Friday, August 1, 2008

Alliance HS Events and Netball Coach (July 11th?)

Hope Academy had visitors from a neighboring Alliance High School in Kyazanga, which is about 20km West from Kyetume, a few weeks back. The visitation, as the locals call it, included an afternoon of extra-curricular activities such as debate, netball, and futball. This was quite a serious event, so the kids ended up spending the morning preparing (setting up a tent, moving desks and benches, clearing and weeding the grounds, setting up flag poles, etc.).

We first started off with the debate and the motion was "The Coming of Europeans to Africa did More Harm than Good." We were given the option of choosing which side of the motion we were to support and thus we opposed the motion. Now just as a side note, we have debate every Thursday after school and the kids (no matter the topic) always seem to work the issues of abortion, prostitution, and homosexuality into their supporting evidence….always fabulously entertaining for us volunteers, or muzungus as we’re so often referred to. So, thinking that it was just our students that managed to bring up these important issues, we were all quite surprised to hear a few of the Alliance HS kids join in on the fun. Apparently the Europeans brought the idea of prostitution, whereas women sell their bodies like vegetables! Ha. Anyway the debate went swimmingly and it was on to netball.

Apparently it had been deemed that I was qualified to coach our netball team, perhaps because I was playing with them every Saturday, or maybe it was because I have a background in basketball….not sure, but nevertheless, I needed to learn the rules and fast! Since our internet has been completely unreliable I ruled that out as a reference and just began playing with the girls every afternoon and forcing them to speak English, not their native tongue of Luganda and any infractions resulted in the loss of ball. After a few days of this I was familiar with the rules, but still didn’t have any idea of how to "coach" these girls, so we just scrimmaged everyday….fabulous strategy, I know! A side note, netball is similar to basketball as you shoot a ball into a circular hoop, but the similarities end there. The court is divided into 3 sections and there are 7 people on the court for each team at one time. You essentially have 2 people who can shoot, 1 helper to those shooters, 1 center, and 3 defenders. There is no dribbling and in fact you can’t move after you’ve received a pass, except for a pivot foot. There is also no contact….there goes my advantage! Anyway, it’s a good time and we ended up playing quite well despite the fact that they were extremely tall, and the festivities ended in a 4 – 4 draw.

Finally, was the futball match. Hope prevailed and beat the other team 2 - 1 in an exhillerating match! I know next to nothing about soccer, so we'll just assume it was exhillerating....

Lake Mburo & Mbarara (Early July)

So I have a lot to report since I've been inactive in the Internet world as of late....

This little trip took place in early July shortly after my trip up North:

Two of the girls, Jen and Kayla, and I decided that we needed a weekend away, so we thought we would go on a mini-vacation over to Mbarara and stop by Lake Mburo National Park on the way over. Mbarara is about 90km West from where we’re currently staying and Lake Mburo is just a minor detour along the way.

So we hopped a mini-bus to Sanga and ended up hiring a personal driver to take us through the park for the day. It’s not a very big park, but a park nonetheless. As soon as we passed through the gates we had to stop because a zebra was in the middle of the road. We were literally 20 feet from it and it just stood there staring at us and we, back at it, all the while snapping photos of course! These creatures are quite stunning and I would almost compare the sighting to that of a unicorn. You know you see them in pictures, but it just isn’t the same. Along the drive to the main registration sight we saw many more.

When we got to the camp it was decided that we would take the boat tour and then hire a park ranger (geared up with an AK47) to accompany us on a drive through the bush. Both events were pretty sweet as we saw a lot of wildlife including: hippos, crocodiles, impala, zebra, water buffalo, topee (sp? – a sort of deer/elk like animal), vervet monkeys, African river eagles, warthogs, and several other species of birds.

After the day of safari we headed to Mbarara to relax. We met a gang of LDS folks from Montana who had suggested that we stay at the Lake View hotel (running water and all!). So off we went, and boy was this a welcomed respite from the bush! It was definitely the nicest hotel I have seen here yet, and not to badly priced either. So we pampered ourselves, and by this I mean ate pizza and took steaming hot showers and called it a night!

The next day we woke up for breakfast (yeah! A real breakfast) and then proceeded to explore the city/town for a few hours and then back to the bush. Overall a pretty darn good 2 days!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Living the High Life in Kampala!

