Wherever you go, go with all of your heart...

The adventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Pearl of Africa

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hey There Stranger! Remember me?? :-)

Hey, it’s me… Shannon. Shannon McBride. The girl joining the Peace Corps?? Remember I was supposed to write on you and keep you up to date about my adventures in Africa so my loves from the states could know what’s going on… Yea… that one! ;-)
To say, “it’s been a while” would be an understatement! So let’s see sooooo much has happened since my last blog!! I will try to be better this year… now that I should have my “ish” more together, but no promises!! –Sorry! Actually I totally promise I will be better… how could I be any worse, right??

**Note- I’m too tired to reading over this but want to post it now, maybe I will edit it eventually… so hopefully until then it makes some sense!

Ok so since my last blog, let’s see…

-I am now a PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) OFFICIALLY!! For 9 months now! Not the normal accomplishment of a 9-month period for a woman but… WHOO!!! :-)

-I have been in Uganda for 11 months, with 16 months remaining (April 2012)… unless I decide to extend and in the process give my mom a heart attack! Love you momma!! ♥

-Before you begin, be aware: There are many frustrations on a daily basis I have written about! Although life here can be difficult and challenging it is still a wonderful place to be and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at this point in my life.

-My assignment: I am working at a Primary Teachers’ College, so basically I am teaching students to become elementary teachers. YAY FOR SCHOOL! I am mainly teaching ICT (computers), but now I am also teaching mathematics (since one of the math teachers left for the term). I also give workshops on teaching methods and life skills. They call us “tutors” and not teachers or professors. It’s fun and I love the people I work with and I love my students. I enjoy teaching computers but it is so frustrating!! There are 5 classes (they call them streams) and each has about 70-100 students. Since the ICT lab is too small for that big number my streams are broken into halves so I instead I have 10 classes to teach with a total of 35-50 students. Between my American accent and the students limited to poor English, it can make communication difficult at times. Also my class is the first time many of the students have used or have even seen a computer. Other than teaching students with no basic knowledge in ICT and with a decent sized class… the computers are my next challenge! We have 18 computers, but they are all from the 90’s… 20 year old computers?? They are all refurbished from the States and broken down and currently only 9 are working. At one time there was only 5 working but another PCV helped me to fix 4 of them so now we are up to 9! The ones that work are slow and freeze up often. The other 9 are beyond repair or need serious repair and at that point we might as well replace it with a new computer that will WORK! So 9 computers, 35-50 students per class… yea do the math, about a 1:4 or 1:5 computer to student ratio! Other than those issues… power is inconsistent at my site so when the power decides not to cooperate I have to figure out something else to teach. The broken computers come in handy during this time since we can use them to practice putting them together (without worrying about breaking them) or we can play games of “what part is this and how does it work”? And even when everything is going swimmingly on a particular day, sometimes class is canceled due to meetings that come up out of nowhere! Needless to say… It’s a bit chaotic, but we make it work… somehow! And things are getting better, I think… I hope! I’m working on getting a grant to update the computer lab with new working computers and I want to train some of the other staff members to make my project sustainable. *Special Note: Thanks to my parents I have experience in teaching technologically-challenged and computer illiterate people (not that I am a pro by any means)… but they helped me tremendously with my preparation in teaching students here without any of us knowing it at the time! :-)

-I live at the college in the village in the deep bush… it’s somehow like a black hole in the middle of Africa. It’s like I disappear there since network is so poor and it makes it difficult to communicate with the outside world. It’s about 16 kilometers (about 10 miles) from the main town. The road is horrible… it is a rocky super hilly dirt pathway with sections of rocks, sand, and roads that are collapsing in some places. During dry season the road is very dusty and during wet season it is ridiculously muddy with puddles everywhere (please refer to my flip flop story for detail in "More Blogs Finally" -Note to self, use your brain). Transport is fun when you think of it as a ride from the amusement park! Also, I am the only volunteer at my site and the only mzungu in miles! The closest mzungu to me is about 2 hours away. Others about 2 days in travel, keep in mind Uganda is only the size of Oregon in the USA!! I reiterate: The roads are horrible and transportation sucks!!

-I live in a small house that is for tutor housing on the campus. It’s like a little hobbit house or cottage a Disney princess would live in. YAY! I have three main rooms inside my house: small kitchen area, living room, and bedroom with two beds. For the bathroom I have a pit latrine outside for the toilet and a washroom to shower or in most cases bucket bathe. I have no running water but it’s not all that bad, you learn that running water is a luxury and hot pressured water that comes from the ceiling is simply magical! I fetch my own water from a tap and during rainy season I have fun collecting rainwater… It’s a little weird, as soon as I hear rain I get super excited and run outside to set up my buckets and basins to collect water. I also get excited over recycling items to use them as other things! Any who, as I stated already I have electricity, which is nice, it’s inconsistent and comes and goes as it pleases but just like the running water, it’s a luxury just to have it! I think that is it about my place.

