Thursday, August 9, 2007


Maximizing The Good Times

We are trying to pack everything in these last two weeks.

Building the orphanage is a great way to get a good arm work out in carrying around water jugs from the well to mix cement for mortar and the floor. We also have to have water for making the adobe we use for building and to make the adobe stoves. Just to keep things extra interesting we decided to have a brick passing assembly with our eyes closed. Little did we know the elders had arrived while we were experimenting. They were very entertained. Our most feminine side comes out when we are mixing abode with our bare feet, which pretty much always turns into a mud fight.

Fiona is our new friend who has cerebral palsy and has a nice wheel chair donated by the humanitarian missionaries. She lives out in a village that participates in a women's organization that we are partners with.

The kids in the brick passing line are helping to make a square foot garden at their school. They were really excited and willing to help out. Many of them are orphans and the school has little money to pay for their food, let alone a variety of food to feed them. They eat the same thing everyday so we all decided that helping them have their own little garden project that grows a variety of veggies would be good. The three higher level classes will have their own garden spot to take care of.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Adobe Stove

First day building an adobe fuel-saving stove! This was for the Busy Bee Primary School, a very small village school where our Ugandan friend Freddy's kids attend. There were so many of us volunteers, not really knowing what we were doing, that I felt kind of un-useful. But now we know how to build one and we can do smaller groups. We got very muddy and enjoyed it. I'll post a picture later.By- April Murdock

From Laura Westover

Uganda is getting better and better by the day. I am finally finding things
I am interested in and I am going to make them work out. I went to the
Special Needs School again this morning and met the most impressive man.
His name is James and he is the head of Hand-in-Hand Uganda. His organization
funds the school and he wanted to show us some more of what they work on.
He drove us to a plot of land where they are building a two story building that
is going to be dormitories, offices, and a school all for kids with disabilities. They are also building a clinic next door where people can get health care and medicine for free until they can get back on their feet. He said that they sponsor kids and then expect them to give back to the community. He himself is a beneficiary of the program. They took him off the streets, sponsored him through secondary and university, and now he is a
successful lawyer in Kampala who volunteers his time to be the chairman of this corporation. They are doing some really cool stuff. I am going to get
involved helping them do home visits to the kids who cannot come to school
because of physical limitations and teaching awareness classes to the community. Having a child with a disability in Uganda is considered a curse
from God. They are often abandoned and those who are not are neglected and
never educated. It is a huge problem. He wants me to get involved possibly
teaching their parents that they are intelligent and as human beings deserve
an education. I am looking forward to it.
Even without that cool meeting, Special Needs (from now on SNS)
was a blast. I busted out the parachute today and they *loved *it. I just
love those kids. Viola is a young teenager with a learning disability who
is so sweet. She is smart too and I love teaching her primary songs. Rose
and Edith are two adorable deaf girls who always come laughing and running
down the street to get me when they see me appear around the corner in the
mornings. Shafic is a little rascal who can speak but only does when he
feels like it. He loves repeat songs and dancing but gets sheepish if you
pay too much attention to him while he is doing it. I am still trying to
figure out Stephen because he is much older and higher functioning than the
rest of the kids and I can't ever figure out if he is having fun or not.
Bruno is an adorable snoog who walks with the tiniest crutches I have ever
seen. Well, I should say he is supposed to walk with crutches but he refuses. He is so
determined to be like the other kids and is always trying to play hopscotch and dance with us but I constantly have to grab him to keep him upright. I will never forget the first time I saw Jonah. He is very disabled mentally and is just always smiling. And the cutest part I saved for last—he is cross eyed. I seriously died the first time I saw him.
There are more that I am not as close with yet but I am learning. I will write
more as I learn more.
Today I also made contact with the other special ed school in
Mukono. There are 240 disabled kids there!!! I was shocked by how many
there were. It is a school of 800 with a huge disability program. I am
going to try to get a lot of volunteers involved in the afternoons when
there is less going on. They really want us to play games for PE and art
projects. The headmaster was the most delightful man I have met so far.
I told him that I was interested in helping out with the disabled kids, he
grabbed my hand and then raised them both up to Heaven and said, "Oh thank
you God for this girl." He was so grateful. I love finding people who
appreciate our efforts and don't just ask for money. I hope I can get the
volunteers to get more involved. They would all love it if they just gave
it a chance. I think they are just scared by people with disabilities.

From April Murdock

Ask me how you can help eliminate poverty in Uganda this summer!

