Sunday, June 29, 2008
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?
Well...one 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
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
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
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
Tuesday June 24th:
Today we had a very BUSY day! So in the morning, we taught for the first time at
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
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
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
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
Oh…a side note. So I am still having trouble with some of these
Well, that is all that I have for now. I am going to leave you!
Nkwagala nnyo (Love you all very much),
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
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 lunch...it 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)....it 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 it...it 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)...it 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 quickly...it almost seems to be a blur!
Peace & Love,
Monday, June 16, 2008
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!
So...here 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 tired....it 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:
So...now 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"...it 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! Anyways...my 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 around...it 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:
Well....here 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)!
p.s. I am picking up Luganda here really well....I am quite excited! Here are some new words:
Banange (What on earth!)
Wasuze Otya? (how did you sleep?)
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
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 Project....like 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 sign...so 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 not...so 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 long....here 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),
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Where to start? So much has happened in the past week that I do not even know where I can begin! I guess I should start off where I left off...
Last Monday was my first time going into the rural villages near Kikaaya Village (where KACCAD is) to do home visits to people who are suffering from HIV/AIDS. Let me tell you, that walk or should I say crazy hike up a huge mountain is in no way my idea of fun. But....it was rewarding after walking for 1/5 hours in the brutal sun to actually sit down with some of the most poor people I think that I have ever met.
The first house we stopped at was a family of 9. Both parents were HIV positive. The house (if you could call it that) of course had no electricity and was so dark inside. I remember that there were bugs and ants all over the floor. She offered us volunteers a seat on a bench but she sat on the floor and didn't seem to mind the fact that there were thousands of bugs all over her. She seemed so defeated. Her 7 children were all trying to look at us through one of the windows...even though it was the first day back to school none of them were learning and attending lessons because the parents could not afford to send any of their children to school because they could not afford the school fees. It was so sad inside that little house and it took me a while to fully understand that every day must be so much of a constant struggle for this family.
The second house we stopped at was honestly in the middle of the jungle (this description really doesn't do it justice but we were basically no where near modern day today). This widow lived with her two teenage daughters and had just found out that BOTH of her daughters are pregnant. Now, this woman who is not only HIV positive and can only afford the one room house is also having to deal with raising TWO more children as well as worrying about the fact that her family is trying to kick her off her land.
That day of home visits was a crazy experience and is something that I am going to have to get used to. We are going again tomorrow. However, KACCAD has run out of malaria nets and food (beans and rice) that we usually give out after counseling and updating with the families. Therefore, I am working on putting together some posters and handouts to give to the families when we go tomorrow that teach about simple things families we work with can do to prevent malaria (cutting tall grass around the house, covering their pit latrines, etc.), prevent water contamination (boiling water by leaving it outside in the sun for at least 6 hours) and etc. It is really fun researching all of these methods...I am learning SO much about HIV/AIDS, issues in developing countries that effect peoples basic living conditions, how exactly local NGO's work when there is little funding and the likelihood of our programs to be sustainable really depend on donors and money that might or might not come in the future.
Anyways, on Wednesday I met with the Headmaster of Kikaaya College to discuss KACCAD's proposal for the HIV/AIDS mural we want to implement at the secondary school. It was a bit intimidating meeting alone with the Headmaster...but he was totally for our project and we are good to go! I am so excited that I will be able to see this mural come to fruition during my time here in Uganda (as once we have finished the design contest among the students and selected the winner....who will not only be able to take ownership of the project but also receive one term of school fees paid for....we will be able to paint the design on the school walls for not only the benefit of the community but the students as well!). After meeting with the Headmaster, I also taught my first class in Uganda by myself! It was a bit nerve-racking to say the least! I had an interpreter (Nick from KACCAD) but it was crazy because there were about 60 students in this Senior Two class (who range in age from 10-14). I did a lesson where we spelled c-o-c-o-n-u-t with our bodies (as an icebreaker) and then a short game called Take A Stand to discover their base of knowledge on HIV/AIDS. It is going to be fun as I will return to this school every Wednesday to teach until I leave!
On Thursday we had a HUGE community HIV/AIDS testing event. We were expecting to host it at Lya Kawuuzi Medical Center in the Bulenga Trading Center but when we got there the owner said that we had reserved the grass OUTSIDE of the building. Amanda (Peace Corps volunteer at KACCAD) was furious and I was disappointed. So...we had our testing event outside and had to sadly deal with the rain showers when they came. It was a lot of sitting around but about every two hours I would help make presentations about basic HIV/AIDS information and about Positive Living (eating nutritious meals, mental health, etc.) to those waiting to see counselors or anxiously worrying about their results. One of the best parts was when the crowd would ask me afterward questions and I could confidently respond and answer them! I know so much more about HIV/AIDS and how it effects society here in Uganda at an overwhelming price and it is an amazing feeling to know that I am making a positive difference one Ugandan at a time! At the end of the event, which lasted from about 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. we had tested 185 community members! That was an amazing turnout!
On Friday, it was a pretty low day for me. This is because it was the day that Stu and Karoline left Uganda. They had been here for one month already and were heading back to Canada. They both attend Carleton University in Ottawa. Anyways, it was sad seeing them go and knowing that their company was a great transition for my two month adventure in Uganda. After they left, I went to a women only vocational school that I teach at every Friday. I lead a lesson on rape and the dangers of it and was surprised at how well the lesson went! We had about an hour discussion on how women can protect themselves from rape, how to deal with rape in the Uganda society and the power women have to make positive decisions on their own! I was so impressed and excited to be talking with them (most of them understood English but Nick was translating most of my lesson and answers to their questions into Luganda.)
*By the way, at this lesson they were very curious to hear if I had a Muzungu brother (I had to tell them no and that I only had a sister Nakato (twin sister)...and they were very disappointed!
Anyways, to cheer me up a bit Amanda took me into town (Kampala) to see the opening night of Sex and The City with a bunch of her Peace Corps friends! We got very dressed up and had a blast...we went to dinner in Garden City (the only American style shopping mall in the entire city) and went to see the movie! While I had never seen an episode of Sex and The City before...I LOVED the movie! After that, we all went dancing a bit in the city and slept in a hostel that believe it or not only cost me 5,000 shillings for the night (about $4.50)!!! It was a very fun time and on Saturday Amanda and I took a late breakfast in Kampala at a local cafe and then we went to Nakasera (which is a HUGE open vegetable/fruit market) to buy some stuff for the week! We went to her favorite vendor who is called Amos. He was so helpful...he even helped carry our goods while we went shopping for some fabric that I wanted to buy. I am going to get Adjit (the headmaster or the women's school that I teach at on Friday) to make me some skirts for gifts for family and friends! The material is very pretty and I can't wait to see the Ugandan skirts/shirts that come out of them!
Well...today it is Sunday and I am exhausted! The days start off really early around here (6:30-7:00 a.m.) and then it is go go go! But...I am having so much fun. The culture shock is setting in a bit though. It is hard not having appliances and materials that you take for granted in the United States....such as a refrigerator, stove, constant electricity, air conditioning, etc. But...it really isn't too bad once you get used to it all. The only thing I am still working on is the food. Sadly, the bread here is no where near delicious (it breaks apart so easily) and the traditional Ugandan food is an experience (I think I mentioned some of it earlier). But I am enjoying it all and am practicing Luganda as much as I can! I think that I will be quite good by the time I leave. It is kind of disheartening though when you say something in Luganda and they laugh at you...but I don't really care too much!
Well, I just finished cleaning up the volunteer room for about 3 hours and am quite happy that most of my stuff is out of my suitcase! It was good for my mental health to clean up a bit and to organize...just like what I love to do! Anyways, I am off to make pasta and veggies with Amanda for lunch and then am going to finish up "The Other Boleyn Girl" which is an AMAZING read! I will try to write more often....but I can't make any guarantees! Tomorrow it is back to work and I am ready for the challenge of another week!
I miss you all and hope that you are finding my blogs insightful and interesting!
Babirye (Beth's name in Uganda which means first born twin)