Saturday, June 8, 2013

Days ThirtyOne-ThirtyFour: Goodbyes

We got back to the island after a very bumpy boat ride around five this evening. At first we were surprised not to see Ema waiting for us, but as we got closer we saw he was there resting behind a tree. Dinner was especially wonderful, with rice, chips, fish, and cabbage, ending the night watching Taken. Considering my upcoming travels to Europe, I can assure you I won't be getting in a cab with anyone named Peter.

After satisfying our craving for Ruthie's breakfast with Rolex, Claudia, Tessa, Nicole and I paid a visit to the Youth With A Mission (YWAM) clinic and the primary school in the morning before lunch. After lunch we walked the circumference of the island as Nicole, Tessa and Andrew had not had the chance to yet. I also wanted to say goodbye to the old man we had met last time on Lingira who lives just outside of Dubai camp. Last time he started out impressed with my Lugandan for only having been here a week at that point to becoming shocked every time I didn't know the Lugandan word for something. He had proceeded to teach me roughly sixty words and would yell "benange!" when I didn't recall it correctly.
He was sad that we were leaving, telling us he will buy our next ticket if we come visit him again. Wile I didn't remember all of his teachings, I remembered enough words to impress him. Luckily for me I recited some words first, so only Tessa and Andrew got grilled on their Lugandan. Like last time, he followed us as we tried to leave, pleading with us that we will come back and telling us how he was so happy to have met us but he was still sad and we had better visit soon or we'll come and find him dead. As one of the most interesting characters I've met in Uganda, I'll miss him too, but luckily Andrew managed to catch our last encounter on tape.
We indulged in another movie after dinner and decided to watch Up, as I never managed to see most of the movie. My sister, Megan, and I had tried to watch it after Thanksgiving dinner one year, but she turned it off once it got sad (approximately ten minutes in).

For our final day on the island, Emma taught us how to make chapatti which, it turns out, is fantastic with peanut butter and honey. We visited his family and others to say our goodbyes before leaving the island one final time. That evening we went to the football (soccer) match of the boys versus the girls. While someone claimed the boys had made three goals, we were all pretty sure that no one scored, ending with a tie of 0-0. After our final dinner, Teacher Fred and some others came to visit us at SHIM to say their goodbyes as well.

This morning we had requested Ruthie's banana pancakes for breakfast, which are literally one of the best things I've ever eaten. Compared to my usual limit of two pancakes, I can manage to eat closer to six of these masterpieces. We were accompanied to the boat by Ruthie, Emma, Maama and Paapa O, Teacher Fred, Teacher Zack, and many of our other friends and partners on the island. It was strange saying goodbye, but so good to know that we had made such strong connections. Teacher Fred even gave parting gifts to Claudia and I before departing and I am hoping to be able to continue to stay in touch.
Once we arrived in Jinja, we had lunch with Annett and Rose from WORI, though the restaurant didnt actually have most of their food on the menu in stock, so we all ended up with cold beef samosas and chips. I think they were the hardest to say goodbye to, as they have been so incredibly helpful during our time here. I never would have been able to meet with so many organizations, have the homestay experience, or make connections at the same depth that I was able to if it hadn't been for them. 
A few of us had also decided to donate our clothes through an organization in order to keep in line with some of Tawi's goals. Really we are not in Uganda to deliver any sort of finished project or donation, so instead of being the mzungus who directly give our clothes to those in need, we were aiming to be invisible community helpers. There is no need for us to take the credit for the donation of these items and by donating them through the organization, they become the helpers and empowerers.
Before leaving Jinja to go rafting, we wanted to see Andy and Keeky as they were staying at their home in Jinja. They invited us over for (REAL Jersey cow) ice cream and popcorn, which was such a treat. They have been so helpful throughout this entire trip.
Nicole, Claudia and I shared a boda on our way back to Adrift, the company we would be rafting with the following morning. On our way back, our driver drove on the shoulder to avoid one of the speed bumps, as they often do. However, another boda was stopped there and the shoulder of the road was thick with mud (or what we hoped was mud) causing our boda to tip and completely soak us. While I was trying to pretend that it was only mud, I heard a few of the drivers that had come to help say the word for "shit" in Lugandan and my fears were confirmed. The three of us, who were all wearing Nicole's skirts and I who was carrying my new bag from Esther, were literally covered in wet, muddy shit. The driver tried to apologize, but we did what we could to get out of there ASAP. I hopped on a separate boda so that the three of us wouldn't be squishing more filth onto one another and they got back on the original boda so we could get back to Adrift. We ran to the showers and bathed with our clothes on, and even after washing them a few times they will need to be severely disinfected at home. Though we were mostly unscathed, I ended up with a nice size bruise on my hip which has made sitting rather uncomfortable.
Luckily, Adrift has a bar, complete with an upside down kayak that you can hoist yourself into to take shots. I think we were all well in need of a drink after that episode.

Days TwentyThree-ThirtyOne: Jinja

Today Tessa and I arrived in Jinja early afternoon and made our way over to WORI so that Annet could bring us to the home of our host family. Robinah, the mother, is so sweet and welcoming. The home is beautiful, and she lives there with her two sons who are a bit older than Tessa and I, Daniel and Dennis. Both Tessa and I are looking forward to having the experience of living with a Ugandan family, even if it is only for a short time. For me, it will be a good segway into my much longer homestay in Spain coming up in the spring.
We ate dinner with the family around 9pm (she was shocked that we had been eating as early as 7pm on the island) and were exhausted from traveling, so we went straight to bed. Dinner was delicious with spaghetti and meat,  matoke with gnut sauce, and chicken.

