Tuesday, June 30, 2009

back to the border

After an amazing trip to Murchison Falls, safari, and boat trip on the Nile, I was surprised when I realized my excitment at returning to the scruffy border town of Busia that has been my home this past month. I definitely did not realize how attached I had become to many of the children at New Hope nor how much I enjoyed afternoons cooking and chatting with the matrons of Reyo Hotel.

I should not, however, downplay the trip to Murchison. For the first time since our original stay in Kampala, all of the AGRADU interns (besides A-N) were together and once again squished on a small bus together for the weekend.We saw baboons and warthogs galore and at night I was woken up by the munching of hippos grazing right beside my tent.

Back in Busia, the pace of life has once again returned to its slow, African speed.At a conference I attended this morning on providing psychosocial support to disadvantaged children, I was once again perplexed by the lack of work actually getting done. There seems to be a lot of talk and repitition with very little action. When I first watched a few primary school lessons in action I was shocked at the mundane, repetitive call and response methods; and yet, here at an adult conference I was experiencing much of the same. Where is the individuality, creativity, and challenging of the status quo? It seems to be heavily discouraged, one of the most frustrating aspects about life here, especially when working in schools.

I have decided to additionally start working with another local organization (Busia Widows and Orphans Assoc.) because even with playing at New Hope and leading guidance sessions at Howard, I find myself with lots of free time.

Maressa and I will be moving in to a house right next to our director with a Canadian and Ugandan roomate and our very own dogs! Closer to New Hope, we will be able to enjoy posho and beans for supper every day with the kids and dark roads will no longer isolate us from activities at New Hope after 7 pm!

Lastly, on Friday we will be bording a bus at 5 am to take the secondary school kids to Kampala on a college visit to Makere University which all of them aspire to attend yet have never even seen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

"Your hands are soft like a baby's. You have done no real work in your life."

said George, as he pricked my finger for an Blood Smear to test my blood for malaria. Hmm... that's debatable, but after seeing 8-year-olds in the field hacking at the ground with hoes to help their parents farm, I am inclined to agree with him.

I guess I should start with how I came to be sitting in the health centre, waiting for the results of a malaria test. Doxycycline, the prophylaxis I am taking to prevent malaria, makes me nauseous every morning. That particular morning had been especially bad, so I opted to take it easy and stay in the apartment. Everyone at Kyetume was convinced that because I was at home, I must have malaria. Since, Reuben will not take no for an answer, I found myself sitting in the health centre, waiting for slides of my blood to dry so George could tell me if I did indeed have malaria or not.

And while we waited, we talked.

I told the lab technician that I was also very interested in science and was studying Chemistry at my university. He asked if I planned to become a doctor, and told him that I was not so sure even though my M.D. father would be happy if I did. After that, George said something that caught me way off guard, “So your mother is deceased?” Um, excuse me? No! What do you know that I don’t? When I replied in the negative, he said, “Ah, so you parents must be divorced.” No… not that either. What was going on? He was a little taken aback to learn that my parents were still married and living together. “The divorce rate in foreign countries is so high. I figured your parents would not still be married.”

And there it was. It took me by surprise that he was so astonished to learn my parents were still married. I came to Uganda very cautious about the stereotypes I had in my mind about Africa, not wishing to offend anyone that I meet. I guess I was so concerned about the potential prejudices I harbored, I hadn’t realized I’d be dealing with the reverse. There are the common – like, “Born in America? No, you are Indian.” and the ever popular one about how loaded I am since I am American and how America handed me money to finance my trip here. Oh, I wish. Well anyways, I thought that this incident of reverse stereotyping was especially bizarre and I’d share.

Overall things here are good. Finally, with less than a month to go, I feel like I have so many things to do that I don’t know where to start. But I don’t mind it. I think I like life better that way.

Monday, June 15, 2009

mzungu bye

After becoming accustomed to life in Busia, despite all the frustrations and oddities, life here is quite amazing. These beautiful kids at the ofphanage truly have my heart... 100%. They are courageous and kind-hearted and just full of such life and joy that nothing could put it out. And talk about dreams- these kids all have such giant and wonderful dreams, one of the older kids even aspires to be the president of Uganda one day.

