Friday, March 27, 2015

Day 7 -Buliisa District, Uganda

Day 7 - Well dedication and Asaba Primary School

Oh man, I feel like a new woman. 

The position I fell asleep in around 11:30 last night was the exact position I woke up in at 7:15. Deepest sleep ever! I was so exhausted. The bed was comfy, the pillows were comfy, and I had a fan!! Dream come true, haha. I sleep with a fan on every night at home for the noise (it's kind of like the airplane sound - just knocks me out) so I use a white noise app on my phone when I travel, but it's not as good as the real thing. 

I was out of it when I woke up and it definitely took me a second to figure out where I was. Bright sun in my eyes and a mosquito net swirling around ... Not something I'm used to, haha. But I went right back to sleep until my alarm went off at 8:30

Emmanuel, Joshua, and Zaiko (local ThinkHumanity workers) originally told us to meet them at the hostel at 9. Then they said they would come pick us up here around 9:30. Then one said maybe 10. So that probably means 10:30ish. Maybe. "Africa time" is definitely a real thing. 

Sean and I had breakfast at the hotel a little before 9. More matoke (like a banana kind of, but cooked) and a hard boiled egg and toast with red plum jam and some Weetabix. Oh and melon juice. Hope I don't regret eating any of that.  I'm a little more cautious now that I've gotten sick both in India and in Thailand ... Cautious in that I at least think about it. But I still eat it. Nothing a little Cipro can't cure... ;)

Oh when I picked up the Weetabix, it was like a block of...I don't know. Kind of like a granola bar? But there was a bowl and some milk so I put it in and said, "I have no idea what THIS is?!" Sean turned around and died laughing. "You said it like it was some weird Ugandan thing! You've never had Weetabix before?" Guess it's normal I'm England. Not so much in Kansas. ;) it was kind of like mushy cereal. Some sort of wheat I would assume from the name. It was edible but not that good!

We sat out in the same spot in the open courtyard...and waited. And waited some more. I finally checked my emails...and wished I Hadn't when I saw this from the US Embassy in Kampaka. 

Zaiko showed up around 9:45 and said we needed to "be patient" because we were waiting on the car. So he took Sean in to town to get a SIM card for his phone, and I stayed to catch up on my 300 unread emails. I wanted to get a SIM card too but I guess it's almost impossible to find one in Uganda. iPhones aren't around here...

A little later he decided to go in to town to try and find a new car. The one he had lined up was "delaying us." He came back at 10:45 with a new car (mini van actually), and we loaded up to get Emmanuel and Joshua in town. Stopped again a few minutes later and picked up Asaba. I remembered him from last time - he is the director of the school we were going to!

Emma and Joshua 

It was a long, hot, bumpy drive from Hoima to Buliisa District.  About 2 hours.  I slid down in my seat and put my knees on the drivers seat and rested my head on the back of the seat.  I was trying to staibilize myself from the bumps so I didn't puke on anyone.  I gave the last of my dramamine (motion sickness meds) to a girl in Botswana who needed it for the river cruise.  Praying I don't regret that one, haha.

An hour or so in, I was getting hungry.  (Shocking, I know.)  So I pulled out my beef jerky and had a few pieces, and then passed it around to everone in the van.  None of them knew what it was!  Zaiko LOVED it, and said (seriously) "Keeler, you have the seeds for this?  You send me? I need the seeds for this. Very good so we can plant it around! I will plant at post office."

I. Died.  I told him it was cow and then they all started laughing.  Too funny.  I don't know if he thought it was like tree bark or something or what?  

We stopped in a small village for some petrol so we could make it the rest of the way.  It is sold in bottles here!  Like old re-used 2 liter pop bottles.  Full of gas.

We got out to stretch our legs and walk around for a couple of minutes.  Asaba - who everyone calls Master because he was a teacher for so long around here and started all of these schools - handed out what was left of the beef jerky to some loal guys.  It was a big hit!

