Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Three months already...

I can't believe that I'm packing my bags. It doesn't feel like three months could pass so quickly. I'm feeling an odd mix of heart-pounding-in-chest excited and ridiculously sad. I've had such an amazing experience this summer and can't believe that I am lucky enough (dare I say blessed...) to have had the opportunity to meet all of these people and see some of the things I've seen.

I've promised several people that I will certainly come back to Uganda, and I sincerely hope that I can keep that promise. As cheesy as it sounds, I'm definitely leaving a part of my heart here and will always have a fondness for eastern Uganda, mostly because it provided me with my first international experience, and it was an outstanding and invaluable one at that.

Anyway, off to finish packing. By which I mean stepping around the piles of clothes in my room and going to bed, then loading them into a suitcase tomorrow. Mostly because half of my clothes are still wet since Regina left the laundry in the rain today. Awesome.

Also, funny story about buses in Uganda. We went to buy our tickets for the Elgon Flyer to Kampala tomorrow. If you remember from one of my earlier posts, the EF is the top bus from Mbale to Kampala. So, we went to EF office to buy our tickets today for a 10:30am bus tomorrow. When we were purchasing them, the agent told us to be sure to arrive at the bus stop at 9am for our 10:30am bus because the 10:30 bus left at 7:30am today. And I was the only one laughing at this statement. A) What good does it do for us to arrive at 9 if the bus is leaving at 7:39 anyway. B) Why in the world is the 10:30 bus leaving at 7:30 anyway. Isn't that why you buy tickets and have set times. So that a certain number of people can get on and they know what time to be at the bus stop. C) When I asked what time the next bus after the 10:30 bus leaves, she said 3:30. Even if the 10:30 bus leaves 3 hours early, the 3:30 bus still leaves at 3:30. I really don't understand transportation in Uganda. It's amazing I've managed to get anywhere.

Okay, Rwanda, here I come!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Snip Snip

On Friday, August 6, we attended the local circumcision ceremony. Every other year at this time, Bugisu (the local tribe) boys ages 13-18 or so gather to commence a four month period of public circumcisions. At the opening ceremony, all of the eligible boys gather for a dancing competition. The group that wins is the first group circumcised.

It was so exciting. There's a fenced in area on the cultural grounds where the events take places. All of the townspeople line up outside the fence, stacked about 5 feet back and pressed tightly against one another in the sweltering heat. We were lucky enough to go with a group led by someone who is close the the president, so we were able to get seats underneath a tent inside the fenced area. Most of the day was spent listening to speeches we couldn't understand because a) the sound system was awful and b) the majority were not in English. The exciting parts were the dancing. Boys dressed and beads and bells were stomping all over the field. We technically weren't allowed to bring cameras in, but Nrupa and I were able to sneak one in, so we have pictures of all the dancing. It was great! We even joined in at one point!

The other exciting part (and the reason we weren't allowed to bring cameras in) was because the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, was in the audience (for about an hour). Nrupa and I missed his entrance because we were in the bathroom (by which I mean some random person's house). We couldn't take pictures while he was there, but he was sitting about 50 feet from us in this cool yellow tent. Then he gave a speech (also not in English) standing on a drive-up podium about 25 feet from us. I really wanted to take a picture, but they specifically said that no personal cameras were to be used while the President was in the audience. It wasn't worth getting shot and/or arrested.

The President left promptly after his speech, at which point the crowd rushed the field and we left. We didn't get to see any actual circumcisions, but apparently they only did 4, and the rest will be conducted over the coming months. I'm really not sure how they managed to do anyway with everyone pushing their way to see. I would not want be the guy with the knife...too much responsibility. Though I also wouldn't want to be the kid getting circumcised either. No pain killers. No sedatives. All they get is a stick to hold behind their necks...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Quick note about internet

Just in case anyone is interested and was really hoping to talk to me, I'm not sure what my internet access is going to be for the next two weeks. We definitely have it at work, though the connection is very slow and email often doesn't work. Our internet stick technically ran out last week, but it's still working. Hopefully it keeps on working for the next. The last week that we're in Uganda, we'll most likely be traveling, in which case internet will not be a priority.

I hope that you've all enjoyed reading my blog and hearing about my adventures. I know I can be a bit long winded, but it was a nice experience for me to document what I've been doing via this public journal.

I'll make one or two more posts from Uganda, but I'll most likely sum up my experiences (and hopefully my time in Rwanda) once I get home.

Exploring Eastern Uganda

This weekend was so much fun again! We spent both Saturday and Sunday in different towns visiting two of our co-workers. It was great because we finally got to see true life in Uganda. It obviously wasn't completely day to day because the programs were a bit different since we were there, but it was still nice to meet their families and see their homes.
Saturday in Budaka

On Saturday we met Madoyi, one of the TASO counselors, in the morning and traveled with him to Budaka where his wife and four kids live. His wife is a teacher at a primary school, so they live on the campus of the school. Most schools around here are mixed day and boarding schools, so the staff live on the property to help monitor and care for the students who board there. Madoyi and Alice have four kids--Linda, Lillian, Reagan, and Lynn (yes, Linda and Lynn...). After welcoming us to their home with teach, g-nuts (peanuts), and bananas, Madoyi took us around town a bit. He showed us the plot where he's building his house and took us to a few areas where he owns land. He has about 5.5 acres on which he grows Eucalyptus trees, tomatoes, g-nuts, millet, and a few other crops. I also got a chance to drive Madoyi's motorcycle! He was behind me the entire time and his hands were on the handlebars for most of the time, but I was definitely driving! We didn't change gears at all, which is good because I didn't really understand that system. I think I need more than the 30 second overview he gave me. But I was accelerating and steering around this open field for a few minutes. Nrupa took some good pictures! I want to have a longer lesson. Hopefully I can get someone at TASO to teach me...
On Saturday night, we came back to Mbale and went to our friend Ronald's house to make dinner. He and Martin were supposed to cook for us, but Martin and I actually ended up doing most of it. Though Ronald had made some pretty good dal earlier in the day. We didn't end up eating until about 10:00, despite our original 7pm meeting time. Then all four of us were supposed to go dancing again, but Ronald bailed to do laundry (lame) since he's going to Gulu this week to visit his parents. Martin tried to bail too, but we were able to convince him to come. We met Allan at the club (Oasis). It was so much fun! Oasis is much cleaner than Rendezvous, though of course the shadeballs are still present. At one point Nrupa was dancing with Martin and Allan and I were standing to the side talking. This random dude came up to Allan and asked if he could dance with me. When I said no, I don't dance with people I don't know, the guy then asked if he could dance with Nrupa, even though she wasn't anywhere near this conversation and was clearly dancing with Martin. I again said that no, she wasn't interested, at which point the guy made the money sign with his hand (like he was rubbing bills together), saying that he would pay to dance with us. I immediately shooed him away after that. What a loser! We finally went home around 2:30am, which was bad as we were supposed to be on a bus at 8am to go visit Ogogol in Soroti.

Sunday in Soroti

On Sunday, we ended up sleeping well past when we were supposed to be on the bus to Soroti. We felt bad being late, but neither one of us would have been able to function if we had gotten up earlier enough to catch the first bus. Instead we caught one around 11:30 and got to Soroti around 1. We had such a nice time. Ogogol met us at the bus park and took us via motorcycle to the house that his family rents, which is a bit outside of town. His wife, Mildred (her name does not fit her. It's much too old and dowdy, whereas she's beautiful and vibrant). and two kids, Lea and Albert) greeted us and then we went and sat inside and talked. We had a really good lunch and talked and talked. His kids are adorable! And his wife is so nice. It was really interesting to see them interact. You could tell that they really love each other and their kids. It was so different than with Madoyi and his wife. They barely even spoke, whereas Ogogol and Mildred were kind of affectionate. At one point she reached over and fixed his collar, which I thought was really cute. They showed us pictures of their introduction--the formal traditional ceremony where the woman introduces her intended to her family, and then took us around to the plot of land they own where they grow a bunch of different fruits and vegetables and where they're building a house. The house is gorgeous. Right now it's only brick walls, no roof or doors or windows, but it's HUGE. They've been working on it for 2 years, and expect to take another 3-5 before they're able to move in.

It's bad, but I think I had more fun with Ogogs and Mildred. There children were cuter and much cleaner, and Mildred was a more engaging host than Alice was. She actually had good conversation with us and joked around with all of us, whereas Alice only spoke to us and sat with us when Madoyi wasn't around. I'm sure it all has to do with the culture, but it was just a personal preference. Either way I had an amazing time with both co-workeers. At both we had discussions about how connected Africans are to their food and how disconnected Americans are. Madoyi served us some g-nuts that he had grown and Ogogol served us maize, pineapple, and potatoes from his land. It was also interesting for us to see how common it is for the men to commute during the weekends. Every Friday both of them travel back to the families and then come back to Mbale on Sunday or Monday. I think it's a bit easier for Madoyi because he lives about 30-45 minutes away (which is still too much to commute during the week), whereas Ogogs lives about 2 hours from his family. Unfortunately there's not really a way for Ogogs to get closer. His wife also works for TASO, and company policy states that two people who are involved with each other cannot work at the same center. Since his family lives in Soroti, his wife works at the center there and he works in Mbale, which is the next closer center. And now he's starting school in Kampala, so he's going to be traveling even more. He's spend Monday-Wednesday working in Mbale, Thursday and Friday in Kampala for classes, and Saturday and Sunday in Soroti with his family. It's amazing how dedicated people here are to education. I don't think anyone in the West values education that much because it's so much more of a guarantee there than it is here. One of the doctor's at TASO is about to spend four years away from his family. He's going to spend two doing an ob-gyn rotation in Kampala, than another two completing his MPH in England. It must be so difficult, because I don't think he has the money to travel back and forth from England while he's there, and he has a wife and two young children. But I guess it's all for his children's future...