Our meetings and hard work for our research began today. We met up with Annet first thing in the morning and bodaed to Mafubira to meet with Jinja District Union of Persons with Disabilities (JIDU) so that Tessa could ask some questions for her project. After grabbing some mangoes and rolexes for lunch, we made our way to Bugembe so I could run an interview for my project with Clemency Uganda. They serve the Bugembe district, one of the most populated villages in the area, which is made up of roughly 200,000 people. 
As we made our way to the office with Neto Augustine, he mentioned how important they felt it was to work directly in the slum so they could be closest to the problems. We discussed the ethics of slum tourism, something that has recently taken off both in Africa and in many ghettos and slums elsewhere, such as India and th U.S. While for some it may offer a valuable learning opportunity, it really seems to do more harm than good by gawking at and photographing "those poor people" and their lives. Unless you are visiting a slum to talk to or work with the individuals there, you are actually further perpetuating the single narrative. It would be in everyone's best interest if you stayed at home that day instead.
Clemency Uganda is using wonderful community centered participatory practices that always include need assessments and allow the community members to participate in every step along the way. They have invited me to join them this Saturday for one of their children's bead making programs. While conducting interviews with the various NGOs and CBOs has certainly been helpful and interesting, it is so much more valuable to witness what these organizations are doing on the ground.
This morning I really started getting homesick. I actually was surprised that I hadn't been so far so it wasn't shocking, just unsettling. It seems as though it is not so much about the things I have at home in that they are more than what is available here, just that I have grown so accustomed to my life at home and that is where I'm fully comfortable. All the more reason though to continue pushing myself further from my comfort zone and to continue to grow and adapt.

I had two of my own meetings set up for today while Tessa went back to spend some time at Ekisa Ministries, a school and home for children with disabilities. She was touched by this organization when we visited them a few weeks ago and wanted to look more in depth at their programs and facilitation to see if she might possibly be interested in similar work for her career path. While she only ended up staying for the morning, I think it offered some valuable insight about the difference between services for individuals with disabilities here and in the U.S., even though about half of the staff comes from either England or America.
My morning meeting was with BIDE, another women's empowerment organization. They too offer business and management skills training to offer group loans and savings programs through income generating activities (IGAs). 
We met up for lunch at Forever Bar and Restaurant with Andrew and Nicole before heading to my afternoon meeting. I had ordered a salad and a hot dog, though she said she would have to check and let me know about the latter. The waitress came out with essentially a salad on a bun and, because the salads here are different anyway, I assumed that must be what it was. Shortly after, though, she arrived with something that looked a lot more like a salad, leaving us all confused about what I had ordered on the bun. While it was good, I wasn't really sure what I had been eating until I received the bill that listed a hot dog and a salad. At most of the restaurants here, instead of just ordering, you have to first ask what they actually have available. It's likely that they haven't served hot dogs since the first week of their inception.
In the afternoon, Nicole and Tessa joined me to speak with Community Concerns Uganda. We got lost on our way to this meeting, like every other one, but eventually we were able to find it. This organization, like many of the others I have met with, includes a microfinancing and savings and credit component by training IGAs such as crafts, but also included production and selling of peanut paste (peanut butter). I really do think it would be valuable for these local NGOs and CBOs that focus on women's economic empowerment to collaborate and work together for information and idea sharing. While each of them seems to struggle from lack of funding, each has at least one slightly varied method from the others that may serve as positive advice to the others, yet most of the organization have never heard of the others due to lack of reliable and consistent communication and networking resources here.
After our meetings, Nicole finally had the chance to be introduced to WORI. We joined them at Jinja Parents' secondary school as they began their sexuality and reproductive health program for the students there. Two interns at WORI taught the majority of the course, and Joshua especially managed to engage the students and make them feel more at ease with a not-so-comfortable topic. The program was taught in a very open-minded way, including discussion about expected gender roles that are sometimes broken and that not everyone is born either male or female. Tessa and I will be going to the introductory session for the same program at another school on Tuesday and have been asked to help teach. While I'm sure we can't reach the students the way a Ugandan is capable of doing, it will be a good opportunity to engage further with the community and WORI.

This morning Tessa and I met with the First Afrian Bicycle Information Organization (FABIO), an organization that allows people to buy bikes on credit. Having a bike allows for cheap transportation to the market, for example, to sell and buy cheaper goods for yourself and your family. They have been offering the service to schoolchildren as well so that they don't waste so much time or money on their commute to school. Previously, and still in many of the rural villages, it is culturally inappropriate for girls and women to ride bikes. FABIO has been encouraging women to be empowered and take advantage of this more sustainable and efficient mode of transportation. In addition to providing bicycle loans, they advocate for sustainable and environmentally friendly transport and road construction that is safe for all forms of commute including cars, taxis, bikes, and pedestrians.
In the afternoon, Annet brought us back to Mafubira to meet with the Women's Empowerment and Livelihood Links (WELL). At their bakery, they train women how to bake various breads and pastries so that they have a skill. While many of these women have found jobs at local bakeries, they hope to open their own bakeries someday. Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, WELL can only provide training, and not loans. Additionally, WELL has a farm on the other side of Mafubira where they have rabbits, pigs, and chickens. Women may receive an animal and learn farming skills again so that they can begin to earn an income. Despite having no outside funding, the women work so hard to keep the organization running. They are hoping to someday begin to market their goods to other countries, including the U.S. 

