Thursday, August 27, 2009

Uganda, continued

We did a lot of work at Sunrise House, and learned a lot also. We bought all of the tools and equipment that we used and left all with Sunrise. Sunrise takes in mostly secondary children who are orphaned due to AIDS and most have some family around so they can spend the holidays with them but the families are unable to completely care for them.
One of the rooms was burned in October and we were able to completely clean it, sand the walls down, hire a carpenter to pull out the burned ceiling and replace the ceiling. Then it was repainted. Below are a few of the Sunrise boys working on the cleaning.

Everywhere we went there were children who came out to greet us and would just hang around. These are some of the children from the neighborhood.
In the picture below, our girls and girls from Sunrise were busy painting. At times there were so many people in the room to paint that it was difficult for our girls to adjust to the idea that the efficiency was not what mattered but working together as a group was. People are always helping each other here.
The last two days of our trip were spent at Queen Elizabeth National Park. We went on a boat tour to see the water and animals and also went by this small fishing village. They are getting the boats ready to take out. Two men will go out in each boat int he afternoon, sleep on the boat and start fishing the next morning.
The picture below is not an uncommon sight.
Small trucks, large trucks, laden down with produce to take to market with lots of people piled on top. I was always surprised that people didn't fall off but then the traffic doesn't move very fast either.

We accomplished a lot at Sunrise House. We met James, the manager, whom we had only been in touch with by phone and email. We learned that the long gaps between emails were due to the fact that he had to go in to town to use an internet cafe to get his email and to respond. And he would only go every three days or so. When we left, we left extra money and he was able to purchase a mobile modem and buy air time so he could use his computer where ever he was.
We took craft supplies, three lap top computers, soccer balls and a host of other things. We purchased the materials to finish the front the front of the building, which had remained only partially done. We left enough paint to paint the remainder of the rooms. We feed the orphanage lunch three times while we were there. We met the kids and made personal relationships with them. We met the staff and became friends with them. We saw with our own eyes what was needed and discussed various ways to work to sustainability.

I started both an art project and a sewing project. We purchased fabric to make small patch work table toppers or placemats which they can sell at the local African crafts stores in town. We brought back lots of paper beaded necklaces to sell here and send the money back. I left the kids with a lot of my personal art supplies so they could continue with their painting and I brought back lots of the pictures they did so I could use them to make cards to sell.

But most of all, I brought back visions of the future for a very poor country that is struggling to pull itself into the modern age with little infrastructure outside of the big cities. I also left with a lot of very personal experiences that will stay with me for ever. More on all of this later.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reflecting back

I spent time on the airplane today reflecting back on my past two weeks. I had tried to write in my journal regularly, had done a lot of writing on the computer, but it seems that it just didn't happen the way I thought it should.

So, today I starting putting down my observations on various subjects such as education, infrastructure such as water, power, waste management, etc and have pages going on with my thoughts. I plan to print out some of my pictures to illustrate what I am talking about.

But, for now, I am going to start sharing pictures from the trip.

This is a picture which includes Fr. Rob, Rachelle, Briana, Alicia, and Laura, in front of the hotel where we stayed for the first two nights in Kampala. Kampala is the capital of Uganda and is the largest city there. It teems with life, smells, noises, sights, and textures.

Taxis operate in a different way from what we are used to in Uganda. These vans are everywhere and are licensed to seat 14 although we had 21 in ours one day. To see one filled with people and goods that they are transporting hanging out the back end is quite a site. The taxis dart in and out. The driver is on the right side since they drive on the left. Just behind the front passenger seat is the person who rounds up fares. People check to see which taxi is going where and if where they want to go is on the way, they negotiate their price and hop on. They actually become mini buses and are a very reasonable way of getting around.

Much cheaper transportation is on a boda boda, or motocycle. These small engine machines have a cushion on the back and will take one passenger and sometimes two to where ever they want to go. They are also used for transporting goods, like something you might have ordered. I have seen them with women sitting neatly on the back with their legs on one side, nicely dressed, keeping balanced, while the boda boda winds its way through tight traffic.

I saw some traffic lights but it didn't seem like anyone paid attention to them. Roundabouts are far more hazzardous in Uganda than in England. People just cram on in. Large buses, taxis, private cars, boda bodas, bicycles which are similarly for hire, and people on foot. Pedestrians absolutely do not have the right of way.