Anyway, it was a really great weekend. It was nice to finally get to see a much truer and more real side of Africa. Now we're preparing for our final week, winding up our projects. Right now the plan is to leave Mbale next Wednesday and head to Kigali, spend a few days there, then spend one or two days in Kampala before flying out. We'll also have about 5 or so hours in Amsterdam!

Second to last full week at TASO

Ah! Only two weeks left. This week was fun and stressful and anxiety ridden all at once. Monday was uneventful. We both just did some work on our independent projects at work. That night we were going to go to a movie with Martin, but he got called suddenly to move to Tororo. He had gotten a job there a few weeks earlier, but had told them that he would start August 2. On July 26, however, they called him and demanded that he be at work the following morning. We tried to tell him that it was inappropriate for them to demand his presence like that, but I guess things work differently here. No where did he have documentation that he had been offered the job or that he had said he would start the following Monday. All communications had been made over the phone. Instead of seeing a movie, we ended up just walking around town with him and Ronald.

Tuesday Nrupa and I had arranged a volleyball/football (soccer) tournament for TASO. Well, it was more just some games than a tournament. We had been talking about it for a week and even hung posters around the Center. About 30 people had said they would be there, but of course only 6 or so showed up. And within in the first 15 minutes Nrupa accidently popped the volleyball because it was overinflated. We used another beach-type ball for a bit, but then thankfully some random guy showed up and let us use his volleyball. It was so much fun. We played so long by the time we finished we couldn't even see the ball because it was so dark. Our friend Martyn (different from Martin) drove us home. On the way, we bought him a beer for his birthday.

Oh, also on Tuesday--our electricity was shut off. Such a debacle! They disconnected it because we've never paid the bill, but we've never paid the bill because they've never delivered the bill. Because there's no central system here like there is in the us, the electric company, Umeme, sends people called readers to each house that receives electricity. They're supposed to come at least once a month and take the reading directly from the meter. The monthly bill, then, is calculated by multiplying the difference between the current month's reading and the previous month's reading by 385/=, the fee per unit used. Then they come back to the house and personally deliver the bill. Obviously, this system is very flawed. Firstly, if no one is home they can't enter the property to read the meter, so they make estimates regarding the reading and then, if necessary, calculate the bill from the estimate. I'm not sure what calculations they use for making these estimates, but they're obviously not very accurate. Then, if no one is home when they try to deliver the bill, they're supposed to leave it. However, they obviously don't do that since we've never received a bill. In fact, an electricity bill hasn't been delivered to our house since January when the last group of GW fellows lived there. Before they left they had to go to Umeme and personally request their bill.

Anyway, on Tuesday they stopped by our house and Regina, our housekeeper, let them in. They disconnected the electricity and left a bill for 564,000/= shillings, which is around $250. Nrupa and I both almost had heart attacks! School had told us that the electric bill should be around $20/month, so we both had budgeted for about $30/person for the entire time that we were in Uganda. After talking with several people, we realized that there must be some mistake and Umeme must be trying to cheat us in some way because an electric bill that large was almost unheard of.

On Thursday, we went to Umeme with Henry, our landlord's son. He brought all the old bills that he had (which was only once since none are ever delivered). He also told us that the girls who were here in the Spring only paid 57,000/= (~$25) for the electric bill for their entire time at the house. After a 3+ hour conversation with several different people at Umeme, we learned that the electricity bill we received actually dated back to February 17. Apparently between February and now, they had fired a reader so they canceled all of his readings, which delayed the bills. They had also made two estimates at our house, which delayed the bills further. In the end, Nrupa and I paid a total of 150,000/= and left the balance for someone else to deal with. We're obviously not going to pay for electricity for February-May, when we weren't even living in the house. We sent a long, detailed email to school telling them about the situation, so hopefully they're fixing it.

In the meantime, our power is still disconnected since there's an outstanding balance. Well, it's supposed to be disconnected. Tom just plugged it back in for us so we're technically using the electricity illegally. Oh well. I like having light at night and warm showers. We're only in the house for another 10 or so days. This whole fiasco is one thing that's making me ready and excited to go home.

Despite the debacle of the day, Thursday ended up okay. Jessie and Dave came over and cooked us a really good dinner. Pasta with a vegetable and cheese sauce. Then Jessie and I made an amazing dessert. Ice cream with bananas, drizzled chocolate (which actually clumped and was more like brownie bits), and cookies crumbled on top. Yum! They left Mbale Sunday and leave Uganda Wednesday, so that was our last time hanging out with them.

Friday was stress management day. We went with the medical team to Sisiyi Falls, which is about 45 minutes outside of Mbale. It was beautiful and so much fun! We hiked up the falls a bit, but for the most part we just hung out in this little field area. We had lunch and dinner there and played football, frisbee, jump rope, cards. So much fun to just kick back and enjoy the company of our co-workers. We also got to know some people we hadn't met before. Better late then never I guess. By the time we came back we were so exhausted. We met up with the counseling team at Sports Club for a little bit. They were having their stress management there. We danced for about an hour then headed home and passed out.

Weekend Fun

July 23-25

This weekend was so much fun. This and the subsequent week really made me realize how much I'm going to miss Mbale. Friday night we went dancing, which, surprisingly enough, even to me, is something that I really enjoy. We first tried to go to Restville, the place that we went at the beginning of our time here with our UBC friends. When we rolled up, however, the place was literally empty. I think there were all of 5 people there, and at least 3 of them work at Restville. We changed venues and went to Rendezvous instead. We were a bit skeptical about this club. Our UBC friends went there when we were in Kenya and said it was fun, but strange. Apparently when they walked in, the place was completely silent, but everyone inside was still dancing...and wearing headphones. The headphones have two stations, so each person essentially dances to their own music. Two people dancing together could be listening to different songs. So weird!
Thankfully Friday night was a normal night. At first no one was really dancing, but the muzugus quickly turned the party around! Aside from the fact that the place smelled like ass because the bathrooms were literally on the dance floor and they only played African music that's sort of strange to dance to, it was really fun! There were a few skeezy guys though. One dude came up and started dancing with me and my friend Allan, so I thought that he was a friend of Allan's, but apparently Allan had no idea who this guy was. Then the same guy came up behind me a little bit later, leaned over my shoulder, and told me he wanted me to buy him a drink. I laughed at him and told him to go buy his own drink.

Saturday morning we slept in, then did some errands in town. We ended up meeting up with two of our friends, Martin and Ronald, at TASO because they were doing some work. We hung out with them there for a bit, and then made plans to meet up later to go dancing again. You have to know Martin to understand, but to no one's surprise he flaked on us, so we just watched a movie (Stardust!) and went to bed.

On Sunday I awoke to find Nrupa standing in the living room in a dress. Seeing her in a dress is an unbelievably rare occasion, so I was very confused as to what was happening. Apparently she was going to Church with Martin. I kindly declined their offer and spent the morning watching Sopranos. I love relaxing Sunday mornings! When Nrups and Martin returned from Church, we made some pretty good eggs and hung out for a bit.

A few hours later, we met up with him and Ronald and walked around the slums of Mbale. It was really interesting. Martin had done research in Namatale (the slum), so he knew some of the people and a good bit of the history of the area. There's a road that divides the two sides, and on one side of the road the rate of HIV is much higher than on the other side. I'm not sure why, and I don't think he ever figured it out either, but it's quite an interesting phenomena.

We walked around for about 3 hours, all through these areas of Mbale we had never seen. Then we met up with Dave, Jessie and Rachel for dinner at Elgon. Rachel was introduced to us via email by Joslyn. She's an undergrad doing some microfinance research in Uganda for the summer. It was a fun dinner. Then Rachel ended up spending the night because the NGO with whom she's staying had locked the gate and she couldn't get in. It was so excited to have our first house guest! We had a brief dance party to the song Monster by Lady Gaga (which we listen to at least 8 times each day), and went to sleep, ready for our second to last full week at TASO.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Eight weeks down, four to go

Well, now three, but this post presents the events of week four. I was a bit apprehensive of this week. Last weekend, I started getting a bit antsy about going home. I'm getting really excited to come home. I love it here and have had (and still am having) an amazing time, but I really miss everyone at home. It's a hard reconciliation because I also know that when we leave, I'm going to break down in tears because I'm going to miss everyone so much.

Anyway, these week we trained our research assistants (RAs) in our survey and pilot tested it on Thursday. On Monday, the RAs translated the questionnarie to two of the local languages--Luganda and Ateso, then on Tuesday we reviewed the translations to make sure that Nrupa and I had typed everything correctly and then we briefly reviewed the skip patterns (which are ridiculously confusing) to make sure that they could deliver it appropriately.

On Tuesday I also continued with week two of my pediatric nutrition assessment. It started of well, but quickly went down hill. I normally latch on to Grace, the girl who takes down client names as they come to the clinic. Often I can get her to help me find out client ages and where they live, but Tuesday she went home early because she wasn't feeling well. That left me with no one. There were a few children in the center who were visible malnourished, but I wasn't able to measure them because I couldn't communicate with them. It was so frustrating and heartbreaking. I'm doing this assessment to help Nova and the center, but I'm not receiving adequate support from staff, which hinders my ability implement this assessment.

Thankfully both Monday and Tuesday ended on a high note. We played football (soccer) on Monday and volleyball on Tuesday. It was so much fun. I can't believe we took such a long break from playing. We hadn't played since that very first time over a month ago when the UBC kids were still here. It was nice to get a bit of exercise in and hang out with people from work in a social setting. Now we're trying to arrange a big game with people from work for next Tuesday. We've been talking about it all week, telling everyone. And we're going to make signs this weekend and hang them around TASO on Monday so that everyone comes prepared on Tuesday and no one has an excuse not to come.