But with all good must come some bad. And I'd say the bad is the system sometimes. These kids are amazing but I hope they will have all the opportunities given to them that they need to succeed.. Only time will tell. Perhaps that's the whole reason we're here... For the kids, right?!

Being without power (what is it day 7 or 8, I lost count) is interesting, though surprisingly not as difficult as it sounds. Though it gets extremely dark when its dark and it gets that way fairly early- by 7:30!!

Either way life is amazing here regardless of what is thrown our way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Maybe you are too heavy for the roads here."

Thanks Dora, thanks. That is a possibility, or maybe my chacos know I am an impostor and am not worthy of wearing them. Either way - I completely wiped out two days in a row. Slipped and fell. Just walking on the dirt roads. I knew it was coming, since I am the clumsiest person alive, and I'm surprised it has not happened sooner. Well since I work at a health clinic and everything, I figured it was time to pay the health centre a visit after my second fall.

I waited in the clinic after asking Winnie if she could scrounge up some extra neosporin for me. Then she decided she wanted to take a look at the scrapes. As I pulled back the band-aids, she asked me where I had found them. I told her that I brought them from home. As she was cleaning up my leg, she told me that they don't have band aids here, they use white tape. My mind shot back to just a little while ago when I was sitting in my pediatrician's office (lame, I know) updating my shots before I could come here. After I was done, the nurse let me choose between about 7 different types of children's band aids - ranging from hello kitty to spider man - and I picked the crayola crayon, to cover a dot on my arm. And now I was putting plain white tape over a pretty nasty scrape. It's not as if either did a better job of protecting my skin, one is just more expensive, more aesthetic. I guess this got me thinking about how many amazing things this health centre is doing with limited resources. Like tests for infectious diseases with a 15-year-old microscope for example. The microscope doesn't have to be shiny to work. In a place like the US, it's hard to remember how much is possible without hoards of technology. And places like Kyetume CBHCP are capitalizing on this.

As for my leg, it's fine. The Ugandan roads are going to have to try a lot harder to keep me down!

Under African Skies

We have been unable to post until this point as we have been out on the farm for the beginning of the week, and the internet has been unavailable until recently. There are many things to catch up on!

Perhaps the best place to start is the bus ride out to Kasese. Seth and I caught a cab at 5:30 am to the bus park and upon arrival I couldn't help thinking that it was little more than a mob of people in a dirt lot. Before the car stopped people were opening the doors of the cab and taking out our luggage. John has warned us to keep an eye out for people who tend to run off with bags, so Seth and I sprinted to opposite sides of the bus to ensure nothing was stolen. Finally, after quite a bit of struggle we made it onto the bus and we were off. Although a bumpy six hour ride, the road through Mbarara offers some of the most spectacular views of Uganda that I have seen thus far. While riding through the foothills of the Rwenzoris the road passes by Lake Africa. Our friend Isaac was kind enough to explain the lake to us once in Kasese- he told us that the lake was shaped by volcanic lava, and it is a perfect replica of the African continent. In addition, the water source that feeds the Lake runs out the top in the same place as the Nile Delta. The bus passes right by what would be the border of South Africa and Mozambique!

According to all of the guide books Kasese is a hot and dusty town that isn't worth making a stop for on the way to Fort Portal. Although undeniably hot and dusty, I have enjoyed my time in town. Much to my surprise there are a lot of other mzungus around, and when I spot them I almost get the urge to point and yell "mzungu!". The phenomenon must be contagious. Everyone in the CETRUD office is wonderful and has been very helpful in showing us the local markets and restaurants around town. Our stay at the CETRUD garden was luxurious when compared to everyone else- running water, electricity, fans, showers, three meals a day, even air conditioning (for one night). However we made up for it quickly during our stay on the farm. During our three days we learned a lot about the day to day operations of the farm, and the pace at which things happen in rural areas. We also learned that it is possible to survive without running water electricity. The CETRUD farm provides food to local markets and hotels in Kasese, and prides itself on being a teaching farm. Training programs about nutritious farming, produce yield enhancement, and other topics are held for community members. One of the most inspiring programs CETRUD offers is the Caretakers Program, in which proceeds from the farm are used to support over 200 children orphaned and families affected by HIV/AIDS. The money pays for school fees and provides scholastic materials for those who could not otherwise afford school. Despite doing so much good in their community, CETRUD suffers in the sense that the CBO desires to do more than there is funding for. In my time here I hope to find more grant funding for the community so that they can continue to make a difference.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"Make Your Last Calls and Say Your Last Prayers"

