Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Chicken Story

So as I am working at RUHU I am living at a traveler's hostel in Kampala called Red Chili. It's a great place, full of mzungu tourists and overland safari trucks. Most people are transient, but some things never change here- the staff, my goat and her newborn, and the chickens. The chickens run Red Chili and they know it. Each is very territorial and will scare you to death if you walk to close to their domain on a dark night. One particular chicken has decided that my dorm room is his dorm room- particularly the kitchen. He is a black chicken that likes to sleep on the gas stove top at night. The light bulb in there has burnt out, so he tends to scare the unsuspecting tourist wandering into the kitchen to do their dishes. Usually I cook before it gets dark to avoid the showdown but on one particular night I got back late and was too hungry to stand down. I've seen Ugandan women grab chickens my the ankles, but I cannot understand how you do this without getting pecked. After a few attempts at picking him up I have come no closer, but look more like I am doing starting a lawnmower as I fling my arm back each time he pecks at me.

In my next attempt I grab my purse and try to nudge the chicken off the stove top. Aware that he has the upper hand, the chicken ain't budging. As I push harder and harder his squawking gets louder, but still he won't move. I figure this isn't the first time he has had to fight for the stove top bed. By now, people are walking through the kitchen staring so in an attempt to regain a little dignity I knock the chicken as hard as my conscious will allow. This sends him off of the counter squawking and flapping, and in the free fall his leg gets wrapped up in a toaster cord. Chicken and toaster hit the ground with a bang. Europeans are walking in to see if I have slaughtered my dinner yet, because it certainly sounded like it.

Victorious I walk to my luggage to get dinner ingredients, and as I walk back into the kitchen and think to myself "finally the chicken got the hint and went outside". Apparently not. Just as I am thinking this I hit something with my foot and scream at the top of my lungs, waking up the dormers. I punted, literally sent this chicken flying, across the kitchen.

** I know it's not work related, sorry. **

My Jaja

Yesterday, I met up with Patrick in the Kampala taxi park and we jumped onto a mutatu. After an hour and a half ride, we arrived in our destination- Mitala Maria. I think/hope that some of this got lost in translation, but Patrick told me that Ugandans believe this road to Mitala Maria is the path that brought AIDS to Uganda. Either way, all of the children I met lost their parents to AIDS and their personal status is unknown because there is no money to get them to a hospital for testing. We spent the day visiting some households that RUHU supports financially- and by support I mean 2 or 3 dollars when it can be spared. The households all have a fairly similar story; parents pass away, leaving all the children in the care of the grandparents. Most women in the area have taken in children unrelated to them as well. The primary caretakers of these households are too old to work (many are 70 and upwards, usually women) and the children are too young to help with farming. The women do what they can, but there are too many days where the children go without eating.

One woman in particular lived in a 2 room hut with walls of clay and takes care of 8 children. This past year all three of her children have died of AIDS leaving her with no money and mouths to feed. This woman should have been devastated, outraged, worried about her future, but instead she greeted me with a hug and danced with me. She laughed hysterically when I sat on the floor with her as opposed to the provided bench. When I asked how she finds the courage to take care of so many children, she stated matter-of-factly that there was no one else to do it and she knew she had to. She is known to the kids as Jaja (grandmother) and she laughed and danced with me again as I bade her goodbye, saying "Weeraba Jaja!!".

RUHU goes out to Mitala Maria weekly to meet with the grandmothers and orphaned children, holding counseling sessions and seminars about varying topics. The meetings are held on straw mats in a shady spot under a tree on the property of a jaja who takes care of eleven children. The primary focus of the talks when the kids are in attendance is living positively with HIV, talking about how to remain happy and healthy. More than anything else, these meetings are a way to keep the community united in their battle against HIV/AIDS.

Up With Hope

I am proud to say that in the three days I have been looking, I have found 6 CBO's that are seeking interns and are truly making an impact in their community. All of the sites are going to be considered for the interns next year, but one made a lasting impression on me. It is also the site at which I am going to work at for the remainder of my summer.

