Smiley Face

True stories make me happy:

– The little boy who repeats “BYE!” in his cute, high-pitched squeal again and again as we approach and pass him 100 times or more

– Coughing and having a random woman passing by ask if I was okay

– Having 8 or 10 kindergarteners run up to me and hold my hands as I walk home

– Smiling at a frowning old woman with a face lined with wrinkles and seeing her mouth break into a huge grin when I wave

– Greeting a teenager with “olliota” (“how are you?”) when she clearly expected English, receiving her surprised “karoongi!” (“good!”), and listening to her excitedly explain what just happened to her brother

– Being the only ones to show up on the volleyball court and having neighborhood kids offer their own tennis ball for us to play with

~ Thank you Uganda 🙂

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Smiley Face

Week 8 – Leaving Behind Pearls

Ah our last days in Uganda passed too quickly. Kampala is such a city, and like most cities, it has a huge disparity between rich and poor.

Friday morning we went to one of Kamapala’s craft markets and there was an amazing selection of souvenirs. Everything you could want from jewelry to baskets to figurines to back scratchers. It was all very cheap and tailored to tourists, which you could tell just by looking around at the other customers. The space wasn’t very big but there were a lot of vendors so it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I’d originally imagined it would be. It was very hot though. While shopping, we ran into Paige and her mother! Unfortunately their visa process isn’t going so well but Paige broke out into a huge grin when she saw me and even did the whole wiping her eyebrow thing that the girls at the orphanage taught us. We were so happy to see her again!

After burning through most of our shillings, we stopped by Le Petite Village for lunch. It’s just a 10 minute walk from the guest house we were staying at but to get there, we had to cut through an alley. The second time, we accidentally went down the wrong one and ended up passing all of these tiny, one room homes with tin roofs and sheet covered doorways. And this was right behind a place that had a French bakery and butcher shop with an expensive shopping plaza right across the street! Strange.

That night we went to a cultural dance named Nderri with Amos and Stephen. We paid for dinner and a show which was completely worth the money! They had all of these strange looking instruments and performed dances from each region of Uganda. Although most of the dances involved watching the men and women shake their butts (usually covered with straw or beads), some dances had stories. The host was hillarious and made a ton of jokes and really encouraged audience participation. So a couple of us went up for one of the courting dances (basically, you dance back and forth with your partner until the girl runs away and the boy has to try and catch her) and Hong went up for the guy’s joke about God running out of black paint as he was creating man. At the end of the night, everybody in the audience danced on stage in a large circle and it was an incredibly fun way to spend our last night!

Week 8 – Leaving Behind Pearls

Jinja Snap

Tonight I can say that I am legitimately worn out. My arms ache and all I’ve really wanted to do since 4 pm is sleep.

Rafting is SOOO tiring.

We left our guest house this morning around 7 am for Jinja city to go white water rafting! Since this has been one of my many life goals, I was completely pumped for the adventure. To top it all, Jinja is located on the NILE RIVER. THE Nile that’s the longest river in the world. Its source is in the one and only Uganda! AND we got to paddle 25 km on it for an entire day!!!! 😀 😀

The Nile was wide, but not quite as wide as I’d imagined. Since so many people are in this area, there’s no dangerous wildlife. On the banks we would see kingfisher eagles who mate for life (cue the awww’s), monkeys, and cattle that signaled the presence of humans. Actually we saw people a lot at random points washing clothes or themselves. Usually they were children though so it wasn’t quite as awkward as it could’ve been. Funny how even though there are about 50+ languages in this country, the word mzunguall stays pretty much consistent and is the only word any little kid yells at us.

We started off on the water learning basic commands like rowing forwards, backwards, and turning. Then we moved on to safety stuff like how to sit in the raft, how to hold your paddle without knocking someone in the face, and what your position should be if/when you fall out of the raft or it tips. I was really impressed about how safe everything was because for two rafts, they had about six kayaks and one large safety boat waiting for us at the end of each of the rapids to recover anyone who went overboard. They’re very good at their jobs too. Dave told us that throughout this entire year, they haven’t had any serious injuries at all besides minor scrapes and bruises.

