Friday, August 31, 2012

End of my Peace Corps Journey..beginning of next..Destination Unknown..and POETRY

Well one year ended up being the length of my Peace Corps Journey. On August 24th I Early Terminated (ET'd) from Peace Corps and feel appreciative of the experience and delighted to be moving on...though it comes with some sadness of having to leave the special people I met over the last 12 months. Just before I left my computer was stolen from my hotel room in Kampala. So I lost most of my photos of this life milestone. However, the images are etched in my mind, and its all good and OK. Compared to the emotional devastation and poverty I witnessed, I know I am rich beyond measure and this is just a little inconvenience.

Below is a letter I sent to my classmates and it sums up my sentiments at this time.

Dear PCV Class of Aug friends
Yes I ET'd and its not a sad thing at all. So dont take my experience
to a negative was perfect for me.

My 1 year in Peace Corps was amazing in both it's depths of euphoria
and depression. In my soul I knew I had to come, and In my soul I knew
when I was finished and needed to leave.

I came to the conclusion that the universe was determined to make sure
I did not settle in to my Peace Corps "job". My sites were very
difficult ...resembling bad Ugandan soap operas, my experience with PC
Uganda were at times comical in their mishandling....even when they
tried to handle me well, my body was not cooperating, and my sister
had a family crises in the middle of all this. So an early exit was
the right course of action.

Because I never could get engaged in my work, I was forced to focus
inward and navel gaze a great deal of the time. I was blessed with
uncovering a new passion in writing poetry and given the luxury of
reading and learning more than I likely will ever be able to do again.
These activities occurred in the back drop of a 3rd world country and
left me with life long gifts of understanding and knowledge that were
just what I needed at this time in my life.

While in Uganda I made a few real Ugandan friends, and these are the
people I choose to remember as true Ugandans. The corrupt and lazy
discouraged me, but I know they are not representative of my Uganda.

As an added bonus, I also met some of the most talented, interesting
and selfless Americans. I have new daughters, sons, sisters and
brothers and I will cherish all of your unique and quirky ways long
into the future. Each of you showed me the world through a different
lens and expanded my life.

Try to nourish the noble parts of yourself and not let negativity
reduce your legacies. It is tough at times and we all stumble, but do
not succumb to bitterness and apathy. Each of us has seen beauty
shining through poverty and this has changed us forever.


I am now in Switzerland with my sister for two months before returning home to the USA. I can honestly say I love our country with all its blemishes and quirks, and for me, it is still the best place to live. Over the last 12 months I read a great deal of history and fell in love again with the principles our country was founded on. We must remain diligent in teaching these to each generation or we will end up losing our country to the illusion shown on"reality TV".


Timeout   August 11, 2012 
Sometimes its best
To put ourselves in timeout
To stop
To think
To take a deep breath
To avoid being rash
Following impulses
We likely would regret 

Timeout for Adults
Is more difficult to achieve
This requires one
To step away
From everything 
Most of us won’t do it
Walk out on career,
Home, family, parenthood
Our protected image
Checkout, withdraw
But I needed
To be in timeout 

For me it was
A bit extreme
I’m told I’m overly enthusiastic
However, I challenge the adjective overly
And accept the accusation
Of enthusiastic
I consider it part
Of my endearing charm
Something uniquely me
Graced from above
…But I digress 

My timeout
My year wandering in the wilderness
Took more effort
More courage
More learning
Than I imagined
What I learned is that
It was absolutely necessary
So I could be changed back
Into my essential self
Fall in love with me
My best true friend
Drop the duties
Required by guilt
That were destroying me
And my loved ones
One drop at a time 

The lessons I learned…
Quit the rat race – the rats win every time
Fall in love with yourself
You are not meant to conform to the mean
Change yourself – leave everyone else alone
Don’t buy what they sell on TV – Its Crap!
Be delighted with who and what you have
See the beauty and splendor of your loved ones
Discount their faults – the mirror reflects a glass house
Don’t write your story – it will write itself
…and it will end beautifully, if you let go
Of engineering the ending
The best part of life is the people – the rest is fluff
Without the blessing of a just and healthy civil society – its 100% harder 

Now I am ready
To return
From Timeout
My 12 months
Of navel gazing is complete
I’m ready to enthusiastically
Re-enter the arena
Changed back to
The better distilled version
Of me! 

She Awoke  August 11, 2012

She said I have to leave
Whether he understood or not
That her heart was imploding
And her mind was racing
In panicked uncontrolled directions
That she could not breathe easily
Or smile without breaking into a sweat

She laughed nervously
And said Really, I have to leave
And though she did not know why
Or where she was going
She left
Trusting the path would be illuminated
If she took the first step
To others she appeared disturbed
…And she was

With intention she left
Only sure that leaving was her salvation
And thus began her long walk through the desert
Life reduced to the bare essentials
Even less

Late at night
She faced herself without distraction
She listened and thought and prayed
And did it again
And again
Waiting for direction to be revealed

Until one day
She awoke
And the world seemed settled
And the turmoil was over
And she said I need to go home
And she knew exactly where that was

Sunday, August 5, 2012

1Month in Fort Portal-Mugusu Market-Poetry

August 5th 2012
1 Month in Fort Portal - 1Year in Uganda - Well it’s been a journey to say the least

Fort Portal – I arrived here 1 month ago and have done a good bit. Shortly after arriving I met up with a fellow PCV and we went to Mugusu Market with a local missionary woman whose family has lived here for 9 years. She and her husband are raising two young kids here. I cannot imagine living that life…but I admire them. Mugusu market is a large weekly market about 10 kilometers outside of Fort Portal. If you ever wonder where our donated old clothes go to be reincarnated – its in Mugusu. You can also buy all the local vegetables there too, but I did not get any pics of those. What is striking are the gorgeous flowering trees that no one seems to notice but me.  Robert what do you think of these trees!
Mugusu Market - Keeps Goodwill in business

Mugusu Market-more flowing trees
Because I have dropped so much weight I needed to buy some new pants (actually trousers – pants here mean underwear – so you learn quickly to say trousers). Since I could not try them on, – I bought 3 pairs for $6 total and 2 out of 3 fit me. I gave the extra pair to the lady who drove us to take to her congregation!

