Thursday, July 22, 2010

deuces, uganda.

so i would just like to say thanks to all the other "interns" who MAROONED Julia, Regina, Colleen and I in Africa while they went back home to eat cookout milkshakes (Lauren). Just kidding though. I hate you, not really, but kind of. Its just four of us wolves, running around the desert together, in Eastern Africa. Meaning its obvious I am fiending to watch The Hangover.The bombings in Kampala were definitely scary to say the least. The newspapers here were very graphic, and the images made the bombings that much more real. I felt unsafe for a few days afterwards, but when we returned to our village I felt protected by our steadfast jaa jaa (friendly neighborhood grandmother). I seriously don't doubt her ability to stop even nuclear warfare.

Even though our stay was prolonged, the last weekend in our village was a great one. On Friday we went to a school competition, where schools around the area competed in athletic games, to support the kids we teach during the week. Our school made it to finals in girls netball (a rugby/basketball/volleyball like game) and boys soccer. I was so proud, and it was fun cheering on the kids that were playing. Friday night we taught our coworkers the American way to throw a party (which was really 12 people crammed in our small apartment and playing flip cup by candlelight). All in all, it was a great success. Sunday, Regina and I rescued Julia from a cassava stand in our village by delivering her her poncho when it began to hurricane for approximately 17 hours.

The saddest day was the day we told our kids at school goodbye. When they all gathered around to hug me I thought I was going to die. I gave my tennis shoes to a boy in my class that plays on the school soccer team, and the look on his face was priceless. Saying goodbye to my kids and my coworkers was difficult because they were my family this summer, even though I'm excited to come home and see my family in the US. Unfortunately, no emotion hits me until about 3 days later, so instead of crying when I left the school I cried at the end of our bootleg rented copy of Toy Story 3 last night.

Home in two days. So weird. This is the last blog until I get onto American werraba and sula belungi (goodbye and good night)!

goodbye ugandaaaaa

I cant believe i am boarding a plane to leave uganda in 4 days. it really hit me how much im going to miss everything about this country, well not everything especially the latrines but the people yes. We had to say goodbye to our class at the school we teach yesterday and it was the saddest day ive had here. My teacher was amazing and gave me a sign made out of palm leaves that said "regina we love u" and i almost bursted into tears. One of the girls in my class started crying when the teacher told her it was my last day, it was the saddest thing. I love my kids so much and will miss them terribly but hopefully will be able to keep in contact with my teacher and get updates from them. I had them do a project in which they said what their dream was and many of them said lawyer, president, pilot and policemen and women. I am so happy that they have these dreams and hope they accomplish them someday. I learned alot from my teacher about the schooling system of uganda and its amazing how hard it is to go to the university and beyond. But my teacher was very optimistic about the kids in the class which was wonderful because her optimism spread to their determination to do well in school. Overall i never thought i would enjoy teaching but my class proved me wrong. I cant wait to hear about them soon.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

final farewell

Well, it's been a whirlwind of week starting with the bombings here in Kampala.
When I woke up Monday morning, I never expected the series of events that would ensue leading up to today. I didn't find out about the bombings until I opened my email at 8 am and had three emails from the US Embassy. At first I didn't even open them because I figured it was just a reminder to update my contact information or some pointless reminder about living in Uganda. I read all my other emails and then read the first email from the embassy which warned all US citizens to return home because of an "incident" at "the rugby club." The next email had more details about the two bombs and that at least 60 people were confirmed dead.

I spent all day Monday watching the news and reading articles on the terrorist attacks. I researched Al Shabab, the terrorist group from Somalia claiming responsibility for the attacks and listened to the news reports as the death toll slowly climbed higher and higher. Some of my co-workers here at the office lost friends in the explosion and everyone was concerned there would be more bombings.

I emailed friends, family, UNC officials and the Agradu coordinators back home to confirm the safety of all the interns here. Luckily, Scarlet and I are the only two who were in Kampala, and our neighborhood is located on the other side of the city from the sites of the two bombings. Our director assured us that we would be safe where we are, but after talking to my parents and different people from UNC, I have decided that the best course of action is for me to return home early.
It was actually pretty difficult to get my flight changed and Emirates made me jump through tons of hoops to finally get them to put me on a flight on Saturday afternoon. I was hesitant to change my flight right away because I wanted to wait and hear from the Embassy about their stand on the situation, but they have released no other statements since the first Warden's message on Monday releasing basic information about the bombings. After the discovery of a fourth bomb on Monday night at a local nightclub and various bomb scares all over town since then, I feel confident in my decision to leave. I actually went into town yesterday, and it was really weird. It seemed deserted, there were at most half the number of people who are usually out and the traffic was even less than that. Even though there were people were walking around, everyone seemed frightened and very wary of everyone else. Today Avery told me that as she was walking through town with her big backpacking-size backpack that people were asking her (seriously) if she had a bomb in her bag.

It's unfortunate that these are the terms on which I will leave Africa, but I don't think it will greatly tarnish all the memories I have made. I will miss Uganda, especially all the people who I have become friends with over the past two months. Rehema and Vaal gave birth to their babies today (Vaal had a boy, Ethan, and Rehema had a baby girl!) I was looking forward to seeing more of the newborns and hanging out with George and Immaculate at the office. It's been a busy 2 months here; full of grant writing, research, and intern projects. We successfully built tippy-taps, enhanced local sanitation clubs in Katosi and helped train women members of KWDT in book-keeping management and team-building. I've learned a lot being here and had some crazy cultural experiences, too many to count. Living in a foreign country where you are the only white person is an adventure everyday. Just going out to buy vegetables for dinner turns into a performance as children rush out of their houses to stare as you walk by. As much matooke and bananas as I've eaten here, it may be awhile before I even think about anything banana, but for some reason I think that I will actually one day miss it (unclear exactly when that may be)

I'm coming home laden with Uganda items and crafts and tons of pictures of all my experiences. I can't wait to see family and friends and have ice cream and strawberries and blueberries. It's been a fabulous experience Uganda, for my first trip to Africa, you didn't do too bad.

it's been real Uganda

SO in a strange turn of events in the ever changing world that is Africa, I find myself abruptly leaving Uganda tomorrow, 8 weeks after I first got here.

I'm still slightly shocked with the turn of events that has happened since last Monday morning. After the Sunday night bombings in Kampala, it became the consensus between interns, parents, and UNC that we should not remain in Uganda after our internship ends, which corresponded in many scuffles with airline agencies, and everyone's changed their flights so that the last of us leave the 26th. Because of my tickets, I unfortunately could only get on a flight that leaves tomorrow, putting me state-side Saturday morning.

It's one thing to prepare yourself to leave for weeks, it's another to find out your leaving and have about 12 hours to say all your good-byes. I honestly didn't realized how attached I'd grown to Katosi, to my students, my favorite food vendors, the starry nights, shouts of "byyy-eeee mzungu", and all other aspects of the village life until I was suddenly forced with the realization that I would be leaving. This morning, Colleen and I woke up before dawn and walked to the top of the large hill to watch my last African sunrise (and we weren't disappointed...80 pictures of glowing pink blobs proves it). Without trying to sound too cliche, or corny, I'm not sure if I can describe how much my time here has affected me. Coming to Uganda to work with the KWDT, I was full of certain ideas and expectations, most of which were shattered and disproved (mostly for the better, but not always). I don't think anyone can tell you what it's like to be thanked multiple times by teachers, who work for barely any pay, 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, when your contribution feels like nothing in comparison to what they do each day. I wish I could stay for much longer, but at least I'm leaving with the certainty I'll be back. Sorry for the cheesy retrospective thoughts, but I can't think of another way to talk about how important my time here with the KWDT and all the people I've met has been to me.

Tomorrow I get on a plane, head back to air conditioning, and in a few weeks start planning for next year's AGRADU interns. While I wish I could just come again instead of picking new interns, I can't wait to let another 9 UNC students get to experience Uganda for themselves, and hope it affects them every bit as it did me. As the Ugandans say, "safe journey".


I'm Leaving soon??

It's hard to believe that I'm leaving in less than 2 weeks. It feels like just yesterday that I arrived here and now it's already almost time to say goodbye. I have grown to love this place and the people I have met so much, and it will be very, very hard to say goodbye.
However, despite the tragedy that happened in Kampala this weekend, I am trying to make the best out of my remaining days at work. Today was my second to last day teaching at Kyetume SDA Primary School and was my favorite day thus far. The kids rarely get to do anything "artsy," so yesterday I went to Mukono and bought each of the kids in my class a pack of colored pencils. Today, they used to pencils, which they were thrilled about, to illustrate their dreams for the future. All of the kids wrote a few sentences about what they want to be when they grow up and then drew a picture of it. It was so cute to see the different responses. One girl wants to be the president of Uganda so that she can "make everyone happy." Another wants to be a policeman to "keep the law and order in Uganda and protect the people." They loved getting to tell me all about their future plans, and it was so interesting to hear them. Tomorrow the school is having its annual field day, which is a competition among local schools in various sports. I can't wait to go watch the kids and cheer them on.
Today we are also going to finish the necklaces and bracelets we have been making with the women's group. I've made a million beads, so it will be nice to finally turn them into something.
Things are winding down and it's starting to hit me how much I've learned about the world and myself this summer. I am ten thousand times more appreciative for the things I used to take for granted (i.e. a warm shower, clean water, pencils for school, shoes to wear..) and have a renewed passion for doing what I can to help make this world a little bit better. This might all sound somewhat corny and cliche, but this summer has truly meant the world to me.

