Thursday, November 15, 2007

Belated Halloween and Early Thanksgiving Wishes (and Rwanda!)

Happy belated-Halloween and Happy early-Thanksgiving! I hope all of you dressed up for Halloween. I dressed up for a Peace Corps party, however the costume was Uganda specific so i am not sure if the hilarity of it will carry over (I promise it's actually funny!!), but I'll try to explain. There are a lot of street hawkers in Uganda, selling anything and everything from food to radios to underwear. When you are in taxi parks especially they are overwhelmingly in your face--it can be intense. Anyways, you operate cell phones here by purchasing airtime cards and then typing the airtime number into your phone, then you can make a call. Their are LOTS of airtime hawkers in the taxi parks. There are two main cellphone companies in Uganda: Celtel and MTN. So, my friend Amy and I dressed up as competing airtime hawkers, her as Celtel and myself as MTN. It's funny, seriously. I am not sure what my plans for Thanksgiving are yet, but don't worry I will be spending it with friends (although there won't be any mac n' cheese like your G'ma can make, Momo!). We are contemplating buying a turkey, but then of course we would have to slaughter, pluck, and cook it. Sounds like a lot of work, so we'll see....

In other news, I have a kitten!!! It is an adorable little Siamese that is just so cute you want to squeeze her till she pops. Her name is Sake (like the Japanese liquor). I found her abandoned in a ditch near my house. She was completely terrified and also appeared to be injured, so I just felt too guilty to leave her there. At first having her was a bit stressful, as I was concerned that she may have rabies and she DEFINATELY had lice. However, after getting her vaccinated and thoroughly de-lousing her I feel much better about the situation. I also planted a garden at my house. I am trying to grow tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, and zucchini. The tomatoes and broccoli are off to a good start, but I am not sure if the lettuce is going to pull through. Working in the garden has been a great stress reliever! It feels good to just do some work but not have to really think about anything. Although, seeing a white person digging in a garden is evidently pretty shocking/hilarious to most Ugandans, so sometimes I have a lot of people gawking at me, which is more stress inducing than stress relieving. In addition to my garden, I recently discovered that one of the trees in my yard is an avocado tree. The avocados aren't quite ripe yet, but I'm super excited.

At the end of October I took a vacation with four PCV friends to Rwanda. My companions on this trip, as pictured left to right above were Rishi, Brad, me, Amy, and Joe. It was amazing! The capital of Rwanda (Kigali) is about 8-10 hours by bus from the capital of Uganda (Kampala). We took a week off work and explored the Western half of Rwanda. We spent a night in Gisenyi, which is located on a beautiful sandy lake--Lake Kivu--that lies on the border between Rwanda and Dem. Republic of Congo. Although we didn't go swimming (evidently there are toxic volcanic gasses in the lake that can kill you???) it was gorgeous. We also toured the Primus Beer brewery, that national beer of Rwanda (the bottle holds 720 ml!! See above). The highlight of the trip, however, was when we visited Parc National des Volcans and hiked up Mount Bisoke, an inactive volcano 3711m tall. At the top of the mountain was a crater lake (pictured to the right) that was shrouded in clouds. Amazing. We didn't see any gorillas (mainly because it costs $500 to go where they live) but we did see some gorilla poop! The hike took us 7 hours round trip, most of it up-up-uphill, with our guide Jean-Claude and our four armed guards (half of Bisoke belongs to DR Congo, not the friendliest nation at the moment). The last memorable experience we had in Rwanda was visiting two different genocide memorials. I don't really know how to describe the feeling of visiting memorials to an atrocity that happened so recently. It was shocking/moving/horrifying/beautiful/indescribable. All in all, the trip was a success.

I love and miss you all. Sometimes I cannot believe that I've been away from home for 8 months already, and that there is plenty more where that came from. I am ecstatic every time I read your emails and hear what you are doing and how you are. Please write me letters and emails and send me news of your well being. Anyone who wants to send a care package (award goes to Mom, Dad, Eric, Mrs. Rossman, and Morgan/Holly/Brit for sending me wonderful goodies) I would love anything and everything you send. Food, books/magazines, games, art stuff, pictures of yourself, and surprises of all types are greatly encouraged!

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