Slow Day

Typed the night of the 7th of June

Today, was more of an experience. I woke up early and got cleaned up before my first big day at NACWOLA’s Lira Office. Left, and took a long ride on the back of a bicycle until I finally made it. Met up with Geoffrey (one of the staff whom I had met on Sunday) and Grace, the two staff members, and an intern named Stephen from a university in Kampala.

And that was it. We all sat around for about an hour before taking some tea. Then Geoffrey left to take care of some business. Then Grace, Stephen and I sat for a good 2-2.5 hours. Occasionally conversing, occasionally reading things, not doing much of anything. Around 1 Geoffrey called and said we could go home.

That was my first day at work.

SO! I decided to use the free time and try walking home. I knew it took 20 minutes to get home from Sankofa (the internet cafe) so I walked and walked and walked and I made it to the cafe in just over an hour. Stopped in, sent a few e-mails and had some ice cream (it was hoooooot in the afternoon), and then made my way around the outskirts of town, stopping at a few shops. I picked up some cookies and a few notebooks before hiking back home and playing Age of Empires.

Put in a short call to my parents before making my way back to Sankofa for a little bit (trying to register with the US Embassy, but it’s taking far too long on bad internet) before wandering back in the dark until I made it home for a small dinner. After dinner we hung out a bit before calling it a night.

A Relaxing Day

So, yesterday and today have been kind of strange and partially uneventful. Yesterday was Martyr’s Day, a public holiday, so I relaxed a bit and spent some time online before Morris took me to see some sights (saw Mengo Palace, where the King of Buganda lives, but couldn’t get close; and the Qaddafi Mosque).  Today I came to the office to find a pretty empty place.  With the public holiday, there was some communication issues I think, as most of the office has headed to Entebbe for NACWOLA’s general assembly conference – a gathering of representatives from all of the different branches.  So I hung out at the office for a while.

Then Isma came!  You remember Isma.  He came to the office and asked if he could show me more of the area.  I ended up walking near and far to see where he used to go to primary school and the secondary school that he is in the middle of.  He’s unable to go back right now because he lacks enough funds for school fees, but he took me to see the campus anyways and I met his headmaster as well.  He made today a lot of fun and showed me even more of this huge, complex city.  He also taught me 2 words in Luganda, thereby doubling my vocabulary in the local language!

Tomorrow is still a little up in the air.  The ladies from Penn were (maybe) going to go rafting, so I talked to Morris about leaving for Lira on Sunday and he said that would be better.  It will give me more time to re-pack everything and prepare for a long trip north.  Team Penn is still figuring out what they’ll be doing, but it sounds like instead of rafting they are going to go sight-seeing in the city.  One the agenda might be the Baha’i Temple on the outskirts of town and maybe Makerere University, so I’m thinking about meeting up with them at some point.  Then the next day I’ll be on a very long bus ride up to Lira.  It looks like we’ve finally settled on accommodations though, and I’ll be staying in a house with a German woman and a Swiss woman.  Maybe I’ll practice my Deutsch. (Maybe not).

Another Day, Another Blogpost

Typed on the afternoon of the 2nd of June at the NACWOLA office.

The day’s been pretty relaxed so far today.  After getting up and making my long commute (about an hour and a half on two buses, on foot, and a boda-boda) I made it to work on time. Hung out with everyone a little while doing some things on the computer, then got ready to go. While I waited for other people to come before we could head out, I sat under the hut and listened to the marching band at the secondary school down the hill. They practiced for a couple of hours and it was nice listening to them for a bit. After a while Yudaya decided that it was taking too long and that she would take me without the others.

After buying some gifts and hiking a little ways, we took bodas up to a small house in a tightly packed neighborhood. Here I met Isma, a young man nearing the end of high school, and his mother. All of his other siblings were at school, but he welcomed me into their home and told me a lot about how NACWOLA had helped his family. Yudaya said that long ago she personally came here to help the mother wash everyday since her hands were too weak to do anything, and since then the mother has improved a lot. She still looked weak and didn’t say much while I was there. After talking about NACWOLA, Isma told me a lot about his history and Ugandan history as a whole – lo and behold he wants to teach secondary school history! After chatting with him for a while, I came back to the NACWOLA office as Aaron left to the ICC Conference (soooo jealous!) so I’m stealing his internet.

Photos from Work

Coinciding with the last post I did about work, here are some pictures from yesterday.  Enjoy! :)

It's reading time

Sudden rain!

And the next three are from the micro-finance meeting in the resource room.  There were so many women in there I had to take two pictures and there are still not in frame.

Arielle explaining the prices of the paper products

Emma (top), Sauda (middle), and another woman working on the paper products.

Needless to say, it was nice to see some of the work that NACWOLA is doing in its community of women.  Hopefully I’ll get to work on some projects like this in Lira!