I also visited the PCV’s site about 6 kilometers out of Fort Portal – I rode my bike there and we toured her village with her counterpart who is doing the most with the least funding of anyone I have met in Uganda. I have promised to write an article/case study on how to effectively leverage aid here in Uganda. Nothing is wasted, the community contributes, and his heart is in the mission of the program…. and not focused on getting money for himself…which unfortunately has been the norm in my experience. He took us on a hike for a couple hours and it was beautiful. I did not take my camera into the village to photograph the orphans, new pit latrines, gravity flow water taps, and the animal income generating activities though they were very impressive. Some pics from the hike are below.
Fellow PCV and her counterpart-Rwenzori Mtns in Back

Enthusiastic Karla!

Villages below

Robert - what are these lovelies?

And these are amazing!

Little green froggie friend!
 My youngest son, who has been in Nairobi Kenya for the summer, will be here in a week and he is coming to Fort Portal to stay with me for a few nights  before heading stateside. I cannot describe how excited I am to see him.

My work has mostly been getting the place organized and trying to get them able to generate their own income as well as apply for more funding. Record keeping has been poor so we have focused on getting all income, donations and expenses documented from 2011 forward. They had records in 3-4 different places so there was no information to show the big picture, until I got my hands into it. Those who know me well, know how much I love excel and organizing information! I have also entered all the applications they have received from people wanting to receive bikes wheel chairs or tricycles. Also we are trying to pull together the complete list of all beneficiaries to date. Its slow work, like hunting for clues, but slowly it is coming together.
My living arrangements are settling in – not hauling my water and having an indoor bathing room and toilet sure make a difference. My weight is climbing and I am definitely not working as hard to just exist as I was at my former site. We have a hot water heater too and though its temperamental, it is still my best friend. The pipes below it hves sprung a leak twice but these are minor issues.

The young man that lives in the back and is charged with ground maintenance, general cleaning and security has become my friend. He is 23 years old and is always smiling and willing to help me. He keeps my bike in shape and runs errands for me. He gets better pricing at the market since he is not white, so he is doing a great deal of our shopping and in return he makes some small cash and I feed him most nights from my cooking.  It’s a nice arrangement.

I talk several times a week to my buddies at the school back in Gulu district. I miss them more than I imagined and appreciate their enthusiastic calls and texts. I nominated one of my students there to attend Peace Camp – which is beginning next week. For a description go to my friend Nancy’s blog ( – my student is the 22 year old – his response on the application to “how the war affected you?” is below:

Boy, age 22: “The war affected me in the following ways: I lost my father, who was killed. Secondly, all our properties were vandalized.  All our animals were taken. I myself was burned in a grass thatch house and set fire, but I survived. I have only one sister and one brother. The rest of my brothers were killed.  I have an injury from bayonet. My mother was paralyzed. This made me head of household.”

This young man works so hard to raise his school fees and support his family – he often worked in my garden and elsewhere on the school grounds. Here he is in my garden.

WORLD'S LARGEST EGGPLANT!!!!! That is a full sized dinner plate next to the beast!

Peppers+ Eggplant = Payment for a ride from a villager!

Working         August 5th, 2012
I try very hard
To be good to myself
And my fellow time travelers
More importantly, I want to be honest
First to myself, then to the collective you

I have learned this is not easy
To know what is Reality and Truth
We change our stories to fit our definitions,
Our identities
We choose to see a reality
That enshrines us in candlelight
Yet to accomplish the above stated goals
I need a powerful spotlight
So no false assumptions can hide in the shadows

I feel courageous
Most of the time
But I still struggle
Which I think means
I am not facing
My real limitations
So I continue doing the work
To uncover them
I get still, listening to my inner poet
While she shows me the ground
Where the work must take place
I am digging and weeding
And sowing the seeds
As the fruits of this work
Begin to sprout

Our Country              August 2nd, 2012

I love Our Country
Ours because
America is its people
Our intermixed
Melting pot of the shiniest
Precious Mettle
From all over the world

We have blended
The greatest raw materials
And crafted them
Into the most inspired art

The more I study
Our nation’s history
The more awestruck I become
At the insightfulness and Resolve
Of our leaders
The strength and resourcefulness
Of our citizens
The amazing depth of our Compassion
For those less fortunate

My prayer is that
We will not lose sight
Of what makes us great
We will remain vigilant
To protect and be grateful for
The values and culture
That is America

Log Jam         July 28th, 2012

Pressure builds
Increasing stress
As logs pile up
Appearing too heavy
With too much bulk
To ever move

But the undercurrent of life flows on
Silently refusing to yield
To this apparent inertia
Patiently biding time
Perpetually pushing
At every available purchase

Until with tremendous
Groans and creaks
The logs break loose
And the water is no longer
Trapped, nor restricted
Simple swirls remaining
The evidence of struggle
Vanishing quickly downstream

Thank you all for your love – it is felt, and cherished, and needed-Love Karla