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Losing Our Way Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing. --------------------------------------------------------- Arundhati Roy (Indian author, advocate, activist)

made it to uganda! (mi)

UGANDA | Thursday, 28 May 2009 | Views [660] | Comments [2]

Mi and Ive in front of the KAASO School

Mi and Ive in front of the KAASO School

hi all! just a quick post to let you know that a couple of days ago, ivan and i left behind the hot showers and fancy chocolates and cheeses of switzerland in a blur of farewell activities that left us nostalgically sitting on a quite exquisite Emirates flight (as nice a flight as we've both ever been on) heading to Dubai - where the airport is actually a shopping mall with everything from unaffordable luxury items to name brand electronics, and where throngs of connecting passangers filled the terminals with every language in the world it seemed - and just as i was telling ivan i was so regretting not having a day's layover to get to see more than a peek out the airplane window at what looked like a phenomenon of a city, we were up in the air and on our way to Ethiopia where we had a second, not-quick layover sitting on the plane... and finally, one day after we left the zurich airport and an hour ahead in time zone, we made it to Entebbe, Uganda. We're here, Africa!

at an airport that resembled nothing of what we experienced in Dubai or Zurich, we were picked up by Dominic, the director of the school we are volunteering at for this next month: St. Paul KAASO. we drove in a hired car to the nearby city of Kampala, where we spent the afternoon and night in order to get money at the bank (there is ONE, that's right, ONE bank in Kampala that allows foreign ATM cards, and Kampala is the only reliable place to change US dollars for Uganda Shillings reliably - read as: we have definitely left the first world. in Kampala, we got a chance to ride on a bora bora (motorcycle taxi) - yikes! i thought my legs were surely going to be crushed in the traffic! it zipped along through heaps chaotic traffic, all driving on the left side of the road thanks to British colonialization, which made the ride all the more harrowing for me, and dropped us off just in time to catch our breath. we walk through the market place, bustling with sellers, shoppers and second-hand products, bouncing with noise and african music and seeped in dirt and city smog - we purchased some last minute items we needed, and headed back to the hotel to settle into the outside restaurant and bar for our first Ugandan meal of fried tilapia and chips and Nile beer, the best local brand - it was all so gooooooooooood. a couple of Dominic's friends in Kampala joined us, the music was LOUD, and we had to shout our thanks to Dominic for the day: he was a life saver in helpfulness, we'd have been lost without him in so many ways.

the next morning we maneuvered our way through the overcrowded mega-"taxi" park and into a public van stuffed with Ugandan passengers for our 5 hour ride down to the school. we arrived in the afternoon and were greeted by Dominic's wife, Rose and their children, and the 3 other volunteers who have been here for two weeks already - 3 women in their late 20's from New Zealand - two of them are here for 6 months and one for 3 months. the new zealanders were wonderfully welcoming and very energetic, and one of them gave us a tour of the school grounds, which i'll tell you a bit about later....

so, a few first impressions - we are way way far away from any major city, and so its rural African life for us here. for me, it is quite different from where i volunteered ten years ago in Dakar, Senegal (West Africa) - there I lived and worked in the capital's slums, much more crowded and noisy and garbage-filled, etc..., similar to Kampala it seems to me, although Kampala also seemed more crowded). i'd describe the weather as a few degrees more than very hot, and with the rainy season just ending and the dry beginning, they tell us we're in for a real treat this coming month :)  most surprising to me even after reading the guidebook, this area of Uganda is very different from the regions of Senegal i traveled in or Egypt either - it's very hilly, and incredibly lush, very very green rolling hills, not green of grass, but of trees and bushes - the views in our brief travels have been so far stunning. no wonder Uganda is labeled the "Pearl of Africa." the new zealanders went on a long walk early this morning off of the main road and came back to tell us they saw monkeys in the trees!

of course there's no escaping the poverty of Africa - the roads are unpaved and made of a deep red dirt - maybe clay-infused - and leave everything to be desired, a cascade of rocks and holes, bordered wtih broken (if any) steep sidewalks... the rural town centers are made up of broken brick buildings, peeling paint chips, and so on.

the feel of the people though...that is a whole 'nother story.  although we are stared at with big wide eyes by those who do not know us, when we are introduced, i feel immediately as i am home, just like Senegal. they act more like family than like neighbors or friends. the most overwhelming feeling i have arriving is that their generousity seems as abundant much as any we could ever encounter during our travels. not just in our minor interactions, but because we are with the school people (Dominic and his wife are Uganda natives from this area so he has much family here nearby) they go with us and teach us how to do things like buy products or use transportation without getting taken advantage of...(i should add that there is not much crime however). and the hours of work! they work all day from very early to take advantage of the cool morning weather until late into the night. but the weather is HOT and the people take time for lots of greetings and and move very very slow - there is much stopping for laughter and for helping others. it seems no one goes unaided in this community. so it also feels like they must accomplish in three days what we do in the West in one.

the school - one of the volunteers gave us a tour of the school yesterday, and we saw the classrooms, dormitories and teachers and students everywhere. among what's happening here, there are of course classes all day, there is also a "piggery project," a women's empowerment group, literacy lessons, and lots of building projects (i think we will be painting in the next couple of days to help) the official language is English, but we are also learning some Luganda, which is the most popular language in the area. but we can communicate with the children since they all speak English, Luganda, and their local tribal language and also some speak Swahili (neighboring Tanzania's official language) which is amazing. the school serves 600 children, including AIDS orphans; some have extended families nearby. 300 of the children dorm at the school in bunk rooms. the schedule is from sun up to late evening, so they study or do gym or other activities for something like 12 hours a day, not including another few hours for breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner. ivan and i have been recruited to lead a teacher workshop next week on child discipline (they are trying to keep the teachers moving away from caning children) and toward alternative discipline techniques. and we will also talk with them about different learning styles, disabilities, progressive teaching techniques, etc... so we are in town today emailing you, and also buying some supplies for the workshop.... we expect this to be quite an interesting project because there are many cultural variables, ergo, we expect to learn as much as we teach.

so this is just the beginning, we just wanted to let you all know we're here and have hit the ground running, and wish you all a June likewise bright with new and beautiful experiences. as you may have guessed, internet and phone is not available at the school - we have to come into town 12 km away to use communication - so i'm not sure how often in the month we will be able to write. we miss you all, thank you each for all the emails; please keep the school and our experiences here in your heart-prayers. peace, mi





I am so excited for the two to you! From your writing I feel like I am immediately traveling alongside. Try to learn some songs, dances and games that the students play. I am sure you would pick those things up as you go from day to day. Dominic sounds so special! The school sounds so diversified in its services. We can not wait to hear more.. Thinking of you and the many adventures to come.

Love to you two-

Mrs. Kruh P.S. If there ways we can help like sending particular materials etc. let us know. Thanks!

  carol kruh May 31, 2009 5:28 AM


Hi Miral,
We are so happy to hear that you both made it there safely. Enjoy your time there! Knowing the two of you,I'm sure you will be such a blessing to all of those wonderful children. Stay safe, and keep up all the wonderful stories..it makes my own life much more interesting by reading about your travels!!
Love you both,

  Hildi Jun 4, 2009 8:59 AM

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