Today we had a pretty slow morning, deciding to visit the Long family, who founded Hackers4Charity, at their local cafe The Keep. We wasted a significant amount of time there sipping tea, eating cake, and browsing the internet. Deciding we shouldn't have an entirely unproductive morning, we made our way to Jinja's market to have a look at some of their teas and spices. We both picked up tea and coffee as well as a few samples of the local gnut paste (peanut butter). After the market, we spoiled ourselves yet again with pedicures on Main Street. For 3,000Ugx ($1.20), we justified the pampering and enjoyed rolexes with our much needed polish change.
Clemency Uganda had invited me back to Bugembe to join their craft program while the children made and varnished paper beads. The children were crowded around me teaching me how to make the beads but kept laughing because mine were nowhere near as neat as theirs. Afterwards, they had a singing and dancing programmed to welcome me as their visitor. I can easily promise that my hips don't move half as well as those children's. Again, it was so advantageous to witness their programs on the ground and learn more than I ever could just by holding an interview.

First, just a little thank you to my wonderful dad on Father's Day, especially appropriate here as he and my mom have both been so supportive of this trip and everything else in my life.
After breakfast with our Ugandan family this morning, Tessa and I showed up at a home for children with disabilities and those that had been orphaned. She had found and contacted the organization before coming to Uganda, but hadn't been able to get ahold of them aside from a brief email. When she mentioned the organization to a family we had met in Jinja, they told us stories of how when visitors come, especially mzungus, everyone is all smiles, fun and games. Once they leave, they have witnessed the children being mistreated, ignored, and even abused. The situation was so bad that they had called the organization's donors to inform them and request that they cut funding for the program. What shocked us further was that the home was started and is run by mzungus, so the treatment wasn't for lack of access to information and knowledge like it often is in Uganda. In that case, education would be a manageable remedy. This feedback made us even more curious and so we decided to visit without an appointment, at the very least to see their fear of having to flip the "look at our wonderful charity work" switch.
Surprisingly, we were welcomed in without hesitation, though if I played any part in their organization I would never allow visitors in. We did notice some fear as before we were allowed in, the man who worked at the gate ran inside to alert the staff of visitors. We heard a minute or so of conversation, not in English, before we were able to come inside.
The moment we entered the building, I wanted out. Between holding my breath and holding back tears, I wanted nothing to do with this organization but was curious to see what else they had to say. First, we were taken around by one of only two Ugandan caregivers working today, responsible for 43 children between them. She showed us the children's rooms where each child had a crib only just large enough to sleep. Although many of the younger children were in their cribs, they were not sleeping but lying there just staring around the room. After, we visited the room for the children with disabilities. On the way to that building, you have to avoid stepping in cow dung as the animals cohabitate with the children. They have eight children there, and she introduced them saying "Here are our disabled kids. They can't do anything-can't walk or talk, so they just sit or lay here." One boy, around six or seven years old, wrapped his arms around Tessa and climbed up her torso, sitting naked on her lap. The caregiver did nothing to assist. There was no structure, stimulation, or supervision at the time for these children.
On the other end of the compound, the other caregiver was sitting outside in a chair supervising roughly 15 toddlers sitting on a blanket. As soon as they saw us, they ran to us and started hugging, jumping, and tugging on us and our things, not as though they were excited or curious. I'm not sure if I can explain it, but they eerily swarmed us and clung on soundlessly and emotionlessly. Every one of the children had soiled clothes, saturated in their own filth except for the children who had no pants on at all. We actually witnessed one of the children soil himself and begin crying, but the caregiver merely shushed him so she could continue speaking with us. The caregiver agreed to answer some questions, though did not know anything about the organization and could only answer those about her work specifically. Again, there was no structure or stimulation for the children so they spent their "play time" throwing rocks and dirt, eating a piece of wood siding, or sucking toothpaste from the tube. The cows had access here as well, and all of the children would begin crying when one came near.
Then, one of the volunteers from England arrived, all smiles. Once she reached the children, she hugged and kissed each one of them while they seemed rather disinterested yet clingy. When one of the children started crying or vying for her attention, she would push or send him or her away so that she could continue with the interview. While we didn't directly witness any abuse, the positive attention by the staff was a clear facade. Luckily, they allowed me to take pictures of our visit so that the conditions were documented.
What frustrated me the most was that while they spoke of lack of funding, the areas that were inadequate had little to do with funds. For example, it is one thing if each child has only one outfit or none at all, but it is something entirely different when you do not take the time to at least wash out the filth. This especially floored me as three staff members found time to speak with us, yet did not appear to find time for the children's hygiene. Additionally, even their attitudes towards the children were insufficient. They ignored those children who were upset and instead sent them away. When they did mention their funding sources, they clearly have had more luck finding donors than most NGOs and CBOs I have spoken to, yet the place was still in such a negative condition.
Once Tessa's interview was finished, we couldn't get out of there fast enough. We walked back into town so we could have time to discuss what we had seen and to take some time to clear our heads a bit.
Around one, Tessa and I had been invited to lunch at Neto Augustine's home in Mbiko. We had gotten pretty good at maneuvering travel on the Matatus in Kampala, but in Jinja they are less organized and the stops are less obvious, so I always end up handing the phone over to the conductor to make sure we get off at the correct stop. Once we arrived at Neto's lovely home, we were able to meet some of Clemency Uganda's volunteers from Denmark and Croatia who will be spending the next six weeks working with them in Bugembe. He showed us a video of when he and his wife went rafting on the Nile, saying that since he hasn't swam since he was very young, even I can handle it and promising us that people get hurt, but no one dies...
Neto's wife, Zaina (sp?) made us a delicious lunch of matoke, gnut sauce with fish, rice, chicken, beef, potatoes, cassava, posho, and green beans. Another wonderful example of Ugandan hospitality. Clemency Uganda as a whole has been so welcoming and enjoyable to work with, and both Neto and Florence are planning to see us one last time before we return to America. We spent about three hrs at their home, talking with them and their volunteers, before deciding to make our way back to Jinja.
As there aren't many activities in Jinja, we lamely spent the rest of our evening at another Internet cafe before heading home. I wouldn't be surprised if, at Space Cafe, the staff has a running bet on what time we will show up, or how many times, each day.

