Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vastine's Father

Vastine's Mother

Washing Clothes Together

PeterPaul Negotiating Dowry With 2 of Vastine's Brothers

Mushrooms Anyone?

Kitchen at Our Village House

Village Girl in Red Skirt

Pink Flower Among Matooke Trees

Ironing in the Village With Charcoal Iron

Guess Who?

Email 7 From Uganda

March 31, 2008
Email 7
Kampala, Uganda

Hello All,

We know that we have written recently, but we just had such an interesting experience that we want to tell you about while it is still fresh in our minds.

You remember that shortly after we returned to the US after our work here in 2004, one of our good friends, PeterPaul, and his wife Vastine asked us to name their first born; Hannah, then a year and a half later we named Jesse, and last year we named Benjamin.

It seems that PeterPaul has never met Vastine’s aging parents, and they have not ever seen two of their grandchildren, so PeterPaul and Vastine arranged to visit them. But you don’t just visit for this type of meeting which is really an introduction ceremony. You have to engage in certain tribal rituals, and they include the husband’s parents. Well, PeterPaul’s parents are dead, so we, because we are the children’s grandparents, (jaja’s), we are also PeterPaul’s “caretaker” parents, and consequently he asked us to accompany them to Vastine’s village.

We agreed, and here is an interesting story about that trip this past weekend.

Vastine’s village is in the extreme southwest of Uganda, and it in our opinion the most beautiful part of this very beautiful country. The area borders Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The land is very productive with high rolling hills. In fact it is very close to where all of the gorillas in Uganda live. The crops are matooke, several species of banana, pineapple, cassava, coffee, avocado, eucalyptus, papaya, ground nuts, (peanuts), beans, and lots more. In fact, just about all of the food we ate in Vastine’s village was from her familiy’s farms.

So we were to board the bus at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, and it was only supposed to take 5 hours, (that must be African time). The bus was old and rickety and didn’t leave until 9:30. We had the good fortune to have seats, and there were no chickens or goats on board. (that is for the return trip, for surely you know that it is cheaper to buy a live chicken in the village and bring it back to the city than the other way around.) On the way, here are a couple of noteworthy things that happened: On one of the steep hills, the bus had to disembark all of us so that it could climb to the top; a man from the health ministry got on and rode for about 30 minutes and gave a lecture on HIV/AIDS and safe sex, and then gave out condoms – we have a box of 3 in case of an emergency. And then to top it off, the bus’ radiator overheated spreading steam in the bus and of course everyone thought it was on fire, and some people even jumped out of the bus windows. But Katende knew better.

PeterPaul took us on the wrong bus. Wrong because it didn’t go all the way to our destination, and also because it left the paved road and spent a couple of very rough hours on a very bad dirt road. So when we got to the last stop, we then had to arrange to get to Vastine’s village. It was now 6:30 p.m. and darkness was approaching. It was not a good idea to just take any transportation especially since there were these two “Bazungu’s”(white people) along, and aside from being over charged, there was too much of a risk of becoming prey to bandits. Vastine was finally able to raise her brother on the mobile phone, (the network doesn’t always work there), and he was going to send a car. He did, but the car took 2 more hours to arrive, and then another two more hours over a very very rough road in darkness to arrive at Vastine’s village, and it got stuck in the mud once, and once again we had to disembark. It was now nearly 11 p.m..

If you think we are ready to go to bed, even though we were very hungry, guess again. Now it is time to meet the relatives, but not Vastine’s aged parents. Around 12:30 a.m. we were all given a huge meal, and at about 1:45 p.m. we went to bed. Can you envision Katende and Nabuusa in a single bed? That is where we slept. It is really dark there, and the stars are magnificent.

Remember, this is a very rural village: no power, no running water, no plumbing, (neither indoors or outdoors) (something like our place at Lake Chelan). But to offset all of that Vastine and her family were so hospitable and accommodating, that it would be hard to imagine any thing more.

After we went to sleep, there was a very big storm, and it rained until mid-day on Saturday.

After breakfast, (all meals are cooked in an adobe brick kitchen building over a charcoal and wood fire) – only the women cook, it was time to get on with the business of the reason for the visit – negotiating the dowry that PeterPaul and Katende had to provide to Vastine’s parents.

First, two of Vastine’s brothers explained the customs. PeterPaul is from another tribe which has entirely different customs. All of us would talk and then the brothers would go to the parents and present our proposal and then return and give us feedback. Two hours later we received the feedback: Immediately, we were to provide two cases of beer, one case of soda, and money to both the mother and father, and more money to provide food for relative and those who dropped in to visit..

