Posted 2 years ago

Day 16/17: Safari and Soweto

On Tuesday, we went on a safari at Pilanesberg Game Reserve, about 2 hours from Johannesburg.  It was the coolest experience- we saw elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, impala, kudu (antelope-like), baboons, zebras and more I can’t think of right now! At  one point, a momma elephant got protective of her baby and ran towards our car! I have it all on footage, including us driving away really fast! So cool!

Yesterday was our last day in Africa.  We traveled to Soweto, the area where blacks were forced to live during Apartheid.  It was crazy to walk through the slums and see the conditions people live in. Really makes you appreciate what you have. We visited the Hector Pietersen museum, too-Hector was a 13 year old boy killed in the school riots of June 16, 1976.  We learned a lot about Apartheid and even got to tour Nelson Mandela’s old house!

After a 17 hour flight and two 1.5 hour flights, I am finally home! This trip has been one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m so blessed to have the opportunity! I learned so much!

P.S. Thanks to all of you who followed this :) 

Posted 2 years ago

Day 14/15: Johannesburg

Yesterday morning, we arrived in Johannesburg after a VERY early flight.  It looks just like the US, which is quite a shock after Kampala.  We are staying in an awesome guesthouse and got to talk a lot with the owner and architect. It’s so beautiful.

Our first stop was the Apartheid museum, which was the biggest museum I’ve ever seen.  We spent 2 hours there, but we could have probably spent 20- there was so much reading.  It was really interesting, especially because none of us have really studied Apartheid before.  I learned a lot but it was very overwhelming! 

We went to dinner at a yummy french cafe and then went to bed early which was nice.

Today we went to the University of Witswatersrand, which houses the International Human Rights Exchange.  We talked to the director, a professor, and a student, and I’ve definitely decided that I want to study abroad here in the Spring!! The campus is beautiful and the program houses one of the only human rights programs with an internship to supplement coursework. Katie and I are so excited to study here!

We had a brief talk with the owner of the guesthouse and her experiences with Apartheid.  Interestingly, she grew up in a racially mixed family and interracial communication was normal for her.  She told us that Apartheid, although supported by law, was bound to fail because it was not universally practiced.

We went shopping and to an awesome restaurant called Melon tonight, and tomorrow we’re going on a safari!! So excited! 

Posted 2 years ago

Day 13: Goodbye Kampala

Today is our last day in Uganda.  This morning we went to a super crowded food market and checked out all the local meat, fish, and produce.  There were a couple of street vendors selling grasshoppers fried in oil and we all forced ourselves to try them! Really crunchy and salty is all I have to say.  Much to the dismay of the Ugandans, we said they were all right but that we didn’t want a whole bag like they did. Check that off the bucket list lol..hopefully we don’t die.We also tried something called a rolex, which is chipati (flat bread) wrapped around eggs and tomatoes. SO GOOD! We need to make these happen in the US.

We went to a yummy pizza restaurant for lunch (and ate way too much) then headed off to Maureen’s (20 year old EAC student) house.  Her house was in better condition than Milton’s but was still a tiny, one room shack with a bathroom shared by 36 people.  Crazy.  It was so funny to see how much Maureen is like her mom- super talkative and constantly laughing.  We tasted some of her grasshoppers (better than the ones in the market) and roasted pork, too!

We’re back at the ARA for a short and rare break before we go to the Kisugu house (where the EAC kids live while not at school) for dinner and a performance by the dance troupe.  It’ll be so sad to leave them!

Hopefully we get back fairly early because we have to leave at 4 am tomorrow morning for our flight to Johannesburg! Yikes.

Posted 2 years ago

Day 12: Slum

Today, we went to Taibah International School, where all the EAC kids went to secondary school.  We toured the buildings and sat in on some classes, which were taught using two different curriculum.  The British-Cambridge style geography class I visited was very open-ended and focused on writing.  But the Ugandan style history class I went to was much more focused on memorization and repetition.  It was good to see a mix of these two styles, and that kids have a choice, even though the Cambridge classes are more expensive.  Overall, the kids seemed happy and well-cared for and I can see why EAC chose Taibah to send their kids to.

