Monday, July 27, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To view more pictures from Africa, click HERE.

I figured it would be easier to upload pictures to one server instead of two and then just post the link.

-The designated uploader, Erin :)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sorry I have not been able to update this in a while. I attempted to post one
earlier in July but it never got on for some reason. But hopefully now it is.

Things are going well here. We are finally starting to do some more hands on
work within the communities which has kept us very busy. I have not been able
to come back to the hotel here before eight o clock yet this week. This is the
first day I have been able to come back earlier. We usually leave TASO around
10:30 every morning in the back of one of their vehicles. One time it was just
the three of us but recently they have been becoming more and more crowded.
Once we are out in the community, we are either helping with drug distribution
or home-based counseling. Many of the homes we go to are an hour away from
Kampala and about thirty minutes from any paved road. Some of the houses are
so far back that the roads are just simple trails. The way the vehicles are
set up, the passengers in the back sit facing each other along the sides. To
make it even more uncomfortable, there are no seatbelts. So half of the time,
we are hanging on to the bottom of the seats trying to keep ourselves from
falling off of them. The roads themselves are in pretty bad shape, but the
drivers continue to go about 60 miles per hour on them. Since we cannot
understand the language very well, we are unable to communicate with many of
the people. So instead we simply wait outside the vehicle while the counselors
talk with the people. We don’t really mind it since it gives us a break to
stand up rather than sit inside the car.

In the local dialect here in Kampala, white people are called “mazuno.” So many
times whenever we are traveling in these remote villages, you can hear people
saying “mazuno!” That is code for “Everybody come outside and look at the
white person.” In some cases, the people will gather around our vehicle so
that we cannot open the door to get out. When we finally do get out, everyone
acts like they came to gather around the vehicle for some other reason. Like
looking at the shrubbery on the side of the road, or admiring the many banana
trees. Every time we stop at a house to talk to the residents, a crowd gathers
on the road to watch. But all of this attention isn’t always a bad thing.
Whenever we are out in the communities and pull over on the side of the road,
people run up to the windows with beef sticks, roasted corn, and roasted
bananas. Because of this, we never go hungry. I am able to get a beef stick,
2 ears of corn, and three bananas for one dollar. Not to mention we always get
some form of fruit at every house. One time, the residents came up to the
window and dumped a basket full of peanuts on the floor. So as we drove down
the narrow dirt road, we ate peanuts and threw the shells out the window. One
of the people in our group attempted to hold on to theirs in order to keep from
littering. The counselor across from her just took them and threw them out the
window. So no one really seems to mind doing this. As for the finished ears
of corn, those are thrown out as well with little regard for what is coming
ahead. Many times a car is forced to swerve in order to miss being hit by it.

As for the pictures, the fruit that you see that as Erin puts it “a body organ,”
is called a Jackfruit. It actually tastes very good but it has sap on it that
makes your hands very sticky. You can also see it as the giant green ball
sitting on the floor of the car.

The roads here are in very bad condition which creates a lot of accidents, like
the overturned truck in the pictures. We saw three of trucks like that within
5 miles of each other along one road. Luckily I have not seen one since. But
we have seen several other accidents involving the taxi vans.

Everywhere we go outside of the city, banana trees, sugarcanes, tea bushes, and
coffee trees are all over the place. In some of the homes, you can see a pile
of coffee beans laying on the ground, and drying in the sun along with the

Many of the houses are made out of bricks which are being made in one of the
pictures. So in front of most houses is a pit, or what is left of one, from
where they dug up the clay to make the bricks. I haven’t got a picture of this
but the roads are made up of red dust which, due to the constant driving that
goes on, paints the surrounding vegetation red. So along the side of the roads
all you see are red trees, and red bushes.

Along with the brick houses, some houses are round with straw roofs as you can
see in the pictures. Those houses are located in a refugee camp in which we
went to and delivered medications. It is guarded by the military who, in
return for allowing us to go inside, received a bag full of condoms.

Many of the households have several chickens and goats. The chickens roam free
which includes inside of some houses. Some of the better homes have cows,
which to my surprise, have horns. Some of which are as big around as my leg
and about 3-4 feet long. I have yet to get a picture of them since we usually
see them as we are driving along the dusty roads at 60 MPH. However, I was
able to get a picture of one of the horns which I found while walking around in
a banana tree forest.

Sorry it has taken so long to put another post on here, but the internet is very
slow and will not allow me to upload anything. So I have to email the blog
posts to Erin along with the pictures. I will put another post up hopefully
around the beginning of next week. That is my plan

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I am typing this while sitting in an office at TASO so I am sorry if I seem a bit rushed. Today has been a good day as well as yesterday. I will start with yesterday.