**So… Anyone want to come visit?? I will make you mzungu food!! French toast, pancakes, toast, and/or scrambled eggs with coffee or tea in the morning… Ratatouille, mac & cheese, pb&j sandwiches, pita and hummus/guacamole, dirty rice & re-fried beans, vegetable curry, spaghetti, pizza, etc for lunch/dinner… and dessert! Well I’m best at dessert: cakes, cookies, brownies. No I don’t have an oven, I create my own!! And I promise this is not Peter Pan food from the movie “Hook”!

-Moving on, I think now is a good time to inform you that I am now a single mother of two beautiful babies… No, I did not adopted or steal any African children (yet… plus I’m not technically “allowed” some silly pc policy). So I did the next best thing, I adopted a kitten… and then a dog. And that’s it for now… until the cat has kittens I suppose. SO I have a sweet kitten named Minney and a colorful puppy named Molly. Minney was weaned a bit too early so she enjoys nursing on my black fuzzy sweatshirt. She likes to do this best when I’m wearing it and curls up in my lap and begins nursing in the inner-crease of my elbow. I have also made a brilliant discovery; if I put the sweatshirt on my back she will lay there and while she nurses she kneads her cute little paws giving me a sweet kitty back massage! SCORE!!! Molly my dog is a bit of a handful and as the Ugandans would say, “she is very stubborn!” She is a complete lunatic at times running around the campus like a maniac, but she is loving and precious!! I know I may seem crazy for having two pets here in a third world country… especially the dog when I have never had one before and have no clue how to even begin training one… but I am glad I decide to take them in. They bring a lot of love and joy to my life and on the hard days they make it a little easier to breathe. Also I am an overly (sometimes maybe overwhelmingly) nurturing and loving individual, always have been! I need something or someone to give that my affectionate energy… and since I don’t want a headache (or as some may call it, a “boyfriend”) and don’t plan on having a baby anytime soon (sorry mom)… Pets seemed like the best bet for now!

-Ok, Let’s see… Job-check! House- check! Pets-check and check! Hmmm… I think that is the basics… here is some other interesting things I have been up to…

I will entitle this section as “I am woman, hear me ROAR” ;-)
Since being in Uganda there are some things I NEVER thought I would be able to see or do! For example:

-Eating bugs… in Uganda they fry up grasshoppers and eat them by the bag full’s. Not something I plan on continuing so much, but I did it!! Also there are these big white ants with wings on them they eat, but I think I’ll wait until next year to try those ones.

-Tool Time: while I was always handy around the house and fixing things (and yes more often accidentally breaking things)… I have since chopped and sawed wood to use for different things in my house… Such as my closet to hang clothes, spice rack cabinet in the kitchen, shelf for the shower (with Tony’s help, thank you!), and also a branch to make a Christmas tree!

-Going along with the previous home improvements, I also spackled and painted my main room all by myself!! Yet another thing the Ugandans thought I couldn’t do (because I'm mzungu and a woman) and was crazy for doing, especially when I was standing on my chair on top of my table to paint the wall (I have high ceilings). And it actually turned out ok! Then I created two bulletin boards out of fabric and cardboard boxes to put up!

-I helped assist another pcv to fix some of the computers in my lab… without electrocuting myself!! WHOOO!!! And we (more like he, I just did what he told me to do) were able to fix two and update about 4 of them. Which is a big improvement since the computers are old and slowly dying.

-Bargaining: still something I hate doing for the most part… but I am MUCH better at it now. One needs to bargain to get the fair price, especially at the markets. It’s kind of fun if you are into that kind of thing, I just always feel bad because it’s like I’m saying “what you are selling me is junk and you are lucky if I give you such-and-such price”… it just feels mean to me. But I got over it! I guess... :-/

-Night Dancer: A night dancer is what we would probably call a witch doctor in America. Thank God I didn’t see or hear him… but one of the other tutors informed me that this "night dancer" was outside wandering around my house and two of the other tutors’ houses past midnight. When I asked, “what is a night dancer?” he informed me that they chant bad omens around one’s house in the middle of the night and sometimes sprinkle grave dust on one’s roof. -Nope, that’s not creepy at all!! Then later when I told my pcv friend about it her response is, “you know they are cannibals, right?” My response- “Oh! No, no I didn’t!! Thanks for letting me know… It’s not like I wasn’t scared enough to begin with, awesome!” Anyway, I have not heard him and don’t think he has been back so no worries! :-)

-Keeping my cool & motivation! Becoming so overly stressed and frustrated because everything takes FOREVER and still nothing seems to work! Because the work you do may or may not be sustainable and you feel like “what’s the point”!! Because meetings take FOREVER (like 7 hours) and nothing gets accomplished and you just hope that your head will burst so you don’t have to go through another dreadful minute. Because people are screaming “MZUNGU” at you and people are touching and trying to grab you when you go anywhere because you are white and different. I have yet to scream, or cry, or loose my cool in public with all of these frustrations and I think that is (in the words of Borat) a “great success”!!

