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Pangs

Uganda is a beautiful country; nearly perfect weather, lush vegetation, kind people, fascinating but troubled history, interesting cultures. This is a place I could live for a hundred years and still have much to learn, more work to do and never find myself bored. I now live in a town called Jinja that sits at the place where lake Victoria feeds into the nile river. The home in which I reside overlooks the lake just meters from the source of the Nile river. At one time, Jinja was a booming colonial town and is now the favorite spot of NGOs expats and tourists. At first, I resented this. I did not like being surrounded by other foreigners here for various reasons (some with which I morally disagree). However, I have come to love the town that embraces outsiders and understands much of my western culture. I do not find myself fighting for acceptance. This is due partially to the nature of the town, and partially  to the nature of the Ugandan people. However, this does not stop the frequent marriage proposals and requests for money or work; it simply makes these easier to bare…and more comical than frustrating.

Being in this magical place, I have been able to look forward without regret or much fear. However, I have many concerns: will I be able to find a job before my funds run dry? did i make the right decision coming here and taking another risk? should i have tried harder to secure a transfer within the peace corps?

My conclusion is always the same- this is my path, and I should enjoy every day while I attempt to make this the right decision.

During my moments of uncertainty I look back over the past year, the places I have been, the beds I have slept in, the people I have met, the people who have entered my heart and still stick with me despite our short time together. I miss it. All of it. I miss my friends and family at home, I miss my friends still in Madagascar, I miss the doctors and staff who took care of me, I miss my friends from PC Madagascar, I miss my friends from my short stay as a patient in South AFrica, I miss the friends I have made in Uganda that have already left my life.

Those who live like I do, destination unknown, heart and mind open, can understand. How incredible it can be to let these experiences touch you, change you, break your heart and still leave you ready for the next connection with something new. Everything I have encountered thus far, positive or negative, painful or uplifting has been incredible. There are times when I fill with emotion thinking back and I find that I simply miss it- all of it. The people, the places, the experiences. I know I will never see some of them again, others may cross my path but few will be consistently in my life; as much as this saddens me, I am so grateful for all of it. This is why I continue, despite the knowledge that I will experience more pangs as more wonderful things flicker in and out of my life.

I am happy, I do love everything that is happening in my life at the moment- but I miss home, I miss Madagascar, I miss all of you.

I know it has been a while since I have written, but so much has happened it has been difficult to write.

 Sooo I will write this in 3 entrees- the oldest is at the bottom…so start from the bottom up!

While I was in the air, the situation in Madagascar began to worsen. When I arrived at the Peace Corps office, the Malagasy staff had been sent home for the day for their own safety and the few people in the office had only bad news. Less than 24 hours after arriving in Tana, the Country Director announced our evacuation.

That night, all of the Americans in the capitol got together at an NGO workers home for an evacuation ‘party’. A few men formed a band for the night and sang our sorrows into the night, far past the city’s curfew we mourned the loss of our lives in Gascar. The next day, the volunteers near Tana (myself included) were evacuated to South Africa. Slowly all 115 volunteers arrived and completed the close of service tasks. Within a week, I had become a ‘returned peace corps volunteer’. I tried to get transferred to another program, but my stars did not align. Only 13 volunteers were able to transfer. My service with the United States Peace Corps is officially over. I miss it. I miss Madagascar.

However, I did not feel that my time in Africa was ready to be over. I booked a flight to Uganda where I am staying with my good friend Kristen. I am looking for work, and I think I have found a place in a village to stay surrounded by locals (the way I like it J). However, my path is even more uncertain.

 

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a Rolling Stone?

On January 4 two other PCVs came to Antsohihy on their way home from vacation and to stay with me for the night. Kateri, Molly and myself decided to go out for dinner in town and got caught in the rain. We were enjoying ourselves, so we just slowed our pace and didn’t head back to my house until 930. The walk back in the mud was challenging, so we walked in a single file line avoiding the worst puddles. I happened to be at the back. Just a few meters from my house everything suddenly went dark. When I became aware of my surroundings again, I was sitting on the ground leaning against my door in excruciating pain and Kateri was gently mopping up my face. Apparently, someone came up behind me with a large blunt object and knocked me unconscious with just one sharp blow to the back of my head. He wrestled the bag off my body as Kateri ran at him and Molly called for help. The night was a blur, but I was on a plane the next morning with a doctor and EMT and in the ICU at Unitas hospital in Pretoria, South Africa less than 24 hours after being attacked. My injuries were not too bad; the worst was a skull fracture and some bleeding in my brain. I spent nearly a month in South Africa (in the hospital then a guest house near the PC office) when some political unrest started in Madagascar. The PC wanted me to have a few more tests and some more recovery time, so I was sent to the states where I stayed for nearly a month. I had to wait for my health to improve and for the unrest in Madagascar to settle before I could return.