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do,

or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.

Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Unknown

I have been filled with so much love lately for my kids at The Crane School, and when I contemplated leaving them in a few months I was filled with so much sadness. They are such a delightful bunch! I love their questions for me about the U.S., like what we eat, what we grow, what education is like, politics, geography, etc. Fridays are debate days, and while the class of 170 students were picking up the rubbish from the red-dirt floor, I decided to have them debate about waste removal. Most people in Uganda burn their trash, taking out the semi-edibles for pigs and such. Wealthy people in Kampala who pay for trash removal may not see their community landfills, but we all reap the effects of burning plastic and everything else. So the debate motion was "burning rubbish is the best way to remove waste." And these young ones get into it when they debate! We talked about recycling, which was a new concept for them. Afterward, we reviewed letter-writing and I asked them to write a letter over the weekend to Bill Gates or the Mukono town mayor, requesting they build a recycling facility in Mukono. These kids don't really have homework or grades (they advance in school by passing the national exams each year), but I figured if even a few of them wrote letters, they would be more committed to take care of trash differently. Monday several of them turned in the letters, and they are precious. I love my kids! I told them that I will really mail their letters ¾imagine if a classroom of 12-15-year-olds get a visit from their mayor, President Museveni or the richest man in the world to see what this is all about and actually do something!

We finished The Wizard of Oz and started reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic in Crane's P7 literature class. A lot of the vocab is difficult, but they enjoy the story and I think she's a great example of loving adult leadership. Many of them don't get enough of that. I hope they grow up to be responsive parents and citizens. In lit class today I was alone for two hours with about 160 students, which was a little challenge (there are usually 2-3 teachers in our class and we split it in half). I started reading a short book to them about Native Americans and my students are fascinated, though it took forever to show them the pictures and repeat everything as I walked around the room because the acoustics are horrible and the class next to us makes noise too.

I've started teaching keyboard lessons at the church twice a week. There is a lot of interest there and I've never taught music but I enjoy it! Two weeks ago I started teaching two English classes to non-students; one in the morning across the street at the Vulnerable Children Care and Development Programme for teens who've dropped out of school, and the other in the evenings for a women's group that makes and sells handicrafts. The class at Vulnerable Children is actually terminated now because of some misunderstandings/complications with the director, but I'll go back to Crane's or find another project. The kids are great and I was excited to see them progress. One of the girls, 15 years old, is from Soroti (a district east of Gulu) and recently escaped the LRA where she was abducted into Sudan 3 years ago. Her family moved here 8 months ago and her father preaches the word of God in Kenya. She invited us to her house on the 15th and we had a lovely time with her step-mom and sisters. We taught them to sing a couple of songs while we waited for a torrential downpour to let up. During our two-hour bus ride up to Iganga this past weekend to work at an orphanage there, I played "It's a Small World" by sitting in front of Esther and Sarah's father. He was on his way to Kenya to preach. We had a good conversation and he told me all about Esther's experience in the bush. Remarkable people, they are. I'll send you more details of their story if you're interested.

The orphanage in Iganga was pretty great. The directors, Ruth and Richard, are single adult siblings who are carrying on their deceased mother's legacy. Friday night the kids danced and sang for us by the dim light of a bare bulb. They are talented! There are about 20 kids there, and R&R would take more but can't afford them. They make and sell magazine-bead necklaces, rent prom/wedding dresses, and work a garden. Great program. We taught a short English class to a group of street kids Saturday morning during a rain storm. We sat on the veranda where they sleep at night, and despite great excitement for us to come (they were expecting us), only a few were there because some had gone out to work (collecting garbage, selling plastic bottles, whatever they can find, sometimes stealing). Only one girl came and she didn't stick around because the girls fear the boys, Richard said. Neighbors came and watched the lesson and I think we helped show the community that the street kids have worth and can be "civilized"; hopefully others will mentor them and help them get off the street. I had a candid, long conversation with a 15-year-old boy there who is actually from Mukono and ran away from his alcoholic, abusive father. Tough life, good boy. Bad situation. On our way home from Iganga Saturday, we stopped in the tourist town Jinja (where we rafted the Nile) to eat at Ozzie's restaurant. So yummy. Being a tourist town, there are more beggars and street kids than other towns and while I waited for my food to come, I pulled out a little book to read with some scroungy kids sitting in front of the restaurant. One of the better times I've waited for food, I think.

