My Last Week in Uganda

I’m writing this from Egyptian airspace, and steadily moving further away from Uganda. Thankfully, the last few days of my time in my second home were wonderful. I relished every last walk to and from school, every last late night help session, every last trip to the well, every last time being covered in chalk dust, every last bucket shower, every last time fighting my way through my mosquito nets, every last simple conversation, the list goes on and on.
We went back to the school where I promised the students we’d play a full football match. After a difficult lesson (we were all anxious to play), we had P7, the oldest students, versus P6 and me. I had what I’d humbly describe as a perfect through ball for an assist, and we went up 2-0 on P7. Then, P7 scored 3 goals unanswered. As the sky darkened dramatically and threatened to rain during extra time, I scored and we ended in a tie.
We also visited a new school, and Uncle Sandy introduced me to the staff as a doctor. I didn’t encourage it, but I certainly didn’t fight it. I didn’t hate hearing, “This is P5, doctor,” when entering a classroom, or, “Thank you for your suggestions, doctor,” when explaining the need for toilet covers. While teaching the younger students, there was undoubtedly the best moment of my work. When I talk about not sharing drinks, I make my hand into a cup and pretend to drink from it, then hold it to other students to take. When I put my hand down to the littlest boy in the room, he gave me a fist bump.
On Thursday, I taught my last lessons, and then afternoon classes were essentially cancelled as the school prepared a farewell for me. I was so humbled as my school, the preparatory school from the village center, and some village leaders attended. Again, there is nothing better than hearing that the little things I have tried to do to help have actually made a difference. Moreover, while in the taxi on the way to the airport, I heard on the radio, broadcasted all over Uganda, my name (including that I’m a Mulangira) and the things I have done.
It was so difficult to leave the friends, family, and home that I have found here, especially when they keep asking me when I’ll be back. It’s hard to believe that 10 weeks can go by so quickly, but I will never forget any of the things I’ve experienced here.
However, the journey doesn’t end now. It’s time for three more weeks of adventure, exploring Europe and more of Africa. I want to end the last of my weekly correspondences with something special. My best friend amongst the students, Abert, entrusted me with the delivery of two letters. One is addressed to my family, the other to FSU. I’m just going to leave an excerpt from the latter here: “And I have realised that Florida State University in America is the one and only university which can teach someone to be well behaved just to succeed in this little world.”


