Thursday, July 22, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
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.
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".
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.
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.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Last week was one of the best weeks in
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
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!