In total we went down around eight rapids, four in the morning and four in the afternoon. They all had really funny names that just slip my mind and lasted all of 15 seconds or less. But it’s 15 seconds of awesomeness as the waves roar and crash around you and Dave’s yelling his cowboy “Yeehaw!”. At the same time, there were considerably long stretches of water that were very calm and smooth and forced us to paddle across. To pass the time, Zach played a bunch of camp games like Bang Bang Bang and Black Magic that me feel like I’m not ready to go back to college at all. We also jumped out quite a few times and floated like otters on our backs down stream. It felt especially nice because everybody was getting sunburned, mostly right above our knees.

Our group was split into two rafts of eight and seven. Although the other raft tipped three times in the morning, ours managed to stay upright until the very last rapids named after the local beer, the Nile Special. They were the largest waves we saw the entire trip besides the small waterfall at the very beginning. We actually could’ve made it all the way without falling out if the boys didn’t purposefully lean back to catch the raft off balance. It was actually kindof cool for a while as we sat on top and the raft surfed on a giant wave. Some of us decided to jump out before it turned over and go for a free for all down the rapids. It was a super amazing, crazy experience not having any idea where I was going with my eyes closed and haphazardly taking breaths when I thought the weight of the water felt lighter but it was also exhilarating and fun!

So I’d like to take this time to say THANK YOU SO MUCH DukeEngage for funding this amazing experience In Uganda! Snaps for you and snaps for Jinja for making today so special! I’m so glad I getta scratch white water rafting off of my bucket list. Next up: sky diving!

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Jinja Snap

Out the Window

What do you see when we drive down the (only highway and paved) road in Uganda?

– Grazing cows with giant horns
– Grazing goats that are about 3x wide as they are tall
– Chickens, roosters (who crow all the time, not just at dawn!) and the occasional fat hog
– Boda boda drivers lounging on their motorcycles with puffy coats waiting for work
– Ridiculously overloaded trucks with drums hanging off the back
– Mutatu taxis with sayings like “God is my Shepard” and “Praise Allah” on the windshield
– Men pushing bicycles up hills (all drivers are male by the way)
– Women walking on the shoulders with impressively large loads (giant sticks, bags, etc.) stacked on their heads
– Assorted men and women sitting in the shade, staring at our van like its full of alien creatures. We’ve most often seen them
– cutting hair
– sweeping
– selling goods
– washing children
– cooking over open junk pile fires
– butchering meat
– collecting water
– just sitting doing nothing
– Banana and tea plantations with workers harvesting leaves bent over and a single basket on their backs
– Beautiful rolling hills of varying heights
– Tiny children waving excitedly at us
– Speed humps: giant and smooth or small and bumpy
– Chinese trucks casually rolling by loaded with produce
– Houses
– single gray rectangular building with 4 doorways housing 4 separate families
– mud and straw hut with corrugated tin roof and a thin curtain door
– pretty orange/pink homes with barbed wire fences
– Uneven dirt roads branching off the freeway
– White UNRA markers
– Furniture from couches to bed franes laying in the open
– Schools overflowing with school children in bright colored uniforms
– Soccer fields with temporary goals made of 3 long, wooden posts
– Gas stations that are hand pumped with rolling numbers
– Red Airtel and yellow MTN buildings (cell phone companies)
– On our way to Fort Portal, we’ve seen baboons and lemurs almost every time near a bridge construction site

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Out the Window

How can you count good-byes?

Have you ever purposefully said good-bye to someone not knowing when you’ll see them again?

Our good-byes started at our farewell party on Saturday. We spent the entire day prepping food by peeling potatoes, beheading and plucking chickens, and chopping and stirring onions & onions for sauce. Besides spaghetti, most of the food was African and was well received by all of our guests from the different parts of BHTF. Thankfully, we even had enough food for all of the random neighbors who showed up to the party. Apparently it’s normal for strangers to join in and we all had fun dancing. The little kids pulled me into their bouncing circle and we tried to introduce salsa to the adults.