Wednesday was pretty uneventful. Nothing was going on so we left work after lunch and just spent the afternoon lounging at home. Then that night there was a huge storm. Nrupa went out to the Hindu temple again (yay, more dinner invitations), so I was home alone when the electricity went out and a huge clap of thunder shook the house. I quickly lit the candles and huddled in a ball on the couch, frantically texting her to come home as soon as possible. Then Tom came over and we talked (by which I mean he talked) for about an hour before he went back home for dinner. Tom is such a nice guy, but it really is exhausting talking to him. His English is really good, especially considering that he didn't finish school, but the way in which he talks is so roundabout and the language he uses is a bit different than I'm used to. I wish he would just get to the point and ask for what he wants directly. Not that I'd give it to him (ie: I don't have the money to pay for his kids' education), but at least we could move on with the conversation more quickly. I think he was telling me how he came to be appointed to his current post as our night guard, but I'm not entirely sure about that. Also, that night, our kitchen faucet stopped working. When we first arrived at the house, it was pretty leaky, but we were able to pretty much stop the leak by tightening it with a wrench. This week, however, it started leaking again, almost in a full stream. Now, even when the tap is open all the way, only a barely noticeable stream of water comes out. I tried to do the dinner dishes Wednesday night and could only get through 2 plates (which took about 20 minutes) before I got frustrated and just left them for Regina to do. I felt bad about it, but she can do them outside in the water spigot during the day. I don't feel comfortable doing that at night. Tom spoke to the landlord about the problem, but the landlord wants us to pay to replace it. We told Tom that that was never going to happen. He owns the house; it is his responsibility to make sure that it is in good condition and replace what needs replacing. Furthermore, we're only in the house for another 3 weeks, so we are certainly not paying for anything to be replaced (sorry future fellows).

On Thursday I woke up in a bad mood because of a conversation I had had the night before. I was hoping I would be able to sleep it off, but that didn't work so well. And since it was another day in the pediatric wing, I didn't have high hopes for the day. When I arrived at TASO to find that Grace wasn't there, my mood sank even further. Thankfully, I was quite wrong. The day ended up being very productive. I took charge in the peds wing and just started calling people up without someone to assist me. It ended up working quite well. I measured almost every single child that came to the center. I only missed a few because they were in the lab or something and only returned after I had finished for the day. In the afternoon, we started pilot testing our study. At first, I didn't think it was going to work. Printing is always an issue because paper and ink are very expensive here, but after a few hours we were able to get all of our surveys (all 17 pages) printed. Next we had to track down our RAs. They were supposed to meet us at 11:30 when they finished their other duties at TASO, but of course none of them showed up. Finally, around 2:00 we found 3 of them and were able to implement a few of the surveys. We also corralled some of the counselors to interview people. In the end, we had six completed surveys. We're going to try to get another six next week and then spend our last week and a half at TASO revising the questionnaire so that it's ready to go when the next fellows arrive.

Thursday night we were planning on walking around the slums of Mbale with Martin, but we took a detour to the Hindu temple and ended up spending almost 2 hours there. Nrupa was explaining the symbolism of all the gods (really it's just incarnations of one god), and then we stayed for the evening pooja (prayer). Martin is super Christian, so we were both impressed that he made it through the evening and even took some of the blessed food the priest gave us. We're going back on Tuesday because the priest is making us lunch. Nrupa said it's because we're American and apparently there's some prestige in having Westerners to dine, but I don't mind. It's free food and it's good food!

Today we're both just working on our own projects. We were hoping to submit our proposals to the TASO IRB by today, but that might not be happening until next week. However, it must happen next week because the committee meets the first week of August, so that's our last chance to have our studies approved. Tonight is take two of visiting the slums, then we're going to Restville, the "club" we went to our second weekend in Mbale with the UBC kids. It was so much fun last time, I'm worried about tonight's prospects. The fun bar has been set quite high, so we'll see how it goes. I think Martin and maybe one other guy from work, Ronald, are coming, along with Allan, and I'm not sure any of them drink that much. Not you have to drink to have fun, but I'm worried about their ability to let loose and enjoy themselves in that kind of setting. We shall see... Worst comes to worst, we'll go home and watch a movie. Always an enjoyable time.

We were hoping to go to Kapchurwa this weekend since we weren't able to go last weekend (our friends' truck broke down so they ended up coming to Mbale instead). Unfortunately for us, they're actually moving out of their house today and spending the next week or so in Mbale before they go back to the States. I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I hope we do something. We've spent the last 2 weekends in Mbale and we're both feeling a bit stir crazy. There's not really that much to do in this small town. I think we might go play with Tom's kids for a bit tomorrow, but so far that's our only plan. Sunday will probably end up being some working and swimming at Mbale resort.

I can't believe we only have 3 more weekends here. Next weekend I think we're going to try to go to Soroti for a day to meet one of our co-workers kids. Then the following weekend we're thinking about throwing a good-bye TASO party. The girls who were here last semester did, and everyone always talks about how much fun it was. They had a bunch of beer and cooked two goats, so the bar is set pretty high. It would be fun, but Nrupa and I aren't sure we have the funs for such an extravangaza. Last time there were 3 fellows, so the costs were split a bit more. I'm also not sure I want a goat slaughtered and cooked in my yard... Oh well, we'll see. We're also going to have to find time to visit Martin in Tororo. I think our last weekend in Mbale is the weekend that he's moving there for his new job. We'll see if that happens. Then, for our last week we're planning on going to Rwanda. We're thinking about leaving Mbale August 10 or 11, getting to Kampala in the early afternoon, and then taking the 12 hour, overnight bus ride to Kigali. Nrupa has a friend who's doing Peace Corps in Rwanda, so she is planning on meeting us in the capital. Unfortunately, those are going to have to be last minute plans because we have to see what happens with the Presidential elections in Rwanda. Paul Kagame is expected to win by a landslide (again), but there's always the possibility that violence could break out, and it would of course be centered in Kigali. Since the elections are August 9, we're going to be making the decision to go at the very last minute. Hopefully everything is okay. Otherwise we might end up just visiting Nrupa's friend in her village or explore western Uganda. No matter what, I'm going to need to get out of Mbale. I know that I'm going to need something more than TASO to settle my excitement of going home. Also, I want some time to detach a bit from TASO and get used to the idea of not being here before we leave. I guess the seven hour layover in Amsterdam will help with that too...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Eight weeks down

So this week has been super hectic, but pretty unexciting. Actually, a bit stressful. We'll reach the 2 month mark next Tuesday...just over 4 weeks left until we're back home. I'm excited because I miss everyone at home and I'm getting stressed out at work, which makes me just want to leave. But I think I'm going to be pretty sad to go. It's such a peaceful and laid back existence here (minus the bombings in Kampala, which is horribly tragic and unexpected). Nonetheless, I think I'll be ready to go home. Nrups and I have been discussing traveling the past week. Both of us want some time to get out of Mbale and explore a little more. I was pushing for Zanzibar, but it's super expensive, and it will be Ramadan so we're a bit unsure of the food situation. Now we're thinking about a few days in Rwanda and chimp tracking in western Ugandan. We'll see what happens. Right now it looks like we might have to spend another day or two in Mbale than we had planned to finish up some work, but that shouldn't interfere with travel plans too much.
As for work, it's going well. Of course when it rains it pours. Things are picking up with our male involvement project at the same time that Nrupa and I are just starting to figure out our own projects. I started collecting data on pediatric malnutrition this week. I'm doing it every Tuesday and Thursday for the last month that we're at TASO. It's not difficult, per say, but it's much messier and more chaotic than I had anticipated. Obviously language poses a huge barrier. I wanted to ask clients about their daily diets, but I threw those questions out because it was impossible to pin any staff down long enough to help me translate. I was hoping that there would be someone assigned to help me, but I pretty much just have to beg. I've been attaching myself to this one girl, which was helpful today. It's still unorganized, but I got much better data today than I did on Tuesday. Now the biggest challenge is locating the client files at the end of the day to find their most recent CD4 counts and ART status. I think I'm just going to have to collect a list of all the names and registration numbers and look at the files a few days after I measured the patients. Then of course there's the problem about incomplete information in client files, but that's another story.

On top of all of these, yesterday we found out about this approval process that we're supposed to go through. I had asked Nova, the nutrition coordinator, about any IRB or anything, and he told me that it was unnecessary since the data and subsequent report are only being used by TASO. I have no intention of publishing. Now, however, we found out that there is, in fact, this whole process of writing a proposal and submitting it to the TASO Internal Review Committee to have it approved. Naturally, the IRC meets once a month and they won't be meeting again until the first week of August....our last week at TASO. Oh well, we're making due. In the meantime, both Nrupa and I have been thinking about other projects we could do once we get home. I've even emailed with one of my professors and have a meeting arranged for the day after I return to DC to meet with her and discuss other ideas. I may not end up graduating until Spring 2011, but that's okay. It will give me more time to focus solely on my CE.

On the social front, Nrupa finally succeeded in securing us a dinner invite to her uncle's house, and by uncle I mean one of the 500 Indians that live in Mbale. She went to this religious discussion thing at the Hindu temple Wednesday night and one of the families invited us over for dinner on Sunday. So excited! They also said we should stop by for lunch because the auntie just sits at home alone all day. I've stopped eating the beans and rice at work (I get nauseous just thinking about it, it's so bad!), so I'm all for going to the auntie's for lunch. Also, our friend Martin from TASO got a new job, so that's both sad and exciting. He's been working at TASO for the past year as a volunteer (he gets a small stipend), so it's super great for him that he got a job. But he'll be moving to Tororo, which is about an hour southeast of Mbale. He starts the new job the first week of August, so I guess we'll only technically have one week at TASO without him, but it's still weird. He's probably our closest friend there. We're taking him out to dinner tonight night to celebrate.

Otherwise, nothing too exciting is going on. We're going to the mountains this weekend to spend a night with Dave and Jessie, our PhD friends. They leave Uganda August 4 (they've been here almost a year), so this is one of our last hurrahs with them. Should be fun. I'm excited to see life in a small village. Hopefully I'll have some stories to report on Monday...

Why is that happening?

