Saturday, January 21, 2012


We were joined this past week by Omar from Syria and Salah from Egypt, who are here with local cameraman Kiefer to film their activities here at the orphanage.  There are similar teams at an orphanage in Jinja and an HIV/AIDS clinic in Kampala.  They are all here for the purpose of filming the 8th annual installment of an NBC (a worldwide Arab channel) TV show that airs every day during Ramadan.  This year they are pushing volunteerism for the Arab world.  I told them I was surprised to see Arab volunteers here since I have never seen them working for other NGOs.  Yes, I will be on Arab TV!  Assuming I am not edited out.  They also interviewed me about health care here at the orphanage.  The questions were in English and then the interviewer (Omar) translated what I said into Arabic.

Kiefer, the Ugandan videographer

The rest of us have been mostly sitting around playing with kids, since school is not in session yet.  There are always little ones that want to be picked up and kids who want to play.  The Arabs, on the other hand, have money for specific projects.  They hired a crew and built the brick walls for a new boys' dormitory.  I don't know who is going to pay for the roof, but the walls look good.  They also paid for the repair of an umbilical hernia for 3 year old Robert, who suffers from chronic abdominal pain and resulting malnutrition.  He went for surgery today, and hopefully is doing well.  They also bought uniform tops and shoes for two boys' soccer teams and televised a match.  They had the whole crew and other volunteers here today (about 20 people).  They also did a treasure hunt for the younger kids.  It is Arab TV to show Arab volunteerism,  so we non Arabs were supposed to stay out of the pictures.  I did get to talk to a lot of the Arabs and the local film crew members, which was pretty interesting.  The producer is a Saudi Arabian who lived in LA for 7 years.

Film crew at work
The local crew mixes the cement

Saleh and Omar supervise the building

Boys' dormitory in progress

Last night the Arabs on the film crew invited our group to a night club in Kampala.  Night life in Kampala apparently doesn't start till around 11 p.m. and goes all night, so I declined.  The others took a taxi to Kampala and had a great time dancing.  They took a taxi home, but apparently couldn't find motorcycles to get them down the dirt road to the orphanage (not surprising at 5 a.m.) and the taxi refused to go past Waikiso.  They walked in the pitch black night the rest of the way (no electric lights here) and a few of them fell down along the way, whether due to lingering alcohol or the pits in the dirt road, I am not sure.  I woke up when they got home and did some nursing of cuts and bruises before going back to bed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Last night Leah and Ava from Canada and Cassie from Australia and I went to an outdoor concert at the National Theater in Kampala with Joshua's brother, Regan.  I was glad he could take us there and back in his van.  Joshua was going to take us, but part of the way there he got caught up on the phone in getting the body of a former student who died of AIDS to his grandmother's village 60 km away for a funeral tomorrow, and called Regan to meet us and take us the rest of the way.  Traffic is horrible, with cars just pushing their way into traffic and boda bodas (motorcycles) weaving their way precariously between the other vehicles.  I was told by several people that a lot of them get killed every year.

The concert was Percussion Africa, and consisted of a lot of drums, saxaphone, singing, dancing, etc.  "Whitney' came out a couple of times and sang/read African poems in Luganda.  I couldn't understand the words but they sounded good and were accompanied buy drums.  There was also a Down's syndrome male member of the band who played the marimbas and danced.  I got up a couple of times to join in the dancing, but it was a lot of fun just to watch, as some of the Africans who got up were very entertaining in their dancing.

The bustles make the bootie shaking more impressive

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


On Sunday, 1/15, James, the IVHQ program manager for Uganda and the program business manager, Joyce, picked up myself and Leah, another volunteer who had come in from Canada the night before, and took us to the orphanage in Waikiso province where we will be staying.  I signed up to teach, but school here does not start until the end of the month.  Also, the program materials guaranteed running water and electricity in all projects, but we have only solar power here.  There are no lights in the volunteer dorm block, and the building housing the volunteer's toilet has running water only as long as the sun shines on the solar battery that runs the pump.  There is no place to charge laptop, phone, ipod, camera, etc.  Oh well, THIS IS AFRICA, and I am glad I was cautious enough to sign up for only one month.

On the plus side, they treat us more as tourists than workers and our time is pretty much our own.  They have 200 kids here who are readily available to play, and some of the volunteers are working on painting dorms and building a new boys' dorm.

