Sunday, September 25, 2011

A little late for a concluding post, but I’ve recently been in touch with Rehema and Frank, my host family, so I thought I would share. Having been home from Uganda for nearly two months and with school in full swing, it’s sometimes strange to think that I spent nine weeks in Africa this past summer. It was certainly a memorable experience, I’m glad that I went and I plan to return to Africa again. Rehema is currently a few weeks into a four month stay in Switzerland after receiving a scholarship to write her thesis for her Master’s Degree, which she will complete in December. She seems to be doing well. Frank and the kids are also doing fine, evidently staying healthier than they were while we were there (both Denise and Rachel got malaria while we were living with them). Overall it seems that they are doing great. Rehema reports that our piggery project at Katosi C/U is well under way. The sty was being built when she left and she would have Vaal send pictures once it is completed. I hope the kids get to enjoy the benefits while learning a useful skill and eventually developing a profitable, self-sustaining enterprise. Upon returning home, I loaned some money through a microfinance website, Kiva, to three individuals in Uganda who needed start-up capital for a business or motorcycle and then they will repay the loan within a few months. It’s cool after having the experience that I had to now feel invested in others there in such a way. I plan to continue to stay in touch with Rehema and Frank after all the help and support they offered us this summer. Farewell Uganda, I’ll be back someday.

- Grant

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pads

As an AGRADU intern, I was required to design and implement a project during my eight week internship. The first half of my project, based around health and sanitation education, culminated in the highly successful Keep Katosi Clean Day. I was thrilled with the community response as for the next several days members of the community were commenting on my participation and thanking me and Katosi C/U Primary School for our work.

The second half of my project focused on Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pads. The idea of the Reusable Menstrual Pad was first designed by Lizzie Kazan, a 2009-2011 Peace Corps Volunteer. I adapted her program to be more suitable for Katosi primary and secondary school girls.

Over the past two weeks, I have worked with 75 female students in the P4 and P5 classes at St. John Bosco Primary School and the P5 class at Katosi C/U. My Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pad program had two parts. Past One consisted of a discussion on Female Health. In this session, I taught about puberty, the reproductive system, the menstrual cycle and menstruation, what to do when a girl has her period, pregnancy, infertility, and how to take care of one’s body. After I spoke, I held a question and answer session. Knowing many of the girls would not feel comfortable asking questions in front of their peers, I provided each student with a slip of paper where she could anonymously write her question in English or Luganda and I would answer.

I received many questions this way. Several girls asked about what to do when she has her period – what should I do when I see blood, what should I wear, how many pads should I have, can I still go to school – and, surprisingly, about infertility. Some questions showed how extremely misguided the girls are – “Can I get pregnant by standing next to a boy?” (In the local culture, girls and boys do not interact outside of the classroom. Girls play with girls, boys play with boys.) Other questions I could not fully answer, such as questions about Candida, a vaginal yeast infection common in Uganda because of the hot and humid climate. However, all of the questions were appropriate to the conversation and showed me that the girls understood what I was teaching and were curious about their bodies.

Reproductive health is not a topic widely taught in the Ugandan school system. Many teachers feel uncomfortable with the topic and will shy away from questions or answer with very little detail. As I was expressing my desire to do this program at St. John Bosco, I spoke to several of the female teachers trying to find one to assist me. One was clearly very uncomfortable even with the idea of the topic and couldn’t look me in the eye as I was telling her my intentions. Thankfully, the teacher I found, Juliet, was very excited and even made a reusable pad for herself. Each school has at least one Senior Woman and Senior Man, usually a teacher, who is responsible for teaching students about reproductive health and their bodies. At Katosi C/U and St/ John Bosco, the Senior Woman assisted me with my program by translating my lesson into Luganda to ensure full comprehension. It is very important to have a respected and trusted female role model present for comfort and security of the girls.

After all questions had been answered, I demonstrated how to make the reusable menstrual pads, step by step. There are many benefits to using these reusable pads. To name a few:
1. Low cost – Made from local materials that the girls can easily access.
2. Reusable – Disposable pads can be a financial burden on a girl’s family as they are expensive and cannot be reused.
3. Environmentally friendly – Disposable pads do not biodegrade, thus they tend to clog latrines and cause them to fill up quickly, rendering the latrine unusable.
4. Hygienic alternative – Many girls who cannot afford store-bought pads will use newspapers, old rags, etc. to stop the blood, increasing their risk of infection. Reusable pads offer a safe, cheap alternative.
5. Leak free – If used correctly, girls do not need to worry about leaks and can attend school worry-free for the duration of their period. Many girls skip school for the week of the period, causing them to fall far behind in their classes and putting them at a great disadvantage.

Part Two of the program is when the girls get to make their own personal reusable menstrual pad. We made ours out of old bed sheets and 100% cotton towels (needs to be a very absorbent material. An exercise book cover was used to create the template for the pad, and needles, thread, and a button were used to put it all together. I provided the girls with a list of other local and easily accessible items they can use as well.

I created a guide and information booklet on all of the material I covered which I left with the Senior Woman at the schools. It includes photos and diagrams of the reproductive system and menstrual cycle and is written using simple terms, easily understond by primary school students. A step by step guide, loaded with diagrams, on how to make a reusable menstrual pad from scratch is provided at the end of the booklet.

The girls thanked me profusely for imparting them with knowledge about female health and teaching them how to make reusable menstrual pads. I only wish I had been able to work with more schools, though I have left a book with Heidi to use with the women’s groups and for other schools, so that my program can continue.

* * *

Beyond working extremely hard on the female health program, I have continued teaching the sanitation clubs at the schools. Last Saturday, I went with a handful of students from Katosi C/U’s Sanitation Club, Christopher, and Charles to Bukwaya, a neighboring town (45 minutes walk), to build a stove at the house of one of my students. An all day ordeal, but with the help of all who came, we built a stove from scratch using bricks, dirt dust, sawdust, wood shavings, and sticks.

* * *

A few final thoughts

Every night when I go outside to brush my teeth, I look up at the sky. It’s amazing how much light the moon provides when the electricity is out, when there is no (or little) light pollution, or when there is not a plethora of man-made objects blocking one’s view. It’s always a peaceful moment for me, taking in the beauty of the night. Early morning and late nights are the times I use for personal reflection.

The last Tuesday night was the most remarkable night. No clouds and no electricity revealed the clearest sky I have ever seen. I felt like I was floating in space, inside the Milky Way. As Maama Gertrude had just walked outside, I made her stop and appreciate the evening with me. No matter where I am in the world, there is always the sky to me connect me with my international family.

