Thursday, November 19, 2009

I have another blog, little known fact. I've had it since high school when we had to do a lot of blogging for English assignments. Anyways, I can't decide if I want to just combine these two blogs, or keep the Uganda one specifically focused on Uganda, even while I'm not there. I'm playing with the idea, we'll see what develops. In the meantime.....

PS...UWG (uganda was good. apparently they say that over there?)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

home will be where the heart is

i'm having a bit of an identity crisis, and i blame it all on uganda. I was not expecting to love Uganda as much as I do now. I loved it before I even went and I claimed to be obsessed with Africa, but those feelings of obsession and excitement don't even compare to the attachment I feel to my little Lugazi town. I loved living in Uganda. I felt so at home there. I loved every little thing about Uganda. Even the infuriating things like being taunted by boda drivers or getting ripped off with prices for taxi rides or going over 1,000 speed bumps in a huge bus were so hilarious and believe it or not, I really miss those things. Roads are too smooth in America and I am way too clean here, I miss having brown water come off of my hands when I wash them and running to the backyard to our welcoming (to us at least) little squatter.

I've always been in love with the song Home from Beauty and the Beast, but since being home from Uganda, the words of the song have a new meaning for me. In the wise words of Belle:

home will be where the heart is
never were words so true,
my heart's far, far away, home is too
what i'd give, to return
to the life that i knew lately
but i know that i can't
solve my problems going back

I love being back in the states where I can call my family whenever I want, and better yet see my family! But my heart is still in Uganda, and I think a piece of me always will be. I've spent the first couple of weeks of school wishing I was far away from here back in my (un)comfortable bed in Dr. Nyombi's house surrounded by people and places that I truly love. But I am realizing that I made so much progress in my life in a short 12 weeks abroad, and up until now I have unknowingly stopped my progress by spending so much of my time wishing I could go back.

So even though I still miss Uganda every single day and hope that I will be able to go back someday, I am going to start living in the now...making my life here better so that when I go back to Uganda, I will have even more to offer. The trick is...making provo feel like home...

annet and josiah, the greatest people ever. seriously.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I am HIV Negative

Oli otya! Hope everyone celebrated 7/11 on Saturday, that is such a
great holiday. We had quite the celebration in Lugazi...called the
Lugazi Mega Youth Festival aka the kristie archer inspired 1st annual
aids extravaganza! It went SO well, thanks for the idea Kris! There
was a big parade in the morning all throughout lugazi to advertise to
the whole town, and then the performances actually started around 11.
Tons of schools came and performed their traditional songs/dances and
songs about AIDS. The mayor came and spoke, the minister of health
spoke, some youth counselor guy spoke, and the Youth Outreach guys
spoke who helped us put on the extravaganza. Eight or so of us in the
group did a traditional African dance with some of our youth outreach
friends and that was an absolute blast, oh my I loved it. We had
practices all last week learning the different moves, shaking your
hips like they do is haaard! We got to wear the traditional skirts and
furs, so you have the skirt, then a layer of hula skirt-ish stuff, and
then a thing that goes around your waist that has fake human hair on
it and shakes like crazy when you move your hips. Weird I know, but it
looks cool when you dance. The crowd went CRAZY when we were on stage,
everyone loved it! So many people came to the backstage door when we
were finished to shake our hands and give us hugs and tell us "well
done" or "you look so smart". We were like celebrities! I also did a
modern dance with one of our country directors, Melissa, who has done
modern her whole life. We choreographed it in our living room that
morning and our performance was the second time we had danced with the
music. It turned out really well though, and I was so excited to use
dance in Uganda. One girl here just got her degree in acting at BYU so
she wrote a short monologue that basically just said things like I
will not fear, I will protect my body, I will not be a statistic. So
she said the monologue and then we started dancing, and it was
supposed to be about 2 women who find out they have AIDS and are sad
at first but then support each other and live positively. I don't know
if the message came across to the audience at all, but it was still
cool to do. Everyone that talked to us said they had never seen dance
like that before, so it was probably even weirder to them than modern
usually is to people. Outside we had free HIV/AIDS testing and family
planning stations, so I got tested for HIV and..............I'm
negative. Were you nervous? Don't worry the needle was safe, we
watched the nurse take it out of the packet. Most of the group left
for kampala/the second trip to gulu so there were only three of us
left at the extravaganza to close up shop. tons of people were waiting
for the test results, so they had us give them their results and do
counseling with them. That was so cool. We started out by asking them
what they thought their status was and why. One girl who was probably
around 12 started crying and said she thought she was positive because
she never protects herself when she has sad. Then we ask if
you are negative, what will you do to stay negative and if you are
positive, what will you do to live a healthy life. Then we gave them
their results, and all of the people we counseled were negative (thank
goodness, I don't know what I would have done if they were positive).
They were so so so relieved and so happy when we told them, they would
give us hugs and then run out and show their friends their results. It
is crazy that it is even a concern for them. Three people came out
positive from the testing, one was 15, one was 23, and the last one
was a breast feeding mother which means that she could be passing it
on to her baby. So so sad. It was a really cool experience though, and
now I know my status!

