Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning Tour, BAMM, Rain+Gardens, Work Update, Wedding, Poetry
Care International Learning Tour
Village Women in VSLA
Last week I was selected to be one of two Northern Uganda Peace Corps Volunteers to travel with a Care International Learning Tour. “These high-level delegations include members of Congress, the U.S. Administration, corporate partners, donors, celebrities and other influential individuals. Members of the media have often joined Learning Tours, and CARE brings a photographer and videographer to capture the experience. “ ( .
Happy Kids in Awach
This program connects policy makers and thought leaders with the issues facing development across the world. I traveled with Senator Johnny Isakson and Congressman Jack Kingston, both from GA; Congresswoman Barbara Lee from CA; Helene Gayle President of CARE USA; Former Ambassador to Uganda Jimmy Kolker, Jim Coughlan President of UPS Customer Solutions, Catherine Conners, a Social Media Maven and important person at Babble, a Disney Company (; Bo cutter of the Roosevelt Institute; and several members of Care’s Staff…including Christina Santos who rode in my vehicle and manages their annual advocacy conference.

Ambassador, Senator, Business Man!

I was taken by vehicle to the Gulu Airport to meet the plane as it landed. Waiting with me were the Gulu District Chairman and the Gulu Resident Commissioner along with several USAID staff. A medium sized UN plane landed and off came about 20 people. We boarded 13 vehicles, I was assigned #6, and off we rode to a Village Savings and Loan group in Awach that uses the group meetings to facilitate social services for its women and their men. We also observed bead making, tailoring projects, and agricultural items they raise for sale.

Happy baby!
Next we attended a Pathfinder International program ( where they are working side by side with the National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS ( Here we witnessed how community volunteers visit people in their huts and discuss their family needs and challenges and develop plans forward for reproductive health and family planning. Our sample family was comprised of 2 parents with HIV and their 4 children…all HIV Negative to date!

On this one-day tour, I gave my poem American Skin (Posted on this blog on March 25th) to Senator Johnny Isakson to thank him for passing the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 As a token of thanks, he had his photo taken with me and promises to send me a copy! I also met both his staff members – the dynamic duo of Chris Squared! My nick-name for the 2 men named Chris. I was impressed with them all. Congressman Jack Kingston was an easy to like, direct and intelligent man, who shared several book titles with me and gave me a name for my husband to contact about his business ventures.  I admit I was glad to see our elected officials in a more personal and less divisive setting than shown on TV. They are real people! Really!
Mommy's helper

Congressman Kingston in hut with kids

Congressman Kingston and friend

Mommy Blogger and friend
Riding in vehicle #6 were Karla (Me), Catherine and Christina. We traveled in a 13 car convoy with security men checking each vehicle after every stop before moving to the next destination. I felt like a celebrity with all the cameras (both video and still photo), security and media people in “My entourage”I hope Christina sends me some photos of me with the big wigs!! AND Catherine works for and may check out my blog (She at least asked for it). I may be “Discovered!” ....finally, ….or not!

Paper Beads

BAMM – April is Blog About Malaria Month (BAMM) for PCVs in Africa. This is connected to a new initiative in Peace Corps called Stomp Out Malaria in Africa that unites the efforts of the volunteers across country lines.   “Peace Corps Volunteers have been working in malaria prevention since the agency’s beginning in 1961. Now, through Stomping Out Malaria in Africa, sub-Saharan Africa’s 3,000 PCVs and 25 Peace Corps posts will be sharing ideas, best practices, and information about projects they are working on in malaria prevention. “

So my best practices are – I sleep under a mosquito net every night, I take my malaria medicines every day, I wear bug spray and long sleeves to thwart the dreaded mosquitos, I get rid of standing water, and I hope to make mosquitos nets as an income generating activity at my school and distribute them across Uganda! THAT’S MY BLOG AND I AM STICKING TO IT!

Agriculture Student Seed Beds

RAIN – the day after the group tour left, the rainy season set in. Temperatures dropped to the low 80s and moisture returned to Northern Uganda. In today’s blog, in the poetry section, is my response to this welcomed event. Rain means I can begin my gardens…Flower and Vegetables. On Saturday I hired several young male students to clear some of the bush for me – This is still in process. I think the plot will be approximately 40 feet by 40 feet. I will definitely take seeds (placed in a ziplocks) if you want to send a package. Our Agriculture students already began their seed beds and have been working outside my house for several weeks now. My flowers are already planted around my home – though I plan to plant many around our office building next weekend.