Intern Project Rocks 3 (Scarlet’s P4P)

On July 5th, Lauren and I went to Katosi again to complete my intern project. My intern project, Postcard for Progress, is to basically build up the initial art and postcard exchange for the students in Rwanda and Uganda(it is like a pen pal thing) . I and my partner in Rwanda acting as on-site coordinators collected around 60 postcards and songs from students and distributed those postcards and CDs to the other. In the last time we get to Katosi, Heidi and I have already talked to the teachers in Katosi C/U Primary School and Trio Primary School. They welcomed us very much to carry out the project in their schools. This time we brought the project description, Letter of Introduction, postcards, markers and music-recorder to these two schools. In Katosi C/U Primary School, Christopher, the teacher we communicated with, had already asked 25 students to prepare for their favorite songs. After we got there, 25 student had already gathered in a classroom, Lauren and Colleen helped me to guild them to create their postcards and I recorded their songs. It was a perfect first-time experience. Students there drew great pictures and write lovely introductions about themselves. The day after, we went to Trio Primary School. With the experience last time, the project went on smoothly. In total we collect 54 postcards and we are going to put them into CDs. We intended to bring some CDs back to these two schools as well as their pen pals in Rwanda. We will leave some envelops and postages for them to write letter to their pen pals in the future. Hope the students can continue their connection with their pen pals after we set up the initial exchange!


Intern Project Rocks 1 (Lauren’s)

On June 29th, Lauren did her awesome intern project in the women meeting in Kampala. This was a meeting about record keeping. Lauren managed a trust building activity and awarded three good women record-keepers bio-sand filter. In the trust building activity we played a game called mine field. Let me explain this game first. Objects are scattered in an indoor or outdoor place. In pairs, one person verbally guides his/her partner, whose eyes are closed or blindfolded, through the "minefield". The challenge is for each blind-folded person to walk from one side of the field to the other, avoiding the "mines", by listening to the verbal instructions of their partners. After we put all “mine” on the ground, we got to show the how to play this game. I, the “blind”, followed Lauren’s instructions to cross the field. I was a little bit scared after Lauren blindfolded my eyes since I felt so insecurity within a totally dark and unfamiliar environment. And actually that is what this game emphasize, although you are in an unfamiliar environment, trust your partner and follow her instruction and then you can cross those mine. It was really funny to watch a “blind” girl avoiding stepping on the mine. Every time I following Lauren’s instruction skipped a mine, those women would burst into laugher. It is such a lovely game that every women wanted to try it. After almost every women play this mine field game, Lauren gave a speech about trust and leadership. Rehema commented that it was really a successful project. In the past when women had meeting, when one had a negative and distrustful comment, it would disappoint and distracted the goal in the whole group. After this meeting those women should learn a lot about trusting other and respecting others’ ideas.


Our daily life

So after 4 weeks Lauren and I have already been accustomed to our office life and find a routine to follow everyday. Wake up at 7:30 and usually have some bread and butter for breakfast. Go to work around 8:30. Check email fist and them continue working on grant application. Once we finish an application, we will go to search on new grants. These days we are really productive and finished lots of application on their rainwater-harvesting project and women leadership project. We usually have lunch at 13:30 and finish our daily work around 5(obviously this week is a busy week, Margaret, Rehema and Vaal usually did not leave until 7 everyday.). Time after work everyday is my favorite part. We usually go for a walk and buy some vegetable to cook for dinner. After 4 week our neighbors finally get accustomed to 2 muzungus walk around every day. They finally did not stare at us as if we are two pumas escaping from a zoo.
After going for a walk, we go back for a rest in the office and then star to cook our dinner. Even thought I’d stayed in America for a whole year and I was craving for Chinese food so much, I never thought of cooking or tried to cook. It is such a surprise that I learn how to cook in Uganda during my internship. So far I have cooked lettuce, eggplant, fried rice and I’m sure you won’t try anything I cooked after you see them, but still, I survive by those food I cook. After dinner, we go surfing on internet a little bit and went or sleep at 11:00 or 12:00. that’s our typical day in Uganda.


Grant writing can be legit

In the beginning of this week we saw our coordinator Margaret. She just came back from French. I thought after Margaret came back we may change our job and have something other than grant writing to do. However Margaret did not assign us any new work but just asked us to keep working on what we’re working before. At first I’m a little bit frustrated since any English writing cannot arouse my interest. However things changes after I finished several grant applications. I felt really fulfilling that I’m making contributions to KWDT! And when we get mission completed, I feel really proud of myself (yay lol)! So far I have finished the Ford Foundation Fund inquire and Open Society grant application and now working on Open Meadow Fund. Because of writing applications we need to writing bunch of background information and example proposals. Now I get familiar with so many different projects. I enjoy my job very much!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


the bombings this sunday were a shock to us all. Thank goodness all of us were safe but the pictures and newspapers made it seem hard to believe that all was well for the citizens of kampala. It was a suprise to know that these were acts of terrorism and that 74 people were killed. I wanted to cry seeing the pictures of people in the bombings and one of my coworker's friend was a victim in this tragedy.
Its also sad to know that im now leaving in less than two weeks. As I was talking to the people I work with and our "mom" here, it really hit me that I was going to be leaving this country that I have grown to love so soon. I dont really know what to feel since I am excited to go home to see my family yet sad to leave since there is still so much to do. It's a bittersweet emotion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kampala bomb blasts

If you follow international news you may already know this information.
Last night, two bombs went off in Uganda's capital, Kampala. The bombings were at two bars where people were gathered to watch the final match of the 2010 World Cup. At least 64 people are confirmed dead and many others are injured. Police are still investigating the source of the attacks, though the largest suspect is a group called Al Shabab, a terrorist group from Somali that has threatened Uganda in the past.

All of the interns are safe. Scarlet and Lauren were the only two in Kampala at the time and their house is safely located on the other side of Kampala in a suburb at least 20 minutes away from the bombing sites. We are still waiting to hear from UNC and from the US Embassy if it is safe for Americans to remain in Uganda.

I wanted to let you all (friends and family) know that we are all safe and no one is any immediate danger.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

shake n bake, baby

Basically our cheer for this entire weekend, the reason why will remain unsaid. We are back in Jinja this weekend for the World Cup finals (go Spain!), and yesterday we saw Bujagali Falls in the Nile River.

This past week has been chill, but fun. We learned to make beads out of strips of magazine paper with the women that gather every Thursday at the resource center. I've been a bead making fiend for the past five days; its a little bit addicting. Sweet, now I'm a bead junkie. Better than any other kind of junkie, I suppose. It's quite aggravating and stressful when they start coming unraveled, but I'm improving. The women that gather are so cute, it reminds me of a Ugandan style book club/ dinner club, like the ones my mom and grandma are in.

On Friday night we had "girls night," and our 11 year old, 12 year old, and 7 year old neighbors came over to do hair and read magazines. They are seriously the greatest. We can't even really understand each other but we just laughed and sang and danced the whole time. Well...they sang. If I had tried to sing the small village children would have probably began crying.

Two more weeks in Africa; I can barely believe its almost over. I'll be happy to be home but I'll also miss the feeling of being here. It's so calm and beautiful, no one is ever in a rush and the stress level is always at a minimum (unless you are me, in which case you turn what most people would call a tranquil activity, such as bead making, into a stressful experience). Leaving is going to be bittersweet. 8 weeks, 5 pounds, and a couple of battle scars later, I've changed a lot inside and out.

Cheeseball cheesebal cheeeeeseeeballllllll, is what I am. I need to do something hardcore soon.

bead it!

this week I learned how to make paper beads! there is a group of women that comes into the resource center every thursday to get together and make beads to turn into beautiful jewelry. At first when we sold the beads in chapel hill it amazed me how they were made of paper but now when i actually saw them making it, it really was a beautiful process. They cut up the strips of paper from maps and magazines and cut them with an angle to make the beads more round or long. The lady Christine that was teaching us had been making beads for years and was very nice and patient with us as we were carefully learning how to roll the paper.
I ended up making beads for hours and going back to the village and cutting magazines to try it out some more on my own. It is a very relaxing process and I felt very accomplished that I actually made them on my own. Hopefully my mom and family will appreciate it when they get it as their christmas gifts:)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Zhank-you vaaaary much!

So this isn’t really work related, but it is a typical day-in-the-life story, so I thought I’d share.

