Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rain Rain Go Away!!

Well it poured last night and it rained this morning and then it drizzled this afternoon. Remember us mentioning the roads before!? They are all muddy and filled with pot holes...? Well despite the rain everything went according to schedule. We ate breakfast at the regularly scheduled time and then the Taxi showed up also. Some of the workers had called for a ride up in our Taxi because their bota bota's wouldn't make it up to the school. Well the mini van taxi would right!?

Well imagine going 4-wheeling or digging in the mountains of Cache Valley in a rear wheel drive mini van after a big rainstorm. Ha ha ha. Needless to say those in the van were in for a big adventure. The ride was described as completely scare the whole way and the team members were thrown to and fro and side to side the whole time. Then the van spun out of control and slid to a 90 degree angle and blocked the whole road. The more the driver tried to get out the more the van gut stuck. LOL. I don't think the Africans are used to this type of driving. No Good. The men and the workers got out and pushed the van and finally got it back onto the road and the day continued and the work progressed. But the ride was not soon forgotten. It was a highlight of the day.

The doctor's office has come far in the last couple days. The work has begun and a door has been knocked out and framed. Right now the kids that are sick are seen by the doctor and then sent back to their dormitories or classrooms that they sleep in. But an infirmery room has begun so that the sick kids will have a place to stay without contaminating the other kids. Shelves are going to be put in and then hopefully we will get some beds for the infirmery also. I think the minor mishaps are the many times Christa happens to hit her hand instead of the nails that she is trying to nail into the Eucalyptus wood. She has given herself a blood blister from hitting herself so hard but has anyone else tried nailing Eucalyptus wood? Whew!

A sweater was finished and it fits little Kesekende. We are so excited about it since it is the first sweater that we have done and a trial sweater but it actually looks good! Hurray! We started teaching the nuns and they are on their way to make their very first one also.

All the other projects are going well. The kids love their new playground toys, the staff loves the internet, and the dormitory is looking great. The library is still waiting for its shelves but as always, we love spending time with the kids. Evan is enjoying tricking them by pointing at nothing and having them all look over and over, the kids continue to ask Jen to study with her, Kesekende still goes nowhere without the hand of Bethany (or BK as he calls her), and today a group of kids took Jen & Lorna to the fish pond where they sang and danced and boy I was amazed by the talent and skill that these kids have! They are amazing!!! All of this is so worth it because these kids deserve so much!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Yay For Uganda!!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Things have been going well at the school. The kids seem to never run out of energy and never tire of the games or songs we introduce to them. Every day we meet new faces and learn new names that we cannot pronounce and have to learn how to match them to their particular faces. We are trying to pick up on the language of Lougandan, just a little bit. The children and adults speak that as well as English.

We have had a few minor injuries but nothing to stop the work or hold us back. Everything is still running on schedule and moving forward. Bethany commented that a little boy she had a picture of from a year ago looked like he was wearing the same clothes as when she saw him now. Christa, our team leader said that many of the kids that she saw a year ago when she came are in the same clothes they were wearing then. The clothes are hardly held together by a string in some places and have gaping holes that leave their sides or fronts completely open. One little boy that Jennifer has grown close to, like many, has no shoes. When inquired about them, the ones he was given were lost. Now he runs around the weeds, branches, dirt, and rocks with none. Oh my goodness it is so sad to think he cannot get another pair of flip flops.

We love the kids more and more every day and it is hard to explain the circumstances and situations here. I am so excited for them to have this new dormitory and all of the new things that the various projects are bringing to them. It is hard for me to imagine actually living in circumstances as they do. Today Evan, Dan, and Jen were discussing a household appliance that we would like them to have. Evan said a fridge, Dan said a microwave, and Jen said a washing machine. There are so many conveniences that they do without and of course don’t think twice about it. However, still, a week after being at the school – the kids are wearing the same clothes we first met them in and to my knowledge they haven’t been cleaned yet. They just keep getting dirtier and dirtier.