We also did the big eye camp last week. Over 100 people got free
surgeries and we screened over 2,000 people and gave them medicine.
One man had cataracts in both eyes and hadn't been able to see for 10
years and could finally see after the surgery. He was so happy and
everyone was so excited for him, it was way cool.

We had our friend Dennis who is in the Jinga Branch come to our house
and talk to us on Wednesday. He is from Gulu and used to be in the
LRA. He had such a crazy story. When he was young the LRA came and
raided his house and told him to kill his father. He refused and ran
away and they shot at him but just hit his arm. He laid in the grass
in fear for a while after they shot him, and then went back to his
house because he didn't know what to do. When he went back to his
house the LRA had tied his dad and his 2 wives to trees with their
arms and legs spread open. Then one by one they cut open their bodies
down the middle and pulled all of their insides out, while Dennis and
his brother watched. Dennis drew a picture of it and brought it to
show us, it was disturbing. Then the LRA took him and he was with them
for 7 or 8 years. He said they made them do terrible things, like eat
human flesh or they would kill someone and make the boys sit on the
bodies while they ate their dinner. He also said they would go days
without food walking from town to town and were treated terribly. He
escaped one night when the LRA and ugandan army or something were
fighting, but he had no where to go. So he lived on the streets for a
while, eating out of trash and doing random labor jobs to make money.
He has no family and still has no home. He met a professor from BYU in
2007 who was doing research in gulu and they became good friends. When
the professor went home he told dennis to research the church on and so he did and then he met the missionaries and
joined the church last october. The professor sponsors Dennis, meaning
he pays for his school fees, so Dennis goes to school in Jinga but on
holidays goes back to gulu and has no where to live. He just goes to
his old IDP camp and stays with friends if they let him. He said that
sometimes when he thinks about his life and what has happened to him
he feels like he has nothing to live for and shouldn't be alive, so
sad. A lot of other crazy things have happened to him, but he is still
such a great guy and has such a sweet countenance. Hearing the gospel
and the plan of happiness must have been such an amazing thing for
him. I recorded most of what he said, it would be cool if you watched
it sometime. Its crazy stuff. OH he also said that he has been around
Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, and he believes that he is
possessed by evil spirits. I agree with him, that is a sick sick man.
He also said that invisible children interviewed him so that is kind
of cool, but they never did anything with his story so I guess that is not as

I now have huge cuts on both knees from running incidents in Jinga. First one I was running to Ozzies before it closed to get a cinnamon roll and completely face planted and skid all by myself. Second one I was carrying Andrew on my back down the middle of the road, he readjusted, I lost balance and down we went. I fall a lot. Not as much as brooke though, she wins.

Speaking of falling, I have totally fallen in love with this place. We only have a week left and I am getting so sad. I'm worn out and ready to relax at home but so sad to leave these amazing people, knowing that I very well might never come back. That is the worst part. This has been an absolutely incredible experience and I can't believe it is ending. One more week in the most beautiful place in the world, its going to be great!

ps if you have seen The Last King of Scotland, some of it was filmed in our town Lugazi. So watch the movie and it will be like you are here with me

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I went on a safari, I ain't LION

Sorry I haven't updated in a while, my blog skills/time are seriously lacking. But here is the latest update of my Ugandan adventures...

The last week was so awesome, I seriously love this place. This is a long one, so prepare yourself...First of all last sunday two children were attacking me all through sacrament meeting, sitting on my lap and going through my book of mormon. I was letting them draw on the blank sides of my BOM notes that I still have, and then they found our family picture aka mass chaos. First they fought over looking at it and they ran to the front row to show their parents, and then their parents passed the picture down the row for everyone to look at. After sacrament their mom, sister mariam who is a crack up, came up to me and said she saw my family and was so excited about it. She asked if she could keep the picture, and i let her because i have like 20 other copies that mom sent with me. So she got super excited and told me she was going to frame it in her house so she could remember her friends in America. So all of you are now on the wall of Sister Mariam's house in Jinga, Uganda...CONGRATS! You are famous.

