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!


tennisfrak said...

I'm so proud of you!!! Tell the new volunteers I say hello!!!! :)

Christine said...

Wow! What an experience! I am sure that you are happy that classes went better this week. Hope you are feeleing better. I am sure that you are appreciative of the company of the new volunteers. take care, stay safe and healthy.

Jillian said...

Wow! Sounds like you are learning so much and doing amazing service and leadership work. I totally forwarded your entry from June 13th to the Center staff who work with SLS because I was so excited to read it. I look forward to your blog each week. Stay safe!