As I was walking around, I looked down and saw a goats hoof just laying there.  Then I looked up and saw why.  There was a whole table full of goat heads justy laying there.  Eyes open, blood dripping from their necks.  And then next to that was skinned goat bodies hanging there in the open.  Flies all over.  And the guy was just cutting chunks of it off and sticking it on a stick and then putting it over a fire.  Dinner in Africa...

From there we drove out of town a ways - down some tiny paths that I don't think were meant for vehicles.  I hadn't been to this area before, but Asaba had started a new pre-school out here for the Congolese refugee children who couldn't go to the local school.  It was too far away and too expensive.  When we pulled up, the teacher had them all singing, "welcome sister" and clapping.  But as soon as I walked in to the little hut and they layed eyes on a muzungu (white person) - the singing and clapping stopped.  Their poor little face, hahaha.  It was like they'd just seen a ghost!  They wouldn't talk or smile or anything.  Took a long time for a few of them to relax at all, but most of them just sat there frozen the entire time. 

We got them outside for a picture in the daylight, and I tried to pick one up.  He FROZE.  I felt so bad for them, but it was kid of funny.  I guess some people tell their kids that if they arnen't good, a muzungu will come and steal their soul.  No wonder they were freaking out!

Look at all those heads looking at me

Asaba said many of the congolese, who easily cross in to Uganda on a short boat ride across Lake Albert (very nearby), but are too scared to go to the refugee camps because they have a bad reputation.  So instead they build small hut out in the middle of nowhere and do their best to survive. :(

We drove back in to the town from their, and made a quick stop at Asaba Primary School - my favorite kids school in all of Uganada.  Out of the like five I've been to, haha.  

Just one of the guys, right?
My colleagues for the next few days: Asaba, Emma, Joshua, Zaiko, and the driver 

We weren't their long - just hopped out to say hi to all the screaming kids - many of whom remembered me from my last visit - and picked up Asaba's 4 year old daughter, Daniela.  She was coming with us.  I always joke that I'm going to steal one of the kids when we stop - they're all so awesome - and this time I kind of got to!  I pulled her up on my lap and she just kept slowly turning her head up to sneak a peek at me with her big eyes and then would quickly turn back around when I smiled at her.  Never cracked a smile or anything.  Just sat there frozen and emotionless, so I wasn't sure what she was thinking.  Probably freaking out like the other little ones at the pre-school!

We drove on out of town again - a different direction - and then turned on to a tiny path.  I'm talking a walking path...that our driver was trying to drive down!  And in the middle of nowhere again.  He eventually stopped and we had to walk the rest of the way to the village of huts.  

As I was walking, all of a sudden I had a little 4 year old grabbing my hand and leading the way.  Apparently she does like me. :)

We turned down another path and were basically walking along the edge of a jungle.  Asaba was telling me how all these people used to get their drinking water from the same place the baboons did in the forest before this well was completed in September of last year.

No one had been out there yet to do a dediation ceremony for the village and so the people back in the states who funded it could see it - so I said my little speech while Sean recorded.  Beth gave me some things to say and who to thank, and Asaba told me about where we were and the facts about the well.  I don't think I did too good of a job, but I said everything I was suppossed to and it will have to do, haha.

More and more people were coming to the well with all the commotion, and as we were leaving, a very old woman came up to me carryig a basket with purple and turquoise strands running through it that she wanted to sell me.  Purple and turquoise (my favorite colors), hand made in could I say no?  It's big and like three pieces.  Don't really know how to describe it but Emma (Emmanual) said it was for food and they use it all the time.  

I think she wanted like 2,000 Schillings for it (less than a dollar) ... and I gave her 20,000 (around $8).  She literally bowed dow at my feet and then just grabbed me and gave me the biggest hug.  I didn't know if she was going to let me go.  Everyone that had gathered by this point was clapping and laughing at her - or me - who knows.  It was pretty funny though, and I had Joshua take a few pics.  She was talking a mile a minute, no idea what she was saying, but clearly happy.  She grinned so big - missing teeth and all - and gave a thumbs up.  Pretty sure I just made her day.  And now I have some other giant thing to try and figure out how I'm going to get home...