Owen before the party:

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On Monday morning we went to our last staff meeting at the clinic. Already we’re being replaced by so many more mzungu teams that have come in. It was another reminder that our time was ending in the village. 😦 Later we went back to the farm to paint the new dormitories green, orange, and red. Afterwards, we played some volleyball while waiting for them to serve rice and beans for lunch. They eat GIGANTIC portions at the farm! It’s funny how more food doesn’t mean more money. Or more hunger to finish it all without holding your breath. But it’s okay because we got to walk it off heading back to our house with Amos.

Tuesday was our very last day in Kaihura so we had to make it special. Early in the morning, we cooked breakfast for the over 50 kids living at Home Again. Everybody was there since school is on holiday. I think they enjoyed the eggs and jam + butter sandwiches, although one of the “more spirited” kids named Victor demanded millet. Ugandans love of millet is definitely something I’ll definitely never understand.

In the afternoon, the girls who live at Faith’s house came to the orphanage and we had a field day. Niara led games including limbo, three-legged races, and red light/green light. We also gave out presents. I wrote letters and folded them into origami cranes but others made cards or developed photos. Some of the older children returned the favor and wrote us our own letters. They were short and very sweet. As we left, we gave out hugs after hugs and exchanged tears. I’m not sure if many of the little kids knew what was going on but I guess it might’ve been better that way? It’s hard to think of them even only a day after and not feel like there’s something missing. Like Cato.

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In the evening we played our final volleyball game and Amos brought yellow “Kings of Kaihura” jerseys for us to wear. Unfortunately our playing was cut short since we also wanted to do a sunset climb to see Kaihura from the top of Dorcas hill. It was beautiful, even with the oncoming storm clouds.

The next morning we sorted everything we had into donation piles. I’m impressed with how willing everyone was to give away their prettiest skirts and fluffiest pillows, along with toiletries and medical supplies for Home Again, Dorcas, and the clinic. All of our suit cases are now considerably lighter. When we started to pack our bus, visitors appeared to say good-bye. The sky was gray and so was the mood as we once again exchanged hugs and good wishes. Our cook, Pelouse, has 3 adorable children Nora, David, and Jennifer. Jennifer’s about three years old, repeats everything you say, and has the darkest, prettiest skin. She is literally the cutest girl ever and all I wanna do when I see her is pick her up. My longest good-bye was probably with her.

After a 4 hour drive, including a random stop to buy potatoes, we finally arrived in Kampala! It’s hard to believe that this city exists in Uganda when it is so far beyond Kaihura, not even comparable to Fort Portal. There are sky scrapers and movie theaters. The roads are crammed with boda bodas and cars and people and very, very close to almost accidents. We ate at a small mall which had a 24-hour supermarket, escalators, and a restaurant that could’ve been in the United States! The food was delicious and our eyes were bulging at the sight of sundaes and smoothies. Stephen and Master Bright, a Hope Academy teacher, drove in the van with us so this was our last meal with them but hopefully not our last time seeing them.

Now we’re in a giant, beautiful guest house with basically stable electricity, hot water, wi-fi, a toaster, coffee maker, and fridge. Mind. Blown. I guess the transition back home won’t be so bad. As far as comforts go at least.

PS. If you hear something about Ebola, just know that that’s nowhere close to us. So no worries. 😀

How can you count good-byes?

Week 7 – Gift Wrap

Disclaimer: The next 3 posts were posted at the same time but written beforehand. Sorry for any confusion.

We’ve come to our last full week in Kaihura. 😦 Next Wednesday we’ll be heading to Kampala, the country’s capital and most developed city. We may or may not have plans to stop by some American chains to get a premature taste of home.

This week was all about wrapping up projects. We painted the rest of the rooms in the orphanage on Monday. In one room, Kenneth and Natalie painted a huge rose to cover up a mistake we’d made on the wall. It looks gorgeous! They’re both hidden artist pre-meds. Natalie even drew a portrait of a girl named Susan and gave it to her as a present.

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On Wednesday we went up to Dorcas to put in glass since most of the building’s windows are broken. After waiting more than an hour for the maintenance guy to bring up the tools however, we decided to climb to the top of the impressively large hill the vocational school sits on. After around 20 minutes of hiking through tall grass with scarily deep holes dotted here and there, we ended up at a very classic Lion King-esque tree with a fantastic view of Kaihura and the next town over. I was so excited that I wore pants since I ended up being the only girl who could climb up the tree branches.