Today in Katosi, Colleen and I decided to go for a run on our normal route up to the top of the cell phone tower hill. As we start to leave Mama Gertrude’s compound, we notice that there’s a lot more noise than normal coming from the streets. When we poke our heads out the main door, we notice that about 50 meters down the road there’s a huge swarm of people jumping and dancing to tribal drum music while pumping sticks up and down in the air. Perplexed, but hey, it’s Africa so not entirely surprised, we decide to do what we’ve become used to doing and just act like it’s business as normal.
Quick background, my runs here in Uganda are anything but normal. As a mzungu girl in running shorts, I’m going to get attention no matter what I’m doing, but me jogging just seems to be the greatest entertainment since color TV to some locals. So, a typical run will usually entail the women in hysterics, boda boda drivers honking and cheering, and my own personal fleet of barefoot runners aged three to ten trailing in my wake. So, that’s a typical jog.
Today, however, the Bagishu’s (a local tribe) street celebration added a new level of fun. Colleen and I slowly approach the festivities, trying our best to remain as inconspicuous as possible (which is actually impossible). Before I can comprehend what’s happening, I’ve been enveloped by a mass of people wearing banana-leaf hats and skirts, fist pumping with sticks, and doing a sort of African hip-dance. Lost beyond belief, I turn around to search for Colleen, and to even greater shock when I turn back around I have now been approached by the band (which includes drummer, dancer, and numerous other instruments). Now surrounded, people are chanting and encouraging me, the mzungu in jogging clothes, to start dancing and jumping. I fall into hysterical laughter and slowly try and extricate myself from the crowd. About sixty seconds after the entire episode began, Colleen and I find ourselves on the other side of the crowd, shrug off the incident, and take off for business as usual.
What was this celebration, you may wonder? As Mama later informed us, it was the tribe’s circumcision celebration. As an endnote, here’s an enlightening Ugandan statistic: 73% of the time, I have no idea what’s going on.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

green chickens?

I cannot believe we only have a couple more weeks left in uganda, it makes me really sad to think about it. Sometimes i still cannot believe im here and every morning i wake up to a rooster it hits me. I am so excited that we have water again in our village! I definitely realized how I take running water for granted and that I cannot live taking bucket showers. As I was talking to my mom about it. it made me realize how many people in the world live without the basic necessities that we take for granted such as electricity and water every day.

On a lighter note, Im still teaching primary 2 for the kyetume sda primary school and today i learned to never give kids stickers. They went absolutely nuts with the stickers. I'm not sure they have ever had stickers before because they wanted every single sticker I had. It was so much fun seeing how much they loved putting stickers all over eachother and their faces.
Oh and on my way to work me and jules saw green chickens. It was very strange but our conclusion was that the owners dyed it to distinguish their chickens from the rest.

The Eets-Beets Spider

After arriving home from a fun weekend in Entebbe/Kampala it was wonderful to find that water is back in Bukasa! woooo!
Every one has already talked all about the safari, so I don't need to say too much, but it was amazing! I had been dreaming of going on a safari for the good part of my 19 years on earth and last weekend it finally happened... The only thing we missed was a lion, but we saw every thing else!
Last week I got a mild case of malaria, which put a slight damper on things. I felt pretty sick for a couple days, but because I have been taking my malarone, it wasn't too bad. Besides my sickness, we had a good week at work. We taught, as usual, and worked on a newsletter for Kyetume CBHC. Even though the computer program we used was pretty frustrating, I had a lot of fun designing and organizing the newsletter. I was on the newspaper staff all 4 years in high school, so it's always been something that I've enjoyed doing.
This weekend was awesome. We went to Aero Beach with our "mom" and a 4 year old that lives near where we work named Tracy. They both were thrilled to take a day trip, and we all really enjoyed it, too. After a day at the beach we went to Kampala for the Fourth of July! I got all of my gift shopping done and am really excited about the things I got. I don't think I'm cut-throat enough for the markets... I am a bit of a push over when it comes to prices, so it was nice to have people like Regina around to help me with the whole bartering thing :).
This morning I taught my P4 class again. Their teacher was sick with malaria, so I basically was on my own for 4 hours. She wanted me to teach them a song, so I went with "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," and the kids loved it. It was SO funny to hear them try and pronounce the words "Itsy" and "Bitsy" (it came out as "eets-beets"), and they thought it was even more funny to hear me try and sing the high notes.
Afterwards, I taught them their science lesson, which was about interdependence among animals. As part of my lesson on predators and prey, I let them draw pictures of different predator/prey relationships. I didn't realize how excited they would be to have some sort of creative outlet and it was very interesting to see the different creativity levels. One kid, who the teacher has clearly identified as one of the slower kids in class, drew an amazing picture and clearly mastered the ideas of parasites, predators, and prey by being able to draw them and see a visual representation. Kids all learn in such different ways, and it is a shame that many schools don't have the materials necessary to meet the different needs of these different learning styles.
Later on today we are going to get the paint for the clinic and will hopefully start painting tomorrow. I will try to update this again later on this week, but only one computer at work has internet, so it's pretty hard to update as often as I want to.

Monday, July 5, 2010

blog happy

so even though i just posted yesterday i figured i would post again because i am officially the worst blogger of all time and i always forget to do it. in continuation to rhea's story from last year...5 foot vultures do exist. a couple weeks ago when the kyetume girls were in jinja we saw one, whose beak that is the size of my entire body and was dripping with a very sinister looking liquid. all the animals here are supersized, including cockroaches, jumping spiders, and swarms of honey bees.

there is no longer any running water in bukasa, therefore im learning very quickly how it feels to take the luxurious "bucket shower." not the greatest feeling in the world. not showering for five days is also not so great. but in a sort of twisted way, im actually glad im getting the full african experience, even with the sacrifice of my personal hygiene. i better have excellent arm tone after carrying jerrycans full of water up from the well.

project paint the clinic is a go; everyone at work was really excited about the idea. we agreed on a light tan for the walls and a pretty bright green for the trim around the bottom. wearing a huge painting jumpsuit...not my best look, but you cant really have any fashion faux pas here (i.e: the cargo pantaloons i own, the green poncho size XXL given to me by my father dearest, julia's turtle-esque one piece bathing suit from 1985, etc.).

4th of July was fun, although i forgot how to party like an American. i'll need to get back in the groove when i come back to US soil. im going to discontinue blogging now before i start posting more lame words like "groove." I spent about 479237423 dollars/shillings at the craft market this weekend, but i love buying gifts....and what better way to spend money than in a real african craft market? sorry dad. the shopoholic girl in me comes out even in a 3rd world country.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

tippy taps, stars, and a rhino named obama

Last week was one of the best weeks in Uganda so far! Avery and I helped start a sanitation and health club at the school we have been teaching at, St. John Bosco. Most of the schools in Uganda have Sanitation Clubs, but St. John Bosco is a school for orphans, and they don't have much extra money to dedicate to clubs and things like that, even though sanitation is so important!

Anyway, so we asked the P4 (fourth grade) teacher if he thought a sanitation club would be a good idea, and if he did, if he would be willing to be the lead teacher of the club. He agreed! But first we had to see if the students were interested, which they were (about 75 out of 80 kids in the 3rd and 4th grade wanted to join!), and then we had to get the approval from the headmaster and the elder of the school since we don't want to be imposing anything on the school. The headmaster was really open to the idea, but the elder was a little worried that we would be taking away too much classtime from the students (which is definitely understandable!). But we compromised so that we take a little class time each week, and a little of their break time each week for anyone that wants to to meet for sanitation club!

Our first project was to build tippy taps, which are really cool contraption things that are an easy and clean way for kids to wash their hands (it is basically a can of water hanging from a structure of sticks, attached to a string and piece of wood that act like a pedal). St. John Bosco only had one bucket of dirty water for over 300 students to wash their hands before our tippy tap project started. Now they have five clean places to wash their hands! First, we demonstrated how to build a tippy tap and everyone watched quietly and attentively while Teacher Martin translated for us. Then we divided the students into groups with each of the four interns as the leaders (it was a little chaotic at first, since there were like 80 kids!). We sent them to collect sticks, dig holes in the ground so the sticks could stand up, and tie string to the water can to make a pedal. It ended up taking only about 30 minutes to build four tippy taps!

The students probably never really needed our help in the first place; they just needed some guidance and resources. Everyone, even kids, are so resourceful here and they can pretty much figure out how to do anything they need to do (one group even invented a drainage system for the extra water, and the boys used the leftover sticks to builds their own soccer goals!). Everyone seemed really excited to participate, it was one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of. It helped that we gave the students some incentives, like for my intern project called Kicks for Katosi I am going to give out shoes to the students who participate most actively in Sanitation Club. I really like my shoe idea, especially because last year the interns gave kids shoes based on their grades in school (eek!!). But I am also a bit worried about having to decide who to give shoes to! Teacher Martin said he would pay attention to who was participating and tell me who to give shoes to, and I plan on leaving some shoes so that next term when I am gone the students that work hard can still get shoes. still though, i dont think i can give shoes to just a few kids, i wish i had enough money to buy 80 pairs of shoes!! I am applying for a grant from an American youth organization that gives out $500 every week, but if I dont get it, i am going to have to figure something else out. Any ideas???

Anyway, I thought the Tippy Taps were really successful! By the end of the day, everyone was using them because the big kids had taught the little kids how to use them too! Now perhaps the kids will go home and build Tippy Taps for their families and communities to use! This week for sanitation club, we are going to start school gardens so that students can grow their own food and eat it for lunch! The week after that, we are going to paint murals about the importance of health and sanitation. At the end of the summer, Avery and I are going to type up a booklet with instructions for a lot of sanitation projects and donate them to as many schools as possible in Katosi. I hope it goes well!

That night after the tippy taps, Lauren, Avery and I celebrated by looking at the stars! The stars are seriously SO beautiful in Katosi, I honestly felt like I was at the Morehead Planetarium. We could see the southern cross, which is apparently like the big dipper of the southern hemisphere (even though we are not quite in the southern hemisphere..?), and we could even see the bands of the milkyway! Um, and this is even cooler...we could see satellites rotating around the earth! The look basically like stars, but they are just moving slowly and steadily across the sky. It was a pretty baller night!

