Hey all just a quick update on how the project implementation is progressing!
Yesterday we were in Mbale and purchased all of the necessary materials for the structure to be built. Jude ordered a boda boda to bring 4 10 foot steel poles back to shilongo and they somehow beat us back so that by the time we arrived all four poles were already drying in the cement. Today Dave and I went back into Mbale to continue our search for a motor that will suit ours needs in seemingly ever single shop in the city. We fortuately have some promising leads that we will follow up on when we come back into Mbale on Monday afternoon. In the meantime Jenny, Lily, and Colin are busy doing water testing and finishng up the structure in Shilongo. We expect to start building the bicycle component of the project on Tuesday and are right on schedule to finish the entire project in time.
P.S. we are going to eat a celebratory chicken tomorrow to celebrate all of our seniors officially graduating!
Hey all just a quick update on how the project implementation is progressing!
Sorry for the delay, but here is a two day old message from the travel team:
“Hey everyone! After three days of extensive travel we have finally
arrived safe in Mbale. The enormous malls and extravagant light shows
in Dubai contrasted with the bustling bus station in Kampala has left
us a bit shocked. Currently we are shopping for supplies in the city.
Dave and Aaron are out searching for solar panels, while Lily, Jenny
and I are with Rebecca shopping for food. We are extremely excited to
see Shilongo and meet the villagers.We’re surprised that Lily and I
haven’t been hit by a boda boda yet. We’ll keep you updated on our
work in the village!”
Expect more updates soon!
Hello everybody, this is John and I’m back on US soil, while the rest of the travel team is probably mid-trip as I’m writing this. It’s was a long, arduous trip back, about 40 hours door to door. It was also rather bittersweet to leave such a welcoming and caring community and a great set of students.
On my last night in the village, we decided to cook for our hosts and some of their neighbors. We decided that making pizza would be a unique treat for the people in the village. Kyle took command with his own personal pizza dough recipe (minus the yeast, which wasn’t available) and everyone participated in the preparation and cooking, all to a rousing success. It was a unique, flatbread style pan cooked pizza, that was delicious. There was enough pizza to feed about 40 people, so it allowed us to provide some to more people.
The work with the tank was just about wrapped up, and I’m as eager as everyone else is to see how the final product turned out. I would like to take this opportunity to describe what a sincere pleasure it was to work with and get to know better everyone on the trip. Each person had their own unique talents and gifts that made them a key part of the team. For the sake of brevity (i’m still jet-lagged) I’m not going to list everyone’s unique talents, but I found this group was full of highly intelligent, dedicated, hard-working, charming and truly endearing. We had plenty of laughs and formed a strong bond. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to work this team and I know the village was very lucky and appreciative to have them working on the village’s behalf. I wish the travel team and safe and pleasant return and I look forward to getting back to work on the next phase of the project when they get back.
Mulembe, from Kyle the Agriculturist (definitely my most PC nickname from this trip so far),
What a CRAZY couple of days! We’ve accomplished so much, it’s pretty hard to believe. Less than 36 hours ago, the tank was in the same state it had been for the past year – overgrown and unused. But thanks to both the wise guidance of Jude, Vincent, a few engineers (including an old man named John) and the indomitable work ethic of the local kids, we’re nearly complete with the tank renovations already. Beginning with yesterday afternoon, we laid siege to the tank roof and borehole-facing wall, gathered load after load of local bricks, and excavated the space surrounding the tank –and we all have the bruises and blisters to show for it! Tomorrow, we will be adding the last coats of cement, making the roof, and attempting to finish the steps and drainage ditch.
Other than the tankwork, we’ve also been busy finishing up our water sample collection efforts. After wandering about Shilongo for a couple of hours, the last of these samples were collected, incubated, and tested over the past 24 hours, and we’re eagerly waiting for the results. We’ve also been quite busy enjoying life out here to its fullest when we can, and we’re well on our way to having tried all of the local dishes. Trivia fact of the day: Rolexes aren’t just watches – they’re also delicious rolled-up omelets on chapatti (thanks Microsoft Word for the spelling help there). We haven’t had the energy for round two of our soccer matches, but we keep competitive over making best and worst jokes of the day (so far it’s a close tie between Kevin and Peter, but Kevin DID get ten points today for something… not sure of the conversion just yet – I’ll get back to you on how this may eventually add up).
The weather remains glorious – a very sleepable 60° at night, and a hot and sunny 85° during the day. Last night it rained for the first time since we got here – we all awoke to a barrage of raindrops on our corrugated tin roof – sounded louder than any rainfall I’d ever heard!
Anyways, I’m going to wrap this up here – Peter is giving me shifty looks as I type away, and we definitely have a bit of a trek home from Mbale with various comestibles. Hrm, not quite sure how to end this – since I started with the local greeting, it only makes sense to end it the same way! Unfortunately, this is something I haven’t learned yet… So, ___________________ (insert convincing surrogate for a Lugisu good-bye!).
