Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New friends and old fish

Its nothing like waking up to a rooster at 6:30 in the morning to your 3rd day in the beautiful Uganda started. I laid in bed so pumped for 6:30 to come, despite popular belief, because of the breakfast Grace (the hostess of the Golden Arc) would make for us and our first journey throughout Soroti which is the area that we are working. Breakfast was delicious as usual and consisted of eggs, bread, and mangos. And I’m obsessed with mangos. Soon after breakfast we met James, David, and Julius and they are all a part of the MFP team in Soroti. We chatted for a while about Uganda, our expectations, and our experiences.  

Afterwards, we hopped in our trusty white Toyota rover and began exploring the town of Soroti and a lot of its different communities. We made about 4 pit stops and each of the communities were so welcoming. They treated us as if they’ve known us our entire lives or as if we were a part of their community.  In general, everyone I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with has been more than pleasant to me which is a huge culture shock after living in New York for 8 months. We’ve also managed to pick up few words in the local language such as hello, which is pronounced ‘yoga’, bye, which is pronounced ‘ebo’, and thank you which is pronounced “A elamo noi’.

Of all of these communities, I would definitely have to say that the fishing village was my favorite. This particular community was located on Lake Kyoga which is the second largest lake in Uganda behind Lake Victoria (which we visited yesterday). As soon as we got out of the car, we were approached by a group of children greeting us with smiles. Of course Ben happened to have a tennis ball and as soon as whipped in out the kids got so excited. We played for a short time until we made our way down to the lake. The view was amazing. It literally didn’t even look real. Lake Kyoga stretched as far as I could see and the contrast with the sky was incredible. As if this moment couldn’t get any better, I met a fisherman named Michael who immediately called me friend with the brightest smile. Michael told me all about his life as a fisherman and how he wanted to come to the United States. He also took me to his boat which had just got back from the fishing on the lake and invited me to stand in it. He looked at the day’s catch and said that it was a poor one. We talked more of his experiences and how one time he swam 20 meters below the surface of the water. He was proud to say that his boat was the fastest boat. It was cool seeing that he took such pride in his work. As we said our goodbyes, he gave me a fish that he caught that day as a token of our friendship. I was definitely touched by the fact that he would give me one of the few fish that he caught from that day. I was also a little caught off guard by the fact that the fish was still alive but needless to say I’m happy to say that I have a new friend in the fisherman Michael. - Tyler (6/7/14)

Sorry I’ve been absent!

Here’s a quick recap on everything you’ve missed:

Everything you’ve ever heard about Africa is either 100% right or 100% wrong. There is no gray area in this country, Uganda, the pearl of Africa. As soon as I line up to pay for my visa, a person standing to the side of the desk takes my crisp $50 bill right out of my passport and walks away. I stare at the office, and in a small voice that I couldn’t even recognize as mine, I say, “but that was mine…?” The officer laughs for an eternity and a half and then finally explains that the man had been waiting for change and that I was clear to enter the country. Welcome to Uganda! (6/5/14)

After flirting with death on a quick ride to Kampala, the capital of the country, we arrive to our hotel at 5 am. After a quick dip in 40% deet bug spray, I spread out into a bed, covered in with a mosquito net. It honestly makes me feel like a princess.

The capital reminds me of some of the central areas of El Paso, and I was shocked that a) Kampala is just as nice as El Paso or b) that El Paso is right out of the middle of Africa. We met with the NGO we’re working with, Pilgrim, who could not have been more welcoming, and then head back to our hotel. After waking to what I SWEAR was a crazy warlord cry, we ate breakfast with a man who cried to us about the failure of his fourth marriage due to a certain Miss Uganda and how his sons hated him. I assured him that it was never too late to fix things, and he melted, exclaiming “It’s never too late!” We left shortly after that. We were ready to take on the whole of Uganda! We took a smooth drive from Kampala to Jinja, then hopped on a boat to see the source of the Nile. I waved at all the people on the side of the river, learning later that they were a part of Uganda’s federal prisons. (Blessed) (6/6/14)

Soroti’s incredibly cool. I have never felt more out of place and yet more welcomed. We visited a small fishing village and I received a fish as a gift from a friend I had made there. The fish was lovely and slimy, and it meant the world to these people and to me. The twenty + children of the village followed Tyler, Ben, and I around. Ben whipped out a tennis ball and the whole crowd went crazy. A girl who could not have been over five with a two year old on her hip hovered right next to me the entire time. We shake and she takes her hand, sniffs it, and then licks it laughing. American sweat is tasty? (6/7/14) - Elaine


  1. "A elamo noi" for your posts, Tyler and Elaine! So wonderful to hear how you three are being being welcomed in Soroti and treated with kindness by the people you meet. I can just picture Benjamin tossing a tennis ball around with the kids. This post made my day!
    Paula (Ben's mom)

  2. These posts are just fantastic! It does us so much good to get these details about your lives in Uganda. I loved hearing that while you had never felt more out of place, you had never felt more welcomed. What a compliment to the people you are meeting!

    Love, Juliet (Elaine's mom)

  3. Following you guys via this blog is amazing. Thank you guys for allowing us to share in your experience without even being there. Continue to explore and enjoy!
    Love, Arlene (Tyler's mom)