Uganda Week 9

This week’s theme was gifts of food. Note: food-borne illnesses do not apply to gifts. On Tuesday, while walking home for lunch, a group of men in the trading center called me over. One of them held out a chunk of jackfruit, and I took a piece, telling them that I like it. (A jackfruit is green, spiky, and larger than a watermelon. On the inside, it’s filled with what look like closed yellow flowers, each with a big seed inside. You eat the “petals,” and it tastes kind of like a banana.) The man then gave me the piece, and I walked home sharing it with my friends (of course I walked to Derrick’s house to give him some). One my way back to school, one of the neighbor families was harvesting groundnuts, which are like peanuts but taste much different when cooked. They gave me a handful, and again I shared as I walked. On Wednesday, as I was walking to school after lunch, one of the little boys gave me a cracker. While walking home that night, there was an ice cream man in the trading center. One of my students bought me some, and it was a fruity slush of perfection. The best day was Thursday. Cornelius went to a burial and left the car with me and Uncle Sandy. Since Uncle Sandy doesn’t drive, I got to whip the old van to the other villages. Having the wheel on the right side of the car took a bit of an adjustment, and I’d describe driving between these villages a bit like skiing. However, instead of just avoiding bumps downhill, it’s constant up and down, swerving around potholes, chicken, goats, people, bodabodas, and the occasional cow. We went to one primary school, and after I finished teaching the younger kids, half of them scattered. I taught the older kids, and then the younger ones returned. They surrounded me and gave me armfuls of fruit. Then, just as I write that it’s the dry season, the sky opened up and we watched the lightning over the mountains. The rain added another level of difficulty to the driving, but it was a lot of fun having to spin the wheel back and forth as the car slides through the mud, feeling like an amusement park ride. We then went to talk with a women’s group, and they too gave me assorted fruits afterward. I then drove us to town, and we met Cornelius at the internet cafe. I’ve never felt like more of a Muganda than when I actually knew how to get from one village to another and then through town, and navigating these “roads.” However, that woven banana leaf mat was quickly pulled out from under me. The nearest bathroom to the internet cafe is at a gas station across the street, and crossing that road at night is the only time I ever feel fear here. The Ugandan roads have no lights, no lines, and no rules. My fears were justified when I was walking back to the cafe, and turned and saw a bodaboda without its lights on coming straight at me. We had one of those moments where we both kept trying to avoid each other in the same direction, but the stakes were a bit higher here than if we were just walking. Luckily he was braking, but I still had to put my hands on the front of it and jump back. I then quickly crossed the street, and the metalworker that built the basketball hoop, in typical Ugandan fashion, grabbed my hand and said, “Sorry, sorry, sorry! How are you, my friend?” I was so flustered I only responded in rapid English, and he didn’t understand much. What a mzungu. I rebuilt my pride quickly when we got home and I went through my gifts. 1 mango (rare this time of year but still delicious), 5 papayas, 21 passion fruits, 10 feet of sugarcane, 29 ears of maize, and 63 avocados. I am so humbled by the generosity of these people, especially with food, as I know they must be hungry. I’ve tried to share as much of the food as I’m given, to pass on the friendliness.
Very early Saturday morning, Cornelius and I went to Kampala for the weekend. I’m glad that I got to see the largest city in Uganda, but I definitely prefer the village. Every bodaboda ride is a near death experience as you almost get sideswiped by a van into three other bodabodas, the sidewalk is an acceptable place to swerve to avoid a speed bump, and those sidewalks have beggar children passed out in the middle of them. The capital is a massive sprawl that does have some skyscrapers, but is mostly small shops and slums. We saw the Ugandan Parliament, the Kabaka’s parliament, and his palace. We went to the shrine for the Ugandan martyrs, where Christian pilgrims from all over the world visit on a certain day in June. We walked through the equivalent of a super Wal-Mart and Cornelius and I marveled at the deli section (I stared at the steaks for a very long time). We visited the Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has the graves of the four previous kings of Buganda but was torched in 2010 and is currently being rebuilt. At the tombs I met another Kateregga. He is a grandson of one of the kabakas and he shared some local brew (beer made from bananas) with me. Finally, we made the mistake of trying to go to some falls on the Nile between Kampala and Jinja. We got there at sunset because we used taxi. Here, the taxis are small vans that are “licensed to carry 14 passengers,” but clearly that statement painted on each one is simply a suggestion. At one point we had 21 people in a vehicle no larger than a minivan, and if there were more passengers who needed to get on they would’ve found room. We had to stop every few minutes to let someone off or pick up another passenger. It was musical chairs, except I was a chair that had to move to allow people by and then often be sat on. The way back to town at night was even worse, as I was in the very back where I most certainly did not fit. Even the rolex in my hand and the two passengers trying to marry me (“But mzungu, I love you!”) could not placate me.
The only thing better than getting 63 avocados this week was that for the first time in 65 days, I used a real shower at the hotel. I’m convinced that’s what heaven feels like.
Somehow, it’s already my last week here. Last Friday I was ready to leave when, on my one day to sleep in, the baby at home’s crying woke me up at 6, and the rat running around my room kept me awake.Even if that happens again, I know won’t be ready to leave this Friday.