Oh yeah, and last weekend I went on a safari in Murchison Falls National Parks. Everything was absolutely awesome, aside from the tsetse flies that were biting us (they really really hurt!). We saw waterfalls and a lot of really cool animals like hippos, giraffes, elephants, and leopards! Then we went rhino tracking, where we had to walk through the grassland/jungle and search for two rhinos, one of which was named obama! The baby rhino we saw was named obama because his rhino mother was from Animal Kingdom/Disneyworld in America and his rhino father was from kenya. Just like the president obama's mom was from the US and dad was from Kenya! I wonder if Obama know he has a kick-ass rhino in Uganda named after him...?!

pick which one doesnt belong: bathroom, toothbrush, hippo.

soooo about the safari. it was literally one of the greatest experiences of my life. however, it turns out every time you wanted to use the restroom in the middle of the night you actually couldnt because huge hippos roam around and grunt outside your tent at night. and in the brochure for the safari it warned "not to call the emergency contact if you encounter a hippo because there is really nothing we can do about it." this upset me, because i feel like people that are constantly around creatures that apparently kill more people on land each year than crocodiles or wild cats should at least have a hippo reference book for situations such as these. if i came face to face with a hippo you better freaking believe i would have called that emergency contact faster than you can say " citrus fanta." it was also difficult to use the restroom because there were huge monsoons/ mini hurricanes that swept through the red chili safari camp every night. welcome to the wild wild west (well, east, technically).

anyways, the safari game drive was amazing. we saw tons of animals, and my two favorites, elephants and giraffes, were literally ten feet away from our van. i had to stare and drool like an idiot tourist for a good thirty seconds before i even caught my breath enough to take a picture. in the beginning i was a little overzealous about any animal i saw and so now i have about 20 million pictures of a guinea fowl (a small bird that waddles awkwardly...not so different from myself). we took a boat ride on the nile up to Murchison falls, which is one of the more scary and powerful waterfalls ive seen, and saw crocodiles, a ton of cool african birds, and even MORE hippos. plus, i got to hang out with a rhino mom and her baby. all in all, this was probably my favorite african experience so far.

tonight im ready to rep america and celebrate my country's independence 4,000 miles away. should be a good time. Happy 4th!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Good Evening, Madame Everine, Ah-vry....Avery?"

Greetings from Katosi!

Exciting things are happening this week in Katosi at St. John Bosco Primary School! We had our first official Sanitation and Health Club meeting on monday and had about 80 kids attend and sign up to be in the club!! Tomorrow, we're starting our first project and building tippy taps!! Tippy taps are hand washing stations that are pretty basic but let the kids wash their hands after they go to the bathroom, so I'm really excited to get those implemented. Lauren and Scarlette-the two KWDT interns that work in the Kampala offices, are coming tonight to help us build the tippy taps tomorrow! I can't wait, everyone at the school seemed really excited to get them built!

Life in Katosi is still great, but no signs that electricity is returning any time soon! (can you believe it Mom- 4 weeks sans electricity, doing pretty good eh?) Colleen and I have our little routine carved out and have gotten to know some of the different shops/stands, etc. We have our regular chipatti man that usually gives us a discount or free mandazi, Rachel, the world's most precious 3 year old that waits for us to walk by so she can run out and shake our hands, and finally there are enough kids that know us to call us "madame" when they see us instead of screaming "MZUUUUNGU!", which is a pretty nice change.

We went for a run yesterday to the top of the cell tower hill- and had a whole procession of kids run with us! By the time we reached the top, 6 of the kids had stayed with us and sat in our laps once we got to the top. It was one of the cutest things I've ever witnessed. It's going to be a change running at home without having my little support group behind me!

For the 4th of July, myself and some of the other interns are going to attend the American Embassy's 4th party in Kampala- pretty exciting! Hoping for a meet and greet with the ambassador, but who knows! Can't believe we have less than 4 weeks of our internship remaining! Until next time!


intern project, COMPLETE

It is Monday evening, 6:31 pm. And my intern project is complete! (well, almost)

Today we had a successful training for some of the leaders of the women's groups, 12 out of 13 came, 2 representatives from each. Our agenda was somewhat delayed due to a storm that hit this morning, right as we were about to get under way. All twenty four participants were shuffled inside into the garage and other random rooms. We all took "tea time", which consisted of tea and butter sandwiches (literally, bread and butter. I made them)

After the rain subsided, all the chair were moved outside again under a tent, which was there in case of more rain, but more to protect the women from the hot sun that eventually moved in. Rehema then talked to them about the program for the day and gave a talk on good records keeping. Vaal then spent most of the morning going over detailed examples of how to keep records on milk production, cows, loan payback, meeting minutes and project reports. When the workshop was over, everyone was divided into four groups and then their reports were analyzed in detail. This analysis was used to rank the book keeping ability of each of the groups and their records management. Using this information, the top three women's' groups were awarded bio-sand filters as an incentive for the other groups to improve their book keeping.

Rehema translated for me when I talked to them about the bio-sand filters and the importance of keeping good records in order to properly document current and future projects. Afterwards, I carried out a trust building activity with the women called "Mine Field." I set up some obstacles on the floor of the garage to create an obstacle course. The women were then partnered with the other participant from their respective group and one of them was blindfolded. Their partner then had to direct the blindfolded person across the "mine-field" without knocking over any of the obstacles. It sounds simple, but culture gaps make explanation difficult and I wasn't sure how grown Ugandan women would respond to such a seemingly trivial game.

The activity was a great success! While the women were hesitant at first, after seeing the first group of 3 pairs go across, they all were eager to participate. Everyone was laughing and enjoying the activity. After everyone had gotten a chance to be blindfolded we had a short de-brief where we discussed the lessons learned and how to apply the game to daily group interaction. The women took a lot away from the activity and many of them said they learned patience, listening skills and how to trust their partners. I was very impressed at their level of interaction and with the comments they had about the lessons they learned.

I used my intern funds to pay for the bio-sand filters and the transport of each filter to the respective women's groups as well as for 13 bags and folders to help the women keep their records organized. Everyone is exhausted from the long day and now we are planning to go to Katosi tomorrow afternoon to stay the night so that we can help Avery with her project on Wednesday building tippy taps!

Monday, June 28, 2010

it's just another manic monday

Today is Monday and we are hosting a "Book Keeping and Records Management" workshop here at the Kampala KWDT office. 24 women from 12 of the women's groups are here for training on how to do efficient book keeping and we are checking up on all of their records for milk production, member registration, loan payback, meeting minutes and report writing. After lunch, some of the participants will share their experiences and we will examine some case studies and group reports. The final activity is a trust building game that I am putting on.

The leadership meeting last week went well, but we moved my presentation of the bio-sand filters to today so that we could judge the groups book keeping from today's meeting. After the activity, I will announce the best 3 women groups that will be awarded with bio-sand filters. The filters themselves are not here for me to hand over because they are built out in the field, but I will be announcing the recipients here and hopefully get to go out to Katosi later in July to distribute them.

Here's today's schedule!

Break tea
Welcoming remarks & Recap: Introduction to good records keeping
Group discussion / Review of records

Members data book
Registration book in meetings
Milk records
Cow records
Minutes book
Report writing

Lunch break
Sharing of experiences: 3 case studies
Comments on group reports
Trust Building activity and awarding best groups

On wednesday, Scarlet and I are planning to go out to Katosi to help Avery with her intern project, building tippy taps at St. John's Bosco school!

Friday, June 25, 2010

"It's my life...mind yo business!"

I've been out of the US for a whole month! It's hard to believe. I'm going to be in shambles when I have to leave all of my babies, but I'm super excited to reach the halfway mark.

Here are some photos :

Matthew: the most stubborn baby in the world. So precious!
Joseph, just woken up from a nap....or about to take one. He and Matthew are getting adopted by a couple in Kansas in a few months. Cute!

Josephine, Junior, Stephanie (Harvard Volunteer), Sumaya, (Blessherheart I forgot her name), Miranda, and Becky outside of Ken (Director of New Hope)'s houseKen's House (aka "The Big House"). Pretty baller for Uganda. Just sayin.

Avery, Regina, RANDOM KID WITH A UNC SHIRT (GO HEELS), Emily, Julia, and Miranda in Jinja!Our typical Lunch: Rice, Potatoes, Matoke (green bananas, basically), and avocado.
Some of the kids in the Resource Center playing with coloring books
That's it for now. Bye-ee!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

leetle babies

today was my first day teaching at a school near the resource center and the children were absolutely adorable. I started off observing and helping the teacher of the "baby" class which was basically kids around 5 years old. Although the classroom was chaotic, some of the babies loved to run up to me touch my hand and then giggle as if i was a very strange creature. In the end they all left saying "goodbye madam regina" which broke my heart and i cant wait to go back next week to see them. I never realized how hard it was to try to teach especially children that young and i respect my elementary school teachers even though i thought they were horrible.
After lunch we are going to an outreach immunization clinic which hopefully i can learn to give immunizations myself. ive never gone to this village before so im very excited!

