We spent a long day on the road today, taking in some beautiful scenery on our way back to Kampala. After a late dinner at a restaurant with a varied, American-style menu, we are now settled into a comfortable hotel for the night.
D. Prockop, BoD
We spent a long day on the road today, taking in some beautiful scenery on our way back to Kampala. After a late dinner at a restaurant with a varied, American-style menu, we are now settled into a comfortable hotel for the night.
D. Prockop, BoD
Last adventurous day. We all woke up around 5:30 and headed out for a safari game drive. About one hour into the drive, we saw our first lioness and we were lucky enough to see her catch a baby antelope. Some minutes later, we managed to see a group of lions (with three females and one male). Throughout the drive, we saw plenty of warthogs, antelopes, diverse types of birds, and buffalo. Though we saw very few elephants on the drive, the boat ride we went on in the afternoon gave us a close view of many elephants. Before the boat ride, we had a fun experience at lunch. When we arrived, we saw what we thought was a “cool bird” (shaped sort of like a pelican). Later, we found out that this “cool bird” had a diet that consisted of leftover food from the trash can, which many of us (myself included) were not happy to hear. The boat ride we went on was about two hours down the Kazinga Channel, moving towards Lake George. On the ride, we saw plenty of elephants, hippos, buffalo, and few different types of birds. We also saw a troop of baboons (with plenty of baby baboons) and a small fishing community near Lake George. Afterwards, we drove back to the lodge we are staying in. We rested for a couple of hours and played some games. Then we ended the day with a delicious dinner and some of us will now watch a football match before bed.
This morning we got off to a bright and early start to go chimp tracking. After saying goodbye to Rukungiri at 6:00 AM, we drove about two hours northwest and began tracking in the rain forest by 8:30. We got very lucky, seeing two chimps and two monkeys during our hike. Our first sighting was a mother chimp and her baby who were particularly photogenic and I was lucky to quickly photograph. Then we saw a blue monkey and another chimp. Later in the day we relaxed at a hotel with an amazing view of the Great Rift Valley and the distant Congo. The flat landscape is a complete change from the hills of Rukungiri. Tonight at our hotel a few of us went on a short walk to get a sneak peak of the Kazinga Chanel which we are visiting tomorrow. There we saw close to a dozen hippos in the water. Annie and I thought they were so cute but our guide tells us they can be pretty dangerous creatures. The view from the hotel and the hippos are making me so excited for our safari tomorrow. I hope we are as lucky as we were with the chimps this morning!
Our last day at Bishop’s is coming to its end. We had a late start to today, and didn’t arrive at the school until lunchtime. I, along with Hope and a couple of other people, decided to walk to the school today. It was probably a little over an hour, but the walk was filled with beautiful views and was well worth it. After eating lunch at the school, we along with the rest of the school packed into the main hall for our closing ceremony. It opened with some anthems, including the Groton School Hymn, sung bravely by all 11 of us in front of the entire Bishop’s School plus the faculty. We then enjoyed some singing performances by Scripture Union Club and Drama Club, and then a breakdancing performance by five of the students. The ceremony was an awesome time, fun and lighthearted, and it was the perfect end to our time here. After the ceremony, we left the main hall, only to be greeted by a horde of students wanting to take pictures with us. Although it was a little uncomfortable at first, being greeted and asked to take pictures with kids I had never spoken to in my life, it was also heartfelt at the same time. There were tears, smiles, and phone numbers exchanged, and our time at the school today made it a lot harder to say goodbye. It was moving to see how proud Bishop’s was of our partnership, and how honored they were to have us at their school, even though it was such a brief time. Just thinking about how I will never again pull up to Bishop’s early in the morning in the Venture Uganda bus really makes me sad, and I’ve really appreciated the time I’ve gotten to spend here. Although our time in Rukungiri is over, we still have lots planned, including chimp tracking tomorrow morning and a river safari on Thursday. So although leaving the village is tough for me, I’m so excited for what the rest of the trip is going to bring.
Today was our final regular school day at Bishop’s, as tomorrow will be our departure ceremony before leaving Rukungiri. We started our day off with breakfast at 7:15. Richie, Halle, Annie, and Hope left Jim’s place at 7:30 for a run to school, whereas the rest of us took the comfy ride by bus fifteen minutes later. As on every Monday at Bishop’s, there was a forty-five minute school assembly this morning. The four flags were raised by the Scouts Club, each followed by singing. The school then had a prayer and various Christian songs led by the Scripture Union Club. The assembly was finally completed by remarks made by Headmaster Kham and his assistant. We then worked on repairing the blackboard in the library. We later split up into separate groups for some final reading at the primary school, repairing blackboards, and sitting in on one of the biology classes. We had lunch at school and drove to Jim’s place later to rest for a bit. At 15:35, we went back to school, where we labelled the computers. Mr Prockop showed the biology and geography teachers how to use spreadsheets, including a demonstration of making a chart. At 17:05, we had a football game on the playground. Oscar, Andrew, and I played in it, and the Orange Team won the game by 5-2. Collins, the school’s Sports Master, was the man of the match. He played terrific defense, yet also scored three goals including a terrific bar-down header off a corner kick.
– Julien, BoD
We have officially begun the last week of the trip! It’s amazing how fast the time has been going by; it feels like just a few days ago that I hopped off the plane in Entebbe, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Today we woke up and, after breakfast, took a 20-minute drive to the top of a steep valley in Rukungiri. The view from the top was stunning, and we took plenty of pictures. We then hiked down the valley to a bridge over the river at the bottom. The scenery here never fails to amaze me. Even just walking out onto the patio at Jim’s place, I look out and see beautiful rolling hills that look like something out of a movie. After the hike, we had a few hours of free time, then we hosted a dinner for all the host families, as well as a few key members of the Bishop’s School staff. The dinner had an electric atmosphere to it, and it was filled with dancing and singing and was overall a wonderful time. We then all went up one-by-one and thanked our host families and gave them a gift, which they were appreciative of, and it was a heartfelt ending to a great night. As we enter the last third of the trip, I’ve decided to focus the remainder of my time here on reflection. Things are happening so fast, and I’ve experienced so many things that it has become hard to absorb everything. We get to be typical American tourists for the final stretch of the trip, and it’s the perfect opportunity to think about and reflect on how this trip has changed me as a person.
Yesterday after lunch our group split up to either take a walk in the nearby hills or drive into town to print pictures and buy chocolate bars. When we arrived back at Bishop’s High School, a handful of us played a big soccer (or football, as they call it) game with our Bishop’s buddies. I sat on the sidelines with plenty of other fans, occasionally screaming, occasionally performing the Hokey Pokey for primary school students. After the game, we parted ways for the final night of our homestays. This morning, we packed our bags, said farewell to our host families, and thanked them so very much for being endlessly welcoming. In the afternoon, we returned to the school to attend the Senior 4’s prom ceremony which entailed colorful dresses and suits, big earrings and fancy hairstyles, booming music (I thought my ears were going to fall off), speeches, and cake. I was particularly impressed by how the S4 class had endless dancing energy. There was a whole portion of the ceremony in which two students would dance their way up the room to present gifts to various staff members. Groton School was honored to receive a lovely green millet basket. After witnessing some staff members inhale brick-sized helpings of matoke at lunch, we returned home, soaking in the week we had spent at our homestays and the Senior 4 prom ceremony.