Greetings from the bush!

Well, I've survived my trek up North. Autumn and I were escorted by a little old Indian man to the city of Arua, which happened to be about an 8 hr drive. Turns out Aut had only met the man a couple days prior, so that added a little excitement to our adventure... Didn't know if we were going to end up in a freezer (not that there are many freezers in this country). Just a side note, I've never felt a bit threatened or nervous in this country, which is definitely more than you can say for the states. Abdoul ended up being super nice and we saw 3 different types of monkeys and several elephant on the way over. AMAZING!! (I wish I could share pictures with you all, but it looks like that will have to wait until I get back home). Abdoul had some business ventures to take care of during the day, he is in the process of opening another petrol station in Arua, so we met up with him in the evenings for dinner and the days were ours to explore. We didn't really do much, but walked around the markets and took in the sights. Let me tell you that the climate in the North is definitely hotter than it is in the south. Oh, and Abdoul actually took us to the DRC (Congo) border which was pretty sweet.

So we arrived back in Kampala on Friday night and I met some of Autumn's friends. One actually happens to have parents who are very involved in the health profession, so I sat down with them before I headed back to the bush to try and get some info. on the clinic that we're starting up in Kyetume. They were both extremely helpful and the process looks promising pending a Rotary World Aide grant.

So, I'm definitely back in the bush. Autumn doesn't realize how good she has it! She stays at a very nice place (with toilets, running water, and a shower) with amazing views of Lake Victoria. I think I managed to eat my way through Kampala while there, so the carb diet is actually a welcomed respite.

Not a whole lot to report, however we've had a few funerals the past week. Our AIDS patient passed away on Saturday, so that was a shot to the heart. Her children have a long road ahead of them as orphans, so that's definitely a bummer. We are trying to do all we can here to help ease their pain. Alright, all for now. I might be able to get on the internet more frequently as several people have gone home.

Talk soon.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rain - A Blessing in Disguise?...

Happy Sunday, and Happy Father’s Day!!

Who knew pond water smelled so sweet?! So, yes, this marks the end of our rain water here, and now I’m bathing in brown pond water….actually just washed a few articles of clothing, however “washing” seems to be quite relative around here! The pond water definitely doesn’t emit a sweet aroma (if you couldn’t sense the sarcasm in the first sentence), but a little body spray, or dousing if you will, seems to do the trick.

So, I guess I have quite a few things to report. Friday Kate and I went to Kampala (about a 3 hour bus ride) to take a girl (see 'healthy' photo below) to get some blood work done. Apparently they thought she had sickle cell anemia coupled with a severe case of malaria, but much to our surprise, just malaria…a happy outcome all around! Anyway, we got sang to by a guy playing a makeshift violin/mini-banjo with one string and the lyrics went something like this, “Hey Muzungu, you are nice-Y, you are wondLeful, you pay me lottsa money” repeat over and over again until we were guilted into doling out the moolah. It was amusing to say the least. I think the locals were hoping that we would pay out so this guy would shut up!

I also got in touch with my friend Autumn who has been doing some volunteer work in Kampala, and we met up for lunch (which, might I add, has been the highlight of my stay) at Steers for cheeseburgers!! Oh, AND I got to use a real Toilet! What a treat! HA! BUT, little did I know the revenge the western food would take on my insides, or else I would’ve rethought that delicious slab of meat and cheese. P.S. Cheese – can’t find it anywhere out in the BUSH! So back to it, crapping in a latrine is hard enough, but when you throw in an upset stomach…….you get the picture! Anyway, turns out that she’s headed up North on Tuesday for a week, so I will be tagging along with her. I super excited to do a little traveling. Not sure what’s in store, so stay tuned for the report next week. Oh, and Autumn is doing fabulous, she just got accepted into Grad. School at Bradford (I think), so will be headed to England the end of August! Exciting stuff!

After lunch we made the trek back to the bus park where we proceeded to wait 2 hours for the bus to fill. Meanwhile, Kate and I had fun watching the vendors come on and off selling anything you could imagine. From power strips to electric razors, shoes to disco balls, toothpaste to radios….