I thought we were entering the dry season, but it was anything but dry two weeks ago, and a bit chilly too. Every day the heavens have exploded in waves of rain, with gigantic thunder and lightning. Class ceases when we're at Crane's because it's impossible to hear through the tin roof. Sounds like the sky is falling. And guess what ¾we had an earthquake! Friday the 15th I had just sat down to read before bed when I felt a rumbling throughout the house. At first I thought there was a very large truck in front, but it kept going long and slow. I ran into the front room where Dave was talking with Janet and Janice (our dear new "mzungu mothers" who arrived two weeks ago to stay a few weeks), reasoning that I'd rather die with friends than die alone. No damage done, thankfully¾the best kind of earthquake.

Thursday we actually had the opportunity to sit in a parliament meeting
discussing the education on the deaf and dumb in Ugandan school districts. It
was great to learn how the system is run.

This whole week we have been teaching English to a school called Crane, wonderful kids. There are about 80 students to a classroom, so it’s a little overwhelming, but we love it. We also headed up a choir at Mukono town academy and are very involved with the church here and with the missionaries. I love every moment. I get to plan lessons and teach kids between 9 and 13. They learn very differently here so it’s been an
adjustment to say the least. I wouldn’t trade this time for anything
Numitebi Gwakuna

Oli otiya

Oli otiya,
That's how we say hello.

We had a great contact with a few people in parliament. Last Thursday night the Honorable Freddy came to our home in Mukono and talked to us about going to his home
town in Jinja to visit a few schools, one suburban and one rural. We got up
at 5 am and got to Jinja and met up with the M.P. and they drove us to the
first school in the middle of a ton of sugar cane fields. It was so
beautiful. The children sang to us and were just so precious. We did a
program we put together about teacher training which included child abuse,
how to show children you love them, aids prevention, heath and hygiene,
teamwork, and other activities. We split into groups and rotated. I was team
teaching health and hygiene and AIDS prevention and awareness. We taught it
to kids between the ages of 6-18. We also taught the staff. I really enjoyed
it. And the Honorable Freddy had the newspaper and a news team there. No
pressure right!?! So we went to two different schools and saw the huge
difference between the government and public schools and also the suburban
and rural areas. It was great. Then they took us to the waterfalls of the
Nile, and took us into town in Jinja where we ate an American dinner. It
really made me appreciate our culture and our food. We stayed in a small
campsite on the Nile river that night. Oh it was beautiful. We saw monkeys
and alligators. In the morning a group of us decided to go rafting down the
Nile, The second most intense rapids in the world. We went and we

Anyhow, on Thursday a group of us had an opportunity to go
up north to Gulu. So we got on a bus and met with a member of parliament who
is the representative in Gulu. She set us up with her sister Lucy and she
took s around Gulu to different organizations and we tried to get contacts
there to work in the future.
I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go there. There are so many
organizations there who are trying to help with the women and children who
were affected by the war.
There were a bunch of new volunteers and we have so much work to do and I’m
so grateful we are all so willing and ready. I wish I could write all that
I saw and experienced, and I wish I could express all I felt. It really
changed my life. I hope to always remember and take these experiences with
me throughout my life.
~April Bladh
Angwen (in Acholi)

Orphans and candlelight

Orphans and candlelight,
Well, I think this is the 7th or 8th week I decided to not keep track.

We had a great week with our P-5 class. I love our class. This morning my Mom called and asked "what is your favorite thing about Uganda?" and I had to say it was our class we teach every morning. I love these kids so much. Today a boy made me a camera
out of clay with a light in it that looks like a flash. They are so
creative. Anyhow, I love teaching, I never thought I would.

Friday we left for a town called Iganga where we work in an orphanage and it took over three hours to travel 60 miles in a crowded taxi van and on a construction bumped
road. It’s crazy traveling here. We stayed in a small home turned into a
hotel and there was no privacy it was hilarious. We had candle light is all,
and we slept three to a double bed. Oh the things we get to experience. We
went to the orphanage and the kids had a performance ready for us so we
spent the rest of the night listening to their beautiful songs. In the
morning we got up early and went to teach the street kids who live under a
veranda of an abandoned building. We got there and they all came out of
hiding and we sat and handed them pencils and paper and taught them the
alphabet and words and how to write their names. They were aged between
twelve and eighteen. They had some education but they were forced out of
their homes for one reason or another, most of them were threatened by a
step parent. A lot of them feared for their lives. It was so sad to see them and
hear their stories. I loved the experience, there were so many people from
the community who came and asked what we were doing and why. They see the
street kids like rats, so the fact that someone would come and treat them
like humans was new to them. And the chairman of Iganga really wanted to
meet us. We brought them rice and they sat around and just ate with their
hands. It was such a humbling experience. While we taught them it started to
pour outside. But they wanted to learn so badly.