Dora (the explorer) kindly repeated over and over as we drove through the jungle on my first evening in Kyetume. “I'm going to sell you soon, and since you are from America, I'll get twice the price.” Of course she was only pulling my leg, but she told me an interesting story about the village in which the partner cbo we were visiting is located. When she was a little girl, she was told stories about how at 6 p.m. the villagers would turn into monsters that walked on their hands and grabbed you with their feet to eat you. This was only her second time visiting the village, and she said she was actually frightened the first time she had to go hahaha.

I'm really enjoying the culture here, hearing stories like that, exchanging sentiments with my neighbors. The thing that stuck me most about how different this country is from the United States is its sweeping cohesiveness in regards to culture. It's true that the US has more diversity, but this country seems to be united on a higher level. One of my neighbors asked me if the United States has something equivalent to Ugandan clans (which are still honored today), and of course we have nothing that comes close. I guess at first I was surprised by the general uniformity on certain issues like family values or even homosexuality, but it makes more sense to me now.

The people here are so much more welcoming and accommodating than I've been accustomed too, in the US or in India. Despite living without power every other day or so, I'm having a really good time here. I haven't been bored yet! Especially since my 5 year old neighbors like to jam out to T.I. with me while I cook dinner.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Living the Simple Life

Where do I begin? Life in Kyetume has been great. The weather stays around 75 and sunny everyday with an afternoon shower every few days and the people are so friendly! At the office I am currently working on creating a database for the health center to upload it's health records on to so it is easier to maintain and track trends among the village. It's been quite a task, but i'm learning as I go along...

Life in the village is quite fun. We've spent the nights after work talking with our neighbors and playing soccer with the local kids. They are all very interested in how things are done in America. I'm living beside two teachers from the local boarding school and they both desperately want to come to America to get their masters and PhD. In the week that i have been here i have definitely learned a lot from the people. Whether it's some phrases in Luganda or how to cook a certain Ugandan recipe.

Our accomodations aren't too bad. We have running water and a sink, which is something to be proud of! And we're starting to get the hang of washing clothes and dishes in a bucket versus the spoiled american way of doing domestic chores.

Life is busy here in Uganda and we're slowly getting acclimated.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

First Week on site in Katosi

Hi everyone! We don't have internet in my village so this weekend Rhea and I are visiting some friends in the town of Mukono (about an hour away) to visit an internet cafe. I want to try and describe my life in Katosi as best I can but there's way too much I want to tell everyone, so I'll do my best but I'll have TONS of stories, and hopefully pictures when I get back!

As far as life in the village goes, it was pretty shocking and overwhelming at first but I'm adjusting well and its definitely and experience. The power is really sporadic and there is no running water or inside toilets. We are also cooking all our own food which means the dishes have to be done by hand immediately so the mosquitoes don't come.

Katosi is a bigger village than I thought, theres a ton of produce stands and little food stores with the basics, theres also one gas station, a “post office”, a few restaurants and like 500 schools since theres literally a million kids. Lining the street are storefronts and then the housing compounds are behind the stores and believe me, they are the real deal…some are just like TV: mud huts with thatched roofs, etc. That’s been the most shocking thing…we are definitely in real Africa—the kids with bloated bellies, no shoes, tattered clothes and I want to do so much to help them but I know it will be tough.