Day 3 at the Homestay. We went on a walk with the homestay hosts yesterday afternoon while the service for the Bishop continued until 6 PM. Though the sights in the walk were good, talking with the hosts up the hill was a more fun activity. I met a girl named Mariam on the way up. She tested my knowledge of the local language and she asked me questions about the types of classes we have in the United States. When we reached the top of the hill, Iden, Goddie, Ivana, Julien, Christine, and I had a fun time trying all sorts of tricks with wooden poles and gymnastics. On the way down, Iden (my homestay) and I ran down most of the hill and back to the school. After evening tea, Iden and I walked home. We had dinner shortly after we got home, and then Iden and his four sisters taught me the National Anthem of Uganda. After, we wrote poems and made them into songs which was really fun because Iden’s sisters would make fun of the way he sings, and then we would all laugh. We went on laughing and singing for about 2 hours. Then we went to sleep. This morning Iden and I ran to school, which was tiring but fun. The Groton group continued the morning by teaching three different computer classes of S3. In conclusion, this day was probably the best day so far, in my point of view.
The Bishop has arrived! This morning the local Bishop visited the school, an event which has been much anticipated by students and teachers. The students conducted a typical morning assembly which consists of flag raising, marching, singing, and praying. After the assembly the Bishop came into the library where we have been working with computers. He walked around to see the documents we have created with the students, then blessed the computers and the new computer program at the school. I am excited to see how the students will continue to explore the new computers, both while we are here and in the future. We have been told that when we leave, a faculty member of Bishop’s School will pick up where we have left off and continue basic computer lessons. My homestay, Yvonne, is very excited about the computers and has expressed her gratitude to us for leaving them with the school. It is our third day of staying at our homestays’ houses. Living and working with my family has exposed me to so many new experiences and traditions. After coming home from school each day we change and go out to pick plantains and “entutu,” a local berry. I have learned how to peel a plantain so it is ready to be cooked and sift through through millet grain. Yvonne’s family grows all of their own crops, including plantain, millet, and peanuts and is completely self-sufficient, like most families in Rukungiri. It has been satisfying to see how independent a household can be.
We (adults) met the Groton eight back at school this morning, to first hear about the first night of their homestays and then put in another full school day of painting walls, reading to and with students and teaching computer skills. The introduction of computers is something the leaders of Bishop’s High School are particularly excited about so today we planned how to show off some of their students’ newfound skills when the Bishop visits tomorrow. The end of the school day included rehearsals of everything from marching routines to songs, all in preparation for the Bishop’s arrival.
The reports from last night were very positive and spirits are good. A midday break today, to use the facilities back at Jim’s house and share experiences from last night, was most welcomed and included plenty of laughter over awkward moments.
If tomorrow’s school day is shorter, we will get back to having students write in this blog so they can share some of their experiences first hand.
E. Giles, H. Prockop, D. Prockop
This was another full school day, during which we continued teaching S3 (11th grade) students the basics of how to use a computer. Then our students took turns helping to paint an office at Bishop’s High School and reading with younger students at the primary school next door. At the end of the school day, the Groton students participated in club activities and then tried their hand at netball (similar to basketball but played outdoors, on grass) before enjoying evening tea. Then they all headed off to begin their four-night homestays, in the care of the Bishop’s students and families they had spent time with on Sunday. Having met these extraordinarily warm, hospitable hosts, our only concern is that they may prefer to wait on our students instead of allowing them to experience normal Ugandan life. Fortunately, the Groton students seem comfortable enough to jump into home life with the same eagerness they have displayed throughout this trip. We look forward to hearing a full report when we reconvene at school in the morning.
Today was our first full day at Bishop’s High School. It was fun, but by far the busiest and longest day we’ve had in Uganda. We began with a 45 minute assembly which consisted of singing, dancing, and praying. During the students’ class time we worked with the S1 though S3 grades (which correspond to 9th– 11th grades) on basic laptop skills. This was the first time most of them had ever seen computers so using the laptops that we brought with us from Groton, and will eventually leave with them, we taught them how to use a keypad and the basics of making a word document. The students’ school day is pretty long (from around 7:30am- 4:50pm), but there are plenty of breaks including 2 tea breaks (which is like conference period at Groton). At the end of the school day we had the choice to either go to Scripture Union or Drama Club, which also involved more singing and dancing. We saw/tried to learn some of their demonstrations and performances and were asked to do our own. This resulted in Andrew freestyling and ragged performances of “Let Justice Roll” but at least we had fun while doing it. Afterwards, we had some time to spend with our hosts and other students before returning to our current resting place, Jim’s house. Tomorrow begins our true Rukungiri experience when we start our homestays!
Many of us had an early start to the morning as Annie, Julien, the Prockops and I woke up for cow milking at 6 am. Although the sound of my alarm was startling at 5:45 am, the adventure that would follow was well worth it. After we had each successfully milked a cow, we decided it was time to head in. Once breakfast was over, we all headed into the living room to work through some issues on our tablets that we are bringing to Bishops. Finally, after lunch we boarded the bus and went to the school to meet our homestays, who will host us for four nights later this week. As soon as we arrived at school, all of the homestays arrived and greeted each one of us with a handshake or a hug. We then went our separate ways, making the trip to the various homes where we will be staying. Once I arrived at home, I was immediately welcomed by grandparents and friends and told how happy they all were to host and see me. All of the people in the house kept asking me what it was like in the US, which was a very difficult question to answer. As we talked, I was offered tea and an entire meal. After we ate, my homestay, Godie, showed me around the rest of his house, taking me to see the banana plantation and pigs behind his house. While we walked he kept talking about how in Uganda the people have all they need and how thankful he was for his various blessings. After a couple hours, the bus came around to pick us up and drop off mattresses and pillows for our nights in the houses, which will begin in a couple days. After this long day, we came back to Jim’s house and spent the evening playing soccer and eating a delicious dinner.
Today was a very eventful, fun-filled day.
Halle and I woke up at 7:00 and went on a jog with Hope and Ms. Giles. After breakfast, we all ventured into town where we explored the shops and had lunch. Later, in the afternoon, we conquered the “community walk.” This name is rather misleading, for the community walk actually consists of hiking a small mountain. We all enjoyed reaching the peak, despite the unanticipated amounts of sweat and wheezing that accompanied the journey. I wore my mother’s hiking pants, which proved to be a fatal fashion faux pas, as the sun was rather unforgiving. Although we had so much fun on the hike, we sobered upon hearing that many children in Rukungiri hike the same mountain twice a day to get to school.
