Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Email from Uganda mar 16 04

March 16, 2004

Kampala, Uganda

Hi from Hinda and Peter,

We are beginning to wind down in terms of time left, but certainly not in terms of our volunteer or travel activities.

First, just a hint of what is coming up:

This coming weekend we are going to Murchison Falls National Park in the North of Uganda. Don’t worry, the park is pretty well protected with the Ugandan Army from the rebels in the north. We feel pretty secure going there. Besides many animals there, Murchison Fallis is where the White Nile narrows down to 7 meters.

The following week we are going East to Mt. Elgon, Sipi Falls, and hopefully to visit the Abaudaya – a small community of Ugandan Jews.

Then we are going to spend Passover on one of the Spice Islands, Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania.

Finally, 10 days after that we are coming home!

At work, here is a partial run down of what we have been doing: completed new client registration and numbering system; completed construction of new foundation and roof for food trailers, and a new trailer; completed Policies and Procedures Manual, and almost finished with job descriptions; completed setting up 3 data bases and teaching folks to use them; set up email; taught photo and fundraising classes; continuing to mentor food program manager, (now just observing – he’s doing great on his own);established dollar bank account and invested in first certificate of deposit; arranged for a foundation to accept a large contribution from a US donor who required a tax write off in order to contribute; arranged for staff and clients to get free eye exams and discounted glasses; arranged for staff to have free lunch and tea daily, (many staff are clients, all are poor, and must have nutritious food in order to remain healthy especially if they are taking ARV’s and other medications;. Hopefully Reach Out will be a bit better off after we leave, but our most important achievements will be what we have taught individual people here so that they will have learned new skills and can be further empowered in their personal and working lives.

It is hard not to want to give things to people here. For example, we gave 2 young boys – about 11 or 12 who are HIV positive clients – each a new soccer ball. How could anyone refuse to make a child happy who had nothing at all to do with their situation. We have ordered a small camera for one of our staff who is also sick and to boot now takes care of 10 children – 5 of his own, and 5 from 2 of his brothers who died from AIDS. He will use the camera to take photos of people and sell them and use this small income to buy food, etc.

We “sprung” paid bail for one of our workers who happens to be sick and on ARV’s who wound up in jail. If he would have remained there without his meds and with poor or no food, he would have gotten very ill and possibly not have been able to survive.

These things are small to us, but big to those that we help from time to time. It is a small thing to do for people who worry about us when we are away too long and can’t call in to let them know we are ok. Everyone here is very kind to us and to everyone. This is a nice place. It is a shame that there is so much poverty and suffering, so we do what we can. We know we can’t solve all of the problems, but neither are we permitted by our values to do nothing and turn away.

How about some fun things now: Can you believe that the cooks have been using over 15 pounds of sugar per day to make about 100 cups of tea?; that everyone we speak to who drives at night say that they can’t see. Well if we can’t and no one else can, then who can? How come we haven’t run anyone down yet. Luckily we only have only one more month to go and 10 of those days we will be out of town. You remember who Moses was? He led the Jews out of Egypt to the promised land. Well, so far, 2 of our guides have been named Moses and both were great. One led us to the gorillas, and one kept us safe in a huge storm on Lake Mburro. A couple of weeks ago we went on a short hike in a forest not too far from here and the guide, (not Moses), told us about many of the plants that are used for medicinal and other purposes. For example, a plant that does what Viagra does. Says the guide, “Don’t use it unless you have wife or girlfriend!:”. A plant whose leaves are so smooth that some locals use it for toilet paper, and a plant whose leaves are so rough that locals use it to wash pots and pans.

Well, that’s about all for now. We’ll write after the next couple of trips and update you. Until then, be well. Lots of love and hugs from Hinda and Peter

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Email from Uganda Mar 11 04

March 11, 2004
Kampala, Uganda

Hi to all!

Well we have been working and traveling in Uganda for the last few weeks and we will now give you the latest update on our adventures.

Two weekends ago we went to Lake Mburro to see the zebra population. They were many and lovely. The lake is about a 4 hour drive from Kampala and then we stayed in a very basic banda (cottage). The day we arrived we went for a boat ride with 6 other people and a ranger/guide. When we were only about 15 minutes out the ranger said he thought it was going to rain so he would take us to a shelter and then after the rain stopped, he thought it would last for about 10 minutes, we could resume our ride.

As we arrived at the shelter the heavens opened up and it rained, rained and rained. The wind blew and the sky remained dark. The rain kept up for two hours. There was a very large thunder and lightning storm directly overhead. And when it rains here in Africa, IT RAINS11 Then the ranger said, "I will take the boat back and come to pick you up with the car". He then left. After approximately half an hour two Land Rovers came roaring in to the shelter. It was still raining. Everyone at the lodge was very worried about us, especially our driver who could only think about what he would tell his boss if he had to go back to Kampala without us. Luckily, we returned safe and sound. We did see many zebra and they are delightful. Also, beautiful Impalas, (Kampala is named after Impalas), Water Buck, Wart Hogs, Hippo's, and other animals. Africa is truly a wonderful place.

