Hey everyone! We just wanted to let you know how things are going over here in Shilongo. The gazebo was finished Saturday and has been quite helpful for staying dry when its raining at the borehole. Members of the community expressed their concerns about the security of the solar panels if they were on the gazebo so we have decided to install them on Jude’s roof which is about 50 meters from the borehole and we will use PVC piping for the wires. Samuel from FDNC recently connected us with a man named Robert from Innovation Africa. He has a lot of experience with similar projects using solar panels and he has helped us purchase all the necessary materials. Currently, Dave, Jenny, and Aaron are looking at motors and bicycle parts. Overall, everyone in the community seems happy with our plans. Yesterday was the last day of the children’s vacation so we made sure to do plenty of activities with them. Lily and Jenny painted the children’s nails at the borehole and they were all very excited. We had no idea how beautiful Colin’s feet were until they were painted pink. After lunch, we attempted to make chocolate chip pancakes, but it turned out more like fried dough. Regardless, the kid’s devoured them. After the pancakes we finally did the glitter activity and everyone was covered in blue sparkles. That night, to celebrate graduation for the seniors back at Tufts, Colin slaughtered a chicken. The contrast of the glitter and blood that covered him was… interesting. Looking forward, we are monitoring our iron-related bacteria tests from the Muswema borehole and we will be working on the motor and bike setup for the next few days. A note from our mentor: Dave says everything is going well and on schedule.
-Lily and Colin and Timoth
Mulembe! It has been quite an eventful few days. On Wednesday, we finally made it to Shilongo and were greeted by Rebecca’s family and all the others. Everyone was very excited to see Jenny and Dave again and the kids were all asking for everyone from last trip. The pictures and letters made everyone happy and the children spent all day playing with the racket balls that Dave brought. Yesterday we held a meeting with the committee members to discus the plans for the pump improvements, solar panel installation, and water testing. Overall, our ideas were supported, but they made a suggestion to use metal poles to support the structure holding the solar panels instead of timber because of termite problems. We were unsure if we could afford the extra price of metal poles until we came to Mbale today and were able to find poles for a very good price with help from Jude. We are very excited that the digging for the project was started today and we are hoping to make a lot of progress in the next few days. Aside from that, we are all doing well and no one has gotten sick yet despite the bugs we ate that apparently “run in your stomach” which I think means diarrhea. Luckily I did not eat too many even though they were surprisingly tasty unlike the unripe fruit (mango, guava, etc.) that Jenny keeps eating. We saw the school, health center, and one of the churches on our first short tour of the village and I feel like I have met so many people already. Colin and I were able to go for our first run today and I was immediately out of breath because we were greeting every person we passed. They were all very friendly and laughed at our terrible attempts at Lugisu. Today we were quite successful in Mbale and I was not nearly as scared or overwhelmed as I was last time. Dave and Aaron are looking at motors and solar panels now and Colin, Jenny, and I just bought some spaghetti and chocolate to surprise everyone with. Soon we will go back to the village to continue our work on the installation. As they say in the Lego Movie (which I watched a total of three times on the planes) “everything is awesome!” We will keep you posted.
Classic Jenny with the morning report:
Mulembe! While the Bostonians have been hit with snow, we have been graciously given constant 80 degree weather. (However, last night it got below 70 degrees so Rogers made sure to put on his winter coat.) Yet despite the heat, the tank construction is almost finished, with only the stairs left to go. Three engineers, along with some community members, work hard all day long. (That is, except for an hour-long morning boosela break) (I have no idea how to spell boosela/busala, but I do know that it is a home-brewed beer that must be drunk using a 2-meter long bendy straw).
After two community meetings earlier this week in which the muzungo (white people) outnumbered the community members present, the third time really was the charm. Abby, Kyle, and Jenny spent all day hanging signs for the meeting, which called for the villagers to attend and “keep time.” Apparently “keep time” means start the two hours later than schedule to give people time to meander in. Once everyone was finally assembled, we discussed our current project, example future projects, and what exactly the children would wear while cleaning the tank. By the end of the meeting, all important matters were decided upon, and the annual group picture was taken.
As always, food was a very important and eventful part of the day. For dinner on Thursday, Rogers got us a chicken, which Kevin preceded to slaughter and pluck. Then, as Rogers took out the insides, we all got a very detailed science lesson on chicken anatomy. I can now confidently say that I can identify a chicken kidney, although I couldn’t tell you the first thing about cooking it.
For breakfast today (Friday) we made Rebecca, our gracious host, banana pancakes with m&m’s and maple syrup. Rebecca’s three little boys especially enjoyed the maple syrup, making sure not to waste a drop by wiping both hands over the plate and then licking their fingers. The boys were consequently bouncing off the walls (and us) all morning long. For dinner tonight we will attempt to make a pizza on a charcoal fire as part 2 of Americans Attempt to Cook.