Tonight we had a delicious dinner, and now we are writing in our journals and playing cards. I am looking forward to tomorrow. At six tomorrow morning, a group of us are going to milk a cow, and in the afternoon we are going to meet the families of our home stays, which I am so excited about.
The photos show us hiking up the mountain.
Blogger of the Day
16th June 2017
Today was our first day at Bishop’s High School, after having arrived near Rukungiri yesterday evening. This morning we headed off to Bishop’s at 10:30 on a twenty-minutes’ drive on orange, dusty, and bumpy roads. Once we arrived there, we were greeted with exceptionally warm welcomes by the students and faculty. We went inside the headmaster’s office where we signed our names on the visitors’ book, and later went outside by the school entrance. There the entire school had gathered, and a few students performed military-styled marches. As each flag was displayed, the students from Bishop’s School all sang songs. Once they had sung, it was our turn so we sang the U.S. National Anthem. We later gathered in the chapel, where there were a series of speeches and songs. We later met with students of the school and got to know them. We had lunch at around 13:30 in the faculty dining hall. We later experienced the school’s latrines, toilets that consist of a hole in the ground. After lunch, the headmaster agreed to let host family students out of class to mingle with us. Once we were all paired up with our hosts, we discussed to get to know each other better. Following around ten minutes of discussion, we all gathered outside the chapel to play games. We initially started with the standard name game, and then played a series of very fun games such as “duck duck goose” and “Wha!” At 16:00 it was time for us to leave, and we said “bye” to our hosts. We drove to the market in Rukungiri, where we walked around, and bought delicious mangoes and pineapples for the evening.
Blogger of the Day
Today we hit the road early from Kampala to begin our journey to Rukingiri. Getting out of the city took about an hour and a half, due to its notorious traffic jams, but once we got on the main highway it went quickly. The road we were on is the main road that connects Kampala to Rwanda and Tanzania, and as such, it is one of the best maintained roads in the country!
Our first stop today was at the Equator, where we all had the chance to get out, stretch our legs, practice our bartering skills at the vendors (Andrew was the clear winner), and of course, have the opportunity to stand with one foot in each hemisphere. We learned from Mr. Prockop about the Coriolis effect, and of course took advantage of a photo op.
After that we got back on the bus, stopped for lunch a few hours later in Mbarara, before continuing on to our destination in Rukingiri. We are now fully settled in at the house, having enjoyed a lovely meal and some time to relax after a big day of travel. We got to see part of the village on the drive in today, but everyone is really looking forward to meeting the students and different members of the community tomorrow.
Our first day in Uganda was a relaxing one, spent riding around part of Kampala and then visiting a large hotel complex for some exercise and an afternoon by the pool. We’re already becoming familiar with Ugandan food and polite, friendly people. We’re now off for one more day of seeing sights around this traffic-filled city before heading out to our final destination.
Hello all! It was a fantastic few days prepping and getting ready for departure, and we are thrilled to finally be on the road. Everyone participated in workshops over the past few days preparing us not only for Uganda, but for international travel in general, and we are all looking forward to the next few days (and weeks!) with eagerness and excitement. Everyone will have the chance to update the blog periodically throughout our stay, so keep your eyes peeled, and we look forward to sharing the expierence with you!
Off to Uganda!
Today was a travel day for our group as we left the safari grounds for Kampala. We had a later start than usual today, waking up at 9:30. After a delicious breakfast we said goodbye to three members of our group: Mr. Reed, Ms. Irwin, and Michael. Most of our group will at least see Mr. Reed next year at Groton but for Christina and me there is no time table for when we will reunite with those left behind so our goodbyes were lengthier. Afterwards, we set out on a nine hour drive. We drove for intervals between a half-hour to two hours, but by the fourth stop, the group needed a break. Thankfully it was lunchtime. We ate at a buffet and towards the end looked around a ceramic shop. I bought a Ugandan bracelet for my brother. We once again continued our journey, falling into a constant rhythm between sleep and reading. Before I knew it the trip drew to a close and we arrived at the Minister’s Village Hotel. The journey was long but somehow we made it in time for a late dinner.
As our trip nears its end, today was a day full of excitement and discovery. Before waking up at around five o’clock this morning, we had a fun night meeting a group of students from Wales. We conversed about McDonald’s, of which there are many in the UK; Harry Potter, where most Americans get their views of the UK; and the Welsh language, which is rarely heard anywhere except for in Wales, before finally hitting the sack. Sleep at the Simba Safari Camp was hot and buggy, but I survived to tell the tale, so it must not have been so bad.
We woke up earlier than usual and ate a quick breakfast before hitting the road at 6:30 AM. We left so early because of the increased chances of finding wildlife on the game reserve in the early morning, and find animals we did. We first saw the buffaloes, and then we spotted the Kobs. Along with the crested crane, the Kob is a national animal of Uganda. We didn’t see only everyday Ugandan animals, though; we also spotted some of the rarest sights in the park. We found the lead lion of a pride mating with a lioness, and they were only 100 yards away from twenty Kobs. The Kobs didn’t even bat an eye; I think they knew what was going on. After this rare sight, we saw another rare sight; a pair of crested cranes with their children (They stay and mate together for a lifetime, so it’s like a bird marriage.). The crested crane is the champion animal of Uganda, although their numbers are slowly dwindling. The colors of the Ugandan flag are based upon the plumage of this bird, and an image of the bird appears right in the middle of the flag. After seeing these two species, we were told of their possibly unfortunate futures. There are only 135 lions in the whole of Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). The figures are so low because hyenas often kill the young cubs to eliminate predator competition for the antelopes. If you’ve ever seen Disney’s African Cats, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. The crested crane population is declining because of overdevelopment on Ugandan wetlands. If you eliminate their habitat, you eliminate them too. It’s a shame, though, because these two animals are some of the most majestic and beautiful animals in all of Uganda. Later, we saw another type of antelope and numerous other birds.
After having steak for lunch near a luxury hotel, I visited the visitors’ center and the museum inside. Soon afterwards, the rest of the group followed. We learned about the origins of the Rift Valley and how early humans made tools out of rocks. There was also a collection of dung from eighteen different animals. We then proceeded to chat for about an hour before going on a boat cruise through the Kazinga Channel. The Kazinga Channel links Lake Edward and Lake George in the Ugandan portion of the Great Rift Valley. While on the two hour boat cruise, we saw over ten types of birds and many other small animals. We saw over a hundred buffaloes and almost as many hippos. The buffaloes were lazily lounging about along the side of the river, and the hippos kept diving as soon as the boat neared them. Among the birds that we saw, the most powerful one was the African fish eagle. It was a slimmer and sleeker version of the American bald eagle but just as quick and dangerous. Afterwards, we saw many elephants and then encountered a crocodile right before the end. One thing that was a bit saddening was seeing a hippo with about a quarter of the flesh on its back exposed. I don’t know if it will survive, but I hope it doesn’t join the company of a dead buffalo that we also saw on the cruise.
