ridiculous amount of movies and TV shows and music and games. Fancy airlines, guys, fancy.

JFK to Brussels was around 7 hours, which doesn't sound bad but after maybe the 4th hour you want to be on the ground. It was also pretty hard to sleep since we were blowing through time zones so my body wasn't really sure if it was tired or not. Layover in Brussels was maybe 4 hours? And one of our party messed up with his luggage and his bags got off at Belgium, so we lost track of him for about an hour while he tracked the bags down. I was worried at first but he eventually found us. I managed to fall asleep for about half an hour while waiting for boarding, and then it was on to Africa.

We flew down past Uganda to Burundi and then back up, presumably to pick up people who didn't want to travel to the Ugandan airport. Entebbe is on Lake Victoria and if you don't want to get across the lake, it makes sense to board somewhere south of that. That flight was about 9 hours with an hour after from Burundi back up. After that flight we were all exhausted, even though we hadn't really been doing anything. It's odd how traveling can tire you out physically, though you haven't been exerting yourself. Mentally I think you are tired of worrying about boarding and customs and theft and strangers and non-native languages, and so you sort of shut down.

We were met at the airport at 12:05 local time by PC staff who were lovely. We loaded all our luggage onto a truck and then the people onto two squat long white buses. The buses had Asian characters on the front; don't ask me which Asian language because I don't remember. It makes sense though; buying Asian cars are usually cheaper.

The ride to the training center (just outside Kampala) took 2 hours more. It felt a little bit like we were sneaking up on the countryside. Driving through the country the hills reminded me of driving through Appalachia when I was doing a service trip in high school. Michigan is so flat, and so not being able to see the land beyond the hills, and seeing all the lights rising in the distance was beautiful. Many signs are in English, or as the dialect is known here, Uganglish. Ugandans use a lot of British English as a leftover from colonialism.

I'm going to do a recap of our training so far in my next post, and maybe I'll become a better writer by then. I'm probably not going to do a lot of editing on these, because I want my mindset to be preserved for when I and others look back on this later.

Please leave comments and questions and I'll try to answer them as much as I can!

Until next time.



One of the most common questions I am asked is why I wanted to join the Peace Corps. There are some usual answers I give: I want to travel before having a full-time job, and this gives me that opportunity; I'm not paying for most of the expenses, which is not a common theme among other volunteer programs; I love math and I want to get other people to love math as well.

But mostly I joined because once I found out about the Peace Corps, and what we do, it was hard to imagine not doing it. Mostly I am a woman of logic and pros and cons and to-do lists and weighing options. But this is a lot about a feeling, sort of like a calling.

I keep an offline journal, and at the beginning of my application process, I wrote something akin to, "If your heart is screaming at you, maybe you should listen." My heart has been telling me through this year of waiting and preparation, you are supposed to be doing this. My heart has said, people will question you and they will be confused and they will expect you to do something else after school. My heart has said, you should ignore them. You know what you are. You know where you need to go. You need to be with the Peace Corps.

There is so much more to this world than the places we grow up in, but many of us never see beyond the imaginary borders of our minds. Working and living in a foreign place, being forced to be uncomfortable and embarrassed and challenged, that is a way of breaking down these borders, these walls we create for ourselves. It is a way to see others as we wish to be seen, as complex people with complex lives, motivations, dreams, aspirations. That is something which is needed in our increasingly connected world.

I have had doubts. We all have doubts with big choices in our lives. When I have had doubts, I sit, and I ask, and I wait for an answer. Some of you may call it prayer, or just listening to see if the universe has anything to say. Every time, when I have listened, the universe has said, you are on the right path. Keep going.

So I say to all of you, think of a time when you were so sure that you needed to be doing something. Or think of a time when you had made a commitment, but others were unsure. Did you look inside yourself for reassurance? Did you keep going? How did you feel afterwards? Are you still in the middle of that decision?

This is a different path than many would take. But it is my path.



I have news!

Got an email regarding booking my flights to staging and out of the country. Staging is going to be held (for my group) in Philadelphia. It's basically our last day in country and first day of training. They get us all together to have a couple of long training sessions at a hotel, and the next day we fly out.

I'm flying out of Lansing on November 11 (bright and early Monday morning) to Detroit, then Philly, then in the morning we bus to JFK. After than it's a layover in Brussels (Belgium), Burundi, and finally to Entebbe, Uganda's national airport. By our itinerary we're getting in at 11pm November 13. After that we still have a long bus ride to our training center.