We then went to the Serena, a GORGEOUS and super fancy 5-star hotel in Kampala.  We sat in a conference room and got to listen to a panel of experts from law, business, technology, and art backgrounds.  Unfortunately, health wasn’t represented but that’s ok.  I learned a lot and we had a really good discussion.

Our last stop was at the home of Milton, a 13 year old EAC student who lives in the Kisugu slums.  He and his mother were so sweet, both beaming when we arrived with gifts of vegetables.  It was so inspiring to see how happy they were living in the midst of crowded streets, one-room houses, and no plumbing/electricity/water.  Seriously, Milton is the happiest kid I’ve ever met.

We were supposed to go clubbing with Faith, Brian, Maureen, and Daniel (we had already been granted permission) but then the adults decided it wasn’t safe enough so they cancelled it.  I would have been ok if they had just said no in the first place.  I understand the liability but it was kind of a let down because we’ll never have a chance to experience something like that again. Oh well.

Tomorrow is our last day in Kampala and I’ll miss the EAC kids so much!! But I’m stoked for South Africa!

Posted 2 years ago

Day 11: Embassy

Yesterday, we went to our individual research sites- Brian and I went to an organization called Save the Mothers and talked to an awesome doctor who runs the program. She trains doctors to care specifically for maternal health and supervises area hospitals to improve their conditions. I learned so much from her stories, especially her contact with survivors of female genital mutilation and mothers who have experienced complications. We then went to lunch (really yummy sandwiches and gelato) and then arrived at the American Embassy. The security was so tight and we had to get badges and go through official checkpoints. We spoke with the Ambassador, Deputy Ambassador, Director of Human Rights, and the head of USAID- quite a panel, I know! It was such a cool opportunity and we all felt so important! Dinner was at a hotel overlooking Lake Victoria and we got some great pics of the view! Fun day! 

Posted 2 years ago

Day 9/10: Sunrise

Yesterday, we travelled outside of Kampala to a village near Lake Victoria to visit Sunrise primary school and the neighboring health clinic.  We played with the kids and talked to some of the teachers, who were really inspiring.  They took kids from low income families and provided education through second grade.  The problem is the lack of opportunity after they graduate but the headmaster is working on creating a third grade so that will help.  The kids were so cute!!

We did some work at the health center, a tiny shack with a room for general patients and a room for labor and delivery.  We gathered grass on our heads to thatch a roof and painted some of the interior. The pharmacy was a bookshelf with maybe 10 boxes of medication and the clinic was very bare.  I asked the nurse what he needed most and he said Anti-retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, so I took his contact info and will put in a request to send a box at Project CURE when I get home.  Hopefully I don’t disappoint him!

We spent the night at a really cool campground near the school.  There was dancing, drumming, storytelling, and a goat roast.  Goat is actually pretty good! Kinda weirded me out that I had seen the goat walking around a few hours earlier lol.

Today we visited Lake Victoria (biggest lake in the world) and it was beautiful! We saw some ritual caves and shrines near the beach! 

Yummy dinner and now Courtney (EAC staff), Ketetha and I are watching a movie! 

Posted 2 years ago

Day 8: EAC

Yesterday was our first day with Empower African Children, an organization in Kampala that supports kids’ education and runs the Spirit of Uganda dance team that travelled to SMU in March.  We met with the CEO, Frank Roby, and his wife, Linda (both SMU graduates) and listened to a series of lectures on everything from Ugandan history to human rights.  Really interesting stuff! We also ate with some of the EAC students our age: Brian, Daniel, Faith, Maureen, Simon Peter, and Willington, some of whom we met at SMU.  They are so sweet and I loved being in class with them.

The big event of the day was going to the US Deputy Ambassador’s house (also an SMU graduate) and having drinks with her and US Ambassador Lanier.  It was so fancy and literally the biggest house I’ve seen here. OMG. It was a really cool experience to learn about foreign service and how the Ambassadors got to be where they are now.

We’re leaving now for a camping trip with the students to Lake Victoria!! So excited! :) 

Posted 2 years ago

Day 6/7: Road to Uganda

Yay a working keyboard!!! Yesterday, we took the 9 hour drive north to Kampala, Uganda.  It was a beautiful trip- rolling hills and green everywhere.  The customs at the border was CRAZY with lots of AK47s and scary-looking military police officers.

