Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The kids get a bit overwhelming, especially since they are bored from being on holiday for two months.  They stay up till 2 a.m. watching music videos if there is petrol for the generator.  They leave our porch when we eat, but then converge again.  It is very dark by around 8 and no electric lights, so we just have our little flash lights.  The kids get up in your face and you can't quite tell who they are, which is disconcerting.  

Faith spent two days getting braids put on for the Christmas break

...and five minutes taking them off since they aren't allowed at school

Hilda from Norway gets her hair braided by the boys

Me and Sam

Ruth behind the orphanage

The volunteer house.  We have our meals on the porch.

You can't really take a good shower or wash hair and clothes, since there is only cold water and only in the daylight hours because of the solar pump for the well.  I went to kampala overnight twice this week to charge up my batteries (computer, ipod, phone, kindle) and wash my hair and clothes.  The kids enjoyed watching "Horton Hears a Who" by Dr. Seuss on my laptop, and keep asking for another cartoon.  I tell them my battery is dead, since it only lasts less than two hours on a charge.

25 kids watching a movie on my laptop

On January 28, the volunteers ran an HIV clinic for the orphans.  We did 142 tests and all were negative for HIV.  The doctors from the AIDS clinic who helped us were very surprised, since they expected 20% positives.  We have many street kids at the orphanage.  A good surprise, though.  I pricked the fingers of about 40 kids to get blood samples, and nobody cried.  Not like American kids!

This weekend Leah and I are staying two nights in Jinja, an "adventure capital" with bungee jumping, class 5 rafting on the Nile River, mountain biking, etc.  It is a lovely town with nice walking, shops, etc but not really touristy.  The source of the Nile, where it meets Lake Victoria, is here.  Everyone I talked to who did the rafting said they were dumped in the water at least four times, and I met someone at the surgery clinic in Kampala who banged up her knee.  Since my knee is already messed up, I am relaxing today while Leah does the rafting.

I went to a beauty salon in Jinja and had a pedicure, the first in Africa.  Needless to say, my feet were a mess.  I thought the strap line from my sandal was a tan line, but it came off. Just the same old red dirt.  At the same time, Leah got a manicure.  She has bruises from the "massage."  All the "beauticians" in the salon were men, with one woman, who I assume is the owner, acting as receptionist and cashier.

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.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


On 12/28 I took a taxi the half mile to the Precision Air office for 4000 shillings ($2.75) then paid 10,000 shillings ($6.75) for the one hour drive on their shuttle bus to Kilimanjaro Airport.  My flight to Zanzibar was on a small propeller jet.  At the airport I got a taxi to Stonetown, the main city on Zanzibar Island, for another 10,000 shillings for the fifteen minute drive.  Ashley, WorldTeach program manager for Tanzania, met me at a tree the taxi driver seemed to know and we walked through the maze of streets to the house I will be staying at.  Ashley has arranged rooms in houses for all 15 volunteers except Lisa, who is staying on the north part of the island with her family, who are visiting for the holidays.  At present, I am the only one in my house.  It has two bedrooms, two baths, a living room, large balcony,  and kitchen.  There are ceiling fans in most of the rooms and a portable air conditioner in the living room.  The power goes off every day sometime after 6 for 20-40 minutes.  There was rat feces in the bathrooms when I came and I detected a rat in my bathroom the first night.  I didn't see any evidence of them after I covered the bathroom drains with plastic buckets filled with water.  There were roaches in the Kitchen sink, but we didn't use it much except to get water to boil and  rinse out coffee cups.

The balcony of my house in Zanzibar overlooks a small square

Ashley took me for lunch and on a short introductory tour of the neighborhood, but I got really confused about the directions.  Stonetown is like a huge maze of mostly 2-3 story whitewashed buildings with alleys going every which way and few that go through.  There is a road about 1/4 mile one way and the ocean is about 1/4 mile another way, but you have to get through the maze to get there. My sense of direction is terrible and I got turned around very quickly.  You just keep walking until you hit somewhere you recognize and can reorient yourself.   Zanzibar is over 99% Muslim, but the people seem very friendly and helpful and several times walked with me to show me the way somewhere.  I stayed close to my house the first day because I was afraid I would never find the way back.  My house is number 46, but I never heard a street name, if there was one.  I made it to Zanzibar Coffee House the first morning.  They wanted 20,000 shillings (over $13) for breakfast so I just had coffee and a small croissant for 6,000, which is quite expensive for Tanzania so I don't plan to go back there.  Dinner was fish, rice and vegetables at the Spice House for 16,000 shillings.  I ate at the rooftop restaurant which had a good view of the city.