For my final week in Katosi, I have been very nostalgic, reflecting on my time and beginning the farewells. I would love to stay longer to further my relationships, to expand my Female Health and Reusable Menstrual Pad program, to live as one with a community I have only known for eight weeks and yet one to which I feel deeply connected. I don’t think the women, students, teachers, and friends know what a profound impact they have made on my life. I would not trade my experience and my relationships for anything. As hard as it is to leave, I know I am not truly leaving. A part of me will forever remain in Katosi. One day, I hope to return to Katosi, and I know that one day I will.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Keep Katosi Clean

18th July 2011 marked the day of the Third Annual Keep Katosi Clean Day. This year, Katosi Church of Uganda Primary School scheduled a full day of activities to promote sanitation and hygiene in their community, homes, and schools. The day began at 8:00am as the students ensured all supplies had been gathered and prepared for their guests. Although the opening ceremony was delayed until the arrival of our guest of honor, we were honored by the visit of the Officer in Charge (O/C) of the Katosi Police Station with two fellow officers who wished the school a successful day and thanked everyone for their work in the community.

At 10:00am, the students in classes Primary Three though Primary Seven were lined up and ready to go. The students had been divided into five groups, and each group leader had been given a wheelbarrow with sixteen (16) brooms, two (2) rakes, one (1) slasher, one or two (1-2) sacks to be used as trash bags, and twenty (20) latex gloves. The first person in each line carried the Keep Katosi Clean Sanitation Club posters that the students had designed to encourage everyone to join us in keeping Katosi clean. Two students led the school to the town center by carrying the official Katosi Church of Uganda Primary School Sanitation Club banner high above their heads.

Assembled in the town center, a student led the school in singing the Uganda National Anthem, the School Anthem and the Sanitation Club Anthem. Our guest, Mukasa Jane Ssozi, the District Woman Councilor of the Local Council 5 (LC5), welcomed us all and announced that she would be leading a group. Also, the Officer in Charge Kirikumwino Janipher of the Katosi Police Post gave a speech and stayed with us throughout the day. Christopher Luwaga, the Head Sanitation Club teacher, announced the designated areas that each group was to clean and sent us off one group at a time in the direction of our area.

Assigning sections of the town of Katosi to each of the five groups ensured that all areas of Katosi were reached and cleaned during the event. Group One began in the town center, went down Bunakija Road, turned left at the junction toward the church, turned left again at Paradise Hall and continued to Mukono Road. Group Two was responsible for the section of Mukono Road from the town center to Mutebi Road and along Mutebi Road. Group Three went down Mukono Road from the town center until the Katosi C/U school sign post, then turned left and cleaned past St. Joseph’s Primary School and up to Mutebi Road. Group Four began in the town center and cleaned the road toward Katosi C/U P/S and turned right towards Mutebi Road. And finally, Group Five cleaned from the town center to the landing site and along the road to the police post. As each group stuck to their designated roads and sections of Katosi, the entire town benefited from our efforts of increasing sanitation and the awareness of the importance of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in order to improve health and prevent diseases.

Over the course of the next hour and a half, the three hundred students in the Primary Three through Primary Seven classes, their teachers, our distinguished guests, Kristen Babirye, and Leslie Nakato swept, raked, moved, piled, and burned rubbish from the main roads and walkways of Katosi. From dirty to clean we made Katosi. Each student did his or her part in our efforts to Keep Katosi Clean. While we were cleaning, a selected member of each group carried a tin to ask for donations and support from community members as we passed by their homes and businesses. Receiving some generous donations, the students raised Ush46,900 to go toward long-term sanitation and hygiene in the school and community. The money was used to buy brushes, squeezers, and basins to be used in the cleaning of latrines.

At 12:00pm, the five sanitation groups reconvened outside the BMU Landing Site for speeches and an awards ceremony. An intercom system was set up to project our speeches so that we were more accessible to the community, the main reason why we moved our ceremony to the landing site instead of having it at the school.

The Headmaster Reverend Yosamu Kintu, O/C Kirilumwino Janipher, the Health Officer Katosi Town Board who is in charge of sanitation in the town, the Guest of Honor Katosi Town Clerk Kalagi E. Bukanya, Sir Christopher Luwaga, and Leslie Nakato gave speeches to the members of the school and the community thanking them for their work and participation while encouraging them to maintain Katosi’s cleanliness and to practice proper sanitation in their homes, schools, and community.

Additionally, awards were presented to the classes and individual students who have exhibited the best sanitation in the school. For the month leading up to Keep Katosi Clean Day, the P1-P7 classes at Katosi C/U P/S have been competing in an Inter-Class Sanitation Competition. They have been judged on the cleanliness of their classroom and assigned compound area, as well as on their personal hygiene. Points were awarded based on the extent of effort that was put into improving the condition of these three categories. After the speeches, the rankings were announced and the winners were congratulated. In second place with a score of 405 points was Primary Seven, and the winner, with 415 points, was Primary Three. Leslie Nakato and Kristen Babirye with the Headmaster Yosamu Kintu and the Guest of Honor Kalagi E. Bukenya presented a framed Outstanding Sanitation Award certificate to the Primary Three Class Monitor. Congratulations to Primary Three and thank you to all classes for participating in the competition to improve the sanitation of the school grounds and the personal hygiene of individual students! From now on, the Inter-Class Sanitation Competition will continue every term with a new winning class. This will set a good example for the numerous other schools in Katosi to follow.

In addition to acknowledging the most sanitary class, the top two students who have shown outstanding personal hygiene throughout the duration of the competition were recognized. Mutebi Lawrence and Nakabugo Juliet were awarded a new uniform tailored by a Katosi C/U parent, Joyce.

Returning to the school, students in the Primary Three through Primary Seven classes assembled in the church for the reading of student-written compositions about sanitation and a drama production performed by the students in the Sanitation Club. Seven students submitted writings to the Sanitation Writing Competition and were allowed to read their compositions to their fellow students at this assembly. Mutebi Lawrence, the Vice Chairperson of the Sanitation Club, also gave an opening speech welcoming everyone and thanking them for their participation and inviting them to join us in Keeping Katosi Clean.

The drama production, written, produced, and performed by Sanitation Club members, kept the audience engaged with its humor, songs, and phenomenal acting. A message about the importance of being knowledgeable of proper sanitation and good hygiene practices and the importance of sharing this knowledge with others was taken away from the production.

Much effort was put into making the Third Annual Keep Katosi Clean a huge success. The day ended with lunch, including the addition of sugar to the students’ porridge. It was a celebration and achievement shared by all.

Thank you to everyone who worked in the preparations for Keep Katosi Clean, who made donations, who participated in the day’s activities, and who have vowed to improve and maintain proper sanitation in the community. Thank you to our guests and our speakers for taking your time to acknowledge the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene in our homes, schools, and community by supporting our efforts of community awareness and the eradication of diseases in the town of Katosi. Thank you to the members of Katosi Church of Uganda Primary School Sanitation Club and the teachers of Katosi C/U for your hard work and support. The Third Annual Keep Katosi Clean Day would not have been successful without all of you!