Uganda Week 8

This week was full of joys and frustrations.
Joy: One day I walked home with Joseph, a mutual friend of Derrick and I. He told me that Derrick didn’t go to school that day, and when we got to my home, Joseph dragged me to Derrick’s house. Derrick was so excited to see me, and when I left, he ran after me to hold my hand, sing with me, and walk me home.
Frustration: I only have 2 more weeks of that.
Joy: The sun was out all week, so we actually had some solar power at home. I didn’t have to do everything by flashlight when I got home at night.
Frustration: The sun is very hot.
Joy: The best part of teaching health is the questions the students ask. After I finished my lesson, they ask, “Why do we need to brush our teeth after eating?”, “How many hours of sleep do I need to get?”, and “What is the stuff in your ears (earwax) for?”. One time I was asked the name of a certain vegetable in English, but I didn’t understand the description. A student ran outside to get one, and it looked like a white, dime-sized watermelon, but was like an eggplant on the inside.
Frustration: I’ve had two heartbreaking questions. One student asked, “How many meals a day should we eat?” I said three. The headmistress then asked who doesn’t eat breakfast. Most of the students raised their hands. Later, she told me that many of their parents can’t even afford lunch. Another student asked, “What do you recommend someone who is born with HIV do?” I can only think of one reason why a kid in middle school would ask that.
Joy: We bodaboda between schools for health education, and one time while we were heading back to our village, a boy walking home from school chased after us. He sprinted alongside us for at least a minute, holding my hand as he ran.
Frustration: He only ran with us for a minute.
Joy: I finally finally finally got the basketball hoop built. Shout out to the man who drove with it for 3 miles of potholes from the town to our village on his bodaboda. It’s so fun teaching and playing with the students, so funny watching them play, and I’m so glad they’re enjoying it. They’re learning fast, and they keep practicing in the dark when I go home. Nothing makes me happier than coming to the court and finding students playing.
Frustration: Our court is dirt so you get incredibly filthy playing, but of course it’s worth it.
Joy: On Thursday we had the Gayaza World Cup. I haven’t been able to watch a single game of the real World Cup, so this was my substitute. We didn’t have class, and went to a nearby field to play from 9-7 with an hour break for lunch. I think I’ve missed more days of teaching due to holidays and what not than I’ve actually taught, and I don’t hate it. My good friend Douglas, who graduated from our school last year, and I alternated matches as referee. I also spent some time as team doctor after the first concussion. In the championship, Dream Team FC (a mix of S3, S5, and S6 because they did not have enough boys separately) defeated S4 in penalties.
Frustration: Refereeing football is not always pleasant. Douglas and I ended up making one of the teachers ref the final because we were tired of people yelling at us (and tired in general). After many arguments (often in Luganda which I wouldn’t understand) we were content just sitting and talking.
Joy: After the tournament, we had an assembly at school to award trophies to the winners. Then, and I have to brag about this, the headmaster thanked me in front of the whole school. He said I have brought the spirit of sports to Gayaza, and it is perfect timing because the Ugandan government is adding sports to the official school curriculum next year. Then he said something that I think fits in perfectly with what we talked about in Global Scholars. He said, “At first we thought you just came to look at us. Now we see that you have come to be with us and work with us, and we are so thankful for all you have done.” Earlier in the day, one of the oldest students had also thanked me, saying, “I really can’t give you anything in return, but I ask that God blesses you as much as you have blessed us.” I just love these people, and am so excited to know that I’ve helped in some way.
Frustration: I most likely won’t be the teacher for sports next year.
Joy: Saturday was Nkobazambogo, and the dress code was my tunic and coat. Nkobazambogo is like an organization of clubs at schools to promote traditional culture. My friend Hwdu, the Head Prefect, is Muslim (Islam is common in Uganda), and is always wearing these awesome hats. I told him how much I like them, so he gave me one to wear. I’m an official Muganda and an honorary Muslim. I think I was told about 30 times that I looked “smart.”
Frustration: Wearing a coat is not my first outfit of choice when the dry season is definitely here to stay.
Joy: Cornelius had two visitors this weekend, an Ethiopian bishop and a Ugandan priest. Having guests at the house solidified that I am no longer a guest, but a family member. I’m so used to this way of life now, and it was great understanding more Luganda than someone for once. The Ugandan priest asked me how many wives I’ve been offered here. I said only three, but one is the headmistress at one of the schools I’ve taught at. He then said he’d give me a plot of land to build a house and grow my crops if I decided to get married and live here.
Frustration: None.
Joy: Sunday we had mass with the Ethiopian bishop, as opposed to the usual prayer service (I’m really going to miss the singing and drums), and it was Visitation Day. The parents of the boarding students came to see their children, their children’s grades, the school, and to pay some fees. I spent the day hanging out with the secretary (one of my best friends because she’s someone I can vent to, and she fills me in on all the school gossip) and greeting and talking with the parents.
Frustration: After the parents left, there was a lot of caning for students with poor grades. It is completely normal and acceptable here, but it made me sick.
Joy: As I was leaving school Sunday night, my friend Julius called me over to talk.
Frustration: He told me that he was probably going home this week. His family doesn’t have any more money to support his education. He said his father left him a small plot of land so at least he’ll be able to “go home and dig.” This is the student that this week asked me to help him with alkylation of benzene, a topic I just learned in Organic Chemistry 2 in April. This is the student that in the championship of the football tournament saved two penalties. This is the student that I KNOW will become a pharmacist if he’s able to continue his education. It makes me miserable and even angry that someone with so much potential (and he knows it, so he works even harder) probably won’t be able to achieve his goals due to an amount of money that may be trivial to many Americans (as I was sitting with the secretary, I helped her collect dues, and I think all of the fees I saw were less than $100).
Joy: I love these students.
Frustration: Two of my favorite students lost their fathers this week. It’s common to lose parents so young, and the kids are always so strong.
In all of the hardships I see, whether it be a lack of food, water, money, or even a future, I still see smiles, hear laughter, and enjoy friendship. I may have taught my students a few things about biology, chemistry, America, or sports, but they have taught me more than I ever could have expected.
These are the things I reflect on as I walk home alone under the stars and waxing moon, lost in the sounds of the insects of the night, my thoughts interrupted only by the greeting of a passerby or a shout from a nearby house of, “How are you, Ryan-e Kateregga?”

