Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Entebbe Botanical Gardens

Since I couldn't really venture out into Uganda beyond the city of Entebbe, I wanted to see a more natural place- to feel like I wasn't in the middle of a city or town.  So, we had one of the drivers take us to the Botanical Gardens, on the shore of Lake Victoria.

I wish I could make these pictures bigger, because it was just incredible.

Not how you thought Africa looked, right?

 Oh look, kudzu!  (not really)

 The water was bright green.
There were really cool vines hanging down.
 Those are huge ant and termite hills.  Do NOT get close!

I have no idea how old these stairs were, but they looked really cool in the middle of the forest!

The roots of these trees were cool and knobby.  I think Marshall said it was called a Crocodile tree, now I've got to find out! :)

That's the conclusion of the pictures from my trip to Uganda!  It was amazing, and I'd love to go back someday if I ever get the chance. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Shopping and Monkeys

...but NOT shopping for monkeys! 

During Marshall's last deployment, I made a pretty hefty purchase of a fabulous piece of art, made by a friend from NC.  I decided that for each deployment Marshall goes on, I get to buy another piece of art.  So, with that in mind, we went in search of some African art.

In a large field that on the weekends holds a huge Market, we found this man selling his paintings.  He's actually Kenyan, and much of his art shows the Maasai people.  Maasai are a mainly nomadic tribe who follow their herds through Kenya and neighboring Tanzania.  All of this was painted on canvas, and he just laid it out for me to say "Yes" or "No".  Once he realized my preferences, he could quickly dig through his piles and pull out more!  Some of the paintings have Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background.

Aren't they gorgeous!?  The colors are so bright, and I love the way he paints the people.

We went to another place that sold wood carvings.  Although I like a lot of the stuff here, it was more expensive, and not going to fit in my suitcase!  Look at that awesome door in the middle!

One restaurant we went to had a gift shop, with piles of beautiful fabric.
 There were also more wood carvings.
 And more!

These are woven baskets, and the musical instruments are a traditional Ugandan instrument called an Adungu.  I brought one home!  Arched harp-type instruments are common in this part of Africa.  Another one you may have heard of is called the Kora.

Marshall got a call from one of his friends to tell him the monkeys were at the Contractor House, and we should hurry over so we could feed them.  By the time we got there, this is what it looked like:

These are not tame monkeys.  They are wild animals who live nearby, who have realized that the humans living here will feed them until their bellies are full, so they keep coming back for more.  But you have to be careful.  A few of them seemed quite hostile!
 This was as close as I've ever been to a monkey, and a little too close for my comfort!  They were fed bananas, mangoes, cookies, and crackers.  They definitely had preferences of what they liked most!

You have to keep the doors and windows shut, or they come in and raid your house!

So amazing.

 As soon as the monkeys thought the food was running out (or they got bored with the selection) they headed back the way they came- over the top of this neighboring hotel.  You can see the giant water barrel, with a hose hanging down.  They slide down that metal pipe like it's so easy!

The monkeys were definitely a cool experience, and one I'm glad I got the chance to have.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Around Entebbe

I didn't spend all my time in Uganda at the hotel, school, or orphanage.  We got out quite a lot, and I saw many places that Marshall and his friends like to go.

This is a popular sandwich shop, not a hair cutting place like you might expect.

I've seen this type of security system before- at the DuPont Estates in Delaware.

These are fruit stands on the side of the road.  As far as I could tell they were all selling the same things, so I asked Marshall's driver how he chooses which one to buy from.  He said you just normally always go to the same one, which answers and doesn't answer my question.

This is one of the eating areas at a restaurant called Anna's Corner.

This building next to the restaurant holds a library, a small computer lab, and a few rooms filled with crafts that are for sale.

This is the view from a bar called the Aero Club.  It overlooks part of Lake Victoria, and you can barely see it, but on the left is the edge of the Airport Runway.

More view from the Aero Club.  The sun is going down in between the two palm trees.

While I was in Entebbe it was a very special time, because the Bugandan King was scheduled to come and visit.  The Buganda are one of the tribes of people living in the area, but of course he is not the King of everyone- only those from his tribe.  There were people setting up big displays, putting up stages, and collecting donations to decorate more for the King's visit.  We stayed off the roads while he was in town, because they were all packed and we couldn't have gone anywhere anyway, but we could hear the commotion coming from the street.  Everyone was yelling and cheering, honking their horns and ringing bells.  Below you can see one of the displays they built for the King.