So on Wednesday half of our group left for a few day trip to Gulu to build stoves because we got a grant from the hunger banquet at BYU for the project. Gulu is in Northern Uganda and was heavily affected by the war--it is where the Invisible Children documentaries are based off of. We left wednesday morning for Kampala, then took a bus from Kampala to Gulu which was about a 5 hour drive. I seem to always get a middle seat which I guess I should be used to being the youngest child, so sleep definitely did not happen. The bus ride was so bumpy and its own little adventure. When they are doing construction on the road or the side of the road they build temporary speed bumps and so at one point we went over a speed bump every 10 feet or so for 20 minutes straight. oh my, it was bad news. On the way home my friend Drew counted and we went over 175 speed bumps, but there were over 1500 that had been built and were flattened on the same stretch of road. Out of control right? Then a medicine man got on the bus in this shnazzy suit and was selling miracle drugs from china that cure whooping cough, syphillis, weak teeth, basically everything. and people actually bought it, that was the shocker. The bus stopped every hour or so in towns with vendors wearing blue vests that attack your windows trying to sell you food--chicken on a stick, fried liver (looks like the rats they cook on Shrek), fried bananas/plantains (i thought they were breadsticks the first time and got SO excited), water bottles, grilled corn (delicious), pineapples, and live chickens. Its great. The more north we got, the more deserted the villages were. We passed a lot of IDP camps, which are just clustered, very congested groups of round thatch-roof huts. The villages seriously looked like ghost towns, it was crazy. We got to Gulu and our "friend" who caused us so many problems, Lucy, met us there to take us to the hotel she had set up for us called the Multi-choice Hotel. It was full of choices. If I had stayed there in America I would be afraid of getting raped or some disease. The first night we had to share beds because they didn't have enough room for us, so it was SO stinkin hot. We had beds, mosquito nets, and a basin and water jug for our showers, and a squatter outside. Classy, right? The next two nights we got our own beds though so that was nice.
On Wednesday we split into three groups to build stoves--our goal was to build 10. I went with a group of 5 to build 3 stoves in a village called Paicho. It was a 45 minute boda ride to the village, and it was so beautiful. The North is much more savanna-y than Lugazi which is very jungley. There are really tall grasses and lots of tall trees, I could totally picture the rebel army hiding in there, the real African Bush. Paicho ended up being a village turned into an IDP camp, so there was the main street with "shops" that didn't actually exist and then tons and tons of huts. The camp originally had 18,000 people living there and now there are 11,000. We built two stoves just outside of the camp where there were random clusters of 2 huts by themselves. When we got there the guy who was helping us, Richard, talked to the ladies who we would be building for, then looks at us and goes "So, will it be a problem if we don't have bricks for you to build with?" we all just looked at each other and didn't know what to do. Ok we build the stoves by laying cement and then 4 levels of bricks, with mortar in between each layer. Then we plaster the outside, let it dry, and fill it with clay. We put banana stems in the clay where the burners, chimney, tunnel, and fuel hole is that rot and are pulled out 3 weeks later. So bricks are VITAL to the building. We were trying to figure out if we could build with rocks or something, and then I noticed a block of something brick-ish outside the huts. They told us they had a lot of those, they weren't normal baked bricks but they were sturdy, so we used those. We are learning to be resourceful here. The first stove took FOREVER because they had to go to the road and dig up the sand that covers the road so that we could make cement and then this drunk old man wanted us to pay him for digging it up so we fought about that and then the old women watching us didn't like the sand so they were yelling at us in Acholi, and then when we were pouring water to mix the cement they were yelling at us to pay them for the water we were using. So we were getting frustrated because our policy is that for the stoves we provide cement, rebar, labor, and training and then they provide the local materials like sand, banana stalks, clay, and water but these people would not stop begging to be paid. Ps Acholi is the craziest language ever, it sounds like jibberish. Anyways, finally they let it go and we got back to work, and yes it is hard work Andy haha. We only ended up building 2 because the first one was so unprepared and out of control, so we didn't even get back into Gulu until 7:00 after only building 2. We were SO dusty from the boda ride home that our hair and faces were literally orange, I will show you pictures someday.
Friday new people went to Paicho to fill the stoves and my group went to a village called Laru to build 3 more. the people in Laru were so much more prepared and so helpful, so we pounded those stoves out. I have never been so dirty in my life, but it was really fun. In 2 of the huts we built in their open fire stove was going so not only was it really hot outside, but we were building right next to an open fire so that was fun. FYI my Friday group consisted of liz, lizzie, stacey, and me so 4 girls built 3 stoves by ourselves. We are champs.
Saturday morning we went to the Invisible Children office in Gulu, that was way cool. I am the only one on our team that actually went to The Rescue so it was really cool to talk to the people there about it and their planning process and the effects of it and such. They have some great programs that are really helpful in Gulu and have really had a large impact on bringing hope back to Gulu. Then some of us went to the bus park to see where kids used to night commute. Its not a very big building, just a room with four or five long benches on each side, and almost 1000 kids used to sleep there every night. Insane right?