This morning Annett had set up another meeting for us with Hospice Jinja, the only center offering hospice and palliative care services for the area. Claudia had just returned from the Crusade to Kasensero, a two-day mobile health and religious outreach initiative for that community that traditionally has high rates of illness and lacks access to health and other services, so luckily she was able to join us.  Unlike hospice centers in the U.S., they do all their work through community outreach and home visits, with very few patients coming to the clinic there. Even if patients do come to the clinic, they are not admitted in order to increase efficiency and decrease costs. I think that culturally, too, individuals here are more likely to have family or community resources and are therefore able to remain in the home.
Hospice in Uganda also paints a different picture in that less of the population ever reaches what we would quantify as old age, with an average life expectancy of around 54. While that does seem shockingly low, keep in mind that the high death rate of infants and children is included in this figure. It is not that the population ages quickly here by any means, just that there is a greater risk of contracting more lethal diseases and lower access to quality health care if one should happen to fall ill. Hospice, then, tends to cater to individuals with HIV/AIDs and cancer, the latter being a relatively new phenomenon as the country begins to have a better handle on controlling infectious and other more easily preventable and treatable diseases.
While this organization too lacks full funding, they appear to be doing great work in the local communities. It is hard to imagine not only lack of access to but lack of existence of end-of-life care services when nursing homes appear so prevalent in the U.S. We discussed possibly sending Tawi fellows with them in the future to join on the community outreach and home visits.
Nicole and Andrew arrived from the island into Jinja shortly thereafter, so we decided to go to The Keep again for lunch. Tessa and I had been craving some salad as we have literally been subsisting on refined carbs. Now for those of you (and myself, admittedly) who expected that I would return from Uganda fit and trim, think again. While I have full access to so many green veggies, varied options, and whole grains at home, the largest part of every meal here is some form of white refined carb. Whether it be posho, rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, or chapatti, there's no escaping them. Add that on to not having appropriate clothes to go running in and little free time to do so regardless with a side of having others (with much higher carb tolerances) responsible for generously filling your plate and you have a no-fail recipe for an extra five (or ten...) pounds.
After lunch we made our way to Space Cafe yet again while we waited until our afternoon plans. Neto and Florence, two of the individuals from Clemency Uganda, wanted to see us one final time before we left Jinja so we met them at Paradise on the Nile hotel for some tea and good conversation, as always. We were so lucky to connect with this organization as they have been nothing but accommodating and hospitable since our first encounter and I'm looking forward to continuing to stay in touch. As Neto and I are now officially Facebook friends, he told me that his wife said I look so much different in pictures than in real life. Say hello to unshowered hair, a rotation of three outfits, and no makeup and suddenly people won't even recognize you.

This morning, because I had time, I was able to shower and put on a little makeup. As soon as we arrived at WORI, Rose couldn't stop saying how nice and different I looked and even wanted a picture. That really goes to show how great I've been looking this past month considering the recent back-to-back commentary... 
Our meeting that morning was arranged at the AIDs Information Centre in Jinja and was why Andrew and Nicole had come back to the mainland for the day. While the meetings we set up on our own tended to take the form of an interview or a brief orientation with the organization, WORI has facilitated much more elaborate events. They began by giving us a briefing about the organization and its eight centers nationwide. We asked questions here and were told that we were going to met some more of the staff. By that, they meant that they had arranged a special meeting to welcome us with ALL the staff, including a poem, a play, an introduction to each of the members, and even a speech by our representative (apparently that means me) to speak about Tawi and our research. There appeared to be a bit of a misunderstanding, however, when they presented us with a budget proposal for UW Madison and had included us as donors in their mock budget. While I spoke, I pointed out that we were a non-profit organization that does not take part in funding but that would be happy to connect them to organizations and other resources for intellectual and idea exchange, which seemed to be either unclear or well received; it was hard to tell.
After lunch, we got a phone call from Rose at WORI telling us that she had brought her two-year-old daughter, Kayla, so we could visit her. We had had lunch with her a few weeks ago, but she had been drowsy and subdued. Apparently, that could not have been farther from a true representation of her personality as I don't think I've ever met such a spunky child. From spitting to throwing her water bottle to jumping from the ledge (later Rose's brother translated for us as she said "I'm going to jump! How much will you pay me to jump? 500 and I'm jumping!") Being such a handful, she's lucky to be so adorable and know her limits or Tessa and I would have had a dozen heart attacks as she continued jumping from the ledge and running towards the road.
This afternoon was time for us to help Joshua and JoAnn teach WORIs reproductive and sexual health intro class at another nearby school, St. Peter's. It took us almost an hour to get started as the school's administrators had not communicated with eachother about our program and had scheduled two events at the same time. This session was much more difficult than the one at Jinja Parents' because there were nearly 150 students in the room giggling, of course, during the lesson. Luckily I have never had difficulty projecting my voice so they quieted down slightly for my segment. As I told Joshua and Annet, the only times I got in trouble at school were for talking too much or too loud. I sincerely question my ability to consistently use an "inside voice."
Once the class was finished, Tessa and I had to hurry to Main Street to our friend Esther's shop. The first time we were in Jinja, we had visited and bought a few small souvenirs but wanted to wait on the bigger ones so that we wouldn't have to transport them everywhere, and promised we would be back. When we returned to Jinja last week, we paid her a visit and she remembered us (impressively, as there are many mzungus in Jinja), asking about our time on the island and being so happy that we stayed true to her word. She, like many of the vendors, makes lovely fabric bags, though hers have a plastic lining so they are easier to clean. Unfortunately, when we stopped by last night, an order had just come in and she was sold out but told us that if we chose our fabric she would have them ready by today. Sure enough, when we got there this evening our bags were ready to go in our custom prints. She was sad that we would be leaving so soon so we hugged, got a picture of her shop, and exchanged emails. She then allowed each of us to choose one of her bracelets as a parting gift, so we opted for the very touristy "UGANDA" beaded bracelets. When I meet such kind and welcoming people like Esther, Robinah, and everyone working at WORI, SHIM, and Clemency Uganda, you begin to feel as though you have your own family network while being what seems like worlds away from home.