Yesterday (Saturday) was a fairly lazy day, however the night was happenin’! Laura will be leaving on Thursday, so we went to Masaka to hit up the Discoteque. I think we piled 24 people into a VW type van, yes quite safe…. And Ohhh, boy what a crazy night! Apparently it is the “norm” to dance by yourself while gazing into the mirror (all the walls are mirrors). This is severely amusing and I couldn’t help but stare the whole night. All in all it was a blast. I found myself a dance partner and he would mimic everything I did, so I pulled out some fabulous moves (we all know that I love a dance-off!). I must say the best was when I started clawing at him like a bear and he, sure enough, followed suit. PRICELESS! I almost pissed myself as did everyone else that was watching! Best night yet.

Anyway, just thought I would drop a note before I head out tomorrow. This happens to be more of an upbeat posting as opposed to all the heavy stuff that’s been taking place around here lately.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddio! I think I’ll try and give you guys a call today, probably around 6-7 am your time.

Love you all! Shannon, keep me posted on the baby news….

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Norman the Turkey - Still a Menace

Happy Wednesday Morning –

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the summer… Coincidentally, there hasn’t been much sun here and yesterday was rainy and 65. Feels like home! Boo!! But, I do have to say that I enjoyed the rain as our 2,000 Liter water tank ran dry yesterday and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to bathing in the pond water. We’ve recently had an influx of volunteers here including a group of 10 or so Minnesota engineering students. They are working hard putting four 24,000 L water tanks in for the school as well as digging a hole and building a structure for the pooper (never will I take another TOILET for granted!).

So, switching gears, and by switching gears I mean trying to hide the tears… Last Friday marked the most unfathomable day yet. Currently we are starting up an outreach program for child-headed families, which encompasses households run by children who have lost both parents and are either living alone, living with other children, or living with an ever aging grandparent. Three of us went about an hour south of here and deep into the bush to get out to the homes we were to assess. The first house had a very old grandmother with 4 children ranging from 4 yrs old to 16. They didn’t have much, but in comparison to the next stop…. The most heartbreaking visit was to a home with 6 siblings (ages 10 to 17). These kids literally had absolutely nothing. The only positive thing they had going for them was that they were living in a World Vision built home that was structurally sound. When assessing the situation, the most difficult part is posing the question of how they lost their parents. In this case it was to AIDS and none of the children had been tested. Comforting right? They didn’t have kitchen or cooking supplies, no bedding (they were sleeping on concrete floor with maybe 2 blankets for the six of them), a set of clothing for each child (which obviously were in poor condition), and the list goes on…

I literally had to hold back my tears and as we were driving away. I couldn’t help but think about all the things I have taken for granted. Do I really need to buy a $200 pair of jeans when these kids could eat for the next year? Heavy stuff, but that’s the reality down here. I could literally spend all of my days here weeping, but life is cruel and unfair, so I will limit my tears. I vow to do my best to pull myself together and focus on all the wonderful energy and amazing happiness that these people are more than willing to share!

On a lighter note (mainly because I need to get off that subject for fear of never being able to stop the tears), I took my first Boda-Boda ride on Sunday, and in a skirt no less! A Boda-Boda is a motorcycle taxi of sorts. I wouldn’t call it the safest thing on wheels, but safety appears to be a relative term here in good ole Uganda! Kate and I were headed to give a talk about alcohol use and abuse(Uganda ranks the top of the list of per capita alcohol consumption in the world according to the WHO) to the women’s group, but as “Africa Time” allows, the talk was rescheduled to next Sunday. A fun ride nonetheless. It seems everywhere you go here it’s like a parade. All the kids shout “Bye Muzungu” (white person?) as you pass by, and this never seems to end. Kate and I proceeded to do the pageant wave to both sides of the street and laughed our asses off!

Monday was a holiday, so we had a bit of a house party on Sunday night. Hard alcohol comes in little bags here, about 3 shots per, and is about 500 shillings ($0.33 US). Also, the beer is not refrigerated, so having a nice cold one is nearly impossible. There was a lot of dancing and singing and the rest is history. A few people were quite sick the next morning, however I was not among them! The warm beer and super sweet cane spirits are not exactly my cup of tea…probably a good thing!