Let me tell you a little bit about Gulu and the is really quiet and peaceful up there. The people are WAY more reserved than in the south, they don't shout hello to anyone or even shout really. They were still really nice people, except for the crazies screaming at us in Acholi, just not as open I guess. They seemed a little hardened by the war, and it seemed like the younger generation was also raised that way. Gulu has been safer for about 3 years now, but it is still pretty quiet up there. One of my boda drivers told me that during the war there was not a single boda or car anywhere in Gulu because if there was, the rebels would just steal it. He told me that the only time you could safely travel on the roads were from 12-2 in the afternoon, when the LRA were eating lunch. Now there are tons of bodas everywhere, but they all have to wear helmets and can only take 1 passenger, and there are no taxis anywhere. The market is not as crazy as here, but Andrew at invisible children told us that in the 3 months he has been here it has gotten even more crowded, that every month you can tell more people are coming back and going back to a normal life. A boy named Job helped us with the stoves in Paicho and while we were waiting for sand he was telling us about his experiences as a boy during the war. When he was 6 years old his family moved from Paicho to town because it was safer. Sometimes he still had to night commute to the bus park or schools because it was not safe for him to sleep at home. He told us that his cousins were abducted but escaped after a few months. One night his next door neighbors home was raided, the parents were killed and the boys abducted, and he didn't even know it until the morning when he woke up. He said he hasn't seen his neighbors since. Richard told us of the "great atrocities" of the LRA and what a scary, unsafe time it was. The LRA is out of Uganda now and they are hopeful that they will stay out permanently. I can't even imagine the things those people have seen and gone through, its so crazy. Lucy failed us this time but when the rest of the group goes up in 3 weeks to finish the stoves they are going to set up a lecture with someone who was formerly abducted. That should be really cool, I'm bummed it didn't work out for us.

ok SAFARI...I will make this quick because this is really long. Sorry I write such long novels. We went on a safari 2 hours south of Gulu, so kind of in between Kampala and Gulu, by Murchison Falls. We had to drive through the game park for like 40 minutes to get to the lodge/campsite and it was sunset when a lot of the animals came out so that was basically a safari on its own. We saw giraffes, elephants, warthogs, and antelope just in our taxi. It was awesome. We stayed in tents that had four beds in each, which were nicer than our beds at home. Then there was an outdoor lodge thing overlooking the Victoria Nile where we ate and hung out. Sunday morning we left at 6 AM for the safari. We were in big van things where the roof came up so that we could stand up. We saw a huge group of baboons to start off, there were lots of babies in the group and they were so so cute. Our driver/tracker spotted lions in the distance so we totally off-roaded it until we got seriously 20 feet away from the lions. They were 2 juveniles so they didn't have manes yet, but still so cool. We saw a ton of giraffes, a bunch of hippos in the river, and lots of elephants including little babies. then we passed this tree that had 3 lions just chilling under it. It was getting later, about 10:30 so it was already really hot, and you could hear the lions panting to hard to stay cool. They really were just on the side of the road, it was crazy. We were so close to them. We saw some Jungle Book style vultures and some really pretty red and blue birds, tons of antelopes and warthogs and water buffalo. We went back to the lodge for lunch and then at 2 we went on a boat cruise down the victoria nile. We saw tooooons of hippos in the water and elephants on the side of the river, and probably 7 crocodiles. Creeeeepy. Then we rode up to murchison falls which are so so gorgeous. Monday morning we hiked up to the falls which was way cool. It isn't a waterfall with a huge drop, its the kind that it rocky and goes down for a long time, kind of like the one we went to in Winter Park last summer. Its crazy though because the nile goes from being super super wide and then all the sudden squishes down to 4 meters so the water is super super super powerful. We got to walk right up to them, it was so cool to feel and see the power of the water. You would not want to get caught in that waterfall. It was so beautiful looking out from the top of the falls to the huge Nile at the bottom and in the distance. Uganda is gorgeous.

This week we are starting the construction of another Mushroom Farm, but it is going to be at the HIV/AIDS clinic. Time for the machete skills again, I'm excited. The first wavers left yesterday so that was sad, but the newcomers are great. Congratulations if you read all of this, I'm proud of you. Hope all of you are doing well, I miss you guys! I can't wait to show you my pictures and videos, don't worry there are plenty to go around :) gwagala (not how you spell it at all, but its how you pronounce means I love you in luganda)

arrry (no one can say the L in my name these days)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

what up lugazi

Hello hello hellooo! It is time for the weekly update. I'm doing it
today because most of our projects for the day were canceled because
it is town elections today and the next couple days will be really
busy. So, happy thursday everyone. It is cloudy and windy here, which
is a nice change.