So the village is right on Lake Victoria which is GORGEOUS…it’s a fish trading post so theres always boats coming in and out. That also means that there is always a breeze so its really not that hot. Its way hotter in Raleigh or even Sherwood but its just incredibly really dusty here. The “apartment” that Rhea and I are staying in is in a little courtyard thing behind the office and dairy store that are on the street front. There’s a gate that they lock at night so we feel really safe. Also in the courtyard is a nurse’s clinic, a kitchen, 4 latrines, and 3 rain water cisterns. There’s one other apartment where the nurse Esther lives nextdoor…she is the NICEST lady ever. I don’t know what we would do with out her…she’s helped us cook, buy things from town, introduce us to the women… everything! In return, I want to teach her how to use a computer because she's never used one and is really eager to learn before she goes to get her official nursing license in the fall. Also in the courtyard is Gertrude’s house. Gertrude is the mother of the founder of the organization so she’s pretty much everyone’s boss but they all call her mama and we do too because she treats us like her daughters. Unfortunately, she is pretty sick right now so she’s in Kampala for treatment but she’s left her house open for us to go in during the day which is nice because its a lot bigger and cooler than our little apartment. Where we’re living there are 2 rooms and a “bathroom” which is literally a cement closet with a drain where we do our bucket baths (which I’ve become pro at by the way). In one room are our mosquito nets and beds and in the other is a sofa, 2 chairs, and a gas stove. basically a bunson burner for us to cook on. Theres also a fridge which we pretty much use just to keep the ants away from food instead of keeping things cold since the power is so sporadic.

The village is really loud at all times. Theres a loudspeaker across the street that does death announcements and soccer scores like 3 times a day and there are so many animals EVERYWHERE. There’s like 5 chickens and roosters and a goat that live in the courtyard. Deborah also adopted a cat named Maria that keeps trying to get in…I hate cats and Rheas allergic, and all the Ugandan’s think its weird that she had a pet anyway so we’re trying really hard to get rid of it :)

As far as work goes, its still pretty slow to really take off but that’s just how things are in Uganda. I’ve started visiting some schools to introduce myself so I can’t wait to go back and help them with specific projects.. I’ll keep you updated with that as it comes along. Right now we’re working mainly with 2 guys named Fred and Leonard who are in charge of the Katosi field office—they are both really nice and would do anything to keep us happy. There’s also another intern who is here for the same time from the University in Kampala named Musisi.

Its been really neat getting to see all of the projects that KWDT runs and I'm excited to help out in as many of them as possible. Right now I'm working on school sanitation and hygiene which should take most of the 2 months but I definitely want help in other areas as well.

My internet time is almost up! if there's anything you want to know just ask and I'll try to mention it next time..that was mostly a description but more stories to follow.

Love and miss you all,

Cosmo Girl in Katosi

When I first moved to the village there were a lot of miscommunications which pretty much made my first night there as bad as it could possibly be. I live on the same compound as the headquarters for the Women's Trust that we work at. Anyway we were dropped of there and then this amazing man Fred who works for the trust walked us around the village for a while. It was so sad to see the level of poverty that these people are plagued with none of the children had shoes and if they did have clothing it was all tattered and torn. Also most of them had the swollen bellies I can't remember what they are actually called but they signal malnutrition and it just broke my heart. But the village is right on Lake Victoria which is honestly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Anyway Fred dropped us off at our house and left so Kate and I were completely alone and it was dark so we didn't want to venture out again to get food. On top of that the power was out which is pretty much an every other day thing in Katosi. The worst part is that no one warned me about the conditions I would be living in and now that I've had time to adjust they're not that bad but...we don't have running water at all. I have to get water everyday from Rain water tanks and treat the water I drink. Witht that said there is no shower, it's cold bucket style like India. The worst part is that the 'toilet' which is just a hole in the ground is outside. And there are animals everywhere. For Katosi I'm staying in the best area like the gate is locked at night so it's really safe but the bad part for me is that lots of animals live within the gate. A goat a rooster (who starts calling at 4am and stops at about 6pm), two chickens (which scares me daily), and three cats.

Anyway like I said before it's not so bad now and I've realized that this experience will be really good for me. For one I will NEVER complain about having to unload the dishwasher after having to wash my dishes after every meal outside with rainwater. My work here is amazing. I'm truly impressed with the programs that the women's group has in place and I've already started many projects of my own. Even though I live at headquarters none of my work is there :( I usually walk about 8-10 miles everyday through the jungle to get to various schools and other villages. I work with Water Sanitation and Hygiene so I have two main jobs.
1. The trust has set up 28 shallow protected wells all around the district and they are all run by members of the trust. The member are supposed to collect a small fee montly from the families who use it which equates to about 25 cents a month. So I go to each well make sure it's functioning and check the members books. I record for headquarters how many families use the well, how much it costs them, the location, and anything else I see fit.
2. I help Kate with setting up Health Committees in the local schools. The women's trust works to give rain water tanks, eco-sand latrines, and these things call tippy taps which are jerry cans which tip over when you place your foot on the wood. they are designed to be handwashing stations after bathroom use which is really cool because you don't touch them to get the water out which greatly reduces contamination. Anyway I evaluate their usage of these facilities, teach classes about hygiene, and determine which schools need more facilities or which ones they need.
On my own I have set up a project to encourage drinking clean water. I buy water guard tablets which purify the water to make it 99% safe to drink and donate them to the school I work with so the children don't drink rain water. I give them a supply to last at least 6 months and then work with their budget so they can buy the next tablets on their own.