Walked back to the car, sweating to death.  I mean come on, it's got to be 100 degrees here.  And so humid.  No shade.  This African sun is no joke.  I guess we are really close to the equator.  I've chugged 2 small bottles of water and a 1.5 liter bottle...and still thirsty.  It's ridiculous.  At least I have on a white shirt today that doesn't show the sweat as much...but jeez.  Soaked.

Drove back to Asaba primary, and the kids were all waiting.  They were jumping and screaming the second I walked out of the car.  The video is pretty awesome.  I just love those kids.

The school has changed a little since I was here last.  There were several brick buildings where classes used to be held, but I guess Asaba was just renting those and it was too much, so he built some little wooden and thatch roof buildings just off to the side on some land that he owned.  Too bad they don't have the nicer buildings...but at least they have benches and some tables and a roof over their heads.  Being back at the school made me realize I need to support this place more.  I love the works Asaba has done in this community, and I REALLY love these kids.  It wouldn't take much to get some funing for their school, uniforms, supplies, teachers salaries, better buildings with no leaking roofs during rainy season...  That might be my next project.  Without education, what will happen to these kids??

Anyways, Asaba walked me to the front of each class.  They each sang something, and then I did the same thing in each class.  Introduced myself, asked them if they could say my  name, asked who the class leader was, asked what they were learning about todayt, and then some question related to that.  They are taught in English and they all speak it...but apparently my accent is crazy hard for them to understand.  I would say someting, most of them would look at my like I was crazy (a few would get it) then Asaba would repeat what I just said - still in English! - and then they would respond!  One class was learning about objects (chair, cup, table), one was wild animals, one was mathetmatics, one was memorizing bible verses...just normal stuff. It was pretty fun to get to see all these kids in the classrooms with their little pencil stubbs and one notebook each.  But they were learning!!

After that, I was trying to figure out the best way to do an art project with over 100 kids in an hour or so.  There were 6 classes, and I couldn't do the same thing in each class - it would take too long.  So I finally decided to just have Asaba bring them ALL out.  At once.  And in about 1 minute I had over 100 sets of eyes on me - sitting on little benches that they drug out of their classrooms - waiting in anticipation to see what they got to do today with this muzungu carrying bags of stuff.

The bags were donated by Art for the Nations - a non profit out of Denver - and they were full of everything you need to do 4 art projects with instructions.  But I didn't have the time to do all of them with that many kids.  So after talking it over with Sean, we decided to just hand out a piece of paper to each kid and some markers and crayons and have the kids write their names on it.  

We had in our heads that they weould write it BIG across the whole page - and I tried to explain and demonstrate that - but again, the accent.  So most of them just wrote it really tiny at the top.  A few figured it out and then flipped it over and re-did it on the back.  I mean, that was hard enough, but then I told them to draw their favorite animal.  It was getting a little out of control.  100+ kids all getting more and more excited by the minute - and fighting over crayons and markers being tossed in the air.  

So I finally got their attention once everyone was done with that...and broke out the scissors!  New concept to them.  So I stood there like "These are scissors.  They cut the paper.  This is how they work"

Had to do the demonstration a few times, and then passed out a ton of scissors.  I'm not sure they really got it.  To cut a fun shape around their name and picture.  Either that or they probably just couldn't get them to work properly to actually cut a shape.  I mean they tried - but most of them just ended up cutting some corners off or something.

Then the really fun part.  I told them to bring them up to me when they were done, and I would put glue and then glitter on them.  GLITTER.  Whaaaat?  They had no idea what that was, hahaha.  I mean glitter is like my favorite thing ever.  I had my dad put glitter on my ceiling in my bedroom when I was little so I could look at it all the time.  (Still love that ceiling...)  So getting to introduce a bunch of African kids to this new substance was like a dream come true for me.  "I want it in my eyes."  "Can I eat it?"  "Will it stay forever?"