This has been a weird week kind of. Well we will start with Saturday.
We went to Jinga to go to an American restaurant and shop for shoulder
bags which for some reason do not exist anywhere in Lugazi. On the way
there we stopped at the biggest forest in Uganda, Mabira Forest to go
hiking and see monkeys because the place is supposed to be full of
them. We hiked for a while and saw no monkeys, just a creepy man
standing in the trees and some enormous centipede things. Halfway
through the hike you have to cross Jinga Road, so half of us decided
to stop there and catch a taxi to Jinga and start our eating and
shopping festivities. Well it was a lot harder to catch a taxi than we
thought, so we literally started walking to Jinga which is like a 30
minute drive, bad idea I know. We were trying to flag down taxis but
instead of stopping everyone in the taxi would just wave back at he
crazy Mzungus. Haha it was so funny. But then we finally got a taxi to
take us back to the forest place called Najjende where there are TONS
of food vendors everywhere that literally attack the car windows
sticking their food inside. We got there and they were cutting trees
down that were just falling into the road blocking everything off so
it was madness and there were cars everywhere. We couldn't find an
empty taxi for all of us but someone offered to drive us in the bed of
their big truck. Sooo we definitely rode to Jinga in the back of a
truck, but there were big fence things on all sides so we weren't
going to bounce out don't worry. The tailbone didn't enjoy the ride
very much, but we made it safe and sound and the drive was GORGEOUS
from the back of a truck. Don't worry we won't do it again, we were
just desperate after wasting like an hour standing on the side of the
road. It was an adventure, and we are safe no worries. Jinga was good,
we got cheeseburgers and saw some couple missionaries at the
restaurant so it was fun to talk to them. birthday! I am 20 how weird is that?! The girls woke me up
with breakfast in bed aka mango and bread with nutella that we found
at the supermarket in Jinga. We went to church and then 2 baptisms
after, that was cool. It took literally 10 tries until one of the guys
finally went all the way under. I've never seen that happen that many
times before. After church we came back, got some lunch and hung out
around the house- i love doing that. We went to town and got these
little things of ice cream they sell here and then a group of us went
up the hill behind our house to watch the sunset. It was beautiful,
the perfect ugandan birthday celebration. We had the same dinner back
at the house, but they made me a chipatti in the shape of an A. Oh and
my friend Shaun made ma a homemade pancake when we were at church, it
tasted like the pancakes Eli made conference weekend in midway. aka I
liked it. Then they had a little birthday party for me and everyone
gave me a piece of American food that they brought. SO nice, i don't
know if I could give my granola bars up.

Sunday night was rough, I was sick all night and Hillary in my room
was sick too so we kept each other company all night. Monday morning
we found out that 4 other people were sick too, so it was definitely
something we ate. I had a fever all day Monday and didn't leave my
bed, but I got a lot of reading done so that is great. Mom called that
night so that made me feel better :)

Tuesday I was still feeling sick/super weak so I didn't do anything in
the morning, but ventured to town in the afternoon. I went to a
meeting with some Youth Outreach people at the hospital and they are
so awesome. They are all under the age of 20 and so impressive. They
started this youth outreach program all by themselves and made up a
whole curriculum of teaching AIDS prevention and stuff in schools and
do events like every month. They are super cool and I'm really excited
to work with them. That wore me out though so I came home after that...weak I know

Wednesday I worked on the HIV/AIDS project proposal with Lizzie for
the square foot garden, stove, mushroom house, and youth support
group. We met with the people that afternoon too and it looks like
everything is going to work with that, so we will start that next
week. I also went to a choir showcase of a choir called Mamatoto that
HELP worked with last summer. They were so great. The first thing they
did was definitely a lip sync. We were not expecting that but it was
so great. Then they recited a way intense poem about AIDS and then
another poem about AIDS that had something about prevention for every
letter of the alphabet. The last one was "zip up and stay zipped"
haha. Good motto right? They were all awesome and three of us are
going to work with them this summer. I'm excited to use music here,
and they also do a lot with dance so that will be fun. The other
projects I was focusing aren't going to end up taking much time, so it
will be good to do this choir once a week.

Apparently there was some madness yesterday in town with political
rallies and some mzungus were tear gassed. No one knows why other
mzungus were in lugazi. or why they were tear gassed. So we were told
to take it easy today. I think I am going to help with ESL because I
am the only one that brought the stuff we learned in the trainings so
those are the lesson plans we are working on today. That will probably
start next week ish.

Guess what we are doing on saturday?? RAFTING THE NILE!!!! I am SO
excited. But so nervous. Don't worry father I will be fine, we found a
good company that everyone loves and feels good about. We are going to
Jinga tomorrow night to stay in a hotel because it comes with the
rafting, and we get HOT SHOWERS YEAH!! I'm not bungee jumping though,
so I plan to live past this weekend. No we will be fine, I'll let you
know how it goes.

I am loving it here. It was rough for the few days that I was sick and
I was totally questioning being here but time is starting to go so
fast and I feel like I don't have enough time to do everything I want
to, when last week I felt like I had too much time. I am learning a
lot and growing a lot. I think I need to immerse myself in the culture
more and just soak it all up. Uganda is great. My team is great and I seriously love them all so much. This place is just GREAT

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mzungu!! How are youu??