Project Update:

Jennifer & Lorna stamped the books to say they belong to the school, but were unable to put them away because there was no room. So a man came to measure for new shelves and some will be built in 3 – 4 days. The project is going well and should be completed after the new shelves arrive. The kids love reading the new books but especially love being read to. Some are continually bringing book after book and another, Kezimbira is constantly asking Jen, “Can we go study now?” Irene always follows Lorna into the library and reads to her while she stamps. These new and colorful books and so intriguing to the children and I feel that they are really instilling a love of learning and especially reading. The nuns, Sister Luke Laura reads the books while we stamp and we absolutely love her doing that. She finishes one and comments how the children will love it because it is so good and such a good story. But I think more than the children will love it as she reaches for another…. Ha ha ha.

Construction for the dormitory is well on its way. Leveling of the site took a lot less time than expected, putting us about one day ahead of schedule. We decided that the whole dormitory will be completed in three rooms/phases, the first of which we are planning on completing during this trip. Once finished, the first phase will be able to provide adequate sleeping area for approximately 54 students. As of now we have completed two walls of the footing. Funny thing—we came here to do the work, but the Africans pretty much won’t let us. They are always taking away the tools we are using and telling us to go rest. We do our best to take back the tools, but to no avail!

We are up and going! The orphanage now has internet connection. We are working on getting a static IP address and connecting the rest of our sensor equipment online. As soon as it was set up, the Africans sat in front of the laptop and surfed the Internet. They didn’t move for 5 HOURS!! I think they like it!J They asked us a lot of questions about the presidential campaigns, the war in Iraq, and a nine-year-old that is going to college in the United States.

Digging, digging, digging. We have done lots of digging for the playground. Well… maybe I haven’t so much – I tried at first but all the kids kept taking away my tools. Shoot. But others have and they have done great. The ground was leveled and concrete rings were moved to create a little tunnel way for the children. Today a hole was began for a teatherball pole. Dan played teatherball with the kids the other day and they absolutely loved it! The playground is moving by ear and we are just getting as much done as we can. Working hard every day. Bethany is a great team leader. She goes out in the morning and we rarely see her throughout the day. She is a hard worker and good at getting things done. Go Bethany!

Lorna & Jennifer have begun knitting an actual sweater for children. They measured a little boy named Andrew and began showing the nuns the next steps. The nuns love using the pattern cards and perhaps the most difficult part of teaching was showing them how to knit with two colors on one of the hardest pattern designs. Ha ha. That’s the last time I let them choose which one they want to do first. I will decide next time and start simple. They catch on quickly though and I think that the machine will come in very handy to give the children at least one more shirt and hopefully something to keep them warm on the cold nights. We are always ready to take a break much faster than they are. After 5 hours we are like, “Um… how bout a little break?” But I think that they could go and learn ALL DAY LONG!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 2008 Project Begins

After nearly 24 hours of flying and a pit stop in Dubai plus hours driving on pot hole filled and dirt roads we reached our destination. Today, June 3 was our first day visiting the school that we will be working at for the next 2 ½ weeks. Oh! What a feeling and sight! Our van pulled up to children on each side of the road yelling “yay, yay” and then following our van up the road. As we got out all we could see were hundreds (literally around 300 plus) of little black, smiling, faces. “You are Welcome. You are welcome.” It was hard to go straight to work instead of just getting to know each child and giving them hugs. But alas, there was no time to waste before beginning the projects. We unloaded the suitcases full of donations in a little room we got to put our stuff in and we sorted it for the children. Books, playground equipment, toys, and stuffed animals, towels, and blankets, all filled the many suitcases that will be staying at the orphanage. The nursery aged children (around 150 – and there were more older) were given the small toys and the stuffed animals, then the older kids were given playground toys such as frisbee’s and soccer balls. Lorna began the toy giveaway with a book reading of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Tomas learned that when you take a picture of the children after they see the flash, in unison they all say, “yay!” Ha ha. It was the greatest thing in the world to witness. Every time they see a camera they want to be in a picture and then they want to see the picture. You end up taking picture after picture. MEMO TO SELF: Next trip, bring one of those digital small photo printers.