Last Week's Failed Post

This weekend Avery, Jamila, Miranda, Emily, Regina and I went to Jinja to watch the opening rounds of the World Cup together and explore the town that is known as “The Source of the Nile.” It was wonderful. We were let off of work a little bit early on Friday and caught a mutatu so that we could get there by the start of the first game.
We stayed at a little place called “Explorers Backpackers,” a popular hostel for foreigners stopping in Jinja. There were people from all over the world there and it was really interesting to hear about all of the different experiences that other foreigners are having during their stay in Uganda. Watching the World Cup there was unbelievable; even being on the same continent that the tournament is hosted on is truly wonderful.
After watching a couple of games on Friday, we spent our Saturday exploring and relaxing in the sun, which I got a bit too much of. Sunday we went to Bugadali falls with and watched all of the rafts go down the rapids.
The first couple weeks of work were a bit disorganized, but things are starting to fall into place. It’s hard adjusting to working here because there is a lot of downtime and things rarely work out as planned. However, with unreliable internet, power, and transportation, things can’t always work out perfectly and that’s just something that I am having to adjust to. We talked to our boss and let him know what we wanted to work on, so our weeks should start to be a bit busier. We will be doing more home visits and field work for the Orphan Support Programme and HIV counseling and will be making more visits to schools to help teach.
It’s hard to believe that we have already been here for 3 weeks because the time is flying by. This week we have 3 microfinance/OVC visits planned, a couple visits to Health Clubs at schools, and immunizations to do at the clinic. On Friday, some of the interns (hopefully all) are going to Fort Portal, a small, scenic town at the base of the Rwenzori mountains.

Last Week

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jagala Chapatti

After a couple weeks of horrible internet connections, I am finally able to post again! Last week after we got back from a weekend trip to Jinja, we had a great week at work. We re-did posters at the clinic, went to Hillside High for health club, and went on 2 full-day microfinance/OVC home visits with david.
Health club is always very interesting and eye opening. The club discusses a variety of topics, including cross-generational sex, abortion, poverty, and STD prevention. It's hard to participate in many of the discussions because the culture here is so different and the health concerns are very different. For example, in Uganda abortion is considered a sin against god, as one club member put it. When they asked for our opinion on the topic, we had to explain that in America abortion is a very controversial topic and talked about the different views that people have back home. While I love learning about the different views in Uganda, some of the teaching tactics are pretty frustrating. STDs and HIV are a fairly large problem here, so the fact that most schools only teach about abstinence and not safe sex is clearly not the most effective approach.
On Thursday, Regina and I went with David on more home visits. It was so interesting to see how Kyetume's microfinance program has helped so many people, families and businesses obtain the resources they need to get their businesses off the ground. We met several brick makers, a woman who tailors, and several families that mainly focus on farming. It's awesome to see how far small amounts of money can go for these people. For example, the woman who tailors used her grant money from Kyetume to buy her very own sewing machine and plans to use to machine to teach other women how to start their own tailoring businesses. The sewing machine itself is only about $125 USD but will help improve the lives of dozens of people.We're learning more and more Lugandan, so it's fun to try and hold basic conversations with people we meet.
After work on thursday, we headed to Fort Portal, a small town at the base of the Rwenzori mountains, for the weekend with several of the other interns. We watched the world cup (go USA!) and spent all day saturday biking, hiking and sight-seeing. Even though the bikes were pretty pathetic, it was an amazing day. The view that we saw from the top of a huge hill was breathtaking and may have been my favorite moment of my time in Uganda thus far.
This week we've got several school visits planned (yay!) and more health clubs, clinical work, and home visits. This weekend is our SAFARI, which I have been waiting for since the moment I saw Lion King as a 4 year old.

I have a post from last week that I wasn't able to upload, so I'll add that later.

hating on potholes.

So, despite being in a bus on literalllyyyy the bumpiest roads of all time for a 10 hour round trip, hiking/biking through the Rwenzori mountains definitely made breaking my tailbone worth it. This weekend we went to Fort Portal, a town in the mountains, and we went on a tour through caves, a waterfall, and crater lakes. All of us had the most amazing view of the Rwenzoris near the end of the hike, on the top of a huge hill (could have been attacked by a swarm of killer bees living nearby, but hey). My lack of athleticism really showed when I could barely move any of my limbs after the 16 mile trek. Although the bikes were made in approximately 1995 and were slightly ghetto, this mountain trip was one of the the most fun I have ever been on. I was so proud of all the interns for sticking through the whole thing.

Sorry Blue Ridge Mountains, the Rwenzori Mountains definitely pwn you.

Tomorrow, the Kyetume girls are going to our first primary school of the summer to teach kids English, Math, and Health Science. When we went to visit earlier today, all of the kids rushed to the office to greet us. They looked so happy I almost cried. Leave it to me to post another corny blog, but I'm really looking forward to teaching a few days a week for the remainder of the summer. We are also looking into painting a mural on one of the schools and repainting the clinic I work in. Who would have thought a bunch of science nerds could be so crafty?

Safari this weekend; needless to say I am beyond excited. If I don't see an elephant I may punch someone, but rhino tracking should be pretty cool. Until next time, mukwanos (friends)!

mountain biking

Ah this weekend was amazing! I officially survived mountain biking, which is a major accomplishment for myself. The scenery was breathtaking. After biking for 8 miles, we hiked to see caves and lakes that made Uganda seem like the most beautiful country in the world. I learned about how the lakes were formed and the view from the top of the massive hill made every second of the hike worth it.
Last week we went on multiple home visits to microfinance beneficiaries and also people part of the Heifer project which was very exciting and interesting. It was amazing to see how the businesses and farming of each beneficiary is growing and developing. Everyone we go see is very welcoming and its fascinating to see how a little money can change their lives. It has been by far the most rewarding part of working here so far and i am very excited to meet with more people and visit their homes this week.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

KWDT, kampala update

This week marks our fourth week working for Katosi Woment Development Trust! By the end of this week, we will only have one month left. Crazy!!

So far I've worked on worked on filling on grant applications and doing some editing and research here in the office. On days we don't have internet or electricity, I read past annual reports and project summaries to try and get a better background on the various successes and challenges that KWDT has to cope with. Here's a sampling of some of the grants I've written for domestic rain water harvesting programs,
- Germany International Climate Change Initiative
- DFID Development Innovation Fund
- Japan Embassy (GGP) Grassroots
- Pepsi Co. Foundation
- Mama Cash
- Rockefeller Foundation

This week, it's back to more grant research and also officially starting my intern project! On Tuesday, KWDT is holding a follow-up leadership meeting for all the leaders among the women's groups. I plan on giving a presentation on essential leadership skills and conducting an activity to re-enforce cooperation among leaders instead of competition. I am also donating three bio-sand filters using my internship funds and presenting them to the best three leaders in the community. The criteria for selection is based on nominations from other leaders, book-keeping skills and commitment to projects. I'll post an update later in the week with how the conference goes!

In July, I hope to go out to the Katosi field site for a few days to help build a bio-sand filter with some of the women construction masons and visit a hygiene and sanitation club at one of the schools in Katosi.

Side note:
There are a ridiculous amount of bananas available in Uganda. I really don't know if I'm ever going to eat bananas again once I get home. I don't even want to know the nutritional facts for a banana, because I eat at least 5 a day (when I say at least…I mean, it's more like I eat 7-8)

Here's a small sampling of the types of bananas available:
- Matooke (steamed and mashed bananas), served literally every day. Sometimes twice a day.
- Small sweet bananas
- Large "normal" bananas
- Medium sized yellow bananas (sorry im not a banana expert, I don’t know the technical names for all of these)
- Roasted plantains (I actually LOVE these)
- Steamed plantains (I was only given one bite of these, and it was torture. I wanted to eat 3 full servings)

I've heard there are sweet potatoes here (love those), but I have yet to see/eat one. I may shout for joy and buy 10 if I ever see them at one of the produce stands near our house.
Scarlet and I are experimenting with different things to cook for breakfast and dinner, maybe sweet potatoes should be our next mission!

Real World: Katosi

WOW- it's officially been 4 weeks since I left the US!!

It's strange, because though time isn't flying by, I still have a hard time believing it's been so long! Seven of the nine interns travelled to Fort Portal this weekend to do a little hiking and further sight seeing of Uganda! Fort Portal is a small but incredibly beautiful town surrounded my tea plantations and with the Rwenzori mountains as a backdrop. We got there in time to watch the US-Solvenia match at a mzungu bar with a few other fellow US travellers. Disappointing game but they had pizza where we watched it and that made up for any hard feelings. I'm finding the hardest thing in Uganda for me is the lack of can't find it ANYWHERE!!! We also went mountain biking (on bikes circa 1980) to the caves and crater lakes and that was breath taking!

As for the internship- I'm meeting with the Katosi-Kampala staff Tuesday and possibly Thursday to discuss my intern project and what I'll be doing the remaining 5 weeks! I've pretty much settled into a routine of teaching M/W at St. John Bosco primary school (where there is now a grand total of 5 mzungus volunteering!!!) and excited to start a sanitation club there this week! W/Th I work with the Katosi c/u Primary school sanitation club and sports clubs- hoping to start a clean water project (that I learned about via a National Geographic magazine my uncle gave me the day before I left- thanks Uncle Ellis!!) this week as well!

Can't believe we're getting close to July! Hope everything stateside is well, with love from Uganda!


Monday, June 14, 2010

traditional ugandan engagement ceremony

This weekend, Scarlet, Colleen and I got to experience a traditional Ugandan "introduction" ceremony. The basis of this ceremony is that the bride is introducing her fiancé to her family and asking formal permission from her father to approve him as her husband, but it is so so so much more than that.