Thank you,
Leslie Nakato Willis

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cleaning and Cows

            Today was my first day in Katosi after being sick, and I am so thrilled that it was.  One of the schools that we work with, Katosi Church of Uganda School, had “Keep Katosi Clean Day”.  The students made signs and marched through Katosi cleaning up trash.  Leslie organized most of it and it turned out wonderfully.  We had wheelbarrows, brooms, and hoes donated and the children cleaned for two hours.  I donated latex gloves for everyone and we even had an escort from the police station.  The program lasted from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. so it was quite a long day.  The school has had “Keep Katosi Clean Day” for the past three years but they said that this was definitely their best year so far.  Everything from the opening ceremony to the closing assembly went smoothly and I have to admit that I got a little teary eyed watching the kids.  They are really playing an active role in their community and it was wonderful to see.  In addition to the cleaning of the community, Leslie and I have been judging the students for the past month on sanitation.  Each class was judged on the cleanliness of their classroom, personal hygiene, and the compound area they are responsible for cleaning.  The third grade won so we presented them with a plaque and the entire class received a toothbrush, pencil, pencil sharpener and notebook.  They were so excited and I am glad that we could help encourage the kids to take an active role in sanitation both in their community and personally.  The school decided that next year they would have the sanitation competition again and pass on the plaque we made to the winner next year.  So even though we did not start the “Keep Katosi Clean Day,” we added the sanitation competition and the award in addition to organizing the program today which further legitimized the program in the minds of the community and the kids.  The sanitation club did a skit on good sanitation practices at the final assembly and ten students wrote poems on sanitation and read them at the assembly as well.  Needless to say it was an inspirational day and I am so glad I was able to participate.  Leslie and I have been judging for the past month so it was a great close to one of our projects.  I cannot believe that I only have 12 days left, but I look forward to finishing our garden, the bio sand water filters, and my sanitation guide.  This has really been a wonderful experience.

            And speaking of happy endings, Anna, our cow, finally had her calf today.  She gave birth early this morning to a beautiful female.  It was very exciting, but I feel bad for poor Anna because they put the calf in a separate pen.  They do this because if Anna feeds her calf she will not let anyone milk her.  They obviously want to milk her for revenue so the calf is about ten feet away in a separate pen, and Anna will not stop mooing.  She is so loud! I hope that the protective mother in Anna dies down a little in the next few days or I will be getting up at 5:30 a.m. every day when she starts her symphony.   I say symphony because she wakes up the rooster who wakes up the rest of the chickens as well as the people in the house that Anna did not wake up.  But it is the experience right? J Until next time.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Things are progressing right along here in Uganda. Our work in the office mainly consists of editing proposals, brochures, and various applications before they are sent off as well as browsing websites looking for potential donors with goals compatible to those of KWDT, and sending reports with information about these possibilities to our superiors, who then decide whether or not to pursue the application further. We are working with some teachers in Katosi C/U on the details of the budget for our piggery project. More goes into such an endeavor than I expected and the project will be more costly than our initial estimate (pigs require vaccination against diseases, eat quite a bit, and the cost of building a quality, sanitary pen is not insignificant), but we are working out the particulars now.

In other news, our weekends and past week’s travels have been fun. A few weekends ago we went on a safari in Murchison Falls National Park, the largest park in Uganda. The game drive yielded a number of giraffes, hippos, buffaloes, baboons, warthogs, elephants from a distance, and various antelopes. Later on the boat ride we saw some crocodiles on the shore, a lone elephant which we got quite close to, several varieties of large birds, and a nice view of the waterfall after which the park is named. The following morning’s hike around the falls resulted in some great views as well. Overall it was an excellent time. The following weekend Zach and I accompanied our host family to their Seventh Day Adventist Church, which was quite an experience. The main service was over four hours and was preceded by a smaller-group Bible Study. We headed into town after a pot-luck lunch, but Frank, Rehema, Denise, and Rachel stayed for more meetings and Children’s Church. It’s a marathon Saturday in the life of a devout Seventh Day Adventist in Uganda. Later that weekend was the US Embassy’s 4th of July party, a rather exciting event featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, and fireworks, among other things. The next weekend we returned to the beloved Backpacker’s Hostel in Jinja for a healthy dose of adventure in the form of white-water rafting down the Nile, which was an absolute blast. It differed slightly from the white-water rafting I am familiar with in that here the depth of the river results in far less dangerous rocks near the surface, meaning that there is no problem attacking the rapid head-on, flipping the raft, and swimming halfway down. In fact this is precisely what happened for at least three out of the eight major rapids on the day. I would describe it as considerably more fun than rafting with the absolute goal of staying inside the raft.

After Jinja, Zach and I headed out on our own adventure of sorts. Due to a flurry of conferences in Rome and Paris that our KWDT staff were attending, the office was going to be virtually empty last week and commuting to work would have been challenging for us since Rehema was in Rome. So, Zach and I made a quick stop at home to pack some things on Sunday, and then turned around and headed to the southwest region of Uganda, which received substantial praise from our trusty guide book and indeed lived up to expectations. After enjoying Lake Bunyonyi in the southwest corner of the country, we moved north towards Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we saw a number of elephants from close range and three spotted hyenas dragging along an antelope they had just killed. We then set up shop in a nice campsite just outside the grounds of the national park in Rwenzori Mountains and enjoyed spectacular views and some self-directed hiking, which I do not especially recommend for reasons Zach articulated on in his post below. Finally, we proceeded to Fort Portal, a very nice mid-sized town, and crashed there for a night before getting up and taking the all-day bus ride back to Kampala yesterday.

Only two weeks remain for us in Uganda, and I hope to make the most of them. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here thus far and expect to finish strong and help out in whatever way possible the next couple of weeks.

Travels throughout SW Uganda

Over the course of the last 7 days, Grant and I took it upon us to explore southwestern Uganda and to investigate what the region had to offer. We did not come away disappointed. Coincidentally, our supervisors Margaret and Rehema had two conferences, in Paris and in Rome respectively, leaving the office empty and Grant and I without a reliable way to get to work. So…we decided it would be a convenient time to leave work and do some travelling. (In exchange for having a week off, upon returning home I will use UNC's grant database center to search for relevant foundations, and to send my findings to KWDT). Recommendations from our guidebook and random travelers quickly gave us a route to follow over the course of 6 days. As previously mentioned, we have already been to Murchison Falls for a Safari and to Jinja to do whitewater rafting. The northern parts of the country are extremely remote, lack reliable and efficient transportation, and possibly have security issues, so we instead headed South.


After a day of riding buses we arrived on the shores of Lake Bunyoni-around 6-7 hours away from Kampala and very close to the border of Rwanda and Tanzania. A mistaken text from our cell provider welcoming us to Rwanda informed us of our proximity. Lake Bunyoni-advertised as the most beautiful lake in Uganda and a fitting retreat from the hustle and bustle of Kampala, lived up to its reputation. The lake encompasses 20+ islands, nearly all accessible by a short canoe ride or even shorter boat ride, and we opted for the former to take us to our lodge where we stayed Monday and Tuesday night. We spent the next two days walking around the island, swimming in the lake (one of the few lakes where hippos, crocs, and water-born illnesses are absent) and enjoying the surroundings.


