About Me

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I teach abroad and continue to pursue the life I was given as if it was my last. Many people think it is. In my spare time, I enjoy lapping up ice cream, reading spy novels, and euthanizing manta rays.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I have been neglecting to update this blog. Not out of malaise or boredom, but rather because I've been correcting. Correcting all the essays I have assigned the past two weeks. I'm slowly but surely getting to know my students. I am learning about their ideas and lives through these essays, designed primarily as a diagnostic tool, but also as a lens into their minds.

All essays are submitted in sheets of paper, lined, three-hole punched, and smelling of Camas, Washington. Most students have hand writing that belongs in Monticello. The thoughts of these literature students are vast and expansive. Often one paragraph assignments are handed to me with two full pages of thoughts. Sifting through a stack of 85 essays and quizzes took me nearly three full days.

If you haven't noticed, I am going through a phrase of irritation this week, mostly by the lack of privacy and organization going on around me. The lawn blower came to trim the grass yesterday morning. At 7:06 a.m. Dan was hoeing outside my house at 7:17 a.m. this morning. My morning off. Usually it's the raking that gets me but today it was the hoeing.
"Does that have to begin now?" I asked politely, wiping my eyes as I scanned for rain clouds and suicide flamingoes circling the terrace.
"Place has to be clean, sir..."
"Yeah, but right outside my bedroom window? At 7 o'clock."
Our relationship is soggy at best.
He just finished mopping the house, taking an hour to do a fifteen minute job. What can I say, I like my space. Especially on my day off. Luckily, I was reading a Ward Just book in the hammock outside, watching the world pass slowly by on a listless Friday afternoon on campus.

Drums beat irreverently a hundred meters away, down the path but out of sight. The music department's grassy auditorium always seems to have some pulsating rhythm as background noise. Today it's drums. Yesterday two trumpets. Choir music tomorrow and Sunday the psalms of Hosannah. Hosannah in the highest.


Last Sunday I went to watch an English Premier League game at Centenary Park with some teachers. A beer turned into dinner and then dusk fell and music began. In the midst of the outdoor beer pavillion, fifty African dancers beckoned. Minutes later I was singing the second verse to "Amazing Grace" in front of seventy-five strangers to a rousing round of applause and high fives from the shaman/MC running the event. Some of the costumes and gyrations were very impressive. From what I remember.

Last night was the inaugural Kyambogo Film Society event, set in a dusty classroom with laptop and film projector. I brought my evening class at the request of Dr. Okaka, head of the Lit Department and my immediate boss. After watching "Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith, I was asked to say a few words.
"Uh, me...?" I asked to the Film Society Prez.

I stood up wearily and feigned a smile. Meanwhile, all I could think about was where I could find dinner at nine in the evening without having to grab a boda-boda and how I could get this chalk off my hands, my slacks, my hair and how I was going to get my clothes dry if it had rained the past three hours.

Thursdays are long.

I have managed to take some responsibility for things around the house. I cooked potatoes on Tuesday and bought a cutting board and knife for the kitchen. I learned how to cut a pineapple and a mango after splicing my index finger and selling out Jesus in the name of blasphemy. Cuts hurt. I have been washing clothes by hand the past ten days, saving nearly ten bucks a month that would otherwise go in Dan's pocket. Not that I'm cheap but...well, okay. I am.

But the thing is about Dan....

Three weeks Prior
(Day Four in Uganda)

(A light knock at the door. In my plaid boxers, flip flops and ELF t-shirt, I follow the sunbeams. I see Dan, 29-46 years of age, reasonable facsimile of Seal, staring out the window in green tank top and Apollo Creed boxing shorts.)

--Morning, Dan. 
-Yeah....I think maybe you can help me....I...uh...want a bicycle for myself and I have been saving money. But the bike costs 180 dollars and I need 80 more. Do you think you can give me the balance?

(I look incredulously at the wall, following a spider past my two hanging windbreakers and towards a cookie wrapper. 4 days and we're already asking Matt for cash. It takes me a few moments to gain composure and allow the blood to flush out to my extremities)

--Dan, I uh...
-Sir, I think maybe you can help me.
--Dan, if you need a bike maybe you should ask the school or Sister Frances. I am a teacher. My contract is to live here and teach. I don't have money for that. I don't want to be rude but I can't just give you money. If you need a bike, you should ask Dr. Okaka or the Sister. Maybe they can help or the school or someone.
-No! No, please sir. Please don't tell them I asked you. Please I am sorry sir...yeah...sorry. 

It's been awkward ever since. 

I'm not fully sure what is going on actually. Dan is supposedly living on the premises for security but I am not really sure he's secure. Dan's living on the premises to take care of the grounds in exchange for free housing. Either way, I'm 35 and perfectly capable of locking my door each time I go out. Beyond that, I'm not really too sure he's going to be the difference between me sleeping soundly and me dancing with the Kampala Keibosher after hours. Just a hunch.

So anyway, I'm doing a lot of things on my own now. I wash my clothes, I clean the kitchen, I boil water for a bath, I boil more water for coffee, I make coffee, I try to eat breakfast, I correct essays, I lesson plan, I wander around campus, I take a boda-boda to shop, buy some things, take one back, read a little, check emails, and go to bed. Pretty much like an adult would do. If they lived without a security guy. Which most do.

Meanwhile, Dan's been hoeing, raking, washing, gardening, watching TV, going to church and mopping twelve paces from my front door. I hope things better between us. But, to be honest, the Dan I like is the Dan I don't see. Or hear.

Like I said, I'm irritated this week. 


  1. I like your heartfelt honesty, Matt. Keep writing and thinking about these things! It's really interesting to read. Laura.

  2. This sounds like a Coen Brothers movie. KEEP DOCUMENTING!