Today is our final day in Jinja. While my research has concluded, we will be joining Annet so that Tessa can run one final interview with an organization in Jinja that works with individuals with disabilities. Immediately after the meeting we will be catching the public boat to spend our final days on Lingira Island, for this trip at least. Knowing that our trip is coming to a close has been bittersweet. While I have surely begun to miss home, family and friends, as well as my fast paced American schedule, I am not sure when I can return to Uganda. I'm hoping to be able to come back next summer, though it depends on my travel plans in Europe after my semester in Spain. I've given up on creating concrete long-term schedules for myself and begun to lean towards making those decisions more impulsively, which has so far worked out for the best, this year especially. I changed my entire schedule as I dropped my psych major suddenly and decided within a matter of days that I would be traveling to Uganda, neither of which I have regretted for a second. Hopefully I will be able to continue with that while finding the time to return here.
We spent mid-morning with Uganda Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities (UPACLED) so Tessa could run her final interview. Unfortunately the individual she had planned to meet with was out of the office on outreach, but luckily one of the staff had been stopping by the office as we arrived. 
After he meeting, we were essentially only waiting for the boat to leave so we grabbed some snacks and had lunch (a banana and an avocado) before catching our boda to the port.


Days Seventeen-TwentyThree: Kampala

Today Tessa, Eric and I took the boat into Jinja so that Eric could take care of his goodbyes and a few final meetings before heading back to the U.S. Once everything was tied up there, the three of us grabbed a public taxi to Kampala. It really is fantastic how cheap it is to travel within country here for the most part; the two-hour boat ride from Lingira to Jinja is 4,000Ush and the two- to three-hour drive from Jinja to Kampala is 6,000Ugx, or roughly $4 for both together, even though gas costs about the same as it does in the U.S.
While we had originally planned on checking into Red Chilli, a local hostel for backpackers, Eric first took us to Ham Suites, an apartment complex and restaurant across from Makerere University, for lunch and we decided to splurge on a couple nights in an apartment there. Realize, though, that "splurging" only equates to $50/night split three ways. The apartments give a facade of being very nice and elite, though really the couches were fake leather, the bathroom door was missing its handle, and the TV only showed Ugandan soap operas (possibly the best worst programs I've ever seen).

For Eric's last full Ugandan day, he had set up meetings with three NGOs he had met at a conference during his first week in Kampala: Girl Child Network, Mission for African Mothers (MAM) and Cervican. Tessa and I were fortunately able to meet with the latter two but had a meeting of our own in the morning. While Tessa had set up a meeting with Action on Disability and Development, their address was incorrectly listed and we showed up at the office for Most At-Risk Populations Network, merely by chance. Although this organization didn't prove to be helpful for Tessa's research specifically, they themselves have a network of various organizations dealing with those populations that are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDs. We were able to gain a lot of insight about the challenges and successes of networking with Ugandan organizations which will hopefully prove helpful while we do our own partnering through Tawi.
Both MAM and Cervican are doing great internal work in Uganda as well. MAM, started by Maria M-Otaremwa who is a lawyer by trade, works primarily with the emotional, legal, and economic empowerment of single expectant mothers. Cervican too focuses on this group of individuals specifically but centrally offers sensitization, information, and counseling services regarding cervical cancer. It is only one of few organizations that targets this growing concern. Tawi hopes to be able to connect both of these organizations with WORI in Jinja as part of our mission to create networks and partnerships between NGOs and CBOs within Uganda to increase collaboration, information sharing, and intellectual exchange.

Eric spent his last morning in Kampala with ComeDev, another local NGO that took him around Kampala to show him their programs and those of their partners. After, we checked into Red Chilli and headed over to the Ugandan Arts Village which has many vendors selling various arts and crafts. We found some tapestries, jewelry, and each decided to invest in a large oil painting (or two...) Unfortunately then it was time for Eric to head back to the U.S., so our friend Saturo picked him up to make their way to Entebbe.

Tessa and I spent the morning visiting the Gaddafi Mosque in central Kampala. We were fitted with headscarves upon our entry so we could appropriately have our shoulders covered. The mosque is definitely worth seeing as it is free for Ugandans and only 10,000Ugx for non-Ugandans and includes a tour. Our guide, Muhammad, showed us the main worshipping room, told us a bit about the services and about the Islamic views of Jesus, and answered our many questions. He then took us up the tower, and though we were exhausted and out of breath after climbing 386 steps to the top, it was worth it to see the beautiful view of the entire city of Kampala.
After leaving the mosque we made our way to the art village again to pay off the rest of our paintings and look at the stalls we hadn't made it to the day before. We were beginning to crave something a little more American, so we then wandered over to Garden City Mall. All of the more "Western" clothes, although they were second-hand in nearly every shop, cost about four times what we would ever pay for the clothes, new, in the U.S. 

