Sunday, August 26, 2012

August 26, 2012 7:30 AM—Alyssa and Kevin Came to Visit

So Alyssa and Kevin got here on August 16th.  That was the day after I took the GRE.  It was awesome to get to see them and to re-experience some of my favorite things in this country. 

Their trip started off with a trip to Murchison Falls National Park.  Unlike when my parents came, we didn’t get a special hire and a fancy hotel.  Instead we went with Red Chilli, which is a backpacker’s hostel in Kampala that offers really good safari deals.  So we went on their Big 6 Safari.  On the way into the park we stopped and did Chimp Trekking.  This is something I had not yet done and it was really nice to finally do it.  We saw lots of chimps although they couldn’t sit still, so it made it hard to get a good picture.

After chimp trekking, we made our way further into the park.  We were staying at the Red Chilli Camp Site on the South side of the park.  It is really close to the river and that night after we had dinner we saw a hippo walk right into the camp.  I’ve been to quite a few national parks here and they always say “Beware of wild animals”, but you never actually see much.  So this was new even for me.

The next morning we got up early and went out for a game drive on the North side of the park.  So we had to take the ferry across the river.  We really lucked out with the game drive, because we got to see four lions (3 females and a male).  The females were hunting and the male was feasting.  Before I had only seen lions lying around after they had eaten, but to get to see them hunting and everything was really awesome!

After the game drive we went back to the camp site for lunch and then took the boat ride up to the falls.  When we got to the falls we got off and hiked up it.  Just like the last time I did this, it was beautiful!

The next day we left the national park and we started driving back to Kampala.  On the way back we stopped at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and we went Rhino Trekking.  This was another thing I had never done.  So I have a little of a back story…Rhinos became extinct in Uganda in 1983 and in the early 2000’s they created this Rhino Sanctuary and they started bringing in rhinos from the U.S. and Kenya.  They currently have 12 rhinos and they said once they get the number up to 20 they will start to re-introduce them into Murchison Falls National Park.  So we went to this rhino sanctuary to go rhino trekking.  It was a really cool experience.  You can get as close as about 15 meters from them.  There are no cages, just you and the rhinos.  Note: there were only white rhinos there.  Some other kinds of rhinos are much more aggressive, so don’t go out and try to find rhinos to trek because it could be dangerous…lol

After rhino trekking we went back to Red Chilli in Kampala and spent the night there.  The next morning we got picked up by NRE and we went out to Jinja to go rafting.  So when we arrive we got suited up with helmets and life jackets, got some breakfast and headed out to the river.  Just like before, rafting was nothing short of amazing!  We were the only raft that went out that day and we flipped over three times.  At the end, they had a BBQ waiting for us and then we were then taken back to the NRE campsite.

The next day we decided to go into Jinja town.  We went to many of the craft shops and we met up with Kelsey for lunch.  Later in the day we went back to the campsite and went on the booze cruise.  It was very chill and we had a really good time.  After spending the night at NRE we left early in the morning so we could make it all the way back to my site that day.  So Alyssa and Kevin got the opportunity to see my house and my school.  They spent one night with me there and then they got picked up to go gorilla trekking.  I chose not to go gorilla trekking because I had already been, so I met them in Kampala two days later.

Now they only have about a day and a half left, so we are just going to chill out and relax before we have to say our goodbyes.  But it’s been awesome having them come.  Most people won’t really understand me anymore until they come and see this country for themselves, so I’m really glad they got to experience this.  I can’t wait to see them again state-side!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 15, 2012 5:00 PM--GRE

I took the GRE today.  I had been studying for about 5 months and in the end it paid off because I did pretty well.  Taking a standardized test in this country was an interesting experience.  I had taken the GMAT three times in the states, so I have a lot to compare this too.  Taking a standardized test in Uganda is very different than taking one America. 

