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 :)


Christine said...

Wow! What a busy little beaver you have been! You are really experiencing life on the most basic of levels. It must be very frustrating applying your western values to a culture so vastly different. Hopefully, you will be able to keep the men in line, and not come home too bruised from all the pinches! Stay safe. Keep positive. Love you

bjs06f said...

Beth! I just wanted to let you know how happy I am that you have created this amazing experience for yourself. You are truly inspirational. I absolutely love reading your blogs... Uganda sounds like quite an adventure. You are going to grow so much over your stay and I can't wait to see you when you get back! Take care of your self and get home safe... I am in awe of the things you are doing for the world :) LOVE YOU!