I had several bottles of glue, but only two big things of glitter.  So Sean and I got down on the ground and shared one bottle, and then Emma and Asaba took the other -- and we got to work.

  It took a LOT longer than I thought to put glue and glitter on over 100 pices of paper.  Emma and Asaba were actually outlinging the names or animals...Sean and I decided that was going to take way too long so we just drew fun designs on there.  Squiggly lines or a shape around their name or something like that.  We would have been there all day outlinging names!  

The kids were getting more and more interested in the glitter.  Most of them would look at it and shake it, touch it, then they realized it stuck to their sweaty skin. So they would try to sneak a quick swab across the chair I was working on when it was there turn to come up.  Oh and by turn, I mean whoever could shove their piece of paper down the fastest.  I was surrounded by kids on all sides the whole time.  No such thing as a proper line.

Once everyone had their project done, I took a couple of pictures for Art for the Nations, and did what any decent person would do.  "WHO WANTS TO HAVE A GLITTER PARTY!?"  I yelled...and immediately got stampeded by all the kids.  I mean thy almost knocked me over.  Joshua had my phone and recorded the whole thing.  Those kids was the definition of pure joy.  So so so so fun.  Screeching and screaming and laughing and jumping. It got wild. Fast. The kids loved it so much that when it was over, they were on the ground trying to pick it out of the dirt!  They had it all over them and just loved it.  

Even as I was leaving, they were grabbing on to my arms tryig to pick the glitter off of me so they could have more of it.  I know, I  now...gllitter is that awesome.  I would do the same thing, so I let them all pick and pull and grab, haha.

Might have some confused or unhappy parents tonight though.  "What is this substance all over my child??"  And let me tell you, glitter does NOT come off easily when you're super sweaty. 

Once we finally got out of the school (it was hard to leave - the kids were surrounding the van! - Asaba drove and took us in to town to get some water.  Our other driver, the one Zaiko got for us this moring as a replacement, really wasn't a good driver.  At all.  He was 19 and didn't even have a proper license, so I was pretty okay with Asaba taking over.  

It was around 2 probably and we hadn't eaten all day and I was out of water.  I thought surely we were going to eat, too, but no, just wattter and some bananas...and then we took off for Lake Albert, which is the border between Uganda and Congo.

It was about a 30 minute drive to the shore - a drive down a bumpy, windy, washed out road, going down steep hills with no guard rail.  It takes a lot to get me scared, but he was flying so fast that the car literally would bounce so hard on the bumps it was shimmy to the side of the roaad and almost turn sideways.  I just knew we were going over the edge and it was all over a couple of times... 

It was a national forest and Asaba said there are lions and water buffalo and babboons - all sorts of animals threre.  We could have done a safari there!  Apparently there are just massive amounts of baboons there, so Emma was hanging a banana out the window of the car and sure enough, a giant one came running right down the road toward us.  And Emma didn't even flinch.  The babboon came right up to the window, took the banana, and swallowed the whole thing whole!  Emma tossed him one more, and one of the guys fro the back seat reached up and slid open the door that Sean was sitting by.  And I was right next to Sean.  I kept yelling at him to shut the door.  I mean there was a giant, wild, hungry babboon just sitting 5 feet away staring at me - holding bananas.  And no one cared!  The video of all of that is pretty hilarious.  I can't wait to get all my videos uploaded.  I have some good ones... :)

We made it down the mountain (Which apparently whatever mountain range this is is the longest uninterrrupted range in the world?) and drove through a little community - wouldn't even call it a village really - and then got out on the shores of Lake Albert.  It really was beautiful.  Fishing boats for days.  The Congo in the distance.  Naked kids everywhere - some bathing, some playing.  