After the boat cruise, we came back to the Simba Safari Camp and I had even more steak for tonight’s dinner. Sadly, like all good things, our trip must come to an end. It has been an amazing, eye-opening experience, and I hate to see it go. We only have a few days left, but I’m ambivalent about our return. We’ll leave many good friends behind, but also come back to see our family and friends at home. We’ll never forget this trip, and neither will the people we met along the way. See ya guys, on Wednesday.
We departed from Rukungiri early yesterday morning, and said our final good byes and thank yous to the wonderful staff at Jim’s house, who had made our stay very comfortable. They were also a major part of our final dinner with our homestay families the night before; they had spent the whole day cooking delicious food and setting up to ensure that the dinner was a success. I really appreciate what they’ve done for us, including putting up with the messes we made around the house.
After a long, bumpy three hour drive we arrived at our next destination: chimpanzee tracking. Most of us weren’t optimistic about our chances of sighting some monkeys, but our walk turned out great. We did have to earn it though. We had barely any time to stretch our legs before starting a steep, downhill path into a forest. About twenty minutes into our walk we saw a giant chimpanzee, and everybody got pumped. It was about thirty yards away, and once we stepped closer it swung off deeper into the forest. Within the next hour and half we saw black and white monkeys. But for the following two and a half hours, we trudged through the forest, over many hills and through many creeks which pulled some spirits down. Finally, after meeting up with the other half of our group, we emerged into a tea field which led us to the highway. From there we made it back to our starting point feeling dead tired. After thanking our guides, we set off to the Simba Hostel.
When we arrived, it was already pretty late. The other hostel residents were milling about speaking in funny accents and a few even said “hi”. After showers and a late supper we had our daily meeting, during which the host dinner was discussed. Everyone agreed that it went swimmingly as well as the farewell assembly at school. Before bed we actually encountered another new culture: Welsh. Our next door neighbors were also here to work with a school. We talked and learned about each other’s countries before going to bed. Three days left before we’re back in the States.
We started off with breakfast like normal, but today we would not be headed to the school. The morning would include a hike down a long road that was on the inside of a river valley. Last night we chose this over going on a hill climbing expedition, but we found the valley to be equally strenuous with the sun beaming down.
After a while of walking on the road, we got to the bridge where cars used to cross the river. I say used to because the second half of the bridge had collapsed into the river. Cars now have to travel about an hour out of the way to cross the river. On the other hand, pedestrians and motorcyclists can continue to cross at the same area because of a wooden bridge that has been constructed to the side of the former steel one.
We didn’t touch the water, but we did cross the bridge before making our way back up to the van and heading to school for lunch. A little Frisbee was played before we made our way to the chapel so that we could say goodbye to the school and vice versa.
With our best efforts, we sang our national anthem before being upstaged by a barrage of performances from Bishop’s High School. There was amazing singing and equally impressive dancing. Goodbye gifts were exchanged and prayers were spoken, asking for our safe travel. There was a funny little mix up with the names which caused Ycar to be standing when Mr. Prockop was the real gift recipient. While waving goodbye to the school and its students, all I could think of was the work we’d completed and all that was left to be done.
Later this same night, we hosted a dinner for our host families and the Headmaster from Bishop’s. The event was a blast. It was a goat roast outside on the lawn. I’m told the goat was delicious, but being a vegetarian, I can only say how great the rest of the food was. There was spaghetti, tons of different salads, roasted potatoes, and fruit for days. Dinner was perfect.
We started the event close to sundown and finished with a sky full of stars above our heads as we bid farewell to or guests, but before then there was a show. A traditional dancing group performed for us. The high tempo and high energy dances were extremely complicated. At one point, one of the group members popped up out of nowhere with a pair of five foot stilts on. Everyone in the audience was invited to join at any point of the performance if we wanted and many of us did just that. Even though we weren’t as talented as the man dancing on stilts, it was still a lot of fun to try their dances.
After the performance and dinner, families took the chance to give gifts to the students they’d hosted before bidding us farewell. With all the gifts given and goodbyes said, the families made their way home while we helped put things away. The stars were shining brightly as the alliance between Groton and Bishop’s locked tight until next year, when we hope more students will return.
So ends our second to last day at the school. Today was our second to last day at the school and also our last day actually working. We woke up bright and early, ready to finish what we had started when we got some bad news. Jacob was feeling sick; he had been throwing up during the night. So, we had to leave him behind at Jim’s house while we set off for school. He is feeling better now, if looking just a bit greenish. In fact, he is sitting next to me right now, drinking a 7UP.
School was great as always. We got started on the exterior wall of the school office and finished just before morning tea. It was a mad dash throughout the day as we started painting another classroom and prepared to present the stoves to the parents. We worked straight into lunch, finishing everything except for the bottom edge of the school office, which we needed to paint maroon.
After lunch we split the group; Atiba, Ycar, and I stayed at the school to help with the stove presentation. Christina, Peter and Malik went to Casa Rosa Primary School to meet and play with the children there. Feeling a bit abandoned, we got to work getting the stoves ready for the parents.
The presentation took place just after three. The rocket stove that we had made out of brick worked very well and impressed all the parents. They noticed how quickly it boiled water and how little smoke it produced. They were very enthusiastic about building their own at home. The other rocket stove, the one we bought at the university, did not work very well at all however. We could not get the wood to burn, no matter what we tried. The kindling would burn and then there would just be smoke. The wood refused to burn, despite being bone dry. I’m afraid that we did not advertise that rocket stove very well. They asked why it was so hard to start and why it was producing just as much smoke as a regular fire. All in all, the presentation went very well. Everyone was very excited by the brick rocket stove and wanted to build their own.
After the presentation we got back to work with hardly a break. We painted the maroon border on the school office. As soon as we finished we got on the van and started back to Jim’s house. I thought we might get the van to ourselves but then we picked up ten different people along the way. We passed Christina and Peter on a run on our way back to Jim’s. Peter was looking pretty haggard.
Those are the events for today. We are looking eagerly towards tomorrow, when we will go to school to say goodbye to Bishop’s High School and our home stay hosts.
Written on the evening of Wednesday, July 4:
It was another exciting day for all of us today. Luckily, those who were feeling sick yesterday all came to breakfast this morning seeming much more like themselves. We left for Bishop’s a little later than usual and, after the routine drive from Jim’s House to school, we once again found ourselves at the gates, ready to begin another day there. Headmaster Kham had expressed interest in our painting the outside of the administrative offices white and maroon with both the Bishop’s and Groton crests. After the wall was patched up last week, we began to prime it this morning with the intent of finishing it tomorrow. Jacob, Peter, Ms. Irwin, and I picked up paintbrushes and the roller and began to attack the wall. Bishop’s has a few very tall ladders and somehow (most likely because I volunteered myself) I ended up near the top, painting the trim on one of the somewhat teetering yet sturdy latters. Peter once again did a stellar job with the roller and Jacob and Ms. Irwin worked steadily with smaller brushes.