Life according to Peter Lewis:
The first day we met our host family. A 4 year old named Arthur
instantly started grabbing Kevin, Peter and Kyle’s faces screaming
“moon wan wah!” (it means beard in lugisu). Now all but Kyle have
shaved to avoid the aggressive hair yanking. The host family is
awesome and the meals have been delicious.
After settling down the first day, Timothy, a native Shilongan, gave
us a tour of all the water sources of Shilongo. Each source was marked
with a GPS unit to provide mapping information.
John arrived in Shilongo on Friday, bringing all kinds of joy. In fact
within the first couple of days, a soccer match was played with the
community. Have no fear; the talents of John and Peter were
brilliantly displayed as both scored goals in the smallest goal ever
made. The Shilongons particularly enjoyed John’s cartwheel and Peter’s
The water board met with us and we discussed tank renovations. Due to
misunderstood priorities, the design was altered to make a bigger tank
with a smaller wall. For those that don’t know, the wall was for
keeping the children from playing on the tank. Everyone is happy with
the design and construction should start tomorrow.
The whole travel team attended church on Sunday, with the group
splitting so that two church services were attended. It was pretty
chill. The dancing and singing was excellent.
Last night, another meeting took place with our FDNC contact Samuel
and members of the community. This conversation focused on the future
of EWB’s relationship with Shilongo and ensuring our projects
positively impact the community as we planned. Obviously it is very
important the community actually wants and needs the projects we
implement to ensure sustainability.
The company for providing power to the borehole and the company that
installed the borehole were both visited. The borehole company gave
us all their data for one of the boreholes in Shilongo which we are
Obviously this is just a brief summary, but for those who really love
us, here are updates.
Kyle: The count is 23. Due to Kyle’s appearance he has been dubbed the
brother of Jesus by many members of the community. Kyle, perhaps
taking this too much to heart, sat on a pile of thorns not realizing
the thorns were supposed to be made into a crown to put on his head.
Also he is deathly afraid of spiders. He made our host dad Samuel go
into the latrine and burn the spiders because he was visibly
terrified. By the way, Kyle grew up on a farm and had a pet chicken he
carried around in his backpack. He would get and eat ice cream with
this chicken, literally sharing the ice cream. He then ate his pet
chicken for dinner and was traumatized. Kyle is also trying to pioneer
the term “weekend dad” which no one knows what it means. It is not
catching on. Kyle won’t let anyone forget he loves agriculture.
Kevin: Kevin is a man of science. In need of a control for the water
tests, he found goat poop and made a special homebrew concoction.
Apparently it’s a family recipe. His shoulder is intact and doing
well and he particularly enjoys throwing Arthur around (all of us
do). His memory of Lugisu and due to the fact this is his second trip
to Shilongo have made him a huge hit in the community. The kids
particularly are fascinated by his leg and arm hair.
Abby: As stern as always, Abby continues to find Peter and Kevin the
least funny people on the planet. Even John has joined in the comments
about her seriousness. But don’t worry, sometimes if we try hard, we
can get her to smile. She is also the Queen of Tea and makes it for
Peter every time due to her talents.
John: As soon as John arrived, the potty humor came out. Just like
Benjamin Button, he’s becoming younger each and every day. He has
appointed himself judge of the day’s best jokes. Currently funny man
Peter is leading Kevin in the race for funniest man in Shilongo. As
said before, John scored a goal in soccer proving he still has the
athleticism of his youth. Don’t worry Alexia, he has already turned
down a Ugandan fiancé. Also John is trying hard to make everyone have
a Keisha quote of the day. It’s also not catching on.
Peter: After being called Mzungu (white man) over a hundred times in
three minutes (not exaggerating) Peter pondered his place in this
world where he was this Mzungu. However, after scoring a goal in
soccer (on team Moon wan wah) and being dubbed Mzungu lightning by
himself, Peter is doing just fine. He has become known in the
community for his inability to pronounce the “tz” sound and his
struggles learning Lugisu. Also a Shilongan friend named Fred has
promised him 7 wives.
Classic Jenny: Jenny has quickly proved herself the most popular
member in Shilongo. She is constantly being invited for meals in
people’s homes and is continuously stuck in long conversations with
random people. Jenny is an inquisitor. Perhaps her most poignant
question was directed at one of our friends Justine. She asked “how do
Ugandan people sound when they sneeze?” Classic Jenny. Let’s just say
this question never got an answer. Due to her inablility to say no,
Jenny has found herself a born-again Christian who eats seven meals a
day. She even took candy from a stranger. But have no fear, everyone
in Shilongo loves her.
And that’s all folks.
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!|
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!