Uganda Week 7

Health education is in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Teaching the youngest ones is the best, and it’s adorable when 50 kids are raising their hands to name foods that they think are healthy. Usually we go in the morning, but one afternoon we went to a school at the end of the day. Because the students were already out of class, we had the lesson outside under a tree. Afterwards, the headmaster said to me, “The students want a picture with you.” Of course, I said yes. Then he said, “The students want to play football with you.” When I said, “Jangu tuzanye” (come and we play), they cheered. When I scored, they went wild. We only played for a short time, but we’re going back this week and I promised them we’d play a full match.

One of Cornelius’s daughters, Victoria, has been home from university for a few weeks now. She’s my age, but one of Cornelius’s older sons, David, came home this week. He’s working on a master’s in public health, and suggested that I do health assessments at the schools we visit. I thought it was a great idea, so after I finish teaching I look at the cooking and toilet areas. The two biggest problems I am seeing are a lack of toilet covers and hand washing stations. I’m now pushing for simple covers to prevent flies from transmitting diseases and soap and a jerry can of water for students to wash their hands after using the bathroom. David and I also play piano duets together.

My favorite kid in the village is Derrick. I love him the most because at first he tried to act tough and wouldn’t be friends with me. Now he smiles and waves or runs up to me whenever he sees me. He’s in the youngest class at the primary school in the trading center, and I usually walk home for lunch with his group. One day we were holding hands, but as I got home, he wouldn’t let go, and dragged me to his house to meet his family.

Maize is in season now and they roast it and it’s delicious. I’m frequently being handed a roasted cob of corn or force fed kernels by the students.