On the way, Amon and William (tour guides) took us to a small pineapple stand on the side of the road in Southern Uganda.  We all scarfed down so much delicious, juicy fruit and it was literally the best thing I ever had!!

We also saw a bunch of wild zebras in the countryside which was really cool. It was my first non-zoo zebra sighting.  Then we went shopping at a local arts market (where I spent too much haha) and then to a drum store where Katie and Allison danced while the employees drummed.  It was a party with the Muzungus!! So fun.

Last night, driving into Kampala was a little scary. Picture the stereotype of a developing country- tiny streets surrounded by shacks and people everywhere.  It reminded me a lot of rural Mexico.  We’re staying in the American Recreation Association guest house which is pretty nice and VERY well guarded (barbed wire and all).

This morning, Kampala looked a lot more beautiful and less crowded.  Amon and William took us to the National Museum which the anthropologists of the group (Amanda and I) LOVED. So much cool history and one million-year old fossils! After a yummy lunch of passion fruit juice, chicken, rice, potatoes, kassava, and millet, we went to the tombs of the last four kings of Uganda which was really cool. Our tour guide is the nephew of the current king of Buganda (main ethnic group) and he gave us a great history of the area’s local leadership.

It’s our last day with Amon and William which is really sad:( They are so awesome and I will miss them a ton! This evening we have rare free time before Frank, the CEO of Empower African Children, starts our 8am-8pm days tomorrow.  Yikes- we’ll learn a lot but be so tired!

Posted 2 years ago

Day 4/5: Urukundo

Today we got back from our two day trip to Urukundo; a home for children near Butare in southern Rwanda: it was such an awesome opportunity!!

Yesterday we went to the genocide memorial at Murambi which was a technical school where 50000 people died in 1994.  This was the most difficult memorial we have been to as there were 24 classrooms in 6 buildings containing lime preserved bodies. The stench was awful and the sight very gruesome especially when seeing the bodies that were clearly children. Just horrific.

After that rough start we headed to Urukundo orphanage where we met Mama Arlene who is caring for 40 abandoned 3 to 7 year olds at age 85. Truly amazing! We were greeted by a bunch of joyous little kids who we played with all day! My favorite was Kenny a 4 year old who attached himself to my hip and was the most adorable thing ever!!! In addition to playing with the kids we did some manual labor: Allison Amanda and I took down a brick wall and spent the rest of the day covered in dirt which was funny. Although the home was severely lacking in proper facilities it was clear that these kids were provided with love and a good home which was awesome to see! Ill miss them so much!

Today we also went to FIDESCO which is one of Allisons NGO contacts that provides a 5 month home for street kids and introduces them to dance.  We attended a dance class and all the kids were so cute! Katie and Ketetha joined in on across the floor exercises also which was really funny.

Ate a yummy dinner at an Italian place called Sola Luna and going to bed soon so I can get up at 530 to start the 10 hour drive to Kampala Uganda… I am excited but will miss Rwanda so much!

PS. Sorry for the lack of commas: that key decided not to work today haha

Posted 2 years ago

Day 3. Muzungu

Today was soo long but awesome. also excuse the awful typing: the keys on this keyboard are all messed up.

We went to two genocide memorials this morning: both in a city called Bugusera. The Nyamata and Interama sites are both churches where tutsis fled during the genocide and were murdered on April 15 1994. 5000 were killed at Nyamata and 2000 at Interama.  There were displays containing the clothes and skulls of victims which was extremely gruesome. It was really powerful to see how the community is rebuilding itself and how strong the people are though!

After lunch we went to see one of Corbins contacts at the Kigali Institute of Information and Technology. Everything computer science/engineering goes over my head but it was really interesting to compare a Rwandan university to ours in the US.

We also got called muzungu or white people by some kids which was really funny

Finally we went to Les Enfants de Dieu home for boys where headmaster Rafiki helps kids zho for,erly lived on the streets to find homes education and health care. He had a really cool business model where the boys help run the place by each being ministers of different departments.

May not be able to blog tomorrow as we are going to the Urukundo orphanage overnight. So busy but so blessed to be here(: