Author: Misaki Nozawa
Back in the States
| January 10, 2013 | 7:54 pm | Uganda, Uncategorized | Comments closed

So usually this blog is mostly posts from our group in Shilongo, but it’s about time that we provided some at home insight.

We, as you, our readers must, love reading these blog posts because it gives those of us who haven’t traveled a more intimate view of the community we work with and those of us who have, an intense longing to go back.

These trips are not only important for gathering technical information and improving community relations, they always end up providing inspiration and injecting enthusiasm back into our meetings at Tufts.

Last year, we realized that the project that we implemented for the community wasn’t the right choice for them and we were discouraged for a bit. We had no direction and no plans. But, we visited in January of 2012 and that travel team came back and reminded the group about why we involve ourselves in this particular line of work.

Kevin put it simply for us. The people of Shilongo are inspiring and we are always looking for their perspective, but above all, we feed off of their enthusiasm.

We hope that everyone in our group willing to travel gets the opportunity to because as every single person who has had the privilege of visiting Shilongo, it is life changing.

Happy return to campus for all of the group members – we hope you’re ready to work hard! And for those reading for pleasure or interest, we hope that these blog posts have shown you how much we love working in Shilongo.

We’re Alive!
| January 10, 2013 | 7:46 pm | Uganda, Uncategorized | Comments closed

Mulembe!
I wrote an email full of the details of daily life in Uganda for my very worried parents and family and I thought that, with a few alterations, it would make a decent blog post. It is a nice departure from the daily narrative style of our recent posts. So here is a modified email for the people who are worried that we will catch malaria:

“I am actually doing really well. I adjusted really quickly. I am sleeping well and the food here is really, really good. I am staying with a Ugandan family in their house. The mother is Rebecca. She is 27 and has 3 beautiful boys, Alan (5), Arthur (3) and Alton (1). She is the nicest and coolest and her English is very good, she is a teacher at a nearby school but school is out until February 4th. Her husband, Sam, was with us the first 2 nights but then went to school. He is a teacher and working towards a better degree while school is in recess. He seemed amazing as well but I did not get to spend a lot of time with him. They live with another man, Rodgers, who is 23 and also a teacher. I believe he is Sam’s cousin. He is wicked smart and his English is amazing. I am sharing a bed with him.

Their house is one floor and has a living room, two bedrooms a storage room and a little foyer. They do their cooking and washing outside and have a shed of sorts for doing that in the rain. They also have a little enclosed area outside for bathing and a latrine. One of the biggest surprises for me was what I missed the most about US life. I thought I would miss showers and plumbing but it is indoor lighting that I miss the most. We eat dinner and hang out at night with just candle light and flashlights. They have electricity but only one lightbulb that is very dim. They do have a TV though and we watch the news in the morning sometimes.

They are much more informed about current events than I anticipated. They know American politics better than many Americans I know. Most nights we chat about life in Uganda and America and swap information about culture, history, politics and geography. It has been a really enlightening experience. I am also picking up the language. “Mulembe” means hello; “Komakhoa” means what is the news (basically how are you) and “Kasila” essentially means everything is good. Now you can greet each other in Lugisu!

Rebecca is also an amazing cook. I like almost everything they serve. My one complaint is that nearly everything is cooked in vegetable oil. But everything is delicious. The food is all fresh and local, especially the produce. My favorite dishes are the cabbage and the beans. I bet you didn’t see that coming. I want to learn how to make some of these dishes so I can recreate them at home.

They are also an incredibly clean community. Rodgers says he bathes twice a day. I feel bad that I only bathe every other day… They also produce almost no waste. Everything is fresh so there is very little plastic or cardboard packaging.”

Living in the community has had incredible positives along with a few negatives. It has certainly hampered our ability to do our work. It is hard for us to find time for just the four of us (Dave arrived the other day!) to talk shop. Being with the community has also added distractions and diversions to make it harder to focus. We persevere through it all and have had a very productive trip. Today we wandered around Mbale checking out mechanic shops, checking the prices and availability of various parts. We also went to Umeme, the power company that runs the electricity in the Mbale region and we got a lot of useful information.

