A Travellerspoint blog

An Update...yes, finally, an update!

So I've gone from feeling like I have nothing to write about to wondering how I will ever catch up on everything that has happened in the last little while.

The biggest news as of late was that my wallet was stolen last Friday while I shopped at a local craft market. It was very discouraging, given that I had, only the day before, withdrawn the maximum amount from the bank machine (about $500) and was carrying most of that money in my wallet at the time it was stolen (foolish of me, I know, and I have learned my lesson...the hard way!) I also lost my driver's license and both my bank cards so was without ID and any means of accessing cash. Fortunately, my parents brought some of my mail with them when they arrived this past Sunday and in amongst the envelopes was one that contained a replacement bank card (my bank just switched to chip cards and issued new cards to all its members – talk about fortuitous timing!)

Since Mom and Dad arrived a few days ago, we have been busy trying to cram in as much sightseeing and adventure as we can; after all, they are only here for two short weeks. On Monday, we made our usual visit to the Babies' Home. One of the little girls, Freda, a quiet, usually unhappy-looking little girl who recently came to the orphanage after being dropped off at a local police station, took an immediate liking to Mom. And of course, from the moment she climbed up onto Mom's lap and closed her arms around Mom's neck, she had her wrapped around her little finger.

Tuesday, we again stuck to our regular routine and spent some time volunteering at the BeadforLife office. Mom and Dad got to meet Baby Solomon, who spent a good part of the morning sleeping on Mom's lap. Later, once the bead sale got underway, I delegated both my parents to quality control – a challenging position since it's hard to hand back pieces of jewelry to the beaders when you know each piece represents potential income. I think they both did a great job and stuck to their post even when the weather turned nasty and dime-sized pieces of ice came falling out of the sky. And they call this a tropical country?!

Yesterday, we embarked on a road trip to Jinja and spent the night at the BeadforLife village on the way home. I'll try to write more about where we went and what we saw but for now (since I have been receiving threatening emails due to a lack of current info on my blog), let me post the pics and hopefully fill in the details later.

Here are a few photos from Bujagali Falls on the east side of the Nile.
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Pretty view of the Nile

This guy braved Class 5 rapids with only his trusty jerry can to keep him afloat

This guy braved Class 5 rapids with only his trusty jerry can to keep him afloat

The guy in the middle could do amazing acrobatics despite a gimped leg

The guy in the middle could do amazing acrobatics despite a gimped leg

Should I know these guys? They came in a police escort and looked pretty important

Should I know these guys? They came in a police escort and looked pretty important

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After picnicking at the falls, we drove over to the Kingfisher Safari Lodge for a swim in the pool.
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At the BeadforLife village, the kids were completely absorbed in the lego. Seeing how excited they were to have simple toys to play with confirmed to me the value of setting up a resource centre in our community. On that note, Kara and I have signed a lease agreement on a small house which will become the new home of our resource centre. We have paid the first three month's rent up front and are now preparing to fix the place up and furnish it with bookshelves, books and educational games and toys. We are currently looking for supporters who would be willing to make a one-time donation or (preferably) monthly donations to help get the centre up and running. Thanks to those of you who have already pledged your support. By the end of the month, we should have finalized a partnership agreement with Niteo of Kelowna and hope to be able to provide tax-deductible receipts for donations received after that time. Please feel free to contact me (bakerjocelyne@gmail.com) for further information or if your are interested in making a financial contribution.

Too many faces for the camera!

Too many faces for the camera!

Posted by BriteLite 11:42 Comments (0)

A Rant and a Reminder

Sometimes this place can be a bit much. Kara (or maybe it was Pat) put it well the other day when she (or he) said that the things that were so bizarre they seemed funny at first...are now just plain annoying. I mean, seriously, Mr. Man on the boda with two large live goats lying side saddle across your lap, what are you thinking? And no, Mr. Man selling the propane tanks, I am not going to give the security guard a thousand shillings because I parked next to your "filling station" and lost you customers because they had nowhere to park except the three of four empty spots next to me. And when my truck rolls twenty feet and crashes into a concrete wall because I forgot to put the silly thing in park, can all of you bystanders not gather and stare at me en masse like I am a total idiot (which of course I am!). Don't even get me started on Umeme...how hard can it be to come out and read a metre? Surely not as difficult as repeatedly sending out technicians to disconnect my power because I've paid twice as much for electricity as I should have. Uggh!!

Alright, I'm done venting.

Sometimes this place can also be a not-so-gentle reminder that I have absolutely no reason to complain. Baby Solomon, found by a dog scavenging through the garbage and rescued by one of the BeadforLife beaders who happened to be passing by; Frank, the boy who regularly stops in to visit, who naps on my front porch because he can't sleep at night and who can polish off a whole bag of mandazi in one sitting (probably because his mother is sick and can't properly care for him); Mama Eunice, my cleaning lady whose one-year old baby died last year after a brief bout of vomiting and diarrhea; Rough Guy (as we affectionately call him), the homeless man with the wild hair and vacant eyes who sleeps away most of the day in a field we pass every time we go get groceries. When I think of these people, I am reminded that I have much to be thankful for; I am so fortunate. So why do I manage to get grumpy about the most inconsequential details? I'm really not sure. Chalk it up to human nature I suppose.

Below is Baby Solomon. Mara was given the honour of naming him. :) He seems to be doing quite well, though he is still very thin.

