Thursday, April 18, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—April 18, 2013 (Day 30)

Name: John Aaron Murray
Age: 26

Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio

What he did before Peace Corps: Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at University of Colorado

Program Sector: Education

Number of months spent in Uganda: 5

Host Organization: Lake Bunyonyi Secondary School

Exact site location: Bwama Island, Lake Bunyonyi, Kabale District

Language spoken at site: Runyankore-Rukiga

Aaron is working with Lake Bunyonyi Secondary School, which is located on the largest island in Lake Bunyonyi. Aaron's school is unusual not just because it is on an island. His school only has about 80 students, so the class sizes are extremely small, but I guess this is expected when you have a school on an island. Aaron teaches Math, Physics and Computers. “Currently, I am teaching physics to the Senior 2 class, and math and computer literacy to Senior 6.” Since he has only been at his site a few months, he has not yet had the chance to start any secondary projects. “However, it is quite clear that computer literacy should be the focus of my secondary project.”

Bwama Island
Aaron's house
There are no stores on Bwama Island, so Aaron takes most of his meals with the other staff members. “We usually have beans and posho or potatoes for lunch and dinner.” On Mondays and Fridays, there is a market in Rutinda, which is on the mainland. This is where he can buy fruit and vegetables. If he wants to get more western foods, he has to go to the supermarket in Kabale. As for water, in the rainy season, he can get water from the rain tank, which is a couple hundred meters from his house. If the rain tank is empty, he has to go down to the lake and collect water from there. His house also has no electricity. The only place that has power on the entire island is Aaron's school, but it is solar power and it is only in two rooms at the school.
The view as you step outside Aaron's house

The thing Aaron likes most about his site is its location. “I am on a small island in the middle of a very beautiful lake high up in the mountains. The weather is always pleasant and the people are extremely friendly. Overall, I enjoy the peace and simplicity of living in a remote location with no running water or electricity. So far, my most enjoyable times at site have been spent digging in my garden. I have never grown any crops before, so it is a new experience for me. I am very much looking forward to learning about agriculture in the upcoming years.”

Aaron’s biggest challenge at site is his limited capacity for teaching computers and the dire need for computer literacy. “Though the students and teachers here are very eager to learn the uses of a computer, there is only one computer available for use. The lack of computers makes teaching the subject rather difficult.”
My glimpse of the secondary school from across the island

Aaron’s site is extremely unique because it is on an island and it has an intriguing history. “I find it quite interesting that many of the people who live in villages either on an island or near the lake cannot swim. Many of them ride in a canoe every day, but are unable to swim to shore if the canoe were to tip. Lake Bunyonyi is an extremely unique location. It is the third deepest lake on earth and has a variety of beautiful birds. Bwama Island is the largest island in the lake, and was once a leper colony run by a man named Dr. Sharp. Though the school opened in 1987, the last leper died in 2003.”


Today I ventured out to Lake Bunyonyi to make a somewhat spectacular end to my project. My plan was to travel out to Bwama Island to visit Aaron's site. As I was getting myself together this morning, I got a call from Aaron. He was calling me to tell me he was sick. A typical day in the life of a volunteer. I asked if he would rather not have me come. He said it was still okay to come visit, but that I shouldn't expect much of him today. Before I left town I asked him if he wanted me to get him anything in town, so he requested for some sprite and he also asked me if I could go to the pharmacy to get him some medicine that Peace Corps medical told him to get. So once I stopped at the supermarket and the pharmacy I headed down toward the lake.

To get to Bwama Island, you first have to go to the dock at Rutinda, which is on the mainland, and from there you can either get a canoe or a motorboat to take you to the island. It is cheaper to get a canoe and I kind of wanted a bit of the experience, so when I got there I asked for a canoe to take me to Bwama. After waiting for about 5 minutes, they got me a canoe and there was also a Polish guy going to Bushara Island that went in the same canoe. So there was me, the polish guy and the Ugandan canoe operator. Normally in a canoe they have two paddles, so they will expect the passenger to assist in paddling. However, because I wasn't the only passenger I didn't have to row until we left the Polish guy at Bushara. After that point it was only a short distance to Bwama.

The health center
Bwama Island is the largest island in Lake Bunyonyi, however the only establishments on the island are a health center, a church, a primary school and a secondary school. The canoe left me near the health center, so to find Aaron's house I just started asking around. I don't think he has ever been to the health center, because barely anyone there knew him. But there was one man that was able to point me in the right direction. Once I got going the right way, I eventually made it across the island to the secondary school where Aaron is working. When I arrived there I asked where his house was and one of his students was able to take me there.

The primary school
Because he was sick I ended up just sitting with him and chatting for about an hour and a half. I felt bad still coming out there, but I think he enjoyed a little company and he was really grateful for the things I picked up for him in town. After I had been there for a little while, Aaron called a guy he knows back at Rutinda to get him to send a canoe back to pick me up. So I trekked back across the island to get this canoe back. As it turned out, I went back to Rutinda with a student teacher who is teaching at Aaron's school. So again, I didn't actually have to paddle. Once I got there I headed back to Kabale Town.

Now I'm back at Edirisa, which is where I staying again tonight. Tomorrow I'm going back out to Jinja where I'm going to spend the weekend. I COS next Wednesday. Overall, I saw 30 sites in 30 nights and I really got to experience this country and the volunteer lifestyle all over again. So in my eyes, the project was a total success!

Bwama Island

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