Living in Shilongo has also provided us with information and insight that we could not have gotten any other way. It has given us an opportunity to take a crash course in Lugisu and Ugandan culture. The purpose of this trip is to research the feasibility of our project and the village’s needs and desire. Sleeping in their houses and taking our meals with them has helped us build a deep understanding of their daily lives and needs and truly helps us decide how we can best help them. This understanding goes both ways. Our nightly chats with our hosts has helped create an understanding of our group, who we are and what we do. Our bond with Shilongo has become incredibly strong through this trip and I cant imagine learning this much any other way.

Sadly we only have two full days left in Shilongo. I will be sad to go but I havent been in the US yet this year and I could honestly go for a hamburger right now. Hopefully we can wrap up with a few more meetings in the village and maybe conclude our trip with a hike up a nearby mountain (only if we finish our work!). We will try and post once more before leaving Uganda but this may be our last post.

I hope you are all having a great 2013 and I will see you all soon,

-Kevin

Settling In
| January 10, 2013 | 7:41 pm | Uganda, Uncategorized | Comments closed

Sorry we haven’t been able to post more regularly, but here are updates from the past few days.

It’s unbelievable that we have already been here for a week. Getting
to know the community and learning about their culture has exceeded my
expectations above and beyond. Everyone here is so welcoming.

On Sunday morning we went to Father John’s for church with Timoth and
Allen. It was quite a different experience then the one Kevin and I
were used to in the US. There was much more singing and dancing.
Everyone was so full of energy. The service was extra long since they
were celebrating the nuns 50th year in the church, but the time still
passed very fast. After about four hours we decided it was time to
leave and got caught in the first rain here on our walk home.

Later in the day once the rain had stopped we all went to a local
seamstress in Shilongo to get fitted for our Ugandan clothing. We all
picked out our fabric in town the day before and were excited to see
how the clothing would turn out.

In the afternoon we played outside with many children who lived in
Shilongo. Kevin played soccer with all the boys while Misaki and I
were told by Fred and Rogers to sing songs with the girls. However, we
decided instead to teach them how to play Frisbee. Although some were
very shy at first they soon felt more comfortable with us and everyone
joined in.

Later in the afternoon we were all very tired and ready for some
downtime. We walked to khatwela twela, a nearby market, and sat for a
while at Homeboys with Rogers, Fred, and Moses. It was so refreshing
since this is one of the only places nearby that has refrigerated
drinks.

On Monday we went on a border tour of Shilongo to look at all of their
water sources, springs and boreholes. Our main focus was on the
Muswama borehole since many community members disliked the water and
told us that it turned yellow when boiled. After examining the
borehole, and taking to people in the village we took a sample of the
water and noticed that it had a slight yellow tint to it. We also
realized that the borehole had a lot of rust on it despite being
relatively new. We were also told that the structural metal used was
iron, as opposed to the galvanized steel used for the Shilongo
borehole. We plan on studying this further next semester to try and
fix this problem.

We are currently awaiting the arrival of David in Mbale (he landed on
Monday night). We are very excited to see him and introduce him to
everyone in the village.

We will write back soon! Miss you all.

Abby

Celebrations in the New Year
| January 6, 2013 | 12:01 am | Uganda, Uncategorized | Comments closed

We can’t believe how time flies! Our group has been enjoying the
company of our old and new friends in Shilongo. I am so happy to
reconnect with so many old friends and introduce Kevin and Abby to
them! Although it is only Kevin and Abby’s first time, the community
has welcomed them with open arms as if they have been friends for years.
As soon as we wake up, Atha (a four year old boy) is already chasing
after Kevin saying “konga” hoping to get a piggy back ride.