Apple and I went with a home-based counseling service where we traveled throughout this area and made house visits to people who are about to start on ARVs (the medication to slow HIV). It was actually a lot of fun. Apple and I got back here around 6:30. So we had a full day. I will show you some pictures as soon as possible, but that might not be tonight (I will explain further down). A lot of the people we met with yesterday were minors who had just received their CD4 results. Most of them were in school so we met with the parents, or grandparents in most cases, and explained how to take the medication and that they need support from the family. We ate nonstop. Every now and then, we would stop along the side of the road, roll the windows down, and buy food from the many street vendors. They would bring roasted plantains, roasted corn, and beef on a stick. It was wonderful. For 1 dollar, I could get three plantains, 1 corn, and a stick of beef. Not to mention we got food at every house we stopped at. One of them actually brought a big basket full of peanuts and dumped them on the floor of the LandCruiser. We then ate all of them. As for the trash we had leftover, it was usually thrown out the windows.
It was all organic stuff, so don’t worry. I literally could eat like that everyday. At the end of the day, we had more fruit in the back then we could handle. We had two huge Jackfruits (google it), several mangoes, apricots, passion fruit. We didn’t have room to put our feet on the ground.

I actually just had a funny thing happen to me. I was sitting here in this office, and the person who works in here came by with two Americans. So I told them what this office does and showed them some files and stuff like that. Then one of them (from Texas) asked me “So how many years have you been here in Uganda?” I started to laugh. They were amazed that I have only been here a few weeks. I didn’t think I had changed that much. I guess it was because I knew so much about what TASO is doing and knew all of the people walking around. I am still laughing actually.

So now I will tell you what exactly I am doing in this office. I have spent the entire day in this office handing out school supplies to children in primary and secondary schools. I know it seems kind of lame, but I am actually enjoying it. I listen in on the counseling sessions as well and talk to some of them. I actually feel like I am making a difference now. Only it took me two weeks to figure this out. Oh well. I can always come back later on. I also sat in on a meeting today that was kind of boring but I learned a lot. It was between the Center Manager here, the Project Manager whom I am under, and the Manager of the hospital’s cancer center. I think TASO is trying to partner up with them in order to bring more cancer testing into the center. They believe that there is a correlation between HIV and cancer. Mainly since HIV can weaken the bodies defense against cancer, but also because both of them are like a death sentence to the patients and many of them refuse to treat it. So they are trying to help the people who are both HIV positive and have cancer. Anyways, I won’t be getting back to the guest house until late tonight. I am going to a lecture tonight about sustainable living.
This is almost the end of our second week here in Uganda. We were in an orientation program just outside of Kampala Monday through Wednesday of this week and are back at the TASO center here in Kampala. There were about 40 others in the orientation program and they came from countries all across Africa. Most of them were managers of their own organizations and are simply here to learn about TASOs programs and how it does things. Actually TASO is the largest HIV/AIDS organization in Africa and they thought I would be pleased to know that George W. Bush once visited TASO and gave a very memorable and well put together speech.

I am having difficulty putting pictures up due to the slow internet services we have here but I am able to send Erin a few of my pictures every now and then who then puts them on here. She is also responsible for the Facebook ones too.
As for the picture of a plate with some strange looking stuff mixed with the rice and beef, that is Matoke. I recently learned that Andrew Zimmerman of the Travel Channel came to Uganda and actually ate this as a bizarre food.
Actually it is quite tasty. You just have to think of it a form of mashed potatoes. Each TASO center in Uganda also has a drama team composed of their clients. They perform songs and dances to people around the area to fight the stigma of HIV/AIDS that they all live with as well as raising awareness. The birds that you see in some of the pictures are everywhere. They are called Maribou Storks. They are similar to vultures and eat dead animals but they are not scared of humans. I once walked around a corner in downtown Kampala and found myself face to face with one. It came up to my waist. They say that not even the maggots will eat them once they die because their bodies are so toxic.
The people here seem to ignore them but I get kind of worried sometimes whenever we are outside and I see one of them sitting in the shade watching me.
We also went to a local rugby match with our supervisor from the United Methodist church. Her boyfriend is the manager of the team, however this was not the A team that was playing. They were scheduled to play, but a majority of them were in Tunisia playing for the World Cup qualifying. So the team you see there is the B team however they still won. Also, if you look in the background, behind the field, you will see a collection of blue-roofed buildings. That is Mulago Hospital and is where our TASO center is. Our hotel is around the other side of the mountain.

We are hopefully going to go to one of the outreach programs tomorrow morning.
It will be about an hour drive from the center and I don’t know the name of the community yet. These outreaches go to the surrounding communities and deliver medications and food rations to the clients there. They perform blood tests and counseling services as well. We will see how this goes.

I am running out of time now and I will try to post another message soon.