Oreregye! (Good morning)
I am incredibly blessed to be here in Uganda. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and Big Beyond is a phenomenal organization. Coming here was by far the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I literally just walk around smiling because everything I do is an incredible adventure and I cannot believe that I’m here and it’s real. I could already write a book about what I’ve seen and done just in the last few days, but because neither you or I have time for that, here are the highlights.
The journey here from Rwanda was quite an adventure. When Emma (a male local with the best smile) picked me up from the hotel, we first took a cab to the airport- and thank goodness my bags were there!! From there we took a cab to pick up Cat, a 40 –something farmer from the UK. We had lunch in Kigali under a small awning, watching a massive thunderstorm, complete with hail. Then the fun started. First, we took a “big bus.” It was a fairly comfortable, albeit “musky” smelling 3 hour ride. The beauty of the rolling hills was unbelievable. Next was the small “bus.” Thank goodness Cat and I were in the front seat. There were literally 20 Ugandan men stuck like sardines in the back of a large van. There were times they could not close the door until the momentum of driving pushed in shut because there was no room for the man closest to the door to shut it properly. Once we were all loaded in, a man knocked on the door, opened it, and pulled a pineapple out of the broken dashboard. The bus lots are just jammed full of people and buses local produce and bundles of shoes. There was a lot of yelling as we pulled out, and the bus driver literally “lightly tapped” people to get then out of the way. We then sped for an hour and a half down an uneven red clay road. Most of the time the driver honked to get the people walking down the middle of the road out of the way, but one time he swerved purposely so we were within 3 inches of hitting a man walking. It was better than any roller coaster and just crazy and fun. We got off of the mini bus, and arrived at the Rwanda/Uganda border. We filled out papers in both countries, and each building was guarded by a man with a very big gun. I was nervous, but the process actually went very smoothly. From there, a car picked us up and we began the ascent up the hills of Uganda to the Big Beyond house. It was dark out, and the one road is in incredibly poor repair. Our hundreds of pounds of luggage in the trunk did not help, and far out from the house we got a flat tire. Luckily, the driver quickly changed it and put on a tiny tire to get us the rest of the way. We piled back in the car, and sure enough 10 minutes later it got stuck in the mud. We again climbed out into the blackness to push. After a few attempts we freed the car, but I did not get out of the way fast enough and the left side of my body, including my face, got splattered with mud. Luckily, we made it the rest of the way to the house without incident. It was 9 or 10 pm when we arrived, and we walked into a rather developed, clean house (I’ll describe it more later- but the important things- we have a shower inside-they fill a bucket with hot water attached to a showerhead, and we have really nice outhouse like toilets). We were greeted with hugs and the smiling faces of Pip, Lizzie, Amy, Barbara, Keith, and Henish. We chatted a bit, and decided to call it a night. I went to lay down and noticed that my bed was decorated with red flower petals that spelled out “Welcome” and daisies. I hopped into my comfortable bed mosquito net covered bed and fell happily into a deep sleep.
Day 1: Wednesday
This was seriously one of the best days of my life. I woke up to an absolutely incredible view of rolling hills dotted with flowers, farms, and banana trees. Surrounded by chickens wandering around freely, Cat, Amy, Pip and I had a meeting in which we learned about Big Beyond’s mission. We went on a walk to an absolutely breathtaking hilltop overlooking the area, which will eventually be the site of Big Beyond’s business clinic. We had eggs wrapped in chapattis for lunch, and then worked on our Rukiga with Emma. Next, we walked to Rubuguli in the pouring rain. I love rain, and absolutely loved walking through the green rolling hills during the downpour. We walked around town and I got to see the health clinic. It was so interesting and sad. The whole building is in disrepair. There are small stretchers in dirty cramped rooms for women to give birth. They give their mothers “mommy packs” which include a paper to lay over the 10 year old broken mattresses so they do not get HIV from the previous patients. We walked around the village to see the other locations that Big Beyond is working. To get home, I rode in a Boda, which is a small motorcycle. The men who drive them are incredibly talented, weaving in and out of people and over the deep groves in the road. I loved it! We ate dinner, hung out with the rest of the volunteers, and went to bed. Great day J
Day 2: Thursday
Today, Cat and I interviewed two local families about their nutrition and farming habits. Sometimes, all of their crops fail and they have nothing to eat. Other times they only have one successful crop and eat sweet potatoes only for days. It was very sad, and I am very happy to be here to try to do anything I can to help.