First Workday

Typed on the 1st of June, right before I slept like a rock. And boy is it a long post:

Today was…. phew.  It had some really good times and some really not-good times. Let’s go chronologically, shall we?

I woke up a little later than anticipated, so I didn’t get to type up the blog before this one (it got typed in the afternoon, which delayed posting), but George and I headed out through the same criss-crossing path he took me to on Monday. Emerged, and took the longest and most confusing route I’ve ever taken to anywhere. Got on the same bus as before, but we took it all the way to the taxi park, which is the name of a giant field where all of the taxis are lined up with conductors (the aformentioned toll-men) trying to get you to board. We got off, left the bus park and hiked through the downtown, through a few shopping centers, and emerged at another bus park! Hopped on the right one and on we went until I got to my stop and then got confused as to where to go from there. Ended up taking a boda-boda up to the NACWOLA office where I finally showed up, a little late by my standards but just fine with local-time (which I’m getting used to).

I greeted the few that were there before meeting with Yudaya, the resident mom of the office. She sat me down and talked about what we were going to do for the day and explained the custom of never entering someone’s home empty-handed. Then she said we’d head out after she prepared tea for everyone else.

While she prepared tea (and did whatever else) I had enough time to talk with the girls (who had shown up while Yudaya and I were talking) and connect my computer to the internet. I got to talk to Kim and check my e-mail a little, glance over this blog, and chat with some friends in the office. Then it was time to take tea, so I had sugary milk-water, which looks like I added and poured and mixed things but still resembles something I can drink and like. Then Yudaya took me across the street to a little shop, where I bought some rice and sugar for the family I was visiting, and a lollipop for their kid. We walked a total of like ten steps before we got to the house, and it was the house of one of the girls I had met in passing the day before!

Sauda, a 21-year-old girl who is a NACWOLA child (meaning her mother is a member), welcomed me into her home and hung out with me. Her neice was not happy to see me but when I gave her a lollipop she was content with me being there (child bribery ftw). Sauda got her memory book, which is one of the cool things NACWOLA does, and told me all about her family and her history. The memory book was an idea started by NACWOLA years ago, giving women living with HIV/AIDS a chance to record their family history and personal history and leave it for their children. Sauda began to write her own despite her mother being alive, and she is still working on it. She read to me stories of who her mother is, where her family is from, how her father passed, how she liked school. Everything in the book was really interesting and touching, and it was nice to be welcomed into someone’s home. While there I also met her younger sister, Sharifa, and her mom and aunt both stopped by. After we finished going through the book, we watched some TV (it looked like a Ugandan soap opera followed by a short profile of a Spanish actress and then the news) before heading out. Sauda and I went back to NACWOLA for lunch.

When we got back, we hung out with people for a little while before Yudaya had me meet with Emma, a man a little younger than me. I don’t know what we were supposed to actually talk about, but he was filling out applications for university so I talked to him about that. He’s a go-getter, and he made fun of American schools for not starting until 5 years old (nursery starts at age 3 and is equivalent to our kindergarten). In the course of talking we also got to maybe one of my favorite conversations so far. 1. How can America keep a man from having more than one wife? B. But Akon says he has two wives. How does he live in the US? Ultimately, though, we talked about American versus Ugandan school systems until lunch, which Sauda helped prepare. During lunch I chatted with Danielle, a Penn grad, for a bit before it started POURING outside out of nowhere. Suddenly the room filled with everyone who had been outside and we carried on our conversations while it rained.

The original agenda for the Penn group was to meet with a group of women in a microfinance program. Due to the rain, the meeting came inside so I joined in and listened to a lot of good conversation. The thing the girls came to do was to help put together a program in which women can work to make paper out of papyrus and water hyacinth (both found in Lake Victoria) and then turn the paper into books and picture frames. The women who came today were in a microfinance program in which they have taken out a loan as a group (of 17) and they share the money to keep their businesses going. They talked a lot about the woes of loans and low capital, and shared some stories about their jobs and how microfinance does or doesn’t help. It was exactly the type of thing Tomomi (a professor at ASU) would have been interested in!

The meeting went long, but it was really interesting and fine by me. Afterwards I decided to try to walk to Ggaba Road (where the US Embassy is) to A. register with the embassy and II. see how far it was since boda-bodas are expensive and the bus dropped me off on this road. To address the former, I arrived at the back of the embassy and had to go around – which is a long road – and it was closed. To address the latter, it was pretty far, so I’m going to see if I can find a shorter route or suck it up and get there by boda.

That’s pretty much where the day got more and more annoying. I walked a bit passed the embassy to a gas station with hopes of getting on a bus. Several in a row were full, so I figured I’d walk and flag one down. Still full. After a while I just said screw it and walked, making sure I followed the general mass of taxis. After a long walk, and a few misreads of the buses, I found myself in the thick of downtown. This area was muddier and a little more sketchy, so I kept things close and my eyes open as I hopped between roads and through shopping centers (shopping centers that go through to the next street are called arcades, by the way). Eventually I found my way to the bus park that I should have been getting off at. But then I couldn’t find my way to the other bus park, despite getting (conflicting) directions from multiple passers by. Eventually, I made it and I hopped in, relieved to finally be on a bus and know where I was going.

