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.

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