On Wednesday, with our minds set on going on another wildlife drive and hopefully spotting a lion in the wild, we headed for Queen Elizabeth National Park. We hired a local driver to take us on a 3 hour drive, and although we spotted elephants, hyenas, warthogs, and many others…the lions were nowhere to be found. Slightly disappointing….After the national park, we hopped on a minibus and made our way to Kasese and eventually to the Rwenzori Mountains. The ride to Kasese merits some comment: We are used to travelling in Uganda and have become accustomed to being crammed in minibuses that are intended to carry 14 passengers yet carry quite a few more. However, I think this bus might have been trying to set a record for carrying capacity. At one count, and the numbers are constantly fluctuating as people come and go, there were no less than 27 people in the car. We could really do nothing, literally, could not hardly move, except be thankful that the ride was only 50ish km and that this was an experience we did not have to endure often. Unfortunately, that is how the majority of Ugandans travel, and though it gets them where they need to go, it is horribly uncomfortable and a very undignified way to travel. Of course, it is also the cheapest, and in many areas, the only way to travel. Though it does provide a service that the people could not live without, it would be nice if there was another, more comfortable way for people to travel.


So…we arrived at the base of the Rwenzori mountains-Uganda's tallest mountains, peaking at 16,000 feet, and reportedly more difficult to trek than Mt. Kilimanjaro-though we did not test it out. We stayed at a great lodge, built right into the slope of the mountain, where we could enjoy fantastic views of the mountains and where we could take off on shorter day hikes to see the area. We took a 4 hr hike on a nearby mountain only to end up losing the trail, getting attacked by the most vicious ants I have been bitten by-within seconds they were in my shirt, on my legs, and in my shoes- so naturally I took off running up the trail, slapping the parts of my body I felt stinging, and throwing off my shirt to get rid of the ants biting me while jumping up and down. I imagine it would have been a funny sight to an observer. We probably should have hired a local guide to show us around…When not hiking, most of time was spent reading and hanging out.


When Saturday came around, we headed to Fort Portal-the largest commercial center in the region, to buy tickets for the most comfortable bus ride we could find for the 5-6 hour ride back to Kampala on Sunday. Now we are back in Kampala and getting reacquainted with life in the office.


We have two more weeks here in Kampala, and I suspect my next post will be up by the middle to end of next week.



Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Gift of Life

This morning, as the sun was breaking through the early morning clouds, throwing a golden light on the ground, Ana, our cow, gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After an hour and a half of heavy breathing and strained mooing, Camille was born. I did not watch the birth, but I did see the calf shortly thereafter. She is a much smaller version of her mother, with the same coloring and build, and absolutely adorable. The gift of life is a glorious thing.

This week has been full of adventures. On Sunday, Kristen was diagnosed with malaria and so she has been staying in Mukono with Georgia and Njeri. She has recovered now though she is still very tired. Heidi and Raymond left on Wednesday morning to meet Heidi’s family and travel. I have been left to hold down the fort, feeding the chickens, making yogurt in the evening and morning, in addition to my daily activities at the schools.

At St. John Bosco, we, the students and I, have finished the gardens except for actually planting the eggplant and sukuma wiki (collard greens). However, I have led the students in planting the seeds in make-shift nursery beds made out of cut water bottles. Once the seeds have germinated, we will transfer them to the gardens. I have left a few members of the P5 class with the responsibility of watering the plants and storing them at night. Some of the seeds have already sprouted and so we are all very hopeful. I have also been teaching the P3 class at St. John Bosco. It’s amazing how different the schools I work with are. I feel that the 70 students in this P3 class understand my English better than the 47 students in my P5 class at Katosi C/U. However, all of the students I work with are very bright and we all recognize the difficulty my accent poses for them. Patience is virtue.

Tomorrow is Keep Katosi Clean Day. I have been spending much time preparing for this event. The Katosi C/U Sanitation Club is hosting a community-wide cleaning day where groups of students, each led by a teacher, will go around the community cleaning rubbish and promoting good sanitation and hygiene. This week we have made posters, students have written short speeches that they will read to the audience at the end of the ceremony, and a group of students have even created a drama production on sanitation. Christopher, the head teacher of the Sanitation Club, and I have delivered letters to key officials in the community asking for their support. We have also gone around to local businesses asking for donations. The Headmaster wrote an announcement that has been read over the community intercom everyday since Thursday advertising our activity and encouraging all citizens to join us. This day will also mark the end of the Inter-class Sanitation Competition. For the past month, P1-P7 have been competing to be the class with the cleanest classroom, compound area, and personal hygiene. As the judge, I have randomly gone and judged the classes on these three areas, awarding points based on how clean and sanitary they are. Yesterday, Christopher and I went to the market and bought prizes for the top two classes who will be recognized at the Keep Katosi Clean Ceremony tomorrow. Every term, Katosi will continue the Inter-class Sanitation Competition in order to maintain a healthy school ground and to improve the health of the students.

On Monday, Heidi and I visited the Nakisunga women’s group, the newest of the thirteen KWDT groups. We taught a group of twenty members how to bake the basic yellow cake. It is quite the ordeal considering we baked it over a three stone stove with the wind blowing around it. The three stone stove is made with three large rocks creating a base for the cooking pot. Firewood is placed under the pot and between the stones to heat the pots. To build our oven, we put a second pot facedown on top of the first. It took over two hours to bake the cake instead of the typical 40 minutes, but this did not stop the women and few men from being extremely excited. Once, as we took the top pot off to check on the progress of the cake, the women tried to put on the icing! Once it was ready, it was thoroughly enjoyed by all members.

Heidi and I stayed the night with Ester Margaret, the treasurer of the Nakisunga group, and an absolutely lovely, hospitable lady. I admire her for her strength and her devotion to her life. Ester Margaret has been married fourteen years to a kind, understanding man and yet she has not born any children. In a society where children are the symbol of wealth and prosperity, Ester Margaret and her husband have remained strong together. Five years ago, Ester Margaret was in a vehicle accident, and since then, she has been having pains in her chest and stomach. Although her chest pains have been relieved, her stomach pains are getting worse. The results from a scan reveal a spot in her side, possibly in her uterus, which may explain why she cannot get pregnant. The pain prevents her from carrying heavy items, including jerry cans of water. She is thus no longer able to fetch water, an activity crucial to survival in the area as it is the only way to access water. (KDWT has graciously allowed her to take out a loan to build a water tank at her house. The tank is finished and has been helping her enormously over the past year or two.) Now, she is faced with making a decision about surgery. The surgery would be quite expensive and finding the money will prove difficult. Additionally, she is also afraid of the surgery, but she values her life and desires to have children. I know that she will do what is right for her, and if she chooses to have the surgery, she and her husband will find a way to make it happen. She left us with a phrase she holds close to her heart: “Don’t tell people your problems because 1/3 will laugh at you, 1/4 will not care, and the rest have more problems than you. Tell God, He will listen.” She was not telling us her problems, she was asking for advice and support of which she received both.