As most NGOs and CBOs are unavailable on the weekends we decided to see more of Kampala. We had originally planned to go to church with Saturo and his wife Sarah but wanted to be available when Claudia and Andrew got to Kampala. Tessa and I went back into town to find an ATM as we're flying through our money in Kampala before heading to another area of town with arts and crafts stalls. This one, Exposure Africa, had a wider selection and more ornate jewelry and clothing so we again spent too much money...but walked away with really awesome elephant pants. I would recommend this area for arts and crafts as an alternative to the Ugandan Arts Village as there is a better selection, better craftsmanship, and the vendors themselves are less pushy. If you're interested in going there, tell the boda to go to the craft market on Buganda Road.
After the market we decided to check out the National Ugandan Museum, which was just as bad as the reviews warned. Not only has it not been updated for years, with many of the tacky displays being torn or falling down, but even the signs and windows for the exhibits were so dusty that they were illegible. That being said, it was worth going as admission was a mere two dollars and it does have some interesting artifacts and history lessons.

Today is mine and Tessa's last full day in Kampala. She had meetings of her own, so Andrew decided to join me for my two meetings. First, we took a boda to Kiwatule to meet again with Mirjam from Eye4Africa. Getting there was no easy task, despite telling him the directions she had sent me and having her speak to him on the phone four times, we were lost more often than not. After that, he attempted to raise the price of our already expensive boda ride, though I refused. Considering we are already subject to mzungu inflation I wasn't willing to pay more. Our meeting was so good and we are really hoping to be able to have Tawi partner with them. Again, they offer cultural and research training before and during your time in-country as well as individual and group emotional support groups that would be advantageous to our members.
When leaving that meeting we didn't want to deal with any difficult boda drivers again, so we decided to try out the matatus, or pubic taxis. Especially in Kampala, they are much safer and cheaper. While it takes a bit to get the hang of them, including asking the conductor a million questions, we eventually figured them out and used them for all our subsequent transport.
Our afternoon meeting was with Development Research and Training, an organization that compiles population data, especially regarding poverty trends and demographics. Their reports, which come out every five years, were what I had used as a base for my preliminary research so I had hoped to gain more insight into their survey methods. While most of what they said was written directly in the report, it was good to discuss it in person instead of solely using my own interpretation of the text.
Nicole arrived in Entebbe late this evening; it's so great to have all of our travelers here. Unfortunately tonight is one of only a few times I will see her during her two week trip, but it's good that she's finally here nevertheless.

Tessa and I are headed to Jinja this afternoon by public taxi and looking forward to our meetings with many different organizations as well as our homestay during this time. It's hard to believe that we only have two weeks of our trip left!

Days Fourteen-Seventeen: Lingira Island

Before heading to Kampala, Tessa and I made another visit to the island. As beautiful as it is and as much as I enjoy the people, it is difficult for Tessa and I to keep busy as most of our objectives have to be carried out on the mainland where the majority of the NGOs reside.
Two more students, from Boise Bible College, have joined us at SHIM to learn about being a missionary by shadowing Andy Smith and the local Ugandan pastors. With the new students, we all explored the circumference of the island with the help of our friend Ema so that he could lead us and translate for us as he has lived on Lingira his whole life.
That night, Ema offered to take us out on Lake Victoria in his friend's paddle boat. This may have been more fun than terrifying if the five of us didn't weigh the boat down so close to the feared lake water or if the boat wasn't sporting some significant holes. After what seemed like a few hours but was really twenty minutes, we returned safely, albeit wet, on the shore.
The following day, Tessa and I paid a visit to the primary school in Lingira. Unfortunately we came only twenty minutes before the only class that day, for three and four year olds, ended but we were still able to watch one of the new teachers lead a few songs for the class.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Days Eleven-Fourteen: Jinja

6/1/13, 8pm
Tessa and I took the public boat into Jinja yesterday morning and had smooth sailing (ha ha) the whole way. It was less crowded than usual, in that there weren't flocks of chicken and herds of goats joining us, so it was a very relaxing boat trip. It takes just under two hours to travel from Lingira to Jinja by boat, but it's really not bad with such beautiful weather. As soon as we arrived to the port in Jinja, being the only two muzungus, the kinyamas (sp?), were swarming and pointing at us so they could be the ones to carry us out of the boat. Then, maybe two seconds after our feet touched the ground, a boda boda driver came to us and told us to come with him so he could drive us to town. It was so nice to be on a boda again; I had missed that during our stay on the island.
We had an incredibly productive day in Jinja. We went to the bank, the supermarket, the cafe and the pharmacy, and then stopped by the hostel to drop off our things and eat lunch. Then we went over to WORI to drop off a few things and speak to Annette about our plans when we come back to Jinja in a couple of weeks. Annette had so kindly set up appointments for us with various related NGOs and will be accompanying us as well. She also spoke to a host family we will be staying with during that time in Jinja and arranged our accommodations. It is so wonderful that we are connected with so many resources already who are so willing to help us during our time here. After leaving WORI, we were determined to find Rolex for dinner and extra chapati and zesta (jam) for an early breakfast tomorrow morning. Chapati is kind of like a thick bready tortilla and is used to make Rolex at stands all along the street. They contain eggs and generally some sort of vegetable, such as tomatoes, onions, carrots, or peppers and only cost about 1000-1500 shillings a piece (roughly 50-60 cents). While we were waiting for our Rolex a young shopkeeper next door was trying to convince me that doctors recommend drinking porridge with your Rolex and that I should let him buy me some while the security guard next door was trying to get Tessa's attention. We walked around for a bit to the various shops on Main St, comparing prices and deciding which goodies we will buy and from where before we head home.
The hostel we were staying at, Jinja Backpackers, is located directly on the Nile River. Before heading to bed (at 8:30), we enjoyed a Nile beer while watching the sunset over the Nile.