The taxis maneauer in and out of the traffic, with the driver watching one side while his fare taker watches the other side. Many times people, bus, taxi and boda boda all come within a couple of inches of each other. At first this was really frightening but as we left we realized it was just the way it was. Only sometimes did we shut our eyes to what we thought might be a terrible accident which didn't happen.

On the drive to Fort Portal from Kampala, we stopped at this outdoor market. Under the tent are lots of people roasting things like bananas, chicken on sticks, goat on sticks, etc. The bus (another form of transportation) will pull up and the sellers run to the bus with their baskets of wares including bottled water, drinks and the roasted food. People lean out of the bus windows to buy what they want.

Sunrise House now has a guest house and we were the first to use it. We purchased the beds, linens, some kitchen supplies, etc to help get things together for use....especially so we could sleep there.
This is a picture looking out from the front yard through the garden and across the way to the hill which has homes and more small farms.

The house is surrounded by banana trees. We had banana at least three different ways every day. My husband had bananas here at home waiting for me but I am passing on them for a little while. When the banana stalk is harvested, the leaves and trunk are cut down, chopped up, and left in the field to return to the ground. New sprouts come up and continue growing.

Shops abound in Fort Portal. Many of the shops are very small, all open on to the street and business will flow in to the street also.

We were the talk of the neighborhood...everyone would watch the white people coming and going, but most of all the children. They would initially creep around the house to look at us and we would wave and they became bolder. We became good friends with many of the neighbor hood children through the use of my art supplies and paper. They would draw for an hour on the front porch.

Sometimes the children would call out "amerika" "amerika" to try to get the girls to come outside. We also had a small soccer ball which was used a lot at the house.

The girls received lessons in the proper way to wash clothes. They washed, and rinsed, and through they were done until Grace, the 20 year old who was cooking for us, told them they needed to do it again...two times in all for the clothes to get clean. Clothes would be layed over a line or placed on the grass or on bushes to dry.

So much is done with manual labor. No washing machines.

The kitchen has an electric stove and a stainless steel sink with small drain area and no other furniture. Grace would squat down to mix things in the pots on the floor. There was a small pantry that had a bottom cupboard only and that is where we kept the food and dishes.

We had cereal such as corn flakes and rice krispies for breakfast and Grace would go to the store each day to buy food for our dinner. She ate with us and would explain what she had made. We ate traditional Ugandan food. We could have, however, used a few cuts of meat that had more meat than bone on them but did just fine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Amsterdam again

Well, my thoughts about keeping this going the entire time went up into nothing as we have not had internet access while in Africa. I did briefly at the hotel in Kampala but not since we left there.

Right now I am at the Amsterdam Airport waiting for our flight back to SFO. It is a non stop flight lasting about 11.5 hours, after taking 13 hours to get from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Entebe for the airport. We had a three hour wait in the airport which was extremely hot and humid. Now we are sitting in Amsterdam again waiting after finishing a nine hour flight. We have a five hour lay over and arrive home on Saturday Afternoon...right now I have no idea what day it is...

I have taken about 1600 photos, have many notes, lots of things I will never take for granted again, and tons of emotions, impressions, thoughts, etc to process. On Sunday afternoon I am going to Asilomar to spend a week with a group of quilting ladies and will catch up on so much.

I will be sharing regularily to get everthing caught up...there is so very much to share.

See you all tomorrow, many pictures to come!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fort Portal

A long adventure yesterday as we left Kampala, drove in our 14 seat bu (which was a taxi) crammed full of nine people plus a driver and many pounds of luggage. We ad to make the one hour drive back to the airport to retrieve two bags, one that didn't make the connection and one that got left behind.

Then waiting at the airport for another hour and then back to Kampala and finally on the way to Fort Portal. It was a beautiful drive up into the mountains, passing many interesting things.

I am on a computer at the internet cafe at the hostle we are staying at. The connection is very slow and I am having trouble with the touch on the keyboard so it is taking me a long time to type a I have to make a lot of connections.

There is so much to share but my time is very short so I just wanted everyone to know we arrived at Fort Portal safe and sound and after breakfast we will be going to Sunrise House.

