Sunday, July 20, 2008

An end to an incredible summer of service in Uganda


I wanted to let you all know that I have safely returned to the United States of America! I left Uganda from Entebbe Airport at 10:20 p.m. on Tuesday, July 15th. After an 8 hour flight, I arrived in Amsterdam.

The first thing that I did when I got to Amsterdam was to go straight to the chocolate store and to buy a $7.00 chocolate bar. It was well worth the money, let me tell you! After not having chocolate for two months...I enjoyed it so much!

I left Amsterdam at 10:30 a.m. and got into Atlanta airport around 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday July 16th! I got through customs through a breeze and then waited out my 8 hour lay-over in Atlanta. Sadly, my customs officer had to ask me where exactly Uganda was....and I told him with an astonished voice that it was "a country that can be found in East Africa". What a sad, sad thing. It was almost an insult, especially after spending 2 amazing months in the country.

I actually met some really neat people in my terminal and loved talking about my experience in Uganda with them! Then, at around 9:30 p.m. I finally boarded the plane for my final destination: Gainesville, Florida.

I arrived home after a little more than two months at around 11:00 p.m. I was so excited to see my family and to finally bring my amazing journey to a close! Thank you for ALL of your support and your encouragment. I appreciate you all in my life and can not wait to share with you the somewhat 1,000 pictures that I took during my summer of service in Uganda. I know that there are a lot of pictures, so just look through as many as you can!

Here is a link to my two albums, let me know if there are any problems!

This is the First Album:

Don't miss out on the Second Album too, here are more pictures that I could not fit in the first!:

Thanks! I love you all and am so happy that I was able to share this experience with you! I can't wait to talk with you all about it and I am so lucky to have you in my life!

This is going to by my last post on this blog! Thanks for reading!

Njakumusinga (I am going to miss you in Luganda),

Babirye (Beth) or Ssuubi (Hope) :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Preparing to leave Uganda

Hello amazing friends, family and Florida State Seminoles!

I hope this blog entry finds you well and that you are having a wonderful day. I wish that I could give you all a big hug (I guess I can to a few of you in a few days, since I am returning to the United States so soon)! In fact, I leave in THREE days on Tuesday July 15th!

Anyways, I am going to try and figure out how to write down in words how I am savoring my last few days in Uganda. It is so hard to compose all that I am feeling, so I am sorry in advance if my writing sounds off topic and crazy. Woops!

So, here we go!

Wednesday, July 9th:

Today was my last class teaching at Kikaaya College. I knew that it was going to be a hard class to say goodbye to, as I really bonded with my 60 Senior Two students. They have such a powerful enthusiasm for learning and they made the classroom environment so welcoming each week as I made my way through the village to start class at 11:00 a.m. every Wednesday.

Since it was my last class, I decided to do a review of the class so that I could get some feedback from them about what lessons stuck out to them and to discover what comments they still had to give. They were VERY interesting to read through later that afternoon and were so encouraging! Apparently, I am "one of the most beautiful women they have ever met with my tall and thick hair" and "I always brought a smile to the classroom and was the best teacher ever". I still have the evaluations and am definitely bringing them home with me to look at whenever I want to remind myself of how I had a blast teaching in Uganda.

I think they enjoyed this personal reflection time (they do not do this sort of thing in their usual classes) and what was even more exciting to them was that we took some photographs outside after we wrapped up the lesson and I gave them some Winnie-The-Pooh stickers I got from The Dollar Tree before I left home (since they had been such a fantastic class)! They were so loud that I was afraid the Headmaster was going to come out of his office but when the time came to say goodbye, it was not as emotional as I thought it would be. I am going to miss those crazy kids, but I know that I have definitely made a difference in many of their lives for the better and that is all that I need to know that my work here is ALL worth it!

Later this afternoon, the KACCAD staff got together and had a meeting to decide the winner of the HIV/AIDS mural design contest! We ended up with 13 design submissions, ranging in talent and creativity, but finally decided on three top choices. My favorite looks amazing and I can't wait to show you the picture of it in the very near future (when I put all my photos up on-line when I can get back to the USA). Anyways, the Headmaster of Kikaaya College agreed that this Senior 6 student had the best design.

I am so excited to announce the winner at the school general assembly on Monday afternoon. They are going to be so excited! They get to not only help paint the mural project on the school wall but they will receive one semester of school fees paid for (about 120,000 shillings or about $100.00 US). And for those artists that were not chosen, we are going to be able to showcase their designs in the school library so that all of the other students can see their hard work! I am glad that we are able to do that for them!

Thursday July 10th:

Today was one crazy day. I wish that you all had been hear to witness it. After we got back from home visits, where I put on a heavy backpack full of things like (maize flour, sugar, soap, rice & beans) and go into remote villages to counsel and educate those suffering from extreme poverty and are almost always living with HIV or AIDS, we had a crazy show down.

*I think you all know what the Home Visit program is by now, so I am not going to talk about it in full now. But if you want more details, please refer to a previous entry so that you do not miss out on the amazing opportunity that I have to step into the shoes of local Ugandans who are in such dire circumstances and ridiculously poor living conditions.

Anyways, back to the show down. So, we were all enjoying our lunch outside on the steps when we see Destroyer (Amanda's cat) walk into the compound with a apparently dead rat in this mouth. It was so gross. He just kept walking by and went around back to get to the window that lets him into Amanda's house. After Amanda finds him inside, she screams from the kitchen that there is a LIVE rat in her house and that she needs help!

So we all get up and run over to see what we can do. We finally get the rat out of her kitchen and it is now trapped in her garden. Derrick (our director) actually came out of the office with a freaking hammer, saying not to worry and that he would take care of it! It was so ridiculous! Then, Tiger (our dog) comes up and finds the rat and starts trying to kill it. But, the gross rat starts biting the poor dog and there is a crazy 30 second mid-air-action fight between Tiger and the rat. However, in the end, Tiger was the winner and all of the afternoon chaos came to an end. What a story, right?

Anyways, later that afternoon Amanda, Nick and I took a three hour hike/walk to visit some local secondary and primary schools in the area so that we could check in and see how their teachers who had attended our HIV/AIDS teacher's training workshop (the one that I facilitated my first week here in Uganda) were doing. We went to one school in Ssumbwe (which is a village that is very hard go get to) that was called All Saints Secondary School and I was impressed to find that the teachers here had put together a sensitization seminar for their fellow co-workers and staff with all of the information they had taken from the workshop. I was proud to see that.

However, at the second school that we went to called Bbira primary school, we did not have such luck. They had not done anything since the workshop and were very disorganized. I was a bit disappointed with them, to be honest. I was also a bit disturbed to see that some of the teachers were walking around with big sticks (definitely a form of corporal punishment to ensure discipline in the classroom). It was a big shock to me, as I am not used to seeing such behavior in schools in the United States. It was just another cultural shock that zapped me when I was not ready or expecting it.

While the work we were doing was informative, I also really enjoyed the time spent roaming the land of Uganda and running up the random 80 degree hill someone thought it was a wise idea to construct in the middle of nowhere. It is such good exercise and it feels so good to sweat under the hot African sun and at the same time to work that I absolutely love to get up to do each morning. Isn't this the life? :)

On the way back from the second school, we stopped off on the side of the road and got some banana juice from this women's market and I must say it was one of the most amazing things that I have tasted in my entire life. So delicious and it was actually cold somehow...I am still trying to figure that one out. It was so gooood.

Friday July 11th:

Today was my last lesson of teaching ever. Wow. I can't believe it. It seems like my first lesson was just a few days ago. I guess time really does fly when you are having fun!

Anyways, I brought my amazing teaching experience with KACCAD to a close at the women's school we work at called Haji Kiyemba Memorial Vocational Institute (what a name, right?). Today's lesson was on something very close to my heart: self-esteem. It is such an important topic to discuss and reflect on, especially here in Uganda. So, for this lesson we decided to make a rainbow.

With the rainbow, you have to make 7 arcs. Then, each arc stands for different things such as "Things I am good at", "What are my values?", or "What makes me feel good". Then, you fill out the rest of the arcs with the answers. It was such a fun activity to do with the students here but I must say that it took a lot longer than we thought it would. It is really hard for students in Uganda to think critically or creatively as they are taught to be obedient and to just repeat what the teacher says without question. It has been a very challenging barrier to break down and it is something that I hope the other volunteers continue to address after I leave.

What is also hard is the fact that some of the students here in Uganda have such a lack of responsibility for their actions. I am saying this here because during our lesson today, only 1/3 of the students came to class with a pencil or pen to write notes with. So when we asked for them to start drawing their rainbows, they were unable to. It is so disrespectful, especially since they know that we are coming to teach and learn together every Friday.

It is just frustrating to see that they have SO much potential (I mean, they have the chance to actually go to school and to DO something with their lives when so many of their peers do not), but that they do not do anything with what they have been given. I know that it is hard to live here in Uganda, but if they took the initiative to create the change they want to see in their country that things could be so much better. I want them to REALIZE that they have the power to create this positive change and that they are the ones that need to take responsibility and make it happen. It is something that I have been struggling to convey to all of the students, clients through our home visits and teachers that I have had the opportunity to meet and cross paths with during my two months here in this country.

Overall, the lesson went very well and I was pleased that some of the students really enjoyed the fact that they could keep their rainbows for the future. It makes me smile and my heart warm to know that they are enjoying life and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes their way (even if it is in the form of a 19 year-old college student from the USA).

