Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 7: Hoima (Well Locations)

Definity feels more like Africa now! I slept in Sarah's bed under a mosquito net.  Sweating just laying there! So hot in Uganda! Finally fell asleep (with white noise app running on my phone - there is electricity here) and really slept pretty well. Until Christa sent me four texts of Hunter at 2am, ha! ;) Worth it though - he's the cutest little thing I've ever seen! :)


Crazy loud bell rang at 5am. Are you serious?! All the girls got up to study. It really is nuts how much they study here! I slept another hour until I heard Sarah stir next to me around 6am and another bell rang. (Think super loud old school bell.) Study time done, time to get ready for breakfast. I threw on some clothes and walked out. Still pretty dark.  All the girls, scurrying around to get ready for school, stopped and knelt down in front of me to say good morning. Holy cow girls. I'm nothing special!!  It was awkward, but part of their culture I guess.


Another bell at 6:20. Porridge was ready. Breakfast time! They lined up and the cook scooped it from a black kettle off a fire in to little plastic cups. I had to try it! Not going to lie, it's pretty bad! Like super runny/watery potatoes or something. No taste and kind of gritty feel in your mouth. I drank the whole mug full though! 


Girls finished getting ready for school. Sarah had them line up for pictures. Four different schools: Morningstar Christian, Millenium, Bwikya Muslim, Kitara. They left around 6:40 to make it to school by 7. They all walk. 


I needed to "bathe" at some point, so I figured I would give it a shot since the girls were gone. One "shower" at hostel, which is an open area with cement floor and little drain out back. Me trying to figure out how to shower out of a little basin would probably scar them for life, ha. Sarah filled my basin and carried it back for me. So there I stood: naked in Uganda with a little water basin and my bar of soap. I splashed as much water on me as I could (COLD water), then stood IN the basin to see if that worked, then just dumped it over me. Surely one of those was right, ha. I actually felt pretty clean afterwards, minus my feet. I've given up on them this trip...


I just couldn't figure out how to wash my hair like that, so I got dressed and walked out to the little water spigot and squatted way down and held my head under it to wash my hair. It all worked pretty well. At least I thought so. The cook and guard thought it was pretty funny though. I'll still call it a successful morning of bathing in Uganda!


After I was ready for the day (as ready as I was going to by anyways), Sarah and I sorted through the stuff I brought for the girls. 30 backpacks, 30 notepads, 60 pens, bibles, bracelet making stuff, and nailpolish. I also brought a couple pairs of rain shoes / boots and gave on to Sarah. She looooved them!! Like, A LOT, ha! She is too cute and just so sweet! 


We sat around on the floor of her room and just chatted for awhile...and tried some of my snacks I brought l. Jonas over slept and was running behind. While we waited, Sarah showed me the baskets the girls have been working on. They're so cool, and I'm hoping to bring some home with me!


Jonas finally shows up  at 8:45 - an hour and 45 minutes later than I thought he was going to. It's Africa time! We started walking out the door  in to Hoima to the ThinkHumanity office. First time I've seen outside in the day light. You won't believe what we took a boda-boda down! And about half way down the path, one came to get us! I was squished in between two Ugandans riding down a red dirt road on a motorcycle. Pretty cool way to start the day if you ask me...

We pulled up to the ThinkHumanity health clinic and I got the grand tour from JP and Nurse Jane - while I held her cute little 3 month old baby girl named Decent.  The health clinic is pretty cool. It's just so awesome what Beth has done! It's pretty small - just two buildings - but they do a lot! And they opened another health clinic in Kyangwali refugge camp! She is helping so many people! :)

They said they were "very near" Hoima. I guess I thought that meant like 5 minutes or something. 30 minutes later, we're driving down a tiny dirt road through the bush, and pull up to a school area.  And we werent even to be well spot yet!

First pulled up to Moonlight Primary School and kids weren't too sure about me.  We drove down a little red dirt road for a long time.  It is pretty far out in the bush - I doubt they get many "muzungu" out there.  Walked from there to well site.  Holy freaking cow it is SO hot here.  Like I need a towel to dry the sweat off kind of hot.  Woman and her toddler son were filling up filthy jerry cans with water from a hole in the ground. Just couldn't believe it.  New well is built and will be operational in another week or two, so that was great.

Second area we went to, Kanakumba, does NOT have a well yet or money for one...and they need one bad.  Would serve around 3,000 people in the surrounding villages.  When we walked up, saw four boys - probably ages 10 down to 3 - filling up their cans with filthy water.  Just blows my mind how they even are alive drinking that!

Next stop was Morningstar Christian high school, where ThinkHumanity sends some of the girls from the hostel.  They built a well there for the school and surrounding area to use.  Was so great to see an operational well.  Saw water around there that they used to use.  Yuck.


Fourth location was Kadyabuhire and they definitely need a well, too.  Saw a teenage boy there drinking the water from the ground, and another woman carrying a can on her head from the same spot.  A new well there would serve around 4,000 people.  It has been a very dry "wet season" - not much rain - and the water is low and so gross.  These people desperately need access to clean water!


Headed back to Hoima and stopped for lunch at Eve's restaurant. It was buffet style and I ate everything the four Ugandans did.  Rice, greens (awful!), beans, avacDo, posho (really awful), sweet potato, goat and chicken. All kind of mixed together, ha. I ate most all of I except the goat, greens, and posho. Couldn't do those. Can't believe the poor girls were stuck with posho before!  (Oh, and pineapple for dessert!) Really hoping my stomach agrees with it all...


After lunch, we dropped the other guys off at the health clinic, and Jonas and I stopped by the furniture store! I sent some money earlier this month to have furniture built for he girls here: 3 big tables, 6 benches, a chalkboard, and a bookshelf. Things just move so slow and take forever here! I got to see the almost completed bookshelf, and three of the benches were done! I was pretty excited to see that! He said it would all be done by Saturday, but I wouldn't hold my breathe on that, ha. (Chalkboard is already done and at the hostel.)


