Today, I celebrate the two-year anniversary of my arrival to Uganda. Time has been very warped throughout my service. I never thought training would come to an end. There have been some days when I was completely stumped by how to get through 12 hours of sunlight. There have been some meetings that dragged on so slowly, I was convinced my watch was broken and I might pass out from hunger. On the other hand, there have been weeks when I didn’t have enough time to get everything done. My vacation days certainly flew by!
Yesterday, Aubrey and I were hanging out with a new volunteer. She got to site about three weeks ago. It was surreal to hear her questions and find myself rattling off advice. I found myself realizing, Oh my god, we’re the most experienced volunteers in country now, except for the people that extended for another year. Despite feeling like I never had any of the answers and so many things were just beyond my control or understanding, I suddenly found myself having quite a lot of answers. At some point during our informal Q&A, she asked, “Does your service go fast?” One year ago, I would have said “Hell no!” But at the two-year mark, I said, “Yeah, it really does.” And I was being completely honest!
As I reflected today, amazed that I’ve been in Uganda for two years, 104 weeks, 731 days (last year was a Leap Year!), I thought about how different my life has become. For two years, I have…
- Bathed outside, completely exposed to the elements, including lots of mosquitoes and sometimes rain.
- Used the metric system (it rocks!), i.e. “I just drank two liters of water”
- Texted using T9 (predictive texting). For those of you that don’t know, it’s a texting system that doesn’t use a nifty keyboard like an iPhone, but just the numbers. I’m super fast!
- Taken malaria prophylaxis- preventative medication for malaria. That’s 731 pills!
- Been confused how to spell center, color, counselor, recognize, behavior, etc. In British English, they are spelled centre, colour, counsellor, recognise and behaviour.
- Worn 45 SPF everyday on my face, neck and chest. I still think my skin got sun damaged over two years!
- Drank water from plastic bottles when away from home. Still got giardia at least once.
- Covered my thighs, unless at home or the pool. Thighs in Uganda are your “power,” and it’s very inappropriate to show anything above your knee. That being said, I am appalled when I see someone showing their power- usually tourists. American summer is going to be shocking!
- Spoken “Uganglish” to most Ugandans. Uganglish is a term coined by PCVs that refers to slowing down your English and annunciating very clearly. Do you ever notice that Americans say “wader” instead of “water.” It’s very confusing for Ugandans. Some PCVs throw in a British accent too. It’s awkward, but necessary.
- Slept under a mosquito net. It’s very confining, but comforting because it keeps you safe from mosquitoes, rats, cockroaches, spiders and lizards.
- Been able to dance like a maniac without caring. Ugandans are awesome dancers and totally encourage enthusiastic dancing. Aubrey and I have decided to hit the clubs together when we get home so we can get adjusted to American appropriate dancing.
- Used a currency whose lowest denomination is 50 shillings, although those coins are very rare. I have made purchases of 1 million shillings. Shillionaire!
- Worried about my “airtime.” In Uganda, you have to load money to make calls or send texts. It’s a pay-as-you-go system. It can be really stressful when you run out of airtime and need to reach someone. Even if you have it, you are constantly trying to calculate how much longer your call can last.
- Turned down marriage proposals. Although, I didn’t get nearly as many after Nathan’s visit!
- Explained Americans and our behavior. Yes, we talk fast. No, we don’t marry our cousins. No, we don’t eat posho. Yes, women wear trousers (pants in British English refers to panties!).
The last two years have been an amazing adventure. Although some of my things seemed negative, it’s all been part of the experience. Two years ago, I ate my first Ugandan food with 43 other sleepy and confused newbees, attempting awkward conversations while we were thinking, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?”
Towards the end of my conversation with the new PCV, she finally asked the big question- the question every PCV is wondering during their first doubtful few months. “Are you happy that you did Peace Corps?” Without a pause, both Aubrey and I said, “Yes.”