Yesterday I managed to log some manual labor hours helping the engineers move gravel. I’m definitely paying for it this morning as my back has never felt this sore! I like to think that I burned off a few calories, but I’m not sure that it made much of an impact in the grand scheme of things. So yes, we’re still getting 8 servings of carbs per meal, and it just so happens that all of them are of a yellowish tint. It looks like my vegetable craving isn’t going to subside any time soon. Speaking of cravings…you would think that coffee would be in abundance here since it grows on the trees and is drying in yards everywhere you look, but apparently no one drinks it! Damn you Starbucks for forcing the locals to export the most precious of beans (you are right Mom, I should have packed a french press and some grounds)!!

Anyway, that’s about it for my rant. The turkey is still mean as hell, but I’ve managed to hold my ground and swing sticks fairly effectively and haven’t gotten attacked as of late!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Week One Recap

Oli Otya? = How are you (in Luganda).

Sorry I haven't been as diligent as I would like when it comes to this blogging thing, but there are only two computers to support about 15 peoples needs, and like I said they operate on dial-up Internet access...
Anyway, I've had to realign my expectations and duties of the organization because it is VERY much a newly developed grass roots non-profit and still needs basic programs streamlined. So, having said that, the whole leadership/entrepreneurship programs are going to be put on hold.
English lessons are still taking a priority with the children, and I’ve taken over the 3rd of 5 groups (based on an English assessment worksheet that we had everyone take last week), 5 being the “best” and 1 obviously being no comprehension at all. That pretty much sums up the teaching portion.

As for other events, last week Kate (counselor from Victoria BC) and I went way out in the bush to visit a primary school. The main purpose of the visit was to witness how th

e Ugandan school system deals with children who have disabilities. I was, more or less, along for the ride as this was Kate’s interest. This was quite an eye opening experience! The school we visited had almost 650 kids (out in the middle of nowhere) and about 20 kids who were disabled (not including the 40 children that can’t make it to school). So the disabilities range from autism and downs, to deafness and blindness, to physical deformities such as missing limbs and polio, and even HIV. We discovered there is definitely a stigma associated disabilities in this country. The teacher was an amazing guy who not only teaches the children (all of them), but also tries his best to educate the families.

Also, on Monday Kate and I took Nampijja, a mother with HIV, and her children into Masaka in order to get the children tested and to get her the ARVs needed to keep the HIV under control. Nampijja is 25 and just recently found out she was HIV positive thanks to Bridget (another Canuck from Vancouver) who took her to the clinic after complaints of feeling ill. So needless to say, was a nerve racking day. The kids (8 and 11) are super cute (see below) and we ended up playing with them for the 4 hours it took to get the results back. Thank goodness the tests came out negative because I’m not sure what I would’ve done otherwise! But, we did a happy dance and treated them to a meal at a semi-western restaurant.

Well aside from a few other minor events, things are going quite fabulously. I’m still getting my fill of carbs and Crystal Gayle! Yes, I just said Crystal Gayle…..apparently she is quite popular among the locals (Sarah, that’s for you). I must mention that Celine Dione (sp?) is a favorite as well! There is also a very angry turkey that roams around the yard and it apparently has taken a severe disliking to me. I think the 2nd day I was here I invaded his space and he clawed me in the back of the legs leaving some nice bruises. Now, when I venture to the “bathroom” it manages to corner me forcing me to pull some juke-ing moves in order to avoid disaster!! Very inconvenient. Oh, and some of you might be getting email from the local men around town…apparently when you tell them you don’t have a phone, email is the next best thing. So, instead of devising a make-shift address, I’ve decided to let you in on the fun! Ha.

Alright, that’s all for now. I’ll try and do a better job of keeping you all up to date.

Love and miss you all!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Okay folks, today’s update is going to be pleading for funding….

Right now we are running an after school program, which is essentially a place for children, ranging in age from 5 to 20, to come for additional schooling in various subjects. These are basically full blown classes lasting from 5:00pm to 6:30pm and right now we are running a month long crash course in English, as the comprehension is far from acceptable. All schools teach in English, therefore making English comprehension (both reading and writing) a high priority! The difference between regular school and the after school program is cost. The after school program is free, so many kids that cannot afford school fees attend this program and are very eager to learn!