There is so much we are getting involved in, secondary school drama clubs, building an orphanage for a member out here, building more stoves, teaching AIDS awareness…etc. three months is not enough to learn all I can learn and do all I’d like to do. Life in Uganda is so simplistic and so complex at the same time.
Love you all
April Gwakuna

Monday, May 14, 2007


Somebody in our group explained it best: “each day feels like a week, and each week feels like a month.” We do so much each day. It feels like I’ve been gone for a month because of all that we’ve done here. SO much has happened this last week. The biggest thing is that the group of volunteers arrived last Wednesday. So there are 14 of us now, sharing a little tiny house with one bathroom. The first night they were here there was no electricity that night nor the next morning. It was certainly interesting getting everybody showered that morning. Every morning is kind of interesting because there are so many of us. Yesterday I was in mid shower with all the soap on me and all the water pressure in the sink and in the shower went out. There was a small drizzle, but that was it. Luckily we had a bucket of water in the kitchen that I had someone bring me. Tomorrow we are moving into a second house really near by. A week ago from Saturday we moved out of the hotel into a house. This place as a dump! I’m not sure what I expected an African house to be like, but there was trash everywhere, rat dogs, mice, cockroaches, geckos, all kinds of interesting insects all over. We spent the whole day cleaning. When April opened her suitcase three mice ran out. We’ve put rat poison everywhere but the mice continue to live, every morning we see tons of mice droppings in the kitchen and on our porch. The first day Freddy pointed at the droppings and said, “Ahh, poop-poo-agie,” which means, “who’s poop.” That’s kinda become a funny saying we say a lot. I’m finally getting used to the cold showers, it takes a couple of seconds of shivering. The thing is, I don’t feel like I get clean after cold showers. I’ve been running in the mornings, so I come home all sweaty, cold showers feel good. Tomorrow the house I’m moving into has hot water, a fridge, and a stove, so I’m excited about that. Last week I went four days without seeing my reflection. When I finally saw my reflection in the mirror of a motorcycle, I was scared…everyday I get really dirty from all the dust going around. I’m not sure what it is, but I can go a whole day with just eating in the morning and at night, and going to the bathroom in the morning and at night.

Here’s an interesting little cultural tidbit- husbands don’t know the age of the wives, kinda like how husbands in America don’t know the weight of their wives in America. Freddy thinks his wife is 28, but she has never told him. The missionaries say that there is a lot of witchcraft and devil worshipping in this area. They said that there have been beheading ceremonies. The male/female roles are sometimes very apparent. When we were in the hotel they gave me, the guy, a room twice as big as the one they gave the two girls…I also got the fan. When we go to schools and meet with the directors, they ask me questions and talk to me, even though the girls know more about those things.

Last Thursday the mission president here was killed in a car accident. I hung out with the missionaries for 5 hours that day, it was so sad. I just can’t imagine what that would have been like if Pres. Hamilton was killed while I was serving. The drivers here are the worst I have ever seen. They think that if they honk their horn they can get do whatever they want. They remind me of the Brazilian drivers, but to the extreme. The other night when we were coming back from the airport in a taxi, there were several times when I thought we were going to die. The drivers here really have guts. Saturday we went to the funeral in Kampala, the capital, I sat in the front with the driver and made sure he would drive safely. I actually had a good chat with him. His name is Adrien and he really likes white women. That was kinda awkward cause there are 13 girls and 2 guys in our group. But he fell in love with an English girl a year ago. She said she would send for him, but she hasn’t gotten in contact with him. He wears a ring on his left hand out of hope. But he was wondering why white men like African women, but white women do not like African men. I explained that everyone is different and has different tastes. He asked me why America is so segregated, compared with Brazil. Ha, we saw a white person on the road and he asked me if I knew them. I told him that if people in America drive like Ugandans they must pay lots of money, could lose their licenses, and could get arrested. Nice guy.