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Posted by BriteLite 10:21 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

A Boy Named Mugame Dickson

http://www.travellerspoint.com/my_blognewentry.cfm?blogid=22338

This story begins at a local supermarket not long after I arrived in Uganda. I am loading groceries and children into my vehicle, when I am approached by a tall, gangly youth selling a wire-frame toy; the toy is a man on a tricycle and when you push him along the ground with the long wire handle, his legs pump up and down with the movement of the pedals. Anyone who has spent any time in Kampala will have seen one of these toys. It's not something I want, let alone anything I would pay money for, but when the boy, wearing an ID badge that reads Agape Orphan's Home, explains that he needs money for school fees and is making and selling these toys to raise money, my heart goes out to him. "But wait!" I tell myself..."I need time to think." I want to support this guy, but I don't want the toy, and I've been advised against giving away money to just anybody. In retrospect, I should have just bought the toy; it would have made life so much simpler but, instead, I talk to him about his needs, gather some facts about the school he attends and the home where he stays and ask him to meet me next time with account information etc. He agrees and next time we bump into each other at the supermarket, he is prepared with a carefully-written note containing the information I have requested. His name is Mugame Dickson. I have a feeling I will be seeing more of this boy...and I am right.

Fast forward four months and I am laughing to myself after getting off the phone with Dickson; he has requested my iPod for about the sixth time and now it's become somewhat of a running joke between us. "And so, madame, about that iPod", he will begin. I always say no, so this time around he is bold enough to ask if I will be celebrating Christmas here in Uganda! Hint, hint...nudge, nudge. What a kid! I suspect his persistence will eventually pay off.

I tell the story of Dickson, because he is the one who today has arranged for us to visit Agape Children's Home, the orphanage where he stays.

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In this photo, Dickson is the guy with the green shirt and the silly face. Henry, wearing the black gumboots and blue overcoat, grew up at Agape (he's "one of the pioneers" to use his exact words) and now volunteers his time helping out at the home in the mornings and evenings. Today, he has had the privilege of taking care of some sanitation issues. He tells me this with a huge grin on his face. William is the middle-aged man in the middle of the group. He is the director of the home, but doesn't speak English well apparently because he has asked Steven (right of Henry), who has also been at the home since it opened ten years ago, to do most of the talking.

So anyway, dragging my resistant kids along with me and with Dickson as my guide, I venture, not for the first time, into some uncharted territory...a place he calls the projects. It turns out I have driven past the road to the projects numerous times but have never seen it because it's a little off the beaten path and not a place well-frequented by mzungus. And for good reason I suppose. There's not a lot to see down here and the access road is narrow and in need of repair. As we approach the home which is contained in a collection of adjacent rooms shared by neighbours who have no affiliation with the home, I notice there is garbage heaped in sloppy piles in the clearing where I end up parking my truck. Later, while making our way to a nearby football pitch, we are nearly stampeded by a herd of migrating cattle! Yikes! Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

There are 52 children who call the project home and they occupy six of the rooms in this small complex. Yes, that's right...52 children sleeping in six rooms. When I ask to see Dickson's room, I am not surprised to find four twin beds crammed into one small room.

"So, you have three roomates?" I ask.
"No, we sleep two to a bed." This from a boy who must be close to six feet tall. Again, I am reminded of my privileged position as a middle-class Westerner.

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There is a small kitchen and a chapel which doubles as an eating area.

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In the office, I see a permit issued by Kampala City Council and am reassured to learn that Agape Children's Home is a registered community-based organization. We discuss funding and I am informed that the home receives no government subsidies (not surprising, of course) and that its primary source of revenue is the toys to which I previously had turned up my nose. Now, in my mind's eye, I no longer see the modest little men on bikes as unsightly crafts but rather as food and clothing and medical care. I cannot fathom how selling them can meet the needs of over fifty children. "They don't." I am told. Often, there simply isn't enough of the basic necessities to go around. I fix my eyes on the group assembled outside the office door and wonder if the children who have gathered to observe us will be getting supper this night. It's a sobering thought.

After a tour of the home, we make our way through the surrounding neighbourhood to a football field the guys have told me about. Below are some photos of the field; the American embassy lies directly behind it and downtown Kampala is hidden in the haze to the right. I regularly drive Ggaba road which goes right past the US embassy and have often looked up to the place where I am now standing and wondered what I would find here. I like getting my bearings like this and seeing the lay of the land from a new perspective.

But I digress... the field is owned by a Catholic church and school, and the loosely organized team which the home has put together is allowed to use the field when it isn't otherwise booked. As we say our goodbyes, I suggest we organize a Uganda vs. North America football match. Everyone nods enthusiastically and Henry banters, "We'll try not to hammer you too badly!" I love the humour and the warmth and hospitality these people exude with seemingly minimal effort. There's much we can learn from them.

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Posted by BriteLite 09:11 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Crafty Kids

As many of you already know, Kara Aylard and I are in the process of starting a resource centre in our community. Our wonderful friends back home are throwing themselves into fundraising efforts in a very heart-warming way. Check this out! I count myself very blessed to have such an amazing support network. Thank you everyone who's been a part of this!

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Posted by BriteLite 08:34 Comments (0)

Yet Another Birthday...Last One Till Mine :)

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Posted by BriteLite 12:44 Comments (1)

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