Because we are staying within the village at people’s homes, we are
learning so much more about their culture and language. We even got
to see one of the most significant cultural events that only takes
place once every two years up in Wanale Mountain at a place called
Busano. This event was a celebration for the completion of their
circumcision year—a very traditional ceremony that boys endure to be
introduced into their village as a man. At this conclusion ceremony,
all of the men of Busano celebrated together by a traditional dance in
a big circle. At the center of the circle, there were drummers who
kept the festivity alive, and the men entered the ceremony in groups
as they arrived from their different villages. Slowly, the circle
grew larger and larger. The men were chanting and singing in the
circle which was surrounded by spectators of all ages. Before we
departed the ceremony, we also got to taste some chapatti and soda
from the local street vendors.

While we have been immersing ourselves into Shilongo and the Ugadan
culture, we have also been quite productive with what we set out to do
for this project! Yesterday, we were able to meet with the waterboard
about the next steps in the project. Once again, they expressed great
interest in setting up an automatic pumping system at the borehole,
and during our open dialogue, they offered numerous suggestions and
ideas for the designs. Next week, we will be traveling into Mbale
with several of the waterboard members to look into details about
specific parts that we will consider for the design. We also held a
meeting at the prunyende with the greater community to get their
feedback on the ideas suggested by Tufts EWB as well as their fellow
community members on the waterboard. These successful meetings have
been so uplifting and we are very excited to continue on with this
project.

On Tuesday, Dave, our new mentor, will join us in Mbale, and we cannot
wait to introduce him to the village. As the people in Shilongo would
say in Lugisu, “chende bulai” — Safe journey!|

-Misaki

Happy New Years from Shilongo!
| January 4, 2013 | 1:14 am | Uganda, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hello from Mbale!
We finally got to Shilongo yesterday after flying from Boston to Amsterdam to Kigali to Entebbe. We landed in Uganda at 10:30 pm New Years Eve. Kampala was going wild. On our way to the hostel there were people in the streets, fireworks all around and loud music playing everywhere. The party next to our hostel didn’t stop partying until 5:30 am. We did not get a lot of sleep.

Jet-lagged and tired, we snagged a bus to Mbale. Every time the bus stopped we were offered sodas and meat skewers for purchase through the window. I was sorely tempted to buy a whole turkey. When we got to Mbale, we met with Samuel from FDNC, the NGO we work with in Uganda. It was quite hot in Mbale, especially after coming from shoveling snow in Boston. After a delicious lunch of rice, potatoes, beef and chicken at Samuel’s house, Samuel drove us to Shilongo.

We found the warmest of welcomes in Shilongo. Fred and Rogers had already met us in Mbale,but as soon as we arrived in Shilongo we met Florence, Justine, Rebecca and many others (along with Alan, Atha and many other children). We spent the rest of the day touring the village. We eventually met with Vincent and stopped to talk and play with the children. The kids found my arm hair fascinating… We then went and had tea and dinner together before splitting up to go to bed. I slept in Roger’s room, Abby was with Justine, and Misaki stayed with Florence.

We reconvened for tea and breakfast in the morning and decided to once again journey to Mbale to get enough food for the next week or so. I rode my first boda boda (a motorcycle taxi of sorts) to get there. It was really dusty but overall fun and less scary than I had been led to believe it would be. And that’s how I got to the internet cafe where I am writing this.

Its been a busy trip full of travel so far. Today we are meeting with Vincent and Jude to plan out our schedule as far as village meetings and water board meetings are concerned. We are also planning on going to Busano for a cultural festival tomorrow that nearly everyone has been telling us to attend. I’ve only been here for a day or so but I can already tell why Misaki loves Shilongo so much. The next two weeks are going to be great.

Pictures will be up soon!

-Kevin

Corn Nut, A Friend of G Nut
| January 25, 2012 | 1:49 am | Uncategorized | 801 Comments

