This is Will writing from beautiful Hotel Zebra in Masaka, Uganda! Allie and I finally met up with Gaby and Eliza here on Wednesday afternoon, who had been in Uganda since Friday night, and Hotel Zebra since Sunday night. One of the first things I have noticed about Uganda is that everyone here seems to very happy and outgoing, regardless of how tough their environment is. This trait was extremely important today when I broke a computer that belonged to Steven, the head of the orphans department at Kitovu Mobile.
Yes, I managed to drop the ball on my second day of work. Whilst getting up to show some Luganda words from my notes to the group, I tripped over the power cord to the laptop that Steven had loaned us to work on our project. The computer fell to the floor, and although the external physical damage was minimal, the computer was not booting properly and it was obvious that the hard drive was damaged.
Needless to say, the few hours before we went to the field today were hectic. I was freaking out, trying to apply what little computer knowledge I have to the situation. It looks as though the computer will need a new hard drive (much preferred over the alternative of needing to buy a new laptop and probably having it shipped here).
Somehow Steven is one of the calmest people I have ever met, as is the rest of Kitovu’s staff (which I learned is an impressive total of 85 staff members). We will look into the situation Monday with the one-man IT team of Kitovu, James, and hopefully replace the hard drive here in Masaka. I cannot express to Kitovu, the members of the group and anyone else who is now a witness to this event how stupid I feel for causing this.
Anyway, I am very sorry for that bit of bad news so let’s move on to some good news. As I have previously said, Hotel Zebra is beautiful, we have wifi (sometimes), and Kitovu’s offices are only a mile or two down the road. Eliza and Gaby had already gone to three days of work when Allie and I finally arrived at the hotel (see previous post for that gripping tale). They have seen quite a bit of the field already, while Allie and I have been to one day of office work at Kitovu’s headquarters, and then another day of field work yesterday. This field visit was what Charles, the HR department of Kitovu and one of our main points of contact at the organization, called a familiarization tour. We did a lot of driving and made a few different stops. The first stop was at a meeting of self-help group (SHG) leaders, and some representatives from the cluster-level association (CLA) and federation levels (basically the SHG, CLA and Federation breakdown is the hierarchy of disseminating information throughout the communities of villages that Kitovu supports). The SHG’s meet fairly regularly at a fairly local location. CLA’s meet further away and the leaders from the SHG’s travel distances to meet. The same goes for the CLA leaders that travel to meet at the federation level. The federation level leaders report to the Ugandan government. It was great to see this breakdown in action at the meeting. Our next stop on the familiarization tour was a fishing village (almost all of the income comes from fishing) on the shore of Lake Victoria. As we were driving to this remote location that took hours on narrow dirt roads to get to, there was a steady decline in the quality of roads, buildings, and the health of village members. The fishing village was truly amazing to see. This is the kind of environment one thinks about when hearing about the intense struggles in a place like rural Uganda. As Charles showed us around and chatted with one of the more educated teenagers of the village in Luganda. We had a large entourage of children following us the entire time. Our next stop on the tour was to talk to a treasurer of a self-help group, whose name was Cone Solti (pronounced like Cohn Soltya). She was an elderly woman that had a connection with Steven and Charles. We gave her a ride from the main road where we met her to her house we she lived alone. She invited us in and I got to see the inside of her home. She lives by herself, as she was widowed 9 years ago, however the children that live next to her stop by frequently, so we got to meet them as well. It was wonderful to get to speak to this woman, with Charles translating, in her own home. Our last stop was on the side of the road to get some drinks at a small shop (which happen to be everywhere) and then we headed back to Masaka town, the more developed part of the district that is densely populated and far from what one defines as rural.
We plan to go to a beach of Lake Victoria on sunday which should be awesome. Wednesday night there were apparently two earthquakes (5.7 and 5.6 on the richter, whatever that means). I felt one at night around 10 while I was sitting in the main area of Zebra where there is wifi, a bar, tv’s, as well as plenty of seating and tables. It has been picture perfect, but for the travel crisis and now the laptop situation. Hopefully the bad luck is out of the way. Gaby or Eliza will update soon, check back sometime next week!