Hello from Lugazi! I love love love love love love love it here. The people are so great and it is so beautiful and I love being a mzungu celebrity. The team is awesome and I am having so much fun with them and with the ugandans that we are meeting. So I don't know if I will make it to the internet cafe that often so I am thinking I am just going to post the emails I send to my family. So you definitely don't need to read all of it because it is looong. Just be warned. It is hard emailing, blogging, and keeping a journal. BUT I wanted to tell you about my experience in Uganda so far...

First of all, everyone here is OBSESSED with obama. every time we walk down the street they yell mzungu how are you and then OBAMA and then we all have to cheer OBAMA! there is a song that they play alllll the time that goes "oooobama HEY! obama is a real african hero" and more of course. we all have it memorized. we even have a little dance to it that we made up at the local club, african paradise, saturday night. i almost bought you an obama necklace at market day yesterday dad, I thought you would really enjoy it. But he would only give me a mzungu price so it wasn't worth it. they always ask "how is my son doing?" who is your son? "obamaaaa!" it is so great.

Ok so Sunday I talked to some of you, but we got to go to church in Jinga which is one of the biggest cities in Uganda. There were probably about 50 people in the branch so half of us went to church there and then half went to the Mukono branch (where laura went). Church was really good, the building was really nice but NO mormon couches. shocking huh?! They had flushing toilets though so we all used those. Everyone spoke English in church, most people know English here its just their accents that can be hard to understand or they talk super quiet. The sister missionaries spoke and they were from Kenya and Namibia and they both spoke English also. After sacrament meeting the elders, who are both american, were introducing us to everyone and they were all so so nice and then Melissa came in and told us they wanted help in primary. So Liz, Lizzie and I volunteered to go in thinking we would just be sitting with the kids or something. We walked in and told the teacher we were there to help so she opened the teaching manual to the lesson and handed me the book and goes "Teach." Whaaat? The lesson was on the priesthood and there were probably 15 kids in there from ages 2 to 12. So Liz and I tried to come up with a lesson while Lizzie sang with them and then got up there and started to teach about how the priesthood is a power that is stronger than the wind. We even acted out the wind and windmills at one point because we were asking questions and NO ONE was responding or even moving their faces, the kids were all just staring. So we gave up after like 10 minutes and just decided to sing with them. So we taught them I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus for a while and then the teacher said that we were going to have snacks so we stopped and then she was like no no you have one more hour to teach, play games or something. So we did every hand motion song you can think as i'm doing, head shoulders knees and toes, popcorn popping...I'm sure we were so loud. The kids started to get more involved but it was still like pulling teeth to get them to do anything and the teachers were no help, one of them came in, laid down on a table in the back of the room and went to sleep! Haha it was so great. But by the end the kids were totally fun and way cute. We are going to try to go to that branch the entire summer and maybe even get callings so that would be cool. The rest of the day we just relaxed. My foot was basically the size of my head from mosquito bites swelling so I just laid on my bed elevating it for most of the day. Ok it wasn't that big but it was HUGE, it wouldn't fit into any shoes, even flip flops. I forgot to take a picture of it though dang.

Monday we started finding/working on projects. We went to Hope Orphanage a played with the kids for a while but again my foot was ginormous so after a while I had to just sit down but I had a really good talk with an older girl, Erin, who told me about living in the orphanage and going to university and what she wanted to be when she grew up. The kids were super cute and SO excited that we were there. They were very well behaved too, they all take care of each other and are so nice. Then we went to a village (its basically just a "neighborhood" across the main street, but it is technically another village in lugazi called nakazide. We live in Namengo village) to do Adobe Stove evaluations of some stoves they built last year. It was cool to see the stoves in action and talk to the families about how it affected their lives--in cutting down fuel prices and improving their health and the amount of time it takes to cook. The kids were literally attacking and kept asking for money. Then one of us pulled out a camera to take pictures of some people just surrounded by kids, and then they all freaked out wanting to see themselves and scrambling over each other to get to the camera. Camera=chaos around kids. After a while some of the group left to go meet with a women's group to assess their needs and 8 of us stuck around to do more evaluations but we basically just walked around the village with a herd of kids talking to our friend Kizza who is an adobe stove expert of that area. We went home and had our delicious dinner, I look forward to it everyday. We have a cook named Mary who is from Sudan and she makes the best food. We eat beans, rice, cucumbers, avocado, potatoes, spaghetti noodles (random i know), green beans, pineapple, and this weird orange stuff with chipatti (basically just a tortilla and it is so so so good) every night. Oh my it is so good. Mary is awesome. She didn't go to school because she grew up in Sudan during the war so she doesn't know how to read or write but she sure can cook. Then we also have a guard whose name is David and he is so great. It was lightning a ton the other night when we were out at the pump brushing our teeth so I asking him if it was going to rain because of the lightning and he said that he didn't know because it was coming from the North and when it is from the North you can never tell if it is lightning or the war. It was lightning don't worry, and has been for a while now. So I started talking to him about the war and he said that his brother worked for the government and was killed by the LRA a few years ago. He got all choked up and it was really tender. So I told him about Invisible Children and the march I just went to and that people were spending their lives trying to tell people about the war in Uganda and get them help, and he thought it was so cool that people cared about Uganda. It was really neat talking to him. Oh I also went to the doctor because after walking around all day my foot was even bigger and I couldn't wear a shoe so it was also filthy and he looked at it and definitely thought it was broken it was so big and was telling me how he needed to get a bandage and all this stuff and then I told him it was a mosquito bite reaction and he was like whaaaat? a mosquito did that to you?! So he told me just to elevate it and take allergy medicine, which I had been doing and still no bueno, and to put warm water on it for the swelling. No one knows why he said warm water because aren't you supposed to put ice on swelling? Ice is in short supply here though.