The last few days that we have had here in Shilongo have been very bittersweet. Timoth has already begun to complain about how he will have nothing to do when we leave and it’s difficult thinking about how little time we have left with the community.
We recently found out about a gravity tap system that should supply Shilongo with clean water through various taps throughout the community. Thursday morning, we went into Mbale to speak with district officials about our organization and the potential directions we are interested in moving. They were very receptive and encouraging and we received a lot of useful information.
After returning back to Nyondo after the meetings, we went into Shilongo to share the water manual that the Community Health group put together all of last semester. We provided several community members with pre-addressed envelopes so they can make notes at their leisure and send us feedback. Already, they have shown an interest, laughing about the various faces they recognize throughout the publication. On a more serious note, they also expressed interest in a lot of the health concerns that are caused by contaminated drinking water.
On our way throughout the village, we ran into Justine who invited us to visit her father who was staying at the clinic in Katwelatwela. Although Misaki and Justine are close, it was touching that she invited all of us. At best, communities in the United States are friendly, but Shilongo has accepted us as part of their family and, in my opinion, that is something rare and valuable.
On Friday, we trooped up to Busano to follow the previously mentioned gravity flow system. It was a good hike and we learned a lot about the complications and extent of the system. Misaki even drank water from the source of the system – you should ask her how her stomach’s doing! After the hike, we held a community meeting at Muswema and learned more of their perspective on the issues that had been brought up by other community members. Afterwards, we had to rush off for dinner at Father John’s house. Everything was extremely delicious, he even fed us chicken!


Saturday was our last day in the community and it was by far our busiest. Everyone wanted to meet with us before we left. We started the morning in Shilongo Lower at a community meeting there and then we moved to the prunyende where people were beginning to gather for the second meeting. Misaki and I started a game of Duck Duck Goose that we ended up calling Imbwa Imbwa Ipusi (Dog Dog Cat) that the kids loved playing.
Following all of the meetings, we moved around the community saying goodbye to some of the individual community members that had really made an impact on us. In particular, Matt, Misaki, and I spent a long time at Florence and Timoth’s house. Sitting there, I couldn’t really recall the moment I realized I didn’t want to leave Shilongo. It could have been when I was reminded of the winter weather that was waiting for me in the United States but I think it was when I saw the night sky. I saw more stars in the Ugandan night sky than I have ever seen in my whole life. I even got to see a shooting star! Timoth was intrigued by my fascination with the sky, he told me he sees it pretty much every night. And in that moment I thought, “He’s so lucky. I can’t believe he gets to see this every night.”
Looking back, I realize that I was the lucky one. Lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to travel to Shilongo, lucky enough to have made such a giving friend and to meet such a vibrant community, and lucky enough to have seen that night sky at least once in my life. I hope that Timoth and the rest of the community of Shilongo never forget how fortunate they are to live in such a beautiful and unadulterated place. Thank you for being so welcoming and hospitable to us. Khuli mungo. (We are family)

The G-Nut Assassin
| January 24, 2012 | 9:28 pm | Uncategorized | 993 Comments

On most mornings, we wake up to sunshine streaming through our windows and singing from inside the church so we were looking forward to attending services on Sunday morning. It was a peaceful and joyous way of spending the morning and it was interesting for all of us even though none of us are legally Catholic. I especially enjoyed the fact that the service was accompanied by an enthusiastic choir and girls who danced their way down the aisles. After church, Professor Swan declared the day as our “day of rest” and we tried to get a lot of organization and paperwork out of the way.
Of course, our day began to fill as we were invited to attend “market day” at Katwelatwela where we curious to see if community members were participating in the buying and selling of products. We tried Coke at Homeboy’s and everyone was convinced that it tasted sweeter from the Coke we drink in the United States. Our only explanation was that it could be sweetened by sugarcane as opposed to the processed sugar most likely used in the recipe in the US. While at the market, Vincent was very attentive and offered to show us around the different shops and buildings. We were particularly interested in a clinic run by a couple named Juma and Judith. The most important information that they provided to us was the presence of gravity taps that bring clean water to the clinic. We are hoping to research in the next few days on any connection between the cleaner water and less instances of diarrheal diseases.
Feeling relatively unproductive, we decided Sunday night would be a good time to fill the tank and check to make sure that it did not leak. We were surprised to see the amount of people still around the borehole after dark although I’m sure the majority of them were there out of curiosity about us. The younger boys of the village, Paul, George, and Timothy all helped to fill the tank by pumping, carrying jerry cans over, and dumping them into the tank. Even with their assistance, it took us several hours to fill the tank and we were forced to stop filling the tank at around eleven. There were several cracks on the surface but only one or two were actually allowing water to be lost. Even then, they were very small and were not significantly affecting the volume of water within the tank.
On Monday morning, we woke up early to go into Mbale before we had to meet with the community and visit people’s homes in the afternoon. We searched for various prices for the materials identified by each of the groups. It was a busy morning and we made it back to Nyondo just in time to have lunch and then move into Shilongo. Sam and Richard came to visit and we shared with Sam the ideas that we’ve been hearing and were eager to hear his advice about them.
In the afternoon, Matt and Misaki went again from household to household asking families what their concerns were for the village and what changes they would be interested in seeing and being involved with. I, on the other hand, went to visit Jude to show him the water manual and gain his advice. He was very helpful with communicating to us his advice as to the direction that we should be moving in and with explaining the many cultural tendencies.
When we returned to the house, we saw that Rogers and Fred were waiting for us so we invited Timothy and them to eat dinner with us. The conversation was enjoyable (as always) – I’m always surprised by the issues that they are curious about. We still have many things planned for the upcoming week but it already feels like we don’t have enough time with the community and for everything that we want to accomplish.

