Hello friends!

I am here in Philadelphia, one step closer to my dream, Uganda! Staging has been so great. The group I am going to Uganda with is a lot different then most groups sent with the PC. Instead of the usual 35ish volunteers, we only have 12 in our group….and we are all girls! How crazy is that? I think that this will be very good though because we have a very rare opportunity to become a very close group which I think will be essential down in a couple of weeks. Even our trainers were fantastic, they were very patient and diligent at answering all of our questions. So I know most of you are just dying to know if I have done it yet. Yes, yes I have. I had my first Phily Cheese Steak, and it was superb! I am not actually sure if the sandwich was pleasing, or if the company just made it seem so tasty. These girls are all incredible, and very talented. It is a completely diverse group and already we are all sharing our strengths with each other. Good news, I have taken my first dose of Malaria meds, and no serious side effects have popped up yet, I’m praying it stays that way. However, I have not gone to sleep yet, and that I hear, is when all of the crazy dreams/nightmares/acid trip-ish stuff happens. I’ll let you know how that goes, but at least I know I’ll have a wonderful support group if it gets bad. This is a picture of 10 of the 12 of us tonight eating our "last supper" here in America.

We fly out tomorrow from JFK and arrive in Uganda sometime Friday night or early Saturday. WOW! J I hope you are all having a wonderful time where ever you are, and whatever you are doing. Keep up the good work with the comments here, I LOVE getting comments. Keep ‘em coming!

Love you all!


All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go!

Well, here it is. My last blog published from Illinois. I have 23 hours left until the plane takes off from O'Hare. It is very surreal, I have been waiting for this for so long, and now it is finally here. I am leaving for freaking Africa!!!!! :-) I don't think I have gotten a good nights sleep in awhile. I feel like I am a little kid again, and every night has been the night before Christmas. The only bad part is saying goodbye. Even though, I know it is just, I'll see you later, it is a goodbye, and I suck at goodbyes. However, I know that this is exactly where I am suppose to be. So goodbye friends, I love you all!


And the kitchen sink too!

Look! Here I am with all my stuff. Now just imagine monkeys and elephants in the background and you are set!


Packing List

Many people have been asking what I will be taking with me for my 2 years, so here is my final packing list, enjoy! I know it looks like a lot, but remember I am going for 2 years and I will be in freaking Africa! J

4 button down shirts
2 t-shirts
2 tank tops
2 long skirts
1 pr. light weight “campish” pants
1 pr shorts
1 fleece sweatshirt (I know it’s Africa, but I get cold!)
Slip to wear under skirts
10 bras
10 pr socks
10 pr underwear
Shoes: Chacos, Keen hiking shoes, 1 pr. Nice flip flops
Rain Coat
1 pr. Good multi purpose gardening gloves
Swimming suit

Pepto Bismol
Fingernail clippers
Q-Tips…I like clean ears
Pads + Tampons
The Keeper
1 large camping towel
1 small camping towel
Sunscreen-SPF 50, are you happy Becca E? haha
Purell Hand Sanitizer, I wonder if I should take some Odo-Ban?
Hand Lotion

Laptop and accessories
Writable CD’s to back up photos
DVDs of essential movies (thanks Compagnos!)
Power converter
Brunton’s Solar charger + rechargeable batteries
Head Lamp
2 sports watches
Digital Camera + extra memory chip
Flash Drive
Ipod + microphone for recording
Batt. Powered alarm clock with thermometer

Travel Journal
My Life Application Study Bible
Pens + Pencils
Gifts for host family: Calendar with pics from IL, Uno, Crayons
10 passport photos, a PC requirement
Nalgene Bottle
Sun glasses
Money Belt
Travel Guide to East Africa
Swiss Army Knife
Combination Pad Lock
Safety Pins
Small sewing kit
Oboe, tuner, sheet music and reed making supplies
Teflon No-Stick pan (I have heard that they are very expensive and hard to get in Uganda)
Spatula and cooking spoons
Good cooking knife
Pocket Suduko
Ziplock Baggies
Travelers Checks
And the most essential items: Post-it Notes and Duct Tape

To carry it all in:
Large Camping/Hiking back pack-thank you Lea and Deb T!
Small Suitcase
Back pack for carry on

Total Weight: 60 lbs!!! (that’s 20 lbs. under the weight requirement!)