These flights are going to be long. I have only ever flown once. My university band took a trip to Houston for a bowl game, and that was fantastic, but that flight was maybe a few hours. From JFK to Brussels is ten hours, then from Brussels to Burundi is another seven. I'd like to say I'd be writing or reading that whole time but half of it I'll probably be sleeping. My mom says after we land I'll never want to see another airplane again. I think it'll be terrific.

It still doesn't seem real, as I count down the days, less than a month to go. I've got to buy some things still. PC recommends a simple sleeping bag, for training sessions I may have to attend, but that is just one of the many. I've also got to get 12 passport photos to submit for my Ugandan work permit paperwork. There are still so many tasks to be completed. And I'm just getting over a cold. Woohoo! But hey, at least the government is open again right?

As the days get closer I wonder what it's going to be like, and know that I have no idea. It's exhilarating. The farthest I've been from home was driving to Colorado for a week, but with steady Wi-Fi along the way. I think the most stark difference will be lack of internet access. It informs my daily life and habits. It has infused its way into my very being. During the application process, PC asks many times in many different ways about the ways you will cope with your new life, if you don't have your usual outlets. Reading, writing, listening to music, these are all typical answers (and habits I intend to engage in), but I think the hardest part for all of us will be learning to lean on each other and our communities. We're going to be sent to live with host families after about 4-5 weeks, and there's not really a lot of chances to escape from that. I think it will be revealing, to say the least, about who we become when the safety net is no longer there.

24 days.


Three Goals

Hello internet! I don't actually know who is reading, so hello in general.
I know that people outside of the Peace Corps process don't generally know a lot about it, so today I'm going to talk about the three goals of the Peace Corps, which have been unchanged since the program's inception in 1961. All PCVs know and live out these goals as their mission.

Goal 1: Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

Since many countries where PCVs serve do not have comparable infrastructure to train teachers, community organizers, health educators, etc., the PC provides those men and women with skills to integrate into communities across the country. It is most definitely and assuredly a collaboration between the country's government and the US government, which is what I love so much about it. So much aid/charity does not take into account what the country needs or wants, or attempts to give aid to the country unasked. Specifically I'm focusing on the interested countries part of the goal, in that PC does not set up shop in a country uninvited.

And to those who may say that it would be better to train in-country nationals to do the jobs PCVs are doing, I agree, and that is what we are doing. As one of my fellow PCVs in Morocco once said, the best job a Volunteer can do is make themselves unneeded.

Goal 2: Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

I take for granted the idea that America is all sorts of things and has all sorts of people. But around the world, other countries have a limited amount of media to base their opinions on, much like America has limited amounts of media to base our opinions of other countries on (elaborated in the third goal). And so part of being a PCV is being an ambassador of sorts, in that my background and experiences put another piece in the puzzle to help others understand the many different types of people who call themselves American.

Goal 3: Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Much like the second goal, but continues for much longer after a PCV returns. There is even an office with the PC called The Office of Third Goal and Returned Volunteer Services (OTGRVS). I will become a permanent primary source of information about my country to my family, friends, and everyone I meet. Sometimes it is hard for people in the USA to imagine other countries as they imagine their own: families trying to get by, sending their kids to school, hanging out with friends, working towards careers and the like. But I maintain that we are more alike than different.

I imagine I will have to break a lot of stereotypes on both sides, and I hope that will be refreshing. I always strive to learn who people really are, despite who I've learned them to be.

If you'd like to learn more about the Peace Corps as a program, please visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/about/.


A New Name for Everything

 A place for everything and everything in its place. A common slogan for habitual cleaner-uppers. Right now I have no places. Or at least no familiar ones. I can't put my belongings in the places they used to go because that room is not mine anymore. I can't walk to or drive to the places I'm used to, and even though I grew up in this area, after 5 years in Kalamazoo, Lansing seems foreign. Like a vacation destination you may have been to many times when you were younger.

I came out of a store with my mother and was struck by how immediately nothing looked familiar. Then I thought how most likely I will have that thought everyday overseas. Nothing will be familiar, and I think I'd argue that's one of the best parts.



I struggle with the idea that realistically, nothing will prepare me for my new life. All my life I have been overprepared, with many of my friends remarking that I always overpack for trips and have to have everything just right, just in case. Much of this comes from my mother, as she well knows, but I don't resent this trait. If anything it's helped me in life to always have what I think I need.