This is the Ugandan President's residence.  Right after I took this picture I saw a big sign that said pictures were forbidden.  Oops.

We ate at a restaurant that was right on the beach of Lake Victoria.  It was good, but it got chilly as the sun set.  There were some people swimming in the lake, and others walking up and down the beach selling things.  We bought some roasted peanuts and corn kernels that were really good!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A trip to the orphanage

Marshall heard from another person working in Uganda that there was an orphanage called Malayaka House that sold pizza as a fundraiser.   Being the pizza lover that he is, he had to check it out!  He's been going back ever since, and added them to his charitable efforts, in addition to the school.  Malayaka House is one of the more organized and supported orphanages.  They have volunteers that come and live there for 6 months at a time.  At the moment most of the volunteers living there are from Spain.  It also has running water and electricity, which not every house has.

When I asked the woman in charge if any of the children there had been adopted, she looked at me like I had two heads.  She said that there is likely no chance that these kids will be adopted because no one really knows about them, and the Ugandan government doesn't make it easy.  (However, when I told Marshall's driver this, he shook his head and said if I wanted to adopt a Ugandan baby that it would be easy for me.....just have to show them the money!).  The Spanish woman said that Uganda doesn't have an adoption agreement with Spain, so even if she wanted to adopt one of the children, she couldn't.  But she said the USA does allow Ugandan adoptions, but often it takes so long, and requires so much bureaucracy that it doesn't happen.  In her opinion these kids will grow up here, and finish school, and eventually get jobs and move out.  But they are supported by Malayaka House until that happens.  I was glad to hear that they aren't put out on the street the moment they turn 16.  Many of them have sponsors who pay their school fees so that they can attend school.  I have to admit that I did sit there and wonder what it would be like to live there for 6 months taking care of the children.  Maybe in my next life....

Orphanages in Uganda are not as organized or regulated as one might expect.  Often they arise from someone in the community just taking in children, and relying on the kindness of others to donate things they need.  One morning while I was reading the local newspaper, I found a column that featured lost children who had been found or abandoned.  It showed about 10 kids, had a picture of each, what their name was, where they had been found, and who was taking care of them if the family member wanted to come and collect them.  Some of the children had just been taken to the market by a family member, and given a little bundle of clothes or food, and then abandoned.  It was sad.  I was amazed that there were enough lost children to be featured in the paper, but also amazed that they would put their location in the paper, where any random stranger could come and get them.

I only took one picture of the children here, and it is while they were eating.  I was busy handing out toys that we had brought, and playing with them.  The kids followed me, a few of them wanted to hold my hand, or hug me!  They all called me "Auntie", which is what they call any woman who comes there.  Most of them did not have shoes on, and they were reasonably clean, although their clothes were not in great shape.

Sorry- not a great picture!  It was dark in the room where they eat.  After they eat, they put the kids to bed, and the pizza restaurant opens.

From their pizza menu:

This is their front yard- there is an AMAZING (and Mama-anxiety-causing) tree house!

The main building of the orphanage has a water collection system on the roof.

It dumps the water into a trough down here

Another building in the back.  The red door is the bathroom with a toilet, but from what I could tell that is only for guests.  It seems the children use an outhouse.

This is the pizza hut where they cook all their pizzas with only ONE oven!  Some of the people working with Marshall have raised enough money to buy them another oven so they can make more pizzas (and faster!).  I brought them a bunch of pizza cutters in my luggage.

The dough is rising, and the beer is cooling!  They also make their own mozzarella.

Isn't this awesome!?  This is where they serve the pizzas!  By the time we left that night this whole area was filled with people eating pizzas.

They have a garden around the side of the building.  You can barely see it, but there are plank walkways that you have to balance on to walk around.

They also have a few pigs.

Inside the house I only wanted to take a few pictures, because I didn't want to invade the children's privacy.  This is where their clothes are kept.  Each kid has their own cubby, and their own clothes.  Many of them only have a few things to wear, and the clothes we did see them wearing were very worn out and old.  I brought more clothes down in my luggage.