We left the car with John and then Jonas took me on a boda-boda to the other side of Hoima where he lives in a little apartment complex to use he Internet. I figured I should at least let everyone know I'm still alive in Uganda. :)  Its so funny to be here in Hoima. I haven't seen one other white person since arriving, and everyone stares at me and the kids all yell, "Hey muzungo" and waive.


We just got back to the hostel and its 3pm.  Not going to lie -- I'm hot, sweaty, filthy, covered in dirt, and sunburnt, ha. It's kind of been a rough day! ;) I think I'm going to lay down for a quick nap before the girls get home between 4 and 4:30. (Word to the wise: If you have a problem with getting your feet disgustingly dirty, don't come to Africa. :) )




Didn't have any problems falling asleep. Sarah said she would wake me up at 4 or 4:30. I woke up on my own and 4:50 and the girls still weren't home... School days are much longer here than in the states!


I was kind of hungry so I had some fruit snacks. I am SO glad I brought all these snacks. For real. I brought a ridiculous amount and they're dwindling! 


So...this is probably over-sharing on my part, but I haven't gone number two since Tuesday night at Sophies. Which was almost 48 hours ago (when I took that cipro after the Indian food).  I;m not worried yet, but getting there. And when I woke up from my nap, I felt like I could go. And wanted to do it before the girls got home because there is no way I can shut the door when I go in there. I leave it half open. The smell is absolutely just too much - and it's too hot - with it closed. So off I went, Kleenex in hand for toilet paper. (They don't use it here.) Let's just say doing your business while you're squatting over a little hole - and I mean little - isnt the easiest, ha. But it's a good thing I can go fast, because you can only hold that position with your shirt over your nose for so long.  Oh and the bugs! Ugh - they're everywhere in there, of course. So don't forget, you have to swat those away from the exposed area with the other hand - without peeing on yourself and keeping your pants out of the way and off the ground. (And if its dark out, you have to hold a flashligjlht too. Good luck with that.) I can only imagine how hilarious this would look...  Oh the experiences of Africa! ;)


So anyways, sorry for an entire paragraph on going to the bathroom here, but it really is an ordeal! ;)


The girls started getting home closer to 5:30. Only an hour later than I thought.  Not bad for Africa time! ;) As they walked in, I got a picture of each of them in their school uniforms for their sponsors back home. (They each have ONE uniform they wear everyday.) I made each of them stand there until they broke down and laughed, or at least gave me a pretty good smile. I think they turned out pretty good! :)


After they were changed, six of them (Immaculate and Clemmentine included) got to walk in to town to the market with Sarah and I to buy fruits and veggies for dinner with the money from Feed Just One.  I actually have one of their shirts on today. And now I'm shopping with the money from it to buy these girls some decent food. So cool. :)


We bought potatoes and cabbage and pineapple and rice and bananas and onions and eggs and tomatoes. I think that's it. SO MUCH better than the posho they used to eat! And let me tell you, all that stuff is HEAVY to carry as far as we did. They could really use some of those big reusable shopping bags so they don't rip and so they don't have to pay for them every time. We had to stop a couple of times to rest because the girls' hands were hurting.

Immaculate (left) and Clemmentine (right) carrying food from the market

When we got back to be hostel, the girls went right to work peeling and cleaning everything for dinner. It takes a lot of work to cook for 30 girls plus staff! They've all got it down though. (Note to self: send the poor girls some potato peelers! Someone is going to cut a finger off with those knives!) ;)


While several of the girls stayed to help prepare the food, the rest of them went in to the main study room - a big room with cement floors/walls, one chalkboard, and one lightbulb - and started singing songs. These girls can sing! It really is beautiful! I sat down in there and they sang and sand sang - and even danced some - probably for a couple of hours! Then several of them got up one at a time and shared their "testimony," which was just their story of life before ThinkHumanity basically. They were all pretty shocking, and they are all so so SO grateful for the opportunity they have here at he hostel. And they say over and over how hard they are going to work, how they ate going to be nurses and doctors and lawyers and engineers and how important it is that they come back and help others in their community (the refugee camp) just like they have been helped. I almost cried!! They're totally getting the ripple effect!! Beth and the other workers here have truly started something amazing...they're going to make giant waves of change!! :)  (Oh, and they all speak English here, it's just hard to understand sometimes with  the accent. All the girls are from different areas and speak different languages, so they communicate with English. All the schools are in English, too.) One of the girls, Julian, talked for a long time, and she was just hilarious! I wish I would have recorded it. She thanked me for every little thing and went in to detail about each. How nice the new chalkboard is because they can actually see it and write on it. I guess the old one was small? How excited she was to use her new bible on Sunday, etc. She was so dramatic and had such a big personality!


After songs and testimonies, some of the girls acted out little scenes about HIV/aids, going to the clinic, how important it is to not work when you're pregnant and have a baby on your back, etc. They were definitely entertaining! Immaculate did one where she played a guy with aids and she did a very dramatic job of dying at the end. I was cracking up. :)


Dinner still wasn't ready (they eat LATE here), so Sarah brought in all the orange backpacks with some goodies in them for me to pass out to the girls. Holy cow were they excited! And when they found out there was food in there - a little dried fruit thing - they went nuts squealing and clapping! So they each came up, one by one, and knelt down in front of me to get the bag. Some of them wanted to shake my hand, too, and a couple of them couldn't contain themselves and hugged me, ha. They ate all just so sweet. I'm pretty sure they think I am some amazing person or something, which I'm not. Or maybe this is how they treat everyone, I don know. It was pretty cool to get to give them the stuff and see their eyes just light up! Most of the girls either carry their stuff to school in their hands or in a plastic bag, so the little backpacks turned out to be great! I passed out the markers and they went to town decorating them. :)


It was getting late (by my standards) by this point, and dinner still wasn't ready. And to top it off, I wasn't feeling well. Awesome. I excused myself to the bathroom and went to Sarah's room to just lay my head down for a minute, but she came to get me to eat. I just couldn't do it. I don't know if it was a combination of heat exhaustion and the food for lunch or what, but I was dizzy and I thought I was going to throw up. I managed to sit there on the floor with the girls for a few minutes - at 9:45 when they wete eating (they must not require much sleep)! They had huge heaping bowls of food - I can't believe they eat all that! Sarah gave me two little scoops of five and a piece of pineapple. I stated at it for awhile and stirred it around. Tried one bite of rice and couldn't do it. I whispered to Jonas that I didn't want to be rude, but I didn't feel well and needed to go lay down. He said it was fine.