Said by Nrupa Jani as we passed a girl, maybe around 10, who had a brand new pencil sticking out of her ear, eraser out.

My quote: "How is that comfortable?"

We spent the remainder of the boda ride to working laughing like crazy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Lion King

To Kenya

Last Thursday (July 1), we made the long journey to Kenya. The trip is technically about 4 hours long, but it ended up taking us most of the day because of waiting time and constant stopping in taxis. We boarded the shared taxi in Mbale at 11am and got out in Kisumu at 8pm. The rides were typical. Too many people were crammed in, I had a live rooster at my feet, the JAB (both Kenyan and Ugandan) was unbearable. I also got a marriage proposal in Kenya even though I told the guy I was taken. He assured me that if I brought my boyfriend to Kenya we could find him a Kenyan woman so that Stephen (my suitor) and I could be together. He even offered to buy me a banana--I think it was a dowry. I declined.

At one point along the way, near the border on the Ugandan side, we drove on a road that bisected two markets. The market on one side of the street was in Kenya, while the one opposite was in Uganda. Apparently they take both Ugandan and Kenyan shillings at both market.
At the border, this guy we had met in the taxi helped us navigate immigration. He helped us exchange money on the black market. There are literally men everywhere with calculators who exchange currencies, even right at the border. Very official... In the Ugandan office, we met two girls from Boston University School of Public Health who had been working in Kenya for six weeks and were now going to work in Uganda for another six weeks. One of them looked really familiar. On a whim, I asked if she went to Michigan undergrad. She did and was in one of my classes--I think pchem. I have no idea what her name is and I don't think we ever spoke, so she understandably had no idea who I was. I might I have freaked her out a bit by recognizing her. Oh well. Small world. In Kenya, we had to buy visas. The man demanded $25 from us and was not pleased when we told him we didn't have US dollars and had to pay in shillings, though I think we got a much better rate even though he said it was going to be worse. We paid KSh 1050, which is about $13. Also at the Kenyan immigration office was a condom dispenser (see photo on facebook). I wasn't able to check if it was full or not, but I sincerely hope it was. Though I highly doubt that anyone would actually take a condom that much in public. I could hardly believe when some guy took one from the box at the TASO library, though I'm glad he did. Across the border, I also used my first, but certainly not my last, squat toilet. It was disgusting, and I had to pay KSh10 for it. Nrupa kept telling me to practice at TASO, but I never did. Bad mistake. She was trying to coach me from outside the door, but I was too busy laughing and trying not to pee on myself to pay attention. The woman in the other stall also laughed and made some funny comment about my ineptitude, but I can't remember what it was.
In Kenya, on the ride from Busia to Kisumu, Nrupa and I were debating whether or not Kenya looks different from Uganda. We eventually decided that the landscapes are quite different. Uganda is more fields while Kenya has more trees. I also think that the stores and roadside stalls are a bit different. In Uganda they seem more sturdy, which is surprising given the western feel of Kisumu. Kisumu and Mbale are both the third largest cities in their respective countries, but they couldn't be more different. Kisumu is much more developed, with paved roads and western architecture. Mbale is what you think of when you think of an African town. It's relatively small, with storefronts of tiny shops painted as adverts. Kisumu was even much more developed than Kampala, which I found most surprising. Kisumu also has a much wider selection of food than Mbale. Here, we have four edible restaurants. Three of them are Indian.
Nrupa's friend Rachna, who organized the safari, met us when we got to Kisumu. She picked us up from the matatu park in a tuk tuk, an auto rickshaw, and took us to dinner. We went to two restaurants--Al Noor and Laughing Buddha. Al-Noor is Muslim owned and doesn't allow alcohol on its tables while Laughing Buddha is vegetarian and doesn't allow meat on its tables. However, they do allow you to combine tables and eat at both places, so long as you follow the alcohol/meat rules. We ordered food from Al Noor (really good but too spicy paneer kabobs) and wine and dessert from Laughing Buddha. Dessert was amazing. We all shared a brownie with a huge scoop of ice cream and warm chocolate sauce poured over it. It was the best think I'd eaten in the past 6 weeks. So nice to have real chocolate! Then we went back to Rachna's beautiful apartment for some much need rest before our 6am departure.

Masai Mara

Our safari was in Masai Mara, in the southwestern region of Kenya bordering Tanzania. At 6:30 we were picked up for our 6am departure. Right on time in Africa. Nine of us piled into a van with a pop up roof and set off. We all thought it was only a 3 hour drive, but apparently it was 6. Oh well. More time for bonding, by which I mean sleeping since none of us had really done that the night before. The last two hours of the drive were on bumpy, dusty road. I felt I was going to be sick the whole time.

We saw our first wild animals before we ever reached the park--baboon (I just realized I forgot to post those pictures on facebook. Oh well, something to look forward to upon my return). After two hours on this awful road, we pulled into paradise--Mara Leisure. As Nrups said, who knew the road to Heaven was so bumpy. It was beautiful! Definitely the nicest place I have ever stayed. One night at a place like this in the States would have cost more than my entire 3 day safari! We were greeted at the front gate by Masai men wearing the traditional outfit (I forget the name) who handed us warm towels to wipe our hands and faces. We then had some delicious fruit juice as we got an introduction to the hotel. All food, coffee, and tea is included. (Water is never included around here because it's all bottled. It's odd to be at dinner and not constantly have your water glass refilled). We stayed in a permanent tent that was set up on raised platform. The shower had really good pressure and solar-heated water.

We had a delicious lunch at the camp/lodge. No beans, rice, or matoke there. The girls on our trip didn't even know what matoke was. Lucky... Then we relaxed by the pool before our first game drive. We ended up hiring a second driver so that we could split into two vehicles and everyone could have room to stand up and better views. Nrupa and I went with Pilot, a Masai man who runs a transport company. He was great. He grew up in the Mara so he knew his way around really well. He even claimed to know the name of the leopard we say, but he could have been making that up.

The evening game drive was so much fun. We went out around 4 and drove around for a little over two hours. At first we just saw a bunch of zebra, wildebeest, and antelope (mostly gazelles and impalas), but then we saw some giraffe, an ostrich, hippos, and even a leopard. I felt bad for the leopard. There were about 8 cars all huddled around this one area where she was sitting. It was very difficult to see her through the bushes where she was lying down, and I only got a very distorted glimpse of her face, but it was still amazing. There was a tree in the patch where she was laying and up in the high branches we could see the remnants of the antelope she had killed. Unfortunately she was too shy to eat in front of us. The hippos were really need too. They're HUGE! And they smell terrible! They were all in this one part of the river and it smelled so bad! We kept joking that all of the water had been replaced by hippo excrement. This was the one place where we could get out of the car though, because the hippos were a good distance below us so they posed to threat.

The landscape was beautiful. I could get over how endless it looked. We also were able to see the sun set. The way the sun shone through the clouds as it went down was breathtaking. Also, in the distance we could see a heavy storm. At first I didn't know what it was--I thought it was just more sun rays coming through, but someone told me that it was rain.

That night we had another spectacular meal and watched some football before passing out in our amazingly comfortable and fresh-smelling beds.

Saturday morning we woke up early for a full-day game drive. We loaded our boxed lunches into the cars and set off. Again we saw a bunch of wildebeest and zebras early on, but eventually saw three elephants, a few crocodiles, including one that was feeding, a buffalo, and four lions. At one point, while we were looking for elephants, our driver, Lucas, set off at full speed, chasing after other cars. We bounced over rocky paths in hot pursuit of something, though we weren't sure what. It turns out that the wildebeests and zebras were lining up at the river as part of the annual migration. The few at the front kept walking forward a bit as if they were going to cross, then getting scared and turning around. We waited about 45 minutes, but nothing was happening so we decided to move on. I'm glad we did because we were able to see a crocodile feeding on an antelope. I have a pretty good video and some much better pictures. We heard from others that, after a few hours (the people we talked to had time to take a lunch break), the wildebeests and zebras finally traversed the river. Apparently two baby zebra were taken by crocs. I'm sad we didn't get to see it, but we saw something much better--MATING LIONS!!! Granted, it only lasted for about 10 seconds, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

When we saw our first two lions, Pilot informed us that it was definitely mating season because the male and female we had come upon had separated themselves from the group. They were sitting about 10-15 feet apart from each other panting like crazy. We figured they had just done the deed. As we started to drive away, the male lion got up and started walking toward the other car in our group. It was hilarious from my perspective since I wasn't in that car (and since nothing actually happened). They all ducked down back into the van with looks of fear on their faces. He ended up just laying about 5 feet from the van. Good view for picture taking! Both of them were so big and muscular. Even from our distance and their prostrate positions you could see how powerful they were. What was most baffling was that a large group of topee (antelope) were grazing about 30-40 feet from the two lions. I wonder how they decided that they weren't a threat? We drove off in a random direction and ended up running in to two more lions that had separated from the group. Apparently they all do that for about 7 days before rejoining. These two were lying very close to one another, also panting heavily (though it was also super hot...). After a few minutes, the male got up, approached the female, stepped over her, and entered. It literally lasted about 5-10 seconds (I have a video). The whole time both lions were growling/purring and the male was nibbling the female's ear. When he was finished she rolled over in ecstasy, laid there for a few minutes, and then got up an walked away. The rest of the afternoon was full of inappropriate jokes involving lion copulation.

That night we all passed out really early, thoroughly pleased with our safari experience and ready to meet the Masai people the next morning.

On Sunday, we reluctantly packed our bags to leave paradise. It's ironic that you work so hard to get into heaven just to leave 2 days later... But, we were off to meet the Masai. I was super excited to see some of their customs and way of life because I don't understand how people can live in the middle of nowhere like that. Of course, when we get there it was a bit disappointing. First of all, we had to pay KSh1000 (about $12.50) before they would let us into the village. One of the girls in our group opted out. I knew that meant the whole process was going to be a bit commercialized, but oh well. Everyone has to make a living somehow. I paid my money and lined up to watch the Masai warriors dance for us. I joined in a bit, but was a too busy taking pictures. One of the dances is a jumping competition. Apparently the higher you jump, the more girlfriends you have. Any boy could these kids jump! It seemed like they had springs on their feet. One kid (my favorite) jumped at least 3 feet high. Get them to the NBA!