This morning, Teresha and Israel from Spring of Hope met us at the hostel to drive us to Kampala for the conference. Everyone went around and introduced themselves and their organization, discussed challenges and possible solutions, and after we mingled and networked. Tessa was able to conduct several interviews for her project, which was perfect. One organization that really stood out to me for the purposes of working with Tawi was Eye4Africa, where they connect students with internships for 2-24 months abroad. The woman who was there was previously a professor of psychology in Holland and realized that the experience abroad needed a bit of reform, much like Tawi's experience. Before students leave for their time abroad, they attend sessions to understand more about the culture they will be entering as well as the effects their own culture may have on their experience and perceptions of the country and the culture. While in country, they offer various packages of support programs for students who may need help coping with their experiences culturally or personally. Though the program currently only works with students from the Netherlands, she was more than open to possible expansion and potentially partnering up with Tawi by offering their services to us and perhaps exchanging fellows, depending on if they were interested in research and joining Tawi or internships and traveling with Eye4Africa. I am looking forward to continuing to foster this and the other partnerships we have been creating on our visit.
On the way back to Jinja, we stopped at a supermarket in Kampala that was very similar to a super WalMart. As Tessa and I have not seen anything aside from small local shops since we had arrived, we were overwhelmed. On the ride home, Teresha and Israel were so kind as to offer for us to stay with them at their home tonight, and we will be joining them for church in the morning before heading back to the island again in the afternoon.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Days Eight-Eleven: Lingira Island

5/28/13, 9:30pm
We arrived to Lingira Island last night by private boat from Ripon port. The island is beautiful and so different from the mainland. There is much less tourist influence and is less developed for various reasons including lack of access to resources and stigma due to the nature of the island community's roots. We were introduced to many people on the island who remembered Eric and Claudia from last year's Edge visit and got a feel for the area. We all had dinner at SHIM with some of the community members and everyone went around and introduced themselves and welcomed us.
This morning after breakfast we visited the clinic for Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and the school in Lingira. They have to build more dormitories there because so many children from the mainland come because the students there have been scoring very well on national exams.
Then after lunch Eric began his research by surveying the area and I joined so I could do more exploring. We wandered through Katonga Village and were called over by some of the members sitting outside. They didn't speak much English and we don't speak much Lugandan so conversation was limited but still partially feasible. Many of the young children in the village had never seen a white person and were scared or enthralled (like most Ugandan children, who have one of those two reactions). Two of the women then cleared off a bench for us and asked us to sit. They were taking about us as we could discern the word "mzungu" and word seemed to spread through the village. They moved our bench then to the shade and people started bringing their children up to us to say hi or so they could see mzungu. 
The women then sent a boy to bring two sodas and two packs of glucose biscuits for us. Then a young girl, no more than five years old, brought us a container of lake water, soap, and a basin for washing our hands. Knowing that the water from the lake, especially there at the edge, contains millions of parasites and diseases including E. coli, malaria, and many types of parasitic worms, it wasn't the best option before eating but we wanted to avoid being rude in this unnavigable situation. Eric did wash his hands in the water and I then pretended to when no one was directly looking. That left me to eat all the glucose biscuits along with my sugary Coke while we sat on our own the bench and the village members engaged in their separate business. We didn't know what the gesture was for or when we could politely leave so we stayed on that bench for about an hour deciding how to best handle this engulfing wave of culture. Eventually we explained we had to go watch a soccer match, thanked them and left.
Later we asked Ruthie, a woman from America who works at SHIM, if she could help us understand the situation. She explained that it was merely a hospitable gesture to guests and, as it was obvious that we were not from there, they invited us in. While these people have so little, the culture is strong in hospitality and on welcoming others. 

On Wednesday we were invited to Teacher Zack's physics class at Lingira Living Hope school. Students from all around Uganda, and even one from Sudan, come to study here as it has such a fabulous reputation. Two of its students were even recently in the newspaper for having such high scores on the national exams. He was a very good teacher though I was easily lost having not taken physics since my freshman year of high school. During class, a chicken walked in the room and none of the students reacted, as it was entirely normal. After class, we brought some National Geographics inso another class, passed them out, and allowed the children to ask us questions about the articles there or America or anything else. I really connected with one student who had so many questions and kept asking me to come back and sit with her. Her heart is set on becoming a business woman and she lit up when she began talking about her favorite courses in school.  
After leaving school, we climbed up the mountain on Lingira to watch the sunset over Lake Victoria, which was stunning. Now I am just looking forward to the even more beautiful sunrise from there.

On Thursday we were all invited to Pastor Waboka's (sp?) home for something to drink and something to eat. He brought us all pineapple Novidas (my new favorite, and sadly non-American soda) and his wife cooked us a wonderful meal of rice, chicken and soup. Another case in which a family with so little was so incredibly hospitable to guests.
After leaving there, Teacher Fred invited us to speak with some recipients of micro financing loans given through BISCO to individuals in Lingira Village. The successes were enormous, with one couple, who has received and successfully paid back 8 loans so far, allowing them to begin a restaurant, store, and health clinic. Each of these businesses were able to not only enable the family to provide food and health care for themselves, but also provide these services and employment for community members. This is one of many examples of successful micro loan services that have been started internally, by Ugandans who already are part of a community, and are far more successful than external or foreign aid and development projects, no matter how well informed or well meaning they may be.