We also took pictures after this lesson too and I have them to share with you all very soon! Oh, and before I forget, I had a wonderful surprise on Friday evening! Steve (the Ugandan who took me and Amanda to Namugongo for Martyr's Day) stopped by to say farewell to me! He recently got a government scholarship to Makere University in Kampala and he is also working at the head office of a bank too (in the Accounts Office). I am so proud of all that he is doing in his life and am inspired by his daily perseverance to take action. What a great guy!

He brought me a pineapple to share with all of my friends here and we had a jolly time enjoying it and toasting each other with our pieces to our health and future lives. It was such silly fun but it absolutely made my evening! He is one of the most genuine and sincere Ugandan men that I have been fortunate enough to become close friends with during my experience and I am going to miss him so much. He is actually from Kikaaya Village too, but I won't be able to see him before I leave again as he is busy studying and working. :)

Now this is where I usually end off a day. However, last night was crazy. I got up to make a short call (use the bathroom) and when I was opening the door I found a HUGE cockroach. I screamed so loudly that I woke up the other two girls (Kylie and Eri) even though it was 2:00 a.m. I was so scared and am surprised that I still freak out every time I see these suckers (which is a daily occurrence). It was not a nice night time present, let me tell you!

Saturday July 12th:

This brings me! I officially have 3 days left in Uganda. Wow, that is so crazy. I do not even want to think about it. I am excited to come home but at the same time I am going to miss Uganda (and EVERYTHING that goes with it) so terribly. It is going to be like leaving a bit of my heart and life in this crazy yet beautiful country.

Today, I woke up to find out that our propane tank is out. This basically means that we don't have any way to cook our meals until we refill it (which usually takes about 5 days so I definitely will not be having it before I leave). It also means that we cook all our meals and heat our water for tea (yes, I drink it so much here, it is like an addiction) by a siguri (the traditional charcoal pot of Uganda). It takes a lot longer but is actually quite fun to use once you get the hang of it!

After breakfast (2 eggs made ready to order on our siguri), I got ready to go to Kampala with Eri. But before I left, I helped Sarah (the lovely woman who cooks for us sometimes) peel some matooke (the plantain-like green bananas that is a luxury here to eat and is not too bad either). It was so much fun but I was nervous that I was going to cut myself so I decided to only peel one. But, I am very proud of it! It was great fun!

Anyways, Eri and I went to town to get some last minute gifts and souvenirs. It actually took me a while to decide on what to buy, I hope that most of you enjoy your gifts. If you don't, just know that they came from the heart and that I was thinking of you anyways. :)

When we got back from town, Eri and I found Derrick (our director) outside burning something. I was really curious and as we got closer, we found him burning three boxes of expired condoms that the Wakiso District had given us ONE month before they were due to expire. Makes sense, huh? So, to make sure that those that KACCAD serves do not use them, Derrick decided to burn them. So, I jumped right in and it was great fun. A bonfire of expired condoms...what a day, right? At least they will not do damage now, but it was hard to see all of the smoke they created and how it was hurting the trees around us by making them a bit black. But, what can you do?

We have to burn all of our trash here anyways, as there is no trash collection system. This is because Ugandans do not pay taxes (no one can afford them). So, trash is EVERYWHERE. The street, houses, schools, etc. It is so dirty and a bit disgusting. So, the only place for trash to go is to the pit of the fire. It is very safe and no, I am not allowed to start the fire (we know how accident prone I am). But, back to the story. I was able to help out Derrick and join the fun too. What a last Saturday in Uganda!

Sunday July 13th:

Today we decided to make banana pancakes at Amanda's house. They were delicious! We even had some honey to go on top, which made my tummy so happy. It was a great way to spend Sunday morning!

After that, Derrick took us to where they are hoping to build the new volunteer center so that we could learn to make bricks! Yeah, that is right! I learned how to make bricks! I have a cool video and some nice pictures from the fun. It is great. You take a slab of mud, then you mix it with some water and put it in a rectangular block. Then, you get really dirty and flip it over and hopefully it turns out OK. It was so much fun, I made 4 bricks total. I can't wait to show you my new many times in your life do you get to learn how to make bricks, for real?

Monday July 14th:

I officially only have ONE day left in Uganda. Is that not sad or what? I just can not believe it! This morning at our Monday Meeting, I said some of my goodbyes and was able to distribute some gifts that I bought from the Florida State University bookstore to the KACCAD staff that I have become so close with! They really enjoyed the gifts, which I gave to everyone along with a personal letter that I wrote to them all to let them know how much they have inspired me and touched me during my time here. I think that they all enjoyed it, I know that I did!

Before I continue, something crazy happened last night. Apparently, two men tried to break into our compound, along with 30 other thieves in the village. It was crazy! Sam and Nick joined the local men last night in catching them. They were up all night. I feel sorry for all of the ones that were caught. Theft is a very SERIOUS thing here in Uganda. In my village, if you are caught stealing you are tied up, put in a tire and burned. No lie. Justice is taken into the people's hands here. It is insane. I know that this is not justified, as you can not counteract immorality with immorality, but it is hard to explain this to the locals here. Even our KACCAD staff. It is just awful that people try to steal here, everyone is suffering and it does not help life when you take from someone who is just as bad off as you are.

Then, we left for my last day of home visits. However, on our way the heavens opened up and it started POURING with rain. It was insane. So, we ducked into the closest place we could find, which turned out to be a local barber shop. We were waiting there for TWO hours, talking with the women and one male worker about hair, life in Uganda and village gossip. I was disapointed that I could not see our clients for the last time, but the weather is something that I can not really change! Yikes!

After the rain finally cleared, we made our way through the mud back home. Sadly, while I was waiting on the side of the road for a random police car to pass, the tires flew mud all over my clothes, just like in the movies (you know in Bridget Jones Diary Two....if you have seen it, it was like that!). Well, I don't mind getting dirty!

Well, I am looking forward to my last days in Uganda. My flight is on this Tuesday July 15th at 10:20 p.m. from Entebbe Airport. From Uganda, I arrive in Amsterdam. Then after another 8 hour flight I am back in the USA in Atlanta. Finally, I arrive home around Midnight on Wednesday July 16th. Wow. I know you are jealous, I would be too!

Well, bye for now! See you all soon! I am going to put up all of my pictures (more than 1,000) and video footage on-line as soon as I get back to Florida and my own computer where I can do it very fast and without worry. Sorry to keep you all waiting!

Lots of love!

Mirembe (Peace) & Sula Bulungi (Good Night),

Babirye or Ssuubi (Hope) ....a.k.a. Beth Pagan :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Live music, Role Plays and Sippi Falls

I want to apologize for not updating my blog recently. The internet at our office has been disconnected for the past week and a half so I have not been able to check my e-mail or write on my blog over the past few days! It was so difficult being cut off from the rest of the world and I am very happy to be on the computer right now!

Monday June 30th

This morning we had our weekly meeting again. Nothing really new on that front. We discussed our action plan for the week at the time!

After the meeting, we went to do home visits in the local area. This is always a rewarding experience and a wonderful opportunity to integrate myself into my local community and village!

On the way back from home visits, we met two local women on the road home. They were so nice and we thought that they were saying how skinny we were and how beautiful we looked. Well, turns out that they were going crazy about how big our butts were and how large we were. Talk about being disappointed! Even though they were mostly talking about Kylie, it was still really rude! Talk about a cultural/language misunderstanding! However, those women were fatter than us, so I have no read idea what they were getting at! Thought you might enjoy that story!

Tonight, we decided to go into Kampala and to meet some of our Ugandan friends for some live music and fun. But on our way, we decided to stop and get some of the most AMAZING ice cream that I have had in two months (literally). I got this vanilla and chocolate chip concoction and it was SO good. I really needed that to boost my energy! After the sweet and delicious ice cream, we (Amanda, Eri, Kylie and I) met up with Amos, Ivan and Jeffrey (three Ugandan me we buy fruits and veggies from in Nakasero Market in Kampala) at the National Theatre. Every Monday night, they have live music from local artists. It is sort of like a live jazz jam session! It was so much fun! We ended up dancing on stage in front of hundreds of people and jamming out to the local music like crazy! It was so awesome! We even got some more people to dance! I had a blast and felt like I was a real Ugandan at the time. We ended up staying until 12:00 a.m. and got a special hire (taxi) back to our village. It was great!

Tuesday July 1st :

Today I got up very early to teach at Kawempe Royal College School. I was a bit tired from the night before but by the time we got to class, I was ready to go! We taught about the importance of knowing what life skills are (decision making, responsibility, communication, etc.) with all of our three classes. It went over pretty well and the students were quite receptive to our lessons!

What made the lesson more fun was that we did a short role- play (drama) to emphasize the importance of knowing life skills. The role- play was about two teenage girls who got pregnant and had to drop out of school. My name was Lucy in the play and I had to pretend that my boyfriend got me pregnant and that now I was faced with some hard decisions to make for the future. It was so funny and it made my students laugh quite hard!

After we returned from class and had lunch, I planned for my lesson for Wednesday with Nicholas.

Wednesday July 2nd*

This morning I lead a lesson about how to use a condom. Yes, it was quite out of my element and definitely an experience. While Nick did the actual demonstration with the teaching tool that is affectionately called, Mr., I was able to answer questions and such. My Senior 2 class was quite rowdy and excited about the lesson so it was hard to get them to settle down but I know that many of them will take the information that we shared with them to heart and will hopefully be confident when they decide to use a condom in the future when they play sex.