-Rafting the Nile!! The Nile River actually begins here in Uganda and you are able to see the source! I rafter that bad boy with grade 5 rapids!! We even got to swim through some of them!! It was AWESOME!!

-By far the most intense thing I have done: Watching and assisting my dog getting spade… in my backyard… on my kitchen table!! This is coming from the girl that always left the room when the vet had to give her cat a shot in the behind! And somehow God gave me the strength to get though the whole thing without crying, throwing up, or passing out… although I was on the verge of passing out!! And now my sweet little Molly Dolly is all healed up and back to running amuck like a lunatic and scaring Ugandans.. what she does best!

-Other than that, I think just being able to handle yourself in everyday life as a white single woman all alone in a third world country (especially Africa where you stand out like a sore thumb) is something of an accomplishment. I just hope that I’m not too jaded or have become too “hard” when I come back to the states or too desensitized… Hopefully when I come back everyone’s not going to think I’m this offensive a*hole!!

Ok so some that I have already said has been frustrating or challenging, but not my negatives... This is a list of my negatives of being here… I think bad news is always best first so here are the not so great things I have been experiencing:

-Mzungu Price: I should have brought this up earlier, but "mzungu" is the Swahili word referring to white people. Normally those of European descent but the literal translation mean “of the aimless wanderers”. Any who, “Mzungu Price” is when a mzungu is overcharged simply because of the color of his/her skin. This is because it is assumed one of white skin has more money and there for should pay more. I have to explain that some are not in fact rich… some are poor volunteers trying to help their country and are still paying back their school fees in the USA! I HATE MZUNGU PRICE!! You end up arguing over nickels and dimes… but it’s the principle… It is unfair and complete discrimination! (Happy almost Martin Luther King Jr. Day BTW!!)

-Already got into this a bit, but transportation is by far THE WORST THING in this country!! Actually corruption is probably more so a bigger issue… BUT transportation affects me more often and it SUCKS!! You normally get mzungu priced, may have to sit on the bus or matatu (taxi van) for 2 hours until it leaves, depending on where you go it could take you the whole day. The closest volunteer to me is about 2 hours. Normally I travel for about 8 hours… that’s how long it takes me to get to PC office and to my love and bff GRACIE FACIE!! Also most drive recklessly and you are normally squished into a small place and might have to hold someone's chicken or baby. Also depending on the temperature that day and how close you are sitting next to someone, you may end up with their BO on you for the rest of the day. Eww...

-Living like a hermit crab: Since we don’t have cars and must take public transport, and because it takes a day to get to most pcvs, and because it’s not safe and approved by PC to travel at night, and because you can’t get all your supplies from your village/town, and because there are many trainings and workshops to go to all the time, and because sometimes you just need a break from your site… because of all these things you are often going from place to place like a nomad and are carrying your backpack or duffle bag (which is so big and heavy it’s looks like you have stolen a medium-sized child). Again, travel can be long, frustrating, tiresome, and just suck all round… but it’s not that bad once you get the hang of it. You learn! You get used to carrying your weight on your back, being squished into a matatu (taxi), and walking long distances!! It’s crazy tho, my packing skills are improving!! Alas! I no longer bring everything and the kitchen sink with me like I did before!! YAY!!

-Already mentioned above: No running water at site… not so bad actually. Running water is a luxury!! Hot water is magical!! :-)

-Also mentioned above: Electricity. I’m lucky I have electricity at my site, even though it is completely inconsistent. I may have it for a week on and off… sometimes it goes for a few days. You never know! And it makes teaching computers to students super frustrating… apparently computers don’t work without a power source! :-/

-Also I’m afraid I will become offensive by the time I return to America… Not meaning to be offensive but due to lack of a filter. Ugandans just say it how it is; to describe people they will say, “The fat one,” “the very black one,” “the very old one,” etc… They will even say this in front of the person and no one cares. They don’t say it to be mean or offensive, but they are just describing people the way they are. Back in America most people whisper the word, “black” to describe an African American friend because they don’t want to seem politically incorrect. Honestly, these things shouldn’t be offensive… I know I would never describe my friend as fat or old like they do here and I guess it is hurtful… but I guess we are all touchy in America.