I should just be a full-time missionary my whole life, I went with Elder Soko, from Zimbabwe, and Elder Metemi, from Kenya all day Thursday and it was amazing. Elder Soko’s parents were killed when he was younger; both of them are older and very humble, they have gone through lots of sacrifices to come on missions. We had some really good appointments with some people, they gave me lots of opportunities to teach principles and bear testimony. This lady we taught told us, after peeling the onion, that she doesn’t have a personal relationship with God. I think we helped, but it ultimately comes down to whether she has enough desire to do the things we asked her to. That appointment made me really grateful for the teachings of the Church and how our doctrine stresses the importance of a personal relationship with Deity. Elder Soko told me some funny stories about Pres. Mugabe, the president of his country. I’ve seen a documentary about the guy, and basically he’s just like King Noah. Elder Soko said Mugabe is very anti-US and anti-UK. He says he’ll let Blair have the UK if he can have Zimbabwe. To those that say the country doesn’t have fuel, he says they should lie down on the road and see if that’s true. I had a good time playing the Book of Mormon game with the missionaries, when one reads a chapter heading and the other two guess. 3 Nephi 22 gets everyone!

Friday we went to the Crane School and played games with the kids. There are several students from the North, where the war is. The school situation is very interesting here. There are so many schools with tons of kids. Often the school boards some students as well. School directors have told us that private schools are better than government schools because they are allowed to beat the kids, and they need that for discipline. It costs a lot of money for the parents to afford their kids to go to school. I’m kind of torn about education in the developing world. Before I came here I thought that education is the answer to all problems, but now I’m really not sure. Both of the elders say that their countries are more developed than Uganda but education is better here. I’ve met a lot of people that have high education levels but there just aren’t enough jobs. I have lots of ideas for job creation, maybe I’ll mention these business ideas when we start teaching. This last week I’ve been thinking so much about this education dilemma and development in general. Do we want Africa to become like America? I think there is a parallel between prosperity and wickedness. Hardly anyone here smokes because they can’t afford it. So yeah, if anyone has any thoughts, I’ve discussed this a lot recently, but any thoughts you have, let me know.

Our favorite game is werewolves. We played an amazing game last night. Yeah, this game was definitely one of the better ones I’ve played.

The sunsets here are amazing. Our house is on a hill so we see the wide open sky, African trees, the clouds, and an amazing sunset. Every evening it is amazing and just spiritual.

The members here are amazing. Their testimonies, lessons, and talks are so simple and great. I’m learning a lot from them and how they are so happy with what they have, even if it is very little. What they cherish most is the Gospel, and as long as they have that, life is good.

This was kinda long, and I’ll only be able to post once a week. But the group has a blog at

I think they put pictures on there and stuff. I'll pretty much copy this entry and paste it on there too.

K, so I wrote this post yesterday (Sunday) and now it is Monday evening. Holy cow today was an awesome day, by far the coolest so far. I spent the whole day in the Parliament building meetings with several members of Parliament. Tomorrow I’m going to an economic development meeting and later in the week I’ll go to a defense meeting…this is insane. Stay tuned for next week’s post!

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Poopoo aji"

This blog was aptly named “poopoo aji” in honor of some of our little adventures. The words mean, literally, “whose poop is it?” which is the first thing our bodaboda-driver/guide-friend Freddy said when we were moving into our apartment home. He was referring to a pile of mouse-looking poop in a corner outside. We have since adopted it as one of those inside joke phrases.

One of the greater adventures we’ve had was Saturday night as we were moving into our new apartment. It’s a relatively very nice place right behind the church, but needed some cleaning. We sprayed a can of Doom throughout and left to run some errands. When Kasey, Tamara and I returned, I moved my suitcase and out jumped two bullet mice! Thus began the chase. The mice were tiny and fast and we spent a good while plotting, then chasing them around the room. Brooms of course don’t do much damage and I wanted to squash the little varmints, but missed every time with my big water jug. We were laughing and yelling and screaming and sounded like we were beating each other, I’m sure. Good introduction for the neighbors, eh? The invaders finally ran out the house. So I go to bed at night, snug in my bed net, only to be awoken at 3:30 a.m. with a crawly thing doing calisthenics on my appendages. GROSS! I was pretty sure it was another mouse and was so creeped out, but further investigation revealed a large cockroach taking rest in my “pillow” (wad of clothes). Not about to squish the little fiend, I shook it off onto the ground and thought I had sufficiently flattened it, but saw no evidence of my violator in the morning. Not sure which is worse---mice in my suitcase, or sleeping with cockroaches?