We worked on preparing the stoves today for more demonstrations. After collecting all the supplies over the course of the past few days, we’ve been showing student how to operate the brick rocket stove. Once again, we compared all three: the three-stone fire which is common in many Ugandan homes, the metal rocket stove we acquired from CREEC at Makerere University, and the brick rocket stove designed originally by a team of engineers from Dartmouth, including Mr. Reed and Ms. Irwin’s son. After some trial and error this morning, we showed Senior One and Senior Two students the various differences among the stoves, including how long it takes for each one to boil water. Overall, I think they were receptive to the demonstrations. It was exciting to see a few students approach Mr. Prockop and Mr. Reed afterwards in order to ask a few more questions. The students were also instrumental in getting the fires going. While we do have some pyromaniacs in the group (Ycar), a few of us had trouble getting the flames going. I know my father would not be proud to hear this, but I really struggled yesterday with the three-stone, as I attempted to make the wood and paper catch. A few Bishop’s girls came up, casually glancing at what I was doing (or failing to do) and, after a little conversation, one of them stepped up and took the matches, striking one and then another to ignite the kindling and paper. Soon enough, we had a roaring fire. She really knows what she’s doing!
I am really enjoying the daily routine which we’ve fallen into. It seems like meal times at Bishop’s work like clockwork- there is always a morning tea followed by lunch, evening tea, and dinner. As a few of us were saying today, we have never had so many bananas! Or so much tea… Patience and Jolly (I love their names) are the two women responsible for all the cooking at school, along with a couple of helpers. They prepare tea twice a day, lunch for all of us, as well as lunch for the students. With the help of a few men, they get all the meals ready and hot, on time, which will continue to impress me, considering how long it often takes to cook everything. At lunch today we dined and then went outside. Ycar and Eddie got another Frisbee game going and Malik, Jacob, and I were going to head back to visit our homestay families, who live close to school. In the end, my homestay buddy, Fazirah, and I were the only ones able to make the trip up the hill to visit her mother, but Malik and Jacob stopped by later in the afternoon. As usual, Malik came back with a plentiful bag of fruit from his hosts. We’ve all noted that they all have a tendency to feed us!
We got a chance to watch some soccer today or, as the Ugandans like to call it (much like the British) football! Two primary schools were playing each other in both net ball (a sport unique to this area which seems to us like a combination of basketball and handball with a few added wrinkles) and football; it was a battle between the Salvation School nearby and our local Bishop’s Primary school in Kyabugashe, the town where we have been living. The game was thrilling. It ended in a 3-0 win for Bishops and the crowds who came out to watch were unbelievable! Both schools bordered the end zones and I am convinced that the cheering when Bishop’s scored could be heard from a good kilometer (they work in metric units here) away! I was told that one boy, after he scored, ran up to center field and did a flip and cartwheel with no hands for the enjoyment of his spectators. I was sorry to miss that!
Once back at Jim’s, we relaxed and a few of us went for a walk with Michael, who took us around the beautiful countryside. We clambered up hills and stepped over gates. We passed grazing cows and goats and gorgeous gurgling streams running through the lowlands. Ycar made friends with a few small children whom we met when we had a look at the soccer field where Michael told us he used to play. The kids were tentative at first, waving from a distance. Soon, they worked up the courage to approach us and, with Ycar’s instruction, they high-fived. He seems to be making his way through Uganda one high-five or prop at a time. It was beautiful out and really nice to get out and see a part of the countryside which was new to us.
We changed things up a little for dinner and went out to the Rukungiri Inn. It was fun to be there; we all sat outside and enjoyed the starry night sky. After our meals, Malik and Eddie decided that they were still hungry, so they ordered tilapia most likely from Lake Edward where we visited a few days ago. Most of us were fading by the time their full, completely fried fish arrived on the table maybe 45 minutes to an hour later. They wolfed them down, enjoying them I hope and soon we were on our way back to Jim’s.
That’s all for now! Christina
On today’s episode of Uganda, our heroes and their sidekick ventured to Bishop’s High School to finish painting the rooms that they had started on previously. On the trip there, one of the heroes, Peter, risked our lives when a bee flew into the van and he, with his magical book of justice, swatted and defeated the menace. Once we arrived, we waited until the students started class so that we would not distract them while we painted the classroom next door. Even with that precaution, we were visited by students (who hopefully had a free period when they joined) and with their help we finished painting the first classroom.
While we waited for the second room to open up, Christina and Ycar (I’m talking in the third person) thought it would be a great idea to use the lid of one of the buckets of paint as a Frisbee (actually it was Christina’s idea, I just tagged along). While tossing the makeshift Frisbee, one teacher walked up to us and said that the school actually had several objects that looked similar to the lid, but they never knew what it was for so they never used it. The teacher rummaged through the athletic equipment and found several actual Frisbees. We all (including Mr. Prockop) tossed the Frisbees around and soon enough we had a crowd. It was kind of difficult at first to teach people how to throw a Frisbee but they learned quickly and were playing with each other shortly afterwards.
Then after lunch we were back inside painting the second classroom. It started off as just the five of us (Mr. Prockop was preparing for the stove presentation and Eddie and Atiba were sick) and before long it grew. First one teacher came to help us and after Jacob, Christina, and Ycar (still third person) went to assist Mr. Prockop with the presentation, an entire army of students came to help Peter and Malik with the rest of the second room. They finished quickly because of the large numbers and in the end Malik and Peter just had to direct the student-painters.
Meanwhile the remaining five Grotonians began the demonstration. The presentation went well for the most part, but the fire in the the stone rocket stove (one of three different stoves we were comparing) went out halfway through. Tomorrow we’ll do a test run of that stove just to make sure that it stays lit the entire time. After the presentation everyone reunited to clean the brushes and the tub and while we were doing so Amos came along. Amos is the brother of the father of Christina’s homestay hostess and though he seemed fine at first, we realized quickly that he was, to put it kindly, under the influence, but he was really helpful nevertheless.
Today we finished a little earlier than usual and headed out a tad bit early, with a Frisbee of course. Back at Jim’s we played a little Frisbee, talked a little, fought a little and that was pretty much the end of the day.
(P.S. Eddie and Atiba are doing fine now and most likely will be joining us tomorrow.)
Hello! Today we did only a few things but completed a lot of work. The day began relatively early at 7 am. Many of us woke up before the sun rose during our homestays to milk the cows or fetch water at the bases of the hills, but our early mornings were also accompanied by early nights. Staying at Jim’s house, which isn’t short on electricity, has kept us up longer at night and asleep later in the day.
After we arrived at school, we were ushered into their morning chapel service which began a little after 8. We found our seats at the front of the chapel and as soon as we sat down, we were engulfed by the beautiful voices of the Bishop’s High School students singing there school anthem. Their confidence and flow made it almost impossible not to join in with their rhythmic claps. The Ugandan national anthem came next, followed by announcements from the headmaster and chairperson. Then three student prefects came afterwards, each with their own comments and announcements for the week.
