Monday, August 23, 2010

An Announcement To Be Made-Well Make It Plural

As this last week has unfolded, a matter of events make the top to be recognized.

#1 on the list of events to be made is my SAFARI!! As some of you may know, I had 3 things I wanted to do while in Uganda and a real African safari was obviously on the list. So from here on out you must read this with an Australian accent and I will be known has Marsupial Megan, thanks to my dear friend Lizard Lisa. My safari took place at Murchison Falls and it was beyond amazing to say the very least. I don’t believe I will ever go to a Zoo again and feel completely satisfied after witnessing all I saw at Murchison. We left for our adventure on a Thursday night where we stayed at our safari company’s hostel. This in itself was quite an experience being my first time ever to stay in a hostel…one word to be used, ghetto-haha which led to it being an enjoyable night’s stay. The next morning we left for our safari, which happened to be 5 hours away. However, our drive was broken up by taking a pit stop at a Rhino sanctuary. There are only, I believe, nine Rhinos in Uganda due to poachers and they are all in this sanctuary. We were able to trek on foot for the Rhinos where we were not even 20 ft from a mom, dad, and baby Rhino. OH my, it was unbelievable how massive they were. My thoughts through this was, “Wow, that animal can kill me right now in a matter of .5 seconds” and “I wonder what Rhino tastes like”…horrible thoughts to have I understand this. After Rhinos we continued our drive to Murchison Falls where we got in late and just had dinner, relaxed, and went to sleep. On Saturday, we left our camp at 6:30 a.m. in order to make it to the ferry (cross the Nile) and go on a game drive throughout the park. We saw, may I emphasize, wild giraffes, elephants, warthogs, and buffalos, tons of different kinds of antelope, hippos, exotic African birds, baboons, and my favorite a freaking lion! It is rare to see a lion, so when we did we were overwhelmed with excitement. The lion came straight for our car and stopped like 10 ft and started drinking, this entire time it was staring straight at us. Needless to say, we got some pretty good photo coverage and we made all the other safari adventurers jealous. That evening we went for a boat ride up to Murchison Falls where we saw a ton more hippos and a few crocodiles. They let us out, and we proceeded to hike up the gorgeous falls. The view on top of the falls was indescribably beautiful and it felt like I was literally on top of the world. We went back to the camp where we went out for sodas (haha) with our new Irish and British friends. Sunday, our final day on our safari, we trekked chimpanzees on foot through the jungle. The chimps were all above our heads in the trees eating some nasty fruit (yes I tried it) and throwing the seeds down at us. Luckily, we all made it out alive without any injuries to the head. My favorite part was when they would call to each other and practically shake the jungle with their calls. Overall, my safari experience was well worth it. I made good friends and saw a lot, I am glad I was able to get the opportunity to experience such an extraordinary part of Uganda.

#2 event to be announced for this week is my phone being slashed from my backpack during Tuesday market day in Mukono. Remember in my last blog how cocky I was about catching a guy pick-pocketing me, yeah well my arrogance got to me leaving me without a cell phone. Thanks to all those who sent nasty text messages to the phone, I am pretty sure that person is feeling guilty for his poor choice of stealing from this Mzungu.

#3 event to be made is my Grow, Learn, Give project reaching its first school this last week. Thanks to all the hard work from the Rotaract Clubs we were able to give out 15 feminine hygiene kits to orphans and educate about 300 students on what puberty is and the importance of making good decisions during the time of adolescence. Three Rotaract members who are boys taught a lesson to the boys of the school about the importance of supporting and encouraging girls and desensitizing them on this topic. Overall, it was a success and I was so pleased by my young partners who have become more like friends throughout this process.