 I came to Sarah's room, washed my face with a little neutrogena make-up remover clothe and got in bed. I don't think I lasted 5 minutes and didn't even hear Sarah come in to get ready for bed - and the door is a giant steel squeaky thing! Just needed some sleep...I think it was heat exhaustion + dehydration.


More to come tomorrow (Friday)...


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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 6: Addis-->Entebbe-->Hoima

Woke up at 6ish again but fell back asleep until alarm went off at 7.

No shower. Got ready and packed up. Set out for bakery alone this time. One man in front of me - and one that cut in front of me.  Managed to get point across that I wanted two bread rolls. Cashier waived me away to go get bread without ticket. Knew that wasn't right, but line was to the door now! Walked over to area where you pick up. No, no bread without ticket (receipt) Ugh. I knew that, but she didn't give me one. No way was I waiting in that line. Walked right up to her, pointed at the receipts am said TICKET! She got it. And I finally got my rolls!

Walked back and started making pb&j for both of us. Managed to cut my finger with the knife. Awesome. Sophie came down to kitchen and was excited to have one more pb&j before I left!

Alex showed up early, and I felt bad making him wait. Checked email quickly, brushed teeth, and grabbed bags. Out the door right around 8am. Airport is nearby. Maybe 10 minute drive, max. Terminal 1 is for domestic flights, terminal 2 international. I just happened to be looking T the signs and saw terminal 1 said domestic AND ... Some other cities not in Ethiopia. Entebbe was one of them. We had already passed the exit, and Alex was just sure it was terminal 2 for international. "Here. You just try here?". Ummm, no I will not try here. And have you drop me off at the wrong terminal with no way of getting back to the other one. I can't carry the giant blue tub! So I talked him in to going back. 

And I was right. Entebbe was terminal 1. Not international terminal, which actually played in to my favor. Big time. The terminal was dead. One other person in security line in front of me. Domestic terminal is waaaaay more laid back. No rules / restrictions. They just don't care. Way different in intl terminal! I put my blue tub up on the scale. 39 kg. however much that is. It was heavy! And they didn't even look twice! Hardly looked at my passport. Just stamped I and waived me through. Free wifi in the lobby area outside the gates. They don't even have that at intl terminal! Oh - left Sophie's at 8 and was sitting down in lobby before 8:30. Dang it. Why did I leave so early?! You just never know how long stuff is going to take. And it would have taken a lot longer at the intl terminal. 

Plenty of time to sit around and check emails. It was middle of the night KS time, so no one to iMessage or Skype with! Got on Facebook to pass time...

Finally went through security again to get to my gate. They don't look at anything. Could even bring water or whatever in! Watched my blue tub go on the airplane. Pretty happy about that!

Walked out on tarmac and up stairs to plane. I was the first seat inside the door. No overhead bin at all. My giant backpack didn't fit up there anyways. Had to take it up to first class to shove it in! Barely fit. It's really stuffed this time. Must not of packed as well!

Two hour flight in to Entebbe, Uganda. They fed us some spicy meat sauce over pasta that I choked most of down. Chugged lots of water, too, since I gave all my birr to Alex and didnt save any to buy water at the airport.  Not smart on my lart! 

Dirt is very dark red here in uganda.  Entebbe is on Lake Victoria. Very green and almost tropical. Looks nice from the air anyways!

Walked down stairs and across tarmac again. So SO hot here!! Much hotter than Addis. Grabbed an immigration form and waited in the giant line.  Team of 50 from Dallas just got there right before us in line for visa. Security guy waived me and a few others over in to other line - non visa purchasing line. I figured he knew what he was doing.

In line behind older couple from Oklahoma who lives in Kampala doing mission work...for church of latter day saints. Nice enough and we talked for awhile. But when that turned in to him telling me about how big and awesome there church is, and how I should vote for Romney because he is part of their group and doesn't lie and is such a great guy... I couldn't take it anymore. I have no problem sharing your faith, but don't turn it political. He was just annoying and I didn't want to hear it anymore, so I just said I had to go to the bathroom and cut in front of everyone (not that many people by that point) to go get my visa. Yea, I was that girl. But I really did have to pee!!

$50 for a visa for Uganda. Dang! And they fingerprint you! Didnt take long - since I cut the line :) - and I was at baggage claim. Found a cart right away, and saw my blue tub! Yes! I always get so excited when my checked luggage actually shows up!

I couldn't find my baggage claim ticket and they check them here - and Ethiopia. I had to argue wih the security guy for awhile, showed him my boarding pass that matched the name on the tub, etc. He finally let me through, and said  he was doing me a favor, ha. I found it later...stapled to my itinerary I handed he girl at the airport. Oh well...

Exchanged money. Turns you get a much worse rate for "small bills" and any bill over 10 years old. Not sure why, but I had a huge stack of $20 bills, and thy consider those "small.". Wish I would have known that! The only bills I got the better exchange rate for were a $100 (my other $100 was from 1996) and a $50.  It was something like 2,400 schillings for $1. Only got 2,100 for all my other money. I got screwed!

