Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Week 4: Site Visit

This week we went on our site visit to the Masaka district, about 2 hours south of Kampala. We arrived at the Kampala taxi park around 2:00pm on Monday. We quickly found a bus to take us to the town. Ven, our language instructor went with us, so she was a huge help in getting our transportation sorted out! Transportation in Uganda usually doesn’t leave until the entire vehicle is filled (or over-filled), so we waited close to an hour, hour and a half for the bus to fill. I bought a bottle of water out the bus window while we were waiting because the interior was boiling! So many people in a small place made it pretty stuffy. Walking between the busses were vendors selling anything from food, drinks, jewelry, soccer balls, ties/handkerchiefs, and household goods. They are quite persistent and if you don’t pay attention to them they’ll grab your arm and say “Nnyabo! Miss! Muzungu!” The ride was pleasant, I slept for about half of it, my head on my backpack – we sat with our bags on our laps the entire ride. We arrived in the town and made it to our “hotel,” checked in, and found some food. We met with David Paradis (spelled wrong, I’m sure…), the PCV we were shadowing that week. We saw where he worked most of the time and just chatted with him for a little bit over drinks. He has two “jobs”: he works at an orphanage for his primary project and for his secondary project he works at a training center.
We woke up early Tuesday morning and had breakfast at the hotel (not the greatest food…) and went to a place Ven had found for language study. After language, we went to David’s friend’s home to build a clay stove. It was quite an involved process. We had to gather a bunch of anthill soil (anthill soil works best, for some reason I forgot), break it up, add chopped grass, water and mix it into clay. David supervised his students build the stove. While they were doing that, I helped, along with some others from my group prepare lunch of sweet potatoes and matooke. Yum (note the sarcasm).
On Wednesday, we had our usual language in the morning at the same place as before (we’d hold it here all week). In the afternoon David took us to a nearby fishing village. On the way there, we passed a pretty horrible accident. A MAC truck (think semi/dump truck) had run head on into a matatu taxi (like a bigger minivan type taxi that is all over Uganda). It had probably happened less than 5 minutes before we arrived on the scene. There were people on the side of the road with blood pouring down their heads, arms, and legs; there was a baby on the side of the road just sitting and crying…I didn’t see anyone attending to it, so I don’t know where it’s mom was…; and you could see the front passenger just hanging out the door…I’m pretty sure he was dead (along with the driver, whom we couldn’t see). It was pretty bad.
The fishing village is off the coast of Lake Victoria and is really in a beautiful spot. Unfortunately, the people are horribly poor and HIV/AIDS is prevalent. Fishing appears to be a lucrative trade for the village; one day can bring 30,000 shillings (we get 35,000 per week). However, since fishing must be done at night, the men have nothing to do during the day and therefore spend all the money on alcohol, drugs, and women. All of the children were stunted, underweight, and had extended bellies. We brought with us a little 7 year old girl, Josephine, from the orphanage that David works at with us. She came from this village and her father and little sister still live there. It was really heartbreaking to see her reunion with her father. It was probably 10 in the morning and he was completely drunk and didn’t even acknowledge that she had returned. Her little sister was much happier to see her and never left her side. You could really see how stunted Josephine was when she stood next to her little sister. Her sister was only 3 years old, but they were the same height.
On Thursday we visited David’s orphanage/tech school. It wasn’t what I expected. There were only a few structures, and they weren’t in the best shape. The dormitories were minimal and only some of the students had mosquito nets. We visited with some of the women who work there and toured the grounds. David had built a garden to help feed the students, but it was quite some ways away and the rains had yet to come, so the future of the crops is a little shaky right now. David told us that the orphanage should be spending around 100,000 shillings for food, and right now they can only afford to spend 80,000. This leaves the children eating a lot of porridge. Still, it’s better than they would have gotten on the streets or at home.
It was interesting to find out that most of the “orphans” living there still have living parents. Many of them were taken/given up from their homes not because their parents died, but because they were not being adequately cared for, like Josephine.
On Friday we went to Masaka town to visit another PCV, Lisandro, who works at a baby orphanage. It was interesting to see the difference between the two. Lisandro’s organization seems to have more money and therefore the children get more/more nutrition food to eat. He showed us several of the children who were disabled and several who arrived severely malnourished and are now well on their way to better nutrition. One of the disabled children at the orphanage he found on the side of the road covered in her own feces. Somehow she was taken in by the orphanage and is doing well. When she first arrived, she was solitary and refused to play. Now she’s playing with the other children and much happier. A teacher works part time at the orphanage and is trying to get some of the older (5-6yo) children ready to begin school.
After we went to Lisandro’s organization, we went to the Masaka market, which is much nicer (less crazy!) than the Kampala market with about the same quality of goods. I really liked Masaka a lot and would love to be placed near it (or in it)! I found some really pretty fabric that I’m either going to make a dress out of or a skirt for swearing in. I’m thinking a dress…I got soooo much fabric! Haha
We returned to Kampala on Saturday and I spent a lazy day in town. We went to an internet café, and just lounged around Garden City (a large shopping center) for most of the day. I had some really good chicken pizza and caught up with some of the trainees.
I’d been feeling sick for several weeks so I bought some medication the med nurses suggested in Kampala but that didn’t seem to work, so now we’re trying other options.

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