Got to Wandegeya and found my way to the internet cafe where, imagine, I ran into Morris! We headed up and he scanned some things while I was told that the internet wasn’t working. So we were disparaged. They said it should be up soon, so we grabbed a quick bite to eat before returning…. to a closed internet cafe. Guess it didn’t come back? Morris pointed me towards one and I arrived only to find out that it was full. So I headed to one that I had seen in passing, and it didn’t have wi-fi, was also full, and was more ghetto than the others. I had to wait five minutes before I could hop on Windows 95 (or whatever was before XP) and try to get the internet to work. Glad I got to talk to people a little bit before calling it a very late night and navigating through the dark back home. All in all an okay day that started really cool and ran aground for a bit. I think I put in a lot of kilometers today, whatever those are.

NACWOLA!

Typed on the 1st of June in the afternoon at NACWOLA and late at night at home

Yesterday I started my first day at NACWOLA, kind of. Before that, though, I had an annoying day. Money is dumb.

I woke up and George took me through a different part of town on the way to Morris’ work. Once I got there, Morris was going to take me to exchange my dumb traveler’s checks for Shillings. We didn’t have too much time, so Morris said that we should take a boda-boda. I was nervous, but the tiny motorcycle prevailed and we rode it to the city center looking for a good international bank. Finally made it to Crane Bank and realized that I needed the receipt, no matter what (even though the one I usedin Detroit was fine without one and I know people who have used them in Africa without receipts). So we ran out of time, and I had to go to work but I’d come back later!

Morris took me to NACWOLA and dropped me off. First, the place is totally cute. Most African neighborhoods/places are arranged in little compounds with high fences and a big gate enclosing at least one building and a garden. Behind NACWOLA’s big green gate is the main building with three doors (the door to all of the staff’s main offices, the kitchen, and the resource room where the interns are). There’s a wide dirt area where cars are parked, and there’s a big hut with chairs and benches underneath it for shady relaxing, and on the far side is a big garden.

But enough about looks. I talked to Gloria, the receptionist/multi-tasker, and she told me to wait under the hut and gave me a newspaper to read (Museveni’s ratings are down, wah waah) before Lillian met with me and gave me a brief low-down about what I’ll be doing for the week. After that, she said to read over their pamphlets and meet everyone. So, I met all of the staff, some of the members and family, and most of the Americans. The staff are all really nice, and the members come by to help with basic things and are involved in projects. The Americans include a group of girls from Penn who are helping put together a project, but they’re only here for three weeks total, and a law student from Indiana that is researching international law here and in Kenya. After meeting everyone, we took tea (I ate rolls) and then I hung out with Aaron, the law student, for a while before leaving early to exchange money. But look! It’s picture time!

The main building

The hut!

The resource room, where I spent my free time

The main gate!

And that was a trip. The manager at the bank did not think my signature matched very well, and it took a lot of signatures and a lot of convincing before he would give me my money. But, after a long day at the bank, I headed to Wandegeya and hung out at the internet cafe there for a while, updating all of those lovely blogs you saw and doing other internet duties. I stayed out later than usual, until it got pretty dark in town. Then I headed to get dinner (my first and last meal of the day other than the roll) before heading home and calling it a night. I’m glad to finally be done with the whole money fiasco, and I’m excited to meet more people tomorrow and probably go into the community and meet some more NACWOLA family and children as well as all my new friends.

A Workin’ Man

So, I have a job.  Out of school, I usually work between 30 and 40 hours a week.  During school, I’ve usually worked a decent 20ish hours a week.  I get work done, I have a little down-time, I get paid well.  This semester, though, my schedule has sucked something fierce.  I tend to work 14-16 hours a week, if I do nothing but go directly to and from school and work. It’s been a stressful situation, but it’s getting me by.

This summer, instead of working 30+ hours/week and earning some dollar bills, I’ll be doing quite the opposite. I’ll be working for no money and actually spending money via tuition, flight, board, etc. Thankfully, my employ has said that I can return to the same job without issue.  Yay!

Problem is, my schedule next semester will be even worse. I’m looking at about 12 hours per week. In addition to an all-time low, it will be as I recover from a summer of spending and look ahead to the spendings of our wedding.  Needless to say, it’s a troublesome situation.  So, I might be looking for a second job or a different job.  The problem is, another job simply won’t pay as well.  I might be able to get more hours, but I’ll probably make less per hour.  I’m hoping hoping hoping that I can find a waiting job and get a little bit of tips here and there. Maybe I’ll go to bartending school or become a CEO at Goldman Sachs.