#4, throughout the past events of this week all my team members deserted me leaving me only with my country directors, Ryan and Angie, who are great don’t get me wrong, but it is just not the same living with 20 people to only 3. I am now suffering from abandonment; I find myself wondering around the house looking for my friends. My only way to explain it is that it feels like I was just broken up with. You know that sad, pathetic, lonely, and abandoned feeling.  I now know what it feels like to be an only child; the other night I played dominoes by myself. Okay, it really isn’t that bad but there is a sad feeling lingering in the house. I am pleased to announce, besides Ryan and Angie who have to be here…I am the sole survivor of the Uganda Mukono HELP team. Woot! I get the award for being the last one standing and truly the best trooper for making it the longest. Ps. I have dubbed myself that title so know one else knows...shh.

Exciting event #5 is my food adventure aka my threesome date with Oscar and Rob. On their last day here, we wanted to be food extraordinaires and go out with a bang. We accomplished this by going to a nice restaurant and ordered…are you ready…crocodile, ostrich, springbok, impala, and kudu (the last three are different types of antelope)!!!! Cool huh, are you jealous? Haha, the ostrich was my favorite especially in the hamburger form and the crocodile was my least favorite, it had hardly any taste except for a dirty fish aftertaste.

#6 is a very exciting announcement to be made. Some of you may know our goat Aberforth Wilberforce has been carrying a fetus for the majority of the summer. We are pleased to announce the birth of our newest goat and friend, Icarus Fetus. Icarus has already warmed up to me by peeing on me and Aberforth is suffering from post-partum depression. Coming from a person whose hatred for animals flows fairly strong in her blood, I will admit Icarus Fetus, Icky for short, is surely the cutest goat in all of East Africa. Good job Aberforth, you produced well!

#7, the last but certainly one of my very favorite announcements to be made is Trashman. Trashman was a man in Mukono who’s had way too much Opium (literally), wears trash, and would come up to many of the girls and have a stiff encounter with them usually ending with a slap in the face or a water bottle to the head. During the last stumble upon with Trashman he hit poor Jen in the face knocking her glasses off; this did not fly well with the heroic Ryan so he tied Trashman to a tree and had him sent to a mental asylum. **GOOD NEWS ALERT**
“Trashman’s in the kitchen cookin’ chapatti,

I love chapatti, yum yum yum!”

I am pleased to announce that the infamous Trashman has made it out of the mental asylum and is currently back on the streets of Mukono running a chapatti stand. He has no recollection of his past nor hitting any of our team members. I am just glad to know we have yet another chapatti stand in Mukono, because that is certainly what we need another one of…(sarcasm).

I suppose another announcement to be made is that I have less than a week left until I make my trek back to America. I love it here, but I am also excited to be getting back soon. I leave August 25th and land in Boise on the 26th. It has amazed me how fast 4 months breezes by. I can truly say now, I will see you all very soon. Once again, thanks for being a part of this adventure with me.