-Network: Most of my conversations on the phone while at my site go like this, “Hello, Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?!? Ok sorry, go on… arg! I lost them!!” On most spots on campus I can stand in the same spot and the bars will go from 2 to 0 to 4 to 1 to 0 all in under a minutes time. In my house if I leave the phone by my window or outside I normally can get 2 bars! By the flagpole on campus I can get 4, which is WONDERFUL, but I’m not going to stand by the flagpole all day! Inside of the ICT lab I get nothing, it’s really like I’m in a black hole! So getting a hold of me is just as challenging as everything else. Also network doesn’t really exist at my site for Internet… It’s only strong enough to get a very slow weak connection on my campus by the flagpole and sometimes it can’t even load e-mail! Plus I am stared at (more than I already am) and everyone asks to use my Internet and laptop when they don’t really know how to use either… I don’t want to be selfish with “my things” (that’s super American by the way) but I really don’t want to open up Pandora’s box either!

-I knew from the beginning being away from my family and friends would be the most difficult part of my service. They mean the world to me, they are what gives meaning to my life. I still feel incredibly guilty and selfish being here so far away from them. I am missing important events in my loved ones’ lives and people are growing up and moving on… It’s really hard when I feel like someone needs me and I can’t be there, not because I don’t want to but because I simply can’t. :’-(

Ok, enough “Negative Nancy”… Honestly the negatives are not that bad and the pros out way my cons significantly!!

*Positives- (I’ll try to limit them since the list is long)
-The scenery/climate: THIS COUNTRY IS KISSED BY GOD!!! It is so incredibly beautiful here! It’s green filled with nature and animals everywhere! The temperature is always warm, even during the rainy season it’s not so bad… the sun eventually comes out to play! You may get a little muddy, but come on… that’s FUN!! The sunrises and especially the sunsets are breath taking and the night sky is so clear and unbelievable! It’s just glorious!!

-The people: Ugandans while many frustrate me; I really love their spirit. They are good, warm-hearted, welcoming, loving people!! Uganda is a communal society whereas America is individualistic; so people want to help you much more. They will come visit you and greet you about 5 times a day! Sometimes the greetings are too much and drive me crazy, but unlike most Americans when they ask you, “How was your day? How is your family?” They really care and actually want to know! People are more important than time and money in many ways. This is the way it should be!

-“SANTA!?!?!? I KNOW HIM!?!? I KNOW HIM!!?!?” Ok, I may not be Santa Claus! However, the kids in Uganda are 10 times more excited to see me than kids in the States are to see their beloved fat man in a red suit at Christmas! And I’m here all years round folks! Plus, bringing smiles to children’s faces is one of my top missions in life! (Unfortunately there is once in a blue moon a child that cries or wets himself in your presence, but just like Santa it comes with the job!)

-Adventures! I may have many stressful and frustrating situations that arise often, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world… I have grown so much as a person (at least I think I have) and have learned so much more about the world and people! I have some of the craziest stories and know how to basically survive on my own. It’s almost like I’m camping everyday. Thank you for the preparation Girl Scouts!! :-)

-Silly boys, tricks are for kids! Although I get many marriage proposals while over here on a daily basis, mostly from complete strangers who don’t even know my name but want a "white wife" and ticket to America (then again, who doesn't want to go to Disney World??) Luckily for me, I don’t have to deal with all the drama of the dating world! Dating is always so much more frustrating than I don't know, living in know a remote village in Africa!! Sure it would be nice to have a “someone special”… someone to call my own and share all my hopes and joys and blah blah blah… but it would be too difficult here. If I did long distance with someone back home it wouldn’t be fair to him and if I dated someone locally I could possibly loose my reputation in my community plus many other complications could arise. Living here makes it much easier to remain single and focused!! But who knows maybe if eventually the right guy comes along... then again at this point in my life I kind of give up on the old Prince Charming... Plus he would be too prissy to hang out in the village and who needs a hero when you can save yourself... in heels no less!! Again, "I am woman, hear me ROAR!" ;-)

-Seeing who your “true friends are”: Being away for so long from a place you once called home you really find out who your “true” friends and family are… Even the ones that I have scarcely heard from I know which friends are there for me and which ones never were… some may find this sad, but I find it a blessing. Since college I lost a few friends (or so I thought) and I found out the hard way… Living in a Third World County in a remote village for a few years is turning out to be much easier! :-)

-One really cool thing about being here is I get to meet fascinating people from all over the world! Most of them are volunteers who want to bring a positive change to this world and others are just adventurous travelers who want to see this world. Either way it is always delightful to make new friends, fun memories, and learn about a whole new world!

-Gracie Facie! Talking about friends, she has been my rock here… literally my “saving Grace” on some occasions. She is my Amazon and my sister from another mister. I love her dearly and thank you my darling for putting up with my shenanigans!

-Direction: I may not know where I’m going (or where I am half of the time), but I know I’m on the right path… I’ll do what Shannon does best and figure it out along the way! :-)

-Feeling a part of a family. I thought I might feel very alone like an outsider here and thought being here would be difficult without having my family/friends support system close by… However I am so blessed, I have created my own in-county support network with both my Peace Corps Uganda family and also with my community. It’s no wonder that Peace Corps volunteers are some of the best people one can meet in this world. They are kind, caring, supportive, proactive, optimistic, adventurous, creative, open-minded… the list goes on and on… kind-of-people! I feel so fortunate to be apart of this incredible new family… they are almost as wonderful as my loved ones back home. My community also makes me feel loved and welcomed. Sure there are still people who try to ask me for money or want to be my friend for status because I am a mzungu, but for the most part I feel like many of the Ugandans in my community have my back. One of my best friend’s is my next-door neighbor, she is kind, caring, and I don’t know what I would do if she wasn’t there! I just feel so lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life both those from back in the states (and other parts of the world) and those here in Uganda!

-Regrets: Although there is a lot that of cons being here, I have no regrets! Thank God I decided to do this! Even though everyday has the possibility of encountering a new set of challenges and frustrations, I can say with all certainty I would have regretted NOT doing Peace Corps. It’s by far the best decision I have ever made! Thank you for those who supported me in my decision! :-)

-Friends and family, be happy!! I am happy and I am almost half way there to being back in your arms once again!! YAY!! But in the mean time you should come visit and I’ll give you an incredible African adventure!! Promise!! ;-)

Ok… I think that is enough for now, next blog I hope to update you on my Holiday adventures and incredible trip to Egypt with two of my best gals!… If you have any more questions just feel free to ask… but I think this should be more than enough for quite some time!!
So… now that you are all filled in on the life of Shannon… please e-mail me and catch me up on what’s new with you! I am going to be light years behind when I come back to America!! I wish you all the best and thank you all for your love, support, and well wishes! Now go shine your own light on the world and spread love wherever you may go…

Much Love from across the globe,
Embabazi Shannon ♥

P.S.- Embabazi- This is my local name given to me by my community. It is in the language Runyankore/Rukiga spoken by a group of people in the southwest of Uganda. It means: merciful, grace, kindness, and I’m not sure what else! I'll take it! ;-)

Monday, March 8, 2010


Staging in Philly, or lack there of…
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Today has been crazy!?!? First I had a very sad depressing depart from my parents and from my brother on Monday. It’s not a good feeling saying good bye to people that you love and care about most in this world and not knowing when or how long it will be until you see them next. It’s best for me to just think I will see them soon and I won’t really be away from so long. After my painful good-byes I dried my eyes and arrived at staging in Philly around 12. Staging was, I guess I could say interesting… or I guess I could more so say non-existent. Our staging didn’t really happen since the weather has been calling for a big snow storm tomorrow morning around the time of our flight with flurries starting tonight. So we finished all our paperwork, received the H1N1 shot, cut the rest of staging, grabbed a bite to eat, and then hopped on the bus. We are now staying in a hotel in NYC. Hopefully things work out tomorrow and I will be on my flight on the way to my new home in AFRICA!! *Fingers Crossed!!*

Boring Plane Blog-
Written on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 5:40am Philly Time
I’ve been on the plane for about 7 hours. We boarded the plane at 10:00-10:30ish am and took off around 11-11:30ish am since the plane had to be de-iced for an hour. I am sitting next to a really sweet girl in my group, her name is Grace and she is from Colorado. I have a feeling we are going to become really good friends already. Let’s see, what else… hmm, well after we flew for a while I decided to watch “The Darjeeling Limited,” it was really weird and very modern... after that we ate dinner even though it was only around 2pm Philly time. It was a nice little meal and it came with a complimentary South African personal bottle of wine! Then once I was nice and full, I finally got some sufficient sleep for the first time in 2 days… about time!! :-)
I can’t believe when I get off the plane I will be in AFRICA!!! This is so surreal!!!!