Ester Margaret is a woman who fights every day for her health. She is a role model for any woman. She recognizes that life is a gift and that sometimes the choices we have to make are not easy.

I end this blog with the lyrics from a song that we all know but one that has come to have a very dear meaning to me:

Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘til I’m going to need somebody to lean on.”

Life is the most precious gift that a person can ever give or receive.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


                So I thought that I was doing fairly well here and I really felt like I was becoming a part of the culture by truly living here for 2 months opposed to just visiting for a few weeks.  Well now I think that I can officially say that I have experienced Uganda since I discovered that I have malaria.  All of the interns travelled together this past weekend and had a wonderful time, but on our way back home on Sunday I thought I was dying.  We ended up going to a clinic Sunday evening and my blood test came out positive for malaria.  I have to say that the past week has been very scary and uncomfortable.  I am feeling much better now and I get my last blood test tomorrow to make sure that I nipped it in the bud, but this past week really stunk.  I was in a clinic that was not clean by American standards and I had to be on an IV for 4 days.  The nurses did not speak English and they really didn’t check on me so let’s just say that figuring out what they were giving me and going to the bathroom were not easy tasks.  I will never take American Health Care for granted again, nor will I fail to appreciate the fact that malaria does not exist in the U.S.  Unfortunately, 13% of adolescents under the age of 5 die in Uganda and malaria is the number one killer of children under 5.  After having it I understand why it could take a toll on children.  You feel like you got hit by a bus.  Anyway, Georgia and Njeri, two of the interns in Mukono, have been taking great care of me.  I have stayed with them for the past week since I could not be treated in the village where I am placed and I am so grateful to have had them this past week.  They have been true friends and have dealt with my tears and complaining.  I do not know what I would have done without them and I owe them big time.  Other than that, not much is new.  I have simply been in bed for the past week and I cannot wait to get back to Katosi and finish strong.  I have two weeks left, which should be just enough time to finish all of our projects.  I will be sad to go, but after getting sick and struggling to get better I admit that I miss home and I am very excited to see everyone soon.  Until next time.  I miss everyone so much and I cannot wait to see you all.


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Heifer Project Continued and Month One in Kyetume

For families with less than three orphans, the project provides a goat in place of the Heifer and as with the cows; families are obligated to pass along the goat’s offspring if it’s a female and sell it if it’s a male.

Primary and secondary schools are also recipients of Heifers and goats. The goal of donating these animals to local schools is to teach the students valuable animal husbandry skills that they can teach to others in their neighborhoods and also to generate income to fund school projects.

Week One At Kyetume Community Based Health Care Programme

Week one at Kyetume revolved around identifying and contacting orphan families and schools that need/want Keyhole Gardens. Most of the orphan families selected were already involved in various projects with Kyetume while the majority of the schools on the list did not have any affiliation with KCBHCP. David and I settled on the ambitious goal of constructing 30 gardens in 2 months, 7 of which would be at primary and secondary schools and 23 with orphan families. There was a slight preference for working with schools over individual families as students are more apt to spread their knowledge of Keyhole garden construction to a wider base than would orphan families.

Before heading out to Kampala to purchase the seeds needed for the gardens, a general consensus was reached at the office suggesting that we purchase at least five different types of seeds to include Collard greens, Eggplants, Carrots, Watermelons and Onions.

My week concluded with a delivery of 6 goats to 6 orphan families. The first 5 had been bought by KCBHCP using donated funds; the last and smallest goat was the offspring of a goat that had been given to an orphan family. It was incredible to witness the amount of work that goes into delivering each individual goat to a family. The day began with David driving at least an hour away to purchase the goats; the animals were then brought to the office, added to the record and then the difficult task of delivering them to each family started. The latter task would have been difficult enough were the roads paved and in good condition, but here in rural Uganda, one is hard pressed to find a tarmac road so that the delivering of the goats necessarily involved hours of driving on dusty and bumpy roads to destinations that were so remote, the driver needed to stop and ask for directions when he got to the town where each family resided. In this manner, the delivery of 6 goats over a distance of less than 60 miles took almost 6 hours. But perhaps the greatest relief to the hunger and exhaustion all of us felt at the conclusion of each delivery was the bright eyes and wide smiles spread across each of the recipients’ faces as they received their goats.

“Farming is hard work, mahn”

As with most things one watches an expert do but has never attempted him/herself, I totally underestimated the skill and energy that goes into farming. My first time lifting a hoe was met with many jeers and laughter from the community members I was working with as I managed raising the hoe only half the height appropriate to make a deep hole and then proceeded to drop the it so close to my toes David cringed in horror. After watching the others and understanding that one raises the hoe high above their head and places a considerable amount of distance between where the hoe will fall and their feet, I was finally able to move on to the next lesson. Lesson three dealt with the spacing of each hole dug so that the hoe fell right where the previously dug hole had ended creating a row of holes.

The first keyhole gardens we built were at a beneficiary’s home and a primary school called Jesus is Alive Education Center. After explaining our purpose to the beneficiary and confirming that he had requested a Keyhole Garden be constructed outside his home, David and I went about the business of clearing the site of grass so that we could all begin digging. The clearing of the grass was a pleasant enough task save for the fact that the beneficiaries opted to watch David and I work rather than join us. David must have sensed my frustration as no sooner had I decided to join the watching party as he commented that the job didn’t need any supervisors watching over others but that we should ALL join in so that the grass could quickly get cleared. After that, everything went much more smoothly and we completed our first keyhole garden in less than 4 hours.

Building a keyhole garden at Jesus is Alive Education Center was perhaps the most fun I have had while toiling the earth. The students immediately joined us once we started clearing the land and those who didn’t have hoes used their hands to pull up the weeds. The students’ hard work was a welcome change to the lackluster motivation we had witnessed at the first beneficiary’s home. As we were digging, some of the students commented on how they would love to have keyhole gardens in their homes and that since they now knew how to build them now, they would only need bother about acquiring seeds. It was at this point that David turned to me and commented that there was a need for seeds, especially since some of the seeds we had bought could easily be harvested for four years straight as long as the beneficiaries/schools were taught how to properly care for them. The students’ statement was encouraging to me, as I had always hoped that community members and especially students would embrace the idea of keyhole gardens and spread their knowledge to others. But now I was confronted with the fact that while they embraced the idea, we didn’t have enough seeds to distribute to everyone who would have wanted to plant some.

Ghaddafi’s Little Bodyguards

Another interesting topic that came up while building the keyhole garden with students from Jesus is Alive Education Center revolved around Ghaddafi’s women bodyguards. As we were digging, I noticed that some of the girls were arguing about who among them was the highest ranking member of their make belief bodyguard team that guarded Libya's Ghaddafi. One would say that she was a lieutenant and another would immediately chime in and loudly declare that SHE was the general of the elite group of Ghaddafi’s protectors. It was during this exchange that it dawned on me that while the rest of the world viewed Ghaddafi as this raging maniac bent on maintaining his power irrespective of the number of human lives lost in the process, little girls in a remote village in Uganda viewed protecting him as the ultimate honor. For all that was said about Ghaddafi, he had done his small share in empowering girls to imagine a future different from marriage, housework and child bearing and rearing. As lieutenants and generals of Ghaddafi’s elite team of bodyguards, these girls were imagining a future where they held value and were revered for being the best at what was predominantly a man’s job. The point is not lost on me however, that this respect was achieved through service to a man.