When we got back from Kikaaya College, Derrick (my Director) had his 2 year- old daughter at our KACCAD offices. Her name is Debbie and the reason that she was here is because her mom (Derrick’s first wife) was in the hospital because she needed surgery because her intestines were having serious issues. She is absolutely the cutest little girl in the world. She is really attached to me and I was holding her all day! She actually does the cutest thing. When you are holding her, she likes to grab your elbow skin and play with it. It is so strange but also very cute. She loved to play with my elbow skin and I was happy to let her (it was really ticklish though!)

Thursday July 3rd:

Today we got up early and did home visits in a local village called Ssumbwe. This place is quite a walk away but I was ready for it! I even ran up the crazy hill with Kylie but was sadly very winded afterwards. However, it felt good to be running up the semi-mountain with many pounds of food provisions on my back (it was very, very heavy). After home visits, which take anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours in the hot Ugandan sun, we had lunch. Lunch today was a plate of potatoes (yes, this is the entire meal…healthy, no?). However, that is how Ugandans eat (to get full, not for the nutrition). It has been very hard to get used to and it is a hard thing to discuss with them.

Tonight we had a visitor (Steve), who came to stop by. He used to work with us at KACCAD but he had to leave because he could not afford to work and not get paid. So he is now actually at Makere University (the best in Uganda) and is working part time at a bank in Kampala. He is such a nice Ugandan man and is so sincere and nice! He joined us for dinner too and we all watched Juno together! I love that movie and if you have not yet seen it you should go rent it (once you finish reading my blog entry, of course!). We all had some good laughs and enjoyed it very much!

Friday July 4th:

Happy 4th of July!!! Today is a national holiday, right? Well, not in Uganda. Today was the first time ever that I did not celebrate this fun holiday with family and friends (I quite missed the fireworks and fun). So, instead I found myself teaching at Haji Kiyemba Memorial Vocational Institute (the women’s school we teach at). Today’s lesson was about decision making and we had the 60 students split into 5 groups and review case studies where they had to critically think about the process of making correct decisions and such. It went quite well and I was excited to see them thinking through the scenarios and discovering the decisions together!

After the lesson, it was time for a little mini-vacation! Kylie, Eri and I decided to go on a weekend trip to Sippi Falls in the East of Uganda. It is so close to Kenya that we wanted to go see the border, but we did not have enough time or money. So, to get there, we had to take a matatu (public taxi) to Kampala. From there, I navigated us to the Post Office downtown (about a 30 minute walk) so that Eri could exchange some money for the trip. I was so excited that I got us there without getting lost (go me!). After that, we stopped at Nakasero Market to say hi to Amos (who we went to the National Theatre with on Monday). He was so happy to see us!

We finally found our way back to the Old Taxi Park and we meandered our way through hundreds of taxis to find the little sign that says (Mbale). Mbale is the biggest town in Eastern Uganda and it is where we would catch another small taxi to Sippi Falls. To get to Mbale, it cost us 13,000 shillings which is about $8.00 US and a nice, long 4 hour drive. It was so cramped in the matatu to Mbale but it was worth it for the price. On the way there, I was sitting next to a Ugandan man named David. He works for TASO, which is an AIDS organization in Uganda. He was really educated and nice, so we had some great conversations! He has been fortunate enough to travel to France, Germany, Japan and in the fall he was going to Mexico for another conference! He was a very atypical Ugandan but was very nice all the same!

Kylie and Eri were in the back seat and were next to a man named Moses. He was very funny and was so sweet! He bought us all fried corn on a stick when the taxi stopped off at a random town on the way. It was so good! He also bought some dead fish, which they stuck on the window wipers on the front of the taxi and where they remained until we arrived in Mbale around 7;00 p.m. that evening! It was so crazy and funny, you just had to see it!

When we got to Mbale, it was getting dark so we wanted to find our taxi to Sippi Falls quickly. The first taxi we found agreed to take us for 5,000 shillings each (which is what the guide book said we would pay) but then he decided to up the price to 10,000 shillings when he wanted to rip us off. So we got out of the taxi and hopped in another car that agreed to take us for the first price. It is so frustrating when they try to overcharge you for being a muzungu (white)! Yikes, it makes me so angry!

So this second taxi that we found was actually a 7- person jeep that we squeezed 10 people and luggage into. It was pitch black by the time we left Mbale and I knew that Sippi Falls was still another hour away.

However, on the way our driver decided to pull over and wait for a friend so that he could take him our way too. However, the three of us plus another random guy were squeezed in the back seat with no room and poor Kylie had to pee so badly! And while the guy was out side eating some cassava and enjoying his time, we were tired, thirsty and squished! So Kylie had the driver let her out the back and she went pee right there in front of everyone! It was so funny but she had to go! Oh, and once we finally got started, the only song that played in the car was this one song that sounded so crazy. It was some traditional Ugandan music that had a lot of Ah Ah Oh Oh Ey Ey Ey’s in it. It was like some shouting song you sing right before you sacrifice something. Just think of craziness.

Around 9;00 p.m., we finally arrived at our destination spot in Sippi Falls. However, it was pouring with rain when we got to our hostel and it was not the most welcoming experience. Our hostel was called (Twalight Hostel) and was the cheapest backpackers that we could find. It was only 10,000 shillings a night (about $6.00 US) and so we went for it.

We decided to put our stuff down and went to the balcony for a bit (to eat some of our snacks that we had bought for dinner). However, we heard some loud noise from the hostel next to us and decided to check out the celebrations and find some more Americans to celebrate the 4th of July with. When we got to the other hostel, The Crows Nest, we only found British travelers. So we sat down and had a drink (sodas, of course) and go to know them! However, we were tired after our 8 hour travel adventure and decided to go back to sleep.

However, it was not so easy to sleep. First of all, there were no mosquito nets. We were up so high in the mountains that you did not need them, but it was still scary not to have one as I have become so used to sleeping under one!

Saturday July 5th:

This morning I got up around 6:45 a.m. to see the sun rise. Our hostel had an amazing view of the waterfalls and the surrounding area. It was breathtaking, for sure. It was also really relaxing because it is not tourist season now so we were like the only ones staying at the hostel. So it was a nice, quiet and relaxing place.

However, this time of all weekends my stomach decided to stop misbehaving. So, on the entire trip my stomach was giving me issues both ways (if you know what I mean). It was not pretty, let me tell you. But, I did not want to miss out on our trip so I decided to not let my semi-health issues keep my down. We decided to take a 3 hour guided hike tour of the Sippi Falls and surrounding area to make the most of our trip (it was only $10 US).

The hike actually ended up being 5 hours long and was something like torture for me. Since I was not feeling so good, it was very difficult for me to climb the mountains and steep inclines. However, our guide (Tom) understood and my travel buddies were a great support system. I am so, so glad that I stuck it out though because the hike was stunning. We got up right close to the waterfall, climbed this incredibly huge mountain, walked through corn fields, crossed rivers, met a lot of local people going about their daily lives and so on. It was so beautiful and I am so glad that I got a chance to see this part of Uganda.

When we got back, I took the most amazing hot shower (yes, it was the first time with hot water) and got all of the dirt and sweat that I unluckily acquired during our intense hike. I think I won the prize of being the most dirty as I have a tendency here to fall on my butt and slip at least 2 times a day!

That afternoon, Eri and I decided to walk around the local village a bit (it was so small, it was something that you could miss if you blinked). Kylie wanted to sleep a bit so we walked around and some locals had us try a sip of their local beer. I had one tiny sip and thought it was SO GROSS. Please, do me a favor and never try it. Some of them were drinking it out of kettles, but I was done after one sip. We also talked a bit more with Tom (our guide) and had him show us how his family grows coffee beans and such. It was very fun!

So, this brings me to dinner. We ordered at 6;00 p.m. and told the cook that we were very hungry and that we wanted to eat as soon as possible. We ordered two bowls of spaghetti and one bowl or rice with veggies. By 7:00 we were upset that it was not ready, as we were the ONLY people staying at the hostel. So, we went to the kitchen to see what the problem was. It turns out that they had not even started yet because they were confused on when we wanted to eat. Seriously, we were not happy at all. So, they got started (after they ran to the market for some last minute ingredients). We did not end up eating until 8:30 p.m. When the food finally came, it was pitch black on the balcony where we were waiting. But, they knew were upset so they gave us SO MUCH food. They brought out a huge silver pot (with about 2 full packets of pasta) and a ridiculous amount of rice and veggies) to eat. We went at it like crazy and we still could not finish it all! When they came back around 9;00 p.m. we were so full and almost sick that we could not even move from the seats!

We finally headed down to sleep in our room. However, after 10 minutes of the lights being out, we heard something very disturbing. Yes, you guessed it, mice. There were hundreds of MICE in the walls and some were on the floor. It was so freaky that we started screaming and since there was no electricity at the hostel, we only had our flashlights and a dying lantern. It was the WORST night of my life. I had no mosquito net to protect me from the mice and the sound is just awful. I was so scared that I honestly did not go to sleep. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

Sunday July 6th:

We got up very early and decided to head out of Sippi Falls so we could get back to Kampala. To get a taxi to Mbale, we had Patrick (one of the employees) stand in the middle of the road and stop every passing vehicle to hitch a ride. We lucked out on the 2nd car and found our way heading to Mbale around 8:00 a.m. It was a beautiful ride, past mountains and crazy valleys. Then, you know the rest. We got to Mbale, where we got a taxi to Kampala. Then, we got a taxi from Kampala to Bulenga. We got home around 3:00 in the afternoon and were exhausted! What a trip, let me tell you. It was a blast but was one crazy adventure!