The first class of the day came directly after chapel. We all read intermediate books to the Senior 1 (S1) students. It was hard teaching to the S1 class of ninety students, but I still enjoyed reading Leo the Late Bloomer, a book about cowboys, and showing them a children’s atlas of the United States. The class of S2 students came next; their class was more enjoyable and manageable because they only had thirty students.
After morning tea we got down to work. We finished putting on primer paint in one of the classrooms (I had to climb a particularly tall ladder), and Ycar and Eddie sawed firewood outside. While they sawed, some of the others broke up kindling outside. By the time we completed these things it was time for lunch; the school kitchen cooked a delicious, nutritious meal. We had fresh mashed plantains, steaming rice, tasty noodles, potatoes (which are actually called Irish here, because they have their own native potatoes), sweet cabbage, and beans bursting with flavor. It was a lunch that you could only eat in Uganda.
During lunch Jacob and I visited the families of our homestay hosts, Boise and Crissant. They live less than 400 yards away from the school and less than sixty yards away from each other; so it was by no means an exhausting walk. The family of Jacob’s host Boise wasn’t there, but my host Crissant’s was. The family was very excited to see us, because our homestay had officially ended the day before. As a gift, they gave me a whole, fresh papaya grown less than 200 feet away from their home. I spoke with Crissant’s mother, uncle, and sister for a short while inside their house, but the situation quickly changed once they asked me if I wanted to say hello to Crissant’s cousins. We walked about 100 feet down the hill and met Crissant’s aunt once we got there. She asked me if I wanted to get a mango, and I told her that I would, but I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into. She pointed to the sky and said “There’s a mango.” I looked up and realized that I was standing right beneath the mango tree. She told me to climb up and grab it because I was the tallest person she’s seen (I’m 6’2”, but many of the people here aren’t much taller than 5’4” or 5’6”). The mangos were about twenty feet in the air, but the tree looked flimsy at best. Nevertheless, I embarked on my journey. The first ten feet of the climb were effortless. During the next five feet, the difficulty of the climb rose only slightly. But then I noticed a steady stream of ants climbing all along the trunk of tree. I panicked a little but had to hold it together because the mangoey end was in sight. I climbed four feet before I couldn’t go any further. And I had to stretch and just reached the mangos and saw them fall to the ground. After my climbing the uncle climbed up and got some mangos much more gracefully than me, and then the aunt pulled out a fifteen foot pole with a blade on the end used just for cutting down mangos; I couldn’t help but feel that my efforts had been in vain. So I returned to school with a whole papaya and three mangos.
After our lunch break, we resumed our work. Atiba, Eddie, and I began preparing a metal rocket stove, a clay rocket stove, and a three stone stove, respectively, for our afternoon demonstrative experiment to the S4 students. The experiment went reasonably well. The metal rocket stove boiled the water in the shortest amount of time, and the three stone stove took quite a while longer. Unfortunately, the clay stove, the one that we built, sizzled out in the middle of the experiment. We identified the problem, and now our other demonstrations/trials should go as planned. And if you’re wondering why it’s called a rocket stove: it’s because of the air rushing in through the bottom to make a better burning stove.
I had a tasty snack of fried bread called “amasad,” which only cost 8 US cents. We finished up half of the classroom with a top layer of paint and came back to Jim’s house in the evening. And the dinner had french fries!
Yesterday was a very eventful finish to our last day with our homestay buddies. After sleeping in until about 9 o’ clock, I began the day with morning tea. Malik, Ycar, and their homestays stopped by as we were finishing our tea and we spent the next hour reading some Sports Illustrated magazines. A good amount of time was spent explaining baseball and American football to our hosts, as they saw the latter as being too similar to rugby. Ice hockey was even harder, as they didn’t really understand the idea of skating on ice. Luckily they were somewhat familiar with basketball, which I was able to compare with netball, a popular sport at the school which involves shooting a ball into a hoop.
Soon after Malik and Ycar departed a photographer arrived at my homestay’s house. My host and his family, all dressed up, took me outside for some pictures with all the aunts, uncles, siblings, and grandparents. It was a pretty exciting for everyone, although I had to be in every shot. At the end of the photo shoot my family gave me a small woven basket as a gift. I felt kind of guilty for not having a gift to give them as a thank you for putting up with me. Especially since I had been sick the first night, and had probably given them a scare. After putting away the basket, my host and I went to pick up Malik to go on a journey into town.
We took a short walk over to the local pool table, but had to wait for the owner to arrive. During our wait we were approached by a heavily intoxicated man. He proceeded to tell me his guidelines to success and the importance of expressing oneself, while my homestay stifled his laughter. Finally the owner of the pool table arrived and I was able to get away. Some people came over to watch the mzumgus play and sadly we didn’t play well. The owner schooled Malik and me separately before we were able to leave for lunch. My new drunken friend followed us part of the way home before deciding to go get another drink.
After lunch we began the real journey of the day. From my homestay house, we started traveling the 10 km to Eddie’s house. Along the way we picked up Malik, Christina, Ycar, Atiba, and finally Peter. We had grown into a full gang by the time we reached Peter’s house and we stopped to rest and take some more family photos. Soon after, we continued on our search for Eddie, taking a “short cut” up and down multiple hills. The terrain was getting pretty rigorous but we kept on trucking. A cow on its way home joined our group, but no one was brave enough to ride it the rest of the way. Finally, we made it to Eddie, whom we found decapitating a live chicken. However, our journey was not over; Our final destination was one of the tallest hills around. We almost made it unscathed but a man stopped us in our tracks. He proceeded to explain that the land we were on was private and demanded that we introduce ourselves. We didn’t get a chance, though, because he continued to yell at us for trespassing and throwing rocks at his cows (an untrue claim). Most of his anger was directed at us, the foreigners, even though we had NO idea where we were going and had not seen any PRIVATE PROPERTY signs. Eventually he stopped with the scolding and permitted us to continue to the top of the hill. It was worth it. The view was amazing; we could see for miles and the setting sun made the view even more beautiful. Many pictures were taken of both the group and the view, and our expedition finally came to a close. It was an awesome way to end our homestays and a day I’ll never forget.
That was yesterday, Saturday, which Jacob wrote about. Today, Sunday, the Groton students brought their Bishop’s hosts to gather at the opulent Jim’s House and then pack into vans for a day trip to see a spectacular water fall and the hydroelectric generator that uses some of its power (as you can probably tell, the pictures attached to this post are all from today). At the end of the day, Jim’s House reverberated with high-energy stories about the student’s home stay experiences. I’m sure everyone is glad to be back to running water and electricity, but I’m sure the experiences they had with their hosts will not soon be forgotten.
– D. Prockop
Today was restful, with all of our students spending time with their hosts as their home stays near their ends. Unfortunately that meant we were not able to gather to celebrate Christina’s birthday so we’ll have to make that up to her tomorrow.
