Greetings from Mbale, Uganda!
Surprisingly, we have found very functional internet in the middle of rural Uganda. On Sunday we spent most of the day driving east from Kampala to a very rural village whose name escapes me right now. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking–actually somewhat similar to Colorado, but with an added tropically lush element. We spent two nights at a hotel unlike any other I have experienced. It was structured somewhat similarly to a summer camp, in that there were “dormitories” that were spread out, and we slept on bunk beds, with 4-6 people per room. It was built on the side of a hill/small mountain, and beneath us the land sloped down into a valley. On the other side, there were several waterfalls that I could see when I stepped out the door from my room. It was calm, quiet, and beautiful–a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city, for sure. It was somewhat like camping in that there were no real bathrooms–only latrines, and taps with running water for brushing teeth, etc. There actually were showers (something many of us don’t even have in Kampala) with hot water (a big thing for us!), which was amazing, even if the water was a little overly hot [read: scalding].
We went on several hikes in the valley, and up to the base of two different, and large waterfalls. We actually got to “shower” under one of the waterfalls, which was really cold, but so exhilarating and fun. I didn’t believe that we would be able to stand under the water without getting knocked down, but it was really possible. I loved it because I kept looking up and thinking “Wow, how many times in my life am I going to be able to look up and see THAT?” It was awesome.
We also did some work in the past few days (we are at school, after all). We had several lectures on research methods, and then we went out into the local community and used the various research methods we had been taught. (SIT has amazing resources/connections and they were able to set up groups of people who were willing to talk to us, so that was majorly helpful.) The people my team interviewed were really interesting–they were part of a small “merry-go-round” group, where about 20 of them decided to come together and pool some of their money monthly, then give the sum to a different person each month, based on a pre-determined schedule. That way, they were all able to make large purchases such as livestock, supplies of crops, parts for their houses, etc, that they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. It was a really cool way to see people working together.
We have a free night in Mbale tonight, but we are staying at a church-run guest house which has a curfew of 10PM so it probably won’t be too eventful. Then tomorrow we move into our rural homestays, where we will be for 3 days. During those three days, the only other SIT person we will see is the other student we have been paired with for the trip. Intense! But I like my partner so I think it will be fine. We’re also supposed to bring them gifts, and our coordinators told us that livestock are very popular gifts, so we’re bringing a hen! (They said since it will lay eggs, the family probably won’t kill it, so I hope they’re right!) But again with one of those rare opportunities…how many times am I going to be able to bring someone a live chicken as a gift? Out of time! Hope all is well. Peace and love!