After unloading and a short presentation to the children, the work began.


The Dormitory: Today the ground for the dormitory was staked out, the dimensions set as to where the building would go and measured as to how far it would be from the surrounding buildings. Tomas said, “We leveled and took the altitude at different points to figure out how much dirt to remove. Tomorrow the grater will start digging and leveling the ground to the specifications that were measure today and after that…. Building time!” I have to say that it was fun to watch the children get involved and help. They were out helping level by carrying bricks off the land. Carrying bricks on your head doesn’t sound fun to me but they made it look pretty easy.

The Playground: The start of a playground. What do you do first? Pick and hoe. We couldn’t keep the children away. The whole group worked on this project at the end of the day and I am pretty sure some of the kids worked harder than the group members. They want to be involved in everything that we do. Even putting the tools away. And if they couldn’t help because there weren’t enough tools, they were fine sitting close enough to watch and laugh.

Knitting: Jen & Lorna began to teach the nuns that volunteer at the school how to work the knitting machines. They walked into our room and saw them on the tables and just got these happy expressions on their faces. They were so excited to learn how to use them so I think every nun at the school came for lessons. We set up the machines, knitted a little, let them knit, and then put it away. We then asked them to set it up, knit, and put it away. They did very good and I think that it won’t take long before they are knitting sweaters all by themselves.

Educational Materials: I think that the books that we brought more than tripled the small library that the school had. Lorna & Jen sorted one suitcase full of schoolbooks but had no room to do anymore so have to wait until tomorrow to do more. Tomorrow books will be stamped, more brought out, and unloaded and organized. We are so excited for the kids to get their hands on these books! When we ran out of room we asked the nun who was helping, “Is it too many?” Her response, a quick, “oh no!”

One of my favorite parts of the day was watching the group interact with those they were serving. I believe that through service both parts are always benefited. On their “breaks” members of the group would play frisbee, and soccer and sing and dance with the kids. It was tiring as they all always wanted to get involved. At one point I was playing frisbee with a small group and all the sudden instead of just one there were multiple Frisbees coming at me. They all wanted to play with the white person. (Or buzumu’s as they call us – interpreted to mean while people.) Group members who came to do hard labor not liking children found something special in these ones and couldn’t stay away.

We feel very welcomed at the school and are so happy to get our projects underway. A lot was accomplished today and tomorrow we will be just as worn out (if not more) we are already certain. We want to do all that we can to help and to learn on the way.

Oh and if you want to experience what we are going through: Take a cold shower and use crepe paper instead of toilet paper. (For real the toilet paper is thin and stretchy. Haha.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'll find you a nice bush

Melissa holds Patrick carefully in her arms. Patrick was brought to the orphange about 2 weeks ago. As you can see his current condition isn't great. He is severly mal-nuturioused and in need of clothes that actually fit him. At 10 months of age, Patrick can hardly do things that a 10 month old should be able to do. The nuns are posititve that his health will be able to improve and he will be ok in a few months time.

Well I hope that everyone has enjoyed the Christmas holiday. I know that we as a team have enjoyed it very much. I mean, what could be better than sleeping in a tent?

We left Kampala at 9:00 am on Christmas eve and drove to Murchison Falls. It took us about 6 hours. After about 2.5 hours and still 1.5 hours until we stopped for lunch, most of the team needed a bathroom stop. Being the team leader, I spoke up and asked Violet if she would ask the drive to stop at the next petrol station so we could us the bath room. She asked, but he just chuckled. He then said, "we won't find a petrol station until we stop for lunch, but how about a nice bush". We just had to laugh and say ok. Sure enough he did find us a nice bush to use. It was away from all the people and off the road a bit. I guess we could have tried to make money, have the locals pay to watch the muzungu's try to squat with out getting themselves wet.