Getting to know Shilongo!
| January 12, 2012 | 2:17 am | Uncategorized | 508 Comments

We have been spending so much time in the past few days with the community. Going house to house, we have visisted numerous homes all over the village. Not only are we gathering the important information for our project but we have been meeting new community members of Shilongo and developing new friendships everyday! Each house we visit, we come away with answers to our questions but often, we also learn a couple new words in Lugisu or a new part of the Ugandan culture. On Tuesday, Matt and I went around the Nashiloholo area to go house to house while Alyssa met with Jude to talk about the water manual.

In the afternoon, we met with the Shilongo Disabled Association to talk about their plans for the future. They are a group of twenty community members who suffer from diabilities and are a looking for a way to make a living in a way that is not highly physically demanding.

Since we have had very long and demanding days, we headed back to the house fairly early. Around the house, we relaxed a little bit by playing cards and lounging around.

On Wednesday, Alyssa and I met with the women of lower Shilongo to discuss any ideas that they may have for future products. Since Tom acted as our translator, the meeting was held at his house. After the meeting, Tom and his wife invited us into his home for some ground nuts and tea! Although we would have liked to stay longer, we left soon after to meet Matt in Khutwelatwela for a meeting with Sub County officials. Alyssa and Matt then had the opporutnity to go up the mountain for a little bit to look at a clinic and the gravity tap system that we have been researching. In the meantime, Professor Swan and I went to the prunyende for a meeting.

On the way to the meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to meet up with Justine, who I thought would not be around during our stay in Uganda! It was so nice to see Justine again and she was really excited to see me and to meet the rest of the travel team.

We ended the day with a dinner at our house with the travel team, Timothy, Rogers, Fred, and Justine. We love being in the village and don’t want to leave so soon… even though we will be extreemley busy for the next couple of days, we are enjoying all the time we have in the village!

Gimme Some O Dat Chapatay
| January 12, 2012 | 2:06 am | Uncategorized | 100 Comments

Our days so far have been continually jam-packed, which has been great, waking early and returning after dark to long discussions about the day. The last few late nights have resulted in Misaki, Alyssa and me each taking turns nodding off while in discussion about the community. Saturday morning, after the dusty affair of going into Mbale for some supplies (the red dust of the roads is continually kicked up), Misaki, Alyssa, Professor Swan and I met with part of the community at Shilongo Lower. Richard from FDNC, as well as the village chairman, Vincent, the vice-chairman, Tom, and a few other people sat with us in front of about 40-50 members of Shilongo as the discussion proceeded. This was a normal meeting time for the village, but our presence was immediately acknowledged and we were all graciously received by wide smiles and resounding responses as we introduced ourselves in Lugiso and greeted everyone there in what we have found to be typical fashion. Misaki gave a great introduction of our group and what we hope to accomplish in our time here. In a talk that looked forward to our time in the coming week, and to future trips to Uganda, she explained that we are here to learn from the community about their lives and some of the challenges they may face, and to work alongside them to help develop some of the ideas they have for overcoming those hardships. Again we were very well received, and the discussion opened up to many people introducing themselves and explaining some of the issues the village faced. What was especially great was the group’s readiness to suggest potential future projects they felt could help the community to grow. Tom translated all the while, and we got some great suggestions – one suggestion that was voiced a few times and that was built upon by various members was the desire for a technical/vocational institute in the village that would be available to kids who did not continue on to the college or university, the main idea being to teach kids practical skills such as carpentry, knowledge of electrical systems, plumbing, sowing, construction, and computer skills. Afterwards we thanked the community for welcoming us so warmly into their village and homes, and for making us feel so immediately at home. Tom suggested we make a photograph with everyone at the meeting and as the group was quite big, we made a few, each section of people requesting that we come sit and join them.