Monday July 7th:

This is finally WEEK 8! My last week in Uganda. Wow, time has flied here so fast that I can not believe it! It seems like I just got here. So, I have decided to make the most of this last week and to soak it all in.

After our meeting, where Derrick tried to convince me to stay an extra 6 months in Uganda, (however, I declined knowing that my family and especially my twin sister Sarah would hop on a plane to Uganda and drag me home!), we went to do home visits in a very rural village. It was so far away that we had to even take a matatu to get closer to it, which was a first. On our home visit, we met a 20 year-old woman who had a 3 year old daughter. Both were HIV positive and her husband had a second wife (polygamy is widely practiced here). It was a very sad situation. She is the same age as me but is already a lifetime away from me, even though we were sitting and talking together.

This afternoon, the internet finally came back on and we were so excited! So, now I am able to right back to you all! Anyways, on with the blog.

Tonight, had the power go out early so I decided to call it a night early and go to bed around 8;00 p.m. It was quite exciting but felt good to get some rest!

Tuesday July 8th:

Today, we have finally caught up with my blog! I leave in exactly one week from today (next Tuesday, July 15th) and am getting ready to leave. I have enjoyed this experience so much but I think I am ready to go home for a bit and spend some time with my family and friends! I have missed you all but have loved EVERY second of my summer of service in Uganda. I know that I am going to cry when I leave, but they are going to be tears of all the good memories and not of too much sadness.

Oh, and this morning I taught 3 classes at Kawempe Royal College. We had an introductory lesson on HIV/AIDS and they all went over quite well! It was sad to say goodbye to my students at this school but I think that it is going to be harder to say goodbye to my students at Kikaaya College on Wednesday and to the women on Friday. Ah, to say goodbye is such a terrible thing.

Oh, I forgot to mention two things. During our first lesson, we were interrupted by a freaking monkey that decided to play outside the window of the class and jump around. Only in Africa, right? Ha Ha Ha.

And, secondly, in my last class some of the students wanted to have my belt and backpack and watch to leave behind. I was like, sorry but if I give them to you all, I will be naked by the time I get back to the USA and they will not let me in to the country! They all got a laugh out of that and stopped asking me for things. Honestly, I would love to help them if I could but I am not made of money and let them know that I am here because of a scholarship. That made them quiet and realize that what they were asking of me was silly!

Here is where I leave you all now. Sorry for the long blog entry, but I hope that you have been entertained and feel up to date with me now!

I miss you!

Siba Bulungi (Have a good day),

Babirye (1st born twin) or Ssuubi (Hope)

Beth Pagan

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Living and Loving Life in Uganda

Howdy family and friends!

I know that this might be strange, but yes it is true that I am updating my blog so soon! I have some spare time so I figured I would update you about life here.

So, I think that I left off here...

Friday, June 27th

The theme of today was totally "Improvisation". It all started with my morning class at Haji Kiyemba Memorial Vocational Institute, the woman's school that I teach at. The lesson for the day was focusing on life skills (specifically communication, team-building and decision making). So, I and the other volunteers prepared a lesson full of interactive activities to engage the students and to have them put to practice the skills that they have been learning over the past few weeks.

However, the first activity that we planned was called "The Maze". It is where the students are on one side of the maze (which is made out of sheets of paper or dots and can be as big or little as you want it) and they have to figure out the path one at a time to get across. We, the facilitators, are the only ones who know the way and they are supposed to work together to get to the other side in silence. So, easy enough, right? thing we forgot to account for is that the class is outside. So, the wind was being our enemy today and was lifting all the sheets of paper away so the mazes were impossible to create! So we had to think quickly on the spot and I came up with the idea that we do the "Human Knot" activity instead. Now, this is hard enough to explain in English, let alone Luganglish. However, we got most of the students to participate and two of the small groups were actually able to accomplish it!

But what was good about this lesson was the reflection that I lead afterwards. We got them to think really deeply about what these activities we had them doing really meant and I was so excited too see them connecting the importance of brainstorming and team-building and learning that life is a process where we have to make many choices and that sometimes we make mistakes but it is OK as long as we learn from them and move forward. It was great to see, however it did take a lot of rephrasing and thought for them to get them to where we wanted them to reach!

Later that afternoon, we went to Bbira Vocational which takes about 1 hour to get there (by combination of matatu "taxi" and walking). This class was very difficult because almost every student had taken exams all day before we got there and there brains were fried and tired so they were not that excited about doing interactive activities and then discussing them. It was very disheartening because they have so much potential but most of them are not taking the initiative to do things with their lives. They don't seem to want to challenge the process of life and to make change. I want them to understand that we are all students and that we really can do anything if we put our minds to it (like me getting to Africa). All it takes is a bit of sweat and some hard work.

However, the one good thing about this lesson was that I got them talking about the importance of volunteering and engaging in your community. Some students were really interested in why I choose to volunteer and how I want to make positive and lasting change. It gave me a bit of a boost and by the end of the lesson we had encouraged at least a few of them to come talk to us after class or when they felt comfortable about social issues that they want to see challenged. I am hoping that some of them come and talk to me! Keep your fingers crossed!

So...Friday night was a bit crazy. We had finished eating dinner (rice and split peas) when our director (Derrick) came to our volunteer room and asked if we wanted to join him to go to Bulenga. We thought that it might be fun, so we decided to go. However, on the way Derrick got a phone call from his sister saying that his mother had become much worse. She is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and is in very poor health condition. So we took a detour and went to visit his mother at her house. When we arrived, it was pitch black as she has no electricity and she sounded so very, very sick. Derrick got so upset that he was even crying and it was a very emotional time. I did not know what words to say or things to do. It was crazy.

After we left his mother's house, Derrick took us back to the KACCAD offices so that he could take his 76 year old mother to the hospital. However, we decided to stop and get some sodas on the way back so that Derrick could relax a bit and calm down. It is just a really hard situation to be put in. Derrick and Sam and Nick hardly ever get paid, and when they do it is about $30 a month. That is nothing. One thing that I have definitely learned here is that running a local NGO is NOT EASY and that it is very stressful. It almost makes you have to choose whether you should continue working for your community for nothing or to decide to get a job that makes some sort of an income so that you can support your family in times of need. It is a hard choice to make and it is one that I am sure is always in the back of people's minds who live to serve others. It was one crazy night, that is for sure.

Saturday and Sunday June 28th and 29th,

This weekend has been another lazy weekend. The week seemed to fly by and it was so busy with projects and lessons and home visits that I am simply exhausted. So, we decided to take it easy again this weekend and to rest up for our big travel adventure next weekend! We (Eri, Kylie and I) have decided to go to Sippi Falls in Eastern Uganda next weekend (it is the largest and arguably most beautiful waterfalls in ALL of Uganda) and are excited to do that! It is right near the border with Kenya, so it should be beautiful! I thought it would be a fun trip to do since we had the time! I will keep you posted about that!

Well, I guess it is time to say good bye! I only have two weeks left in Uganda before I head home back to the United States. I have found out this summer that 2 months is DEFINITELY not long enough to spend abroad in a foreign country and hope that I do not get too emotional when I have to leave and board the plane. It is going to be hard to bring this summer of service to a close, but I am so grateful and appreciate that I have been able to have this wonderful opportunity because of the generous encouragement and support of The Center at Florida State University and the Summer Serviceship program! Just a little shout out!

Siba Bulungi (Have a great day in Luganda),

Mirembe (Peace too),

Babirye or Ssuubi (Beth)


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yikes...who stole the chickens?


I hope that I am finding you all well! I hope that you are enjoying reading my blog entries and that they are giving you a good idea of my amazing summer experience of service!

So, let’s see where I last left you all hanging…

Monday June 23rd:

This morning, we got up early to have our weekly meeting with the entire KACCAD staff which is below:

Derrick Luwaga (Director)

Amanda (Peace Corps Volunteer)

Sam and Nick (two Uganda staff members)

The Real Uganda Volunteers (me, Eri and Kylie)

We might be small…but we get a lot of work done! After the meeting, we left to do our Home Visit program. Today, we went around Bulenga and Bbira.

The first home that we visited was the home of a woman who was 83 years old (which is INSANE as the average life expectancy in Uganda is around 37). She had 12 kids, but 6 of them have died from AIDS. I was so shocked that half of her children died from this dreadful, incurable disease. She had no source of income because her age has prevented her from selling her avocados at a local market in Natete (where young kids would steal from her every day). However, she was so kind and did not speak very much English other than “Thank You”. I enjoyed talking to her and was so pleased that she gave us each an avocado for the road (they are amazing here!)

Our second client was a man of 36 years who had recently been tested as HIV positive in 2007. When his wife heard of his condition, she left him and took all of their things. Now, he lives with his uncle. However, he was not in good shape at all. My first image of him was when I was sitting on the steps outside of his modest home when I saw a man walking slowly towards us like it took all of his effort to move one foot after the other. It turns out that because of the HIV, he has developed a skin cancer on his legs that have left swollen and open sores with yellow pus coming out of it. It looked quite painful. On top of that, he has a mild case of Elephantitis, which means that his feet and legs have become very enlarged and his feet were bursting out of his tennis shoes. The guy was quite skinny too, but his lower body was huge because of the Elephantitis.