After the dancing, we entered the village. The women did a little dance for us, we saw how the Masai make fire using two pieces of wood, and then we went into one of their houses. We learned that the Masai diet consists mostly of beef, milk, and blood (yes, blood). They slit the jugulars of the cows, drain the blood, and mix it with milk. Thankfully we didn't witness this. It was neat to see their customs, but it was also very uncomfortable because they just kept trying to sell us stuff. The tried to sell us the wood they use to make fire, and the sticks they use for dancing, then there was a curios shop where everything was super overpriced (though I still got a bracelet). It's just a bit depressing that their entire community is so commercialized.

Back to Kisumu, then Mbale

After the Masai village, we headed back to Kisumu. We spent one more night with Rachna, explored a little bit of Kisumu, and then headed back to the Uganda, which was another adventure in and of itself. We decided to take a bus rather than a matatu because we figured it would be faster since the bus doesn't make constant stops like the matatu. We booked tickets on the 4pm bus so that we would have time to look around Kisumu and have lunch with our friends, but still be able to get to the border and catch a taxi to Mbale before dark. We got to the bus station around 3:30 to find that our bus had not yet arrived. We ended up waiting until 5:15(!!!) for it to get there. Though we were over an hour late, we still had time to get to the border just before dark, so we weren't too worried. The bus pulled away and we settled in...only to have it stop around the corner for an hour while someone welded the sideview mirror back on. We finally set off a bit after six, and I was sufficiently freaked out.

As we neared the border, Nrups and I strapped on our money belts, secured our backpacks to us, and set off hand in hand for the immigration office. We quickly filled our our forms and pushed to the front of the lines to have our passports stamped. At the Ugandan border, the immigrations officer tried to tell me that my visa was expired or incorrectly filled out or something, but I was having none of it. As I argued with him, gesticulating wildly, the officer at the next booth came over and corrected him. He begrudgingly stamped me through, and off we went in search of transport back to Mbale. We tried to find a taxi, but apparently by 8:30pm all of the ones going in our direction had already departed. We were in communication with two coworkers from TASO who were helping us decide whether we should just stay the night in Busia and get a taxi in the morning or travel back to Mbale that night via special hire. Busia is kind of a shady, nothing town so we decided to go back. Peter, our go-to guy at TASO, spoke with the special hire and took his name and license plate number. We also texted him (and a few other people) the make and model of the car and the driver's phone number, just in case. I was really nervous. I mean, this guy could literally drive us anywhere. Peter kept calling every 20-30 minutes our so to check on us and our progress. We made it back to Mbale safe and sound around 10:30 that night. In the end the driver was a nice guy, but I am certainly in no rush to ever travel at night again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Jesus-free evening

aka Dinner with Ugandan Jews

Tonight, me, Nrupa, and our friend Dave (also Jewish) went to have dinner with the Abayudaya, a community of Ugandan Jews 8km outside of Mbale town. It was amazing! As soon as we stepped out of the car part of me felt like I was 13 and back at camp (not always a good thing, but it was tonight). We were going to drive there ourselves, but thankfully Dave's truck was still at the shop so we had to get a special hire. We most definitely would have gotten lost.

As we pulled into the gate, we saw standard Ugandan buildings painted with menorahs and Hebrew phrases. There were men wearing yarmulkes with Stars of David and menorahs stitched into them.

We first went to the guest house, where we were greeted by a roomful of kids volunteering with the American Jewish World Service. They were asking Isaac, the man who runs the guest and I think is sort of like a PR guy for the community, about the origins and history of the Abayudaya. Unfortunately we were a bit late and missed all but the last two questions. Then we never actually had a chance to ask more. I have Isaac's email so hopefully I can ask him some questions that way.

After the Q&A, we headed off to the synogogue for the service. It was definitely Jewish, but had a distinct African/African American feel to it. I was comparing it to the time I went to Catholic mass at a black church. I'd never been to mass before, but my friends kept insisting that this service was much more lively than at their churches, with a lot of singing and hallelujahing. This was like that too. During L'cha dodi everyone got up and started dancing around the bimah. That would never happen at home. Also, the service was in three languages. Obviously there was Hebrew, but there were also parts in English and Luganda, one of the local languages. There was a translator standing next to the Rabbi who repeated anything he said in English into Luganda (even though I'm pretty sure the Rabbi speaks both), then there were some hymns that were only in Luganda. It was a perfect blending of the cultures. I could follow definitely follow along (all of the prayers were the same as those we sing at home, though perhaps with some slight tune adjustments), but not always well enough that I felt like I was attending Shabbat at home.

I really wanted to take pictures, but that definitely would not have been kosher. There were two guitarists and one drummer as accompanists. And everyone just seemed so happy and glad to be there. And glad to have guests as well. There were probably about 15 extra people (muzungus) in attendance, but the community welcomed us so completely. It was great.

After services, we said the Kiddush and M'otze. We drank a sip of wine that tasted like grape juice and some delicious homemade Challah. I would have been content just eating the entire Challah. It was so nice to have good, homemade, non-stale bread. Dinner, however, was also excellent. I had potatoes, chapatti, pasta, and cabbage with carrots and beans. It was great being able to eat all of the cabbage I wanted rather than the meager portions that Regina gives us.

We met some interesting people too. There were a lot of MPH students/recent graduations, so we heard about the different projects they've done. One is in Uganda doing a follow-up study on malaria and bed nets. And another spent 3 months in Israel working with on diarrheal issues. I also ended up sitting next to someone who knows the only three people I kind of know in Kampala. Small world indeed.

There are a few things I found strange. Firstly, not a single person I asked had TASO had ever even heard of the Abayudaya community in Mbale. One guy told me he knew of one near Tororo, which is about an hour from here. I don't understand how they're so hidden from the surrounding community. I mean, they just opened a clinic near the center of town, and apparently even the nurses who work there don't really understand what Judaism is. One of the girls I was sitting next to is staying with the Abayudaya, working at the new clinic. She told me it took about 10 minutes for the nurses to understand that Judaism is the religion where you don't eat pork, and that was about the extent of their knowledge. I know that Christianity is the most pervasive religion, but I still can't believe that everyone is so wrapped up in Jesus they don't even realize that a whole community of Jews lives just outside of town. Though maybe that's better. Some coworkers told us today that, as Christians, they are commanded to preach the word at every opportunity. I don't want a bunch of proselytizing people ruining this community. Maybe they intentionally keep their existence and location quiet from the surrounding areas on purpose--they must be even more sick of all the Jesus talk than Nrupa and I are! Secondly, all of the muzungus sat in the front seats during the service and gathered mostly closely around the table during the pre-meal prayers. At first this bothered me because I felt like we were all invading someone else's territory and pushing them to the background. But then, after discussing this with Dave and Nrupa, I realized it was just their way of welcoming us.

All in all, it was a really special experience, though I'm having trouble verbalizing why. It was just so unique. African Jew seems like an odd pairing of words. Nrupa, Dave and I were joking on the drive there asking each other if anyone we passed looked Jewish. I wonder what would have happened if Israel was in Uganda instead of the Middle East as originally planned...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hospital Tour

Wednesday afternoon we went on a tour of Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, which is located just across the street from TASO. One of the UBC kids met a nurse who works in the pediatric ward on the bus a few weeks ago so she showed us around. I knew that it was going to be an emotionally tough experience, but it was harder than I could have ever imagined. We walked through all of the wards and patients lying in rickety beds or on the floor with IVs in their arms. Many of the babies had ports in their heads so that they could be easily hooked to fluids, etc. if necessary.

There were about 30 beds in the pediatric ward. Sister Esther, the nurse, said that sometimes they have up to four patients in each bed and more on the floor. This is standard throughout the hospital. In addition, patients have to bring their own sheets and have a relative to serve as their attendant.

Malaria is the most common cause of hospitalization. It is the number one cause of death among children and the number one cause of miscarriages among pregnant women. The hospital has separate wards for women who's children survived and those who did not. In the latter ward, a woman was screaming and being comforted by her relative attendant. She kept thrashing and moaning. In the other ward, we saw two newly born babies. One was swaddled in blankets and laying at the end of the bed while its mother rested and its father looked on. I thought it was fantastic that the father was there. He was the only man in the entire area. As we peered into the ob-gyn operating theater from the door, we met a 15 year old girl who was in line for a C-section. One of my friends commented to me that she definitely wasn't in that position by choice, but I wondered if that was true or not. I certainly hope that she didn't intentionally become pregnant, but I don't think I would be shocked if she told me that she did. I think in some areas here girls still do have children quite young, well before they're mature enough to care for them.

In the surgical ward, men and women of all ages laid in bed with casts on their legs and pins in their knees holding their legs straight. In the surgical ward, the charge nurse gave us a tour of the facility. It was newly renovated and by far one of the nicest buildings in the entire complex. The old ward was a single room building with no windows that was very run down from the outside. The new one is made of brink and absolutely pristine. Aside from the building, however, some basics of care are lacking. The dirth of beds throughout the hospital is even more evident in the psych ward. There are a few mattresses scattered on the floor in the different areas, but there are not bed frames. Some patients even sleep on cardboard laid out on the ground.

Throughout the entire hospital, few patients have their own room. Those that do pay for them, whereas others receive services free of charge. Wards are separated into male and female sides to allow for some sense of privacy.

