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.