Marsupial Megan

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Story of the ‘Whats’…

The theme of this next blog needs some prefacing before I fully indulge into the story of my life here in Africa. An average conversation goes something like this in Uganda: Today we will do what? Go to Kampala. After we exit the what? The gate. We will cross the what? The street. And wait for the what? The taxi. We will do what in Kampala? Get off the taxi. Then we will what? Catch a boda.
Such conversations are problematic for two specific reasons: 1) you never know when you are expected to answer the ‘what’ question. Half the time, it is rhetorical and well they just end up answering the question for themselves, BUT then randomly there are times when there will be an awkward pause and you think in your head, “Crap, I am supposed to be answering this one, shoot what were they even talking about, what is the answer they are looking for.” This then leads to problem 2) their conversations are so completely off the wall and unpredictable sometimes that you may think they want one specific answer about pineapple, but really they are expecting an answer about goats. It is hard to follow, so you always have to be on guard for those dang ‘what ’questions that pop out of nowhere in everyone’s and I mean everyone’s conversations. Now, going off of this, there is a specific and clear technique to asking a ‘what’ question. When you ask someone, “Then we will do what?” The ‘what’ must and I will repeat, must go up in pitch when you say it. My team and I have become victims of the ‘whats’. Often times we will catch each other asking, “And you will do what today?” A partner meeting. For dinner we will have what? Matoke. This ‘what’ technique is an excellent indication and efficient tool that guarantees if someone is actually listening to you or not. I am set with mixed emotions when I say that I personally have implanted this in my day-to-day speech.
Continuing on, these last few weeks I have done what? Many, many exciting adventures. That I have what? Not blogged about yet. To what? Begin. I will start with the bombings in Kampala, because that is what? The last time I wrote. The bombings in Kampala were kinda scary not gonna lie, especially because we are only about 15 miles away. With that being said we have implemented stricter safety precautions to protect ourselves incase such things were to happen again. I believe there were 74 dead and many injured. There have been a few more bombings since the main two, but they haven’t injured anyone. The African Union, which is being held in Kampala, will be over this week, so the ‘scare in the air’ will be over soon. Without beating this topic, we were all what? Safe and enjoyed our lovely time in lock down with 19 people.
The most exciting what? Thing I have done since the last time I wrote was what? Sipi Falls. Sipi Falls is a series of three absolutely breath-taking waterfalls. The easiest way for me to describe it is the scene in the Lion King when Simba and Nala fall in love… “Can you feel the love tonight?” You know which one I am talking about. It’s in the middle of a jungle with HUGE beautiful waterfalls, lush green moss everywhere, vines hanging all around. We spent our first day hiking around two waterfalls, one waterfall we were actually able to hike behind. We swam in the local watering hole (aka death zone due to the swift current) with all the African children. And we hiked to a peak where we watched the sunset fall over most of Uganda. It was a totally mesmerizing and perfect day. To follow, we spent the night in a hut (literally) with a what? Rat rummaging in its nest above our heads in the grass roof, thank goodness for mosquito nets--they block out more than just mosquitoes. The next day, we hiked to the third waterfall which just happens to be what? The largest waterfall in Africa. I proceeded to what? REPEL down THE largest waterfall in ALL of Africa. C’mon, that’s pretty legit right? It was over 300 feet high and I can proudly say I conquered that waterfall. Luckily I trusted the random African man who built the repelling station 8 years ago, because I only saw my life flash before my eyes at the beginning when I had to ‘sit’ over the cliff to a 300 ft drop. Thank goodness I didn’t die, because they didn’t even have me sign my life away on a waiver! As I was what? Just hangin’. I was able to see over the beautiful valley of Uganda that Sipi Falls looks over. This experience definitely, without a doubt makes the list of the Top 5 Coolest and Most Adventurous Things Megan Gersten Has Ever Done List. As a side note, I have always hated the games ‘Two Truths and a Lie and ‘Never Have I Ever’, I am now officially stoked to get back to America and play these stupid games. I can practically visually imagine how that’s going to go...Never Have I Ever…ha beat this sucker…Repelled down the largest waterfall in Africa and rafted the Nile River…I just won, put your fingers down. **Sorry for the aggression, it is just built up feelings of never having much to brag about in the past.
Even though it may seem that I have not been what? Very busy at work, but I what? Have been. I recently had the opportunity to visit a women’s group a couple hours outside of Kampala who weaves gorgeous baskets (I bought three). To be honest, this is probably one of my favorite memories so far. I went there interviewing the woman about who they are, their talents, their hopes and dreams for the future, one thing they would want the world to know about them, and other personal questions. During my interviews we were sitting under a huge banana tree and it starting pouring. We all grabbed everything and ran inside. The women continued weaving their baskets as I sat among them on the floor of a small, rickety house and discussed their lives and personal stories. It’s hard for me to describe my feelings in that moment as I sat there sipping porridge and asking them such personal questions, but it was like color disappeared and I was an African woman among 17 amazing ladies. I was their friend and they were mine in a matter of a couple hours.