On a beautiful, sunny day yesterday we packed into two vans, along with the 14 Bishop’s school prefects and a handful of their teachers. After about two hours but only 30 km of bumpy dirt roads we decended into the Great Rift Valley and about half an hour later, the green hills suddenly gave way to open grassland as we entered Queen Elisabeth National Park. We spied some local wildlife along the way, but our objective on that day was a visit to a fishing village within the park, on the shore of Lake Edward, which provided both Groton and Bishop’s students with a glimpse of a very different, struggling community. Despite the obvious poverty in the place, we were surrounded by as many smiling, friendly children as ever.
Bishop’s Headmaster Kham had arranged this joint outing, which included a talk from a veteral fisherman on the beach, lunch in the town meeting hall and a traditional dance performance by a troupe of local children.
One of the two vans was lucky enough to catch sight of two elephants as we headed back out of the park for the ride home, which turned out to be just about as long and bumpy as the ride there. When it comes to impact on roads, New England frost heaves are no match for a Ugandan rainy season!
Tomorrow morning our students will gather at school, marking the end of their home stays, and we will head out with them and their student hosts for another day trip. Details on that after the fact.
We spent today on a field trip to a fishing village on Lake Edward. After a long, bumpy, dusty ride and with nothing scheduled for first thing tomorrow, this weary blogger is going to get some sleep and post a summary of today in the morning.
– D. Prockop
We will be going on a field trip tomorrow so today was our last day at school this week. We took full advantage of the time we had to make a great deal of progress on some labor-intensive projects around the school. In other words, this was a long day of work which the Groton students did with care and good cheer.
Malik, Ycar and Eddie got back to work painting the main gate to the school while Christina and Atiba worked with two Bishop’s students, Sunday and Nicholas, on the laborious task of producing high quality, inspirational signs for the campus. At the same time, Jacob and Peter began the project which Headmaster Kham is most eager for, painting classrooms. By the end of a very full day, the gate and signs were done and done well. As the students completed those projects they joined the others who were painting classrooms. With Peter’s relentless work and the contributions of more and more hands, a great deal of progress was made. Having thought the Bishop’s students would be in class all day, we had only gotten enough painting supplies for our crew so we were able to invite only one eager girl to join the painting when a number of Bishop’s students began filling the rooms where Groton students were working. We will try to have more brushes and buckets on hand when we get back to painting next week.
In the meantime, everyone headed off with their hosts to walk home on an absolutely beautiful, sunny afternoon. We will meet back at school in the morning to go, along with 14 Bishop’s students, to learn about the fishing industry on Lake Edward. It may be an early morning for some of the Groton students since we are scheduled to leave from school at 7:00 . . . or 7:30 . . . or sometime around 8:00. Welcome to Uganda!
– D. Prockop
The Sun was shining as the Groton students walked to school with their hosts for the first time and spent this morning exchanging stories of their home stays as they painted a wooden gate and worked with two Bishop’s students to make wooden signs containing inspirational slogans, which are to be placed around the school. Everyone seemed to have had really good experiences stepping into the lives of their Ugandan host families and they had plenty of stories and observations to share, many of them about their hosts’ excessive hospitality. The only down side to the morning was that Jacob’s stomach wasn’t feeling well so he spent the morning sleeping back at the nearby hotel. By the afternoon he was feeling much better and by the end of school (at 4:50 – they put in a long day here!) he insisted that he wanted to go back to his host home tonight rather than staying in the hotel.
This afternoon a group of our students built a high-efficiency wood stove out of bricks and clay we’d purchased yesterday. In a few days, once the clay has dried, we’ll begin testing the stove’s performance and discussing its attributes with the Bishop’s community.
After school, everyone walked happily off to enjoy the views on the way to a second night (of five) with their host families, in homes that are quickly becoming familiar and comfortable.
– D. Prockop
Last night was the first night of our homestays. We loaded up into a van to head to the separate houses. Luckily, mine was nearby. After saying bye to my fellow Groton students, I proceeded into the unknown. Soon after walking inside a nice building, I found out that there was electricity in the house. I put away my things and met my host’s grandfather.
The man lived in a house a little ways down the hill with his wife. A little later, I found out that the house we had passed on the way down the hill to his house belonged to his second wife. After meeting everyone, it was time to prepare for dinner before it became dark. We went into the woods to a pipe coming from the hill that had water running from it and collected the water in gas cans. After this, we had to get milk.
I never thought of a cow as intimidating before this. The animals are huge, and I don’t think the foot and a half long horns on their heads are for show. There was a funny process built into milking the cow. We tied up the cow’s back legs, and then had a calf come to feed to get its milk flowing. After a bit of time, the calf was removed so that we could now milk the cow. My host made it seem so easy, but when it came my turn to try, I was sure the cow had run out of milk. It hadn’t, but I found that I shouldn’t quit my day job.
After everything was ready, we sat in the living room reading the newspaper until dinner was ready. I forgot to tell them something really important, but it came to haunt me once dinner was served. There were pots of stewed beef and chicken offered to me to choose from, but I couldn’t because I’m a vegetarian. The confused looks followed by many laughs told me that this was not normal. All through dinner, we laughed and talked about how I was a vegetarian. When everyone grew tired and dinner was over, we walked back up the hill to our house to go to sleep. After a long day, sleep was all I needed.
This morning our students did a great job providing reading help to groups of Bishop’s students in two English classes, one of which had 30 students in it and the other had a whopping 90. The Ugandans are generally very shy but were quick to warm to our students in small groups. In the attached pictures, you’ll even see curious students from other classes peering eagerly in the windows. The engagement in this exercise was so good that we hope to create more opportunities for our students to read with their hosts, taking advantage of the books we brought along to donate to the school.
This was a special afternoon at Bishop’s since classes were cancelled for athletic competition between the primary schoolers and the Senior 1 grade, which is comparable to our eighth grade but includes students of a wide range of ages. After watching a game of netball, the Groton students were split between the sides and held their own in a full-length, full (but sloped) field soccer game. The sidelines were packed with other students as well as some parents and locals, the size of the crowd adding a great deal to the spectacle.
At the end of the school day our students headed off for the first night of their home stays. We had dropped some supplies at the host homes yesterday and when we went back with the students today, the host families had set up bedrooms in eager anticipation of their guests’ arrival. We feel confident that our students will be well cared for by their warm, hospitable hosts. I’m sure there will be more about the home stays on tomorrow’s blog once our students and their hosts have walked anywhere from a quarter mile (Ycar is the closest) to a mile and a half (Peter and Eddie are further away and there are some good hills along the way) to school.
