What it is

What it is

Hello. For anyone who doesn’t know (and if you don’t, why are you here?) I am going to Uganda in September to work with an org called Global Volunteer Network. I have always wanted to go to Africa, not to do the safari thing, but to really get to know first-hand the culture and people. I don’t know why, it’s kind of an odd thing to want to do when you’re in the 6th grade, but then again I’m kind of an odd person, so there you go.

Anyway, during the day I will be teaching in an elementary school somewhere outside Kampala, the capital of Uganda. In the afternoons I’ll be making home visits to help people suffering from AIDs. (Something like 1 in 3 people in East Africa has AIDs). This part has me the most worried. It’s one thing at my job, where the girls have a future to look forward to if they make the right decisions, it’s completely another with those who have no treatment or hope and their lives are reduced to moments left.

On the weekends I’m going to take side trips around Uganda to visit some kids who I help put through school. (For whatever reason, in one of the poorest areas on the planet they have to pay to go to school. Whoever setup the arrangement obviously wasn’t bitten by the logic bug.)

After I volunteer I’ll have a couple extra days to explore Uganda, so I’m going to go on a mini-safari through a national park and see lions and tigers, and… well, there’s no bears. Then I’m going to camp on an island that’s a chimpanzee habitat, where I get to help feed, walk and play with the baby chimps. (Although after someone told me that baby chimps once bit someone’s face off I’m a tad concerned)

I also am going to have two layovers in London, the second one overnight, so I get to see a little bit of the UK.

And along the way, I hope to stop into one of Uganda’s what-I’m-told-are-abundant internet cafes and keep this little page o’ thoughts updated.

So if you feel so inclined, stop by now and then and check in on how I’m doing.

And read carefully, there will be a quiz. 😉

Ta 🙂

Days 1-2

Days 1-2

Hello! I only have 20 minutes so forgive typos, I’m typing fast.

London was great, just as I expected. I actually ended up having more time than I thought as the flight arrived early. So I went to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery, plus on a bus tour of the city– which was very wet since I sat in the open top area and it was raining 🙂 In the National Gallery I got to see a painting I remember learning about in school, apparently on one of the days I actually went to class. It was by an artist named Van Eyck and I remember it because it looks like a photo.

Anyway, on to Uganda. I managed to sleep most of the flight (it was dark anyway) and got to Entebbe about 5:30 AM. In baggage claim I was talking to another girl who ended up being a volunteer for the same place I am… small world.

Uganda is great– it’s very colorful. The hills are all bright green and the ground is all brick red. The ride from the airport gave me my first view, and the road was full of people, including those with the picturesque baskets on their heads, and kids walking (and hitchiking) to school.

We got to Ndejje Village and visited the offices of the program and then went to the house we’ll be staying at. It’s really nice, we even have cement rooms complete with beds and windows. I’m sharing a room with Jennifer, who I’d met at the airport. She seems a little… naive. She arrived with high heeled leather boots and a nice Gap outfit. Oh well 🙂 She’s nice though.

The man we’re staying with, Reverend Jim, has 5 natural kids and has adopted 20 others, so the house is VERY busy. One of the boys, Grace, is 3 and was adopted 2 years ago after being found on the side of the road beaten and abandoned. He’s adorable and has huge dimples and loves to kiss you on the cheek. There are also about 8 other volunteers, from England, Australia and Holland. They’re all very nice. Some young, some older.

Anyway, that’s about it so far. I’m in Kampala at the moment and this afternoon I’m going to visit my first sponsored kid, Diana, who is HIV positive and sponsored through CCF. Hopefully I’ll get back online soon to let everyone know how it went.

Days 3 to whatever day this is

Days 3 to whatever day this is

Okay, to get to the internet, you have to take a “taxi”, and I use the word loosely, because a taxi here is a shared 14 passenger bus that bounces up and down bumpy roads spewing diesel exhaust. And by 14 passenger van, I mean one actually holding 20 people. Once in the bus you brave the Kampala traffic, where there are many cars and literally no stop signs, signals, or anything else resembling order. And to add to the fun, you have to go through two roundabouts at a snails pace.

I made it this time, but my updates may not be as frequent as previously thought.

Besides the traffic, the trip so far has been great. Saturday I went to visit Diana, who I sponsor through CCF. She lives with her mom in a one bedroom brick home that her uncle pays for, as her mom doesn’t work so that she can care for Diana. Diana was just skin, bones, and a big smile. She was obviously sick, but through CCF she has just started anti-viral treatments so hopefully she’ll be getting better soon. I was taken to the project office where she receives services, to her home, and to her school. I also met all kinds of people whose names I couldn’t pronounce at the time, much less remember now, but it was a good experience. I was also interested to learn that Diana and her mother receive regular counseling from a therapist in order to deal with her HIV status.