The most painful part of the tour occurred at the very beginning. When we moved into the second wing of the pediatric ward, we were confronted by a dead child, perhaps 3 or 4 years old. At first, we weren't sure whether or not he had actually died. His head was limp and his eyes were kind of rolled back, but because of the way the doctors were moving him it was hard to tell. Then they began taking his IVs out and closed his eyes. Even then Nrupa wasn't convinced; not until they put a sheet over him were we all 100% sure. Apparently his blood was too low (I'm not entirely sure what that means) and his family brought him to the hospital too late for the doctors to treat him. Worst of all, his mother and father hadn't come to the hospital that day; an aunt had brought him. She wrapped him in the sheet and carried him to a private room as I fought to hold back my tears.

It was so amazing to see the hospital. Despite the inefficiencies of the American medical system, we are quite lucky to have all that we do. Patients in the west complain of sharing a semi-private room with one other person whereas here rooms are shared with 30 other people and there isn't so much as a sheet to separate beds. In a sense, though, I kind of like this system. I think it better serves to unite those who are suffering.

Another experience that was painful and thought provoking in a different way (not appropriate for children): Nrupa and I were walking home today when we passed a man (who probably should have been admitted to the MRRH psych ward) sitting on the ground. He had no pants on and, even though we should have known better, both of us looked down to see him playing with himself. It was so gross, but no one else seemed to mind very much. Are we prudish westerners to think that it's inappropriate to have ones genitals out in the middle of town like that? I mean, we did see half naked women in the hospital and sitting along the Nile and it was entirely fine.

A few minutes later we passed the same man walking on the sidewalk (still with no pants but his shirt was long enough to cover him). I think he was trying to ask for money so he reached out and tried to touch us. We both veered out of the way and kept on going. Again I couldn't help but wonder about the differences between home and here. That man would have been arrested in a heartbeat if he was walking around DC with no pants on, but here a security guard walked by him right in front of us and didn't even flinch. How do these discrepancies in pubic decency develop and where does one draw the line? Are we naive and prudish for being disgusted by this man's actions or are we cold-hearted and unsympathetic?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Off to Kenya

We're leaving for Kenya for a 3 day safari tomorrow afternoon. We're going on four game drives--one Friday, two Saturday, and one Sunday. Plus, we get to see the Wildebeest Migration. At this time every year thousands of wildebeest migrate from the southern Serengeti of Tanzania to Masai Mara, which is on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. Our safari is on the Kenyan side of Masai Mara, so we should be able to see some wildebeest, in addition to the big five--elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, and rhinos. Fingers crossed that we see them all! And some babies...

Rafting Pictures

Here are a few of the best pictures from rafting. There are many more posted on facebook. I also brought a waterproof disposable camera, so I'll have some more of the floating-on-the-water variety when I get home.

Sights along the Nile

It was really interesting to witness life along the Nile. There were mud huts speckled along the hills through which the river winds. There was even one on this very remote island in the middle of the river. All along the bank we saw men and women washing clothes and shoes, often sitting there naked. Small mesh tents were hanging from the trees to catch Tsetse flies. I obviously couldn't see what was beyond the hills, but it still seems incredible to me that people live in such seemingly remote places. I thought I grew up in the middle of nowhere because I had to drive 15 minutes to get to the grocery store, but that was nothing. At least I didn't have to walk for 2 days over a mountain to get there.

As for the Nile itself, it was amazing. We were able to swim at some parts; the water was so warm! At others, we weren't allowed to get out because there were crocodiles in the water. We didn't actually see any while we were rafting, but we saw them when we were driving over the river on the way back to Jinja town. There were also some huge birds standing on rocks with their wings spread to dry them in the sun.

Conquering the Nile

So, this weekend was awesome! We made it to Jinja in record time on the bus on Friday. The Elgon Flyer redeemed it's title as the most luxurious coach in Uganda. Once we got to Jinja, we headed straight for the Source Cafe. It was kind of a let-down. First of all, it turns out that it's connected to some faith based organization or something. The missionary guy who runs the place is a bit strange, talking incessantly and whatnot. And the menu was extremely limitedt--here wasn't a single vegetarian item on it. I can't believe they didn't have Virgin Mary French Toast. I settled for a chocolate milkshake, which was delicious but not entirely satisfying. Also, the craft shop attached to the place is way over priced. They're more worried about making money for Jesus than selling goods at fair prices.

We then moved on to some of the same craft places we had visited before As I am my mother's daughter, I bought a few more things--but I definitely got some good deals. Then we headed to 2 Friends for dinner. 2 Friends is apparently one of the nicer hotels in Jinja--it was out of our price range so I can't comment on the rooms, but the restaurant was pretty good.

After dinner we headed off to Adrift Lodge. Included in the price of the rafting trip is one free night at lodge. I kind of felt like I was back at camp/sleeping in a tree house. There were four bunks, each consisting of four beds, made out of huge tree trunks. The beds had about three feet of space between them, so it made for a slightly cramped and claustrophobic sleep. Some beds had tiny little bed nets, while others went without. My bed had a net, but it also had a hole the size of my fist so I'm not sure how effective it was. Also, the sheets were super musty and of questionable cleanliness. Needless to say, my allergies did not fare well. I woke up wheezing and unable to breathe. Nothing like the fresh air of the Nile to clear that up though!

We got up bright and early in the morning--mostly no one slept that well--had some breakfast, loaded on the sunscreen (that was mostly me), and headed off to our boats. Between the 12 of us, we split into two boats--a wild boat and a mild boat (though the mild boat actually had the wildest ride). I was in the wild boat with 7 UBC students and our guide, who was also Canadian. We went over class 3, 4, and 5 rapids. It was SO much fun! We had a delicious lunch of sandwiches and fruit. It was so nice to eat whole vegetables rather than ones that had been chopped up and made into a sauce. We applied more sunscreen, and set off for the second half of the day. We went over a 16 foot waterfall, though it didn't really seem that high. I was a bit scared at that point, but it al turned out well.

The mild boat had a much different experience. There was a large rock at the top of the waterfall that several boats got stock on. Naturally, one of these was the mild boat. I heard this story after the fact, of course, but apparently their guide, a local guy who had grown up on the river, was yelling at the boat, and Nrupa in particular, that they didn't paddle correctly, which caused them to get stuck. After several minutes of bouncing and attempting to get the boat unstuck, the guide (Tutu, though now renamed Totem Pole) jumped out of the boat and supermanned it over the waterfall. The boat slid of the rock and over the waterfall. For about an hour after this event, our boat didn't know what had happened. All we saw were pissed off faces and silence between the guide and everyone in the boat. After a powwow a bit later, the mild boat switched guides and had an enjoyable remainder of the ride.

Saturday night we headed back to Jinja town and attempted to find a hotel. We had emailed the hotel we stayed at two weeks ago earlier asking for the same rooms, but apparently there was some confusion. The manager on duty told us that we were actually charged incorrectly last time. Now, our two rooms with two full size beds for four people would cost 50,000/= more shillings. Apparently they decided that a double bed is really only made for one person and that the two extra people staying in the room would each cost an additional 25,000/=. After much arguing, we went to a different hotel, which turned out to be much better. It was slightly cheaper, had much nicer bathrooms and really good food. After showering and taking a quick dinner, we all promptly passed out.

The next morning, we took some breakfast and went back into town to finish our shopping. I managed to get all of my gifts and then some, plus a really good milkshake! We caught a taxi back home. Ramtin sat with a live chicken. I had someone ask me if I wanted to make babies with him. All in all a pretty standard taxi ride back to Mbale.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Source of the Nile

We're off to Jinja this weekend to go white water rafting on the Nile! I'm so excited! I shall return Sunday with an amazing post about our adventures.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I never thought I would be cheering that! To all you lame-os who don't know, the US somehow managed to take first place in their group in the World Cup and will be moving on to the next round. My best guess is they won't get much beyond that, but it's farther than anyone expected them to get so that's good!

As for more relevant issues, everything is pretty much the same at work, though today was a really good day. We walked in the door planning on spending the day in the library working on our project, and ended up sitting in on a bunch of counseling sessions. Today was a special day--the third Wednesday of every month is PMTCT day, so all the women come with their babies and/or pregnancies and get counseled on how to avoid passing HIV on to their child, what family planning is, etc. Very interesting. Nrupa and I were really focused on the involvement of men in this day. I sat in on a group counseling session with 3 couples, 2 men who came as representatives of their wives, and 1 woman whom I think just sat down in a random chair and ended up in the session. One of the couples was an older man with only two teeth left in his whole mouth and a woman who looked to be about 20-30 years his junior. She was holding their child who was definitely less than 1 year old. Madoyi, the counselor, made sure I noticed the gender gap. Nevertheless, this man was the first to speak up when I asked (via Madoyi) why the men decided to come and if they thought that the information they were receiving was important.

After work, we played volleyball. It started as 4 muzungus. Well, 3 muzungus and our friend Alan who might as well be muzungu, and then turned into a full game of 5 on 5. It was so much fun, even though I suck at volleyball and all the Ugandans who joined us were really good (naturally). The ball, however, was extremely heavy and inflated too full, so now my forearms are covered in bruises. Oh well, it was worth it.

The evening ended with a transparent lizard crawling on my as I was finishing brushing my teeth, so now I'm trying to avoid going back to my room even though I'm really tired.

Also, the Safari is officially planned!!! Kenya here I come!

Climbing Guava Trees

I didn't dare do this, but Edrin (or Edwin...we're not quite sure), Tom's 6 year old son did. On Saturday, Tom sent his kids to our house so that we could meet them. We ended up meeting them (aka babysitting) for the next 4 hours. One of the fellows last semester got a package from her friend, but thankfully it didn't arrive until after she had left because it contained lots of amazing things for kids to play with. We got a soccer ball, frisbee, cards, coloring books and crayons. This package was our lifesaver Saturday afternoon. Tom's 4 kids (and neighbor's kid, who came along for the fun), played soccer, colored, and climbed our guava tree and picked fruit which he threw over the fence to the kids waiting on the other side. Since I'm not the biggest lover of kids, this afternoon was a test for me. Let's just say that my maternal instinct is not quite as mature as Nrupa's, a fact that was clearly demonstrated when I likened Tom's youngest child, 9 month old Matthew, to my 125 pound black lab--they both like to chase tennis balls and they both drool more than any other creature I know. No matter how many times we wiped Matthew's mouth, there was always saliva dripping out of it, some of which unfortunately ended up in my hair. I should also mention that this is one of the largest babies I have ever seen. My arm was literally sore from carrying him around. I'm not sure how his 6 year old sister does it.
I know you're not supposed to pick favorites with kids, but they're not mine so it's okay, right. My favorite of Tom's kids is definitely his oldest, Isaac (9). He was the leader of the pack and definitely dressed for the part. He came to play in a nice pair of gray slacks and a fancy Africa themed shirt. He was so interested in my computer that I let him gchat with Aditya a little bit. Aditya promptly asked me to bring Isaac home. If only...

