Uganda. Hmm... I doubt this post will be sufficient enough to encapsulate all the thoughts, emotions, and experiences I have had in the past three weeks, but I figured I may as well try. If I don't do it now, it will never happen.
Working for Help International has been like a dream. The development work here in Uganda is so incredibly different than the work I have previously done. Some of those differences are good, and some of those differences are obstacles. But it is all an amazing learning experience. Living in Latin America, we felt as though we really stuck out since we are white. But being in Africa, you are a mzungu wherever you go. Children love to greet you, people watch and stare at you, and of course, communities expect that you have unlimited amounts of money and will try and milk you for it all. That is by far one of my least favorite things.
I am disappointed in the way that development has been presented in some of these communities. Many community members see mzungus as a paycheck and have therefore lost their ability (or desire) to improve their own lives. They would rather wait for a rich westerner to come in and supply them with temporary fixes, and then wait for more to come later. It is really frustrating to see people who have become expectant on outside funding for them to live a full life.
But my work here is to try and eliminate a few of those stereotypes where Help International works, and to teach the people here how to become self sufficient and create life-changing sustainable development programs.
But of course, along the way there is always a time for a bit of fun. When we had to pick up the volunteers from the airport, one of them flew in a day earlier than the others, so we spent the day in Entebbe. We had a few partner visits to do while we were there, but we also thought it would be fun to visit the animal park there. It was so cool to see African animals in Africa, even if they were in a zoo. This zoo is very different than any I had seen in the US. Mainly because they weren't creating artificial terrains, but rather the animals looked like they were actually in their natural habitat. Here are a few of my favorites:
This little guy became my friend and let me pet his antlers and touch his nose. He kept pushing his antlers really hard into the fence. I wasn't sure if it was aggressive behavior, but I enjoyed playing with him for a few minutes.
This bird looked like it was from Jurassic Park. Such a creepy look on his prehistoric face. I was pretty sure he could see into my soul. :)
The zoo borders Lake Victoria, so we spent a little bit of time at the beach. This is Dillon, one of the volunteers, and Amelia, my coworker.
And of course, the best part of the zoo was the giraffes. We were so close to them. I really wanted to run and jump on their backs to try and ride them, but I was way too terrified to try.
We ended our zoo visit with a little bit of monkey fun. Ha! I am actually terrified of the primates in Uganda, but in the zoo they weren't too bad.
I was so excited to pick up Caitlin (and the other volunteers) from the airport. It had been two very long weeks apart and I was so stoked to see her. I couldn't believe that she was finally going to be in Africa completing one of her life goals. We wasted no time in getting started. One of our first visits was to IUIU (the Islamic University in Uganda). They are working with us to do public health community outreaches. A lot of their work is spent in the largest slum in Mbale, Namatala. We are hoping to work with them on some HIV/AIDS outreaches.
And of course, we had to celebrate our first week in Uganda with a good chicken beheading. Caitlin was so eager to chop off the chickens head. She was the first one up. The way our cook, Jemima, had her do it was to stand on its wings and feet, cut it's head off, and then stay standing on it until it stopped twitching. It was bloody and disgusting, and delicious.
Dillon also took a crack at it for our second chicken. It was a pretty intense way to start our Saturday night dinner.
Caitlin had to clean her toes off afterward since the chicken head squirted blood on her. Ew.
After killing some chickens, we had to learn how to make some other Ugandan treats. We spent a Tuesday morning making "daddies" for one of our partner schools. Basically they are fried dough with some coconut or lime in them. They turned out really good, but were a lot of work.
You have to knead the dough for a really long time, then whack it with a rolling pin for a long time, then roll it out, cut it, and fry it. The whole process took around 4 hours.
But the final product was worth it. We sampled a few the day of, but then brought the bulk of them to the Zion school.
At the school, the students sang and danced for us. The administration made speeches, and Amelia motivated the kids to keep learning. We also gave out prizes to the students who performed well the previous term. WE LOVED hearing the kids sing for us. They were so cute and they are so naturally talented. How many elementary kids can sing harmonies? Shoot dang, they were good.
At Zion, the previous team helped build a chicken coop as an income generating activity for the school. We were able to go and check on the process of the coop. There are so many chickens! I can't believe how quickly chickens multiply.
It is so beautiful up at Zion. It is set on the top of a hill and the views were incredible.
And then the taxi ride home was crowded and great. We made a friend with our passenger lady. Ha! She laughed when she realized that she was in our photo.
So things are going really well. We have been getting really busy with our projects as well. I went to work in some village savings and loans groups today. Caitlin is working on some community outreaches and a water filter project. We are also working on starting up a vision camp and a handful of other great things. It is AMAZING. Anyway, I know I'll have a ton more to write about really soon, but I doubt anyone is really reading all the way to the end of here anyway. :)