But the overwhelming heat and smell of rotten fish was enough to knock you out.  I mean really the heat more then anything.  It is SO freaking HOT here!  How many times have I said that?  Haha.  There is just no break.  The heat and sun is relentless.  So I was hot and hungry and tired and my foot was sore.  That's not a good combo. ;)

The guys found a local and really wanted to "learn" and take a "tour" of the beach and area.  Sean and I were so beat from the day that we kind of tagged along behind for awhile, but walking through the scorching sand...I just couldn't keep up.  My foot was done.  So we hollered that we were going to sit in the grass under a tree, and they continued on.  But Asaba left his daughter, Daniela, with me.  She was hot and tired and hungry and couldn't keep up either!

Have you ever seen cows on a beach?

Of course she had to sit on my lap because the grass was itchy.  She could have peed on me and I wouldn't even have known it.  That's how hot and wet I was from the sweat.

She was getting bored (so was I) so I pulled out my iPad for her and showed her how to play a puzzle game I had on there for my nephew, Hunter.  It didn't take her long to figure it out.  And it didn't take long for there to be quite a gathring of other children quietly hovering behind me, watching this thing they hadn't ever seen before.  One of the boys tried to reach up and touch it to help her (or maybe just to touch it) and it was the first thing I'd heard her say all day.  She shot him a look and swatted his hand and said something. That iPad was HERS, haha.

Okay so this continued on for far too long.  Us sitting there, on a beach in the middle of nowhere. No idea where our people went. Guys walking by sticking fish in our face trying to get us to buy them.  I couldn't take it anymore, so we decided to just risk it and walk back towards the direction of the car, with Daniela.  The guys said they would come back for us, but we were tired of waiting.  So I hobbled back through the sand, dragging Daniela along.  Poor thing wasn't happy either.  She was out of water, too.

Zaiko - who had said all along he didn't even want to go to the beach because he's scared of the water - and the driver were back at the car.  But Emma, Joshua, Asaba, and the local "guide" were still missing.  We sat and waited in the heat....and waited some more.  I tried to sit on the edge of the bummper of the car because it was partially in the shade, and Daniela laid on my legs.  Ugh. Another hour latrer and they finally came wandering back, all happy fromm their tour like nothing was wrong.  IT'S HOT AND I NEED FOOOOOD.  Haha. It was 5:30 when we left there.  The drive back was brutal.  I tried to sleep so as not to think about the sweat and glue and glitter covering me.  The lack of food and water.  But those Ugandan massage's a little hard to sleep through that.  Especially when the driver sucks...and you have a 4 year old on your lap half the way.  ;)

We got back to Hoima at 8:30.  I had snacks with me that I tried to sneak in throughout the day, but not THAT many.  It had been almost 12 hours since we had eaten.  And no one except Sean and I really seemed to care!?  I mean the guys all said they were tired and we dropped them off at different locations, but as soon as we got dropped off back at our hotel, we immediately walked right down the road to Hoima Resort Hotel to eat there.  They had a buffet, basically the same thing as the place we were last night, and we loaded up.  On food AND water.  

We walked back to our hotel and finally showered.  I washed everything multiple times, hair included.  I mean I scrubbed, and when I got out to dry off, my towel STILL had dirt and glitter on it!

Sat out in the courtyard for awhile and chatted until amost 11:30.  (And it took me 30 minutes of constantly hitting "Refresh" to get yesterday's stupid blog post up!)  The day really was awesome.  I mean the glitter alone was just amazing.  But we both agreed, we could have done without the absurd heat and no food.

Once I got in bed, I had a couple of messages from Beth.  She and Jim are stuck in the US.  I don't know if there was weather or what, but they are trying to get out tomorrow.  Everything is pushed back a day or a day and a half for them now.  Just hoping they make it here before the mosquito net distribution in the camp on Sunday, but its sounding like we might have to go to the camp without them!

The plan tommorow is to go visit a well that my good friends family donated for, and a couple others I think.  We might go to moonlight school to see the roof that another friend donated for - but not if it means another entire day spent without eating, haha.  I will insist on lunch tomorrow...

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