Other than our play date, things have been pretty boring. We're still making some progress on our project, slowly but surely. I also found a potential project for my CE (final project for school). Now I just have to write a proposal and hope it gets approved...

Really what I'm most looking forward to is the traveling we have planned. We're going to Jinja again this weekend to go white water rafting on the Nile!!! (And we're going to eat at the Source, Mom. You can tell your friend). The following weekend we're going to Kenya to go on a Safari, then the weekend after that we're going to stay a night or two with our friends who live in the mountains. We'll finally get to see a really, middle of nowhere village! Other weekend plans include: Shabbat dinner with the Abuadaya (Ugandan Jews), trip to Soroti, a neighboring district, to meet one of our coworker's children, and I pushing for a trip to Rwanda the week before we come home (hopefully passing through Tanzania for a moment on the return trip to Entebbe where we catch our flight home). Nrupa is hesitant about Rwanda because of the cost, but I'm trying to convince her that we should go because we've already spent an obscene amount of money to get here. We might as well make the most of it...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sights and Sounds of Mbale

So, nothing exciting has happened since my last post. Nrupa and I spend Thursday and Friday researching for our project and developing our questionnaire and background documents. Thus, instead of writing about our relatively mundane daily activities, I decided my time would be better spent giving a more thorough description of our house and life in Mbale than I have as of yet.

Home Sweet Home: We have a four bedroom, three bathroom house that is way too big for just the two of us. Nrupa and I each have a room, one room is the guestroom, but since we never have guests it has been converted into a yoga studio/wardrobe. It's the only room in the house with a quality full body mirror (the other is in my closet and just not very accessible). The fourth room doesn't even have a bed because GW only sends 2-3 fellows each semester, so it is used as a laundry/drying room. Normally our clothes line-dry outside, but on days when it rains before the clothes have dried or when something (like towels) take a super long time to dry, we hang them in that room so that they don't get rained on. Both Nrupa and I have bathrooms with showers in our rooms, though we only use the toilets. My toilet is a bit sketchy because the seat and lid aren't attached, but it has a good flush and drains quickly, so I deal with the seat issues. The third toilet and shower are in the hallway that leads back to three of the bedrooms (mine, our wardrobe, and the laundry room; Nrupa's room is directly to right upon entering the front door). The toilet and shower are in separate rooms, which is actually kind of nice. This shower is hooked up to a water heater, unlike the other two, so it's the one that we use. The pressure is a bit lacked (it's usually just a single dripping stream), but at least it's warm and not from a bucket. I think that lack of pressure is worse for Nrupa since she has about 10 times more hair than I do.

We spend most of our time at home in the living room. It's a huge room with a large dining table, a couch, two easy chairs, and our refrigerator. Not really sure why the fridge is in the living room instead of the kitchen, since there's definitely room in the kitchen, but whatever. We don't really worry about it. Our furniture is surprisingly comfortable. The seats are foam padding and very nice for lounging at night and reading. We also have a little library set up in one corner of the room. It was started by the fellows last semester and so far I have added two books to the collection. I brought 13 with me and, assuming I finish them all, will most likely contribute them all when we leave. No sense in carrying that extra weight home.

The kitchen is my least favorite room in the house. It actually kind of grosses me out. The light doesn't work, so if we're doing dishes or cooking after dark, I have to wear my head lamp. There's a large pantry to the left where we keep our dry goods and another galley room with shelves where we keep our pots, pans, dishes, broom, coal, etc. The main room of the kitchen has one tall, square table used as a counter. The sink takes up the main wall in the kitchen. On one end is our dish drying rack and on the other is our hot plate. On the floor in the corner is our coal stove that neither Nrupa nor I know how to use. We leave that one to Regina and stick with the hot plate when we need to boil water or cook (which we also mainly leave to Regina). It's a good thing our power doesn't go out too often.

The best part of the house is the huge yard! In most cities in the US, three or four houses would probably be built on the property that we have. We don't use our yard very often, but it's nice to know that we can. The other day we actually did some exercises out there with our UBC friends. The property is completely surrounded by a locked gate, so we have a lot of privacy (all the windows and doors also have bars for safety purposes). We also have avocado, matoke (plantain), and guava trees in our yard. Tom, our night guard, cut down a bunch of avocados and guavas for us the other day. We're not the biggest fans of matoke (the fruit is cooked and then mashed; it's not bad, just pretty flavorless), so we don't worry about that too much, though I would like to try cutting some down and frying them...

We also have a little garage that Tom spends the nights in. He was staying in this little shack right inside our gate, but that depressed us so we were able to move him into the garage once he got the key from a friend of his who had been renting it from the landlord for his car, but is no longer doing so.

Mbale: I really like Mbale. It's a small town by US standards, but pretty large by Ugandan standards. It's actually the 6th or 7th largest town in Uganda by population. We live in what is called Senior Quarters, which is the more residential part of Mbale. We're probably about a mile, mile and a half from the town center. The town has one main street, Republic Street, and then a couple big streets that run off of it. In the center of town, there is a huge clock tower painted bright pink. It serves as advertising for Zain, one of the main telecom companies in Uganda. I love the stores here, though often I'm too nervous to go in them. They're so different than stores in the West. First of all, they're all painted bright yellow or pink or blue depending on which telecom company owns the building or has advertising rights (yellow is MTN, pink is Zain, blue is Uganda Telecom). When you walk in, the majority of the items are in cases or behind counters. There's not really a concept of browsing, probably due to theft prevention. If you want to see anything closely, you have to ask the clerk for it. This means that you really have to go in the store knowing what you want. Secondly, they're all tiny. About 3 customers can comfortable fit in the stores, though, this being Africa, about 10 usually pile in. Also, in some stores, especially the electronic stores, the space isn't actually large enough for the merchandise so it ends up spilling on to the sidewalk. Sidewalks themselves also serve as selling areas. Women sit along the sidewalk in brightly color dresses with pineapple, bananas, and maize laid out on another cloth in front of them. Men use the same method for selling newspapers and shoes. Others sell clothes, underwear, dishes, grasshoppers (which a quite the delicacy. I had the opportunity to try them, but I declined). On one corner near our two favorite super markets, men set up tables selling jackfruit. They slice the huge, spiky fruit open on the tables making the corner smell sweet like the fruit.

This is also a devoutly religious country. Most of the signs and mottos for schools announce their intention of educating "God-fearing" citizens. In the mornings, a man stands by the clock tower preaching from his Bible. On Sundays, few stores are open and less people crowd the streets because they all go to Church. Though, I actually haven't seen a Church yet. I probably just haven't ventured far enough off the main street yet, as there must be quite a few. Also, I rarely go too far beyond the clock tower in the opposite direction of our house. Our UBC friends live over there, but we live in a safer area so if we're hanging out a night, we often do it at our house (it also doesn't hurt that we have our own house versus living with a family). I have yet to explore that side of town thoroughly, but I think more people live over there because it is less expensive, so I imagine that more Churches are located there. There's a Hindu temple (thus why the area is called Indian Quarters), so there must be some Churches, right...

The guidebooks I read before I came told me that Mbale was a quiet, sleepy town, but I can attest that it is not. The nightlife isn't too diverse, but there is certainly a lot going on. Last night we tried to go to a concert at a hotel down the street. The flyer said it started at 7, so we showed up at 8, and of course nothing was really set up or happening yet. I finally heard some music from there when I was walking home from watching the World Cup at 11:30. I'm not sure what it is about the music or the way Mbale is built, but we can clearly hear loud music from who knows where on the weekend nights. It often sounds as though someone is blasting a stereo in our front yard. The first couple nights here, Nrupa didn't sleep very well because of the loud music. Thankfully I rarely ever have a problem sleeping no matter what the surroundings are. As I'm writing this, in fact, our across-the-street neighbors are celebrating a wedding and their music must be turn up to maximum volume. Not sure what song is playing now, but earlier today they were blaring the song from Titanic by Celine Deon. And one day a few weeks ago we heard Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" no less than three times.

Okay, that's about as good a description as I can give now. The rest will have to be told via pictures. Now I'm off to watch some football matches!!! (real football, not that American football nonsense. They barely even use their feet--why in the world is it called football???)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This week

Monday, June 14, 2010
This morning we did nothing, but this afternoon we had an amazing two hour meeting with Martin, one of the data guys at TASO. He pretty much designed our project for us and told us step by step what we need to do.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
We went into Tuesday with some purpose. We spent the day researching articles that we can use as background information for our project. As much as I hate doing research and usually can't focus (compared to Nrupa who is a research machine), it was so nice to actually have something semi-meaningful to do. I finished off the day by watching three football matches. And two of the three were exciting ones to boot!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Today we went to work with the intention of completing more research, but ended up going to Bukedea district for an outreach. This was a specific one called CDDP--Community Drug Distribution Point. It was the same as the first outreach we went on, where we took client's weights and refilled their ARVs. It was actually kind of boring just because we are limited in our ability to help both because of language barriers and lack of qualifications (ie: we're not nurses, doctors, counselors, etc). Though it was fun because we were joking around with the nurse, Ogolgol (aka George Allen, but he prefers his local name). It's amazing the racey comments that our TASO co-workers say. At one point, in reference to paperwork he was completing for a client, he joked: "This woman isn't sexually active, unlike Nrupa." Also, he kept asking probing questions about our relationships, often about why we're not yet married and don't have kids. This is a very insensitive comment, but while Ogolgol was asking me questions about dowries and marriage rights in the US, I couldn't help but think how limited his knowledge of Western culture was given his regular contact with students from GW and UBC. Not that that's a bad thing. It doesn't really matter either way and in reality I wouldn't expect him to have a strong understanding of the West given that he's never been there. I've been in Uganda for a month and am still learning new things about the culture every day. On Monday Martin asked us to name a some Ugandan tribes. We started listing things we thought were tribes as he laughed at us. We're still think our answers were correct, but are now self-conscious about that and trying to learn a new tribe every day. We're also still working on our languages, even though a different one is spoken in every village we visit. I can barely remember what the languages are called, so I have no idea how I'm going to remember any of the words...