On Saturday we had a field trip. At the end of their fourth year of secondary, the students have to take national examinations. Part of that is a geography essay, so every school takes what they call a fieldwork trip. We went to Jinja, an important industrial city near the capital. Victoria and I were chaperones, along with the geography teacher. We had to be up at 3:30, and as is typical of my host mom, she got up at the same time to give me tea, eggs, and the largest avocado I have ever seen. It was a 6 hour trip, with 60 people fitting on 2 small buses. On major roads, there will sometimes be large groups of food stalls, and whenever someone pulls up, workers will swarm the vehicle, shoving waters, sodas, roasted bananas, and sticks of assorted meats and fishes through the windows. I experienced this on my trip from the airport to the village when I first arrived, and was very uncomfortable. Now that I know what to buy and how to buy it, I love it. After a stop in Uganda’s largest rainforest and passing countless hills of sugarcane, we finally arrived at Jinja and went to the fish market on the shores of Lake Victoria. We watched boats unloading fish from the lake and other goods from villages on the islands in the lake. We saw the fish being inspected and weighed, and the students received a lesson from a man at a fish factory. However, next time I think the geography teacher should pick chaperones that aren’t just a year or two older than the students and that won’t get lost (twice). There was an ice cream man at the fish market, but instead of a truck and freezers it was a bike and a cooler. I resisted the temptation buy some due to the questionable sanitation, but a little later a student made me try hers. As soon as I took a bite, she said, “Is it fantastic?” I had to agree that it was. After the fish market we had lunch by the River Nile, which starts from Lake Victoria in Jinja (it takes the water 3 months to get all the way to the Mediterranean Sea). I can now add forks to the list of things I’m grateful for. We had rice and shredded cabbage for lunch, which is incredibly difficult to eat with one’s hands, but it was fine because I was sitting under a jackfruit tree next to the Nile. There were some American tourists there, and a few of the students came up to me and said, “Mister Ryan, those are your friends!” We took a boat (that was letting in a steady stream of water) out to an island next to the source of the Nile. As Lake Victoria funnels into a river, there is a spring in the middle that marks the official beginning of the Nile. We got to wade out to the edge of the island where the ground drops off into the source. It was an incredible experience, but not the easiest first trip to chaperone. The drive back took over 8 hours due to the frustrating inefficiency of the roundabouts, and we got back to school at 2:30. Victoria and I didn’t get home until 3:30, but our mom was up yet again with tea and food.

Sunday we went for visitation day at the primary school where Cornelius’s youngest children are boarding. Like Cornelius said, we went “as a family.” After another flat tire and running out of gas yet again, we got to see the kids, talk to the teachers and other parents, and walk around the school. Then we went out for dinner for Cornelius and his wife’s 29th anniversary. We ate at the nicest restaurant in town, but I couldn’t tell a difference because the food was the same as everywhere else.

One evening, while playing volleyball at school, I realized that I have completely become a part of this community. I’ve built relationships, established my role, and even been here long enough to notice subtle changes. I don’t know how I’m supposed to leave, when life here is going to continue but I’ll feel as if I’m missing out. I’ll miss playing Uno on a Friday afternoon with the older students that are my age, even when they’re most likely skipping class, or simply the times we just sit around and talk. I can’t believe I have less than 3 weeks here, and as the weeks get busier, they go by even faster. I still have so much that I want and need to do, but soon enough I’ll be leaving my new home, so I must make the most of these last few weeks.

Uganda Week 6

It was midterm week at school, but grading 98 exams is easy when they have things like “BYE-BYE TEACHER MAY GOD BLESS YOU OK” written on them.  I like to bring a desk out into the schoolyard and do my work.  Whenever someone walks by while I’m working, they say “well done,” which I could really use when I’m at the library.

I finally started health education this week, and I’m really glad and relieved that it’s going very well.  We’ve been going to nearby schools and I teach about proper diet, sanitation, medication, etc.  I always have one of the teachers help translate because they know how their students learn best.  The kids love when I try to say things in Luganda, and then we usually play football after.  The coming week has a full schedule teaching at more schools and in other community groups.

I’m getting to do just about everything.  One day we go to the district police station to get justice for a village whose land is being taken, the water authorities to get a well that serves our village and school and some nearby villages fixed, and another rural burial, and the next day we have sodas with the sub-county chairman and he invites us to his house.

The other night I was in the trading center and I saw one of my students in one of the bars.  The drinking age in Uganda is 18, and he is 16, so I went in to talk to him.  It turns out that he’s from Tanzania but is living here with his aunt, who owns the building.  He manages the bar by himself in order to pay for school.  I was stunned, and still can’t fathom running a bar by myself to pay for high school.

On Sunday I had four people separately thank me for reinvigorating the school; Cornelius, the headmaster, the director of students, and one of the older students.  They told me that as I have reintroduced sports to the school I have given it a new life.  I brought volleyball back to the school, prompted the boys to play football again, and we’ve cleared a space to build a basketball court.  I was so honored to be told that I’ve made a positive impact and it brings me a lot of joy and pride.