“No one told you? You have to have a heavy breakfast before you come out here digging”

The next keyhole garden we built was at the home of a heifer recipient who was raising his deceased son’s multiple children. The man was excited that we would be helping him construct a keyhole garden as he had saved enough with the money he received from the sale of milk to buy 3 acres of land but had no seeds to plant in the land. Before our arrival, the man thought he would only be able to plant banana trees both to sell and for food but since we had brought him various seeds, he would be able to have a diversity of crops. David and I left the man’s house excited that the nutrition of the orphans under the old man’s care would be greatly improved by the keyhole garden we had just helped construct.

Building a keyhole garden at the next beneficiary’s home was perhaps the most tiresome and rewarding experience I have had so far. After starting our day later than usual and skipping lunch so as to be back at the office before dark, we arrived at the madam’s house around 2pm. We were immediately struck by how strongly the sun seemed to be shinning that afternoon and I almost had the mind to suggest we return the next day but was dissuaded by the long, dusty and bumpy ride I would have to endure (again) in order to make the trip back. I decided since I was already there, I might as well deliver on what I had been so excited to do the previous night. As luck would have it, it had rained the previous night, which for us meant that the dirt was loose and we wouldn’t need to exact a lot of force to dig. As we continued our digging and David and the beneficiary carried on their conversation so calmly that one would have thought they were sitting in cushy couches with their legs up on ottomans, the only thoughts on my mind were how much larger was this keyhole garden going to be and when were we going to eat?

Eventually we finished and the woman invited us back to her home to share in what she termed a small “snack” as that was the only way she could show her gratitude. The word snack apparently carried a different meaning for her than it did for David and I. For the “snack” the woman spoke of was a large plate (think a serving plate) of cooked bananas, beans, soup, and avocado with a side of passion juice. The food was so much that David (who has been known to hold his own when it came to chowing down food) asked for a smaller plate to divide his food into. I on the other hand could do nothing more than sit there staring at the food and complementing God on his incredible sense of humor; I wanted food, well, here it was.

“Don’t be rude when someone is showing their gratitude”

After eating, (I also divided my food into a smaller plate) we all sat around the woman’s small living room for an hour listening to her speak of the orphans in her care and how they fell ill so frequently and took long to recover because of poor nutrition. Upon hearing this, I immediately felt guilty as it dawned on me that this woman had probably offered us food that was intended to feed her large family for two weeks. On the long, dusty and bumpy road home, I asked David if it was okay that we ate the woman’s food knowing that she didn’t have a lot of it and when we (David and I) could have just driven down the road and bought food from a restaurant. David said to me that for that woman, that meal was the only way she could have thanked us and our refusal of her food would have been tantamount to riding into a remote village in an expensive car and giving out candy to kids all the while making sure not to touch their hands. Needless to say, after this conversation with David, I had no problem eating food and taking home gifted fruits from beneficiaries.

Reflecting on my experience so far

To date (July 15th, 2011), David and I have built 19 keyhole gardens 16 of which have been with individual beneficiaries and 3 at primary schools. Through out the building of these gardens, I have witnessed inconceivable poverty and living conditions so terrible they could easily drive one to madness when one imagined how many resources are available in this incredibly beautiful country. But through it all, Ugandans have been resilient and refused to allow the lack of this or that or shortage of this and that, harden their generous hearts. We have yet to construct a garden in a home where we weren’t afterwards invited for dinner or lunch or where the beneficiaries didn’t gift us with something they had. One beneficiary even offered to buy us sodas in addition to the two bags of passion fruits, mangoes and jackfruits he had already gifted us. We kindly refused the sodas although it took a bit of convincing to get the man to call back the child he had sent to buy them.

I have witnessed incredible love as families opt to live in poverty together rather than abandon relatives who fall victims to HIV and AIDS. I am still at awe at the closeness strangers in Uganda share; a human bond so tight that our driver took a mango right out of his mouth and pulled over to give it to a child who was crying after receiving a whooping from his mother. The driver was sure to remind the child to apologize to his mother and to never repeat the offense that was the cause of the whooping. Only in Uganda!

Should I need more convincing as to how much the word community (this includes animals and even plants) means to Ugandans, there is always the day I watched David help a random cow give birth. We happened to be constructing a keyhole garden around the same time and in the same area that a cow owned by the local school was struggling to give birth. Without a moment’s hesitation, David rushed to the cow’s aid after noticing that the calf was not positioned correctly for a normal birth. I will spare you the details on exactly how David assisted the cow calf but needless to say, my eyes remained shut for the majority of the delivery and I tasted my lunch more times than I would have cared to.

“You can speak Luganda…. no… you speak Luganda to me”

One of my most frustrating experiences in Uganda has been the anger that some men have directed towards me for my inability to speak Luganda. My first encounter with this was in Jinja on our way back from a weekend rafting trip. While at the taxi park, a man in his twenties began speaking to me in Luganda to which I replied in English that we were not boarding the taxis but were instead going to wait for a bus. All of a sudden, the man began hurling what I recognized as insults (due to the tone of his voice and an inkling one sometimes gets about such things) claiming that I could speak Luganda but was pretending I couldn’t because I was with white people. I was able to understand that this is what he was saying because Luganda shares more than a few words with Kiswahili and Kikuyu, both of which I am fluent in. While this man didn’t manage to get much of a rise from me, the bus driver definitely got me going when he said words to the same effect because I had failed to respond to something he had said. But perhaps the worst insults came from a driver in Kyetume who was convinced that I was pretending not to speak Luganda because I was in the company of Georgia and Kristen. The man was so upset and yelling so loudly that Georgia, Kristen and I became worried and began to quickly walk away. He refused to offer us his services on the count of my PRETENDING to not speak Luganda.

The whole experience has just been puzzling to me since only people in central Uganda speak Luganda and many in other regions of Uganda cannot speak a single word of the language. Everything in me begs to ask, “Do these people think that blacks can only come from Uganda, as if the neighboring countries are not inhabited by black people? Furthermore, don’t they know that there are black people in this same Uganda who cannot speak Luganda? And if I knew Luganda, wouldn’t it be to my benefit to speak it since I would be better placed to negotiate for cheaper prices? But I try and remind myself that there are those Africans who don’t think other Africans can be successful to the point of being able to afford to travel to other countries. And even if they were able to travel, these people imagine that successful Africans would not want to come to travel to other African countries let alone a small village like Kyetume. It is also not completely lost on me that there are those Africans who after becoming successful resent others who are not as successful and even act like they can’t speak their language so as to disassociate themselves from the poor and “backwards” and link themselves with the “advanced” by using their languages. Still none of these explanations can completely erase the sting of being labeled a “sell out”.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nsanyuse okubalaba. I am happy to see you all.