The organization is called Raising Up Hope for Uganda (RUHU), and it was founded by a young man named Patrick. Patrick was orphaned as a child, and for years survived on the streets of Kampala with his sister and others like him. As a teen he met an American woman, who was inspired by his story and leased an apartment in Kampala for Patrick and his sister. When he was about sixteen he came across an infant tied up in a sack left to die in a pile of garbage. He felt that this child deserved a chance to live no matter the personal sacrifice on his part. He legally adopted the little girl, thus beginning RUHU. By the time he was 17 years old there were 10 street children living in his apartment. In order to get more children into a safe home Patrick made a huge sacrifice- he turned down the chance at attending university in the US. He asked his sponsor to take the money she would spend on his plane ticket and fees and write a check. He took this money and bought a house on the outskirts of Kampala to house all of his children. In Bulenga, the town in which the orphanage is located, he is affectionately known by all of the villagers as "Uncle Patrick". To even an outsider it is apparent that he is revered in his community for the difference he has made.

RUHU functions primarily as an orphanage, but there are many other ways in which the organization contributes to the community. Next week I am going to experience this firsthand, but from what I am told the founding members go out into the Kampala slums to bring new orpans and at risk children to stay at RUHU. They also go out to a region of Uganda that has a very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and they assist in families who are taking care of orphans. Finally, the orphanage serves as a home schooling site for the children living there. The organization does not have the funding to send the 40 children to school, so two young men are teaching six classes a day. Did I mention that all of the people leading RUHU are all 19 and 20 years old? RUHU is desparate for help, but they are doing some awe-inspiring work. In addition to housing around 40 orphans and vulnerable children, Patrick works with relatives of the children to find them a long term home. Through counseling and persistence, eventually many of the orphans are taken into the homes of Aunts, Uncle, and Grandparents. By finding a permanent home for the children, space is opened up for others in need.

Finding organizations like RUHU makes me wish I had more time in this country to get to know the wonderful people that are making a difference, and assist them in their endeavours. If you get the chance please take a look at their website: http://raisinguphope.wetpaint.com/

As the Ugandans say, "Nice Time!!"

Update from Kasese

I am currently staying in a hostel in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Seth and I have been traveling for the past few days and although we had planned to trek back to Kasese today, we cannot bring ourselves to do it. The six hour bus ride is very hot, bumpy and crowded and we have spent most of this morning traveling on small crowded mutatus to get to the capital. Not looking forward to sticky laminated seats and chickens pecking at our ankles, we have decided to break up our travel and enjoy Kampala for a little while! In the past week we have traveled to Murchison Falls, where we went on safari. While in the park we saw elephants, warthogs, giraffes, antelope, hippos, crocodiles, lions, and much more. We also took a boat ride down the nile river, where we spotted many hippos and took pictures in front of the falls. Following our trip we went to Mukono district for a dinner with one of the organizations that AGRADU works with. The food was wonderful, and we liked the place so much we decided to stay for a day and see the city! After staying in Kyetume for a few days we went down to Katosi, which is a small fishing village in Mukono District. We visited the two girls who are working there, and they showed us around town. We went to Rhea's english class, fed monkeys on Monkey Hill, and took a boat ride with a local fisherman out on Lake Victoria! It was great to see the girls, and totally worth the bouncy rides on the mutatus to get there (mutatus are rickety vans that serve as taxis and ugandans load 20 or more people on them) It has been really interesting to see the other interns CBO's and where they are living. It is also just nice to hang out together, it is a bit of a reminder of home!
So now, Seth and I are relaxing for the day and updating our blogs. Tomorrow we are back to Kasese, and we plan to go to the local schools to begin teaching or tutoring in whatever subjects are needed. One difficulty we have faced in Uganda is that although there are programs for us to work on, they rarely fill our day. In order to take full advantage of my time here I am going to help out in the schools as much as possible in the next few weeks. I am also working with a secondary school on a health program, and with another local organization that supports children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Many of the children have HIV themselves, and they are often teased in school for it and tend to drop out. The organization aims to counsel the children, give them ARV's, pay their school fees, and push them to get an education. I have also recently begun working with the Rwenzori Empowerment Center, an organization that is doing a lot of good work in the area. The organization has an orphanage for street children, a training center for women to learn how to sew and make a living, and a micro-finance program. R.E.C. also pays for landmine victims to travel to proper hospitals and get prosthetic limbs. I am constantly impressed by how many people are working hard to improve lives in this country. I am also surprised at just how kind Ugandans are, and how willing they are to help out whatever the situation.
I suppose that is everything that has been happening for the past few weeks, I am having a great time but also looking forward to getting home. As the weeks progress its funny how much more often the interns talk about foods we miss when we are all together. I will try to post some pictures, but Ugandan internet is quite different than the speeds we are used to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Malaria!!!...and Typhoid??