After our home visits for the day, which was quite exhausting because the heat was something awful so it took about 3 to 4 hours to walk around and visit our clients, we planned for our lessons at Kawempe Royal College. This is a new school that we are starting to teach at this week! I am so excited to see how it will go!

Tuesday June 24th:

Today we had a very BUSY day! So in the morning, we taught for the first time at Kawempe Royal College. To get there, we took a matatu (taxi) to Bulaga. When we got off the taxi, we went down this hill and took all of these crazy, weird small alley ways to where I thought was the school. Oh no. There was more. Once we got through the small alleys we came up to this ridiculously steep hill that overlooked a borehole (water well) where some local men were filling up jury cans (yellow water containers). After thankfully making it down the hill, we came across a mini forest that was overgrown with weeds and trees. We walked through the cool forest for about 10 minutes, where we had to jump a stream and then walk across a bridge made out of bamboo sticks. Then…we finally arrived. It was definitely an adventure to start off the day, but it was well worth the effort!

So here is what our time schedule looked like:

Senior 1: 9:20-10:20

Senior 3: 10:40-11:50

Senior 2: 11:50-1:00

So we had three different classes to teach this morning. It was quite busy but I enjoy that (as many of you all know, I am sure). The first class (Senior 1) was AMAZING! There were about 60 students who were so excited to have us. As an introduction lesson, we decided to let them know where we were from, what lessons we would be teaching and learning about during our weekly visits (which are life skills such as HIV/AIDS education, communication, team building, critical thinking, decision making, etc.) and some get to know you activities. With this first class, we played this fun game outside with them called “mingle, mingle” where they pretend that they are in a taxi park and when we shout a number such as “5” they have to find a group of 5 as quickly as they can and if you can’t find a group then you are out. They had a blast with that. We also played a game called “statues”, where we say a word or phrase such as “banana tree” and they have to create it with their bodies. They really enjoyed it, even their teacher was pretending to do the word “chicken” along with the rest of us!

Seni0r 3 was a bit different. The class was only about 15 and since they are older students they were more shy and less willing to talk. But after we did our lesson, they opened up a lot. We had them doing the “Macarena” as well as hearing how much they appreciate the opportunity they have to come to school and receive an education that is going to help them in the future.

Lastly, Senior 2 was about 35 students. They had so many questions for us, which is going to make lesson planning very exciting. They even gave us each Buganda names. For me, I already have the name of Babirye but in this class they want to call me Ssuubi, which means “hope”. I like it!

After we got back to KACCAD around 2:00 for lunch, Derrick decided to take us to visit a village where we are constructing a new spring well because of a donation that we recently received of $3,600.00

It took us about a 1 1/2 hour drive by car to get to this very, very remote village. The village is known as Bukaada village. On the way, we picked up the Chairman who goes by the name of Bukeya Fred. We had to park the car a bit away from where we were going to construct the spring well.

To get to the water hole, we had to walk through these bushes that were taller than me and down this valley where these gorgeously green mountains surrounded us. It was so perfect. I felt like I had been plucked out of the USA and put into the heart of Uganda in the middle of nowhere.

Once we got to where the new spring well was to be constructed, we interviewed some local villagers while I personally interviewed the Chairman. I found out that the spring well would benefit about 50 households in the area, which would be about 300 to 400 people. The new well is going to allow the people to have clean and safe water to drink from, so that they will no longer suffer from water born diseases such as stomachaches, diarrhea and bilharzias.

Also, the spring well is going to allow the local community to be a part of the change from the beginning to the end. A committee has been chosen from the local leaders to take ownership of the development of the spring well, which is going to start construction on this coming Thursday, June 26th. It should take from 2 weeks to 1 month to complete. Now, the 1/2 mile walk (for the luck villagers) will be met with clean water. I took some great pictures of the current water hole, which is so dirty and dangerous since many children have fallen in and died while trying to fill up their jury cans.

Wednesday June 25th:

Today, I taught a lesson about Rape, Sexual Abuse and Defilement (rape of a child under 18 years old) to my Senior 2 class at Kikaaya College. I really enjoy teaching that class. They are so full of life and ready to learn, even if they can be a bit rowdy at times.

They were very receptive to the icebreaker I played with them to start off the lesson…which was the boundary ball (I made one here in my spare time with a beach ball and a sharpie) and also with the lesson where we listened to a short story that I read and then came up with the dangers of rape list as well as what action steps we can take if we are raped or sexually abused. They had some great answers that even I did not think of! After the lesson, which ran about 30 minutes over, I answered countless questions that they had about rape, sexual health, HIV, their bodies, problems with their boyfriends, etc. It felt so good to answer their questions and to know that they trust me enough now to ask them.

Later in the evening, the power went out and it was another night of playing cards by candlelight and eating dinner in the dark. I actually enjoy it and find that when the power comes on, it is more of a distraction than a necessity…weird, huh?

Thursday June 26th:

Today I woke up to terrible news. In 2006, KACCAD started a chicken project in order to generate an income for 10 local women who were all HIV positive. The project started off with 250 chickens and was a product of thousands of dollars in donations. Last week, the women came to the KACCAD offices and told us that the chickens had stopped laying eggs. In the past, they have laid 115 eggs a day, but now they are only laying 25. They did not know what to do so we came up with an action plan. We would try and mix the chicken feed ourselves, since the quality of the food has gone down in recent weeks. If that did not work, we would maybe buy a cock so that 1/2 of the chickens would breed and the other 1/2 would continue to lay eggs. If that did not work, we would begin to monitor the project a bit more and to find out why the egg production has decreased so severely.

Well, that was the plan last week. But this morning, we woke up to find a distressed chicken farmer at our offices saying that last night nearly 150 chickens were stolen. Apparently, the locks had been cut and in the middle of the night almost 150 chickens simply disappeared. It is so frustrating and sad that these factors that are out of our control have lead to the termination of this project. Now, the 10 women are going to sell the rest of the chickens, because the project is no longer profitable and are going to have to find work in other ways. It is so frustrating that there is nothing that I can do about the situation and that these women were taken advantage of when they were just trying to get buy and provide food and a home for their children.

We also did our Home Visit program today. We visited two clients in a very far away village that I can not pronounce the name of.

So this brings me up to date! I am doing good but am not looking forward to the day that my plane leaves Uganda (which is Tuesday, July 15th). I have about 2 weeks left here and am trying to enjoy the rest of my time here and get my hands dirty until the very last minute with my volunteer work. This experience has truly been priceless and will be a journey that I will never forget. I can not wait to get back to Florida State University and to share my experiences with my fellow students and faculty and to continue to create positive and sustainable change in Uganda and the rest of the world.

Oh…a side note. So I am still having trouble with some of these Uganda men. My personal stalker, who is called Arthur and is a proud member of the Monkey clan (all Ugandans in this area are a part of a clan that is named after an animal), dropped off a mango that he bought for me a few days ago. This, along with a short story that he wrote for me and a picture of his family, is a few of many gifts he has tried to give me. But, last night when I tried to eat it…I found freaking maggots and a gross brown spot inside! I think it is a sign that our relationship is not meant to be. Ha Ha Ha.

Well, that is all that I have for now. I am going to leave you!

Nkwagala nnyo (Love you all very much),

Babirye :)

p.s. Mirembe (peace)

p.p.s. Jillian I looked over my Learning Outcomes and am doing well on accomplishing them!

  • I am learning to speak/communicate in Luganda
  • I am maturing my life values
  • I am definitely learning how to take challenges head on and to rely on myself and knowledge to overcome them
  • I am forming a strong family of Ugandans among my KACCAD staff (Sarah, our cook, is like a mom and Sam and Nick are like brothers that I never had as well as Amanda is like a great older sister)
  • I am working through the unexpected every day…you really never know what you are going to get when you wake up every morning. Each day is a new challenge and a new opportunity (my volunteer work has definitely allowed me to experience personal growth with my lessons on leadership, HIV/AIDS, sexual health, rape, etc.
  • I am hosting health seminars and leadership workshops with my students every week
  • And…I have definitely become a traveler more than a tourist (life in the village has helped so much with this change…I have a great story about my white water rafting trip that explains this perfectly…but that is for later).

Jebale Ko! (Thanks for your hard work) Weraba (Good bye!)!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Living Life in Uganda (Week 5)


I hope you all are having a wonderful day. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

So, where did I last leave off?

Wednesday June 18th:

Today was a pretty fun day. Before I taught my lesson at Kikaaya College, the new volunteers and I went classroom to classroom and put up our 12 posters that we created to remind students about the amazing and crazy competition for the HIV/AIDS mural design contest. It was fun putting them up and knowing that the students are excited to participate!

Then, I had the two new volunteers (Eri and Kylie) come with me to see how teaching lessons goes. They were both pretty nervous when we first arrived. But, I had them help lead my lesson, which was on HIV Transmission (the four body fluids that transmit HIV: blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk as well as the portals of entry for how HIV enters the body: cuts, sores, mucous membranes, etc.) Then, I had the students put their new found knowledge to the test by having them do an activity where they were given different activities such as "breastfeeding" or "playing sports with someone who has HIV" and they had to decided which category to place the activities under "Yes, it transmits HIV" or "No, it does not transmit HIV". It went really well.

After the lesson, we took some time to take pictures with some of the students. It was CRAZY. They love to be in pictures and I can't wait to show them to you all when I return and upload them all for you to see! I absolutely love teaching and learning from my students! Yeah!