The people I work with are great and usually so nice. The biggest problem has been the language barrier only about 3 people who I work with speak English and 0 in the village speak it so I've been learning Luganda really fast! But the people who I have met through work are the nicest people. In the village it's still really hard just because according to Fred there has never EVER been an Indian person to come there. They've had a couple white PeaceCorp volunteers but the village is literally 100% Ugandan. So when I walk out of my compound usually about 6 children chase after me and try and touch me yelling "Muzungu" which means white person! The kids aren't bad though they are really nice and thrilled if I stop and talk to them. The adults thought...the men are horrible which I pretty much expected but when I walk past everyone literally stops whatever they are doing and just stares. Sometimes they even shut the music off so they can completely concentrate on me :( I'm hoping with time that will get better.

All in all I am starting to love it here. And even if I am never completely comfortable with where I live I absolutely love my work and can really see how appreciative everyone is of what I'm doing. So even though yesterday I had to walk 10 miles to a school at the top of a mountain where the headmaster wasn't even there so I had to turn around and walk 10 miles home, I'm starting to enjoy the walks a little! Being here has made me have to get rid of my fear of bugs and being dirty to while my daily 20 mile treks are out of character I haven't lost all of myself I'm still the only one trekking through the jungle with bright pink toe nails!

The "Real" Africa--Kate at KWDT

WOW. One week through at Katosi and it continues to surprise me everyday…this is the real deal. Its tough, but this is the Africa from the movies and we are living it. Its been neat to see and experience first hand a lot of the things I learned about in classes this year about the developing world…I’m going to give just a few examples from the first week.

1.Gender differences and the burden of domestic work on women. Its clear now just how difficult life is for everyone here, but especially women. Domestic tasks that we complain about in the US are like a million times more time consuming here…there might not be power, and even so, theres no dishwashers, washing machines, or even sinks—everything is done by hand. The nurse Esther that lives next door is also a house keeper and she is literally ALWAYS working because theres always something else that needs to be done. She told us she sleeps from 12-5 every night and then works the rest of the time. That’s why I think its great that Katosi Women’s Development Trust is focused on generating an income for women. With just a small amount of money coming in (about $1.50 a day) they can make their daily life just a little bit easier.

2. Secondly, is the different conception of time. You always hear about how Americans are the only ones tied to a schedule but Ugandan’s have literally NO concept of time or efficiency (such as what should be accomplished in a work day). Which is kind of tough for me, but I’m adjusting and that’s just how life is…I think my parents would agree that a lesson in patience is probably a good thing for me  To give you an example, on Friday, we were supposed to go visit a school that Fred, our boss, said was “some distance” away. Well, “some distance” ended up being an hour and a half walk both ways through the jungle…it wasn’t that the walk was bad because it was really pretty, but when we got to the school, the man that we were supposed to meet with about sanitation and hygiene wasn’t even there! So we just looked around and walked back…he didn’t seem phased and he could totally have called the man since he had his contact info, but that’s not now business is done here. But that also means they are a lot more laid back and always ready to strike up a great conversation, which is nice. Another example of the time thing is that the taxis here are really 14 passenger vans and the will NOT move until all seats are filled, and by all seats filled, I mean at least 25 passengers on board. The more passengers, the more money for the driver so they will wait until there is absolutely no room left. Like I said, on our way to Mukono yesterday, Rhea and I counted 25 people! It was pretty crazy flying down the bumpy, dusty road with that many people and it made me really glad that I wasn’t driving