Ryan and Leah walk to the school building

Getting water from the solar pump only works in daylight

The volunteers are 2-3 to a room.  Leah and I have a very large room with a high sloping ceiling.  We can see the bats in one corner in the afternoon and are sure to use our mosquito nets at night when they may be flying around.  They seem to disappear in the morning.  I have never lived in a place here that didn't have some "wildlife."  There is also a gecko I see sometimes.  I heard mosquitos the first night but not the second, so maybe the bats are good for something.

Fava and Barbara take care of us
The volunteers eat meals on the dormitory porch.  We have a cook, Fava.  We usually have pineapple and chapattis for breakfast.  Lunch and dinner are mostly carbs (chapatti, potatoes, pasta, rice, bread at the same meal) with a little meat or chicken and vegetables, lately a lot of eggplant and carrot.  Food has little or no spice, but we do have soy sauce and tomato sauce.  There is coffee and tea at all meals.  We have to provide our own water.

The kids give us a concert

On our first day, Joshua, the pastor in charge of the orphanage, dropped Leah and I off at the surgery clinic in Kampala.  She has had a cold for two weeks that she was afraid had developed into a sinus infection.  The European doctor at the clinic saw her and took X-rays.  He concluded she does have fluid in her sinuses and under her eyes that was aggravated by the two day flight to get to Africa.  He prescribed Penicillin V for six weeks and told her to come back for sinus X rays at that time and that she cannot fly.  He said that if she was in Canada they would do surgery to drain her sinuses, but that it could not be done here.

We were unable to reach Joshua on the phone to see about a ride home.  We later found out his phone was not working.  We walked to the mall for lunch and to pick up some bottled water.  I bought a towel, since they do not supply them at the orphanage and I had given mine away in Zimbabwe.  After lunch at "Pizza Hot" we walked downtown and to the old taxi park.  We met Elliott, who works at the Imperial Hotel, on his way home and he was happy to accompany us to show us the way.  We found that the bus to Waikiso does not leave out of the old taxi park, and had to walk several more blocks to the new one.  I do not have a map of Kampala, so I was very happy he was with us.  The minibus took almost an hour to get to Waikiso, then we both got on a boda boda (motorcycle) to take us to the orphanage.

Connor from Colorado

Ava and Leah from Canada

Watching a football (soccer) game

Sunday, January 15, 2012


It took me awhile to decide where I was going from Arusha due to continuing health problems.  My knee seemed better except on days I went up and down a lot of stairs or did a lot of walking on rough surfaces.  I was having a lot of dizziness, but that subsided for the most part after I stopped taking the doxycycline soon after I reached Zanzibar.  I may get malaria, but at least I can walk upright without hanging on to things.  

  I had a return flight to LA scheduled for January 16.  I had planned to go back to California before starting the WorldTeach program in Panama in February, but the Panama program is having trouble getting funding so may not be available.  I made the decision to apply to the International Volunteers Headquarters volunteer program in Uganda for that date about two weeks beforehand.  I found out about the program on the internet and applied the same way.  It cost $220 to register and $505 for the four week program, including airport pickup, room and board.  I changed my return flight to May 4.  My hope is that I will like the program and sign up for their program in Capetown for the last few months of my time here.  My air ticket is only good for one year, and I would like to finish everything I want to do here before I go, since it is unlikely I will return.

I flew to Entebbe airport in Uganda and was picked up by a taxi driver and taken to Sewalu Suites Hotel in the Kampala suburbs.  It is a nice place, though considerably downscale from my suite in Arusha and costs only $25 a night.  I had to pay for the three nights before my program officially starts.  I have a small room and bathroom.  The bed takes up most of the space and the shower is just a hose on the wall, typical of Tanzania bathrooms.  They do have wifi.

My second day, James, the program manager, arranged for a student to pick me up and take me to town so I would have an introduction to local transportation.  Isa Byena is a medical student who will do his internship next year then go to Canada for a residency in Internal Medicine.  We walked down the dirt road to the main road to catch the matutu, or minibus, to downtown Kampala.  We walked around downtown to Garden City mall.  I bought water, vitamins, and some new rubber flip flops.  We had lunch in a cafe where I got chicken curry and a coke for 35,000 Uganda shillings ($15).  I was able to get Uganda money from the ATM and also cashed in the rest of my Tanzania money.  My flight home is out of Dar es Salaam, but I may pay the $150 to change it to fly out of South Africa if I end up there.  They tell me the flights are already filling up for April/May though, so that my ticket currently has me changing planes in London and Dallas.  Hopefully my health will hold up so that I can stay.