The friendliness of the people is what’s made this place home.  Whenever I go by, it’s “come and talk / play / eat / drink / learn to drive a bodaboda!”  I walk home for lunch with the primary school kids fighting to hold my hand and we practice our counting.  I play football for hours where the out of bounds line is a barbed wire fence and the crowd noise is a pig being slaughtered.  I bodaboda to a nearby village with my friend so he can show me his juice distribution project to earn money to become an engineer, then he insists that he buy me a Coke.  I constantly have kids running up to me saying “bonga” (what they call the handshake I taught them) or “jisitula” (asking me to pick them up and throw them).  I lounge in the schoolyard with the students on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and sit in the trading center on a bustling Sunday night and play pool and talk with the villagers.  I simply love it here.

Uganda Week 5

Ndi Mulangira! You may now officially call me Kateregga Lewis Ryan Ayers. This morning, Cornelius gave me a tunic and a coat, which I will wear on special occasions, and initiated me into the Mulangira clan of Buganda. It is the royal clan, and I am now in the same clan as the kabaka, the main king of Buganda / the most revered human in Uganda. Mulangira is the clan and Kateregga is a name within the clan.
The week at school was busy with preparing for midterms, setting the tests, and reviewing with the students. Cornelius had to go out of town for a conference for most of the week, so not much else happened.
One morning on my way to school I was walking with 3 kids I had not seen before. When we parted ways, they gave me 2 avocados. The avocados here are delicious and it’s obviously better to receive them as gifts. Then the usual village children joined me. For the rest of the walk to school, I had 3 kids in my right hand and 2 kids and 2 avocados in my left.
Pool is surprisingly very popular in Uganda. Every little village has a pool table and there’s usually people playing. One afternoon as I was heading back to school after lunch, someone called me over to the pool table and asked me to play. I hadn’t played in a very long time but I won in a close game and have since played every time someone’s called me over.
On Friday, I attended another burial with Cornelius. I don’t think I wrote much about it, but my first week here I also went to a burial. It was really interesting to see the differences not only from funerals in America, but between the two burials I’ve attended here. The one on Friday was for a distant relative of Cornelius’s, a Catholic bishop. It was a mass, and very similar to most funerals I’ve attended. The burial I went to my first week, however, was drastically different. It was in a very rural location, deep in the village, and most of the villagers were there. It was for a very old woman, and was held in front of the house where she was born and lived in her entire life. There were some tents set up, with the women gathered under the tent around the body (which was wrapped in some sort of cloth). It seemed that closer family members were under the tents and around the house, and everyone else was on the other side of the little road, among the crops. When we arrived, we went up to some family members and gave them our condolences (some money), as is customary. Eventually, after some speeches and singing, the body was taken behind the house and buried among the banana trees. I noticed everyone stripped a bit of bark off a banana tree or scooped up a handful of dirt and threw it into the grave. I also observed that very few people were wearing black, as is traditional in America. Everyone was wearing bright colors (one man had on orange pants).
On Saturday, we held an interclass volleyball tournament. The court lines were made in the grass with a machete and I played on a team of staff and advanced students. I worked hand in hand, as they say, with the head prefect and another student to arrange it. I did not make the schedule, however, and it was very confusing as there were 5 teams, an odd number. In the semifinals, the tournament became embroiled in controversy. I have prepared a fair schedule, and we will try again next Saturday. On the way home from school, the one lady in the trading center that has Coke’s fridge was finally working, so I got a moderately cold Coke for 40 cents and it was wonderful.
Don’t cry over spilled bucket shower water. It happens, often, and is especially devastating when it’s the hot water. It’s pretty demoralizing when it’s time to rinse off and all that’s left is 2 handfuls of cold water. However, when the full moon provides enough light so you don’t need a flashlight, everything is alright.
I’ve learned the anatomy of the fish of Lake Victoria that we often eat as I’ve mastered the art of deboning them. Maybe that’ll help me in some future bio lab?
If I had an avocado for every time I’ve had to chase a chicken out of the house as they try to lay an egg on the couch…
The kids here always touch my leg hair, as it is new to them. The other day, as she was touching my leg, a little girl looked at me and said “Ono ebyoya,” or “You have feathers.”
We currently have some “bad visitors” at the house, which I began hearing at the beginning of the week. Rats. Luckily, some friends had accidentally warned me about them before I came, so I was prepared, and we’re working on getting rid of them.
While I’d do terrible things for some ice cream, I’ve had dreams of extra large meat pizzas, and I think about steak a lot, I more often find myself walking home with an almost stupidly big smile that I can’t seem to get rid of.
Finally, I’m including my new favorite picture of all time.
Until next week, weeraba!