It was a grave disappointment to open my flash drive and find that the previous blog I wrote had been eaten by the technology monster. At least this incident is contrary to my experience in Uganda. I have been having the most wonderful time in Katosi; I can hardly believe that in just over three weeks I will be leaving. It feels like only last week I arrived! Since my last published blog entry, I have been staying very busy—teaching, gardening, building bio-sand water filters, attending KWDT meetings, and playing with children.

On Tuesday, 21 June, I attended the Katosi Women Development Trust Coordinators Meeting. This meeting occurs every three months and brings together the leaders of the thirteen women’s group in the district. Thankfully, Maria, the Ugandan intern for KWDT, was there to translate as the entire meeting was held in Luganda. Since the joint meeting occurs only quarterly, as opposed to every two weeks like the individual group meetings, it lasted for five hours. A large portion of the meeting was devoted to discussing current and future projects, as well as to checking record books and ensuring all of the women are familiar with the necessary steps in keeping proper records of their business activities. Some of the current projects include selling agricultural products, cattle raising, and yogurt making. Future projects may include smoking fish, building latrines, and baking. Heidi has taught several of the women’s groups how to bake cakes with makeshift ovens. Kristen and I were supposed to go with her last week to teach one of the groups in a distant village, but in the end we were told not to come due to an unexpected presence of witchcraft in the village. Perhaps we will try again next time they have a meeting.

As for the yogurt, every morning I continue to help Heidi and Maama Gertrude with making Daily Dairy Yogurt. The previous day, the milk is bought from women in the group who own cows, and then it is heated and cooled to kill the bacteria. Each night we filter the whole milk and add yogurt culture. In the morning, we add sugar and flavoring (vanilla, strawberry, and orange), before scooping it into individual cups to sell in the dairy. On any given day, we may make anywhere between 20-28 liters of yogurt (60-85 cups), and more often than not, they are all sold by the end of the day. KDWT hopes to expand this enterprise to the other women groups in the organization.

The same day as the Coordinator’s Meeting was the Inter-school Sports Competition in which Katosi C/U, one of the schools at which I teach, was taking part. After the meeting, Kristen and I walked to Kalengera where we managed to catch the second half of C/U’s final football match. Katosi C/U won all three of the their football matches that day! The students were ecstatic, singing and dancing all the way back to the school where I was invited to give a congratulatory speech at the closing assembly.

Later in the week, I learned how to make soap, another income-generating activity for the women in KWDT. Kristen and I were given a step-by-step tour of the process, even learning how to tell the difference between pure soap and soap that has a lot of additives. It is incredible how much time and effort has to be put into something that is so frequently used and taken for granted. The following week, we spent much time building bio-sand water filters, a water purification system. This is part of Kristen’s project, so I will not go into much detail in my blog. Thus far we have only built the molds of the filters; however, this is no small task. We have to mix red clay dust (24 kg sifted), small stones (12 kg), larger stones (12 kg), and cement (15 kg). Then we have to screw together the frame, which can take a lot longer than one would think. The first day it took us over an hour to successfully connect the pieces of the frame. Once the cement mixture is ready, we pack it into the frame and wait 24 hours before removing it, and repeating the whole process for the next filter. It is a lot of work!

Another project I have taken on is building two keyhole gardens for St. John Bosco Primary School. The first day I visited this school, the students were sent home at mid-day because the school did not have enough flour for the porridge the students typically receive for lunch. Keyhole gardens are an easy way to grow vegetables without too much effort. I am working with the students to grow schuma (collard greens) and eggplant. The gardens are just about finished and so next week, we will plant the seeds in nursery beds with the students in the P5 class before transferring them to the garden beds once the seeds have sprouted.

In addition to teaching in classrooms during the school day, I have been working three schools’ Sanitation and Health Clubs. Katosi C/U Primary and St. Joseph Secondary currently have the most active clubs. Every week at our meetings, we discuss proper sanitation practices and health related issues, such as the importance of hand washing, bathing properly, disposing of waste (human and other), and cleaning drinking water, to name a few. With the secondary students, the focus has been more on mental health—discussing aspirations, future goals, and gender roles.

Also, once or twice I week I teach English to a small group of women who live near St. John Bosco. They are such wonderful women to be around, full of life and appreciation. One of the women, Betty, has the most contagious laugh I think I have ever heard. While the approach to teaching these women is different from working with the primary school children, I enjoy it just as much. I have found that my Luganda has improved by communicating with the women and my appreciation for their dedication to their work has increased as I have gotten to know them better. All of the women I have met and work with are incredibly strong and intelligent, regardless of their completed education level. I have learned so much from them that I never would have learned in a classroom.

This past week was been full of celebrations. Last Friday, I celebrated my birthday by going with Raymond, Heidi, and Kristen to see The Ebonies, a popular and well-known Ugandan drama production group. In a nutshell, the play was a five-hour long soap about a man who killed his wife and how the police were trying to get him to confess by imposing as his wife, a reverend, and a scatterbrained inspector whose main function was that of comic relief. There were several side stories going on at the same time and I’m not entirely sure how they all connected since it was, as usual, primarily in Luganda. (Thanks to Raymond for translating as much as he could!) Three days later, Rose’s second birthday happened to fall on USA’s Independence Day. We celebrated both with glow sticks, music, and cake in the courtyard of our compound with a few neighborhood children and our adult friends. If only I could have captured the mesmerized look on Rose’s face as she held the glow stick in one hand and a cell phone playing music in the other. She couldn’t have been happier, until the cake was brought out of course.

There are no dull moments in Katosi. I am finding a plethora of enjoyable and educational activities to fill my time, and so I am already dreading the day that I will have to leave my new home. I have come to love everyone that I work with as together we bridge the cultural divide and work towards mutual understanding and improved sanitation and hygiene in the community.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Birthdays and Bio Sand Filters

Hey Everyone,

I am still having a wonderful time in Katosi with my roommate Leslie.  In fact today is her birthday and we are going to attempt a cake for the occasion.  Of course there are no ovens here, so we have to put two pots together on a gas stove and put the cake inside of that.  This is the closest thing to an oven we are going to get in Katosi.  We already made one with the Peace Core Volunteer that lives in Katosi; her name is Heidi and she has been a great help giving us advice and teaching us tricks like this one.  We were supposed to help her teach one of the women’s groups how to bake cakes a few days ago, but unfortunately they canceled.  Witchcraft had apparently taken place and people were supposed to die in their homes so it was not safe for us to go.  Most people in Uganda are Christian; in fact 85% of the population is Christian, but the people in rural villages still believe in witchcraft and witch doctors etc.  I was bummed that we couldn’t go and when I heard the explanation it took me a second to digest it.  The people here are certainly more superstitious than the United States.  Hopefully no spells will be cast in two weeks when we are supposed to meet with the group for the second time. Only time will tell I guess.