Thursday June 19th:

Today, we did our Home Visit program. This was a pretty intense experience today. We walked all the way to Ssumbwe (a nearby village that takes about a 1 hour insane hike to get to) where we met with a woman who is living with HIV but is having a very challenging life. Her husband is a polygamist (which is legal here) and he refuses to get tested. So, because she is getting sick recently, her husband keeps spending more time with his other wife and she has been quite lonely lately. However, I was amazed at how clean her compound and pit latrine were and that she was still living positively. She is a very strong woman and it was hard for me to see her in such a terrible situation where she didn't have the power to stand up to her husband and be the independent woman that she is capable of being.

After we visited her, we walked to another village called Bbira. To get there, Nick and Sam said we should take a "short cut"...which really meant walking through a huge swamp with cows roaming around! It was so fun and dirty at the same time! I got to jump rivers and watch out for cow dung all in the same journey...who could ask for more? :)

The other client that we had the chance to meet (many times, we arrive at the clients houses but they are not there: some are at the hospital, others are looking for work, etc.) was a man who had been living with HIV for the past 21 years. Yeah, that is a LONG time. But, unfortunately this man was not doing so good. He was very sick when we met him and I don't know how much longer he had to live. But, he was the sweetest old man on earth and I was sad to hear about his past. He let us know that about 15 years ago his wife died. At the time, he was bedridden and he was relying on the help of friends and neighbors to prepare for the funeral. But, it turns out that their help was actually not so great. They actually stole all of his belongings and possessions while he was bedridden and was left with nothing. So, since then he has been living with his mother, who takes care of him. It was very sad and upsetting to hear.

After home visits, I prepared for my two lessons on Friday. I even got some help from the new volunteers who wanted to practice the fun and creative art of lesson planning!

Friday June 20th:

While most of the KACCAD staff was at our huge FREE HIV/AIDS community testing event, I was teaching at the women's school bright and early at 9:00 a.m. Today's lesson was on diversity, more specifically how it ties in to Leadership and Understanding Others.

I focused on gender diversity the most, as it is a woman's school. So, we discussed gender roles here in Uganda and what the culture has done to determine gender in society. It was absolutely fascinating. I learned so much at this lesson. We were making a list of how gender roles are changing in society today and I was impressed to learn that in the past, woman were not allowed to eat chicken, ride bicycles, drive cars, wear trousers, and more. It was very neat to see how they were able to recognize the changes in their community and to hear from them what changes they want to see in the future (how they want more men to recognize women's rights and to empower women in the community)!

After the lesson, I stopped by Adjit's office and had her take measurements for a skirt that I am getting made! It is going to be so nice! I am even getting one made for my sister...I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Then, I came back for was so yummy (matooke and g-nut sauce). It is a purple and yellow configuration that is not bad, but it doesn't make me want to beg for seconds. :) Anyways, after lunch I was about to head out to my second school in Bbira when the heavens opened up and it began to POUR with rain. Well....if you ever visit Uganda this is one of the first things that you learn. When it rains, life stops. So, it was no use to trek the 30 minute walk to the school in the rain to find no students when I arrived. So, sadly class was canceled and I will have to wait another week to see my students there. I really like the students at this school because most of them are from the North of Uganda or are international students (for instance, there are 5 boys who are all orphans from Sudan).

Anyways, on Friday it was fun because we all had dinner together and watched a movie on the office laptop (Dirty Dancing) was quite fun and a good way to end the week!

Saturday & Sunday June 21 and 22:

This weekend we decided to take it easy and rest from the week. I haven't done that much to be honest...I have started reading The Kite Runner again (Amanda Gonzalez: that is so crazy that you know someone who knows the author....just got your message this morning!) and we have been hanging out with some local Ugandans talking about random things. Like yesterday, we were talking about the equator and how it works. Have to pass the time somehow!

Anyways, this morning I got up early to use the internet. I just finished writing this very long e-mail for about ONE hour and by the time I went to send got deleted and lost in cyber space. I was so upset and frustrated that I seriously considered throwing it out the window. But...this IS Uganda and it is just another challenge that I had to face. YIKES.

Oh...and the power has been out almost every day here. So...there have been a lot of candles used and cold showers taken. It has been annoying but realistically, people in Uganda deal with this all the time so it is kind of fun to appreciate it all and to remind myself where I am!

One more thing....we ran out of propane lately too. So, we have been doing ALL of our cooking on a sigeri (I don't think that I spelled that right) is a pot thing with charcoal on the bottom. It is pretty cool but it takes a very, very long time to cook or heat anything. Just one more thing about Uganda that I am learning to do! I made eggs yesterday for everyone and it was quite an endeavor!

I miss you all and hope to see you in about three weeks when I return to the United States! It seems like time has passed by here so almost seems to be a blur!

Peace & Love,

Babirye :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Leadership Lessons to Rafting on the Nile River


Before I begin, I want to thank you all for your amazing and wonderful comments on my previous blogs! They make me smile whenever I read them and are a great reminder of the wonderful family and friends that I have in my life! So thanks so much! is an update about the past week. I am sorry again that I can not make it on the computer more often!

Sunday June 8th:

Amanda and I went into Bulenga for a traditional Ugandan lunch, but we had an unexpected visitor. While we were leaving the KACCAD offices, our dog Tiger decided he wanted to come along for the ride! So he followed us all the way throughout Kikaaya village and all the way up into Bulenga! It was hilarious...the local Ugandans were so confused! But it was the cutest thing....the little kids wanted to play with him so badly and one even followed us all the way home because he wanted to adopt Tiger. It pretty much made my day. But on the way back home, I had to carry Tiger like a baby throughout Kikaaya village because he was so was pretty funny to see me (the muzungu) carrying this puppy!

Monday June 9th:

Today was Hero's Day (I know...two public holidays in one week is pretty crazy), so Amanda and I went into Kampala to meet up with her Peace Corps friend named Courtney. Crazy thing...Courtney actually graduated from Florida State University (woop woop!) in 2005. It was so great to have a little Seminole reunion! Anyways, we had lunch at this place called Bancafe where I had the most amazing veggie sandwich for only $4.00. It was amazing!

Tuesday June 10th: we are back to work! This day was mostly filled with me planning for my three lessons this week. Believe it or not...but planning lessons takes a LOT of time and effort. Especially if you want them to be creative and fun! But...I also helped Amanda put together our quarterly newsletter (which I will be putting a link on this blog when we release it in a week or so).

Tuesday night, Amanda and I hosted a little dinner party for three volunteers from the United States who are working in our village at Kikaaya College (where I teach my lessons on Wednesday to a Senior 2 class). They have been here for 6 months and really enjoyed our semi-attempt at making Mexican Food (without cheese of course as we have no fridge) but it was a great mix of beans and chipati and veggies and avocado. But...while we were enjoying our dinner we were interrupted by Destroyer (Amanda's really cute cat) because he had a huge, dead rat in his mouth! It was very gross! We had to chase him out! Then...if you can believe it the power went out! So we had to finish out our evening by candlelight! This is...Africa. :)

Wednesday June 11th:

Today I taught my lesson to Kikaaya College. I absolutely LOVE that class. There are about 50 students and they all call me "Madam Babirye" or "Madam Beth" is so weird but cool. We were talking about different forms of communication (non-verbal, body language, etc.) and it was a really nice lesson. Then...when I was taking questions at the end I got the most funny question. One of my students asked me, "How can I get hair like yours, it is so pretty?" And I was so caught off guard that I was like..."Well.....I like to wash and shampoo and then rinse"! Ha Ha Ha. It made my day!

Thursday June 12th:

Today Nick and I did home visits to some of our HIV positive clients in Bulenga. We visited five families. I was able to interview all of them and ask them questions about their current worries, future goals, health status, balanced diet, etc. It was great! Some of them spoke English but some of them only knew Luganda so Nick would translate for me. Then, after giving them some food (rice, beans, soap, posho and sugar) to supplement their diet, I would give them advice on things they could do around their home to help prevent malaria and why it is important to have a closed pit latrine. Just some useful tips, but I know that the information was definitely going to be put to use which is a very rewarding thing!

Friday June 13th:

YIKES! Today was the best day ever! I was able to lead my lessons on Leadership today at TWO of my schools! It was so exciting! The way that I had my lessons set up was like this:

I. What is Leadership? (they had to list what they knew about it)

II. Definition of Leadership (showed them my personal definition, but let them know that it varies from person to person and country to country)

III. Myths of Leadership (leaders are born, not made or that leaders need a title or position)

IV. Social Change Model (individuals, groups and communities)

V. Individual Leadership (you have to know yourself before you can lead others)

VI. Tree Activity (everyone made there own...the roots were "Values" the trunk was "Role Models" and the branches were "Future Goals".

It was so awesome! My students were very excited to learn more about leadership and were quite receptive to the activity! It was great that they could think critically about where they come from and where they want to be. Wow...I could talk about this forever! next lessons with them are going to focus on Leadership and Groups. I just love being able to implement what I have been learning in my leadership studies courses as well as from my experiences with programs at Florida State University such as Service Leadership Seminar!

After my two lessons (one of which is under this huge mango tree outside on the school grounds...isn't that cool?), I came back to find one of our new The Real Uganda volunteers! Here name is Eri and she is originally from Japan but she goes to college in England. So she has a nice British accent! It is going to be so fun...when I am there this upcoming fall I will be able to hang out with her! Anyways...she is teaching me a bit of Japan too, so by the time I leave here in Uganda I will have picked up Luganda and a bit of Japanese!