Last weekend we flew to a national park in the northest corner of the country right on the Sudan border. It was gorgeous, open savannah with a great deal of wildlife. We saw lions, elephant, buffalo, wart hogs, giraffe, many different kinds of antelope, jackals, and a great number of interesting birds. We flew in a 19 passenger twin engine plane and before take off the pilot announced that he might have to circle the landing strip at the park before we could land because there were usually wildlife on the runway. Sure enough, when we got there we saw animals on the runway. We circled around scared them away and landed. Just like in the movies. We unloaded the plane and a big 2 and a half ton truck arrived. In the bed of the truck were 15 armchairs tied to the sides. We all clamored aboard, loaded the luggage and food and took off for the lodge.

We arrived at a lovely lodge with several cabins on either side. The cabins were on the edge of the savannah with small porches where we could sit and look over the savannah. The lodge had a great veranda and a large living room and kitchen. Food was served buffet style and we ate on the veranda. There was a water trough at the edge of the veranda and after we filled it up many animals showed up to drink, elephant, zebra, water buck, etc. What a thrill to be so close to these wild animals. In the morning we woke early and went for a game drive, we saw lots of elephants, lions, including 2 very handsome and beautiful male lion brothers, zebra, giraffee, water buck, buffalo. Came back for a nice big breakfast and shower. The hot water was made by lighting a wood fire under the tank that the water was stored in so when you took a shower you could smell the fire in the water but it was hot and it did feel good. Relaxing and another game drive filled up the rest of the day. Then dinner on the verandah. It was great. The next day was the same with game drives and relaxing.

On Monday morning, the day we were to leave, we went on what we thought was our last game drive, the ranger/guide that was with us got a radio message the a tribal group called the Karamajong. Had raided some cattle the night before and anyone in their way would be shot. We quickly began to head for the lodge. As we were driving we spotted an elephant which we were all looking at when we also noticed a long line of people walking on the savannah. The driver saw them, he made a sharp fast ut-urn and got the hell out of there. We headed back to a ranger outpost we had passed earlier and waited for about two hours until the Karamajong had passed. It turns out that the Karamajong believe that all cattle belong to them and when they want some they just go and take some from anywhere and anyone they want. They also are a warring tribe who are very dangerous. They used to have only bows and arrows but now they have guns and so they are really dangerous. We later found out, that night the park rangers and the Ugandan Army arrested 36 of them, killed 4 and rounded up all the cattle. We were all relieved but by then the weather had turned bad. There was a sandstorm in the Sahara and it was blowing thin particles of sand in our direction. Due to this the plane could not land to take us home. We heard it overhead Monday afternoon but the pilot could not see below 8000 feet so he could not land. We all unpacked our bags and prepared to stay another night. Thinking we would surely leave the next day. Guess what, the weather stayed bad and we ended up staying until Wednesday afternoon.

By the way, we knew that Anne, Saul's wife was in labor when we left on Friday but did not know until Tuesday, when we were able to borrow a satellite phone what sex the baby was and if everything went ok. It did and we are delighted.

The people we were with at Kidepo National Park were very nice and since we spent so much time with them we have developed new friendships, there were 2 French women who work for the UN, an English couple who are here consulting on road safety, (that's a laugh), a Norwegian woman who works for the British High Commision, a Norwegian man who is here consultling on electricity, a Swedish man here consulting on roads, a Canadian and Kenyen gay couple (by the way it is illegal to be gay in Uganda), and a family of 4 from England who work for NGO's.

We have had lots of excitment in the last few days so we have decided to stay home next weekend and rest. Here are a few observations, first, pulling into a gas station and listening to Kenny Rogers is interesting, second, there are alot of people here who are white and work for NGO's and various international organizations, they are here because they serve a purpose but also because many of them live much better here than they can in their own country. They live in big houses with servants, they drive company cars and have drivers. And, for many of them, they could not get good jobs in their own countries, so why not go to Africa. No wonder places like these never seem to move from the Third World into the Industrialized sectors. Yes, many of these people are genuinely here to help, but the problems are overwhelming and it is going to take a long time to deal with fully, if ever. We, and other Western nations have the resources to really solve some of these problems, but unfortunately we would rather build bombs than cure AIDS, malaria, etc. Do you know that it only costs about a dollar a day to provide an HIV person with life saving ARV's. Yet, we and others don't seem to really want to do what it takes.

Now for a bakery report, the baked goods, especially the cake is not very good. All the cake is the same they just call it something different each day and add a few sprinkles of coconut if it is coconut cake, a couple of cashews if it is cashew cake, etc. And the coffee: although they grow coffee here, we haven't had a good cup yet.

We are still very busy at work and still enjoying it. We have put a number of systems in place and they are really being used. Peter is doing lots of putting out of fires, for instance today he went to bail someone out of jail. That was interesting. All in all we are doing fine. We still have a number of things to finish but are on the downside of our time here. We will be coming home on April 18 and between now and then we will be away almost every weekend and then the week before we come home we will go to Zanzibar for a few days.

Sorry to be so long winded but we have lots of adventures to share. Love to you all and please write when you can, we miss all of you. Hinda and Peter
Check Out Hinda's pic of a beautiful Waterbuck at Kidepo.