*~Flight Map Info~*
Current time in Philly- 5:40 am
Current time in South Africa- 12:40 pm
Estimated time of arrival- 9:00 am
Flying Time Down- 7 hours
Remaining Flying Time- 8 hours 20 minutes
Total Flying Time- About 15 hours
Distance traveled so far- 3,684 miles
Distance to destination- 4,332 miles
Total Distance- About 8,000 miles
We just flew over the Cape Verde Islands and are about to pass by Senegal and Guinea-Bissau
Altitude 36290 feet
Outside Air Temperature -56 deg F
Ground Speed- 575 mph

Thursday Morning, February 11, 2010-
OMG!!! OMG!!! OMG!!!!
So, I just got off the plane after our 15 hour flight, it actually went by pretty fast!!! Now we will be lounging around the Johannesburg Airport in South Africa for 5 hours until our flight to Entebbe Airport departs, then 5 more hours until I will be in UGANDA, my soon to be NEW HOME!?!?!?! Dear Mr. Clock, please speed up!!

First Morning in Uganda!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Today I open my eyes and awake in my white cocoon mess of a mosquito net. I can’t believe I am here and that this isn’t a dream but REALITY. I greet my roommate Heather and we get ready for the day. We walk outside to the dining hall for breakfast and are overwhelmed by the glorious African sunrise, the beautiful birds of color all around us, and the monkeys playing in the trees!!!
Our group gets along so well and I can tell I am going to make some great life long friends already!! We start our malaria pills today!!! Apparently I should get ready for some pretty trippy dreams, although I already have pretty crazy and vivid dreams to begin with so I wonder if they will be even more intense. I guess only time will tell... Today has been so wonderful and I cannot wait to see what the week ahead brings!!

Coming Home-
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I feel so blessed to be here and although Uganda is definitely a completely different world than back in the States, it feels so right to be here. It feels like where I need to be at this point in my life right now and it feels so amazing. The last two years of my life I felt so out of place and lost and although I don’t feel exactly found I feel like I’m on the right path right now. So Uganda… what is it like?? Well, it’s full of life and nature all over the place and pretty much all times of the day are breath taking. We are staying at a hostel called Luwaza for the first few days to get a briefing in Ugandan culture, start our malaria pills, get some shots, and recover from jet lag. We all get along great so far and have such a great vibe going!! We are starting to learn a little Luganda so we can greet and say please and thank you, etc…
To say…
How are you (informally)- “Oli otya” Pronounced- “Oh-lee-oh-tea-ah”.
The response is “bulungi”, pronounced- “ballon-gee” meaning good, nice, ok, etc…
Thank you is, “webale” pronounced “way-bah-lay”.
So that’s just a little Luganda to fill you in on.

Monday, February 22, 2010
Note to self, USE YOUR BRAIN!!
So today when I woke up it was raining cats and dogs, intelligently enough I decided not to ride my bike since last time it was so slick and muddy and not the safest conditions for riding. Unintelligently I decided on a poor choice in footwear! I was going to wear my sneakers, I figured that would have been the best bet and would have made the most sense. So I grab my sneakers and then realized my laces were missing, my family decided to wash them the other day since my shoes were so muddy. I then looked around my room for my laces and then looked up realizing they were being used as my clothesline to hang my still damp clothes since they didn’t dry all the way from the day before. Since it was raining I couldn’t use the clothesline outside to finish drying my clothes so I just left my clothes in my room hanging on my shoelaces for the day. So that left me with the choice between my flats, heels, or flip-flops. For those of you who know me well… NO, I did not choose my heels like I normally would!! I’m not as big as an idiot as you think I am! I chose the flip-flops, which in theory was a good idea since they would be the easiest to clean off. Once I turned up the path to the training center after a mile and a half of sliding all over the road and having mud puddles constantly eating my flop flops leaving me to search for my footwear for five minutes by sticking my foot in the mud and feeling around for it… yea so after all that I finally decided to ditch the flops and just go all-natural since it didn’t matter much anymore anyhow. Well by the time I got to the training center after my 2+ mile hike you could no longer tell I was a mazungu by looking at the backs of my legs, my feet were covered in 5-pound mud slippers, my skirt had an artistically designed African-mud splattered painting all on the back of my black skirt, my backpack and all the books and papers in it were soaked completely, I was man-handling my umbrella open for at least a mile figuring I broke it somehow, and I looked like a drowned sewer-rat. Oh and when I got to training I realized that in order to fix my umbrella all I had to do was close it and re-open it again. Of course!!
On the way home I walked with a bunch of my friends through a “short-cut” which I still refuse to believe is a short cut, but it we had fun! We walked through a little African jungle looking maze to get home. I decided to walk like a native and do it barefoot since the flip-flops weren’t cooperating once again. Luckily I didn’t step on anything that could have cut me or bit me, probably not the best idea in hind-sight but I didn’t fall, although I had a few almost wipe outs!!! One plus to walking barefoot in the mud, IT FEELS INCREDIBLE ON YOUR FEET!! Gooey and squishy!! SOOOO NICE!!! Although I’m sure I probably stepped in a mixture of mud and cow poop somewhere along the way... oh well!
Yea, Shannon is still Shannon and still makes only wise decisions “Shannon” would make regardless of where she is in the world!! Good to know right? ☺

