Sunday, November 28, 2010

Habitat for Humanity

Last weekend I went with a group of 12 high school students on a Habitat for Humanity building trip to a village near Mayuge (South-Eastern Uganda). It was a short but meaningful trip.

As I ventured further and further from city life, I became overwhelmed by the number of children I saw. There were children in the trees, children picking crops, children cooking food, children running barefoot down roads, children asleep under trees, and children selling fruit at stands. There were children caring for children, caring for children.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the mean age in Uganda is 15 and both the rate of growth and birthrate second only to Niger. Last weekend was my first real encounter with those statistics.

In Mayuge, so many beautiful and young faces smiled at me as I passed by. So many curious small hands reached out to pat mazungu skin. So much high pitched laughter echoed as we played games in the road. So many eyes traced our every move. So many little beings, just eager to be noticed.

I am very thankful that I was able to spend a few days experiencing a different life. I know our building efforts only make a tiny contribution to a much larger cause. However, I hope that we gave back as much as the people of Mayuge gave to me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh the Things You Can Do!

It feels like it has been months since I last posted; the three weeks that have passed have blurred into a mélange of emotions and experiences.

First of all, I have been in the midst of housing chaos. Three weeks ago, I thought I was moving all the way across town, then I was not moving at all, then I was moving down the street with one week’s notice, and finally I was set to move one block away with just two day’s warning (at the immediate close of my girls’ first major soccer tournament)! As if two days to pack my things in the midst of teaching, coaching, and general living wasn’t enough, I also had to consider things like hiring/firing of guards, logistics of moving, etc. Needless to say, my move was a bit stressful, but eventually it was worth every ounce of anxiety I experienced. I upgraded… big time! I transitioned from a relatively small place with a shared compound to a gorgeous three-bedroom house with a huge kitchen, a wrapping porch (I have been coveting a porch since I lived in Tennessee), a bathtub (and 3 bathrooms), a large seating area, and a spacious yard for the dog to play in. My animals are relishing the extra space to run, tackle, hide, chew, etc and I am loving the counter and closet space! I hired a lovely Ugandan woman named Harriet to live in the extra two-bedroom house on my compound and act as a day guard/property caretaker. She is ecstatic over the new job/home and I feel so safe having another woman constantly around the compound. I have also settled in with a new night guard named Jaqueen. Check out a few pics of the new place:

While moving has been a central focus, coaching has been as well. We have had two major tournaments in the last few weeks, one with local teams, and one international. The local tournament was relatively low-key, packing just one weekend full of games and BBQs. The international tournament was quite a big ordeal, though. Six other international schools from South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe flew their teams to Uganda to compete in the ISSEA football tournament. There were three full days of games (each team played 8-9 games), four days of connected events, and many opportunities to interact with other coaches and students from around Africa. These events are always exhausting but so much fun. The ISU girls ended in third place and the ISU boys’ team took the title this year. Pretty exciting tournament to host!

Apart from moving and coaching, I have also been trying to keep my focus on teaching. In the last three weeks I have submitted grades, had a parent-teacher conference day, survived the added stress of a school accreditation visit (with three different accrediting sources at the same time!), started 5 new units simultaneously, and have smoothed out a variety of student meltdowns. Good thing I love my kids!

And who would I be if I didn’t also pack in a bit of social? I hosted my first party in my new house this weekend. I encouraged my friends to wear something that they look at and wonder “why on earth did I waste packing space for that!?!” I had about 25 friends show up at different points in time in winter clothes, formal wear, obscenely high heels, odd hats, dresses from the 80’s, kilts, robes, cow suits (oh wait, that was me), fake mustaches, light-up glasses, etc. It was a night of laughs. I also participated in a quiz night where I successfully avoided ending up last (out of 20 teams) by a whole point and a half. What can I say, I am one smart woman!

Man, it is even tiring to write about all the things I have done in the last three weeks. I need a vacation! If you made it to this point in the blog, congratulations! I will hopefully have less to share in my next posting.