On Friday night, Eri and I made homemade pasta with peppers/tomatoes. Then, for fun we played Jin Rummy (an amazing card game that I have learned here) for about 3 hours while enjoying a cup of tea & believe it or not some Kit-Kat's (my first chocolate in one month)!

Saturday June 14:

So this is where the fun weekend plans come into play. Today, I got up at 5:30 a.m. and made breakfast really early. Then, I left KACCAD at 6:00 a.m. and walked through Kikaaya village in the complete dark to get to the main road in Bulenga so that I could meet up at the Backpacker's Hostel in Kampala with Adrift (the white water rafting company). It was probably one of the coolest things that I have done...walking and feeling safe in my village when there was no one was completely deserted. It felt like home for sure.

Anyways, I got to the hostel by 7:00 a.m. and was picked up with another guy (his name was Greg and he is a law student from Stanford who is here for 2 1/2 months doing environmental work with a local NGO). Anyways, then this small van picked up a few others (two nurses from England, 1 woman who owns a non-profit organization called Food for the Hungry, and two college students from UNC who are here doing internships). Since there was no room on the big bus, the 7 of us got to share a small van to Jinja (where the source of the Nile River is). We got along so well we decided to share a raft with each other and had a blast the whole day!

There are no words to explain how much fun and how terrifying rafting on the Nile River is. Suffice it to say, it something that you HAVE TO DO once in your lifetime. The Nile was beautiful, much wider than I thought it was and actually quite clean. We rafted for about 20 miles (yeah...that is really long in case you were wondering) and went through 10 rapids (ranging from category 2 to category freaking 5). It was definitely an adrenaline rush.

Lunch was on this private island and they had an all you can eat salad, fruit and sandwich buffet line (which is AMAZING if you have been eating Ugandan food for one month!) It was so much fun...we didn't even tip over once but we got to swim a bunch in the Nile during down times between rapids! It was totally well run and very safe. But...we left late from Jinja and so the 2 hour bus ride back to Kampala was a bit long. We actually stopped off on the side of the rode and went pee in the bush in pitch black. It was crazy. Then, I got a taxi (matatu) back to Bulenga and was home by 10:00 p.m. It was a very long but amazing and fun/crazy day!

Sunday June 15:

So...I have officially been in Uganda for one month as of today and have only 4 weeks left! Time is passing by here so quickly, I am wishing that I had more time to volunteer and become a true Ugandan. But, today was fun because I gave Eri a tour of the village and then we went to the MDD (Music, Dance and Drama) showcase at Kikaaya College where many of my students were performing! It was so interesting. The theme was Domestic Violence and all of the students had created poems, original compositions, songs, dances, etc. to express this theme and to come up with solutions. Isn't that so powerful? I know that in my schools growing up, our plays were about teddy bears and Santa Claus and nothing about social issues. I have some great video footage (thanks to Jillian) and can't wait to share them with you!

Monday June 16:

The other new volunteer has finally arrived. Her name is Kylie and she is from Michigan. She is also a university student and is studying the coolest major (global social justice and political science). Today, we had our weekly staff meeting and it went quite long. We had to introduce the new volunteers to what we do at KACCAD and our various ongoing projects.

Then, we went out to our village and another local one called Bbira to do our home visit program. Here, I was able to interview clients and see how they are doing. But what was really neat was that I was able to implement a program that I created to make the home visit program more sustainable, so that when we run out of resources of food that we can still make a positive impact for those in our backyard who are in need. Anyways, the program is where we present informational posters about easy steps they can take to reduce malaria (use a thin sheet if there is no mosquito net, cutting tall grass around your home, emptying pots of still water, etc), how to maintain a balanced diet (of grow, glow and go foods) and the importance of covered pit latrine covers (blocks of wood or cement to keep flies out and the smell in). All of these measures will ensure that our HIV positive clients will be able to live a healthy and safe life.

I know that I don't have much space...but one of the families we met was very moving. The entire family of four were HIV positive and because they don't have any money they all have to share a bed under the 1 mosquito net that they own. There life seemed to be so hard and it was hard to know what to say. They could not afford to pay the school fees for the kids, so there kids are almost daily kicked out of school. It makes me sad to know that there is not much I can do other than be there to help them and talk about their worries and how they can make their future goals possible.

We also went to Kikaaya College today and made a presentation to all 500 students about our HIV/AIDS mural project. It was insane....there were so many students there and it was really overwhelming. I was supposed to lead the part on HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention...but Amanda had to step in and help me because the younger students had a bit of trouble with my accent. The competition to submit their designs is until Monday July 7th (we had to extend it an extra week b/c of their midterm exams). I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Tuesday June 17: we are today. This morning I facilitated Amanda with a mini-HIV/AIDS presentation for our new volunteers and KACCAD staff. It was great to know how much knowledge I have acquired here about HIV and AIDS and I can't wait to share that with you all when I return back to the United States.

However, during the presentation I started to feel really sick and got really pale. I also got quite dizzy. So, I decided to step out of the office and get some water. I even took like a two hour nap and I am a feeling a bit better now. Amanda said it might be a small case of malaria...but I am going to see how I am feeling and if I do not feel any better than I am going to go to a clinic later this week. But I am doing better now and my temperature is not too bad. But no worries...I am sure it is not that big of a deal (I haven't skipped a malaria pill since I have been here).

Well...that is all for now. I really need to go prepare for my lesson tomorrow and to make some posters to put around Kikaaya College to remind students about our HIV/AIDS mural competition!

Webale nnyo (thank you very much)!

Babirye :)

p.s. I am picking up Luganda here really well....I am quite excited! Here are some new words:

Banange (What on earth!)

Kale (ok)

Mazi (water)

Wasuze Otya? (how did you sleep?)

Bulungi (well)

I have a bunch more...but I feel like you might be tired from reading this long blog! Talk to you soon!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Falling in love with Uganda


It seems like another week has passed by. So much seems to happen that I don't even know where to begin sometimes with this blog. So, I guess I will start off where I finished last time. Oh, and in case any of you are wondering, I have been in Uganda for 3 and 1/2 weeks!

Monday June 2:

Today we had our weekly KACCAD staff meeting. Believe it or not, it lasted about three hours because we had some serious issues to deal with. We have a lot of projects right now and it was good that we had the time to thoroughly discuss them! This was my TO DO list for the week:

1. Make posters for Home Visit Program (Since we have run out of food resources to give to the community, we have decided to restructure the program. I suggested that we do educational awareness on simple things poor families can do to prevent malaria, water contamination, how & why to have covered pit latrines....etc and it was a hit! So these posters are to accompany this new Home Visit program!
2. Make Guide Book for the posters (so that future volunteers know how to communicate what the posters are meant to convey)
3. Monday-go with Derrick (my director) to Kikaaya Vocational School to discuss the implementation of a new HIV/AIDS program. (After meeting with the principal, we are going to start next month in the beginning of July!)
4. Prepare and Teach 3 lessons (I will discuss these later).
5. Work on a "Volunteer Introduction" Guide (this will help new volunteers acclimate to KACCAD and the programs. We don't actually have anything written down yet, so I am going to be very creative with it!
6. Wednesday-go with Amanda (Peace Corps volunteer) to Kikaaya College to meet with the Head Master about the HIV/AIDS Mural where it will be and to work out the budget.

This was most of the To Do list for the week. It might not look like too much...but it has kept me very busy and the lesson planning takes quite a while because I get to create three different lessons since the different classes range in age, gender and school.

Tuesday June 3:

Today is a National Holiday in Uganda and it is called Martyr's Day. We did a little bit of work in the morning, but since it was a holiday we decided to find out all about this Martyr's Day. So, Amanda and I went into Kampala to meet her friend Steve (he used to work for KACCAD but because he was not getting paid--none of the staff are paid--he had to get another job at a local bank). Anyways, before we met up with Steve at noon we decided to take the puppy to the vet. Tiger (the puppy who is living with us at KACCAD) is very sick...he was throwing up and there was blood in his poop. So, because Sam who is the owner of the dog wasn't doing anything about it....we took him along with us. By the time we got to the vet, Tiger was so scared he actually peed in his cage! But, the doctor gave him something like 6 shots and he is doing a lot better. I still don't like him too much though...I never was a fan of dogs but this one isn't too bad until he starts biting my shoes!

Anyways, we met up with Steve and took a 1/2 hour bus ride to Namugongo. This is where the Martyr's Day celebrations were going down! Here is a bit of history about the day:

In the 19th Century, the King of Uganda had welcomed Christian missionaries into the country to spread the religion. But by 1886, the King had died and his son had taken over power. However, his son was not a big fan of Christianity and was a big fan of traditional Buganda culture. Therefore, because of his dislike of the missionaries, he had 36 of them wrapped up in reeds and burned alive. However, he separated the Catholics from the Protestants before they were burned.

This holiday is a HUGE pilgrimage for Christians around Africa and the world. I of course had no idea that it was this big of a deal....but it is about as big as the pilgrimages to the Middle East. Therefore, pilgrims come from around the world. It was expected that nearly 300,000 were in Namugongo when we were that day! Isn't that insane? I have the video and pictures to prove it! Anyways, what is even more insane is that these pilgrims don't just hop on a plane to get to Uganda. No.....they have to WALK if they are from places in Africa. They come from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, etc. Some had been walking for days, some for weeks and a few of them for MONTHS. No lie, they really walk. It is amazing how important this day is for them. Just to give you an example, 240 arrived from Tanzania around the time we got to Namugongo....and 9 were put into the hospital upon arrival!