In the afternoon we met up with Rogers, Fred, Florence, and Tom, and we walked with them over to the sub-county Bukyende for a coming-of-age ceremony that went into the early evening. It was a really interesting look into ‘Uganda culture’ as many people have referred to it, and we were welcomed not just to observe the ceremony, but to get up close, join in the festivities at times, and meet some of the important members involved. It was altogether an extremely interesting experience that I don’t think any of us will ever forget. Many people in the area talk often about the ceremony, so it was great to experience it first hand and thus continue to learn about the community in which we are living and working.

Meeting the Community
| January 7, 2012 | 3:18 am | Uncategorized | 169 Comments

It amazes me that we have only been working with the community for only three days! We’ve been very productive in the past couple of days. Unfortunately, our first attempt at water quality testing didn’t turn out exactly as we planned. This morning, the petri dishes had a pretty awful smell and the bags we thought would keep the samples at the right temperature were no longer warm. On the bright side, Professor Swan finally got to eat his cornflakes and milk this morning – an American staple that he’s been missing. We left the Nyondo house around 10 to meet at the prenyende and begin meeting with the community. Timothy, Florence’s son showed up at the house to walk with us to Shilongo and ended up staying with us the entire day.

Once at the prenyende, we found Rogers and Fred waiting for us. They went around the community with us, helping to translate and provide helpful commentary and feedback. Matt and I worked together today, moving from house to house to meet with members of the community closest to Nashiloholo. Misaki also went to speak with community members near the spring and even met a woman with two solar panels on her roof that help to power her radio and some of the lights within her house. Speaking with the community was very informative even though we didn’t travel around with any survey material. We were trying to keep conversations as casual as possible because we wanted candid and honest answers. It was also a lot of fun and a great opportunity to become closer to the community. Misaki asked each family she visited to teach her a word in Lugisu, Matt perfected his Lugisu which charmed many of the people we talked to, and I learned about the local agriculture and livestock – I even got to hold a baby goat!

After speaking to the community for the majority of the morning, we returned to the house for lunch and to discuss what we had learned. Timothy followed us back, had lunch with us, and taught us a new card game called “Pick and Play”. Since our water quality tests weren’t very successful, we decided to go back into Shilongo and gather more samples.

Timothy was our tour guide the entire way and he was diligently followed by George, Patrick’s son. Our first stop was Itsakuni where a woman named Lydia taught me how to make a sun hat from local plants. Our guides even pointed out Kenya from where we were walking and I was so surprised by its close proximity. As we went to the other water sources, we were entertained by the two boys that played tag with us and laughed when we imitated the various animals around the community. Timothy even showed us the source for both Nashiloholo and Muswema which was important for us to understand how water is delivered to those water sources and what we can do to make any improvements.

All of our days have felt simultaneously long and short. We have been really busy everyday, we estimated that we walked about 5 or 6 miles today! At the same time, we are already planning ahead to the day that we have to leave the village and everyone who asks when we are leaving says that we are staying too short. For me, I feel grateful that I got the opportunity to travel here every time I look at the landscape around me. Uganda and Shilongo in particular is breathtakingly beautiful, I keep getting laughed at by the community when I stop walking just to stare at everything around me.