   In other news we finally started making the bio sand water filters!!! I am so excited to finally have them started.  Two were already made and we have already made two more, so hopefully in the next week we can make yet another two.  I have enough money to pay for six thanks to Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.  I attended this elementary school and the children there raised money for me for their Lent Projects.  I am so thankful and I will send pictures of the families who are receiving the filters as soon as I can.   Instead of giving them away, however, I have decided to only subsidize each one so that the families are invested in the project.  My original plan was to give a bio sand water filter to all of the schools I was working for, but after attending the schools I discovered that they all have at least one and most of them have gone to waste.  To maintain the filters you have to put water in them every day or they dry up and go bad over time.  If you put water in them every day, however, they will last forever.   Unfortunately, the people here are used to receiving things for free and they are not invested in the project.  The bio sand water filters in the schools are a prime example of charity gone to waste.  Thus, I announced to the women’s groups that I will subsidize half if they pay for the other half.  This way the women and their families have invested in the filters and will be more motivated to maintain them and use them every day.  I have to admit that I had to put on my mean face to get this project started and the get the women to show up on time to build them.  I do not think that I will ever get used to Africa time.  However, we are on a role now and I hope to have 6 finished before I leave, but the money I brought should pay for 12 since I am subsidizing half.   The filters are quite the project, but I have really enjoyed making them.  We mix cement, sand, and rocks to make the cement and then we poor it all into a mold and let it dry for 24 hours.  The mixing and screwing and packing takes about three hours and the women we are working with work extremely hard.  Three women were helping us named Betty, Rusty, and Gertrude and I am so thankful for all of their hard work.  Leslie and I are going to paint them all and then fill them with the layers of sand and they should be ready to go.  I will keep you updated, but a special thanks to OLPH for helping me pay for this project.  Your donations are greatly appreciated. Until next time.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Updates from Kampala, Week 4??

It is hard for me to believe that I have been in Uganda for a month… Although, in hindsight, time usually seems to pass quickly, so I guess this should not come as much of a surprise.
In the office we are continuing to work on the school business challenge, though we were unable to make a trip to Katosi this week (it's about a 2 hour drive from Kampala and we have gone every Tuesday except for this week) to gather the budget for the business and work on the business plan some more. Hopefully next Tuesday we can make the trip and push the project along. Business, travel, communication, and many other everyday activities take quite a bit longer here than in the U.S., and though I'd like to think I have adapted well to life in Uganda, the dramatically slower pace of life here is something that I just can't seem to get accustomed to. As Grant can attest, "African time" is certainly the source of the entirety of my frustrations, whenever they do arise. (Don't worry, it is not often).

Speaking of the slower pace of life here, Grant and I are going to join Rehema's family for church on Saturday to experience a 7th Day Adventist Church service, which is, not surprisingly, an all day affair. We have been informed that it begins at 9 and ends sometime around 5. I am not confident that I can handle such a service, as my childhood was scarred by weekly 6-7 hour long church services that have rendered me rather incapable of enduring services of such duration. We'll see how it goes….

The group (minus Maylotte and Njeri) travelled to Murchison Falls National Park last Saturday where we fulfilled our obligation as American tourists and enjoyed a safari. Hopefully someone else has the technological know-how and equipment needed to post pictures of the safari, as my description will do it little justice. It was, in my opinion, fairly awesome. Although we did not get to see the heavy hitters like lions or rhinos (understandable since I believe there are less than 15 rhinos living in the wild in Uganda), the safari was filled with giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, cape buffalo, elephants, owls, fishing eagles, wart hogs, and more gazelle and other deer-like animals than one could count. In traditional safari-style, we took a car with a pop-up roof that afforded us 360 degree views of the surrounding wild-life and scenery. The landscape honestly reminded me of rural parts of Florida, though the abundance of wildlife here makes the comparison unfitting. After the 4 hour safari we headed back to our campsite to eat lunch and rest before our boat trip later in the afternoon. The boat trip was also quite an experience. Several hundred meters down the river bank a herd of elephants had gathered, though unfortunately we were headed in the opposite direction and did not get an up-close encounter. We rode past hundreds, possibly thousands of hippos (which our guide pronounced (hippo-peaux-tay-musts), several cape buffalo, fish eagles, and spotted some small crocodiles on the shore. Murchison Falls is quite a sight, and the power of the current and the falls prevented our boat from getting to close. We enjoyed the Falls for a few minutes before heading back. The return trip took about half of time-likely the result of riding down river and not stopping so frequently. Our guides were skillful and friendly, stopping frequently to point out different animals and give us time to take pictures. Once we returned to the dock we noticed an elephant in the distance, and the guides we kind enough to let us go check it out. In the same place we had seen the elephant herd prior to departure, an enormous bull elephant was standing by the river. Probably the highlight of the animal viewing for me- it was enormous, and we were able to get within 30-40 feet of it.

Until next time.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everything is well in Kampala after about three weeks. Zach has outlined the nature of our work, so I’m going to go ahead and chronicle some of the more unusual (in my mind) occurrences witnessed in the recent past. For me, our trip to the zoo qualifies since many of the featured animals I had never seen in my US zoo-deprived childhood. George, Zach, and I embarked on the aptly-named Forest Walk within the zoo, which was comprised of lots of large spiders, huge hoards of red ants, and eventually an accidental exit of the zoo’s grounds via exploration of several unkempt trails. Nonetheless, the zoo was a great experience overall. Other things I didn’t necessarily anticipate are as follows:

Animals everywhere – from cows holding up traffic to chickens wandering into houses, stray dogs and cats left and right, animals do just about whatever they please here. Also, in certain areas such as near the zoo and in the woods by Katosi there are these small cool-looking monkeys all over the place.

Traffic – terrible traffic jams, horrendously built dirt roads, and near-accidents are the norm here. Observed a few minor collisions, usually involving boda bodas in the congested city streets.

People swimming down rocky rapids of the Nile for money – self-explanatory

Some cultural oddities – On a trip to a very rural area to meet with a potential partner for KWDT, Zach, George and myself were treated to chairs while the women (who played such an exponentially more important role in the meeting it was laughable) including the hostesses of the home, sat on some mats on the floor. We were told that among their cultural practices was the idea that men must always be above women. Furthermore, the gathering was conducted outside and another woman who appeared to be listening sat in the dirt off in the distance. When we inquired about this later, George explained that the lady was the mother of the woman who lived there, and was not allowed on the property, although the mother of the husband would be welcomed any time. This discovery baffled me for quite some time. Imagine if one of your grandmother’s was greeted into your family’s home with open arms while the other could not set foot in your yard.

Rollerblades – did not see this one coming. On three occasions I’ve seen people on rollerblades, which is pretty much a death wish on any street in Uganda. One was clutching the back of a motorcycle moving at a decent clip, one was holding on to the back of a slow-moving truck, and one was cruising down a crowded street alone at night, which I think is a fabulous idea.

Overall, I am having a great time. Our host family is great, work is picking up, and we are all excited for our safari this weekend. Couldn’t ask for any more from the experience thus far.

- Grant