Sunday, July 20, 2008

An end to an incredible summer of service in Uganda


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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the First Album:

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

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

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

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

Babirye (Beth) or Ssuubi (Hope) :)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Preparing to leave Uganda

Hello amazing friends, family and Florida State Seminoles!

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

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

So, here we go!

Wednesday, July 9th:

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday July 10th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday July 11th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday July 12th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday July 13th:

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

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

Monday July 14th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love!

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

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

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Live music, Role Plays and Sippi Falls

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

Monday June 30th

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

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

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

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

Tuesday July 1st :

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

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

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

Wednesday July 2nd*

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

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

Thursday July 3rd:

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

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

Friday July 4th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday July 5th:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday July 6th:

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

Monday July 7th:

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

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

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

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

Tuesday July 8th:

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

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

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

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

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

I miss you!

Siba Bulungi (Have a good day),

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

Beth Pagan