3.Another thing I’m experiencing first hand is how much we use as westerners in terms of resources. I mean I know you always see those charts where Americans use like a hundred times more water than everyone else but I’ve never been able to visualize or conceptualize that until now. In our compound, there are 3 rain water cisterns...the community can use them when they are full, but once the get low they get locked and people have to buy their water elsewhere. Since we live on site we get to use them all the time, but I’m paranoid that they will actually run out! If they do, we get our water from a pump down town and it costs about 200 shillings per jerry can (20 liters) of water. I’ve never had to think so much about conserving…I’ve even mastered taking a bucket shower with less than a bucket of water which is crazy when I think about how many gallons even a 5 minute shower takes! Its also really disheartening to see children not in school because they must collect the water for their families. Every day I see kids no older than 4 or 5 toting jerry cans back and forth from their house to the pump so that their families have enough water to bathe, wash, cook, and drink.

4.We also had been warned by the interns last year that we would stick out with light skin but its way more overwhelming than I thought. Walking into the street, everyone literally stops what they’re doingdoing to stare, and then the children start shouting MUZUNGU! Which means white person, which is pretty funny because Rhea’s Indian…Kids chase after you and want to touch your hair and a lot of time their mothers just let them while they stare. Its not like their being rude, but its just a lot to get used to. For me, they also shout “DEBORAH”, who was the name of the Peace corps volunteer before me at KWDT—I guess we look a lot alike since we’re both white  I don’t correct them and just wave anyway most of the time.

Anyway, that’s just a glimpse into the “Real Africa”…its been a crazy week but we’re adjusting well and I’m sure I’ll have more stories next time!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Home in Busia!

We had the most exciting (and cramped) drive from Kampala to Busia! Before being completely out of the sprawling city we found ourselves battling what I would describe as a monsoon. It likes to do that here. Anyways, we drove through the torrential rain and hail (which abruptly ceases after about 30 minutes), passed through an area where the road had been amost completely flooded and a car nearly flipped, and got to cross the Nile! Pulling in to New Hope at around dusk, we recieved the most amazing, inspiring welcome by the 80 plus kids that live and study at the ophanage. The car was practically mobbed, and I was thrust into a swarm of hugs, handshakes and smiles before Ken even cut the ignition. Placing chairs in the middle of the schoolyard for us, the kids began a dance they had prepared and we spent our time in awe of what amazing people they were. I have never felt so immediately loved (we hadn't even done anything!?).
It has now been three days in Busia and the love and excitement continues. We are always greeted at the gate by a crowd, and I think I have been hugged more over the past few days than in the entire past year. We've figured out our schedule for the coming months, and I will begin guiding and counseling sessions at the primary and secondary school monday. I cannot wait!

Off to the market to pick up some fresh fruit! Mwebera!

Kampala (first days at Tuhende)


How have these days flown by so quickly? We landed in Kampala only three nights ago, yet I already feel almost comfortable and at home in this bustling capital city. From the staff at Tuhende Lodge to its deeply spiritual and genial owner, Sam, and the many young Western passerbys, these three days have introduced me to many amazing people. The hectic markets and city streets have yielded the same results, as smiling faces of strangers are almost a constant, usually followed by greetings of "hello, sista" and questions of home country and, of course, the well-being of Obama (except for the guy who claimed to be Barack's brother and therefore was already aware of his status).

After returning from touring the largest Mosque in Uganda (conveniently located a block from Tuhende) which included a half hour of huddling under a church roof during a stint of torrential downpour), Maressa, Kate, Megan and I sat down with the hotel owner Sam. We talked for a long time about Uganda's past and future, and I was disappointed to hear the pessimistic opinion of Sam concerning progress, education, and pretty much everything we are working for here in Uganda. He felt that the people lack all iniciative and instead are happy in mediocracy. While he has lived in Uganda much longer than I and has had many more years to gain wisdom, I can not help but disagree.

In Uganda, will widespread corruption, there is often no reward for hard work and accomplishment. If this were to change, if the government and bureaucracy were to become more legitimate and accountable, people would have something to strive for and this lack of desire and committment that Sam described could be overcome. I am optimistic and I choose to believe that conditions can and will continue to improve. Being submerged in a society so focused on personal, human interaction over material possession gives me this hope, and makes it impossible for me to believe that this is the best that there can be.