Weekend in Jinja

Last weekend we went to Jinja, the second largest town in Uganda. We're going back in two weeks to go whitewater rafting on the Nile, but last weekend we just went for a change of scenery. It was certainly an adventure. We decided to take a matatu (van taxi that seats 14) for the two hour drive because it was the cheapest option. It turns out to have been a big mistake. We caught the taxi at the taxi park, and then sat in it for almost two hours as we waited for another eight passengers to fill it up. When we finally got going, after putting more air in the tires and gas in the tank, we still stopped every 500 feet or so to let people off and/or recruit new passengers. Nonetheless, I noticed some interesting things along the route:

- At the taxi park, a crazy man amused us with his karate skills, which were actually quite limited but still amusing.
- The taxi park also serves as a mobile mall. People walk around with their arms full of items such as newspapers, baby dresses, underwear, wallets, socks, etc. Really anything you would never want to buy in this manner (yes, I meant never).
- Every 100-200 feet for long stretches there were piles of cassava laid out to dry along the highway.
- We passed women in rice patties and bean fields completing there work with babies and young children strapped to their backs. No baby sitters here...
- At one point, a man started sprinting behind our van to catch it while the drive slammed on the brakes and veered off the road to wait for him. Then he didn't even get in because he didn't want to go to Jinja

When we finally reached Jinja five hours after getting in the taxi, we settled in for a low key weekend. We had a relative good lunch at the hotel, minus the bill issues at the end. Two people ordered ice cream for dessert. Technically, ice cream alone wasn't on the menu. It was ice cream and cake for 4,500=, but they were out of cake so the waitress said we could have ice cream for 3,000/=. Then when the bill came, she still charged us 4,500/= for the ice cream and, after much arguing and pretending like she didn't know what we were talking about, she told us that she didn't have the authority to set a price for the item. We decided to calm down from this experience by hanging out at the pool (and of course watching some of the World Cup). We then had another 5 hours long dinner. Just another example of the slow pace of life in Uganda. We sat down to dinner around 8 or a little after, and didn't leave until nearly 11:30. Aside from the long wait time for the food to arrive, nothing ever comes out at the same time. By the time one person's meal comes, someone else has finished eating. We've done away with the niceties of waiting for everyone's food to arrive because then only one person's food will be hot(ish). We were going to go out dancing after, but everyone was exhausted after our ordeal of meal. Better for me because I got to watch the end of the US-England match!

Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel around 10am and went to explore Jinja town. Of course, it was Sunday so most things weren't open. We finally found a place called Flavours (also known as Muzungu town) to eat a really good breakfast. By the time we finished, some craft shops had opened so we all did a lot of shopping (though I think I did the most...good thing nothing is very expensive). I got some awesome gifts and souvenirs, though I do still have a few more things to get when we go back for rafting. Jinja is the place to get souvenirs because they're are so many shops and it's cheaper than anywhere else. In Mbale, we only have one crafts store.

We hesitantly caught another taxi back to Mbale. We really wanted to catch a bus because we didn't want to repeat our experience on the way to Jinja, but we weren't sure when any were coming. We got some assistance from some locals to make sure we got in the right taxi. They told us to climb into a van that looked completely full to me. When will I ever learn that there's no such thing as a full vehicle in Uganda. By the time we were all in, there were 20 people plus driver in a 14 seater van. Thankfully, this driver was much better than our first one. We made it home in 2 hours, bought some delicious jackfruit from town, and had a nice evening at home/watching the World Cup. (This was also the day of the awkward situation with Tom which has since been resolved. And by resolved I mean never discussed but last time we were at Mbale Resort he paid for his drink before I even paid for mine, so I guess what I did worked).

Last weeks highlights

Wednesday, June 9, 2010--On Wednesday we went on outreach in Ikiiki. Nrupa and I were trying to get some baseline information for our project, though I'm still not sure how well that worked out for us. At the beginning of each outreach, one TASO staff member gives a health talk. The main topic varies, but the point is to relay important information and take general questions from the group. TASO Mbale is testing some new techniques to draw more men in to their services, so this particular health talk covered topics such as why the men came, why others didn't, and why couples didn't come together. It was interesting, but we had to have someone translate for us, so it was difficult to follow and we're not sure about the quality of information we were receiving. Furthermore, there were a few questions we tried to ask, but we're not sure if the translator really understood what we wanted to know or asked the questions properly. It would be so much easier if we knew the language(s).

After the health talk, the clients broke into small groups for group counseling session, and from there received individual counseling sessions. I sat with one counselor, Emma, during the group session. I was hoping that he would translate for me as he went, but he didn't. Instead he told me that he was going to do a lump translation and debrief after the entire outreach had finished. Needless to say, that never actually happened. His method also made it impossible for me to ask questions as he went because I had no idea what was being said or if my questions were even applicable to a specific client.

Finally, realizing that sitting with Emma was of no help, we tracked down Nova. We've started working on another project with Nova, so we thought he might be more helpful. He's also much better at comprehending our questions than some of the other counselors. It turned out to have been a fantastic decision on our part. Nova translated the conversations with the clients as he went along and allowed us to ask questions of the clients. None of the information we gathered was really helpful for our project, but it was very interesting to learn about the predicaments that people are in and how they cope with their situations.

On another note, as I'm sure can be deduced from what I just wrote, the level of confidentiality (or, more accurately, the lack thereof), is appalling. Client files are sorted on the grass with only one person "watching" over them. Individual counseling sessions are conducted about 2 feet away from where the group sits waiting for their turns. Obviously, the atmosphere is going to be different than at the center just because of the available/unavailable facilities, but it seems to me that the individual counseling sessions at least could be conducted in a more private manner. At the Center it's a bit better, but not much. Client's files still sit in cabinets in the main waiting area where anyone could read them. At any location, they let lowly graduate students sit in on the meetings.

Thursday, June 10, 2010--Nothing to exciting happened today. We did a bit more measuring of kids for malnutrition. Learned a few more words in Luganda and Lugisu so that we could ask people what village they're from and how old that are, but that's all.

Friday, June 11, 2010--Friday kind of sucked. On Thursday, the counseling coordinator, Robert, had specifically told me and Nrupa that he was going to take us on outreach to Bukedea on Friday so that we could collect some information for our project, but then when we found him on Friday he told us that the trucks were full so we couldn't go. We ended up doing absolutely nothing all day. In the morning, we sat in an office reading and talking to our UBC friends, who also had nothing to do. After lunch, we just went home. Friday really made us both feel very antsy and useless. It was the end of our 3rd week at TASO and we hadn't done anything useful yet. I didn't come to Uganda to sit in an office and read a book. I could very easily do that at home. Even after almost a month in country, I'm still getting used to the very slow pace of work and life in general. It's so different from the "must always be busy" attitude of the west.

Friday night, however, was wonderful. It was the opening of the World Cup. South Africa versus Mexico. We watched the game at one of the two cinemas in town. We got there at 4pm, one hour before kickoff, and the place was already 3/4 full. I don't think I can do a description of the cinema justice, but I'll try. It's just one large room with a sloped for to simulate stadium seating. The seats are straight out of 1917. I'm glad the lights, when the were working, were very dim because I do not want to know what the chair I was sitting in really looked liked. They were wooden chairs with a semblance of upholstery, though what cushioning was left was very torn and lumpy. Also, most of the chairs seemed like they were about to fall over, yet still managed to support the weight of full grown men. I think that the 5 girls in my group may have been the only women in the entire place, and we were definitely the only muzungus. I absolutely loved watching the game in this atmosphere! Since South African was opening, everyone in the hall was trilled. You could practically feel the excitement in the room. One of the World Cup sponsors, MTN, has this big add campaign about uniting Africa during the games. Five African teams are in the Cup, but they're trying promote African football by portraying them as one team for the continent. Anyway, it was a pretty amazing experience. The only bad part was the BO. Ugandans have a very distinct body odor which, thanks to my deviated septum, I can rarely smell. In this enclosed room with no circulation, however, the concentration of the smell was overwhelming. Then, about 10 minutes into the game, they turned the fans on. This was great because it was so hot and stuffy in there, but awful because it just made the smell worse. Our friends Jessie and Dave call Ugandan BO "the JAB," because of the way it punches you in the face. It's so true! All I can say is: Beware the JAB!

Things I like about Uganda:
- How nice and approachable all the people we've met are
- The predictable weather. On days that it rains (which is most of them), it always rains between 2-4pm, usually for no more than an hour. Also, every rain is preceded by about an hour of darkening sky, so it's very obvious that the rain is coming. Also, it doesn't get too hot here, and when it is hot it usually only lasts for an hour or two before it cools down again. I actually get cold at night with only my windows open (no fan or anything). That never happens at home.
- The relaxed, go at your own pace atmosphere...usually

Things I don't like about Uganda:
- The relaxed, go at your own pace atmosphere when I'm trying to get something done or figure out my project.
- The way people assume that, because I'm muzungu, I have money.
- The JAB (Ugandan BO)