That afternoon we went on a final trip to Fort Portal to pick up presents to give to our respective co-workers. While waiting for a Mutatu taxi however, we encountered our first hostile Ugandan. As we walked down the road, she started speaking very quickly and irritatedly at our group. She used the word “mzungu” and even lightly shoved someone as we passed. This whole time, she’s been the only one who’s acted poorly towards us. I guess statistically it was bound to happen but everyone else here has been so nice!

Friday was the teachers’ last day at school. Each class received a special treat ranging from Oreos to sodas. The teachers performed a special good-bye song since the students always sing and dance for them. Although we still have a few days left at the orphanage, the older kids are now painfully aware of how soon we’ll be leaving. I’ve actually gotten to talk to a couple of them and I love having real conversations about their lives and interests. After P3 (or 3rd grade), the kids are more or less fluent in English, a very impressive feat. I really wish we had more time to hang out with them. Guess I gotta make the best with the rest of our time.

Now we’ve desperately tried and failed to find the Olympics on TV. Somehow we could only watch a bunch of Chinese CCTV channels before the solar panel shut off. So I hope everybody enjoyed the ceremony and can give me a detailed description of what happened as soon we get back. Tomorrow is Saturday and the day of our big party. We’ve invited all our friends from BHTF to our house. I really hope we’ve bought enough food for everyone to eat.

Week 7 – Gift Wrap

The Other Side

We decided we wanted to learn more about what it’s really like to live as a Ugandan in Kaihura. So we stayed in town this weekend far from our house, across the main road. We split up to sleep at Faith’s house, the orphanage (Home Again), and the vocational school (Dorcas).

Six of us stayed at Home Again and Friday night was crazy! All of the children were SO SO SO excited that we were sleeping under the same roof as them! They were screaming and dancing in the hallways, jumping up and down and into our arms, running around with our headlamps showing us their beds… It was ridiculous! We spent an hour playing various hand games in our room. I also finally got the chance to talk with the older children. After about 12 years old (or around P4), the kids are pretty fluent in English. So we talked about what they liked to do and their lives in general. We slept in one of the older girls room which had 3 rickety double bunk beds and a shelf bolted to the wall. The younger boys room had about 4 triple bunk beds and a couple empty matresses. Apparently we had misplaced the girls who really slept in our room so only two kids, Rose and Susan, slept with us.

Saturday morning, we woke up at 6:30AM to singing in the hallways. We went out and sat with the children listening to worship songs, bible verses in English and Rutooro, and prayers. It was such a unique experience.

After breakfast at Faith’s, we returned to the orphanage to paint the walls. We switched off entertaining the kids outside and painting the front two rooms lavender. Since we had so many people, we finished with time to spare in the morning. In the afternoon, half of us stayed to paint the hallway lime green and the other half went to the farm in Kyongera (sidenote: “ky-” sounds like “ch-” here) to visit the boys living there. They rarely get visitors and we played volleyball, ate maize and sweet potato, and answered the questions they posed. Most were marriage/dating related and it’s interesting that they themselves were pretty open about their personal wants and beliefs. It was a very relaxing, fun time and I was so glad that we took the time to go out there. They were very welcoming and grateful to see us.

When we came back for dinner, we played Ships and Sailors with the girls living at Faith’s (there’s around 8 of them, all in primary school) and sang after dinner with Chris Sasser, the father of thd missionary family living here, playing guitar. The girls even painted their nails after we left.

Sunday was, of course, church day! The service lasted 3 hours and started with Faith preaching, then singing by children, various choirs, and two young men who, no joke, thought they were Usher and got a bunch of screams from the girls and even a couple tips. Lastly, another preacher gave a sermon full of various bible stories.

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In the afternoon, the girls came over to our house and drew and colored for a while. They weren’t very confident in their drawing abilities but it was still super cute.

This weekend was fantastic. Everybody was so excited and happy to see us at church and at their homes… It was genuine happiness. Can’t wait for our party next weekend. 🙂

The Other Side