Because PeterPaul does not have much money, he could not afford all of these things, plus was yet to be presented when the other shoe dropped. So Katende and Nabuusa agreed to provide the two cases of beer and 1 case of soda, and PeterPaul agreed to do the rest.

OK, now for the rest: PeterPaul was told that because the family knew he did not have much money, that they would not ask him for goats. Great! But, he has to give them 4 cows by year end. He of course agreed, and he now has to save as much as he can. The year end time was also negotiated.

Now it is time to meet the parents and other family members, so we walked down the hill to Vastine’s parents modest cottage. Her father (83 years old) and her brothers and sister’s and their families were gathered in a small room, and one of her brother’s took charge of the introduction ceremony. After PeterPaul provides the cows there will be a more formal introduction ceremony.

Vastine’s brother Joseph introduced all of the family. PeterPaul was not permitted to see Vastine’s mother(79 years old). Then PeterPaul made a very nice speech, and so did Katende. Many of the family members also spoke, most prominently Vastine’s father. After an hour or so, both PeterPaul and Vastine’s parents agreed on the terms, and Vastine’s father welcomed PeterPaul to the family, and also PeterPaul indicated that Vastine’s parents were now his parents as well. Then PeterPaul and Katende gave the money to Vastine’s father.

Applause was given as is the custom of that clan and tribe. We were given permission to shake the hands of the parents and to take some photos.

We then went back up the hill to eat, and then some of us hiked up a very high hill to view this very beautiful country from all directions. Hinda stayed behind with the women and spent a delightful couple of hours observing how the women help one another by taking care of each others children, doing the laundry together, cooking together, etc. They were so good natured and although there was lots of laughter because Hinda is not used to washing by hand, not having any light and needing a flash light to see, she was accepted graciously.

Before dinner, we all went back down to the parents house to say good by in as much as were rising at 5 and leaving at 5:30. And so there were long goodbye speeches, and Vastine’s father was concerned that he could not buy us a drink. So as it happened, because it was dark – no power in the cottage where we were staying, Nabuusa mistakenly took a long swig if Waragi, gin made from bananas to take some pain pills rather than water for her back which hurt from the long bus ride and not enough sleep, and that story got a good laugh and also was accepted by the old man as our drink.

Once again, we ate after 10 pm and then went to sleep in our single bed. Around 5:45 a.m. in the pitch black we walked about ½ mile through the matooke plantation to where we met a car to take us to the bus.

The bus was nearly full, but we got seats, and took a different route, so we got back to Kampala in only 7 hours. On the way we picked up some people with live chickens, sugar cane, and even a man with his own stool to sit on, and we actually arrived back in Kampala after a scant 7 hours or so. By the way, one chicken was stuffed in a plastic bag with only his head sticking out and placed on the overhead rack, during the ride the poor chicken got squeezed tighter and tighter each time a piece of luggage was put on the rack, by the end this poor chicken looked very worn out. Katende almost didn’t make it back, because at one of the stops he had to use the toilet and the bus didn’t want to wait, so Katende ran to get the bus which had actually left the parking lot, and all of the passer bys yelled “run Muzungu (white man), run, and Katende did just that and was once again with Nabuusa, a woman of substance.


Katende ne Nabuusa

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Village Woman

Old Woman in Village

Child in Village

All the Children of the Village

Typical Village Banda

Oribi in Early Morning Light

Very Big Elephant

Ivan Swimming

Email 6 From Kampala, Uganda

Email 6
Kampala, Uganda
March 25, 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

We are fine and hope that you are as well. We have a lot to tell you, so let’s go:

• We just spent the 4 day weekend in a remote park, which we visited nearly 4 years ago to the day and visited some of the people that we met 4 years ago. We flew in with a small plane (17 people) and landed on a dirt strip and then proceeded to a new lodge. Among our group was the Swedish Ambassador and his wife, the British High Commissioner and his wife who is also the President of the International Women’s Organization, the President of Centenary Bank ,a high USAID official, and a couple of common folk like Katende ne Nabuuso. We saw lots of game, beautiful scenery, and had the opportunity to visit a small village where we learned much and took some beautiful photos.
• Marua, or Ajon, is a local brew made of fermented millet, and across the street from us, in a private house is an ajon bar. Each time we pass, they ask us to come and visit, so one day we did, and Peter tasted the ajon. It is drunk with long reed straws (about 3 feet long) from a pot that is in the center of the group. Tastes sort of like warm wine. We wanted to be friendly and get to know them. Most of those guys across the street don’t speak Luganda so Peter started to teach them.
• 25 years ago on March 14, the first person with AIDS was discovered in Western Uganda in a small fishing village near the border of Tanzania. Our NGO has a group composed of HIV positive and negative people called the Post Test Club which was invited to sing for the occasion that also included among the guests the President of Uganda and the Ugandan Parliament. We stayed the night in a very low cost guest house with those of us who traveled together from our NGO, and the next morning traveled for a very long time over one of the worst roads in all of Uganda, Whew! Peter was delegated to be the photographer, but alas, because of the presidential security was not allowed to bring his camera to the commemoration. And when Hinda tried to use the President’s sanican, she was turned away. After the President used it one time, it was loaded on a truck and hauled away. Thus there was only one sanican left for Hinda and the other several thousand who were there. But ---- it was kept very very clean by an attendant who would not let Hinda enter until he had cleaned it.
• Hinda has nearly finished the job descriptions and in the next week or two will present her findings and recommendation on the clinic to the Management Committee. Peter will be giving a class on Outlook later this week. And, the Strategic Plan is finally finished. We feel very much a part of things here, and we are. We are pretty much just staff members doing, eating, attending meetings and prayers (although we don’t pray) just like everyone else. We like our colleagues very much, and they like us equally.
• “Westerners have watches and Africans have time.” Now you know what African time means.
• This coming weekend we are going to the West to visit the family of one of our friends from 4 years ago. PeterPaul had asked us to name his 3 children during the past 4 years, and thus we are their “jaja’s” (grandparents), and consequently PeterPaul’s mother and father. His in laws have never met him, and he hasn’t been able to perform the necessary rituals to meet them unless his father is with him. Because his father is no longer living, Peter will be his father and this visit will start the negotiations for the dowry. We will tell you more after we return. We are deeply honored.
• Another friend from 4 years ago was injured in a motorbike accident, and we had to take him to the largest government hospital in Uganda. Don’t be fooled by the word largest. Mulago hospital is different than what we had expected. Our friend couldn’t get an X-Ray unless we, or someone paid cash up front; the ward had no sheets, no blankets, no food, no water, no bed pan, etc., etc., and so we and other friends including PeterPaul brought all of that; and then he couldn’t get the proper treatment unless we, or some one paid in advance – which we also did. How can you leave your friend with a broken hip and no treatment? We couldn’t. He has to be in the hospital 6 weeks in traction. He could not get an operation because he has AIDS. PeterPaul is taking care of his 3 year old son, and somehow, we and others are making sure our friend has food and whatever else he needs. In the ward, entire families are sleeping on the floor, under the bed and bringing food, blankets, etc., and in general taking care of their family member. We have arranged for someone to take care of our friend.
• Peter was the subject of one of the sermons here during the Lenten season when there was a sermon each morning from one of the staff. Most were quite good. About Peter, it was about being open to new things no matter what your age, and specifically about Peter learning to drum when he is nearly 70.
• Hinda found a shop that sells clothes for “Women of Substance”.
• We took our two vulnerable children with AIDS – Ivan and Herbert - that we have been supporting for the past 4 years to the Kampala version of Disney World and they had a great time and so did we. It was a very big treat for them. We also took them for lunch and ice cream. We are committed to supporting them until it is no longer necessary. Herbert wants to be a neuro-surgeon and he is certainly smart enough. He just needs the right breaks which may be quite difficult because he is so poor. Ivan wants to become an airplane engineer and for him also it will be difficult, perhaps even more so, for he has no one, just us. Herbert still has his mother and she has AIDS also. So, let’s hope.

OK, that’s about all for now. Sorry for such a long blog. Hope you enjoy the photos.

Love and hugs,

Katende ne Nabuuso

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cool Guy from Nakawa

Jacqueline and Peter

Friends in Kamwokya

Neighborhood Laundry

Neighborhood Maternity Clinic

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Kampala Gridlock

Flowers from Margaret for Hinda

Email 5 From Kampala

Email 5
Kampala, Uganda
March 10, 2008

Hello again!

It seems that we are writing more often than we have in the past, but it also seems that we have lots of things to tell you, so without further adieu, here goes, (remember, you have free will so you don’t have to read everything we write, but we hope you do). We are also sending some “snaps” (photos).