July 17, 2009
I'm sure you've heard from Mom or Dad that this week has been pretty
rough on me. Finally, it was bad enough
for me to go to a doctor where I found out that I not only had the flu
but I had malaria as well. It was pretty scary and I think it makes it
much worse that I had to run outside to the latrine everytime I felt
naseous. The people here are the absolute nicest my boss called me
multiple times a day and even brought me to her house in Kampala when
I was not getting better in the village. Although the circumstances
were horrible it was amazing to be in her house because she has
running hot water! I can't wait to take a super long shower when I get
home :) (Forget about the water bill Dad!) And everyone else has been
amazing in making me juice and cooking me meals, driving me places so
I don't have to take taxis, and just generally making me feel like I
am cared about and not alone here.

Anyway on Wednesday I went back for another blood test to make sure
that the malaria was gone and as it turns out I still had malaria and
I have typhoid which they missed in the first blood test :( I don't
want you guys to worry because they really do have amazing medicine
for these types of diseases here and I am feeling much better today.
I'm just grateful that I got sick after already being comfortable and
acclimated to this country. Anyway I'm going for a final blood test on
Tuesday and coming home on the next Monday! I can't wait to see you
all :)

Also, being here alone has again made me realize how lucky I am to
have all of you. This is the first time I've been sick that I don't
have Mippi sending me candy, Titia calling me, Kayla yelling at me not
to get her sick, or Mom making me sleep in her bed! I have so many
more stories and cool picture to show you but rather than wasting time
in an email I'll be able to tell you in person soon!

Did a Baboon just steal my breakfast?

June 28, 2009
I had a really awesome weekend which ended unfortunately on a bad
note. I went to Murchison Falls the national park in Northern Uganda
and camped there for 2 days while going on Safaris and cruises down
the nile which was amazing!

Murchison was amazing on the safari the animals get so close like I
could have reached my hand out and pet a lion if I wanted to! And
after we finished I was waiting for the ferry back to the sleeping
camp and like 15 baboons (rafiki from lion king) came out of the woods
and were climbiing on the safari trucks and running around. I went to
throw away a brown bag breakfast that was full of wrapers and a juice
box and before I could put it in the trash a babboon grabbed it out of
my hand! I screamed so loud ahah it was really cool though! I got a
video of it eating my breakfast leftovers which is really funny I'll
have to show you when I get home! The boat ride was really cool also I
saw like 100 hippos and crocodiles and it made me really excited for
two weeks from now when I got to Eastern Uganda, Jinja, the source of
the Nile. I'm going to be white water rafting for 2 days down grade 5
rapids! I can't wait! The falls were really beautiful also I hiked up
to the top and got some really gorgeous pictures!

Camping actually was really fun there was like a tiki hut resturant to
buy food and there were showers and toliets which is more than I can
say for my apartment here! But the camp is in the middle of the game
park so all the time there are warthogs (pumba from lion king!)
wandering around and snorting at you. They are actually really scary
they can smell food from kms away so if you leave food in your tent at
night they charge and tear it apart to eat. The cool part was that the
hippos come up from the nile at night to feed on the trees outside the
tents so at night you can hear them chewing and see their shadows!

I am really thoroughly enjoying my time here now and even though I
miss everyone very much I'm sad that I have to leave in about a month.
Work is going about the same as before I love all the kids I work with
and get really funny questions especially from the older high school
kids. I teach a senior writing class and two guys asked me what kind
of shampoo I use to get my hair to look like this because they were
convinced thta i was born with hair like theirs! They wouldn't believe
me when I said that I was just born different next week I'm taking
them my shampoo to prove that it's not magic!

I'm so sad that I will be missing 4th of July at home with Dad's
delicious grilling! But the US Embassy is throwing a party in Kampala
for all US Citizens and for $10 its dinner drinks and fireworks! I'm
pretty excited to be surrounded by white people for a change. I think
it should be fun. I miss you all so much and can't wait to be at home
with you! I hope you're having fun summers email me!

Me and Obama are the Most Popular Americans?

July 5, 2009
can't believe I come home in three weeks I'm conflicted between
excitement and sadness. I'm already trying to figure out how I can get
another job in Africa next summer because this summer truly has been
the best experience I've ever had!

Teaching this week was great I'm working on the future tense with my
high school kids so I had them write essays about what their lives
will be like in 10 years and one guy said he wants to marry an
American girl because they are pretty like Madam Rhea! But the
funniest one was from this boy Sharif who said that he wants to marry
an American and have two children a boy named Barack Obama and a girl
named Madam Rhea! So as it turns out I'm the equivalent American woman
celebrity. Me and Obama are quite popular here in Uganda!