As soon as I walked out of baggage claim, I saw a cute little African girl with a Think Humanity shirt on! It was Sarah! She didn't know what I looked like, but when I started walking towards her and waived, she got so excited and ran up to me laughing and gave me a big hug! Such a nice welcoming to Uganda! :)

We walked through another set of doors and Jonas was standing there with a huge smile. They both have the best smiles! 
Jonas and Sarah at the Entebbe airport

We hopped in a cab and took off for Kampala. Did I mention how HOT it is here?! I don't know how they all take it. I was dying. Sweating profusely. The sun is just so much stronger here! And the cab driver either wouldn't or couldn't roll my window down. It might of been broken. The car wasn't in the best shape, and the back tire rubbed on the car the whole time, ha. He really wasn't an awful driver though. Only had one near death experience on the way when another truck pulling a can eeked out on to the hiway in front of us and we had to slam on the brakes and to the other lane of traffic where another truck was coming. I probably should be glad I was in the back seat and couldn't really see any other close calls. Oh, and the driver had his window down, so that kept me from getting sick. 

Entebbe and Kampala are very green - minus the red dirt. It looked so much different from Addis. Not ALL of the cars were spewing black exhaust - only like half of them. And there were actually paved roads with lines on them and traffic signals/signs that people obeyed! Not near as crazy here as in Ethiopia. 

Took about an hour to reach the downtown-ish area at Kampala. Oh so THIS is more like Addis now! Dirty and packed, awful roads, etc. Took us awhile to find the bus stop for Hoima. Had to ask a couple of times, and once we were close, Jonas and Sarah decided they needed to eat. They left Hoima at 5am this morning and hadnt eaten anything since then. (3pm now) We went to some hotel and they ordered. I wasnt that hungry and did NOT want to get sick on the bus, so I had the pb&j I made yesterday and some fruit snacks. Good enough for me. 

The bus was supposed to leave at 4 so we got there just a little before. I asked Sarah what the "bus" was like, and she said something about big bus and little bus. I stopped here right there. I was all, "Oh big bus? Yea, big bus! Yes! Yes, please! We find big bus!" :) And we did. I saw the little ones - like minivan kind of things packed to capacity. I'm not sure I could of stomached it. We pulled in to a big bus yard with BIG buses. Like big greyhound buses, but not really anything like those, ha. I mean, it is still Africa! They looked alright on the inside, but they were falling apart. It was only about half full when we got on, and thank goodness we found one open spot by a window almost in the very back. I'll take sitting in the back for a window any day!  Not sure how many times I got called muzungu (white person).  Didn't see one other white person the whole time in Kampala!

4 turned in to 4:30 and then to 5. Still sitting there, and still shoving more and more people on. Come on. People aren't really going to stand for 4 hours, are they?! And stand on top of bags and stuff on the floor? Yes, the sure did. We finally left Kampala at 5:30, and I already had to pee. I just kept my head out the window and tried not to think about it. 

The trip started out not so bad. I mean, I had my window down, it was nice out, we were driving through little towns... But then we hit he country side. That's when it got scary. We were flying. Like, literally flying down a little road. I'm not even sure if it was paved or not.  All I could see was everything whizzing by me out my window, and it was dirt at least on the side of the road. He would honk his crazy little horn and swerve the other way and we passed everything from people to cars to tricks. Flew by them all, ha. I'm all for fast and exciting, but let's just say I'm glad I couldn't see out the front to what we were heading for. At one point, I literally got air when we hit a bump so fast. No exaggeration. I looked at Sarah with wide eyes and said, "Whoa!!" She didn't even notice, ha! 

It eventually started raining, and I had to shut my window. That made me very nervous. I don't want to be mean, but the bus packed with that many people on it smelled pretty awful! Lucky for me, my window was broken, and I couldnt quite shut it all be way! It was open just enough for a little fresh air. Thank goodness. :)

So this continued, with some guy blaring on the loud speaker, for FOUR HOURS.  I had to pee five and a half hours ago! I honestly don't know how I made it. As soon as we pulled into Hoima (at 9:30pm), Sarah took me straight to the bathroom - hole in the ground out back, which I'm totally fine with. I felt like I could breathe again! I had hardly moved for a loooong time. No food or drink for fear it would stretch my poor bladder even more. ;)

All in all, the bus trip wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I was just sure we would be packed in to one of those small buses, and that would have been awful. The only thing sore was my butt from sitting so long and my neck from  craining it out the window. I didn't even get motion sick at all!

So anyways, when we got off and got my big blue tub from underneath, there were just a bunch of "boda-boda" there (motorcycles).  All trying to talk us in to getting on with them. Ha, yea right. Not with all my stuff! We were standing there, Jonas was talking with them, and I figured we were waiting for a cab or car or something. Until one of the boda-boda drivers picked up my blue tub - the thin is big and heavy - and sat it on his seat behind him and strapped it on. Ummmm, are you serious!? Then Jonas pointed to another one and said, you sit there. With my giant backpack on.  Ha, I couldn't believe it. But Jonas and Sarah hopped on a third and off we went down the dirt roads through Hoima. I was loving it, of course. Perfect ending to a looooong day. A little exciting motorcycle ride! I even took a short video clip on my phone. We were in the lead, and I was just praying jonas and Sarah were following somewhere behind me...

We pulled off a main road, and went down a hill on a little dirt road through some brush. Then he turned on a little footpath, with crevices and rocks and going straight up, and said, "You just hold on to me." Oooh my. That was almost on the same level as the bus, ha. Exciting, but probably glad it was dark and I couldnt see what we were actually driving up. :)

We turned one more time down what was probably the size of a sidewalk with branches and trees over it, and pulled up to a gate. The guard opened it, and there we were -- finally at the ThinkHumanity Girls Hostel!

Jonas took my stuff to a room, and gave me a super quick tour. It's a pretty small area. Just a couple of lime green buildings, surrounded by a cement wall with broken glass bottles on top for safety. Pretty sure no one is going to be  climbing over that!

One long building has 5 rooms.  Four of the rooms have like 7 or 8 (beds bunk beds) in them, all covered with mosquito nets. Each girl has a bed and a basin under it for washing, and her personal stuff, which is kept in a bag or trunk or suitcase on the bed. They don't have much. The last room is for the cook / guard. 