Here are some pictures from my going away party. Again, thank you to everyone who came, it was a wonderful time. I am so blessed to have such amazing friends!

Player Piano fun!

Dan, my Compagnos Katrina and Becca, and the new Pretzel, Amy P

Pretzel power!

Becca, Emily, Missy, Ame and Brooksie

The East Bay Crew (notice Brooksie is represented in photo)

Thanks for the good time everyone! Rocka-rocka-rocka


288 hours to go

12 days left and I have become completely restless. It is hard to even think about the fact that in 12 days I will be hopping on a plane with my 2 bags which will contain all the things I need for 2 years. It is quite a liberating feeling. I finally get to live my dream and become a Hobo (but not one that lives under a bridge, Dan!) I thought before I left, I would leave you all with an outline of what I will be doing with my time spent in Uganda. Although, I have heard that the PC is very “flexible” with their dates, so all of this is subject to change.

Sept. 26, 2006 9:00am Board plane at O’Hare to Philadelphia
Begin registration for our 3 day Staging where we go to many seminars and participate in get to know you sessions with a group of volunteers headed for Uganda.

Sept. 28, 2006 Get on a bus and head for JFK Air Port in New York
7:50pm Flight leaves for Brussels, then from Brussels to Nairobi, Kenya, to Entebbe, Uganda!

Sept. 29, 2006 Begin Pre-Service Training in Mityana, a small village just north of the
capital of Uganda, Kampala. Here we will be living with host families so that we will have the opportunity to observe and participate in Ugandan culture and to practice my new language skills. We will be participating in long days aimed at preparing us with technical, language, health, culture and safety skills. So, basically, I get to go back to school! During this time many of the volunteers do not have much internet access, so I will do the best that I can at responding to letters, but just know that I will always be thinking of all of you.

Dec. 9, 2006 I will be sworn in as a PCV (peace corps volunteer). From here we will be
given an assignment somewhere in Uganda (see job description below) where I will spend the next 2 years of my life.

June 2007 Vacation time! Even PCVs get vacations, so I will be spending some of my
vacation by coming back to the USA for quality family and friends time, and of course, be a bridesmaid for Missy and Dave’s wedding.

Dec. 9, 2008 COS and return to the USA.

So in the meantime, for the next 288 hours, I will keep packing and re-packing. Right now my pack only weighs about 40 pounds! Impressive huh, but I think it may keep expanding. I will post a packing list for your enjoyment later, as soon as I finish packing. Uganda, ready of not, here I come!


Letter to Families from the PC office

Hello Friends!
First of all, thanks to everyone who came to Freeport this past weekend, I am soooo blessed to have such amazing friends and family! It was a fantastic weekend. I have 15 days left until I depart and since I had a free day, I decided to be very productive by renting the first season of Lost and watching several episodes. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the most important thing I could have done, but I have heard so much about it and am now hooked, it is a fantastic show! I figured that my laziness is justified by the fact that in a couple of days, such luxuries will not be afforded. I am going to post here a letter that was sent to us from the PC office concerning mailing during my time abroad. They encourage us to pass it on to friends and families so I hope it is helpful to you.

August 2006

Dear Families,

Greetings from the Uganda Desk in Washington, D.C. It is with great pleasure that we welcome your family member to Peace Corps. During the past year we have received many requests from Volunteers and family members alike regarding travel plans, sending money, relaying messages and mail, etc. As we are unable to involve ourselves in the personal arrangements of Volunteers, we would like to offer you advice and assistance in advance by providing specific examples of situations and how we suggest they be handled.

Irregular Communication
The mail service in Uganda is not as efficient as the U.S. Postal Service. Thus, it is important to be patient. It can take three to four weeks for mail coming from Uganda to arrive in the United States via the Ugandan postal system. From a Volunteer's post, mail might take 1-2 months to reach the United States. Sometimes mail is hand carried to the States by a traveler and then mailed through the US postal system. This leg of the trip can take another several weeks, as it is also dependent on the frequency of travelers to the U.S.

We suggest that in your first letters, you ask your Volunteer family member to give an estimate of how long it takes for him/her to receive your letters and then try to establish a predictable pattern of how often you will write to each other. Also, try numbering your letters so that the Volunteer knows if he/she has missed one. Postcards should be sent in envelopes--otherwise they may be found on the wall of the local post office!

