The Answer To All Of Life’s Problems

The Answer To All Of Life’s Problems

Living in a foreign country where you experience every single emotion from complete elation to utter sadness every. single. day?
CATS.

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Having nightmares involving death and kidnapping?
CATS.

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Can’t stop thinking about a guy back home and don’t know whether you miss him because he’s the last guy you were intimate with or because you have actual feelings for him….and realize that it doesn’t matter either way because there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it?
Fuck it, CATS.


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Got caught in the middle of a fight involving bricks, sticks, logs and drunk men and thought for sure someone was going to die in front of you?
CATS.

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Questioning your worth and wondering if you’re making any sort of impact with the work you’re doing?
CATS.

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Miss walking down the street without people staring, pointing and trying to sneak pictures of you?
CATS.

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Still can’t wear pants because of a motorcycle accident that happened 2 months ago?
CATS.

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Missing your siblings/parents/friends/coworkers/that one girl you had class with for a semester two years ago that you only see twice a year?
CATS.

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Stressing over what you’re going to do with your life in 20 months?
Just….CATS.

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In all seriousness, it’s been a tough month. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer is challenging in more ways than I could ever have imagined. When I accepted my invitation to serve in Uganda, I thought my biggest problems would be living without electricity and running water. A year later (and infinitely wiser), I consider that to be the easy part. However, now that Term 2 has officially started (and the Ugandan teacher’s strike is over!), I am feeling more and more like my old self. I have a few projects underway, I start teaching next week and I am excited for all of it, all over again. Oh and I have a cat!

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The following excerpt is one of the most powerful things I’ve read in a long time (which is saying a lot considering how many books I’ve read in the past 6 months). It explains everything I have been trying to articulate since I moved to Uganda. I kind of just want to walk around and make all the Westerners I come into contact with read it…

From the book Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta, a Nigerian-born author:

“If ever I did come across a book by an African author, it was in London, in a neighborhood where I’d gone to buy plantains, in a bookshop with kente cloth drapes. None of the books I encountered had characters as diverse as the people I knew. And African authors, it seemed, were always having to explain the smallest things to the rest of the world. To an African reader, these things could appear over-explained. Harmattan for instance. You already knew: a season, December- January, dust in the eyes, coughing, chilly mornings, by afternoon sweaty armpits. Whenever I read foreign books, they never explained the simplest things, like snow. How it crunched under your shoes, kissed your face both warm and cold. How you were driven to trample it, then loathed it after it became soiled. All these things! No one ever bothered to tell an African! This never occurred to me, until an English friend once commented on how my accent changed whenever I spoke to my Nigerian friends. That was my natural accent, I told her. If I spoke to her that way, she would never understand. She looked stunned. “I don’t believe you,” she said sincerely. “That is so polite.”

After I’d come to terms with how polite I was being, I became incensed at a world that was impolite to me. Under explained books, books that described a colonial Africa so exotic I would want to be there myself, in a safari suit, served by some silent and dignified Kikuyu, or some other silent and dignified tribesman. Or a dark dark Africa, with snakes and vines and ooga-booga dialects. My Africa was a light one, not a dark one: there was so much sun. And Africa was an onslaught of sensations, as I once tried to explain to a group of English work mates, like eating an orange. What single sensation could you take from an orange? Stringy, mushy, tangy, bitter, sweet. The pulp, seeds, segments, skin. The sting in your eyes. The long lasting smell on your fingers.

But people concentrated on certain aspects of our continent: poverty, or wars, or starvation: bush, tribes or wildlife. They loved our animals more than they loved us. They took an interest in us only when we were clapping and singing, or half naked like the Maasai, who were always sophisticated enough to recognize a photo opportunity. And for the better informed: “How about that Idi Amin Dada fellow, eh?” That Mobutu Sese Seko fellow, that Jean-Bedel Bokassa fellow, as though those of us who just happened to be living in the same continent could vouch for the sanity of any of these fellows.

We had no sense of continent really, or of nation in a country like mine, until we traveled abroad: no sense of the Africa presented outside. In a world of East and West, there was nowhere to place us. In a graded world, there was a place for us, right there at the bottom: third, slowly slipping into the fourth world. A noble people. A savage culture. Pop concert after pop concert for starving Africans. Entire books dedicated to the salvation of African women’s genitals. If only the women themselves could read the books, critique them: this is right, this is incorrect; this is total nonsense. If only Africa could be saved by charity.

NBD: A List of Things That Would Have Freaked Me Out 6 Months Ago

In honor of my 6-month anniversary of living in Uganda.

(Still the best decision I ever made)

  1. Bugs.

Whether they’re chilling in my bathing water, in my jerry cans, in the corners of my house or they’ve fallen to their unfortunate deaths in my pit latrine, bugs are EVERYWHERE. If I found a dead bug in my drinking water 6 months ago, I would have freaked out. Now, I just scoop them out and go about my day.* Unidentified Flying Insects (UFIs), however, are another story.

  1. Lizards.

Like bugs, I also have many lizards roaming around the walls of my house and latrine. At first, I tried to chase them away. Now we’re friends. I even name some of them. I call the one who has a lightening shaped stripe down its back Harry.**

  1. Pooping in a hole.

My first encounter with a pit latrine was not a pleasant one. I’ve come a long way since then (I.e. I only get pee on my feet about 10% of the time now) but I’ve become somewhat of a pit snob, if you will, in that I only like to use my own latrine.

  1. Riding in a matatu.

A matatu is a mini-van taxi designed to hold about 14 people but is usually crammed with 20+ people and various types of livestock (chickens, goats…). I’m usually half-sitting on someone’s lap, which is a GREAT way of making new friends, or sitting with only one of my butt cheeks on an actual seat. By the time I leave Uganda, I have dreams of becoming a contortionist. #newlifeplan

  1. Lecturing about sex and condoms.

I have become desensitized to words like penis, vagina and clitoris. In the states, sex is a topic reserved for lovers and friends. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t say the word clitoris to a stranger without blushing. Here, I preach safe sex and talk about masturbation and condoms (the answer to everything) like it’s my job.***

  1. Teaching.

Although I want to be a teacher and have done a moderate amount of teaching in America, I do not hold a degree in education. Because of this, I was not very confident in my teaching abilities. 6 months ago, teaching in a classroom sounded like a lot of fun but made me extremely nervous. Now, I can confidently say that not only do I enjoy it but I am really good at it. There’s honestly nothing else I would rather be doing.

* Yes, I still drink the water…which is only gross if you really think about it.

**And sometimes, when I’m in my latrine for long call (aka taking a poo) or cooking in the kitchen, I talk to them about their day. They probably understand me just as much as some Ugandans do. HA. HA. HA. #ExpatProblems. Am I going crazy? Perhaps. Or PERHAPS I’m just a normal Peace Corps Volunteer.

***Also, sex (and lack thereof) is probably on the top 3 things Peace Corps Volunteers talk about with each other. Obviously, food is #1.