The next building has Jonas' office, Sarah's room (two rooms where we slept), and the third room had beds in it for the girls. 

Third building consisted of one large room the girls use for studying, and a smaller room where the library will be when they get a bookshelf. Right now, it is filled with the plants they are weaving the baskets from!

The fourth building houses the House mom - madam Christine, and her little girl who is in 2nd grade. There is a little water spigot with a large wire rack that holds all the plastic cups and bowls they use to eat with. Bathrooms are out back, behind the main rooms the girls stay in. Three "toilets" - or little cement rooms with a hole in the ground and a wooden door. And let me tell you, the hole is small! I've already missed it. :) The "shower" is an open area with a cement floor and a little drain. I asked Sarah where the water came from. She laughed and said you bring it in the basin! (What?? How does that work? Guess I'll find out in the morning!)

It's a far cry from Sophie's house in Addis, but for Uganda,  these girls are well off! Beds, meals, running water, electricity, etc. I'm going to be just fine here for the next few days! :)

All the girls were sitting on the floor, hunched over studying when I got there. (I can't wait until they have tables to sit at!) They all scurried and grabbed their things and stood at attention when they saw me. 

Jonas brought me to the front of the room, and there were 30 sets of large brown eyes staring back at me. You could tell they were excited. (Sarah said they had been asking for days when I would arrive.) He asked if any of them knew my name, and I'm pretty sure every single one of them shot their hands straight up! He called on one, and she shyly said "Terri." Ha - it was all just surreal. Standing in front of a bunch of girls from a refugee camp who have been waiting for me?! Pretty cool... :)

They each stepped forward one by one and introduced themselves. Just name, what school they attend, and what grade they are in. Most of them knelt down, too, and said, "You are most welcome." Holy cow, they are sweet and grateful little things! I recognized my girl, Immaculate, and Matts's girl, Clementine. Everyone giggled when they told up to talk. They all know we sponsor them. :)

I just said a couple things quickly, and then they sang for me. They have beautiful voices! I recorded a couple of the songs. They've got harmony down pat! One song is about ThinkHumanity. I'm sure Beth has heard it, but I think she'll love the video!

It was late by that point, and we were all exhausted from traveling all day.  We had to go to bed. Jonas asked the girls of they were tired and of course they all vigorously shook their heads no! But we were. Party over!

Sarah took me in to her room and told me to sleep in her bed. She would sleep on the floor in the other room. With no pillow or mosquito net. I felt awful, but she insisted. 

I splashed some water on my face, changes clothes, and crawled in bed. It was so HOT still! But after traveling all day, I don't think anything could of kept me awake...

Will write more tomorrow...


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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 5: Kind Hearts and Kechene

What a day it has been!!

I had my alarm set for 7:30, but woke up around 6:15.  The sun is so bright in my room by then, and of course the loud Muslim call to worship - or whatever it is - is a nice wake up call, too.  I looked over at my phone - which I leave on all night with the white noise app running - and realized we had no power.  My phone was almost completely drained.  NOT COOL.  Sophie had mentioned the day before that she was almost out of electricity and it is pre-paid here, but she thought we had enough to get through the night/day.  Nope.  It wasn't a big deal for anything other than having my phone dead AND my camera STILL not charged.  Bleh!!  Wish I would have done that last night!

We sent the guard out early to go pay for more electricity, and I quickly started reading up on my fancy little solar powered charger thing I got off groupon a month or so ago...

Sophie and I walked down the street to a little bakery for some rolls to make pb&j on for breakfast.  Sophie is a BIG fan of them now!  She's never had grape jelly!!  She also got 4 doughnuts for the guards/driver/maid.  So, 4 doughnuts and two rolls cost...10 birr.  That's not even $1 (17 birr is one dollar).  It's so crazy how cheap everything is.  I know I've already said that, but really, it's crazy!

No shower this morning, which was fine.  I didn't think there would be hot water without electricity, and I try to avoid cold showers at all cost.  I just can't do it unless it's dire - and it's not yet!  I washed my face and rinsed off a little with a wash clothe, and that was good enough for me!

We took off around 8:45 with Alex to get Sophie to work by 9.  Normally that would be plenty of time, but today, again, is a holiday.  They have a LOT of holidays here!  Today is the 21st on the Ethiopian calender.  They have there own different calendar that has 30 days in each month, and 13 months or something like that.  So anyways, today is the 21st, and on the 21st of each month, they celebrate Mary with a big special ceremony.  So the streets were crazy busy and packed with everyone trying to get to the churches.  Luckily, we pulled up to Sophie's office right at 9 on the dot.

Dropped her off and then Alex and I took off to pick up "Al."  It is a looong drive to get just about anywhere in this big city, so I rolled the windows down and told Alex to crank some Ethiopian tunes, and we had a good 'ole time rocking out!  He kept laughing - I don't know if he was laughing AT me or just because he was having fun! ;)

On the way, we happened to drive by Adam's Pavillion, which I recognized because it is across the street from the church I went to Sunday, and it is the shopping area where Sophie and I went yesterday to look at the cool shoe company.  Dang it - I still can't remember what it's called, but the soles of the shoes are made out of tires, and they're super cool.  (Sole Rebels.)  It was around 9:30 by that point, so I literally hollered at Alex when I saw it to pull in for a little shopping stop!  He was cool with it, and came in with me.  I ended up getting one pair!  They're like little flats, with black rubber soles (from a tire) and multi color striped cloth tops.  Super cute! :)

We kept driving for awhile longer to get Al in his area of town, and then kept driving for a loooong time to get to Kind Hearts.  Apparently it isn't actually in Addis, it is in like a suburb kind of thing I guess, just outside of town.  I only know that because there were big like drop down gate kind of things on the side of the road, like on I-70 where the close roads for snow - and when I asked what they were for, they said it was because we were leaving Addis.