When we got to Namugongo (isn't that a fun word...try saying it, I promise it will make you smile!), we first walked to the Catholic Church (where the Catholic martyr's were burned) and then we walked another mile or so to the Protestant Church. There were SO MANY PEOPLE you can not even imagine! However, it was such an eye opening experience. Some really devout people were even taking some holy water back with them to there country...I have a great picture of people scooping it up in coffee mugs! That was a really fun adventure and it was great to see all of the people but it was a major pain to make sure that my backpack didn't get stolen or taken away!

After we got back from the Martyr's Day celebrations....Steve showed us his home and introduced us to his mother! It was really fun. Then, on our way back to Kikaaya village (home) some of the village children ran up and decided to walk us home! It was so precious...I had 3 on one hand and 2 on the other! They really love Muzungus (white people...even though I am tan I am still a Muzungu).

Wednesday June 4:

Today, I had a lesson with my Senior 2 class at Kikaaya College at 11:00 a.m. I have about 50 students in this class. They are a fun group because they are a bit younger. But, their English is not as advanced as my other classes so Nick has to translate some times. But, it is a great class. The only downside is that the room is so small for the number of students and of course there is no light so when it is cloudy it is hard to see!

Today's lesson that I put together was called Best Response. The students were split into three teams (Jupiter, The Conquering Virus, and Lions)...they came up with the names! Anyways, the activity is where I read a statement that is a typical sexual pressure line in Uganda, and they have to compete to come up with the best response! For example, one was "Girls need to have sex because boys give them vitamins to make their breasts grow"....and they had to respond to that! My students got really into it and it was really rewarding to see them putting their knowledge to the test! The winners got a prize: stickers. They went nuts!

On the way back from the lesson...there was an interesting incident. Nick and I were walking back home and we saw a car. It was our director, Derrick. However, he looked very distressed. When he pulled up...we realized why. His 76 year old mother was in the back seat and was yelling like CRAZY. Apparently, she as gone crazy. He had to take her to the mental hospital. It was quite insane (sorry for the pun).

Thursday June 5:

Since I had finished most of my lessons and other projects, Amanda and I went back into Kampala today to do some price scoping for our HIV/AIDS mural project. On the way into town, while I was in the taxi, I saw two crazy things. One) a baby in a SNOWSUIT...I thought I was dreaming for a second. But no, he was nice and cozy in his fluffy snow suit. Who would have thought? Two) A strange amputated leg. It was backwards than normal. Where the leg ended (at the knee) there was the shoe. Then...there was just a wire/steel leg to the bottom. Those things caught me off guard!

Anyways, we ended up going to the Peace Corps office first (we had to drop off a grant we finished working on). The office, by the way, is in the middle of nowhere. It was hard to find and had no I am still trying to figure that part out. After that, we went to a few publishing businesses to talk with them about this Calendar project we are working on. We want to create a KACCAD 12 month calendar and then sell it in the USA and Europe to promote awareness and fund raise for our projects! It looks like we are going to be able to make it happen. It was just very frustrating because Ugandans are not used to our "American" Calendars (the wall calendars that are like two pages bound together). Apparently, in Uganda the huge one page calendars are the only thing in style. But....I think it will work out.

Then, we decided to hike across town to inquire about paint supplies for our mural project. On the way, I saw one of the most disturbing things in the world. We passed a little child that was completely, absolutely, positively DYING of starvation. He was so small....about as big as my one palm stretched out. It tore my heart up...I usually don't give food out to the homeless but I had to do something. It was so sick and was going to die....I hope that the baby will get some food and survive with a bit of luck and love....

Friday June 6:

This was the first day that I would say that has been a LOW POINT of my experience so far. It was just not that great of a day. Let me tell you why.

My first class was at the woman's school (run by Adjit) that is a Muslim vocational school where about 60-70 women come to learn how to sew and stitch and etc. Anyways, they are usually my BEST class. But everything was just off on Friday. I was leading this fun icebreaker called "Mingle Mingle" where they have to pretend that they are in a taxi park and then when I shout out a number (say "5") they have to group up with that many people. But, when I shouted the first number....they all turned away from me and sat down. Just like that. Apparently, they didn't want to play. I thought that was very, very rude and was not happy about it.

Then, during my lesson on Women & HIV....we were going through a few case studies that I put together and I had one representative from each group report their discussion questions to the class. But the entire class was not paying attention and it was so frustrating! I had to tell them at the end that I was very disappointed and then they started shaping up. I think they will be better next Friday.

Then, my second class of the day was in Bbira (a village about 15 minutes away from KACCAD). It is a boarding school that has a lot of international students. It teaches trades like auto work, computers, engineering, sewing, hospitality, etc. Well, with this class there were only about 3o of them there (usually, there is about 70-80). Many of the students had left because of the holiday on this upcoming Monday (Hero's Day). Anyways, I taught my lesson on Rape but it was not really as engaged as it was meant to be. The students were just staring at me with blank freaking faces. That is the WORST. Let's just say the lesson was not the best. But, I found out afterwards that many of the students are from Northern Uganda and don't really understand my American accent. It would have been nice if they had told me this DURING the lesson when I asked them repeatedly if they could understand me. But...many of them came up to me afterwards with questions they were to shy to ask earlier.

Actually, a whole bunch of them from Sudan came up to me. They are all orphans and it was neat to hear some of their stories before I had to leave.

After those lessons, I really needed a break from KACCAD so I came back and took a shower and decided to relax. It was just one of those days. But, it is hard to kind of restore my my mental health and escape the day when I am in Uganda. But, I tried my best and read some more of this book I am reading (well, I finished it yesterday) called Middlesex.

Finally....Saturday June 7:

Today, I woke up and it was raining! I was upset because I had travel plans today! But...I decided to go ahead and go. I left KACCAD at 8:00 a.m. and took a taxi into Kampala. Then, at the new taxi park, I walked to the old taxi park and jumped on a taxi to Entebbe. Entebbe is about an hour south of town. It was a nice ride but it was still raining! The taxi let me off in Entebbe but I had no real idea where the Entebbe Botanical Gardens were. So, I took a boda boda to them (which had no real sign or directions to them) and went in. It was so beautiful! It borders Lake Victoria (the second largest lake in the world) and has a lot of trees and birds. Also...there were live monkeys! What was scary was that there were no cages or what I was walking around and they would pop out of nowhere and scare me like crazy!

But...sadly it started raining heavily and I had to wait under this bench thing for about half an hour. But I think I had the best seat in the entire place because to my left was the majestic Lake Victoria and to my right was this huge tree with about 40 monkeys in it! It was so neat to see them playing in the rain! I got a few good pictures...but after a while when the rain stopped they all started coming out. I started getting close but they like my camera so I started to run for it....and they followed! Let me tell you, you do not want monkeys chasing you in the rain where there is a lot of mud and no where to hide! Thankfully, none of them caught up with me!

After spending about 2 and 1/2 hours there....where thank goodness I found a pit latrine (I had to "make a short call" as we say here in Uganda)...I walked in the pouring rain to find a taxi back to Kampala. It was easy to find one but it took about 1 and 1/2 hours to get back to town. Traffic was insane....we were stuck in this one intersection for a good 20 minutes. There was no traffic light in sight and it was jam packed with cars and boda boda's and people in every direction! But...finally I got back to the new taxi park and caught a taxi to Bulenga (home). I was going to stop and have a nice lunch but I was too tired and the rain was a big deterrent!

Now I am back safe and sound and am very proud that I traveled by myself around Uganda without harm! It was a first for me (to travel alone) and it has given me a lot of confidence!

Now that this is getting ridiculously is a bit more:

Personally, I am doing well. I can't believe three and a half weeks have passed so far! That means only about 5 weeks left! YIKES! Time is going by here so fast. I am truly falling in love with this country.

I am a huge fan of matooke now (we eat it every day here, more than rice) and am enjoying learning about the culture and from the people of this country. However, there are are a few things that are hard to adjust to:

1) The way women are treated here. I have already experienced sexual harassment (almost always when I am in Kampala). Men love to say disturbing things like "my size" or pinch my arms or state at my body. Apparently...Amanda was telling me that I have the perfect body in Uganda.

2) Like I was saying above...Ugandan men will not leave me alone! I have already had one serious marriage proposal and 1 insane stalker named Arthur. He keeps dropping by the office and looking for me! I have had to tell him that I am "single and contented" and not "single and searching"....this is how Ugandans explain their status. :)

3) The way people treat children. Kids are expected to do anything an adult asks them to (whether it be cut them down a jack fruit from the tree or run and hand someone a cellphone they left behind). Also, parents openly hit or beat their kids in the street. I saw a woman with a big stick hitting a kid...I tried to intervene but it is hard when we are coming from two completely different cultures and backgrounds. Thankfully, the kid was OK.

But with some of these challenges...I am learning so much and loving the Ugandan way of life. I am getting used to taking bucket baths by candlelight (when the power frequently goes out), washing my clothes by hand, teaching lessons to a huge amount of students in strange places like under mango trees (this is at Bbira). I am coming up with a long list and am going to share them with you all by the end of my experience!

For now, I am going to go and eat some dinner (I think on the menu tonight is Chipati and Beans) .

Sula Bulungi (Good Night & Sweet Dreams in Luganda),

Babirye :)