Continuing on, the other day I what? Helped with a Disability Outreach a couple volunteers were putting on. We put on five rotating stations for the disabled youth while their parents and caretakers were involved in a series of seminars educating them on the proper health, sanitation, hygiene, grieving procedures, and Cerebral Palsy management. Despite a few of us being what? Urinated on, I know I enjoyed my time blowing bubbles, reading, and singing to the children. It is interesting and so very different because of the culture here in Uganda, having a disability is highly looked down upon, they think of it as a curse, that it is something the woman did wrong. Because of this, many of the children hadn’t been outside of their homes for literally 20 years. Most of the kids with Cerebral Palsy in Uganda are due to them having untreated Malaria at such a young age. There was one child that looked like he was no older than one year, but actually he was four, all that his mother feeds him is hot water. I saw some terribly sad things, but like I said before I enjoyed my time and am glad I was able to be a part of such a significant event is some of these people’s lives.
This week I did what? Put on four HIV and AIDS assemblies in local schools. This was also very successful. We taught close to 550 students about what HIV and AIDS does to the human body, how it is transferred, how to prevent it, and the importance of eliminating the stigmatism that come with this disease. Along with this, we did a Q&A session where we passed out papers so that the students can ask questions anonymously. This went over very well because the students were able to ask questions without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. Most students do not get the opportunity to ask such questions so it was a good chance for them to get honest answers.
With all this being said, my most exciting news is what? My Grow, Learn, Give program has taken off and we are implementing it in our first school this next week! For those of you who don’t what? Know what Grow, Learn, Give is, it is a program that helps to keep young girls in school during their menstruation cycle. Research shows that while some girls are menstruating they do not have feminine hygiene products so they stay at home till they are done menstruating. Some girls even drop out of school because menstruating becomes such a burden when they do not have any feminine hygiene products provided. Grow, Learn, Give will enable girls to stay in school during their menstruation period by providing reusable (washable cloth) sanitation pads. Along with this program it educates girls, boys, and parents on what is happening to the girl’s bodies through this time, importance of menstruation hygiene, and desensitizing this topic. We have included Uganda Christian University Rotaract Club members to run this program after we have left. This has become my ‘baby’ and I am thrilled that this is getting started!! It has been a lot of work, but I feel it is so worth it because of its benefiting effects.
I would be what? Lying if I said that we were all work and no play. Last Saturday, we what? Had the pleasure of going to the Rothy’s (LDS couple missionaries in Kampala) and indulging in the delicacy of pancakes and for real, cold milk!! It was truly a lovely taste of home, which I can say for myself and the entire team, was much, much needed.
Yesterday was what? Legit. I went to a real African wedding! It was a literal party that lasted about 8 straight hours. They do an introduction usually the day before, followed with a ceremony and reception the next day. I just went to the ceremony/reception, but it was so neat. If I ever get married...haha… I am requesting an African wedding. There were a lot of screaming, tribal chants, dancing, and food. The wedding cake consisted of 10 tiers, the bride looked like she fell out of the movie Enchanted, the colors were maroon and gold (so Gryffindor), they shot confetti from torches when the Bride/Groom cut the cake, when the man said “kiss the bride” they awkwardly hugged, and they served us a FULL course meal…forget the peanuts and wedding mint crap.
As a quick update, those of you who have been what? Concerned for my living arrangements and care about the ‘minor’ details, I am pleased to announce that we have what? Killed a total of 5 mice (with a what? frying pan), I have gained an extra mattress and expansion of wardrobe due to the excess of people leaving, we have moved up from crepe paper toilet paper to actual decent tp, Ryan tied Trashman to a tree and had him put into an insane asylum, I have grown accustom to posho and matoke (not bad with g-nut sauce), I caught a man pick-pocketing me in Kampala (yeah I’m stealthy like that, don’t mess with this Muzungu), my tan lines are only getting better, I have not had any cases with worms yet, I can officially ride a boda-boda, side saddle, NO hands AND I used the ‘local toilet paper’ aka a leaf that is fuzzy and smells nice, it was half eaten with bugs and I had to shake it to get them all off. Gotta love Africa…overall great stores to share to say the very least.
I apologize for this blog taking so long to be posted and I have no excuses to why it isn’t all that good in the first place. I miss you all so very much, I love hearing from each of you. I get so excited when I find out that someone is following me. I appreciate all the support and love from home; it makes it so much easier to be away for so long. I cannot believe that I am on the countdown now, before you know it I’ll be home. See you all soon.