Sunday, March 24, 2013

I like Uganda

 Well it has been quite a long time hasn't it...

We had an HIV testing day in Namatala. We literally had to turn people away because so many people showed up. My job was to keep the kids entertained. So we had music going and we just danced and danced. These kids know how to move.

 These are some of my students at St. Stephens. They range from ages 12-18. Parents pay tuition for ALL schooling through university. When you have 8 children to put through school and you are just a farmer, this presents a problem. That's how many of the families are in Uganda. So for these kids to be in school is incredible.

 We hiked Sipi Falls.
This Camellia literally freaked me out. But we became friends in the end.

 The hike got a little hot so we decided to take a dip in the river. Just up the rocks there were a ton of little kids playing in the river. most of the were naked. yup.
 Beautiful scenery along the way and I made it!

 Friday night movies at the church. "The Other Side of Heaven". I can't even begin to describe my new found appreciation for people who live in 3rd world countries. There are places in Uganda identical to the conditions those people in that movie face. It's remarkable the happiness people can find through the simple things in life.

Like taking pictures... they can't get enough of it.

I "learned" how to cut scuma. When I picked up the knife they tried to explain what a knife does like I have never touched one in my life. Come to find out that they literally thought I had never touched a knife because they believed that all white people had maids and cooks.

Uganda is wonderful. I am having a fantastic time. The people here are so easy to serve because they are so grateful for anything we do.  I am truly blessed to have this opportunity and I've only got one month left.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Almost Died.

We have finally opened our health clinic! We worked many hours alongside the village people to put the finishing touches on the structure and the decorating of this clinic. The closest clinic is about 3 hours away and the only transportation for many of these people is by foot. So all you mothers out there, can you imagine going into labor and then having to walk 3 hours to the nearest hospital. Or having malaria, which has all the symptoms of the worst stomach flu, and trying to put one foot ahead of the other to get treatment. Yeah, that would be terrible. So we are thrilled to have this clinic for the people in the village. We had a remarkable turnout with government leaders, press and many villagers coming to support this clinic. It was a huge success and many patients were able to receive proper care.

 I work in skirts now.
 These are the wood posts for our urinal behind the clinic.
 They decorated for opening day.
 My little friend. Isn't she adorable.

 A camera from the 90's. Awesome.

Some of the girls in our group have been working tirelessly to get a soccer tournament put together for the people in the Namatala area. This area is absolutely plagued with HIV with about 10% of people affected. One town over has only about 6% so this is an area in great need of HIV awareness. We had TASO come and test individuals for HIV with a simple finger prick test. As I went around to encourage people to get tested one man was especially frightened to get tested. In my mind I thought it was ridiculous because it was just a prick on the finger. But when he said to me “How would you feel if you got tested and it came out positive?” Somehow, that really affected me as to the reality that these people face. Just a simple prick on the finger could change someone’s whole outlook on life and it is so common here that it is a total reality to them.
I was told that the invention of seedless watermelon cost millions of dollars. If that millions of dollars was spent on creating awareness for diseases such as HIV/AIDS just think of the GENERATIONS of people that could have had an opportunity at living life to the fullest. That really put things into perspective for me.

 That's me testing for HIV. He was negative!
 The TASO tent

School started so I finally started teaching secondary school! I have never seen kids more thrilled to learn. It’s absolutely incredible. They laugh at everything too, which can either be a self-esteem boost or depressor. Haha. So I will be teaching Biology and some guidance and counseling classes.

 Market day outside St. Stephens.

After all of the hustle and bustle of the big activities that we have done, we all decided to take a little vacation. So we went to Jinja and went rafting down the Nile River. It was INCREDIBLE. We went through 8 rapids (ranging from grade 3 to grade 6) and we may or may not have capsized oh about 3 times. The first time we went under was an absolutely terrifying experience. I have gone rafting before but never tipped the raft, so this was a first for me. I swear I was stuck under the water for at least 5 minutes being tossed around by the waves and hit in the head by the raft. Ok maybe it wasn’t 5 minutes but it felt like forever. My sense of direction was totally thrown off and I had no clue where I was but finally I came up and a safety Kayak saved my life. Phew, I made it! The next time we flipped I was a lot more prepared and knew how to get the raft off my head and swim out of the rapid. But the third time we flipped was worse than the first. Wave after wave after wave crashed down on me and I was trying to keep my shorts on as well as my helmet. It was intense. But again I made it out alive. It was so AWEOMSE but absolutely terrifying and totally worth the parasite that I am sure to get from all the water I swallowed in the Nile.

 Yes, i found the cameraman and smiled. That was the first time we flipped. I didn't look for the cameraman after that.

 That's my friend/guide Hydro in the back. He's awesome.

Coming to Africa I thought I would see a ton of wildlife. That hasn’t been the case. We just see cows, chickens and goats roaming around outside and toads in our toilets and cockroaches in our beds. But going to Jinja was great because we saw MONKEYS! 