I tried to keep everything quiet for several reasons. The first reason being that I did not want anyone to worry. The second was because I did not have any answers; I did not know if I would be medically separated from PC, if I would be able to return, or how well I would recover. The third reason still holds true- It was difficult to face everything that happened. I did not want to relive everything over and over, and I had trouble believing this drama was actually my life.

Finally, the doctors said I was recovering well and should escape without any long-term problems. The unrest seemed to be settling in Madagascar, so I boarded a plane and flew back to rejoin my friends.

Life in Antsohihy

After swearing-in and becoming an official Peace Corps Volunteer, I hopped in a four-wheel drive with Doda (the PC driver, pronounced Dude-ah), Steve (the Country Director), and two other PCVs heading to their sites (Liz and Deres). We dropped off Deres first after swinging through Mahajunga and getting a very small glimpse of the beautiful Mozambique channel. It was such a tease to see the ocean and have to turn inland again, however the drive to my site was incredible. There is only one narrow road north which few people utilize. We would drive hours before seeing another vehicle- it was just our four-wheel drive and the vast landscape of Madagascar. The road winds through green hills positioned so closely together it looks as though you are sailing over the ripples of an endless green lake. We drove through some dense forests, some dry land scattered with palm trees and over a couple rivers red with the iron rich soil.
As we got closer to my site, the heat began to intensify and I learned that Antsohihy is one of the hottest towns in the country. I drank between 3 and 4 liters of water a normal day, and far more if I was active.
After arriving at site and settling in, I began working at the clinic across town. I practiced Malagasy with the patients waiting to meet with the mid-wife and doctor, helped with some of the paper work, and worked with a friend (the nurse) on my presentations. I made friends with 3 South Africans who ran a radio station in town. One of their radio shows was a Malagasy soap opera that the town never missed. I was starting to work with my new friends and was planning to add some public health messages to the soap opera. Unfortunately, I was ripped away from Madagascar before I could get started.

OH! …one more thing

Everyone has been wonderful about sending letters. Kristy- you are incredible. I am so grateful for all of your support and love; it really helps me push through the bad days.

I also got a really sweet letter from a very sweet girl last week! Thank you for thinking of me Bella! I hope that school is going well. For the record- the hedgehog was black, white and brown. Eat alot of pie for me on thanksgiving!

-Meg

ITS HOT!

Okay, let me explain…I visited my site last week and will be moving into my house in Antsohihy on December 12.  Summer is just beginning here in Madagascar which means I experienced just a taste of how hot it will become in my town.  The town is on the larger end (160.000) but it is not a tourist town like many of the other large towns around the country. So in a way it is just a very congested small town (with a couple wealthy Malagasy).  There are only 4 vazaha in town (including myself); the other three are South African missionaries who are incredibly kind and have the most fantastic food and wine! I live on the other side of the town in a small cement room beneath the hospital. It is simple but I have some electricity and a ‘shower’ that is shared with my neighbors (and some people at the hospital). The electricity means that I have a lightbulb, and can charge some of my electronics! YAY! However, the bill is paid by the hospital so i need to minimize the amount of current I use. I will be working mostly at the CSB (clinic) which is on the other side of town, and when I feel more comfortable with language I will work on the HIV/AIDs and STI campaign at the hospital where I live. With that I will be going out to the smaller surrounding villages to do testing and education. I have alot of other ideas, but I will wait until I get them approved and moving before sharing :)

I am replacing another volunteer, so the town is shocked that my Malagasy is so terrible. They dont remember what her language was like 2 years ago! The adults are the most impatient with my language, so I think my new best friend will be a 9 year old girl who lives next door. Im going to bring her a little present and try to pathetically buy her affection…and encourage her patience.

While at site, with a combonation of Malagasy and high school theatre (thanks Mr. D), I managed to rent a P.O. box (and give a good laugh to about 9 people in the post office). I have given into the fact that my life has become a comedy. I will write you a few fun stories at another time-someone needs the computer!

here is my new address:

Meghan Ryan PCV Peace Corps

B.P. 117

Antsohihy 407

Madagascar

Africa

(you should put africa on it…because people at the post office often dont know where madagascar is…a couple people got mail months later that had to be redirected from asia and other places)

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