Amy, will you buy me a cow?

My brother emailed today, asking for a progress update. I haven’t given one, because there hasn’t been any progress after being here 7 weeks.
Technically, my project and team is 6 weeks behind schedule, and I suspect this week another setback.
You know me, I have things done yesterday! But, here in Uganda, work beats to a different drum. There is no sense of urgency, punctuality doesn’t exist for the most part, and it’s not unusual to wait 2-5 hours for a meeting or event to start. THis phenomenon is hard to swallow for a Capricorn like me, who thrives off of checklists and goals that get gold stars as they are systematically conquered.

After taking a Community Assessment of my work site (school/church), I determined that water and sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is the most important issue to tackle. Yet, I found about 20 things that needed addressing. With sustainable development, the idea is not to be the knight in shining armor, but to lead and teach the team where the solutions are. Nonetheless, with my guidance my small team of the headmaster, an assistant, and sometimes the Reverend, are very slow to make decisions, and when they do make one, they change their mind weekly.  They want the “castle in the sky”, yet can only afford one window, so to speak. I’ve tried to present economical solutions to their problems (for example, a small, simple compost toilet), but they want the whole shabang.

Finally my directors stepped in a week ago, to make them CHOOSE. Which they did, and of course they want a $4000 project, for which we have $1000 (and this grant isn’t even guaranteed….it’s a grant that is competitive, with only one recipient). this week they tried to throw in a shower….I put my foot down! I’ve tried to explain the economics all along the way, and get them to think about local networking/fundraising. They draw blanks. We did a big mind map on a chalkboard one day, even drawing little stick figures sitting on compost toilets…haha! Meanwhile, I made friends with a local Indian businessman (friend of a friend), who likes me a lot, and has offered support “If I ever need”. But I am keeping him a secret for now. Attending the Diwali festival at the Hindu Temple here also won me brownie points 🙂

Working with poverty isn’t effective with “handouts”. Communities must be taught to be self-reliant. This is why we still have world hunger and poverty. There is plenty of food in the world, for example, but the way isn’t to simply hand it over. Rather, teach farming, teach sustainability. This is why Compost Toilets are so great!
Bro, you hit the nail on the head when you suggested that early October. And the Ministry of Education proposed compost toilets as well. it’s very popular in Uganda with NGO’s and sanitation programs. After dozens of hours of research, inquiry and even a workshop, I presented this option, but the team got scared. I told them I and local experts would teach them, but all they can imagine is poop.

Meanwhile not the idler, I am teaching a yoga class and a fitness class twice each week, and exercising most days. Next Saturday I am participating in a WASH workshop by a local team, and attending a self defense class, too (important to be vigilant and ready here…shit happens) . I have made many connections and friends, both African and expat. All the expats do development work like me, and most are very Christian (not like me). I am Catholic while I am here, to keep the peace and questions at bay. Again, bad enough I am single/childless!
FYI, The Brits brought Christianity here in the mid 19th C, on top of stopping slavery in East Africa. VERY interesting history …I am reading the scholarly Lunatic Express. Brilliant historical book.

This week I will go to the insane capital Kampala to get my Gorilla Tracking Permit ($600!?!) for December, as I have 20 days off. I plan to go to French colonial Kigali, Rwanda (need to leave Uganda to renew my visa)….supposed to be the prettiest capital in Africa. I’m there! Man what I would do for a croissant! ( I remember how my mouth watered the first time I saw croissants in Luang Prabang, Laos after being in SE Asia/S Pacific for 7 months).
Then I go to various mountain national parks to see gorillas, endangered golden monkeys, tree climbing lions, and plenty of fireside/cold beer time at the end of each day playing in forests/savannahs.

The safari I went on last week was top ten(Lazio vs Juventis in Rome also in the top ten!) best experience in my life. SO MANY ANIMALS…all around…like watching a tennis game! See FB for pics, but here’s one…about 15 feet from these lions. Well, all I can say is, as I told Amrit (my Nepali partner in “public health” crime) is that this internship will expose the direction I take with my career. “If I were a rich man…ta da da da”
Love and Huggles from the Pearl of Africa

1 thought on “Amy, will you buy me a cow?

  1. Amy so great to hear all your endeavors with work amd travel plans. Such a different world! I vote for compost potty and forget the shower! Stay in budget!
    I will have a glass of wine or beer and some fried pickles on “our ” birthday!!!

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