This last week was really fun it was actually the most American week
I've had yet. On Thursday I came to Kampala because I needed some time
off from work and wanted to spend 4th of July with some friends at the
Embassy party. When I got here I finished my shopping which is amazing
I can't wait to give everyone their gifts all the stuff here is so
cool I'm almost tempted to keep it for myself!

The party at the Embassy was really fun! It was so weird to be
surrounded by white people. I met the US Ambassador to Uganda there
which was really cool because I had never really considered a career
in the state department but talking to him made me think that it might
be something I'm interested in. The burgers which I had been dreaming
about all week were disguisting they tasted like ground up poop :( But
the rest of the food was great potato salad watermelon and brownies!!
I was in heaven. After that my friends Shane, Grace, I decided to
check out the weathly side of Kampala. We figured we did our share of
slumming and were entitled to a little of the good life! We went for
drinks at the top of a rotating resturant which was so cool! It was 15
stories high so we could see all across the city and it was literally
the first time that I've felt like I was inside in a month! After that
we walked around the Golf Course Hotel which is where all the
diplomats stay when they come to Kampala the rooms are $188 a night
which is ridiculous by Ugandan standards!

Anyway we found a lounge with actual leather couches and just sat
there for an hour. I had such culture shock it was so weird to be in a
nice hotel haha we actually had trouble deciding if we wanted to
continue to sit on the couches or go to the casino! It was so nice to
see clean and comfortable things it made me so homesick! Also it made
me realize how integrated I must be into this lifestyle if sitting in
like a Hilton lobby almost made me cry tears of joy! After that we
went to the Simba Casino which was soooo cool since I can't even go in
a Casino at home! We just played the slot machines and I actually won
a couple times but the whole experience was just so surreal. I mean I
was in the middle of Uganda in a casino, with a waiter giving me free
drinks and appetizers!

What is that??? Oh just a 5 foot vulture...

June 14, 2009
I hope everything is going well in the US and everyone is enjoying their summer I know that I certainly am. Being here has made me get rid of a lot of my irrational fears such as getting dirty, killing bugs, sweating, and lizzards. But one thing that certainly has not changed is my fear of birds. Now I'm not as nervous as I used to be about little birds or walking in the same street as a chicken but in Uganda they have these birds which are their versions of the vulture and they are literally an average of 4 feet tall. I thought I was going to have a heart attack the first time I saw one their beaks are the size of my arm and their wingspans are 8 feet. They are the scariest things I've seen so far :(

Other animals are pretty cool thought I'm going to Murchinson Falls in two weeks (a national park) and I hope to see really cool animals like lions there but I see monkeys all the time! I normally buy a banana for breakfast on my way to work and now that it's been a while I walk to work alone (ugh still at least 5 miles everyday through the jungle :/ ) but yesterday I was walking and I was the only one on the path when I looked up and a monkey was staring at me. I got really scared just remembering Mom's stories about mean monkeys in India but it started to walk towards me and I just threw the banana at it and ran! I've never been that close to a monkey in real life looking back it was pretty cool!

A lot of you have emailed me some random questions so here goes...I've been picking a lot of the local language I mean not enough to carry on a conversation but definitely enough to greet people and be polite. Also I know how to say thank you, this was good, and I don't eat liver! I prepare all my own meals sometimes people invite me over for meals but most of the time I just buy vegetables and make stir frys all the time. Let's just say I will never eat another cabbage again after coming home! People offer me food a lot when I come to check their water facilities and since the people here are so poor I feel bad refusing food that is very valuable to them. So I've gotten really good at swallowing. Last week I had to swallow an entire papaya and two pieces of goat liver to be polite! The power goes out probably about everyday or so and it varies for how long. It's really not that bad because I've gotten used to cooking and reading by flashlight but it's annoying because I have a tiny fridge that I use mainly to keep bugs away from food. But the fridge has an ice box which I never use but it's an old fridge so there's no way to turn the ice box off. Basically everytime the power goes out the ice box melts and my apartment floods :( but hey that takes up time so I don't get bored!

Anyway this week I'm only working 2 days because I'm going to visit some friends from UNC in the mountains near Congo so I should be able to email more cool stories on Wednesday or so! Again I hope everything is going well in the US. I miss you all so much and can't wait to come home and see you!

PS-this old lady in my village gave me a Ugandan name! Kisakye (che-saa-che) it means his grace...haha at this point being called anything other than white girl is nice!