But from the very first part of this journey, packing, I'll be out of my element. We are allowed 85 pounds of luggage, which still has to fit TSA and PC dimension requirements. Immediately I already know I will not be able to take all the things I want to. Asking around in my Facebook group of current/future Uganda PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers), everyone has their own opinion on what is essential and what is not. It seems to vary from person to person so as much as they are attempting to help, it's just a lot of contradictions.

I've always been able to do my research and figure out what was needed for a situation or a trip, but in this case, the best thing to do is pack a little of what I think I need and wait until I'm posted to figure out what else I would like. It goes against everything I've done before, and that's the terrifyingly awesome thing about it. I haven't even left the country yet and I'm being challenged to change my habits.

Something I have actively been doing to prepare is volunteering at the Kalamazoo Math and Science Center (KAMSC), which during the school year is a magnet school for STEM subjects.
In the summer time they run camps for kids up through 7th or 8th grade (can't remember which). For the most part I just feel like I'm auditing the class, because the teachers are being paid to teach a specific curriculum, and the other TAs are all previous/current KAMSC students who sometimes seem like they're smarter than me. It feels strange, but having an ME degree places all these expectations on me. I feel like I should be a master teacher, but being taught and receiving a degree in a subject does NOT make you a great teacher or let you be able to explain difficult concepts to people.

I guess that's why I wanted to observe/volunteer at KAMSC, to observe how veteran teachers explain their concepts to younger kids, or just older kids that haven't heard the subject matter before (i.e., the TAs). Given I've only worked with two teachers, but so far they have different teaching styles and I think I've learned things from both. One major thing is that experience is one of the best teachers. I know a lot of concepts but haven't applied many of them, and so explaining them theoretically is difficult. These guys are old school tinkerers who could probably fix your car and build you a microwave in the same afternoon. It's nice to see their enthusiasm not just for the students, but the subject matter as well. It sort of pumps you up to be excited about things, whereas coming off the most stressful semester of my ME degree (senior design), I sort of felt deflated and worn out. But I think that's natural.

I just have this week left at KAMSC, as I am moving back to my mom's house in Lansing on Saturday, and I can't even be there for Friday as I've got some of my immunizations scheduled. Health preparations are numerous and tedious but I'm not going to elaborate too much on those here as they are mostly uninteresting and somewhat private.

Next thing I hope to tackle on the this blog is setting up a schedule for myself for the three months I have left in country, so that I mostly don't just sit around and become restless. We'll see how that goes. Also trying to integrate photos/videos so these don't become giant blocks of text... so maybe video blogging will be mixed in with this?


Moving Home

Right. So. Blogging.

I've tried to put this off for a long time, not because I think I'm bad at writing, just really good at procrastination. But I think having a blog while I've overseas will really help me. Starting it while I'm at home I think will help me get in the habit. So, home. May as well talk about the title of my blog post.

Leaving Kalamazoo to live back in Lansing for three months gives me a lot of mixed feelings. On one hand, I'll be spending way less money (in fact I'm almost losing money staying here even though I have a job). But my friends are here, and basically for the last 5 years (4 if you count that I moved back home after freshman year), this city is my home.  I joked to one of my roommates that if I could just have my Kalamazoo room in my Lansing house, things would be perfect. But things never are.

I'll have to come up with a new normal for this transitional life, much as I have been told I will have to come up with a new normal when I arrive in Uganda for training, and then again after I finish training and am assigned to a post. So I guess it's good to get practice.

I've been told that when living alone or living without any immediate responsibilities it's good to have structure. Have a routine so that the days melt together less often. Here it's been volunteering in the mornings and working in the afternoons. I hope to continue volunteering when I get home, and possible make some money on the side with tutoring gigs. But in terms of socializing I am so very terrifically bad at making plans. It's not that I mind being alone; anyone who's met me can tell you that. But when I do feel like hanging out with someone sometimes I get an anxiety about it, like, is this the right way to ask someone to hang out? Am I doing this right? Do they see me as strange? But no matter what it's like here I imagine it will be very different in Africa. So maybe it's for the best that I have no current fallback.

In preparation for moving of course comes packing, and in packing finding all those things you've acquired over the years and slightly forgotten about. Sometimes they're just old things you forgot to throw away, or that you meant to do something with but never got around to. But I'm finding things that I have kept because they were given to me, and in that process remembering all the great things I've experienced in The Zoo.

Have to run to work now (1 week left!) so I'll leave you to read this rambling craziness of a first post and reflect on it. Later.