Tomorrow morning John will be leaving us, by foot then bus then car then plane then car, done in no time at all! Although we will miss him, we know that he will be greatly enjoying his travels by thinking about his day-long plane ride being over.
Post Author: Abby Barker
We have officially settled in at Shilongo! Yesterday consisted of
travel, travel, and more travel – I met everyone at the airport on
Wednesday and we made it through customs without any issues, found our
driver, and headed to our hostel for the night. Everyone was a little
delirious on the drive there so we were happy to finally have real
beds to crash on, even if it was a short night sleep.
After a delicious breakfast (although unfortunately they did not have
chapati for breakfast, so sad), we drove to the bus station and took
the YY bus headed to Mbale. Five hot, sweaty hours later we arrived in
Mbale, and were greeted by even more sun, heat, and many curious
stares at the strange mzungu and all their luggage. Luckily we did not
have to wait long before Sam picked us up and drove us straight to his
house for an AMAZING lunch, which we ate in record time. Sam is really
great, and we discussed all the traveling he has done in the US, and I
think he may have visited even more states than I had! Before driving
to Shilongo, we stopped in mbale to pick up 6 mattresses and some bed
nets, then piled into the car on top of all our supplies (literally)
and headed south.
The drive was incredible – a perfect introduction into the village,
with the winding red dirt roads and rolling green hills, and the
silhouette of the giant mountain behind it all. When we pulled up in
front of Rebecca and Sam’s house, we were greeted by so many new
faces, and countless little kids all begging for our attention. They
quickly helped us unload the car and drop our stuff in our rooms, and
then we did some introductions. I tried very hard to remember each
name and face, but we will see if I am successful in the future! After
rice, beans, and delicious cabbage, we organized ourselves in our
rooms and promptly fell asleep (Kyle before anyone else).
First thing this morning, Peter and I embarked on our first run, which
was fantastic other than the fact that we must have gained at least
1000 ft of elevation in the 25 minutes before turning around. Some of
the people we passed found the running mzungu to be funny, others just
stared at us, unable to comprehend what was going on. On return, we
enjoyed a breakfast of chips (ie, french fries) and mango, then we got
the grand tour of all the water sources in the village from Timothy.
Again I was struck by the beauty of the whole town, and the way each
house and farm fit together seamlessly. I’m excited to be working here
and can’t wait to see what this week holds.
This afternoon we took a quick ride into town for some shopping and to
pick up John, who got in last night. Much more to come!
Post Author: Kevin
Today our team is saying goodbye to 2013 in America a few hours earlier than most. We will be flying out of Logan Airport at 6:45 PM and we won’t be back until 2014. It seems fitting for me to be returning to the place where I rang in 2013 to celebrate 2014’s arrival.
Last year our team had landed in Kampala at 11:30 PM December 31st and we were greeted with fireworks left and right, people dancing and yelling in the streets and a general chaos that was a little overwhelming but mostly amazing. This year we will be at cruising altitude above the Atlantic when 2014 rolls in.
The departure of one year and the arrival of the New Year is cause for reflection on yourself, how you’ve grown and where you want to be in the New Year. While I would have loved the opportunity to be with my friends and family to ring in the New Year, for me, there is no better way to reflect and celebrate than to return to Shilongo, Uganda. I feel like this year has been a year of tremendous growth for me, and it all started in Shilongo. My experience in Shilongo left me with many new friends and a new passion for our project and for development work in general. Creating this connection with the community has inspired me as a leader of our project and has forced my personal development. Inspired by a both a passion for our project and a fear of failing the community and Tufts students in our group, I have worked all year developing better organizational and leadership skills. Combine this drive with working my first 9-5 job and renting my first apartment and you have a transformative year.
I know I am not alone in being so impacted by EWB. Our trip is the culmination of a year of work by our whole chapter. Together we have researched, engineered, planned, raised funds and accomplished so much. While only five students from our group are departing on what is sure to be an awesome adventure, everyone who put effort into making this trip a reality has learned and grown through working on the project.
I think this is truly the value our project provides to our members and the community we work with. Every year we graduate members who have had life changing experiences with EWB and every year we need to send younger members to follow in their footsteps. Working on the project in the US builds a skillset and a knowledge base and an awareness that most students would have never been exposed to otherwise. Additionally, actually going to Uganda provides the travel team members with an extraordinary opportunity to make an impact on the community we work with and on themselves. I have had the good fortune of being able to travel twice and it’s had a tremendous impact on my life plans and worldview.
Hopefully our future blog posts will further detail the awesome experiences that I have only written about in generalities in this post. For logistical simplicity all of the blog posts will be published from my account but all of our travel team will be contributing to this blog. We will not have internet access except when we travel to town to buy groceries and supplies. So you can expect posts every 3 days or so hopefully.
I hope you all have a happy New Years Eve wherever and however you celebrate.
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
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!|