Tuesday we went back to Hope Orphanage and played with the kids. They love love to dance and play the drums so we taught them little sally walker and the hokey pokey and the macarena and such and played soccer with them. A few of the girls taught me some Jesus songs and they were super cute and waaay good singers. And they are super good dancers. One girl, Noel, stuck with me the whole time, she is going to be trouble when she is older. She is 11 and almost as tall as me and soo gorgeous. She is an awesome dancer and singer and all of the kids love her. I didn't go back to the orphanage on Wednesday but the people that did said that she told them to send Aly her love. so cute! After that we went to a meeting for Persons With Disabilities but it was a lot of waiting around and moving locations for the meeting so I'm not really sure what got accomplished but I think it could be a cool project. They go do home visits to people with disabilities because they can't go to school so it is definitely really needed. Then we went up to the hills to meet with an HIV/AIDS support group. It was absolutely amazing. They were the most inspiring people I have ever met. When we walked into the building, which is beautiful by the way and very well kept unlike a lot of other things here, they stood up and started clapping for us, we all wanted to cry. They were super prepared and had a whole agenda that they passed out and a packet on ideas they had for the summer and were just so welcoming and so grateful that we were there. Everyone that is in the group is HIV Positive and the focus of the group is learning to live positively even if they have the virus. There is such a stigma here for people with AIDS so they try to show people that they can still live normal lives and encourage them to take care of themselves so that they can prolong their lives. One lady, Agnes, who the chairperson described as a "very vibrant lady" just kept saying we are to live, so we should live as much as we can, until the day God set aside for us. They were all so awesome. We want to build a mushroom house with them so that they can sell the mushrooms and have that as an income generating activity, teach them square foot gardening and nutrition along with it, and build an adobe stove so they don't have an open fire. We also want to do a youth outreach program for youth who have HIV/Aids and do some goal setting/empowering activities with them so that they feel like they have something to live for so that this virus doesn't ruin their plans for the future. Its interesting because I came here thinking I was going to focus on orphanages but after that meeting I just feel so passionate about helping these people and working with them. Last night we had a meeting and I am going to be the project lead for HIV/Aids with my friend Lizzie, specifically in chare of the youth outreach. I'm way excited about it, we have a lot of work to do with them.

Yesterday I went with a small group to build 2 adobe stoves and it was so fun. The people were SO excited about the stoves and the whole neighborhood was gathering to help and watch. The stoves really do save them so much money and time and they really need them. It was so so hot outside and we were all dying and now today we are so sunburnt. I had braids in and my scalp was like scorched. We all had tons of sunscreen on and put more on like every 2 hours but the sun is just so much more intense here since we are so close to the equator. It was fun though and we got to play with the kids from the first day of stove evaluating because it was the same village and they taught me how to count to 20 in Lugandan and some other random words. They think it is so funny when Mzungus try to speak their language because we cannot get the accent right. Later we went to the hospital to meet with Josephine about Public Health. She talked to us about all of the projects the hospital needed and where we could help, which is basically everywhere. She told us about home visits where we take medication to families who live far away or are too sick to come to the hospital themselves and so when you go you give them the medicine and then you also teach them like hygiene or sanitation or nutrition or something. Cool huh? So stacey and I got super excited about that and we are the leads for that project, we did something else with josephine today and we set up a meeting with her for monday to get the list of families and talk about transportation and translators. I hope it works out, we still have to do a project proposal for it and work out the details but it sounds so awesome. The hospital was so so sad. It looks like a run down hospital that hasn't been used for 10 years but it definitely is. The bathrooms the patients have to use are behind the hospital UP A HILL and they are SQUATTERS. how do they do that?! I don't get it. The windows don't have nets so bugs can get in and only the pediatric ward had mosquito nets. The delivery room was basically a hallway and then the thing you put newborns in looked like a card board box with plastic walls and two holes, they said it was given to them in 1964. It was just really sad to see, and also made me really want to stay safe and healthy while I am here haha. I wish we could just build a nice, clean hospital for them but if we did that they would have no resources for maintanence anywhere in the country and no idea how to use it. It is just crazy to see the differences between here and back home.

