Sometimes living in Uganda doesn't leave much time to blog. Actually, we have been so busy, I haven't even had time to Skype my parents (which I'm sure they're not too happy about). But finally I have a few free minutes, so I figured I should update everyone about what we have been up to these past few weeks. So, here we go!
Caitlin and I have been loving African life. We have a favorite balcony that we like to sit on and sip African tea. Not too bad of a place to call your office.
We work in a community called Kyemula, which is absolutely beautiful. There are so many needs, but there is also a sort of expectancy that mzungus will bring money and give things to people. So we have been trying to dispel that misconception and educate the community so they can help themselves.
We went out to Kyemula a few weeks ago and visited a few projects, and while we were waiting for a taxi, I tried my very first sugar cane. They are ridiculously cheap, and it was worth it. We all shared and eventually gave our sugar to some kids. We couldn't eat it all since it was so sweet (it is literally just sugar). Imagine chewing on tree bark, but having sugar juice come out of it when you chew it. That is basically what it is like eating sugar cane. And kids love it here. I'm guessing kids love it in all parts of the world, but here the sugar stand was right in front of the school waiting for kids to get out for break. Ha! Good place to set up shop.
Outside of the school the kids went crazy with us and Caitlin starting blowing bubbles for them and they loved it. The kids here are so funny. They love seeing us and always wave and talk to us/follow us. Literally every single child wants to talk to you or wave at you. Sometimes you feel famous when you are riding a boda you just wave at everyone you pass.
Caitlin and a few of the other volunteers went to the Islamic University Primary School to install a tippy tap, which is basically a jerry can of water on a string that the kids can use to wash their hands after using the bathroom.
They did everything to install it, including cutting the wood and assembly. The girls that were there absolutely loved Caitlin, so they all wanted to take their pictures with her.
And the project was a success. The kids now have water to wash with, and they all learned how to use it before the volunteers left.
Caitlin has also been teaching nutrition classes to expecting mothers. Her and Whitney taught all about the food pyramid, portions, nutrients for different parts of the body, etc. The classes were AMAZING. Seriously. The women went crazy for everything they were doing.
There were more than 35 women there the first day, and the second day had 40. They were so eager to hear what they needed to do in order to have healthy children. Of course, there was a little resistance as well. They eat a lot of cooked bananas here, and they told Caitlin and Whitney that it counts as a grain in Uganda, not a fruit. Sometimes all you can do is educate, even if they don't accept it.
For the second class they had a cooking demonstration to show how to cook with diverse vegetables and also how to cook without oil. I accompanied them on this class and did the cooking, which is funny since the men here never cook.
We made them rolex, which is a chapati with egg inside, and did it with hardly any oil. They were shocked that we didn't use very much (oil is a staple in Ugandan diets), and then they were even more surprised when the food tasted good. Hopefully the cooking demonstration helped.
Then they had the women tell them what was the proper serving size for each of the foods we had. They did a breakfast example, a lunch example, and the dinner that we cooked there. Then they each got a sample of the food, and I got an entire plate since I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast.
What else has been going on... well, we ride boda bodas everywhere (motorcycles) and I decided I wanted to film my ride one day, so I took a handful of pictures, and filmed about 10 minutes of my ride. It is so pretty here, and the rides are so nice, I thought it would be fun to have a little footage of that. Unfortunately, our internet is super slow, so I'm just going to upload some pictures instead. The guy in the second picture is pushing a bike loaded with matoke (unripe bananas) that he will sell in the market so people can peel them and boil them.
Caitlin has been assisting in the implementation of a book project here that Alisa, one of the volunteers, developed. They are working with a secondary school, teaching their English classes and having them write children's stories. Then they are working with them to write and illustrate them. After they finish, they will go to a primary school and donate the books and read to the children. Many of the primary schools here don't have libraries, so this is a super cool way to get the kids excited about reading. It is also really good for the older children to practice their English, which everyone learns as a second language.