This morning we are leaving the island by public boat to Jinja. We will be attending a networking conference for NGOs that focus on children with disabilities in the Kampala area. Tessa was invited by a couple who runs Spring of Hope, an NGO based in Jinja. They offered us a ride as well, which was so wonderful of them. Networking, networking, networking.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Days Two-Eight: Jinja

5/23/13, 8:30am
We spent yesterday making our way to Jinja for most of the morning. In the afternoon we finally had the chance to meet Rose and the rest of the staff at the Women's Rights Initiative (WORI), a long term partner of Tawi, to tell us more about their goals to help empower women and youth. Community Based Participatory Research is not a new concept to them; they do needs-based assessments of communities with expressed needs before creating any curriculum or plans and serve as a catalyst to incent individuals to be the sources of change. WORI, as well as Tawi, focuses on sustainable change by not only teaching women to sew, for example, but also how to fix a faulty machine.
Being as my project focuses on poverty, I have been attempting to observe and ask about that as well.  I am not planning to disperse many of those findings or my own insights on that here until possibly after I have had time to digest them through working on my project and conducting more interviews with social protection agencies to avoid any premature assumptions.

So far our time in Jinja has been exciting and interesting, most of all speaking with WORI. I look forward to meeting with additional NGOs and to continue learning.

5/24/13, 5:00pm
Yesterday Tessa and I joined Rose and Stuart for a visit to a rural village called Mifubira to accept or deny requests for revolving loans. The individuals who receive loans use them to start a business. The interest rates then provide money for WORI to provide loans to more individuals. It was interesting watching this process as the entire meeting was in Lugandan, so I only picked out a few words. They had an innovative way of having most of the women sign the contract by coloring their thumb and stamping a print on the form if they were illiterate.
This morning I worked on contacting more NGOs and have set up meetings with several of them. Hopefully they will be able to provide insight on poverty in Uganda as well as their specific agency's approach and methods for approaching poverty alleviation with various services.
We went back to WORI this afternoon to talk about other NGOs they would be able to put us in touch with. A couple of children saw us inside and soon an entire group showed up. They were fascinated by Andrew's video camera and were recording us and each other. We learned some more Lugandan phrases from some of the WORI staff while we were there so we don't look like such silly mzungus.

5/27/13, 10:30am
We have ended up staying in Jinja longer than we had expected, but we are heading to Lingira Island today, which is part of the Buvuma Island chain in Uganda. While we are there we will be staying with some longtime partners of EDGE, Andy and Keeky Smith of Shepherd's Heart International Ministry. This area is much different than the more urban touristy Jinja so it will be interesting to see the differences, especially regarding access to resources. 
We had to relocate from the hostel we were originally staying at after Eric contracted a combination of  tropical diseases, one being ringworm, likely from the sheets or towels there. He is feeling fine and appears to be clearing up, but he will be going to an Australian doctor today to try to identify whatever is going on on his back. Andy and Keeky recommended that we stay at their friends' bed and breakfast in Jinja, run by Hackers for Charity. The husband has always had jobs working with electronics and found his niche here by offering reliable and affordable computer services to individuals and NGOs. They have been incredibly hospitable in sharing meals and their beautiful home for the past two nights.
On the research end, I have so far met with four NGOs including WORI, one of which we came across coincidentally. On Saturday I met with an LGBT organization; the only one in Jinja. They have to keep the organization confidential because of the Kill Bill recently passed in Uganda which not only prohibits homosexuality but marks it as punishable by death. The laws are so heavily enforced that they have a separate police force to do so and require that doctors, parents, and others serve as mandated reporters of homosexuality or may be subject to up to three years in jail.
The following day Tessa and I met with Benjamin, an administrator at Agapewo Ministries Uganda in Jinja. Their programs focus on education, HIV/AIDs, and agriculture. While they incorporate God they are not affiliated with any particular religion. Their main struggles are transportation, lack of funding and resources, and high expectations from the program recipients. Benjamin noted that when they offer services to a community they expect to be alleviated of all their problems when really the organization can only do so much.
A woman sitting near us at the cafe overheard Tessa's introduction at the beginning of the interview and was interested when she heard her mention "disability." Julie works for Africa Inland Mission with a focus on services for individuals with disabilities. Tessa was able to conduct an interview with her as well and was invited to a conference for NGOs with a concentration on disability services in Kampala onJune 1st, so she and I will be traveling there in a few days. I think the networking opportunity will be fantastic so that she can get a better idea of how certain NGOs come to be and find their niche in Uganda, and also that Tawi will be again well received as it too tries to foster relationships between NGOs. 
After spending hours at Space Cafe, the main Internet cafe in Jinja (or the magnet for all muzungus), we were getting a bit stir crazy so Eric and I went exploring around town. We wandered into a Hindu temple and met the main priest there. There is a prominent Indian population in Jinja, so he found work as the priest there in 1996. He invited us to come back the following morning for prayer, so Claudia, Eric, and I did.
While Eric remembered where the temple was located and could accurately guide his boda boda driver there, my sense of direction is rather shakey so Claudia and I tried to navigate our way from Soace Cafe with no luck. However, while walking to the bank from the cafe I spotted the Jay Vishwa Karma temple again and we were able to learn from the priest. Mainly the temple is for individual prayers but the priest comes to open the curtain and wake God up in the morning and to close the curtain in the evening while he sleeps. He showed us the morning prayer, answered more questions, and blessed each of us by giving us bracelets and blessing them. 

Before heading to Lingira,we joined Keeky to take a boy from the island to a school near Jinja that offers courses for students with disabilities. Right away he was welcomed by the other students and it looks as though he will do well there. After, we visited a facility for individuals with disabilities called Ekisa, also located in Jinja. Ekisa was beautiful and had enough space for each child to have their own bed and to spend time playing outside. It also included a sensory room so that the children could still have environmental stimulation even if their disability may have otherwise limited that.