I’m in love with the bodabodas! It’s a little exhilarating to ride around town and in the villages on the back seat of a little moped. Efficiency rules here, meaning that the more you can fit on the seat or in the vehicle, the better. Four little kids rode this morning with a big man. Little more difficult to get two women, though, because we sit side-saddle and the seat won’t accommodate our big bums.

Ugandans have a “hip” (as in cool, up-to-date) three-part handshake that begins the normal way, then they wrap around the thumb, then go normal again. We did that lots at church yesterday. The branch was SO welcoming and friendly. That has been our experience consistently so far, except we need to watch out for “mzungu” prices when we’re shopping. It’s common to pay twice as much here if you’re white.

Expect the electricity to go out at midnight throughout the city, and at various times during the day. You’re blessed if you can afford a generator. We’ll have candles and headlamps.

More about Kawongo, the village we visited on Saturday for Betsy’s graduation: the head priest of the parish in Kawongo introduced himself as Musisi Wilson, which he explained means “earthquake.” He said that there was an earthquake when he was born, so his parents named him for that. And most people here have a “Christian” name which is really just an English name, and they put the family name before the given name. So I am Murdock Gwakuna (Lugandan for “April”). Some day I will be adopted into a clan here and then my name will be even cooler.

Women and children kneel at the feet of an honored guest or person of influence sometimes, especially in the villages. But some more “culturated” people look down on that practice. And we are told that most men have a woman on the side, or several, even though polygamy is frowned upon formally by the churches and government. Women here usually wear skirts, or maybe pants, but never shorts. And nothing above the knee (except the prostitute who rented a room next to ours when we were in the hotel. It was hush-hush). Mzungu girls like us wear skirts too. “Mzungu” is the non-derogatory term for “white” or in general just something foreign and good. We hear that term ALL day, especially from excited children. “Mzungu! Mzungu! Hi. How are you?” And they are so delighted when we respond in Lugandan. “Bulungi, weebale” (fine, thank you)

Kasey, Tamara and I ran for an hour this morning. There are some nice hills here, and we ran on the dirt roads to explore and avoid the traffic and pollution (safety and emissions doesn’t exist here, I think).

Volunteers coming later: bring a handful, maybe, of ziplock bags. And baby wipes. And wall-plug converters for the UK. And sheets. And a headlamp with extra batteries. Those are thing impossible or very difficult to find here.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Ok, so this is the first post from Uganda. This is Kasey writing, Tamara and April helped out with this entry. I have another blog, and I just copied and pasted this entry. So here's news from Mukono!

So I’m here in Uganda! We arrived Wednesday night. Monday night we left from SLC and then arrived in Newark, New Jersey Tuesday morning. We took a bus and train to the World Trade Center. I’ve been there before and man that place is big. I can’t even imagine huge buildings being there and the destruction them falling could cause. We saw a lot of lower Manhattan: Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, Little China, and Little Italy. We were only there for about 5 hours but we were able to do a lot. So then we left for Amsterdam and arrived there at 6:00 AM. I love flying into Holland, it is a very distinct country. It’s cool seeing the cities from the plane and the peninsula and the Afsluitdyk. The sunrise was amazing too. We walked around the city for 3 hours, saw the Anne Frank house, and all the flags and trash from the Queen’s Day celebration from the day before. Everything was closed still, but I was still able to get April and Tamara to try vla and doner kebabs. Being there for a couple hours got me really excited to go back in 6 weeks.

So we left for Africa. KLM is a really good airline, they brought us so many meals and snacks. It was really fun to see on the map where we were. We flew right over Egypt and Sudan. I just couldn’t believe that I was actually going to Africa! I had an aisle seat but I saw an amazing sunset outside with awesome clouds that looked really African-like. As we were flying into Uganda, I finally understood why Africa is called the Dark Continent. It was so dark outside. Down below there were hardly any lights, the airport wasn’t lit up at all either. It was sure interesting when we touched down cause you could hardly see the road. We were picked up at the Entebbe Airport and driven through Kampala, the capital, to a small town, Mukono. David, our driver, has never been swimming. We were all very tired from going through so many time zones and lots of walking in NYC and A’dam. I could not sleep at all, though. The main road is outside our hotel and there were so many large trucks, lots of horns honking, and it sounded like there was civil unrest outside or something cause people were yelling the whole night. It turns out there was a soccer game going on. I didn’t get much sleep at all.