This then leads to my initial reason for writing today. There are SEVERAL children who need sponsors in order to pay for school, uniforms, lunch, books and the like. We’ve come up with a dollar figure for a year’s worth of schooling (encompassing ALL costs) and it comes out to be $150 US per child. Now, that said, some of you may think that might be a bit too high, so we’ve also broken it down by semester (3 semesters per year), which is $50. The great thing about this program is that all donated money goes straight to the kids. There are no overheads or other payments taken to supplement other costs. So, if you are interested in donating any amount of money, please contact me directly at and we can work out the logistics and discuss the easiest way of donating. I can also be sure to direct your funds to a deserving child and send you photos of the child that you are impacting! Please find it in your heart to give up that latte for a couple months and make a difference!

Thanks MUCH!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

First Days

Hello from Uganda,

Sorry it has taken me a couple days to get on here... The Internet isn't exactly the speediest and I haven't really had a spare moment to jump on!

First few days:
Well, my flights went quite well, and I think the compression socks worked like magic (good thing because they were almost $40)! I arrived in Entebbe around 8:15 and was picked up by my "hotel" liason. Said "hotel" was quite a site!! They then told me that they would be taking me elsewhere...which I was a little nervous about since I was traveling alone, but I was taken to a bungalow type hotel that worked out OK. Some folks from URF picked me up in the morning and we drove approx. 4 hours to Masaka. Meanwhile I had my first Ugandan meal called a "rolex" which is a fried egg rolled up in chapati (flat) bread. It was delicious!

The landscape here is quite stunning with all the lush
greenery, and words cannot do it justice. I’m taking as many pictures as I can, but unfortunately will probably not be able to upload them from here. Perhaps I will get into the city and give it a whirl.

There are 5 other girls here, 2 from Vancouver BC, and the rest from the states. All of them seem to be great people, however most are in their early 20’s, which makes me feel quite old! The 2 Canadian girls are 24, and the others are 19, 20, & 21. We are located about 1 km to the nearest small village and about 30 km from Masaka, which is the nearest large town. There is a brand new secondary school on site here (comparable to 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, I think) and the first day of operation was Monday. Interesting to say the least…all the teachers have yet to arrive, but will hopefully do so in the next few days (I believe there will be 4 total). I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing quite yet, but I suppose time will tell as I get more comfortable with my surroundings.

Some interesting occurrences/observations:
1) I’m not quite sure what the use of the blinker entails here, but drivers tend to use them often!
2) Meals consist of rice, noodles, plantains, sometimes beans/beef, and cabbage…carbs, carbs, carbs! -- Good thing I brought a jump rope and we do a lot of walking!
3) Pit Latrines are most difficult! We all know that I have bad knees, which makes squatting to go to the bathroom quite a site (especially when you have to aim!).

More to come later!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Testing the Waters...

Just trying to get the hang of this. Above are some pictures I took while in Victoria BC a couple weeks ago... I've also set up a website where you can view all the photos I take:

I'm not sure what will be easiest. I guess we'll wait and see. All for now!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Does the Sun Shine in Uganda?

Goodbye Seattle....Hello Uganda.

This is a test of sorts, as I'm new to this site! AND, yes, I think the sun just might shine in Uganda!

Well folks the countdown has begun I suppose. Today marks the first day of May so that gives me 23 more days of preparation before I board the longest plane rides of my life. I will depart from Seattle on a direct to Amsterdam (8 hours) and then a direct from Amsterdam to Entebbe, Uganda (9 hours). The thought of these flights have begun to give me nightmares already, but not for the typical reasons one might assume. No, I'm not worried about claustrophobia or horrible accidents, but rather my body's reaction to being 30K feet above the ground for an asinine amount of time. Yes, I'm worried about my appendages swelling, dammit!

Anyway, enough of that. I know a lot of you have been questioning my choice of travel destination, but let me assure you that I have spent hours upon hours thinking about it, and I'm absolutely sure that Africa is the place for me at this point in my life. I'm breaking away from the preverbial "rat race" of this materialistic society in order to gain a fresh perspective on life. While I did contemplate several other locales for the beginnings my travel itch, Africa feels right.

So, having said that, "voluntourism" has crept into my vocabulary! Not only will I be emmersing myself in another culture and seeing the sights, I will be challenging and educating the locals as well as myself along the way. I have been asked to lend a hand developing a leadership/entrepreneurship program for women, town council, and teenagers. Yes, I've just quit my job to pay to work in Africa. Sounds fairly crazy...stay tuned!