After a couple of days Gretchen and her boyfriend Ben showed up to take the second bedroom.  It was nice to have some company to go out to eat and explore with.  I was decided that our house had the largest living room space, so we had the Midterm conference there on Saturday, during which all the volunteers met to share the good and the bad about their placements and what could be done to improve things.  I am the only one not returning, but a lot of the others seem more than a little depressed to be going back, especially Nicole and Lindsey, who went home to the USA for Christmas.  Everyone seems to love their kids, but the living situations are difficult for most everyone.  There is some trepidation about the rainy season coming up, when a lot of them will be isolated as the dirt roads to their villages become impassable.

Gretchen from Delaware and visiting boyfriend Ben from Texas
A favorite tourist hangout is Livingstone's, a restaurant/bar on the sand.  It is next to the automobile ferry, and I sat there one afternoon drinking a beer and watching the cars rev up one by one to make the 50 yard dash over the sand to the ferry ramp, trying not to get stuck.  If you slide back down the ramp, you are almost guaranteed to get rear wheels stuck in the sand, necessitating a crew of men with logs, boards, etc and a rope tow from a vehicle already on the ferry to get you out.  the minibuses and trucks with long wheelbases seemed to have the most problems.  There were cheers from the bar 
patrons after particularly long and difficult extractions.

Lisa ready to get on the ferry to Dar es Salaam

A bunch of us went to a nice dinner at Silk Road, an Indian restaurant near the ocean.  You can get beer and wine there, unlike most places since this a heavily Muslim community.  
I enjoyed a few meals at Archipelago, an outdoor rooftop restaurant overlooking the water.  They have a good breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and tomatoes for 5000 shillings and lunch or dinner of fish and vegetables for 12,000.  I assume the fish here is very fresh, since it is the livelihood of many of the island.  I had marlin and swordfish while here.

Serena Hotel view

Serena Hotel

Stonetown park

View from the Sultan's palace

Old Fort, Stonetown

Our last group dinner was at Amore, an Italian restaurant and ice cream parlor, also with an outdoor patio overlooking the ocean.  I had a great vegetarian pizza.  No alcohol here. 

One day I took an all day Spice Tour. The minibus picked me up around 9 a.m. and took a group of us to a family spice farm for a tour.  We saw cinnamon trees, nutmeg, jackfruit, cloves, vanilla, peppers, and many more.  I was interested in the pineapple plants, that only put out one fruit at a time that takes a whole year to grow.  I am surprised they are so cheap, although they cost twice as much here as in Ngara.  At each stop they gave us a sample of the fruit or spice to smell or eat.  Spices apparently used to be a main export from here, though not anymore as Indonesia and other countries have taken over the market.

Spice tour guide

Jackfruit tastes a little like pineapple

Pili pili (peppers) are small and HOT!

Nutmeg with red mace covering

The other big Zanzibar export was slaves.  An Omani man came here and established himself as sultan in the late 1800's and the family ruled until the revolution in 1964.  They had a big slave market in Stonetown that brought slaves from the mainland and exported them to mostly Arab countries until the British shut down the slave market by force in 1879.  Slaves to America were sent from the West coast of Africa.  There was apparently still a clandestine market, because after the spice tour we were taken to a huge cave on the coast.  There were stairs down but during the slave times they were lowered on a rope into the cave, which had a stream running to the ocean on the bottom with fresh water.  They kept up to 200 slaves there, who had no way out except to walk to the opening to the ocean, which was gated and guarded.  From there they would be ferried to the waiting slave ships.
Slave cave

Near the cave you could walk about half a mile then down some steps to a great beach.  The water was very blue and clear.  We stayed there awhile before getting back on the minibus to return to Stonetown.

Zanzibar beach and dhows

The other volunteers left Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to return to their school sites until I was the only one left.  I was able to stay in my house for 15,000 shillings ($10) a night until I finally left on January 6 for Arusha to pick up my luggage at the hotel.  I stayed in Zanzibar almost two weeks and enjoyed it very much.

On returning to Arusha, I checked back into the East Africa Hotel Suites.  Unfortunately, it cost $180 a night, unlike my initial two nights which I arranged on an internet site.  Needless to say, I checked out the next day and went across the street to the Everest Inn, where I got a room for $40 for two nights.  It is run by a small Chinese man who came to Africa in 1984 as a young man and ended up staying.  He is running the restaurant and hostel by himself with African help, but says he cannot leave because he can't find help that could manage the place while he is gone.  His only son is in a radiology residency in Canada and probably will not return for a long time.  So if anyone is looking for a job...

Sammy from China gave me a lift to the airport bus