Volunteers often enjoy telling their "war" stories when they write home. Letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, etc. While the subject matter is good reading material, it is often misinterpreted on the home front. Please do not assume that if your family member has been ill that he or she has been unattended. Peace Corps has two physician's assistants on staff in Uganda. Through regular contact, they monitor the health of the Volunteers. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer comes to Kampala and is cared for by our medical staff. If the Volunteer requires medical care that is not available in Uganda, he/she will be medically evacuated to Kenya, South Africa or the United States, depending on the medical care required. Fortunately, these are rare circumstances.

Sending mail during Pre Service Training (PST)

Sarah Cowan, Peace Corps Trainee
P.O. Box 29348
Kampala, Uganda

Sending packages
Both parents and Volunteers like to send and receive care packages through the mail. Unfortunately, sending packages can be a frustrating experience for all involved due to the possible theft and heavy customs taxes. You may want to try to send inexpensive items through the mail, but there is no guarantee that these items will arrive. We do not recommend, however, that costly items be sent through the mail. Even though Volunteers choose to get local post office boxes, you may use the following address to send letters to your family member at any time during his or her service:

Sarah Cowan, PCV
U.S. Peace Corps
P.O. Box 7007
Kampala, Uganda

We recommend that packages be sent in padded envelopes if possible, as boxes tend to be taxed more frequently. Sending airplane tickets and/or cash is not recommended. Several services such as DHL, FedEx, UPS do operate in Uganda, but can be very expensive. Certain airlines will allow you to buy a pre-paid ticket in the States; they will telex their Nairobi office to have the ticket ready. Unfortunately, this system is not always reliable. Several European carriers fly to Kampala. Please call the airline of your choice for more information. You could also send tickets via mail services as mentioned previously. However, Peace Corps will assume no liability in the event of a lost/stolen airline ticket.

Have a super day!



Job description

Hello! As the countdown to departure becomes smaller, I have been becoming more and more excited. I just contacted SATO travel and booked my tickets to Philadelphia for Sept. 26th. All of the volunteers heading to Uganda meet up in Phily for Staging where we get to meet our fellow volunteers and get lots of paperwork and shots J. I am stoked that Staging is in Phily, perhaps I can finally try a Phily Cheese Steak! In preparation for leaving, I am trying to figure out how to pack and how to say goodbye. My parents are throwing me a bon voyage party which is cool, but nerve-wracking. I have never been good at saying goodbye. However, I am calmed by the fact that I know that this is what God is calling me to do, and I am very excited to be going.

So many people have been asking me what I will be doing for 2 years in Africa, and as much as I like to respond with “spreading happiness, peace and love” there is a more accurate job description. This is what the Peace Corps has sent me about my assignment:

Program: Community Wellbeing/Positive Living Program/PEPFAR

Job Title: Community Health/PEPFAR Volunteer

Dates of Service: 12/07/06-12/06/08

Staging Dates (in Philadelphia): 9/26/06-9/28/06

Pre-Service Training (in Uganda): 9/29/06-12/07/06

My Primary Duties: Uganda’s Ministry of Health, NGOs, Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) are asking for Volunteers to help them with applying what they have learned about improving living conditions for poor families in rural areas. They are asking for assistance in several key areas:

Train trainers from government and community-based organizations (CBOs) so that they can improve their skills to plan and implement participatory educational programs for health workers in their communities. Requests emphasize new accurate information and improved methods of teaching nutrition, preventative health care, behavior modification, management of HIV/AIDS, basic sanitation, and reproductive health education, life skills for in-and-out-of school youth and working with orphans and vulnerable children.

Work with administrators to improve their organizational management skills by developing systems for planning, funding, designing, managing, and evaluating community health projects.

Work with communities to identify their resources and develop and manage appropriate community activities.

While in Uganda, I will also have the opportunity of starting or joining secondary projects. So basically, I still don’t know exactly what I will be doing, but as soon as I find out, I will let you all know. All I know is that this opportunity is an amazing blessing and I will be excited to do whatever it is they need me to do. I know that it will be very challenging, but also very rewarding. I am depending on your letters and comments to get me through the hard times. So you should leave lots of comments on this blog, and write many letters. I will try to write back as often as I can. Internet is not always guaranteed. I know, 2 years without AIM, facebook and Xanga, what will I do…haha.

Well, that’s all for now, until next time!