Oh - and most of the time we were driving today, I had my arm out the window holding my little solar power thing.  It said it had to have direct sunlight to charge, so that's what I was trying to do - angling my arm different ways when we turned.  Which was a lot.  The roads here are so windy and make absolutely no sense to me.  Ever.  At all.  Definitely got some weird looks from just about everyone who saw me.  White girl with her arm out the window holding a little contraption, and occasionally sticking my head out see where exactly the sun was, ha. :)

There weren't too many kids outside playing when we finally pulled up to the old tin gate at Kind Hearts.  Some were in the classrooms, and some were on break in the yard.  I don't think any of them knew they were going to have visitors today, so no one knew what was going on.  I got out (stuck the solar power thing on the roof of the car) and walked up to some kids.  When they realized there was a visitor there, I was instantly bombarded with a ton of kids, running at me, all trying to shake my hand and say hi!  Oh I just love these kids here...

Of course my eyes were peeled for Beza.  I mean, I was nice to the other kids, but I really wanted to find her!  When I saw her and she saw me, she was actually a little taken back and shy for a minute, but she eventually ran and jumped in to my arms.  Literally. :)  The pic is pretty cute!

We all played around for awhile, and I was actually thankful that only about half of the kids were there that day...which did NOT include Yitbarek! :(  I was thankful they weren't all there because I couldn't have handled that many!  I mean, I didn't really "handle" all of the ones who were there, but it was at least a little more manageable!  I didn't get a straight answer on Yitbarek's absence really.  Not sure if he is still attending there regularly or not.  The language barrier is tricky sometimes.  They said his grandma was not helping him get there or something like that?  I don't really know what that means, but was a little disappointed I couldn't give him his stuff Matt sent for him!

My sweet Bezawit!

We (and by we I mean, the teachers) rounded up all the kids and got them lined up.  I started passing out the orange backpacks, and man were they were excited!!  I showed them each what it was/how it worked, and then showed them the craft project, and let them go to town.  The teachers (and Alex and Al) all grabbed a marker and started writing names for the kids.

(I have so many pictures of this, and the individual kids with their bags/names, it's ridiculous...)

Once everyone had a bag with their name on it, they sat in big circles and worked on the Jesus Loves me pin project.  Most of them needed help, so all the adults went around and helped out as much as we could.  It all went fairly smoothly I think, and it was really cool to see how happy they all were!

Eventually got them all together - as best we could - for a group picture!

I talked to Beza just a little more, she gave me a hand written note (that I couldn't read in front of her for fear of me crying) and then had to say goodbye.  We took off for Kechene.

(Al said we couldn't go back to Korah today to see the kids eating lunch, because they weren't doing it today.  Again, the language barrier.  Do they just feed them some days and not others?  Are all the kids sponsored?  I just didn't really get it, but for some reason, I don't think they were feeding the kids today.)  

So, off to Kechene we went.  Kechene was, again, a long ways away from where we were, and has to be one of the poorest areas in Addis.  I mean, it's almost on the same level as Korah without actually living in the trash dump.  

Along the way, not far from Kind Hearts, I was just watching the people on the side of the road, and I saw a little boy.  He was running his hand along a car parked on the road, and right as we passed, he turned his head and I swear - seriously - I swear it was Yitbarek!  He was holding hands with an older man, and I really think I would recognize that face anywhere!  Traffic was a mess and we couldn't just stop right there, but I really wish I would have just yelled out his name to see if he looked.  It sounds wild, I know, but it just had to be him.  Or his twin, maybe. :)

Anyways, we drove forever and ever, and Al couldn't find Kechene, ha.  We had to call one of the guys working there to have him come down to the main road and hop in with us to take us there.  It's not even really roads there.  More like little rock paths, that poor Alex was not pumped about navigating it in his nice car!

We eventually pulled up to the old rusty gate I remember, and I saw a couple of heads peeking through! :)  It was lunch time there, so the kids were washing up to eat and then coming in to sit down and wait for food.  Kechene is a school for younger kids, but also a feeding center for public school kids.  Public schools here don't offer lunch, so they come there to eat.  It was pretty impressive to see how they all patiently sat there with their little hands folded waiting to be served.  The process is interesting.  The cooks actually pass the injera and sauce on plates up through the window in to the classroom, and then the teachers deliver it to the kids at the desks.  They let me pass them all out, so that was pretty cool!  The kids all said thank you so nicely! :)

After lunch, we got out the stack of orange back-packs and handed them out to the kids.  They were so, so, SO excited!  These kids have to be some of the poorest in/around Addis.  Well, next to Korah, I think.  They were seriously PUMPED to have new bags, and seemed to like the "Jesus Loves Me" craft, too.  We got names written on all the bags, and then I got attacked for a picture.  It was too fun.  Just wish Matt could have been here to experience this, too.  The bags are half from him, after all!  It truly has been one of the cooler things I've been a part of.

We didn't hang around Kechene too long.  Dropped "Al" off so he could go home or to work or whatever, and then Alex and I went to the German Beer Garden for a quick stop so I could sit in the lobby and skype with Matt.  Kind of missing him. :)

Next stop was the Live FashionAble scarf company!  Kiely told me I could stop by to see the factory where the women make the scarves - and of course to buy some!  The 'factory' is two little buildings.  They are $30-$40 if you buy them in the US, and only $10 there!  So, yea, I bought a few.  Or a lot.  Like 10.  I can't help it.  I love scarves, and this is a good cause.  They're helping these women get off the streets, get an income, and support their families.  It really was cool to see how they are all made, and see the women actually working on them!  I don't think they know just how popular their scarves are becoming in the US.  I mean, the chick on The Bachelorette wore one a week or so ago, and it's sold out now!  Really glad I got to see all of that - and ended up with some new acceseories! :)

I promised Alex if he sat and waited on me to do that, that I would take him to lunch.  Poor guy - it was 3:30 and we hadn't eaten yet!  So, we went back to Lime Tree.  It's one of the few places I know was good food!  Usually he sits in the car and waits for us to eat, but I made him come in and sit with me.  I think he thought it was kind of weird, ha, but I enjoyed his company!  We both had a delicious hibiscus juice or something like that.  It was seriously good.  We also ordered "meat" lasagna.  Not sure what kind of meat it was, but it was pretty good.  Just hoping it doesn't make me sick!