Our house has not had power for 3 days, my feet are completely blistered I haven't had a hot shower in 6 weeks and as much as I try I can't seem to get all the dirt out of my hair but I am having a BLAST in Uganda and loving life!

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So I have been in Uganda for 24 days now. Holy Cow!

If you ever have the thought " How can I become more patient?" I've got the solution: come to Africa! It's great, you go to meetings scheduled for 2pm that don't actually start until 4pm. You have a list of things that need to get done in a day and the person in charge never shows up. Taxi rides take 1 hour to go ten miles. Dinner is not served until 9:30pm... I tell ya, this is the place to learn patience!

Last weekend we had the Lincredible opportunity to stay with a host family for two nights. This man is a school teacher and his wife is in politics. They are much better off than most people, but they still don't have running water or electricity. So I had my first interaction with a bucket shower. Yes, I did it and now that I've done it, I hope I never have to do it again!

We went on another hike. This hike was to go see a village that had been affected by landslides in 2010. That is a big problem with many people that live on certain mountainsides. It is quite tragic. Luckily many of the children were in school that day and were protected but upon returning home many of those children became orphaned. I can't imagine what that would be like, but it is a reality that so often affects many people all around Uganda.

Beginning the hike I saw a large rock peak and encouraged everyone to go up there after we reached the landslides. Well, we ran into a "park ranger" on our way down and I asked how far the peak was. He said "It is nearby, I am on my way there. I will take you". So a few of us went with him up a steep mountain trail. 45 minutes later he said "We have arrived". We were definitely not there. When we told him our destination again he laughed and said "oh that is impossible to get to unless you take a machete and blaze your own trail". So note to self, when a Ugandan says something is nearby, don't listen. Lesson Learned. We then went back down the mountain only to be caught in a torrential rain storm that lasted one hour. We stopped in a village and ate chapatti as the storm passed. It was quite the adventure. You can see the rock peak in the back of this picture.

WARNING: The following paragraph may contain disturbing mental images. Proceed at your own risk.  :)

I learned from our host family about a circumcision ceremony that  occurs every even numbered year. In order to pass through boyhood to manhood must go through a three day ceremony. During this ceremony these boys run around the entire mountain day and night to show their strength and then at the end of this grueling exercise they stand with a stick above their head as a man pulls the foreskin and with a machete proceeds to chop it off. As blood splatters everywhere they must remain straight faced for a number of minutes. if they flinch or make some face, they are ridiculed and called a coward bringing shame upon their home. THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS. We missed the ceremony by one month and people are very open about talking about it. I can't believe it.

We worked on our health clinic for three days this week. We are trying to get last minute preparations done before we open this wednesday! I can't wait. So we spent those days painting, building sheds, building bathrooms, making stairs, moving stones, carrying wood, sanding, and gardening. It was quite the undertaking. But many members of the community came out to help because they take so much pride in things that make their community better. It is really inspiring so seem them unite like that. They are so thrilled to have a health clinic in their community and it is rightly called "Zion Community Clinic". Through talking to them and learning more about their culture it is amazing to see the Faith they have and their humility. Many of these people live in huts and live day to day but they dedicate all they have to God. We had a ton of kids working on the clinic. The youngest was 2 years old. Adorable.

One day I stayed behind after dark with some of the villagers to finish painting. Before we could leave the site, they said a prayer dedicating the clinic to God and thanking him for the "white visitors for all their help". I am just so humbled by their gratitude and I can not talk highly enough about them. 

So, things are going really well. It's nothing like what I thought it would be but somehow it is so much better! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Week In Mbale

So I've been in Mbale for just over a week now. It has been quite the adventure.

We have gone to many meetings for many different groups and organizations. We started Monday with going in to the slums for a HIV/AIDS group meeting. These people are fantastic. They voluntarily give up their precious time to developing awareness of HIV/AIDS in this slum city of Namatala. After the meeting we went around and visited the people. It is common to think that jumping up and down will prevent you from getting AIDS. I was shocked. Their understanding is so limited.

We went to a bunch of health clinics but the most heart wrenching was the public clinic. Imagine taking equipment from world war 1 and using that in a hospital and that's what they have here. There have been many donations from people in America and the UK but they are still lacking a lot and the need is so high. The worst was going to the nutrition building and seeing so many little children who are malnourished. It  makes me take a second thought on my feelings of hunger and what hunger really is. 

The kids here are just adorable and always yell at us "Mzungu, how are you?" in the most high pitched voices. Mzungu means "white person". Then they run up to us and hold our hands and walk with us anywhere we go. When we sit down they flock to us and we play with them. The boy in this picture thought it was funny to say shhh and spit everywhere.
We went on a 4 hour hike and we started with just the 7 of us and ended with about 7 other Ugandans who followed us up the entire mountain... barefoot.  The hike itself was GORGEOUS. Pictures don't do it justice at all. What a beautiful land.

