Hola! I'm in Africa! It is awesome. I actually have a lot to tell so let's just get right down to it.
Let's just start with the fact that I live in a little two room house with 17 other people.I sleep in a triple bunk bed and we have one shower, one toilet and one "latrine" a.k.a. hole in ground. It's awesome. And I don't mean that in a sarcastic way at all. It really is so fun. The people in my group are way fun to hang out with and everyone is really nice. Everyone has such diverse talents that we're really able to get a lot done and help each other in all of our projects but we still get along really well. The first week I was here we went river rafting on the Nile. Sweet. I don't know how many people can say that they've done that, but I can and I'm pretty happy about that. We saw a cute little monkey and cranes and we were even swimming right next to a baby crocodile. Turns out it's really hot when you're right on the equator. I got tons of blisters all over my legs but for the thrill of riding down those class 5 rapids it might have been worth it. They even cut up fresh pineapples on the back of a kayak and fed them to us right on the river and we ended the trip with a big bbq. All in all it was a pretty sweet day.
When we're not off rafting the Nile we're actually doing pretty good work. HELP International is a really cool program because you get to go to the country, talk to local leaders and organizations and partner up with them to decide what projects would be beneficial in the area. That way the projects are really sustainable because there is someone who will be here year round to continue to carry them out. It also allows us to be really creative in our funding options because HELP pretty much has no money. Or at least that's what they tell us. Right now I'm working on a couple of projects. The one that is taking the most time and that I'm most excited about is our library project. Lugazi, the city that we live in, doesn't have a public library and a lot of the students don't have enough money to pay for textbooks that they need for school. So we're working to get a public library in our town. We are still working on getting funding for it which has been a good experience for me. We have been writing letters to some of the bigger businesses in the area and trying to get the government to fund our project. We have also been working on petitions and surveys to find out what the people want in a library to make sure people will actually use it. Hopefully we'll know where we're going to have the library by the end of July so we can really get started on it.
My other projects are smaller but important, I think. I'm working with a partner to organize a creative writing contest with a lot of the schools in the area. We are going to teach a lesson on creative writing and then give them a prompt to write about. We'll work with the administrators to judge the papers and then award the winners. I'm hoping it will encourage creativity because a lot of the students have a hard time branching out beyond what their teachers and parents tell them. I'm also hoping it will empower the kids to know that they created something worthwhile and let them know that they can do great things.
The other main project I'm working on is teacher trainings for teachers out in the villages. Most of the teachers haven't really been to that much school, themselves. They just volunteer to help because they have good hearts and want to help their children. The schools that we've been to have been really excited to have our help and can't wait to learn more. It's sad to see so many people who are eager to learn but have no options or opportunities. One school that we met with was run by a husband and wife and you could just tell they had no money at all but that they were such good people. While we were having our meeting they had one of the students run out to get us drinks and crackers. They even invited us to stay one night to have sweet potatoes with them because that is all they have to give. It's so great to work with people who are so appreciative and grateful to have you help them.
Ok, well I'm probably running out of time and I haven't even really told you anything about Uganda. It's just awesome. Every time we walk out of our house there are tons of little kids who run after us screaming "Mzungu! Mzungu!" holding their hands out for a fist bump and people everywhere want to talk to us just because we are white. That part is weird but kinda fun. We're like celebrities. The scenery is so great. When you're in our town it doesn't look that green but if you just go a little ways out, all you can see is trees after trees. There aren't any really cool animals around where we live except for giant cranes. One time one that was as tall as me landed three feet away from me. I almost wet myself but no one else seemed to notice it. Other than that there are just chickens and goats and cows everywhere. They just go wherever they want. They're just chillin in Uganda. Just hanging out.We ride these taxis everywhere which are basically just tin boxes on wheels and they will shove over twenty of us into one of them and then drive 60 miles an hour down the road and then probably pick up some more people. If you don't want to take a taxi you can hop on a little motorcycle and they'll drive way to fast going the wrong direction on the street and you can even ride side saddle if you want! Boy is that an adventure. You can also find pictures of Obama everywhere. Tons of people have pictures of him on their shirts or bags or coat. That's just a random thing that I thought I'd mention. Oh, how could I forget to talk about the food!? The food is actually really good! I was pretty skeptical at first. Well, actually I'm still pretty skeptical of the meet considering most of the animals graze in the trash, but other than that, the food is great! There is a young boy who has a stand on a street near us and he sells us Rolex's for only 800 shillings! That's less than 40 cents. They're these omelets wrapped in a tortilla-type thing with vegetables and plenty of oil. Oh man. Yum. We have two cooks who feed us on the week days and they make the bomb food. I wish I could describe how good it is. But I can't. You'll all have to come to Uganda someday.
I wish I could continue stuffing your brains with everything that has happened to me, but I can't! It's Saturday and that means no work so we're all headed to Kampala. They have a place called Garden City and when you're there it's almost like you're in America except you still have to squat.