• Work is going well, but we work long hours, much more than we are used to. Hinda is still working on those job descriptions. Seems that our “boss” who is in fact charming has charmed her into doing more than what she intended. His name is Charles and now that he found out he was born in the same year as her oldest son, Seth, he keeps reminding her that he is just like her son and so she should help him out. She falls for it everytime. Peter is beginning to be successful with the problem of no/little internet “mpole mpole” – slowly slowly. Also he is still hard at work with the senior management team in putting together the next strategic plan, and is also doing a lot of computer tutoring/training/mentoring, as well as mentoring the fundraiser. Hinda has thoroughly analyzed the medical clinic and is ready to present a very comprehensive report and recommendations, and both of us, along with other staff have developed a number of operational procedures. (Everyone loves Hinda, and Peter can actually say whole sentences in Luganda and is still playing the drums at morning prayers. Finally, we have arranged for the staff to get free eye exams from the same eye care shop that we got to know 4 years ago, and they are also giving a hefty discount. Lots of people here have bad eyes, since there no one has enough money to purchase glasses.
• Our little rented car’s battery finally died, and it is not easy to get a new battery, especially on a holiday (Saturday was International Women’s Day). Filling stations don’t sell them, although they do sell lots of food and sundries. After 3 tries, a mechanic came on a boda boda (motorbike taxi) carrying a spare battery and in no time got our sick car started and then told us to go immediately and get a new battery. Not so easy. About 3 hours later and being run around by people wanting to charge us twice what we should really pay, we finally got one and also the accompanying photo of the man with the cool shades and no teeth who was hanging out at the battery shop and wanted to trade his sun glasses for our prescription glasses. No way!
• For those of you who are following Jacqueline, she has been kind of forced by the lead counselor to get out of bed and sit outside. Actually, she is a little better, taking her meds, but very very week. We thank those of you who contributed some money for emergency food, but KCCC can use more. There are lots of Jacqueline’s here. Just send a check to our house, and let us know the amount and we will give KCCC the money, and you will help save a life!!
• It is very hot here, and by the time we get home, we don’t feel like cooking. KCCC has a vocational training program which also includes cooking and catering, so we hired them to cook for us 3 evenings a week. For 4,000 Ugandan Shillings a night, ($2.36), we get a dinner in a takeout container usually consisting of several starches and a bit of meat. We have asked that they cut the starches from 3 to 1 and reduce the salt. So, they get another client, and we don’t have to cook.
• The day to day living is hard here, it is hot, the power goes off frequently, the traffic is impossible, the roads are worse, people are ever so poor and work very hard. But there is a bright side, we live in a lovely apartment and there are three people who work in our compound who are delightful. One is a young man, Geoffry, he has a wife and 4 children in a town far from here and sees them only on holidays, he drives and does chores like opening the gate when we come home or go out no matter what time it is. Anne, who is an older woman we all call “JaJa” (grandmother), she does the laundry and although we don’t have anything white anymore, everything is a certain shade of grey, she is always willing to help us and make sure to iron everything including our underwear. And the third is Margaret, who works 7 days a week 24 hours a day as the housekeeper and maid for the people who own the complex and us but always has a pleasant word and she heard I like fresh flowers so every few days we come home to find freshly cut flowers on the living room table from the garden. See the photo.
• We have been looking for a place to go to have a Passover Seder. We were going to go to the Abayudaya – the Ugandan Jewish community, but we could only go for a weekend, and it is too expensive. What to do? We considered flying to Israel for a week or so to visit family and friends, but that is even more expensive. Then, just like it was ordained, we overheard some people speaking Hebrew in a store, and Peter struck up a short conversation with them in Hebrew, and we were told that we would be invited to a Passover Seder with a group of Israeli’s who are here working temporarily in Uganda. You can always find a Jew nearly anyplace in the world.
• The rainy season seems to be upon us, When we say rain, we mean like in Noah’s day. Deluges! But luckily, most of the rain has been at night. It will probably continue until late April or early May.
• One of the ways to describe life here is noise, noise, noise, dust, dust, dust, traffic, traffic, traffic. Here is a photo of what it normally looks like at one of the intersections on the way to work. Cars, motorbikes, bicycles coming and going from every direction despite one way streets, stop signs, etc.
• If you have heard of “African time”, you know that means that time has no meaning. For Peter, that is very difficult. Well, finally, after nearly 70 years, Peter is learning patience from the Africans, and he seems ok with it. Of course there is nothing one can do about it, so why get stressed for nothing.

Let’s end here. Check out the photos.

