What an incredible week we have had! Our exciting Sunday, Feb. 22nd was spent rafting through rapids on the white nile! We also got to swim in the vast calm areas of the river. Our lunch spot had such a majestic view. Our group and our guides were definitely elated to have such a great river trip. Monday morning, a few of us took a thrilling swing into the bay from a rope. That's one great way to wake up! Then, it was off to Kampala for us, where we first explored the incredibly cramped, hectic Oweno market.
This experience was difficult for many of us. We realized it is very impracticle to try to get through that market with a large group. We also experienced some negative attention there, which was new for us. Most people we've encountered so far like to use the endearing phrase, "You are most welcome here!" It is very hospitable. In the Oweno market we heard these kind phrases still, and we also heard people mutter the word "mzungu" angrily in passing and many glaring stares. We felt very in the way! Mzungu is a neutral term for foreigner, and can be used & interpreted in many ways. Many people address us in a friendly manner as mzungu, others shout it from down the road, and young kids say it excitedly because they hardly ever see mzungu. We are not sure how to feel about the term sometimes. It gets old, and some have mentioned feeling like being in a zoo, or feeling like celebrities. Regardless, it is a valuable experience to further explore and try to understand.
Also in Kampala, a couple of us toured a Mosque, ascending a spiral staircase for a vast view in all directions of the bustling city. We had a spicy Indian dinner at a small resturant, and then we found some live reggae to enjoy! Most girls helped sing a song when we arrived. The one man on the dance floor grabbed Marley, Meredith, and Cat to dance at some point in the night!
The next morning we took off on an 8 hour bus ride to Kabale which was more relaxing to some than others. In Kabale we prepared for a few days volunteering with Special Needs Education Center, (SNEC), located in the mountains near the town. We lived in the simplest of ways at SNEC. We had three bedrooms and a room for cooking and dining. This space was stocked with groceries and produce we acquired from super markets and farmers markets in Kabale. We split into groups for meal plans, and had put together a master grocery list.Our meals have all been the healthiest we've eaten so far, and all truly fantastic! We've prepared sandwich lines, salads, spaghetti, grilled cheese, stir fry, fruit salads, fried rice, and various delightful breakfasts including G-nut butter (peanut butter) & nesta (jelly), oats, coffee, tea, fruit and eggs. We fed eleven people really well for four days! We have all really loved the experience of cooking for ourselves. We are actively looking for more oportunities to do it again!
The weather has been awe inspiring. We were at eye level with many clouds amongst the hills. The downpours of rain made the structures so loud that one must yell for the person next to them to hear. These sudden storms usually last only about an hour. The nights in those hills were mostly crystal clear, with more bright, twinkling stars & cloudy galaxies than most of us have ever seen. The moon really illuminates the night and sometimes displays a vast, wonderful halo.
One of our projects with SNEC was to paint one of the classrooms. It was fun drawing lots of animals, numbers, objects and foods, and knowing that they would help kids for years to come. On our last full day there, we made donut holes for the kids, from scratch and with hot coals in a clay pot. Other times were spent running classes and playing games with the kids.
Our time spent with the kids at SNEC was inspiring and full of so many memorable moments. There are about 35 students who stay at the education center with a range of all disabilities. From deafness and autism to other severe mental impairments, these issues never haulted the amount of fun we had with the kids. Such simple games became thrilling activities for them and they all touched us in so many ways.They are all so full of laughter and have such a positive way about them despite the hardships that they have been through.
Our experiences with children continues through working at Bukinda primary school, right outside Kabale, and we can't wait!
Love to everyone at home!
Meredith and Cat