Today was perhaps the most exciting day of the trip to date. I woke up this morning at around seven and prepared for my daily jog. I was joined by Mr. Prockop, Ycar and Christina. As we went further along, the pace quickened, and I turned my head to find that we were being followed by a group of grinning school children. Most of the kids kept pace and were giddy with excitement. Eventually we reached their school and the kids broke off with waves of goodbye. The run was tiring and (as usual) accompanied by curious onlookers and the stunning Ugandan scenery. The group then had breakfast, where delicious bread and tea were consumed, and proceded to the school where we received an extremely warm welcome from the students and many esteemed members of the Bishop’s Secondary School board. We went into the chapel where the Head Teacher welcomed us and the student body sang a beautiful hymn that took my breath away. After introducing ourselves to the students we walked outside for a tour of the school. Everywhere we went the group was of course met by curious stares and giggles. The students took a special liking to Eddie and Christina, presumably because of Christina’s foreign blonde hair and fair skin and Eddie’s large physique. Eventually the moment of truth arrived and we met our host friends. We were paired by age and one by one the students stepped forward to meet us. As the oldest member of the group I went first and walked into an embrace with 18 year-old Sunday. Sunday was extremely happy and friendly. He clearly couldn’t wait to hear about my life as an American and eagerly anticipates tomorrow when we will begin our homestays. The group eventually accompanied Sunday into town to buy tools for our project where we will paint signs for the school. Afterwards we dropped Sunday off at his home and came back to Jim’s house for a nice game of soccer in which Michael, our guide and friend, and I beat the team of Malik, Ycar and Jacob. Not a big deal. I’m excited for tomorrow but sadly end another day in Uganda.
So ends our second day in Rukungiri. We woke up bright and early today and took a short run down one of the roads leading away from the hotel. Afterwards, we had breakfast and then got on the bus to go into town. The town in much larger than one would initially expect; there are several miles of road lined with stores and houses. The dominant members of the town were not people, but large, intimidating crane like birds. They flew noisily and swooped down to feed on the garbage in the streets.
We had lunch at a nice little restaurant on the top of a tall hill. After lunch we had some time to explore the town some more. Our first destination was one of the several internet cafes scattered around the town. Peter had other plans and bought bread instead. The children have been very curious about us, with many waving and calling to us. One even came up and tapped Jacob on the back of the knee. We started back for our meeting spot soon afterwards. We reached the hill with little problem but were confused on how to actually get to the spot. We ended up climbing straight up the side of the hill on the opposite side, over some tall grasses.
Back at the hotel we had a quick game of soccer. It was an easy victory for Christina, Jacob and me over Ycar, Malik, and Peter. We won mostly due to my great leadership, Christina’s soccer skill and Jacob’s charisma.
Overall today has been interesting and exciting. I look forward to what tomorrow holds. Log on tomorrow to hear from our next blogger.
If you’ve been following this blog, you may want to look back through the previous posts. We’ve worked out our uploading bug so there are now pictures included with everything. Future posts should also include pictures.
Back on top of the technology,
Looking back on the day, it is hard to believe that we are now here, in Rukungiri, the town where we will be staying for the majority of the remaining duration of our trip. We all clambered out of bed much earlier this morning than yesterday, and we were met with a quick but delicious breakfast before our 8:30 bus. It was hard to say goodbye to our first hotel in Kampala which I think all of us really enjoyed. It was charming and so were the people running it. Nevertheless, we hopped on the bus, eager and excited about our trip down to the southwestern corner of Uganda.
About two hours into our ride, we stopped at the equator. What a trip! It was so surreal standing with one foot in the southern hemisphere and the other on the northern side. Crossing the equator is something you hear about, but to witness and experience it firsthand was like a dream; it was truly incredible. After close to ten photos (a small pile of cameras accumulated as Lesley, our tour guide and fearless leader from Venture Uganda, snapped picture after picture) we were let loose to look around in craft shops and return to the bus an hour later, loose and ready to continue the journey. The rest of the day proceeded in this manner; we would stop every few hours and then, after a generous break, climb back in the bus for more sleeping, reading, talking, and my favorite: looking out the window at the gorgeous Ugandan countryside spread before us. Talking about our observations tonight before dinner, many of us remarked on the change in relief. We started out in the hilly Kampala region and, over time, found ourselves in a much more mountainous part of the country. We also noticed all the trading centers we passed, where locals stand by their kiosks, waiting for incoming traffic to buy their products. Picture a line of one-story apartments all connected and painted by companies seeking to advertise to travelers. Consequently, all of the buildings we passed in these strip mall-type areas were brightly colored to portray local phone companies for example. We also noted that there were a lot of animals grazing in the fields we passed, particularly goats and cows with large horns which Lesley informed us are indigenous. One of the highlights was definitely coming fairly close to one of the only two wildlife reserves in all of Uganda which houses a sizable zebra population. Go Groton! It was so exciting to see them and our driver, Godfrey, was very nice to stop a few times and let all of us admire the 10 or so zebras who had strayed from the reserve.
Close to 10 hours later, after a lunch stop and countless naps and conversations, we pulled onto the fairly bumpy, dirt road which led us through the town center and up to “Jim’s House”, the mp’s beautiful home where we will be staying for some of our time in Rukungiri. I think we were all a little startled as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and took in the large gate and surrounding fence. Once inside, we noticed that the house we will be living in for the next couple of nights is enormous! It is a stunning colonial-style home and after a tour of the grounds, we were all in awe of the beautiful greenery. A quick question from Mr. Prockop allowed us to determine that the grounds require 20 employees for upkeep!
Right now, I am sitting in the downstairs living space of Jim’s house which is both lavish and decorated. We had a delicious dinner of pork and chicken stews, rice, plantains, bananas, vegetable stew, avocados, and a flatbread-style starch. Everyone is unwinding now, writing in journals and talking, and I know that we will all sleep well tonight as we look forward to what tomorrow will hold. It will be very exciting to visit town and meet some of the villagers. Until then!
Our first day in Uganda has been a full one. Everyone in the group made it to breakfast in the hotel lobby in time for an optional, early outing to a clean, modern shopping center where we changed money and went to a supermarket, all of which is fairly ordinary stuff. Less familiar was the bumpy ride through haphazard traffic that got us to and from that shopping center. From the bus we saw a huge variety of homes and shops, evidence of a reasonably well-off middle class surrounded by significant poverty. The people we’ve encountered have been extremely friendly, soft-spoken and kind-spirited.
After a good lunch at a buffet restaurant, we spent the afternoon at Makarere University learning about their research and outreach initiatives to expand the use of efficient, clean-burning wood stoves and solar power in Uganda. Our visit was coordinated by Patrick and Edward, representatives of a large aid organization called Pilgrim Africa. You can find lots of information on their good work on their website if you’re interested. We won’t have the chance to visit the school Pilgrim runs but between their projects and the solar and woodstove initiatives from the university we’ve got all sorts of thoughts about projects we might suggest to the people in Rukungiri over the years.
It’s now late in the day and jet lag is catching up to us so we’re taking a break in the hotel before gathering in the lobby to reflect on the day, write in journals and then have dinner in the hotel restaurant. Spirits are good and everyone seems to be enjoying each other’s company at the same time as taking in their novel surroundings.
About 25 hours after our first flight was due to leave New York, we’re now settled into our first hotel in Uganda. We’re in the capital city of Kampala, where we will spend two nights before heading to Rukungiri on Saturday. We’re having trouble uploading pictures right now so this weary traveller is going to call it a night and try again in the morning.
This is where we’ll be posting updates on our trip as frequently as our internet access allows. Check back soon and often!