Uganda Week 4

I’m sorry my titles aren’t very creative.

This week went by so fast. I can’t believe I’ve been here for over a month, and thankfully I’m still not even halfway done.

Tuesday was Martyrs’ Day, a public holiday. When Christianity first came to Uganda, the king had around 30 men killed for converting. Apparently, Christians from all over the world come to Uganda as pilgrims on this day. We started with a prayer service, and then spent the rest of the day playing many games. The first game was netball, which is similar to basketball but you can’t dribble or make contact and the goal is just a small ring on a pole. In my netball debut, I scored 7 goals to lead the boys to an 8-2 victory over the girls. One of my students and I also won the egg toss. However, my success ended there. I finished 3rd in the sprint because I did not know the Lugandan word they used to start the race, and had to catch up. I finished 4th, or dead last, in the eating contest. We had 1 minute to eat a hardboiled egg and 3 Ugandan pancakes. I finished well within the allotted minute, but my competitors were much faster than me. My pride is shattered, and my calls for a rematch are currently going unanswered. There were many other games, like football (where the boys had to play with their hands tied behind their backs), bike races, tire dancing (hula hooping), sack races, and laughing and serious competitions (whoever can laugh or keep a straight face the longest). It was an awesome day.

Cornelius and I pooled some money together and bought the students a new volleyball net, as they had to sell their old one. Now, every day, pretty much as soon as classes end, we play volleyball until dark. While I’m told I’m learning Luganda faster than most foreigners, there’s still a definite language barrier. I truly believe that sports is a universal language. Once it gets too dark to play, I head home. Before I left for Uganda, everyone I spoke to that had been here told me to eat as many rolex as I can. I’m following that advice. After working up an appetite playing volleyball, I almost always stop in the trading center to buy one. A rolex is fried eggs, chapati (like an African tortilla), and sometimes tomatoes, all rolled together, and costs less than 50 cents. While waiting for the rolex to be made, I’m surrounded by villagers wanting to speak to me in Luganda. I start my walk home as the last colors of the sunset are fading and the first stars are coming out. By the time I’m close to home, it’s usually completely dark. I greet everyone I pass, and even if I’ve never met them, they usually greet me back by name. In America, I’d be afraid of getting mugged. Here, I’m more concerned about tripping in the many holes in the road or stepping in cow manure.

I gave another test this week. One of my questions asked for a source of vitamin D, and a student answered “morning sunshine,” which I thought was great.

I did not know it was possible to dance for 6 straight hours. On Saturday, we had a handover party at school to celebrate the elections of the new school prefects. And by celebrate, I mean dancing from 12 until 6. I’d look around as I danced the day away with many of my best Ugandan friends and think that this is something I’ll never forget. They even told me that I’m a good dancer, and I believe them because they’re brutally honest about how bad I am at football.

Sunday was one of the busiest days I’ve had in a while. First, we went to Tanzania. We met some of Cornelius’s friends, had lunch, and walked around for a while. Then, we went back to Uganda and visited a U.N. refugee camp near the border. How ironic that an airstrip built by Idi Amin to wage war on Tanzania is now used to provide sanctuary for those fleeing Tanzania. I’ve seen many refugee camps in movies and on the news, but those look like hotels compared to this one. Row after row of little grass huts covered by UNICEF tarps, with entire families somehow fitting in each tiny shelter. It was rather surreal to see UNICEF in action after hearing the name for as long as I can remember. Cornelius is planning on returning to do some counseling, and I’ll join him, if only to play with all of the refugee children. Finally, we went back to see the ostriches. However, the window for riding has closed. The females have started laying eggs, so the males are too viciously protective to ride. It’s ok though, as standing next to a violent bird that is much taller than you takes away the desire to ride it. We rode some horses at sunset instead, and it was a solid end to a full day.

Today was another public holiday, so we did not have school. Heroes’ Day is a day of rest, so we had a quiet and relaxing day at school, which was a welcome change of pace.

Until next week!