Will write later and hopefully load some pictures.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More than Half the way around the world

Doug had to at the church by 5:20am and I was surprised to see people already standing in the parking lot but they were not the people who were going on the trip. We had a wonderful contingent from the church there to send us off and pray with us before we left. We also had three members from the San Leandro Lions Club there to send us off. A couple of the girls had done a presentation at the Lions Club and they generously donated $250 toward our trip. They had made contact with the Lions Club in Kampala and also Fort Portal where we will end up.

My goodness, what a difference there is. Fascinating, unusual, interesting, confusing differences.

Of course, spending about 28 hours in travel made the first impression a little different.

We spent that long waiting at SFO, traveling to MPLS, waiting briefly there, flying to Amsterdam, waiting there for six hours and then flying almost nine hours to Entebe in Uganda.

Our seats tended to be in the very back of the plane which meant that it took us a while to get on and get settled but took us even longer to deplane because everyone in front of us left first. And when we arrived at the airport in Entebe, we waited in line in the hot, humid airport to go through immigration and then we had to deal with only one lost piece of luggage but that took an hour. A mini van had been arranged to pick us up and take us to Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda which was about an hour ride. However, before we got out of the airport, we were met by a wonderful group of people from the Lions Club in Kampala. It was a very warm, welcoming feeling to arrive in another country and been welcomed in such a wonderful manner. The Ugandans hug and kiss both sides of the cheek followed by handshakes. Big smiles everywhere even though we were absolutely beyond exhausted. We had made arrangements for a hotel and driver but the Lions had made arrangements for us at another hotel. So we ended up paying for one night at the hotel we didn't stay in and the driver gave us a ride to the hotel we are staying in.

We left the airport at about 11pm Uganda time, after spending three hours in the airport and then it took an hour to get to the hotel. Our luggage willed up the entire "trunk" space in the rear with more around us inside. I st in the second row so it was hard to see much besides what was right in front of us. So many motorbikes which are also used as taxis and will carry up to two people in addition to the driver. They don't go very fast but they do dip in and out between other vehicles. Additionally we were driving on the right hand side of the road so we have to be sure to look the other way before we step into the street. But more about that later. Lots of people out, even though it was late at night. It was also much cooler. We passed a lot of clubs with lots of loud music and people. Because it was dark I was only able to see what was right in front of me but I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore...

We all climbed into our beds and I was fast asleep but we were to meet for breakfast at 9am the next morning which left barely 7.5 hours for sleeping. I felt better this morning but still somewhat groggy and filled with jet lag. I was sure someone had told us the water at the hotel was safe to drink so I had a glass of water and brushed my teeth both before going to bed and upon rising. Then I found out it really wasn't safe. So uncomfortable abdominal feelings, probably due to the complete confusion of time and food my body had gone it to, immediately became a bacterial infection in my mind...oh no, I didn't want to be the first person in our group to start taking cipro...Fortunately, eating a very light breakfast and a light lunch helped and a 2.5 hour nap really made the difference.

Fr. Rob made arrangements for a tour guide to show us around on a walking tour. We didn't get going until almost noon and by then it was very hot and humid. We started out from the hotel and the first thing I noticed was all the traffic which had been quieter the night before. We took off at a very fast pace and then turned down a narrow alley way which had vendors in little shops along the way. The walkway was dirt and some steps here and there and rocks sticking out. I was having problems walking on the uneven surface. Then we rounded the corner on to the main street and were hit full face with Kampala! Loud horns honking, people shouting from taxis looking for business, people stepping in front of you offering their wares, people everywhere, diesel exhaust fumes galore, taxi vans everywhere filled with people, lots of cars and then even more scooter taxis dashing in and out of the traffic. We went first to exchange US dollars for Ugandan schillings...3 $100 bills turns into a big stack (618,000 worth) of smaller schilling notes! A big Stack!.d I am not used to looking at a bill to determine if it is 1000 or 10000 so I am somewhat slow. Armed guards were at all the exchange places..armed with rifles, not handguns. Very different but it was fascinating as people were exhanging money into all sorts of currency from all over.

And then the heat hit us. We also noticed big differences in smells, from different body odors, different food smells, different air smells, etc. At one time group went to the open market and there was a big dumpster filled with rotting fruit pieces and skins of the fruit which made a strong smell. I had to give up the walk because the heat was just too much and my knees and hips were really starting to hurt. Fr. Rob graciously sat with me and then we began a slow walk back to the hotel while the four girls and Anne went on.
Fr Rob and I really took it slowing with frequent rests. This was actually a good thing as we sat on the stump at the sidewalk and would just watch things happening.