So Thursday was our first day here. We went around looking for houses and meeting people that can help us with our projects. Uganda is what I thought Africa would be like: Dirt roads, jungle, palm trees, banana trees, small shacks, and everyone is black. It seems like everyone in the community knows one another. There aren’t any street lights and even though Mukono is small, there are tons of people everywhere. A lot of the people come from small villages outside the town. Mukono is really hilly and beautiful. It reminds me a lot of Brazil. It’s pretty close to Lake Victoria and the beginning of the Nile. Everyone speaks a tribal language called Luganda. It’s interesting, Uganda has many regions, which are tribes and then within each tribe there are clans. Each clan has a flag and such. President Museveni is from another tribe and all the government workers are from his tribe, that’s how African politics work.

We ran into USAID yesterday, they were doing a “saving money” workshop in the center of the town. We made a lot of contacts. USAID said we can help out with different things around the country. There was this kid who stared at me for like 5 minutes and then came over and started rubbing my skin. I think he was trying to see if the white would rub off. Everywhere we go little kids run up to us and call us “Mzungu,” which means whitey. We talk to them and call them “Mudugavu,” which means blackey. We walk everywhere and occasionally we take boda-boda’s which are taxi motorcycles. For the most part they are safe. Our friend, Freddy, has taken us around to our project contacts. We’re lining up projects, working with some schools, health clinics, orphanages, and micro-credit organizations. I have a contact in the Uganda Parliament who is trying to make it work so I can go to some committee meetings in Parliament in Kampala. Last night the guy next door had a prostitute come over…that was kind of weird. This trip will be somewhat like my Europe last year- cleaning my clothes while taking a shower and living out of my backpack.

The oranges are green, not orange. The electricity goes out at random times. The exchange rate is pretty nice: $1 equals 1,720 Uganda shillings. The price of food, though, isn’t that much different than Walmart, which is really unfortunate for the people that live here. It’s a very poor community. Though things like micro-credit and better education help out, it’s still hard for some people. In my classes I’ve learned things like ¾ of the world’s population live on less than $2 a day. Yesterday I was chatting with Henry, who makes about that per day and has 4 kids. I don’t know how he does it. I spent $3 on drinks alone. It’s really warm here. It’s the rainy season for them, so it’s pretty humid. I’ve put sun block on, but I’m still getting sunburnt a lot. It’s fun though. I feel like a missionary again. It’s fun meeting people, getting their cell phone numbers, making appointments, getting dogged, and trying to help people. We’ve run into several members of the church. Sunday should be fun. I got chewed out by the hotel people for leaving my balcony light on. Electricity is very precious here.

There are tons of gas stations all over. I’m not really sure why cause it’s expensive to own a car or a boda-boda. We saw the head of a cow just lieing on the ground. It was weird. It was really fresh too. Guys hold hands together and girls hold hands, but guys and girls don’t hold each other’s hand. I saw two mzungus (whitey) today. One’s from Germany and the other is from some country in Africa that I’ve never heard of. They drive on the left side of the road here, like the U.K. A kid told me yesterday that all whites look alike. I thought that was funny.

Today we went drove a ways through lots of little villages to a graduation ceremony. We showed up unexpected with a family friend and became the distinguished guests. Everyone stared and stared at us. We kind of feel like we’re supposed to entertain them. The father, who had multiple wives, and one of his wives, died a year ago, leaving behind close to 30 kids. The oldest is 20 and just graduated. I wish I could write more about what I feel and stuff. Email me with questions at if you want to hear more.

It’ll be a fun two months.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Good Times with Fundraising

The Country Directors, Tamara & Teija, keeping it real at the fundraising table.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Two Weeks to Go!!

So much is going on in our busy lives of school, work, etc. that it seems almost unreal that the first wave of volunteers is leaving for Uganda in two weeks!! TWO WEEKS until we'll be spending part or all of our summer in Africa. Incredible!

If any of the volunteers are like me, then we'll all be running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get ready for Africa--getting shots, malaria pill prescriptions, mosquito nets, flea collars, and skirts. And we're all wondering what we can buy there. We're also wondering what life will be like there--the people, the food, the culture, and living in a cramped house with 20 other volunteers. Will we have hot water, electricity? Who knows?

Anyway you look at it, it'll be an adventure in Uganda. And the preparation beforehand can likely be just as adventurous. We'll have lots of good times, and I'm sure we're all certainly looking forward to it.