A few updates on life here: I live with a family of four now and I fit in so wonderfully. The family is Maureen, Moses, Marica, and Maurice and of course, me! There is no running water, no indoor plumbing, my toilet is a hole in the ground and I've gotten bit my more mosquitoes than I can count, and I'm struggling to type this on a semi-working computer and internet in town but even with all of that said: I'm loving life here!!

Some exciting things to mention: We spent time in Kampala where we met so many nice people and peace corps volunteers, visited a mosque, and got caught in a torrential downpour. Life is Busia is very different from city life though. Even the journey here was interesting: we saw a baboon, crossed over the Nile, and even had to drive though a small flooded part of the road. Everyone has been so so nice and welcoming though, its been incredible. We had a welcome unlike any other that I've ever had before. When the kids at the orphanage saw our car approaching on Sunday night they were so so incredibly excited and we couldnt have been prepared for the greeting. They drug us out of the car and hugged us and told us how welcome we were and were just so wonderful. Then they took us to some chairs where they sat us down then sung to us. It was amazing. Since then we've seen the kids every day and grown so very fond of them. I didnt think falling in love would be so easy but I'm quite certain I have fallen in love with about 90 kids since Sunday.We brought them soccer balls, volleyballs, and even a frisbee. The kids love the volleyball and I don't think they had even seen a frisbee before! It is so wonderful to see them enjoying a game so much. I love just getting with them, playing with them, or just sitting and listening to them talk. We brought photos of our family and friends to show them and they loved that too! and now they also know many of the people close to me and they ask about them from time to time, haha. The kids are great. They are perhaps the most well-behaved group of people I've ever seen. They are so respectful of us and our things- when we get to the door they greet us and take our bags and set them down on the chairs and watch over them. They also ask for our cameras and then take so many photos and bring them back to us. Its so cute. I dont even need to worry about taking photos because they will for me! They are truly amazing.

We start teaching next week and we are setting the schedules today. We went to the secondary school around town and I will be taking over a math class for seconary level 2 starting next week, two days a week. Then I should be doing a younger aged math class and also I'll start working with the music group soon. I played some drums with some of the kids yesterday and they were surprised at me playing as I did- I tried to explain I study drums at school but I'm not sure they comprehend that. Either way, they loved it and I did too and now I have pictures because of the girl (Asha) who loves taking my camera for photos! haha

all for now :) more later. mwebera!

Busia Week 1

So here I am in downtown Busia at an internet cafe... it's a miracle I made it to this page at all between the virus warnings that keep popping up and the computer's tendency to freeze completly.

Other than that minor set back, things are going wonderfully here. Yesterday we met with the headmaster at New Hope to discuss our teaching schedules, and today we went to Howard Christian High School to establish when we (Grace, Maressa, and myself) will be teaching there. I am very excited because I am teaching English to primary grades 4 & 5 in the mornings and to the secondary level 1. I will have the whole class to myself and be free to generate my own curriculum and activities, even tests! Very exciting!

I spent most of yesterday teaching Samuel (a man who works at New Hope) and Brenda (an older student there) songs and dances to perform in Church on Sunday. I was very excited to share my love of singing with them, and proud that they apprecaited my efforts.

Although things have been somewhat trying here, including the water cutting off at the hotel, being locked inside the room (yes, you may laugh at me), the very limited selection of food, the 5 hour drive to Busia crammed between suitcases and duffle bags, and the never ending heat, I am throughly enjoying myself. Everyone is so kind and accomadating here, people continually bring us food (including tons of fresh pineapple!) and invite us over for tea or dinner. Everyone stops to greet you and welcome you to Uganda.

A few of the girls at New Hope shared their life stories with me about before Uncle Ken found them and brought them there. It was difficult to even bear hearing it and watching the girls cry as they recounted their painful lives. We discussed how lucky they were to have such wonderful lives now and how they will be muhc stonger women because of their trials. It was horrible but surprisingly cleansing and wonderful expereince. I think we will be working more with the girls on overcoming their lives and making sure that they don't fall victim to the diseases and circumstances that caused their mothers to leave them to such childhoods.

Anyway, off to the market to try to haggle for some fruit. Hopefully I can write more next time... on a computer without a million viruses...