Once we were at the Falls it was wonderful. I can't think of a better way to spend the season. We were out in the open with God's creatures. We had a great encounter with the girafees and elephants...once, I download the photos from the safari I will have to tell you about the elephant. It was a great story, but one that needs photos.
I don't feel like there is much to blog about this time around. The first photo came on really quickly, but then I started to have problems. So I might have to call it quits. Until next time.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Right before James hoed his toe. You can see the tools we were using...but once again...don't worry...duct tape works wonders.
Mike holds a baby during a concert that we attended. Sorry it is dark..but you can kinda make out the fatness of the baby. I have never seen a baby so chubby as this little girl.
Melissa after coming out of the pit latrine. This was the first time anyone had to use it while on the trip. While we were at the school it became second nature...but this was while we were still in the capital.
This is why we are here! The clear water on the right is my personal bottled water. The water on the left the muddy looking one that Kasekende got from the pump that was installed before we got here. This is what the children are drinking! That is why we are here!
This is Martin. We went on a long walk around the schools gardens. We had to walk for many hours and little Martin got tired. So Dr. Grenney gave him a piggy back ride and he loved it. During the ride his pants started to slip and you could see his underwear. All the children started laughing that they could see his underwear. So cute.

Everyone on the team would like to wish our family and friends back home a warm and loving Merry Christmas. We wish we could be with our family at this time, but we are really enjoying the time we are spending here. We finished the work at the school and said our sad goodbyes. After working with the people day in and day out you really develop a lasting friendship with them. It is difficult to part. I can now see why Dr. Grenney has come back as often as he has.

As I mentioned last time we were able to move a lot of earth to give our school more playing fields. So really the last day we spent in the fields playing with the kids. it was fun to interact with them as we played volleyball and net ball. Let me tell you what, they said that netball was a lot like our American basketball...but they are wrong. It is so much harder! They don't have a backboard and to try and get a ball (that looks much like a volleyball) through a rim (which is small than a basketball rim) and do so without a backboard is so amazing. Now i don't think I have the best basketball skills in the world...but I can hold my own...but when it came to netball I think I only made it once. I was really bad at it.

Melissa made it an effort to have every little child love her. There were are few new kids from when we came in July that had never seen a muzungu before and it was her goal to make them like her. At first they would cry but by the end she got one to come into her arms. At one point in the trip Melissa was walking back to the staff room and was walking in the area of where Mark was. He got one look at here and took off crying. All you could see was a half naked African running away from the bewildered white girl.

Shannon is our expert plasterer. Big Jon taught her the flick method...well really he taught us all but she was the one who caught on the best (if you can count catching on meaning she had the least amount of mortor fall to the ground...and the least amount on her body). We have also learned first hand the mortor does burn when it touches the skin...but only slightly for the first few seconds.

James is the master shoveler. While we were working on the volleyball court we were amazed as the Africans would stand in the dirt with their bare feet and take the hoe and get to work. They would come so close to their feet that we were afraid that someone would lose a toe. James decided that he could do that too and got a little too close to his foot. Before he knew it he had taken the hoe to his toe. Now for his parents who are reading this please don't worry...he is fine. Nothing that a little bandaid and duct tape can't fix.

I became the mother of many. I went in with one little boy who called me the end of the trip I had many children calling me their mother. Not only did my little Kasekende with me all the time, but his sister Namayanja came along too. Even the nuns would address me as such. I know one time I was walking to the doctors office and one of the nuns was standing next to the classroom. She said something in Lugandian and then said "Kasekende's mother, how are you?". The director of the school even told me that he had the papers ready if I wanted to take the boy home with me.

Roger suprised us all by showing his true self on the volleyball court. He was not only aggressive (he got a little too close for comfort on the balls that went down the hill) but he also ran over a few of his team mates as he ran for the ball. We would never had guessed that that would come from our wondering friend.