Sula bulungi, or seeva bulungi, (have a good day, or a good night whatever time it is for you.

Love and hugs,

Katende and Mrs. Katende Peter

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Bicycle Milk Seller

One of our beautiful co-workers

Man selling live turkey and guinea fowl

Baby girl behind our office in her playpen

Girl in Kamowkya

Email 4

Email Number 4
Kampala, Uganda
March 2, 2008

Hello Everyone,

We are well, and hope you are also.

We have been here a little bit more than a month, and besides things like the heat, the more than occasional lack of power and water, we have no complaints, but rather, much to tell you – about our accomplishments, challenges, and lots of funny little experiences, so without further delay, let us begin, (in no particular order).

Peter’s Luganda skills, both speaking and even writing are improving every day. He carries a little notebook everywhere and each day writes down a new word or two. We don’t know who likes it more, Peter, or the Ugandans, but both are very impressed. (Peter has always been good at picking up languages, and everywhere we go he can get along in at least the basics, if not more. On that note, we want to share with you an email from a work colleague which will once again show you how well we get along here and how much we like Ugandans, and they us: “Hello beautiful guys,
just love you guys you make the world go round for quite many. Be blessed”

When you see the accompanying photo, you will better understand this story. Especially in the poorer areas of town, milk is delivered in bulk by bicycle – not pasteurized. As the milk can begins to empty, the delivery person stops at whatever water source is nearby and “tops it up” – we are sure you understand. Needless to say, this added water could come from any sources (including open drains and the like), and is an important reason why so many children get sick. We are not kidding – this is a very serious problem along with other just as serious sanitation problems.

In our last blog, we told you the story of a young woman who is quite ill and who lives in one of KCCC’s patient houses. She is 18. Her name is Jacqueline. She has AIDS and a very serious case of TB which must be brought under control before she can receive ARV therapy for her HIV/AIDS. We have put a photo of her here, and even though she looks very sick, and she is, she is beginning to get better. We and others on the staff have been getting her food and encouraging her to take her meds and get stronger, and it may be working. We got her a thermos to keep her juice cold. She has been up and down, but those of us who are helping are determined to save this one girl’s life. It will not solve the bigger problems, but we say that “if you save one person, you save the world”. We asked you to help by donating a little money to start an emergency fund for people like Jackie, and so far we have raised a couple of hundred dollars. It will go a long, long way, but more money will go a lot further for Jackie and others like her.

We have been working very hard – long hours at least from 8 a.m. to 7 or 7:30 at least 3 days a week and the other 2 days we work from 8am to 5pm, and while it tires us, it is ok, we will only be here until mid May. Hinda is really doing a great analysis of the problems and some recommendations for the medical clinic. However, the only real solution is more space. Both of us participate in long meetings with the management staff, they are not terribly efficient but we can only help them so much, and when we ask to be excused because we may not know about a particular issue, we are asked to stay and contribute. We feel respected and wanted. Peter is still busy working with the fundraising staff, and has kind of become the staff photographer and is working with other staff to put together a slide show while teaching them how to do it. And of course, both of us are always pulled away to handle fires that crop up, the latest of which is getting the office internet provider to keep the internet up and connected.

If there is power there is no internet – when the internet comes, the power goes away.

A couple of days ago when we came home we were excited to see that the power was on and we did not have to be in the dark, but we were informed by one of the house workers here that the “water was over, but would be coming back tomorrow”. It did but we feel like we can’t win, either power or water but not both!

The papers tell us that in the month of March the “power shedding” will affect our area as follows: 11 days no power, 10 nights no power. So is this new? No, just normal. Last night there was no power and no streetlights, this morning there was power, and the streetlights were on.

The other day, the E.D. picked up Peter’s local newspaper and asked if Peter was finished reading it and was told yes. He then looked at it briefly and commented that there was nothing good about it, and if the locals don’t like it, then why should the foreigners?

For those of you who have lived or traveled to countries like Uganda, you know that most of the clothes that most of the people wear are second hand, although they look like new. Everyone dresses in clean, starched and pressed clothes every day, and many of them do not have running water, or power, (ever)! In addition, Ugandans are the friendliest most polite people we have ever run across.

While the cost of some things are high, some things are still inexpensive: Hinda bought a house dress (used) for $7, and today, Peter got a haircut, including tip for $3.50.

By the way, lots of people here are rooting for Barack Obama – wonder why? (we are too)

So, we will come to a close for now and wish you the best.

With love and hugs

Mr. and Mrs. Katende Peter