My latrines and bathing area and my supervisor's chicken house
WORK Update In pursuit of a brick making machine, I traveled to Gulu and walked to the District Engineer Offices. I waited in the lobby on a Friday morning for over an hour for someone to accept my written letter requesting information of assistance on locating these machines donated back in 2009. Finally a helpful gentleman who is the Engineer for Schools invited me to his office. Upon reading my letter he said the district had 4 such machines and all I need to do is write a letter to the Chairman’s Office and the Chief Administrative Officers Office and they will inform him to release them to our school. He said none were being used at this time, so it is likely I will not have to wait for them.  So the process has begun – stay tuned.
Dressed for the wedding - in front of fields near my home 

Traditional Marriage – Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I attended a traditional marriage. I attended with several members of the school staff and we decorated a goat to take as a marriage gift. Yes I said decorated a goat…it was alive and we wrapped it in vinyl wrapping paper and decorated its horns and tail with ribbons and placed a garland around its neck. At the marriage there were traditional dancers and speeches and many local dignitaries. I even dressed up for the event. What is funny is the range of attire. Fancy Ugandan dress as well as Corona T-shirts were de rigueur!
One great wedding gift!!!
Traditional Dancers
Girls in Courtship Dance
Australian Volunteer Dancing in Courtship dance 
Rejoicing Earth                                 April 6, 2012
Glorious Rain
Begins with a scent
Faintly blowing across the fields
Intermittent caresses
Of cooler thickening air

Strengthening winds
Warn of the approaching symphony
Clashing cymbals of lightning
Followed by thunderous bass drums
Building into the percussion crescendo
Millions of tiny droplets
Punctuated by the torrents
Racing off the roof

Slowly retreating into softening stanzas
Of a soothing steady drizzle
Fading into gentle drips and drops
Which lessen
Until it is gone
And the earth
Toughest Job                     April 6, 2012

In Peace Corps I learned
It was The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love
But I disagree
Parenting, by far
Embodies that phrase

The most beautiful, awe inspiring entities
You will ever encounter
Are your children

The weight of the responsibility
Of being their guardians
Is overwhelming

Rearing children looks easy, obvious
Until you are blessed with the job
Then the crushing uncertainty enters in
When to hold on, when to let go
When to protect, when to let fail
When to correct, when to keep silent
When to engineer, when to sit back and observe

The magnitude of the consequences
Of your actions & decisions
Can paralyze

For your children
You will give everything
Money, time, your life
The process is not offered as an exchange
It is a continuous commitment
To think & re-think
Test and observe
Trust and verify
Changing your tactics
As best you can guess
Based on reading the tea leaves

Rarely knowing
The outcome
Until 20-30 years pass
And they welcome their own
Miracles into the world
Taking on the Toughest Job
Anxiety                                March 27, 2012
In the grip
Pressure like a python
Squeezing my chest
Racing heartbeat, rapid breathing
Stemming from
Seeming to come from nowhere
Trying its best
To instill panic
Feeling the need to run
To escape the weight on my breastbone
Deliberately taking deep breaths
Forcing my thoughts
On the positive
Recognizing it will pass
As it always has
If I can repel
The overwhelming wave of

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thanks Mom and Dad

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Dear Mom and Dad-

I am so grateful for the love and support you have shown me over here.  I  realized today that you are doing for me what I would do for my sons if they were in Peace Corps – I would be thinking of what they need and might like and then I would spend time collecting things and enjoying the process of caring for my grown sons again…just like when they were young.  I suppose that is what you are doing for me!

Your package arrived today and I Love this box the most – it was full of great items that made my eyes well up. The dinner plate hibiscus and moon vine seeds are such a great connection to Graceland. I also love the horse-print purse! The side pockets are the perfect size for carrying a water bottle. I think I will share the purse design with the craft designer at Comboni Samaritans as they had asked for new product ideas. I needed a purse mirror and you sent one without me asking – mind readers!! Also the foods, tape and lotions – I especially liked the aloe foot socks – I cant wait to put them on when I get back to site.

So I want to say thanks – thanks for giving me such a happy childhood, thanks for living through hell with me as a teenager, thanks for giving me room to grow up and create my family, thanks for welcoming my sons into your lives so graciously and thanks for letting me feel like your child again as a 49 year old woman.  Isn’t life a miraculous circle!