We got back to Sophie's around 4:30, and I showered.  The shower wasn't really working right - the water was just trickling out and it was barely warm - but I'm not going to complain!  Not sure what was up with it though.  Still felt great to cool off and clean up after being outside surrounded by kids all day.

Sophie got home around 5:30, and we chatted about her day at work.  She really is enjoying her new job.  Well, not the job so much yet I guess, but the people are young and fun, so she's pretty excited about that!

We had stopped at a fruit market yesterday, so Sophie made a big fruit salad for dinner that night.

Kiely, Matt, Alyssa, and Tyler showed up around 7 for dinner.  After a quick tour of the place, we called in some Thai food and sent Alex off to get it.  The food was delicious - we all really enjoyed it.  I have to admit, it was really pretty weird to be sitting in Ethiopia having Thai food with a bunch of Americans!

We all sat around and talked for hours.  They didn't leave until after 10pm, and I'm so exhausted right now - and not feeling too well.  I'm not sure if it was the Thai or the meat lasagna, but I'm taking a cipro to head it off.  Hopefully nothing gets worse - I have to travel tomorrow!

 Alex is coming at 8am tomorrow to take me to the airport for my flight to Uganda!  Updates might get a lot more messy there. Not sure what the Internet situation is there, but I'll update when I can! :)  That's all for now!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 4: Trees of Glory & Korah

I slept great last night. Still can't believe how this all worked out. How I'm staying in an awesome house with a bed, my own nice bathroom, etc.  Just not at all what I expected! That was one of the first things I thought of when I woke lucky I am.  (That and if the San Antonio Spurs won last night!)

I had my alarm set for 6:15 this morning, but I woke up a little before then. Made the bed, sorted through my clothes, and hopped in the shower.  My nice, hot shower. :)  It had been a looooong time since I showered. Well, I showered in DC Saturday morning, but I didn't wash my hair. That hadn't happened since Friday morning! Yuck! Felt amazing to be clean again, wearing some makeup / clean clothes and having my hair done!

I fixed two pb&j  bagel thins for breakfast, and sat down at the table to check my emails. Can I just say again how lucky I am to be staying with Sophie?!  She has internet. Reliable internet on a laptop on her dining room table. And she's so ridiculously sweet!!

So after checking and responding to a few emails (and eating my pb&j's), Alex showed up.  (Driver Alex...this is going to get confusing.)  I called Alex, the HopeChest staff member, and let those two work out where to meet.  In Amharic.  Much easier for all of us. :)  Okay, going forward, driver Alex is still Alex, and HopeChest Alex is going to be Al.  He won't appreciate that, ha. ;)

Leaving Sophie's house in Addis
 Alex is such a good driver.  I swear I always have the worst luck with drivers.  I mean I almost always get the craziest, worst drivers in whatever city I go to.  But Alex is really cautious.  Such a welcome change!  I feel so safe with him.  And he's super nice and tries to be a tour guide with his limited English.  He said a stadium was a studio, ha.  Had to set him straight on that one.  We saw a lot more of the same sad existence that so many people have here in Addis.  So many just sit.  All day.  Sit on the sidewalk and swat flies away.  What kind of life is that!?  

(Just happened to turn on my camera on the drive, and realized it was almost dead!  It was fully charged the day I left, but it must of gotten stuck on some time and drained the battery.  SO NOT HAPPY about that!!)

We did see a lot of other people worshiping and going to church today.  Today is a holy day here, but it really is celebrating the end of the previous government that got overthrown 20 years ago.  I don't know much about what happened, but apparently the last government murdered thousand of Ethiopians?  I'm going to have to look it up when I get back home...

We picked "Al" up near his neighborhood, because taxis were too busy and full to get him to Mexico square where we were originally going to meet.  It really was so good to see him again!  He's such a great guy, and has such a love in his heart for the kids!  We chatted for most of the long drive out to Trees of Glory.  Up and over the mountain - where we saw lots of women running with branches on their backs.  I remember them from last time.  They walk up to the mountains to pick these branches, run them back down to Addis, all to sell them for a couple of dollars for their family.  They have to be in crazy good shape!

The road to Trees of Glory is very windy, and as we came around a sharp corner, we saw a giant truck with a large trailer completely turned over in the middle of the road.  It was blocking the road and had dumped its entire load of sand/dirt all over!   Pretty scary...  And right before that, we saw a motorcyle who had just rolled over, and after the big truck, we saw a van slammed into a guard rail on a bridge!!  Must be a dangerous road!

Along the way, we also saw lots of people carrying the big yellow jerry cans of water.  I saw plenty of this last time, but I still can't wrap my head around having to get water from a spigot half a mile away, and carrying it back just to start the day.  One little girl couldn't of been 4 years old.  :(

I always have so much time to think one the long drive to Trees of Glory, through the wide open country.  Seeing all the little kids fetching water and herding cattle made me wonder what their lives would end up like.  What if they had the chance to go to school and get an education like the kids who have sponsors now at Trees of Glory?  You know, it's all about the ripple effect.  We just have to be the ripple.  Just get it going.  Just change one little persons life by loving them, feeding them, educating them, and making sure they have a relationship with Jesus.  Just one little life at a time.  And then praying they grow up to do the same - keep the ripple going! :) If everyone did that, the world be so different.  If those who were blessed enough to have resources to help change maybe a couple of lives, it wouldn't even be a ripple.  It would be like giant tsunami wave of lives being changed!  So that's why I'm here I guess.  I think it's important to try and get the ripple going... :)

Anyways, we pulled up to Trees of Glory after what seemed like an eternity.  You know how when you're excited to get somewhere, it takes forever!?  Yea, that was this morning.  Most of the kids that attend Trees of Glory only come on the weekends and attend other schools during the week.  So unfortunately, my Mita wasn't there (she was yesterday though!)  I was just so thrilled - and that' an  understatement - to see a row of 6 water spigots when I pulled up, that I couldn't possibly be too terribly disappointed for missing her.