While this is a traditional ceremony that is supposed to happen before all marriages, not many couples in Uganda still participate, so when one actually occurs, it's a huge deal. There are no American celebrations that I can really compare this too, because it is essentially the proposal, engagement party, and wedding reception all rolled into one (although, Ugandans also throw a big wedding reception after the wedding ceremony).

The celebration is a weekend-long affair, with members of the bride's and groom's family travelling across the country for this special day. Preparations begin days in advance with tents set up, chairs brought in, hundreds of pounds of matooke and rice and beef and chicken prepared for hundreds of people, traditional dresses bought and ironed and women getting all "done-up" in the salon. We arrived in Mubende on Friday evening and went straight to the home of the bride's family, where the celebration was to be held. The bride happens to be the niece of Margaret, my boss for the summer, and she invited Scarlet, Colleen and me along with her to take part in the ceremony. As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by our guests and met the bride's father, some more aunts, brothers, sisters, cousins, and many others who I can't remember. We were then officially accepted as part of the bridal party and told we would be participating in the next day's events. At this point, I was not aware that our status at the party was to be the ultimate in VIP (I think we may have stolen the spotlight from the groom's family). Before we left, we took some pictures of the preparations and of the cow that was about to be slaughtered for the next day's ceremony.

We stayed at a hotel on the side of a hill overlooking Mubende and had a beautiful view of the valley on Saturday morning as we ate our breakfast on the porch. Our escort, George, drove us to the top of the hill after breakfast to see the Nakuyima shrine, an ancient spiritual tree that people journey to for prayer and celebration.

After, we went back to iron our gomessi (the traditional Ugandan dress that most women wear here daily) and to prepare for the ceremony. We had some trouble getting the dresses on correctly, but when we arrived at the bride's house around noon, every woman there wanted to help us fix them. In all their eagerness to help, my dress was untied and re-tied at least 10 times. This may have done more harm than good, but everyone was so excited to see three "mzungu" in gomessi that I don't think they could help themselves. Everyone kept saying "you look so smart, you look so smart!"

The ceremony lasted for about 8 hours.
All of the bride's family arrived first and sat under one of the large tents. The important fathers (taatas) of the family sat under a smaller tent in the middle and across from the bride's tent was another tent set up for the groom's family. The ceremony officially begins when the groom's family arrives. They all line up outside of the tents on the other side a decorated arch with a ribbon stretched across. Before they enter, they are formally greeted by the bride's family. As the VIP, we were asked to go and greet the guests. We walked up the red carpet to the archway and I was handed a microphone. Luckily, I practiced the traditional greeting repeatively the night before;

"Tusanyuse okubalaba bassebbo. Tusanyuse okubalaba banyabo. Eladde bassebo. Eladde banyabo. "

Rough translation: "We welcome you gentlmen. We welcome you ladies. How are you gentlemen? How are you ladies?"

The groom's family was more than surprised and delighted to have been greeted in the traditional Ugandan way by a mzungu. They then cut the ribbon, and the grooms family processed down the red-carpet to their tent. For the next couple of hours, the groom's family was greeted by various members of bride's family. Men in traditional tunics and women in gomessi danced out to ugandan music, kneeled before the family, and repeated the greeting I wrote above. We also got to participate in this and danced out with all the other daughters of the family to kneel before our guests and formally greet them. ( I say all the "other" daughters, because scarlet, colleen and I are now officially daughters of the bride's family, which was confirmed on Sunday when we were toted around the small village where margaret's entire extended family lives)

The there was much presenting of gifts, and joking between the two emcees (one for the bride's family and one for the groom's family) as they built up to the identification of the groom (done by the "Auntie of honor", margaret) and the presentation of the bride. After the bride (Joannie) and groom (Godfrey) were "identified" (it's clear who each is, but each party pretends they don't know) with a bouquet of flowers and a boutonniere, the bride then formally presented her fiancé to father. He accepted, naturally, and there was much rejoicing as the groom's family all went out to their cards to retrieve the gifts.

Godfrey's (the groom) family then re-entered with hundreds of gifts for the bride's parents to show their appreciation for the father's approval of Godfrey. The gifts included but were not limited to: pineapples, melons, tobacco leaves, cooking products, coffee, sugar, bread, pictures, personal gifts, two chickens, a cow's leg, a suitcase, a bull, and kitchen cabinet set. All of these gifts were then presented formally to the bride's parents as we sat and watched.

After the gifts, dinner was served to all the guests. Delicious matooke and yams, white rice, brown rice, beef stew, pineapple, fried irish potatoes, and kale. All types of soda in glass bottles were available and guests ate and laughed in the glow of the evening sunset.

We took a short walk after dinner to "make room in our stomachs", as George said, and then returned to watch the formal proposal between Joannie and Godfrey and the presenting of the rings as they placed a "permanent mark" on each other. Then small fireworks (yes, fireworks) were lit on the cake before it was cut and distributed among the guests. The groom's family then processed out and congratulated the couple as they left. With the formal ceremony over, the after-party began soon after with dancing and laughing and rejoicing among the bride's guests.

The dancing went on all through the night and we crashed in our bed's late at night, exhausted, full and happy.

Before we headed home on Sunday, we made the rounds in Margaret's family's small village to greet all her family members. We were served tea (with milk) and steamed maize at her father's, given avocado's at her mother's, and received warmly everywhere we went. Everyone seemed excited to meet the Mzungu's who had been at the party the day before. Our final stop was the bride's family's home, where we stayed and talked for a while before we said our final goodbyes.

We packed the car full of gifts and leftovers from the party. After a three hour journey home to Kampala along some paved roads, some shambly roads, and some not-really-roads-at-all, I took my backpack out of the trunk only to find it covered in fresh cow's blood from a bag of meat that Margaret had brought home from the slaughtered cow.
No better way to end a traditional Ugandan weekend than with a little cow's blood on your belongings.

All in all, a great success.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Are You Ugandan??

Uganda is amazing, but the sun is something serious. We are right near the equater so the beams are so intense. Its not muggy and unbearable here like it is back home sometimes but I am actually about 5 shades darker already. I have really bad tan lines on my feet from my sandals. Its actually hilarious.

The kids at the orphanage are so freakin adorable. There is this one kid that was abandoned from Kenya that came a couple of days ago named Oweeno. He is about two years old. He has started to warm up to everyone and had the most adorable smile ever. I am seriously going to ask my mom to consider adopting him. Anyway, I am teaching Primary 6 which is like 5 th grade English and Creative writing. Its kind of a struggle because they are so far behind and its hard for them to understand English with an American accent. I am making it work though. Thursday I taught them how to count to 10 in Spanish during the last few minutes of class and they loved it. It was like the first time I actually enjoyed Spanish. Our living situation has been interesting. At first we were living in this small hotel room. We had to move out quick because of the previous reason and it would cost way to much to stay there for the entire summer. So we found a house and rented it for about 150 dollards for the whole summer. Its pretty nice and it was just built. We're basically living large in Uganda....NOT. The day after we moved in we lost electricity,which in Busia, that means we also loose water. I was the saddest. Total darkness for 3 days, we had to bathe in bucket. I was mortified. I have learned that I am a bit of a diva when it comes to things like this. BUT, I will say that out of all my friends, Im the only one who could probably survive it. We get our meals from the directors house where these two funny women named Olivia and Faith are the housemaids that cook. I really enjoy them. There are acually alot of Ugandans and Americans our age in Busia who we get to hang out with. There are like 5 interns from Harvard and 2 from other schools. So thats pretty cool. Most Ugandans are really kind but I do get tired of people blatabntly staring at me everywhere I go. Its not rude to stare here like it is in America. Me and Jamila took a weekend trip to Jinja this weekend to meet up with some of the other interns in Uganda. They are absolutely hilarious/crazy. We just got back from a boat cruise on Lake Victoria and saw the source of the Nile River! The guy driving the boat asked me was I from Uganda. I told him, no I from the U.S. when in actuality, being an African American, I really dont know where I originally came from. I could possible be from "western Uganda." He said I favor the Mbarara people. Interesting to say the least. Last night we went clubbing. The club was nice but the music was horrible. All they played was like some bad 80s music. The club we went to in Kampala the first week here was 20 times better. I would really like to stay another night but we promised the kids at the orphanage we would be back for church tomorrow since we didnt go last week. Im cool with that though because we are going on a safari in like two weeks with the other interns!!! yay.

Finally an update from me (Jamila)

Hey all. Sorry for the lack of updates-- internet access in Busia is really shady.

Here's basically a run down of my life:
Miranda and I rented a house not too far (about five blocks) from the Orphanage. There are two rooms (a "sitting" room and a "bedroom") and one bathroom. We are paying 500,000 shillings for two months, which is a little over 200 dollars. Not too bad for two people!

We eat breakfast at our house (bread with butter/bread with peanut butter and tea/coffee) or at our director (Ken)'s house.

I teach P5 (4th grade) English at New Hope. It's really frustrating because the teachers dont seem to care that much about the students, basically--and the kids are all really behind on everything. To be promoted to the next level they only need like, 30% correct on their final needless to say, they're all at the base level in all subjects. My class has 18 kids, ages 13-15. The school system here is different, explaining the ages.