I went to the testing center about 40 minutes before my test time.  Usually in the U.S. they say to arrive about a half hour before your appointment time.  When I arrive early to a test in the U.S. there are usually already about half a dozen people there waiting to take whatever test they are there for.  Here, in Uganda, the test moderator showed up 10 minutes before my appointment.  I had to wait outside the test center and hope that someone showed up.  I was also the only person who was taking any test today.

During the test you can clearly hear all the noise from outside.  The test center is right on the main road in Kampala, so you can hear all the traffic and car horns outside.  Not to mention the test moderator had his phone ring twice during my test.  They provide a headset that is supposed to block out the noise, but it doesn’t really help.  In America, the test centers are so quite.  I think they might actually be sound proofed.

In the end, I was really glad I got to even take the test.  I’ve heard stories of people having software problems when they go to take a test here.  One girl even had to reschedule her test because the software was down that day.  I didn’t want to have any problems and I didn’t want to have to come back.  Luckily, I didn’t have any software problems.

In general, I feel like someone taking a standardized test in Uganda (or any other African country) should just be given a few extra points because by taking it here you are automatically at a disadvantage.

Monday, August 13, 2012

August 13, 2012 9:00 AM

So my grant for new computers in my school’s computer lab finally got all the funding we need!!  Thanks to everyone that donated!  The project should be a big success.  We will probably buy the computers at the beginning of the next school term (in September).  So I will keep you updated and post pictures after the project is complete.  Thanks again to everyone who helped with this.  I know these girls will really appreciate what you have done for them.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August 11, 2012 6:00 PM--West GLOW

We just finish West GLOW!! West GLOW was a week-long regional girls’ empowerment camp that we had in Fort Portal at Saint Maria Gorreti Girls’ Secondary School. I was one of the co-directors for the camp and overall it was a huge success!

We had 54 girls from all over western Ugandan come together and participate in various activities. The girls learned a lot about healthy living (HIV/AIDS, Malaria, nutrition and water sanitation), life skills (decision making, goal setting, assertiveness, etc.), various teamwork activities and skills (e.g. critical thinking) and arts and crafts that they can turn in to IGA’s (tie dying shirts, making purses, making friendship bracelets, making pita bread and making reusable menstrual pads). They also learned many new games (e.g. ultimate Frisbee) and they had many competitions and challenges (scavenger hunt, water balloon toss, etc.). We also had evening activities for them. They watched two movies they had never seen before, had a campfire and learned to roast marshmallows, and had a talent show.

Tie Dye

Some of the highlights from the week were:

1.) Water balloons and the water balloon toss
I’m pretty sure these girls did not know what a water balloon was before this week, but they quickly learned to love them and they had several water balloon tosses and they also got to participate in a water balloon fight, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

2.) Blind Folded Obstacle course
We had a camp competition of a blind folded obstacle course, where one person is blind folded and the rest of their team has to lead them through an obstacle course. So we had them working together to go over and under desks, cross benches and complete other obstacles.

3.) Camp fire, ghost stories and roasting marshmallows
We introduced these girls to the idea of having a camp fire, roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. I don’t think any of them even knew what a marshmallow was before this. They didn’t always quite realize that they were supposed to eat them and they were very skeptical when we told them this. However, overall, they liked learning about something new and enjoyed it thoroughly.

4.) Scavenger Hunt
We set up a scavenger hunt for them, but it wasn’t quite what I would call a traditional scavenger hunt. They went from station to station while finding clues, solving riddles, answering questions about things they learned in their sessions, and completing physical challenges. They really seem to enjoy the challenge of trying to beat the other teams while also improving on their critical thinking skills at the same time.

In the end, they really seemed to enjoy all the activities and the hope is that they take all the skills, games and other activities back to their schools and communities and teach them to other girls. The week was incredibly exhausting for all the staff, counselors and directors, but I think all the volunteers enjoyed just as much as the campers. I almost can’t wait for the national Camp GLOW in December.

All of our Awesome Counselors

Our Amazing Staff

My 5 girls from Kinoni