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


Christine said...

What an amazing blog. I am amazed at how comfortable you feel in this country! Traveling as one of the natives! I would love to hear Kylie and Eri's version of the trip too! I only hope you have pictures! I really can't believe that your 8 weeks is almost up. I can understand why you will be sad to leave, but we miss you too! Selfish I know!! Make the most of your last week. Take care and stay safe.

AmyLeigh said...

Hello there miss. I have enjoyed reading your blogs so much and cannot wait to hear even more stories when we meet again. You seem like you are such a local there in Uganda; quite an experience! The mice part really stuck out in your blog...and I'm so sorry you had to go through that!!! But hey, you're still alive, and it's a great story, right?! :)

Miss you. Have fun. Be safe. See you soon! <3