Dr. Grenney once again has amazed the team by his on going attitude. While the rest of the team thought of no other projects...he is the master of all ideas. He came up with so much for us to do...we could hardly keep up. He continues to amaze us with the love he has for the people who have come to love and respect "their professor".

Mike, words can't describe what Mike has done for the children and teachers there. I know one little boy names Jonah asked him to bring his dog Bear next time he came to Uganda. Mike didn't think that would happen and so he gave Jonah the picture of Bear. You should see the joy the kids had while Mike would push them on the tire swing. I have never seen bigger smiles.

So to all our friends and family we wish you a happy Christmas. Even though we are away from you we are with you in spirit. All the love in the world. Finally we were able to get pictures put on. Hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Team with David Ssejinja at our meeting while we were in Kamapala. On the front row from L-R we have Mr. Kimbowa, Melissa, Violet, Solomy, Mrs. Kimbowa, Shannon, Lucia, Dr. Grenney, David Ssejinja. On the back row from Left to right we have Kevin, JAmes, Joseph, Alexis and Mike.
Ok, so that looks like all you are going to get. I know I said I would sit for hours...but you have no idea how boring and frustrating that is. Man how I miss the internet back in the states.
Things here are good. I am trying to think os something funny to say. All I can say is we have moved more dirt the past few days then I thought was ever possible. I was asked the other day why all the white people have different color hair. Is it because you are from different tribes? How do you describe DNA and genes to someone who doesn't know english very well? I was also asked if we paid a dowry. I told him no and he thought that was so weird. WHat does the man give your family for taking you away? We told him that we hadn't lived with our parents for years and they weren't use to us providing financially for them. He said if they didn't give a dowry they were theives and thrown in jail. So there you have it...all you guys you be in jail :)
Well I will try again later to put more pictures on. Keep on keeping on. Hope you have a great Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whose laughing now

Ok, so I finally made it to the Internet Cafe and the connection is so much better than in Kampala. Of course, this would be the day that I don't have my USB drive with me to put pictures on here. So here is my promise to you, you keep reading and I PROMISE to put photos on here next time I come. Even if I have to sit here for hours, I will have pictures for you. Because, really...the point of a blog is to see pictures. No one wants to sit here and read...they want to see photos.

We finally made it to Masaka and have been working very hard. Most of the time we get to the school about 9 in the morning and make it home by about 8 pm. The internet closes at 9 so we don't usually have time. But we called it a day much earlier today. We have been working hard to get the projects up and running. Luckily we have much to do and so we are busy. We are all doing well and no one is sick. I was worried because it is an adjustment getting used to the food, but everyone seems to be making the transition very well.

A little background for you. We have to take four seperate roads to get to the school. Two of them are paved and two aren't. Since it is the rainy season, the roads that aren't paved tend to get really muddy. You might see where I am going with this. One night we were leaving the school and our 14 passanger van got stuck in the mud! We couldn't get out. We pushed and pushed and pushed. Then some locals came running and we still couldn't get out. The next thing that happend was really funny. Ok side in Africa there are four ways to get around walking, bicycles, motorcyles and vans. Now the vans are top notch and the bicycles are the end of the totem pole. Ok back to the here we are stuck in the mud with our top notch van and here comes a bicycle man walking past us. Our driver asks him for help and he starts laughing...and as he past he just said "look whose laughing now". It was all we could do to keep from laughing. So funny!

One more funny story and I better call it a day....a few of us went to town to check out the price and design of windows. One of those in our party stopped off at the Internet Cafe to talk about getting wireless installed at the school. After we were done with our errands we stopped by the Cafe but Roger was gone. So we drove to the hotel thinking he went back there. (again with the side in Uganda if you see a white person you call them just means white man...we get called it a lot). We we go to the hotel and one of the Africans who was with us walked with me into the hotel and asked the receptionist, "have you seen our Muzungu?". I died with laughter. That would never work in the US. You could never walk in somewhere and ask if they had seen our white man. But it works here.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. All is going well and God willing we will get everything done on time. time...PHOTOS!!!