One big thing that was happening is that people would really look at us...we are quite easy to tell apart from the Europeans and the Caucasians who live in Uganda. We were the strangers, we were white and a very black country. Some of the girls felt very uncomfortable about this but are getting used to it. What they are not used to is how many people have reached out to touch them and we are not quite sure what this is about. I really enjoyed watching women walk down the street with their beautiful clothes made from batik fabric. Probably one in three women were traditional clothing. I looked at a number of traditional dresses in the area but wasn't really feeling up to shopping at all. I will take another look, if not here, then in Kampala. Fr Rob and I found at St Paul book store run by nuns and we went shopping for some time. I found a green stole which had a Ugandan shield on it along with a cross so purchased it for him.

He and I had a leisurely lunch, because everything here is leisurely, on the terrace of the hotel, getting fogged out by exhaust fumes. After lunch I dropped quickly off to sleep for two and a half wonderful hours and woke up feeling so much better, including my intentional tract!..I I am sure you are happy to know that!

The girls come up to my room to work on their journals, painting, gluing things in etc. I have shown them the fine art of ephemera gathering and they are taking to it like good collectors. While in Amsterdam, I bought a newspaper in Dutch and we have taken out lots of pictures of airplanes from the magazines in the seat backs of all our flights. I have shown them how to look in magazines, not for articles but work text that is meaningful to them. They are working hard on these journals and are really happy they made them. This of course, made me feel great as they were not quite sure whey they were making them before we left. They are not firmly entrenched in an art journal habit!

We have spent a lot of time talking with the girls about their feelings and what they see and what they experience. One of the girls had only been as far east as Arizona so this is a very big change for her. No one had ever been in a culture like this.

It is exciting to be here. I feel so blessed to have been able to come, even though I am not able to physically keep up with everyone, it is working out just fine.

Tomorrow we head off to Fort Portal and Sunrise house. Sunrise House is turned Irene's sister's house in to a bed and breakfast and we will be the first to use it...of course, we have bought sheets for it and will see what else they need.

All I can say it that this is absolutely wonderful. Uncomfortable sometimes, but wonderful. We are looking eagerly to getting out of all the hustle and bustle of a big city and getting into a small town and more rural areas.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the support so many people have given me through purchase of my work to make this trip happen for me, donations toward the orphange, and the prayers of so many people while we are gone.

As it is now after midnight I haven't uploaded any images but hope to soon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

to Disneyland and back

I am so glad I got to spend some time in the studio last week because I have spent the last five days with my grandsons and their parents and my husband on a long drive to Long Beach and then to California adventure and then Disneyland. And, of course, the long drive back.

Today I had a completely adult day, spending it with Marjorie De Quincy and Marion Coleman at the quarterly SAQA meeting in Petaluma. I haven't been able to go for some time so it was really nice to see people I haven't seen in a long time.

Best of all, I saw Cathy Ortelle who suffered a stroke a couple of years ago and is finally able to life her left arm up to her shoulder and to even touch her head with her left hand. This is just wonderful because Cathy is a die hard quilter with a long arm machine and just a fe months ago she got a quilt on her long arm and quilted it. I have mentored Cathy for several years and really appreciate the gains she has made as a quiltmaker but most of all her ongoing recovery.

I was also able to see Karen Flamme who had an aneurysm several months ago and is now on the rapid road to recovery.

Keep Miriam Nathan-Roberts in your prayers; she is again fighting cancer.

I finished the day with a nice Thai dinner with other great friends, Robin Niderost and Carol Suto. Carol had three pieces accepted in to a recent show of small works and received a Juror's Choice award for one of her pieces. Way to go!

I have started my typhoid vaccine, I have gotten a new day pack, we have our plans for the trip and tomorrow I start packing.

Saturday at 5:30 am we leave from the church to go to SFO and on our way to Uganda.

This is getting exciting now!

We have all made journals which are just beautiful and I will start putting things in now, like the map, itinerary, etc

It's a reality I am still finding hard to believe! I am going to Africa! I have been ready Lisa Call's blog and she is in South Africa now.