Molly in Africa

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lira, Sipi Falls and Mbale

I haven’t updated in a while and I don’t have time to explain everything that has happened in the past two weeks, so I’m going to split up the time into two- Lira, Sipi Falls and Mbale and rural homestay & crazy stress week

Part One:

Lira: I went to Lira with Laura and Kim to look into practicum ideas there. My goal was to talk to the Rachelle Rehabilitation Center there and see if I could work for them. Laura, Kim and I arrived at the bus park in Kampala at 7 and boarded a mostly empty bus headed to Lira. Transportation schedules are different here in Uganda than in America because you don’t leave until the vehicle is full- so there are never definite times for anything. We sat in the bus in the Kampala bus park until 8:45 before leaving. This was an experience in itself. Vendors and peddlers (which are SOOO common in Kampala) board the bus and walk up and down the aisle trying to sell you things. This means that I had various conversations with people about how “I really am happy with my watch even though it doesn’t match my skin” (which was one of the arguments they used for why I should buy their watch- haha) and other equally ridiculous things. Once we got started, it was just long hot and uncomfortable. The bus was big but we had people standing in the aisle the entire trip, the window only really gave any air to the person sitting at the window because they didn’t open the window very much. If you opened it more, that person was blasted with very dusty air which wasn’t a very pleasant experience for them. Despite the fact that we were told the trip would take 3 or 4 hours, we arrived in Lira at 2:30pm- for those of you doing the math at home that means that the trip took nearly 6 hours! With most of the day lost to traveling, Laura, Kim and I scrambled to change into our “smart” clothes and each hopped on a bicycle boda boda (a bicycle with a little cushion on the back for someone to sit on) and we each went to the different organizations we were interested in. Laura went to Unicef, Kim went to the Red Cross and I headed to the Rachelle center. When I got there I was warmly received by the staff there and one of the social workers took me to his office where we were able to talk more. He told me all about the center- they’ve helped 2,551 kids, he showed me their weekly schedules, talked about what activities they do for counseling and for education. It all sounded great until I asked about how many kids are currently there. His answer was nine, but there should be two going home next week. With eight social workers on staff, I was very aware that this was not the situation I had expected. I was still going to work with it though. The coordinator of the center wasn’t there- she was out of the country, so I was told to call her the following week. That night, it was really nice to be in Lira with Laura and Kim. First of all, Lira is a beautiful little town. I thought it was going to be bustling and filled with pollution, but in reality it was really quaint. There aren’t many cars there- everyone rides bicycles which was kinda fun and there was no pollution which meant the sky was really bright and blue which was beautiful. Also, people had that small town mentality of being really nice and when I asked how to get to the Rachelle center at the hotel, the hotel manager told me to say hi to Margaret- his wife! It was very nice there. In the hotel room, we had a movie station (which is something that is not common in Kampala…well at least at my house it’s not) and so Kim and I watched the first hour and a half of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which was awesome! Then the power went out so we went to bed, but it was really comforting to watch a familiar movie. J The next day we had another long hot dirty bus ride back to Kampala. I sat by the window and most of the time chose to just be dirty and have wind on me rather than try to remain clean while sweating to death. Oh, also, there were chickens under the seats on the bus and that surprised me when I first sat down, but then I changed seats so I was no longer bothered by their ruffling feathers. Oh how I love Uganda…

The following week (last week), we went on our eastern Uganda excursion. We spent the first two days and nights at Sipi Falls. It was gorgeous! After arriving, we went on a walk down to the falls and it was just absolutely beautiful there. I have pictures up on facebook… here’s the link- It was also really nice to have some bonding days with the rest of the students. After two days there where we got a chance to give our in depth study presentations (which went very well), we headed to Mbale for less than 24 hours. The first place we went upon arriving was to CRO- Child Restoration Outreach. When we arrived, we had a chance to look around the room we were meeting in and I was so excited! The organization works to get street children off the street and into the classroom. It also helps get them involved in productive activities such as music, dance, sports, vocational training, etc. The organization, which is mostly a school, uses psycho social counseling and a special rehabilitation program for the first year that the street kids are with their organization. It’s a good NGO that has been working for the past 14 years and has helped over 3,000 kids. It currently is helping over 400 kids and it is more the type of organization I want to be working for. When our vans pulled into the cement courtyard, kids swarmed the vans. I made friends with a girl named Ismaya (sp?) who came over and shook my hand and spoke to me in both English and Luganda. I just felt very positive about this organization and I turned to Dan, the program director and whispered, “I may want to do my practicum here.” At the time he just kinda nodded and laughed, but after the presentation when I was still interested, he had me talk to the woman who gave the presentation. She encouraged me to call the national coordinator that night, which I did and she was very positive about the prospect of me working there. I have since emailed her and will hopefully know more about what I am getting myself into by the end of the day. While I am disappointed that I won’t be working with children in the north and that I won’t be living with my friends, I am very excited about learning about the rehabilitation process of these street kids, work with them, learn from them and really get a lot out of my practicum experience.

I’ll give more information later when I know more about what exactly I will be able to do with their organization!


At 9:26 AM, October 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woohoo! I've been waiting for an update - thanks so much for taking the time and effort to try to put into words this incredible experience that you are having.
It sounds like this practicum experience will be a good match for you. You'll be an asset to them and you'll learn so much from them!
I had to chuckle at your transportation story - especially at the chicken under your seat, knowing how fond you are of critters. ;)
Love you,

At 9:59 AM, October 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS - loved seeing the pictures.

At 2:57 PM, October 19, 2006, Blogger Bob Heineman said...

This is a fabulous post. I hope you'll be able to do more of this when you're in Mbale. I'm getting lots of support for the Gulu Walk on Saturday. Everyone is very supportive of what you're doing. It sure makes me proud

At 12:49 AM, October 24, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly I'm SO SO SO excited for you!!! That sounds like an awesome program!! I can't wait to hear more!!! Miss you and love you! xOXo


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