All in all I had a good laugh today with everything and learned a lot of good information. All the useful things I learn are probably going to be a lot of trial and error lessons, but oh well I’m sure it will add to the fun of the adventure! We will see what adventures are waiting for me tomorrow, until then friends go in love…

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Discussed dating and made bets with a partner in crime!! Let you know what happens!! ;-)

Thursday, February 25, 2010
So it’s been 13 day since I arrived in Africa and today was my first day sick! It’s been fun to say the least!! I threw up 5 times in less than 4 hours starting at 6:30 AM… once in the outside pit latrine (which is just a hole in a cement floor), then two times in the next hour in the inside toilet that doesn’t really flush at all. Then I decided to still go into training instead of stay home to mope around all day, probably not the best idea but oh well. I called Peace Corps to pick me up since I didn’t feel well enough to walk or ride my bike for the 5-kilometer rough terrain trip into RACO Center. Pretty much as soon as they picked me up and the car took off for the training center I asked them to stop and pull over so I could puke some more, this time so I could entertain the locals since it’s not everyday they get to see a sick muzungu! Finally I got to training after the rough bumpy ride around 9 AM. I was pretty good for about half an hour of language class until my stomach decided it wasn’t finished with me yet, one more time to hug the toilet at the training center. The toilets there work pretty well with flushing, although there are no toilet seats so you can’t sit down so for a girl it makes it interesting but I guess it also gives more aiming practice for the pit latrines.
Note to self- don’t wear pants to the pit latrine, only skirts!! This way if your aim is off you still pee on your leg but not on your clothes. Also it’s easier to lift up a skirt apposed to pulling your pants up and down and having the balancing act of holding the door closed and not tripping over yourself lifting your pants up and almost putting your leg down the pit latrine hole!!
After language we had our morning tea break and I think it helped. I was still pretty queasy for most of the day but not getting sick anymore!! We went on a field trip after lunch to a local village to talk with the people to get an idea of the needs of the people in different villages in order to make good qualifying projects for our secondary projects when we arrive at our site. It rained and I of course was wearing my black flip flops again!! We walked all around the muddy filled rocky road with the local chairman councilor, I almost fell about 10 times in the mud but this time I left my 10-pound mud filled flip flops on and decided to just deal with it and get in a good leg work out. I think that’s about all the excitement of my day! Hopefully tomorrow is just as eventful but not a sick-filled!! ☺

Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I AM SO VERY HAPPY, like smacked-silly-crazy-in-love-drunk happy!! Actually the only times I can remember ever being this happy in my life was during Senior Sweetheart in high school, at pageants- especially at NAM Nationals in California, and the day I realized I was in love for the first time back in college. I think those times in my life I felt happiest because I felt so excited to be where I was in my life, I had drive, and because I felt so truly loved and blessed on those occasions… And now, I feel like that here. I can feel I am changing into this butterfly right now and my wings are spreading and I’m just about to take off now and AAHHHH… it feels so amazing!!!! I just can’t wait to see where everything will take me. I don’t know what I could have done in the States that would compare to how I feel like I do now. Dear God, THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR BLESSING MY LIFE OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND FOR BRING ME TO THIS INCREDIBLE PLACE TO HAVE AN EXCITING ADVENTURE!!!
Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 6:09AM
Ok, now I’m scared!!!!!! WHO AM I, I woke up today with no alarm at 6am exactly with NO alarm and I could not wait to get out of bed!!! I had to wake up not because I had to but because I wanted to, because I could not wait to start my day. I can’t remember EVER feeling like this!! Not once in my entire life did I ever want to get out of bed and start my day as soon as possible with a smile on my face and excitement for it all to begin!!!!!!! Is this experience turning me into a morning person??? SCARY!!!!! So last night I talked to my mom and told her how I WILL be posting my blogs today (this one included). Time goes so slowly here so you would think I have plenty of time to do things… HOWEVER, everything else moves extremely slow here as well, the pace of living and rhythm is slow but it takes longer to do everything too. I did laundry as soon as I got home yesterday (the laundry that I wanted to do over the previous weekend but couldn’t since it rained the day I wanted to do it). It probably wouldn’t have taken me so long yesterday if A- I made wiser choices on what to wash and what to wear one or two or three plus more times until it really needed to be washed AND B- I wasn’t stupid and decided to soak it for two nights in a row. My clothes reeked yesterday!!!! OMG it was so gross, it smelled like mildew, ass, and raisins!!! Seriously!!! My host brother, Goodwin, wanted to help the silly Muzungu with washing her clothes, but I told him no this time and begged him to let me do it myself like a “big girl,” which was true, but I more so didn’t want him to help because I was so embarrassed that I left my clothes to soak for so long and then to smell so bad. Plus I myself didn’t want to smell that and I certainly was not about to torture anyone else with that nauseating scent. I finally finished my clothes after the sun went down!!