(The first water spigots I saw when we pulled in.)

Simret gave us the grand tour of the whole place and all of the updates.  And let me  tell you, there have been some serious updates in the past 6 months!  When I was there in November, we were still raising funds for a well to be dug and plumbing to the buildings.  Check that off the list.  The well is fully operational, the donkeys have water to drink, there is irrigation for gardens for vegetables, the kids have showers to use and flushing toilets, the cooks have clean water IN the kitchen, AND the surrounding community even has access to clean water via two 10,000 liter tanks at the top of the hill - all provided by the well we worked so hard to fund.  I seriously just stood there clapping and cheering every time we saw more water and said, "I just can't believe this!!"  When we got to the actual well, Simret teared up and said, "There are no words..."  She is obviously beyond grateful for this.  Having access to clean water on the grounds changed their lives and made everything so much easier!  OH - and don't forget they just got ELECTRICITY in all the buildings, too!  They've only had it for two weeks.  All the changes were just SO AWESOME to see.  That's all I can say.  Just AWESOME. (Lots of pictures to come...)

After walking around and seeing everything, I got out the orange backpacks and craft projects for the kids.  They are the most grateful little things I've ever seen! They loved having something to call their own (they literally have nothing in their rooms besides a bed and a blanket) and they had fun with the "Jesus Loves Me"  craft I brought - a little safety pin thing with beads for their bags.  Alex wrote their names on the bags for them to keep them apart (my permanent markers works I great!) and then we had to take off to make it back to Addis.  It was a short trip, but so totally worth it to get to see them with running water finally!

We picked Sophie up at her office around 1pm and went straight to the new care-point in Korah called "Hands for the Needy."  It is a little different from the other care-points I have visited, as it is just a feeding program, providing lunch every day for 210 kids.  Well, I didn't know that, and we missed lunch.  Which means we missed the kids!!  I was pretty bummed about that, but we did talk to the guy who is running the place, who just happens to be a former resident of the trash dump, and graduate from the Young Life program.  His story was pretty incredible, and we watched a documentary on life in Korah.  

Two little guys just outside the carepoint

Korah is absolutely the most deplorable conditions I have ever seen.  I mean, they literally live in and off of other peoples trash.  Come on.  How can that be, right?  That doesn't really happen...  That's what I kept asking myself, until we drove right up to it.  We were a ways away from the people from where we were, and the smell was enough to keep us away, but there were loads of people out there digging through the trash that was being dumped from a truck.  It totally blew me away.  It's always one thing to see pictures, but you still feel somewhat detached - until you actually see it with your own eyes.  There are children who right now are digging through trash just so survive.  How do you go to sleep at night knowing that?  How do you drive away and not do something?  If I could have, I would have walked right out there and snatched up each and every one of them and took them...somewhere.  I don't know.  That's just the problem.  The government is fully aware of this community, and they are doing nothing to help it.  Sick. (Sophie has never been exposed to anything like this and had no idea it even existed.  She was literally sick to her stomach and almost in tears.)

The Korah trash dump - taken from my phone

That kind of put a little damper on the day.  I mean, just seeing that kind of messes with your head.  We drove around a leprosy/Aids hospital nearby trying to find a little arts and crafts shop they have there, but it was closed due to the holiday.  

Next stop was a shoe store - I don't remember what it was called - but the shoes are made out of all tires!  They were closed too, of course.  (Update: Shoe Rebels is what they are called!) 

Third stop was a little German bakery to get a little treat, but more importantly, to use the free wifi.  Struck out again.  After we bought a pastry, we found out the wifi wasn't working.

Fourth stop was finally successful.  A fruit stand to buy fruit for dinner tomorrow night.  Kiely, Alyssa, and Matt are coming to Sophie's for dinner!  Sophie bought two huge bags of all kinds of fruit for a whopping 110 birr.  Ridiculously cheap.

When we finally got home around 5pm, Sophie laid down to read/nap, and I stuffed 145 bags for  Kind Hearts with a little water color paper, 3 qtips, and the pin craft.  It wasn't fun, but since I didn't get it done before I left, I had to do it then.  It took about an hour, and once I finished we left for dinner. 

I really wanted to go somewhere with wifi so I could talk to Matt, so we went to a German place called The Beer Garden Inn.  It definitely had a German feel to it. The tables were big beer barrels and they brew their own beer.  It was a cool place, but very loud and our food was awful.  I ordered some German something I couldn't even pronounce, which turned out to be fried noodles, I think.  Bleh.  It was totally worth it to get to imessage and eventually Skype though!

The German Beergarden where we ate dinner
After dinner, Sophie and I walked across the street to a little cupcake shop.  I needed something sweet after my awful dinner!  It turned out to be a good decision.  I ordered a "pink berry" cupcake, and it was almost comprable to my moms strawberry cupcakes.  And I freaking LOVE my moms strawberry cupcakes!! (AND they had wifi there, too!)

We were there just long enough to eat our little treat, and then Alex was there to take us home.  And that's where we are now!  It's getting late, and I have another full day tomorrow, so I'm going to get to bed soon.

Tomorrow morning, once we drop Sophie off at work at 9am, Alex and I are going to pick up Al, and head to Kind Hearts.  OH - funny story: Al told me the there was a medical mission team there last week and Beza went up to everyone saying, "Do you know Terri?"  HA - made my day.  How cute is that!?  She has no idea I'm coming, so this is going to be fun!  Then we're heading back to Korah to see the kids during lunch, THEN to Kechene, then to FashionAble to see the factory, then home for dinner with friends!  Going to be a crazy day, so I better get some rest!

Will try to write more tomorrow!