Today we went back to finish the stoves and we got to stomp on the clay to mix it, it was so fun. My feet feel great because it feels like they got a mud bath. My swelling finally went down and I can wear my chacos again! It is still fatter than normal though. We also went to a school called the Sanyo School to talk about what we could do with them this summer and the teachers were so nice. They had a lot of great ideas for gardening and stove building and teacher training. We got to play with the kids and stacey and I got them so riled up haha it was hilarious. By the end we were doing a congo line with like 30 kids around the "playground" and then taking shakey face pictures with them. Everything we did, they did. So I'm sure there was a lot of obnoxious yelling and clapping but it was so funny oh man I was dying. They just all want to be with the Mzungu and touching them and feeling their arms. They are all amazed by gary, my big mole, and everyone touches it and just stares at it haha. We had another meeting with Josephine to talk about a youth outreach program some university students started and it was so awesome. Wilson and Robert are the students that started it and they are so passionate about it and about helping the youth. Wilson is probably my favorite ugandan so far. They have a lot of great ideas for going to schools and teaching abstinence and hygiene and stuff so we are meeting with him next week too. We went to another meeting with a man named John about helping with his women's group and the rest of the team didn't show up at our meeting spot because only some of us went to meet josephine and the rest went home to work on project proposals, so it was just me, stacey, alexis, and our country directors melissa and kristen that went. Oh man it was so funny. We were all so tired from working all day and from the hot sun so we just sat in the man's stinkin hot house totally delirious. He was really funny and was showing us his group's consitution and bank membership haha it was great. He basically just wanted money though so I don't think we will work with him much. But at the end he gave us each an avocado. and one egg each haha. The avocados are huuuge and green. I'm so excited to eat it, they are delicious. But at the end he goes I pray you don't forget about us and we were all like yeah totally pray about it and then he just burst into prayer right then and there. We all were dying, it was like at home when we can't stop laughing during the prayer and dad has to take over. But we were just trying to hold it in the entire time, I couldn't do anything but shake his hand when we left because I would have burst out laughing. I don't know why it was so funny. It was just such a weird meeting slash an avocado and an egg? oh i love uganda.

This place is beautiful. I wish you could see it. It is so green and lush and I love it. I feel so comfortable here. Well our beds aren't comfortable because we sleep on mattresses that are like our camping foam things but just really hard foam. But the people are so friendly and so welcoming. I rode a bota bota for the first time yesterday, its just a motorcycle that you pile two people on in the back behind the driver. It was so fun and I fell in love with uganda all over again. I did get burnt by the exhaust pipe getting off though and yet again, no cold water. It will be fine though. We still don't have running water so we use the squatter latrenes and the pump outside for everything. I have showered 2 times, meaning I have washed my hair twice. Haha everyone else showers like everyday or every other day but there are 5 of us that never shower. Some of the boys shower more than us even. Its great.

OH I bought a sim card and it won't work in the phone kris gave me. It says that the phone is locked and the boys tried to explain it to me, that it is because the service that the phone used before doesn't work here or something. The guy at the phone store tried to rip me off telling me he could fix it by hooking a cable up to it if i paid him 10,000 shillings and I said hook it up where? and he got the phone and definitely showed me the headphone jack. So I am going to google it to see if I can find a code or something but if not 5 of us are just going to go in on a new phone because we already have the sim card. So I will tell you what that number is so you can call me on my birthday. totally kidding but I will try to get the number to you soon if we buy one. Woah this was so long, sorry. I just have so much to tell you about this place! I will try to send pictures at some point but the comps are so slow and the power is so unreliable so we will see. Ps, i finally like mangoes because I have now had a real one, not a gross US one. we also discovered ice cream and potato chip type things yesterday so i am in heaven. yum. I love this place

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


So I am on an extended layover in Amsterdam with my friends Liz and Stacey who are also coming to Africa and it is great. We got here monday morning, all on separate flights, and planned to meet outside of Customs but our luggage ended up coming in on the same carousel. It was a great little reunion. We stayed at a hotel right by Central Station called Hotel Old Quarter monday and tuesday night and then Stacey's dad got us two nights in the Marriott for tonight and tomorrow. This was our spacious room in Old Quarter...what a place

Amsterdam is great...we've been to the van Gogh museum, Anne Frank house, Vondelpark, Keukenhof Tulip Festival, walked around a TON, and a few festivals around the city. We're figuring out how to get around and how Euros work, we're basically pros. We even have a little cafe we like...Sara's Pancakes aka HUGE delicious crepes.
tulip festival
We love Amsterdam. We laugh a lot, see a lot of sex shops, everyone smokes, there are some fabulous bikes, the shoes are phenomenal (jaclyn you would DIE, everyone wears the greatest old school nikes), and the cars drive on the sidewalks a lot. We are having a blast though. PS the canals are so pretty