Miranda and I eat lunch at Ken (director of New Hope)'s house everyday at 1pm. We have the same thing (more or less) each day- rice, beans, meat, chapati (delicious fried bread item), avocado, sweet potato, regular potato. We have the same thing for dinner most days, too. On good days we'll have pineapple or fish (or spaghetti!). They also make this BANGING passion fruit juice. What? Delicious.

In between teaching I hang out at the orphanage and play with the kids or talk to the older orphans. The youngest is 2, the oldest is about 20. They're all the best. There is a 2 year old named Joseph (I die with joy) who is getting adopted by a very white, blonde, rich young couple in Kansas (along with Matthew- the most hilarious divaest of diva babies).

There's no cold water (or ice, for that matter). I lather myself in sunscreen and mosquito repellant daily, which is actually kind of gross. My feet are perpetually covered in foreign muck.

We met up with the other volunteers from UNC this weekend to watch the opening games of the world cup. I personally dont give a what about sports, but it was kind of cool to be in AFRICA watching the world cup take place in AFRICA, you know? Today we took a boat ride in Lake Victoria and then to the source of the NILE RIVER. The circle of life type stuff. It was cool.

Random Uganda tidbit: There are goats everywhere. And chickens. "Free Range" has a whole new meaning here. Also, Every morning at 5am we hear the Muslims chanting (through their literal loudspeakers) to wake up the entire town and call everyone to the first prayer of the day. Awesome.

We were without power or water for three days last week and it was guaranteed my lowest of lows. You don't know "roughing it" until you've washed your underwear in a basin in the bathroom and then hung it beneath your mosquito net. Cute. TMI? Blame Africa.

Until next time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

St. John Bosco

This past week in uganda has been awesome!

Avery and I started to get more involved in the community, especially in the schools. Every monday and wednesday, we spend half a day (which actually ends up being about six hours) teaching at the primary school called St. Johnny Bosco that is about an hour walk from Katosi. We have been teaching together in the 4th grade classroom everyday so far, and I think that is working well because even though we are only working with one class, i think we are much more effective together (teaching is harder than I thought, especially because i am not the best at explaining things, haha). The way they teach here in Uganda is a little different in the US, especially because the schools pretty much have NO access to resources. There is a chalkboard in every room, rows of benches (the kids have to kneel on the dirt ground and use the bench as a table when they are taking a test), no electricity or water, and each kid only has one notebook. Each teacher only has one or two workbooks that they can teach out of, and apparently all the teachers at St Johnny bosco are volunteers (very dedicated ones!). So basically in order to learn something, the teacher says a sentence to the class, and then repeats part of the sentence again and the students finish it. Like for example, in one social studies lesson we watched, the teacher said "ok class, the advantages of a nuclear family are that children are more likely to have access to basic needs." and then he repeated "the advantages of a nuclear family are that children are more likely to have access to basic what?" and then the class said "basic needs!" in unison. Even though it is hard to tell if the kids are actually learning the meaning of some things as opposed to simply repeating what the teacher says, I think it is the best option they have. It is also slightly funny, one of the other interns said she went to a conference on domestic violence, and at the beginning the leader said "So today we are going to discuss domestic violence. Today we are going to discuss domestic what?" and then everyone repeated "domestic violence!" That just seems a little ridiculous, but baller nonetheless! (especially since the women here clearly work to empower each other).

Anyway, so the yesterday at St. Johnny bosco, we taught math and social studies (which was more like geography because we were learning about physical features of Uganda, yay!!). Then, when the kids were looking a bit bored, we decided it was time for physical education so we went outside and played duck duck goose. They had never played before, so it took awhile to get started, but they absolutely LOVED it. I think they thought it was cool because it gave them an excuse to chase each other, haha. and I am pretty sure they were saying "dog dog goose" instead of duck duck goose, but hey, that works too!! I also brought out my frisbee, and I showed them how to throw it around for a few minutes! they were sooo excited, i felt like i was throwing a bouquet at a wedding because they all crowded in front of me and when i threw it they would scream in their little high pitched voices and all try to catch it! then i had to go inside for something, and when i came back it had been broken into two pieces! but luckily i brought like five, haha.

I am also helping the peace corps volunteer build a community garden at another primary school. I am going to learn how it works and everything, and then I am going to introduce the idea to st. Johnny bosco. I think it would be cool because it will help the kids work together and also give them some extra food to eat at lunch. right now, the school can only provide them with pourage (i have no idea how to spell that word haha). You can plant cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and things like that in key hole gardens, and you use compost and dirty water and things like that to make the plants grow. I also might have each class come up with a mural design to paint in their class rooms! a lot of schools and buildings have murals, but st johnny bosco just opened, so it does not have any yet.

I also have some other projects that I want to do, although they all may not actually work out. but anyway, I am going to host a kickball tournament at one school, and at another I am going to teach the kids how to play field hockey! The headmaster asked me what my favorite sport was, and i told him field hockey but i didnt think i could teach them because I did not bring any sticks! but he said, "we can MAKE field hockey sticks!!" so I guess that is what we shall do!...perhaps out of dead trees?? hahaha, we will see.

And I am going to talk to Katosi's town clerk on thursday, because I heard he wished there was a map of Katosi!....I am going to see if he wants me to try to make one (which is perfect, seeing as how I love maps!) I do not know how that will work, but i think any map is better than nothing.

Anyway, I think everything is going well, even though it is still going slowly. But last night when I went to buy an egg, I ran into the headmaster of St Johnny bosco. He was not at school yesterday, but he said the teachers told him Avery and I were really good teachers, and that they want us to come back as much as we can. It felt good to hear that!!


It is a week I have been to Uganda. On the first three days, all our nine interns stayed in Kampala downtown New City Annex Hotel. I got here one day later then other girls. I was really tired when I got here on the first day. George took me to the KWTD at Kampala office. The lady in the office, Rehema, gave me a little orientation of Katosi Women Trust Development. Also I got the chance to read the annul report of KWTD and other documents. I slept early on that day. I woke up early on the first three day at 6 and spent the early morning to explore Kampala. Around 7, there was almost nobody on the street except the newspaper-sellers. Almost all the shops in Kampala didn’t open until 8:30. Uganda used to be an英国殖民地, so in the street I saw plenty of British things: their British English-spelling such as “colour” and “honour”, their banks such as Barclays. On the second day, four Katosi interns went to get a formal orientation from KWDT. In the orientation we knew that KWDT have many different projects. Each of them has already developed really well and helped local women a lot with empowering them especially in financial parts. They emphasize a lot on water and sanitation project. With the help of KWDT, those local women built rainwater-harvesting tank and latrine, learn basic hygiene knowledge and get training for the optimal water management.
On the Sunday, every intern was taken to their office. Lauren and I are in the Kampala office. It is a nice office and a nice house. We are going to both live here and work here for two months. We went to walk around the office a little bit. Our neighborhood were all surprised to see “Mzungus” (some of them recognized me an Asian and called me “MChina”) walking around. The scene around here is really nice. Kampala is a city on seven mountains. We walked to the peak of one of the mountains near our office and we see the whole scenery of old Kampala.
Our job, mostly paperwork, in the office is to find grant and apply for them. To me it is not an easy task because I’m not interested and not good at English writing. At first I was assigned to write an application for Climate Initiative. Since I learned some basic knowledge of microcredit and attended some monthly meeting of women microcredit in Ghana, I asked whether I can search and write proposal for microfinance groups. Rehema said good but it was just a little bit hard to find grant for microcredit.
June 3rd is national holiday and we got a day off. Lauren and I took a boda-boda to town. We went to the craft market. Everything there is so cute there. I think I will buy a bunch of souvenirs from here to my family and friends on the last few days here. On the weekend we went to the town again to see Avery and Colleen and plan our trips on the rest weekends in Uganda. I can’t wait to travel in Uganda!
In Uganda, I think I have already lost a sense of time. Everyday after a days of work (5pm), in the evening, we may walk around, talk, read some books or just do nothing and sit. I like this kind of leisure life here!

Agradu Interns 2010 (plus andrew)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

please do not flush your dypers...

says Reuben, circa 10:30 pm last night. regina, julia and i wonder what in the world Reuben means by "dypers" when 20 minutes later we realize he is actually talking about feminine products. Since weve arrived in uganda, there have been several miscommunications between us (the muzungus) and the ugandan people. these include but are not limited to: understanding the meaning of bathing costumes, confusing the lugandan word for water with the lugandan word for feces, and accidentally telling our boss that fornication is okay all the time in the united states. i feel like an idiot most/all of the time, but luckily everyone here is so welcoming that they just laugh it off.

the last week and a half in bukasa (the village we stay in) has been much different than life in kampala, the big city. we went from late night clubbing at blu haze to playing soccer with the boys in our village (who are absolutely ridiculous at it). bukasa is much more quiet, minus the roosters that crow literally every .5 seconds. at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, i like the village more than the city because the sunsets and starry nights are one of a kind.

last sunday mom (literally, our mom for the summer who makes the best food on the planet) taught me how to kill, pluck, and cook a chicken. needless to say, it was an interesting experience.... much like walking almost an hour to the nearest town to buy cadbury chocolate bars and renting bootleg copies of greys anatomy was. seriously, how american are we?

work is slow, but its getting more and more busy every day. today we are learning how to immunize all the little babies, and ive already learned how to identify almost every disease in the lab! even here everyone can pick up on how nerdy i am.

this weekend some of us are going to jinja for the world cup opening match, and before that regina, julia and i are going to a school in mukono to perform some sort of a hip hop dance and then do HIV testing. not sure how the two of those are related, but im excited and slightly terrified.