So that was Saturday. Sunday was quite literally a day of rest, and we spent the day playing with the children at the house, including Grace, who I mentioned before, and Winnie, who was just adopted after her father died of AIDs 4 weeks ago. She’s very cute and about 5 years old I think. She really enjoys listening to my iPod and dancing along. Grace and Winnie also have a little rivalry going, so when you are talking to one the other is usually giving you dirty looks and will ignore you later.

Monday we were briefed on the program, and met the various people who work for ACF. We also visited pig farms, which smelled lovely. (ACF has a program to help widows earn money by giving them pigs). In the afternoon I tutored a little boy named Ronald whose parents have both just died and who now can’t afford school fees. ACF lets him come to their library every day during school hours to get taught as teachers are available. He’s very adorable and very shy and quiet. Most people in Uganda are very softspoken actually, so I fit in well. 🙂

Tuesday we went to a village called Katebo, which was about a 2 hours drive and sits near Lake Victoria. The people there are poorer than in Ndejje. We were in town to provide free AIDs testing, and counseling for those who were receiving results. Since most of the people there don’t speak English, my role was to assist in the testing, handing over syringes, etc, as necessary. Another volunteer, Marjon (I think that’s how you spell it, she pronounces it My-own or My-on), from Holland, is a nurse and did the actual testing. This seems to be the only time most of the people have seen a nurse, so a few people with various ailments also showed up hoping for treatment. One little girl in particular was about 5… or she looked about 5, most kids who look 5 are usually about 10, anyway… she came with a gash in her head. It turned out she’d been hit in the head with a hoe about 4 days before and it hadn’t been treated, or even washed for that matter. The cut itself was small, but it had become infected and developed an absess about 3 inches around. Marjon did her best to treat it but we don’t know how she’ll be. Hopefully she’ll return for a checkup when we’re back in Katebo next week.

Back in Ndejje yesterday, Wednesday I think, we visited local families, one where the father had been paralyzed in a work accident, and one where a sister was taking care of her siblings after their parents died of AIDs, and who was now dying from AIDs herself. Very sad, it makes you feel very helpless. We helped them get water from the well and take care of things around the house… house another of those loosely used terms.

In the afternoon I helped teach in a school in the village, a P2 class, which works out to about 2nd grade, maybe 3rd. The kids are adorable and very well behaved, which is incredible seeing as they go to school from 7am to 5pm with little time to work off extra energy.

Today we took it pretty easy, I played with Grace in the morning and then we began our adventure to Kampala which brings me to now.

As a side note, everywhere we go people, especially kids, yell out “Mzungu” (white person) and run after you yelling and waving and trying to hold your hand. It makes you feel like a little bit of a celebrity. Although, when it grows from a group of 4 or 5 to a mob of 15 it can be a little suffocating.

Anyway, hope everyone is well back home! Hopefully I’ll be able to post again soon.

And so it goes…

And so it goes…

Let’s see, what’s happened since I last posted?

I can’t remember what day it was, but I went to visit my sponsored child through Plan, Filisita, and her family in Luwero, which is about an hour north of Kampala. Her family was very excited to meet a Mzungu, and her father was very well-spoken in English, so I had a great time. I was also humbled to receive their gifts of a pineapple, a pumpkin and some beans that I shared with the other volunteers, as well as a mat and a broom. Plan seems to have done a lot for the community and even built 3 schools within a short distance of each other.

I also went to visit Uganda Child Care in Masaka (2 hours east) over the weekend. It’s a charity run by a Danish couple who sold everything they had and moved to Uganda. They’ve started a Children’s Village for orphaned children, a farm to serve as a teaching aid to locals, and also run a child sponsorship program through which I have two kids, Lawrence and Emirini. I met Lawrence the first day, and he was extremely intelligent and already in secondary (high) school even though he’s 12. His was my favorite visit by far. We took him out to lunch, which was only his 2nd trip to a restaraunt ever. Then we went to his house and met his Aunt. His Aunt is actually middle class by Ugandan standards, but in meeting her natural children and her adopted it’s obvious that her adopted children aren’t taken care of nearly as well, which has led to Lawrence needing sponsorship. She has apparently sent Lawrence’s sister away to be a house girl, which is basically a slave, and while we were there she asked if I would pay to send Lawrence to boarding school, presumably so she could be rid of him as well. Sad. As I was there for the weekend, we invited Lawrence to come along on Sunday as well (for when I met Emirini) and he jumped at the chance. During that trip we asked him if he wanted to go to boarding school and he started to cry and said no. He said he wanted to stay at home, but just hated having to walk 5 miles to school, because when he finally got home late at night his Aunt made him go fetch water 2 miles away in the dark, and he was always scared. I asked his Social Worker how I could help, and at her suggestion I was able to buy him a bicycle. I also gave him the no-batteries-needed flashlight my mom had given me so he didn’t have to be scared of the dark.