Also today I decided to start off my day with the Juno Soundtrack on my computer, GREAT IDEA, I highly recommend it to anyone!! Now off to meet Gracie for our morning date walking to training!! (P.S.- Don’t tell the Ugandans, they frown upon that sort of behavior, lol). I hope you enjoyed finally reading my blogs they are not really complete, I have been trying to do to much at one time!! I have a few other ones on my computer from before but I want to have more time to look over them and see if I want to add anything that maybe I forgot to put in initially, but for now this should be good. I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH & I MISS EVERYONE DEARLY!!! Take care my loves!!

With Love from Africa,
Shannon <3

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Still on Schedule

Pretty much all fights were canceled today in JFK Airport but ours and a few others are still on. We left the hotel at 6am and are just hanging out until our flight takes off at 10:30am. I look forward to taking a much needed nap on the plane!! I have no anxiety to leave, I'm just super excited (and very tired) at the moment. I won't know how internet and phones will be until I get there. I guess we will see.. One more hour to go until I'm outta here!! :-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Slight change of plans with staging today, since we are expecting snow Tuesday night into Wednesday we did not stay in Philly tonight. Instead we packed up early and took the bus to NYC to stay for the night. As long as the snow doesn't fail us up we should be scheduled as planned and leave the hotel at 6am to go to JFK for our 10:30am flight to South Africa. I'm so tired tonight... I only slept about one to two hours last night, I had too much to do and was to anxious to fall asleep. Saying good bye to my mom, dad, and brother was so hard... I cried but tried so hard to fight back and not ball my eyes out completely. It helped to think I wasn't going anywhere for a long period of time and I would see them soon. I don't know how I am going to go without seeing them for such a long period of time. This is going to be tough. Another side note... I over packed!! -Surprise, surprise!!

It's funny all the anxiety and concern I felt last night when packing completely left as soon as I entered the hotel. I feel like I'm where I need to be and it feels so good. The people are so amazing and I can tell I've already made some friends that will end up being life long. I'm so excited!!!

Now it's time to repack and move things around a little bit, then sleep (FINALLY), then wake up early for our 15+ hour plane ride!! At lease I can sleep on the plane!! :-)

P.S.- Mom, Dad, Sean, Family, & Friends... Thank you for all your continuing support!! Words cannot describe how truly blessed I feel to have so many wonderful caring people in my life. I love you with all of my heart and am going to miss you greatly!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Love Always & God's Blessings,

Monday, February 8, 2010

My First Last Good Bye to My Family...

Just said good bye for the last time to my brother... It was so hard not to break down, all I want to do is cry... We are about 6 1/2 years apart but we have become so close over the years especially after I turned 21... We just get each other. I love him so much and I don't know what I'm going to do without him or without seeing him and hugging him for so long!! I guess I didn't think it would be this hard to say good bye... :'-(

Ok... NO time to be emotional!!! Back to PACKING!! IT NEEDS TO BE FINISHED TONIGHT!!!
Leaving for Staging in the morning!! :-)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Last Weekend & Snowed In

So it's my last weekend in the States and I am spending it 16-inces snowed in with my amazing family! It's been a snow shoveling, hot chocolate drinking, Dexter maraton watching, Peace Corps packing, thank you writing, cuddling, and drikingkind of day!! I'm actually really happy to have one more snow fall before I leave. I think I heard they are calling for snow again on Tuesday/Wednesday when I'm supposed to leave!! We will see... :-)

I am so blessed to have one more wonderful weekend with my family. I love them so very much and there are no words to describe how much I am going to truly miss them. I will take them in my heart with me so hopefully they don't seem so far away. Less than 3 DAYS!!! Starting to get a little anxious!! :-)

Monday, February 1, 2010

One week to go...

This weekend was a blast! The only down side is I felt like I didn't have enough time with everyone, but on the plus side I had more fun on Saturday than any one person should ever have! I feel truly blessed to have so many amazing people in my life. Thank you for all who came out and made my day so special. I am going to sincerely miss each and every one of you but I will keep you all in my heart and bring you along with me!! Also a big thanks to my mom, dad, and brother for everything and for putting up with my crazy shenanigans for all these years!! I love you all so much!! xoxo

Now on with the last week in the States!! Only 7 more days to go!! :-)