In between the English classes and nutrition outreaches, we have also been doing teacher trainings with a handful of schools in the area. The teaching here is very much focused on repetition and memorization, with very little room for creativity or problem solving. So we have been working with the teachers to help them develop more creative curriculum.
We start out with a creative activity that gets them to think (above we are doing the human knot), and then we go into teaching about behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. They have been very responsive, and when we sit down to do lesson planning with them, they grasp the concept very well. We are hoping to do one more before Caitlin leaves in a week, and we have a few scheduled after she leaves.
It is surprising how responsive some of the teachers are, and how some have blank stares the entire time. You don't have to have a college degree to teach in Uganda, and many of the teachers lack substantial training. These classes have gone so well, and some of the teachers have even called us to schedule more at their school, and at other schools where they know teachers. They have been super responsive.
We loved this group of teachers at Liahona Education Center. They were so much fun to work with. The only downside to some of these trainings is that they pull the teachers out of class to conduct the training (which are always at the hour they set) and the children have no supervision. So basically, we had 500 screaming children running around while we were doing this particular training.
We have a cook that comes and prepares dinner for us, and occasionally she will make something so delicious that some of us want to learn how to make it. The girls were all about learning how to make chapati with her, and spent an evening toiling away in the kitchen.
Jemima (our cook) doesn't really use recipes though, so it was a handful of this, a splash of that. We'll have to look up a recipe once we get home, since this one will be hard to replicate.
They turned out really well though. :)
And the day they made chapati it was Jemima's birthday, so we made her brownies and sang happy birthday to her before she went home for her actual birthday party. She is so great. She is always singing while she is cooking. We're trying to convince her and her husband to come visit us in the states. We'll see how successful we are.
And that brings us to last week. It seems like I have barely written about anything though. We have been so insanely busy with everything going on. And it has been a blast. Working here has really helped me understand so much about development and I have grown a love for Uganda.
The people here are so funny. They laugh a lot and are always smiling and friendly. When you ask someone how they are, they always say "fine" - and that means they are doing good. They are always friendly to talk too. We work in a village called Kyemula (which I mentioned above), and one of the village leaders talks to us a lot about culture. I am so fascinated by what he has to say. First off, they always feed you when you go to their home. And they will give you meat as a sign of respect. The meat here is not very good, but we eat it anyway. The main foods are matoke, which is green bananas boiled and mashed up to form a really thick type of mashed potatoes, and posho, which is corn flour mixed with boiling water to make a dish that has the consistency of old cream of wheat. Ha! You eat those numerous times a week. Actually, Africans eat them every day, but we try to limit our intake. They are very filling foods.
In Uganda, women are very much subservient in rural communities - and men still have to pay dowry to marry. But since he pays for his wife, he is her master and she basically cooks and cleans for him, or does whatever he asks for the rest of his life. But despite that, you actually see a lot of love between the couples. There are a lot of cultural taboos when it comes to HIV, and Caitlin and I are organizing some HIV outreaches that start next week. People don't like telling their spouse if they are HIV positive because it shows that they have been cheating, even if they haven't. And women cannot be the one to suggest using condoms, since that also shows that she is cheating. So HIV continues to be spread. We are doing our first outreach tomorrow, and we are coupling it with a family planning class. We had originally requested 150 condoms for the class, and the lady at the clinic said we needed a whole case (750 condoms) if we are going to teach a class. Luckily the condoms are bright pink, so everyone will love them. :)
The women here wear these really cool traditional dresses (not always) that have really high puffy sleeves. It is a very agrarian society, and most people still farm by hand. We ride motorcycles everywhere and girls, since they all wear skirts, will sit side saddle on the motorcycles. And there is no limit to what you can take on a motorcycle. Last week we bought a few plastic chairs for our house, and Caitlin sat side saddle on the back, and I rode behind the driver with a few plastic chairs on the side of our motorcycle. Ha! It is not uncommon to see 4 people on one boda, or to see someone on a boda with 2 or 3 goats.
Seriously, the culture here is fascinating. I'm going to have to be better at blogging or journaling just so I can remember everything that has happened since being here.