A little later in the day, Cat, Emma, Jolly and I ate dinner at a local household. It was the most amazing experience. My description could never do it justice. We walked down a steep hill to get there. I literally thought that Jolly was joking when she pointed to the path that we were to walk down. I tripped a few times, but there were crude stairs dug into the ground so it wasn’t so so bad. They do it all the time! We watched the women boil the food in large pots over a fire in a small clay and wood house. Chickens and goats wandered freely through the area. Kids with mismatched shoes stared at us with wide eyes. We sat outside, and one of the children sat a woven mat in front of us. On that she set two broken, dirty mugs and a pitcher, and began to fill the mugs with what looked like mud water. It was sorghum porridge, and tasted like yeast and bread dough. I didn’t get through too much of it… yeah. Not my favorite thing in the world, and I did not want to get sick. Soon after we were ushered into another small clay and wood structure that was maybe around 12 by 7 feet. All it had inside was a table. It was getting dark, so they turned on a small flashlight that provided very little light. We ate with the man of the house, his wife, and one of his 7 children. The food was served on two big silver platters. They had a layer of sweet potatoes (small sweet white potatoes) on the bottom covered by a mixture of beans and a green leafy plant called night shade. They also brought a pot full of plantains in beans. Initially, the man put the second plate on the floor to eat, but we moved down and they were able to eat at the table. Jolly helped us wash our hands by pouring water out of a bucket over our hands. We did it the first time without soap, but they made us do it again with soap. They probably don’t use it on a normal basis, but brought it out because we were guests. They said a prayer, and we ate the meal with our hands out of the communal plates in the darkness. The beans were amazing and Cat said that the plantains were the best she’d ever had. We talked about what we did for fun and farming techniques, and then said goodbye. I can’t even put in words how great it was. I struggled back up the hill, and then Cat and I hopped onto another boda and drove into town, to meet the others at the local pub.
It was just Keith, Lizzie, Pip, Henish, Barbara, Cat and I at the pub with the locals. It was so much fun and just so great to be so immersed in the community. The pub is a small indoor area and a small outdoor area, and the highlight is the old pool table that just got moved there a few weeks ago. Big bugs that look like worms with wings flop around the table, and are simply picked up and tossed out of the way when they are in the intended path of the balls. There were no women besides us, because while women do all the work of farming, the money is not theirs. Everyone was incredibly friendly and I made many friends with the locals and got to know the other volunteers better. They’re really wonderful people and I like them a ton.
We got a car to take us home, but 5 minutes into the drive we heard a loud noise. I am 0 for 2 in terms of cars. The suspension rod had broken, and we had the option of walking back into Rubugli (Roo-boo-guh-lee) and spending the night there or walking home. We chose the 45 minute walk in the darkness. We used my flashlight, unlike the many Ugandan women and children who walk up and down the hills alone in the darkness. We made it, using the sides of the road as facilities J I felt completely safe walking home because half of the community knows the Big Beyond-ers, and they take really good care of us. And yes, I am going to continue to try to be safe here, I absolutely do not intend to do that on a normal basis.
So that’s the abbreviated version of my first 2 days here. And I want to say that I didn’t mean anything I wrote to sound disrespectful of these people. They are hardworking and wonderfully kind and generous. They were just given this life, and are doing the best that they can.
I love it here. While I’ve been writing this a chicken keeps on wandering into our house, 2 groups of little goats herded by 5 year olds have run by with babies on their backs, and I can hear the local church singing to a drum in the background.
It’s absolutely wonderful. I miss everyone at home though! Love you guys!