One of the sleeping rooms.  The mattresses are pulled up to keep the house dogs off the beds.

Something that is really great, is that since the American contractors and workers have started supporting Malayaka House, they have found other orphanages in the area that are also in need of help.  Sometimes it is basics like food, and sometimes they are behind on paying their electric bill, and will have their power cut off.  So, other people working with Marshall have started to organize to help these other kids out.  My biggest hope is that the Americans who are working there in Uganda will make a positive and lasting impression on the area.   If they can leave Entebbe a better place than it was when they got there, then I would say the mission was successful.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I just *can't* do it all

Life has been busy.  With Marshall gone I'm playing the role of Mama and Daddy, while doing an awful job at nearly everything.  When things get busy, the first thing to go is the blog.  Unfortunately I just don't have the time to sit and write (even though I want to!), or upload photos with explanations.  Often I just grab the iphone and snap a pic, and upload it to facebook immediately, which saves me tons of time and still lets people know that we are still alive.

I have quite a lot of good photos on my camera that I want to share, but it will take a while.  So- I'm just going to start with what happened most recently, which was my trip to Uganda!  Now, most people's reaction to finding out I was going to Uganda was "Why?".  And the simplest answer is that Marshall is there.  But a more involved answer, which would make a lot more sense, has to do with the project that Marshall started after he arrived, collecting school supplies and sports equipment (and later clothes and toiletries) for a school and orphanage there.  I began to collect quite a lot here in Germany also.  Since I have always wanted to travel to Africa (really I want to travel anywhere!), we hoped it would work out that I could go down for a visit, and bring a huge shipment of stuff with me.  The stars aligned, we had some great friends offer to watch the kids, the airfare was reasonable, his command was understanding, I got SIX vaccinations, and it all worked out!

I won't post every single photo, and there are many that I didn't take simply because I felt that it would be intruding to whip out my camera and snap pictures of people's homes or children.  Other times I was busy just soaking up the experience, and later wished I had taken pictures, but then my experience would have been different.  I also will not post pictures of Marshall's hotel, because he is still living there, and this is a public blog.  But I hope you can see through the photos that I do post that Africa is a beautiful place.  The people there are just like you and me, trying to make a life for themselves and their children.  While there is crime and poverty, there is also love and generosity.  I encourage anyone reading this to take any chance you might get to go to Africa, and you will return a changed person.

This is how Marshall rolls.  He has a driver (who sometimes scared me with his driving!), who is very nice.  They drive on the left side of the road, and on EVERY road there are people walking along the sides.  There are also motorbikes called "bodabodas" darting around, with 3 or 4 people on them.  One of the flags on the dashboard is the Ugandan flag.  The bird in the middle is called a Crested Crane.

 Oh hey UPS truck.  I guess you really do deliver everywhere.

 This is the wall that surrounds the school where Marshall has been playing with the children, and is now collecting school supplies and sports equipment for them.  It's a little disconcerting at first, but nearly everywhere has a wall around it, and a guarded gate.

 This children were resting when we arrived, and most had already left for the day.

The school van.

They got the kids up from rest to come in and see us.  They aren't wearing their uniforms anymore because the school day is over.  We gave out some of the snacks we brought, and they were so excited!  They probably didn't go back to sleep after we left!

 We came back the next day to play in the morning when the kids were all there, during their normal recess times.  While I did learn quite a few children's names, I'm not going to put them here for their privacy.  Again, I don't know everyone who reads this blog- better safe than sorry.  Behind these kids you can see the gate you have to come through to get to school.

 Razor wire around the walls.  They are getting ready for a tire race (they LOVE this game!)

 There they go!  Up the hill, and then back down.  One girl is playing with one of the new jump ropes.

They painted their playground bright colors, which makes it makes it look much happier.

All the children loved to see their own photo.  They always wanted to see it immediately after I took it, and then they would laugh SO HARD!


This metal merry-go-round was pretty cool.  The kids took turns running around the edge and pushing each other.

They were as curious about me as I was of them!
After this we brought out some frisbees, only to discover that they did not know what to do with a frisbee!  After a few demonstrations it went a little better, but mostly ended with 10 kids all tugging on the frisbee.  Oh well, that's still exercise I guess!

Tomorrow I'll upload some pictures from our trip to the orphanage.