Tunalabagana (see you soon!)

yellow beetles

I have officially been in uganda for TWO WEEKS! it has been amazing to see the beautiful scenery and the people of uganda who are extremely friendly. As of now, me and my kyetume girls have settled into our apartment in Bukasa surrounded by neighbors that have been very helpful in our quest to wash and dry our own clothes. the people I work with have also been super nice and I will be working with the resource center and the clinic during the week. so far I have drawn blood that didnt end so well since I fainted the second I saw it ha, but o well thats how it goes. I am no working in the lab but I am doing counseling with HIV patients which is very exciting. I went on a home visit to see the patients I helped counsel and their stories were amazing. It is incredible to know how much effort people in the community have to make to get to the clinic for their medicines. It really opened my eyes to the struggle these patients go through and made me really happy that I was going to be working with more patients like them.
One of the greatest aspects about Bukasa is the kids. they were so happy to see us when they first came and even today they still act like its their first time seeing us as they jump at us and love to play. As julia and emily played soccer with the local boys, me and the girls were practicing a photo shoot as every girl loves the camera, it was really precious how they imitated tyra fierece poses. And we also cheered on the mzungus playing in the field. Im loving uganda.
until next time!!:)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Real World: Katosi

Week 2 in Katosi!

So Colleen and I have finally figured out a rough routine and idea for what we will be doing with our time here, and I’m slowly getting used to village life.

Still no electricity, every time you ask you get the response “yes, they are bringing it back soon” so we’ll see what soon really means. I did my laundry today- a process that took an hour and was a nice “3-cycle” wash, meaning there are 3 different buckets where you rinse and scrub your clothes. Surprisingly, hand-washing is pretty effective at getting stains out, but I think I’ll stick with my machine once I get back home. Colleen and I went to Kampala on Saturday to see the other Katosi interns, Lauren and Scarlette, and plan out what we can do together for the KWDT! We also went to Bukasa on Sunday to visit with the Kyetume interns and catch up with what they are doing (I also used them for their shower. BLISS).

Colleen and I teach twice a week at St. John Bosco Primary School. It is a brand new orphan school started in January with apparently a western benefactor named “Kathy”. We mainly teach math and social studies to the P.4s, but are slowly getting to know everyone so that we can start talking about bringing water and sanitation initiatives to the school via the KWDT. When we went on Monday, we taught the kids duck-duck-goose, and while it took a while for them to catch on, once they did they LOVED it. Cutest thing ever.

Excited for the world cup to start this weekend! Even though we won’t really be able to watch it in Katosi the excitement is definitely all around.

And one last little Uganda story: I had my iPod stolen from my room by little boys who poked sticks through the window and grabbed it. To make it even better, when the village people put out and announcement they found it, and I got to pay $25 to get it back. So yeah, I got to rebuy my own iPod. All a part of Real World: Katosi.

Over & out!


Internet is Back!

It's been too long since I've updated on this... the internet here is so spotty, and it has been a busy couple of weeks.
After spending a few days in Kampala, which was wonderful & busy, Regina, Emily and I moved into our little apartment in Bukasa, a small village about 40 minutes from Kampala. On the first night we arrived, we were greeted by dozens of little kids, all of which wanted to play with the brand new Mzungus in town. That night we got settled in, played some football (their kind, not ours) with the kids and went to bed early. The first week at work was awesome. Everyone was so welcoming and wanted us to feel as comfortable here as possible. We got adjusted the first day and met everyone who works at Kyetume, then I spent a few days at a domestic violence conference with Henry. I learned that 80% of women in Uganda are subjected to violence on a regular basis and 79% say that they think this violence is acceptable because it is so deeply rooted in the country's culture and history. Even though the statistics were pretty discouraging, it was very exciting to hear so many people speak out against domestic violence and commit themselves to a violence free life.
After a relaxing weekend, we came back to work yesterday, and Regina and I went on home visits to help with HIV counseling. It was probably my favorite day in Uganda thus far. The two patients we visited were in such high spirits and were so excited to have us visit them at their homes. One of the men said that he has to ride a bike about 3 hours to get to the clinic we work at to pick up his medicines every month. It's frustrating that there is no sort of system in place to help people access their medicines more easily, but every one seems to recognize the problem, so hopefully change will come soon.
I'm loving Uganda, but it is taking time to adjust to the lifestyle here. The pace of life is pretty slow and relaxed, which is a big change from how busy my life is at school and home. I've been trying to learn as much of the language as possible, and I'm making progress even though people still laugh at me on a regular basis. One of my favorite things about this place is the strong sense of community and family. Every one helps each other out, something that is not too prevalent in the United States.
Well, I have work to do now, but I will try to update again soon.
Until then, tunaalabagana!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blog 3 (title creativity is at a minimum)

It's the end of week two in Uganda and we have finished our first week of work!

Scarlet and I had an interesting first week here at the Katosi main office in Kampala. On Monday morning( at 7:30 am) we jumped right into working at our newly set up desk in the office (we are sharing one of the bigger desks in the office). I started reading through a couple of websites for potential grants for our organization and started gathering information to write a grant on expanding the community water harvesting tanks program. The first website I looked at might have had some potential, but it was very political heavy and focused mainly on setting up a program to fight corruption in government administered projects and programs (I know very little about this), so I moved on to work on other grant possibilities.

I submitted applications for the Global Giving philanthropy website in order to expand our donor base in the US and UK as well as a request for funding to the Rockefeller foundation for an Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program. The internet was down on Tuesday so I could not research for funding online and instead spent the day reading some of the past Katosi proposals, annual reports and information on water sanitation programs in Uganda.

At any given time there are different people in the office. It is always Rehema and Vaal (and me and Scarlet) and then sometimes George, or Leonard, or a variety of other people who just seem to filter in and out of the office at random. Hopefully I will figure out who they are as time goes on!

Wednesday and Friday I started working on a Coca-Cola Foundation grant, though I have not quite completed it because it needs to be reviewed by Rehema, our project/funding manager, to make sure that the budget and organization demographics are collected. Hopefully I can finish up that application early this week and get started on another one soon! Friday I also wrote up a proposal for a "Community -Led Sanitation Program" which mainly focuses on allowing the community members in any given region to design their own culturally relevant and economically feasible sanitation program. I really believe in this idea of letting communities take charge of their own development and change. Not only does it give the locals and sense of responsibility for the proposed project, but it also simply makes the most sense. I think everyone would agree that the members of a community know their community better than any outside could. By providing basic training, initial funding and the necessary educational tools, my program would support local communities in initiating a sustainable clean water and sanitation program. Margaret comes back to the office on Monday and I'm really excited to meet with her and talk more about potential projects for Katosi and how I can best help the NGO expand the work they are already doing.

Thursday was a national holiday, so we had off of work and went into Kampala for the day just to walk around and get out of the office. Scarlet and I caught a ride into town and started our day at the craft market. There was a big missions group there and one Ugandan woman and I shared a good laugh at their uniforms. For some reason they had decided that the best way to fit in in Uganda was to all wear matching BRIGHT orange polo shirts with their organizations name branded on the front, long JEAN skirts and tennis shoes. All of them, the whole group. Hahaha. Best thing. Then we walked over to 1000 cups to sit for a while before setting out on a long walk across the city to Garden city where we bought a few grocery items. I bought a soda there, but didn't have a bottle opener. I tried to open it with my hands for a long time (unsuccessfully) and eventually ended up carrying it in my bag all around Kampala until I finally broke down and bought a Manchester United bottle-opener from one of the vendors on Kampala Road.

After, we went back to 1000 cups and sat in some comfy chairs and read some magazines about Uganda. I decided that I really wanted some beaded sandals from the craft market so we went back and shopped around until I found a pair that I really liked. They are brown and black leather twisted at the top to look like a snake and I absolutely LOVE them (thanks for being so patient with me scarlet while I tried on every pair in the entire market!) I also made a mental note of all the items I want to buy for Agradu to sell, for the culture kit I am going to make to use for Carolina Navigators back in the states and for friends and family back home. I had to use a lot of self-control not to buy it all right then!

I'm getting adjusted to the laid-back pace of things here and enjoying slowing down for a bit. I read a lot here and have already devoured "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas and "Out of the Silent Planet" by C.S. Lewis. Next up is Perelandria, also by C.S. Lewis. Even if I keep up this pace of reading, I will be surprised if I finish all the books I brought. Overpacked much? Whoopsies. Oh well, whatever I don't use I will leave here for others.
If any other interns are reading this, let me know if you want to borrow any books, I've got plenty!

Tomorrow is Sunday and Scarlet and I are going to do laundry and then take a long walk up to this Anglican church on the hill across the valley from us. I'm excited to get out and explore some more. Scarlet says I am making her be more active than she has ever been, haha. Best.

Also, the World cup starts this week! We are going to Jinja on Friday to meet up with other interns to hang out, explore and watch some games. I'm going to try to make it to Bugalugi falls and hike for the day.

Hope all is well with everyone!
(Sorry my blogs are so long, I would upload pictures for entertainment purposes, but the internet really can not deal with that kind of file size capacity)

Until next time,