We went to a traditional African wedding which is just like any American wedding. We didn't even know the bride and groom but because we are white they treated us like family and we even were asked to be in line for food right behind the bride and groom. crazy. Ugandan's know how to eat, when they have it. They stack their plates so high and then they just eat with their hands. Lately (as in before I came to Uganda) I have been quite a messy eater. I think it's the utensils. Yes, call me a savage if you will but I eat without utensils now and I am somehow much cleaner.

Our biggest mode of transportation is by Boda-Boda aka scooters. It's so much fun. We pile on the back of the Boda driver and for the equivalent of 40 cents they drive us all around town. The pot holes and unpaved roads keep me on my toes the entire time but I enjoy every ride. 

Introductions are a big deal in Ugandan culture. They take a lot of time and every greeting is the same and went just like this "You are welacome. I don't have much to say but i want to thank ower visitars who have come from far a-way to helup us.They are sent from God and may God bless them". They are very Christian and full of love to God for all their blessings.

The church here is AMAZING. I absolutely love the members of the Mbale Branch. They are so warm and welcoming. The best part is that they teach the pure doctrines of the church. It is so refreshing to go back to the basics of the Doctrine of Christ and to see it being lived so humbly. It came as a shock to me after Gospel Principles today when the Sunday School President approached me and invited me to give the lesson next week. Even after serving a mission and teaching at the MTC I am quite a bit intimidated to teach. But I'm sure it will go well.

Wow what a week it has been. I can't believe I am so blessed to work with such great people. It's crazy but...
that's my life and what a live I live.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Hey Blogging world.

So this blog is all about my experience with HELP international in Mbale, Uganda. Approximately ten percent of Uganda is plagued with HIV/AIDS and malaria is the #1 killer of infants of all known diseases. I am here to assist in helping the people receive proper health care and health education. I, like you, can't wait to see how this story unfolds.

The journey to Uganda was an incredibly long one. Our flight left at 11:33pm on Tuesday January 8 and we didn't reach Mbale until Thursday January 10 at 11:30 am. This was not your average few days a travel. The most eventful part of it was having a 13 hour layover in Istanbul, Turkey.
What an amazing place. The traditional highlights were seeing the Blue Mosque, Haggia Sofia, and the Grand Bazaar. The comical highlights were getting into the country and on the metro. After landing I learned that Turkish people have absolutely no concept for a line and they will push you out of the way to get their visa asap. I wasn't too worried about that. What I was worried about was figuring out how to get out of the dang airport. They have English signs everywhere but they did not make sense. So we just got in the shortest line we could find and it worked. They stamped us and we were free. Expect that we had NO clue how to get down town. We got our money exchanged without any clue what the currency was and how it transferred. So as I was buying my Metro token I put in 500 Lyra. I thought that was plenty but the machine would not let me get my token. So a man named Onosh was kind enough to help us get on our way. He even gave me his number. How kind of him. haha.

Although it was covered in snow, Turkey is stunning. Their architecture is miraculous. We wandered around the ancient building in wonder and awe. The Grand Bazaar though, that place is incredible. It is every girls' dream shopping center. Everywhere you turn there is a little cove store with beautiful lamps decorating the entrance. I loved it.

Getting back on the Metro to the airport was just as much an adventure. Some man just came up to us and we thought he was there to help us get our tokens so Hannah and Lauren gave them money. I was busy filming the last look at the city before we left and wasn't aware of what they were doing. I figured they had been talking to him and he was helping them so when he asked for my money I gave it to him. I realized he was scamming us when he started to walk away. haha. Well I wasn't about to let this man walk away with my money so I chased him down, jumped on his back, tackled him to the ground and forced the money from him.... ok that may be a little bit of an exaggeration! I just went after him and made him put the money in the machine to get our tokens. It worked and away we went.Waiting for our last flight was horrible because we were all exhausted but we got on and finally at 4:20am we made it to Africa!!

Coming from negative degree weather to Africa's beautiful climate was the best feeling. However, it rained most of the way home and our luggage was on top of the car. The drive from Entebbee airport to Mbale is usually about 5 hours but we didn't make a turn when we were supposed to so it ended up being about 6.5 hours. It was no joy ride either. If you've been to Nebraska, New York or Utah you still have no concept of the pot holes, half road half dirt, cars, scooters and people everywhere and crazy drivers like they have here. Literally there are no road dividers and people drive on whatever side of the road they want to depending on the condition of the road. This takes the game of chicken to a whole new level. If I wasn't so amazed by the scenery I probably would have had a panic attack.

Seriously what a beautiful country. Wait a second.... I'm in UGANDA. What the heck!!! Let's just pause and take that in for a moment. I'm... In.... UGANDA!! I can't believe it. I really can't.


This is real life and What a life I live!