That day we visited Emirini, who lives with her family in a mud and thatch house in the middle of nowhere (we literally had to drive through a swamp to get there, much to Lawrence’s enjoyment) As her family of 8 is obviously very poor, the poorest of any of my kids, we brought them a food parcel with rice and beans and other staples. While there we also went to an African church service, which is much louder and more boistrous than the services I’m used to. 🙂

Monday I went to visit Deus, who is a 3 year old boy that I sponsor through CCF. He’s adorable and VERY talkative, although only in Luganda, so I couldn’t understand a word… but I nodded along a lot! His father is on the CCF community council that helps run the local project, so he had a lot of insight. They were very kind and welcoming, as have been all the families.

Yesterday and today I resumed tutoring kids who couldn’t afford school, focusing on Ronald, who I’ve decided to sponsor so that he can go to school next term. I was able to teach him to do addition today, and he went from only being able to add single digits to being able to add numbers of all lengths and quantities. He also began learning to spell basic English words, and all around is making a lot of progress for such a short time.

This afternoon we made the long trek back to Kampala, from where I am now writing. Tomorrow is my last day with ACF, and then Friday I begin my short “safari” to Murchison Falls, so I may not be able to post again for some time… not that I’ve been posting so often anyway; oh well.

Anyway, hope everyone is fine back home!

Phase 2

Phase 2

After a day of tutoring and packing I said goodbye to everyone at ACF, who were wonderful, and I am now in Masindi on the way to Murchison falls for my mini-safari. I’ve had a cold the last few days so I sound like a frog, but other than that everything is going well.


I’m now on the way back from Murchison Falls, again in Masindi. Murchison Falls was great. We went on a game drive (safari), on a cruise on the Nile, and on a chimpanzee tracking expedition. Overall I got to see giraffes (a LOT), buffalo, elephants, a lion and a leopard, chimps, all kinds of antelope/gazelles, hippos and crocodiles. The people I’m travelling with have all been very nice, most are from the UK and craftsmen here to volunteer for building projects.

Tonight I’ll be staying in Kampala and then tomorrow I go to Ngamba Island, where I get to play with chimps!

Coming to an end…

Coming to an end…

I’ve just returned from Ngamba Island, my last real experience in Uganda. It was SO much fun. I got to feed and play with chimpanzees, and then we took them on a walk in the forest. Turns out chimps are lazy, so really we walked and they were carried. But it was a great time. The chimps are so much like people, even their hands look like human hands. Actually, they kind of reminded me of the kids at work, because some were really needy, some were defiant, some were goofy. It was a real trick getting them to do what they were supposed to. Staying on the island was great too… it was in a tent, but how they set it up it didn’t seem like it at all, and it was the most comfortable bed I’ve had the whole trip.

Anyway, tomorrow I fly out and will stay overnight in London and then I’ll be home! It went by so fast!

Last day

Last day

I am in London and in a few hours will be flying home… I’ve had a great time and everything pretty much has gone perfectly. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably end up accidentally on a flight to Nepal or something. Anyway, it’s 6:30am in London, which is 8:30am Uganda time, so I can’t sleep anymore and have wandered into a 24hour internet cafe. Amazing, internet, and I didn’t even have to take a matatu ride for an hour or brave the Kampala chaos. London also has wonders like western toilets and, get this, hot water. I think I’m in shock.

Anyway, last night I went back to the National Gallery and then went to see Mary Poppins… the musical was pretty good but I left early because I was really tired and I know how it ends anyway.

This morning I think I’m going to go take a peek at the real-life Notting Hill and then get to the airport for my flight at noon.

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has kept up with these posts and and who’s emailed… I haven’t had time to reply to many but I’ve appreciated getting them.




Ha! You thought you were through with me!
I finally got around to putting my pictures online… here’s a peek, or you can see them at http://mbatson.com/travel-photos.