Saturday, August 7, 2010


Right now, I'm sitting over the Nile, watching the sun go down. We will go rafting tomorrow, then back to Kampala for a great last dinner. On Monday morning we'll get on the plane, and get home to JFK on Monday night.
Thanks to everyone for following my journey, supporting me, and commenting on this blog.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Red Cross

Thanks to many generous souls, St. Jude's Orphanage will be receiving a 5 day First Aid and CPR training!
Jen and Danielle (two other teachers) have spent lots of time researching and talking to Mother Filda (also the Director of St. Judes). We were thinking that maybe some how we could get a doctor to come to the orphanage and do a few hour CPR. Instead, Filda started to explain that she would like to have the Red Cross come, but she doesn't have the money. We were shocked initially that the Red Cross was here, and then so excited! Amazingly, through the money donated through this blog, and through other teachers, we will be able to buy new cooking pots, new bed mattresses, and pay for the Red Cross to come and hold a CPR/First Aid training. Many of the details are unknown, but we do know that the basic training the Red Cross does here in Uganda is a 5 day training. Although this may seem like a lot of time by American standards, many of the concepts are foreign to people here (imagine that...foreign, in another country. hmmm...) and so it will definitely take them more time to teach some of these skills.

Although we will not be around for the actual training, I will be going tomorrow to visit St. Judes for one last time, and to finalize everything with Filda. Can't wait! I will have an update for all of you!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ding Dong the Mouse is dead!

It's been about 2 weeks since someone had seen the mouse in our room. But it was a long process these past three weeks.
First Killing attempt- Buy traps from the market. We wanted the boxes that they get trapped inside, but after hearing, "They are not here. You come tomorrow." I waited a day. Falling for the African response and expecting they'd actually be there tomorrow was my first failure. Of course they weren't there the next day, so rather than wait, I bought snap traps. They said Mouse Traps on the box but were more the size of rat traps. "Oh well," we thought "load them with peanut butter anyway." I didn't really want to be the one to find a mouse snapped in half, so I didn't check them the next day.
Joe checked them two days later, and the peanut butter had been licked clean.
Fooled by the mouse the first time! We realized the trap wasn't set right and didn't even go off when we pushed it with a stick. We reloaded it with peanut butter and checked a few hours later.

Second Killing attempt- After making sure the trap will go off. Blasted mouse out smarted us again, and got an extra helping of peanut butter! Apparently the mouse was too light and wouldn't set off the trap.

Third Killing Attempt- So we reloaded it for a third try, this time with more weight. We placed 3 heavy coins on the trap and then put peanut butter on it. We had to wait till morning to see if it worked.
Morning came, and the trap was clean all except for the three coins. More free peanut butter for this stupid mouse, but at least he didn't take our coins (totaling about $1USD).

Fourth Killing attempt- While out in town that day, I stopped by to talk to Robert. He was our friend out in Pabo two years ago and now lives and workes in Gulutown. He told me about this type of medicine I could buy, open the capsule and mix half of it with a scoop of peanut butter. It would poison the mouse and kill him. I was estatic. Robert and I walked down the street and I bought 6 pills for about 4 cents. Drugs are pretty cheap here! I went home, mixed up the concoction and waited. Little did I know that Andy (another teacher) had found and bought 'Rodent Paste' that is basically rat poison. We put both on the trap and waited.

Days passed and we weren't sure if he was still alive or not. It appeared as though he hadn't eaten either the peanut butter or the poison, but there weren't as many late night scares of the mouse trying to climb into bed with one of the six of us. And that was a very good thing!

Fast forward about a week or more later. Six girls living in what we lovingly dubbed "Polly Pocket Ville". A 10'X 12' room with 3 bunk beds, 6 girls, and ALL of our stuff. The room started to smell, but as you can imagine we just thought it was a by product of the small size and the amount of girls. The next morning, thankfully group 1 was leaving, our room stank of death. As the other four girls packed up to leave Gulu, Sarah and I packed up to move into another room.
I am now happily living in the master bedroom (don't get too excited, there are still 3 bunk beds) with two other girls and we have a lot more space. Plus our day time guard, Michael Jackson (I'm not kidding) is awesome and he found the mouse in the back corner of our room. My heart goes out to Jenni and Kristin who slept in that corner of the room. So soddy.
Michael and Evelyn cleaned the room and soon it will be free of mouse stench.

Alas, after many long nights, and way too many killing trials, the mouse is dead! Maybe we'll have a party tonight!

Safari Weekend

Traveling in the Invisible Children SUV off roading vehicle is so much better than a mutatu. Mutatu's are Africa's versions of large van taxi's that take many people, often more than the legal limit, from one town to another. Often they travel long distances, for many hours. I've come accustomed to this type of travel throughout Uganda. But I have only riden in a mutatu ONCE during this whole trip.
Because of the Kampala bombings, Invisible Children will only allow us to travel with the use of their vehicles. Thus everywhere we go we get to travel with the amazing Simon and/or Christopher, two of the IC drivers.
They took us to Murchison Falls National Park. We drove to Anaka IDP Camp and picked up Kelley, Min, and Colleen and then headed right to the park.
Catherine is our fearless leader this summer, and her right hand woman is Danielle. The two of them had to travel down to Kampala and to Entebbe with Group 1, so they put me in charge the Safari for our group. I was up for the challenge and definitely learned a lot. Plus, everyone in group 2 started calling me their commander-in-chief, which was pretty hilarious.
We drove through the park to get to the Nile and saw many Kob, Giraffes, and a few far off Elephants. After crossing the Nile, we boarded a small boat with just the 12 of us on it. Fiona was our guide and she did a fantastic job of showing us the many animals that live in the Nile or just off shore. Our trip was about 2.5hrs up the river to the falls, and then we travel back to the dock (1hr drive) as the sunset over the Nile. Pretty surreal. We saw tons of hippos, crocs, king fishers, and even some colobus monkeys.
That night we stayed in real canvas tents, and there were even wild warthogs walking around the camp ground. Thankfully, Angela and I left our food in the vehicle so they didn't bother us at night. Also, thankfully Angela is a light sleeper and my alarm woke her up even though it didn't wake me up. So we left bright and early for our game drive safari. We pulled out before 6:30 and got in line to take the ferry back across the Nile. First in line felt pretty good!
We then spent the next 3-4 hours sitting on a mattress on top of our vehicles. I can't imagine doing this in the states, but it really is the only way to do a safari. Thankfully the weather cooperated and it stayed cool most of the morning and by 10am the clouds started clearing and it started getting hotter. We finished by 11am without seeing any lions, but we did see lots of other animals. After I get home I'll post some pictures. The internet is just too slow here. sorry.
We got back yesterday and spent some time relaxing. Angela, Sarah, and I even went to an American type restaurant for dinner. We got our dinner to go and took it back home. I was able to eat a delicious chicken salad sandwich while watching Big Bang Theory. It was amazing.
Great ending to a great weekend.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Most of the weekend went well until Sunday afternoon. It is difficult to tell this story, but I must share about Samuel.
Every year I’ve been here we’ve had a really amazing relationship with an orphanage here in Gulu. St. Jude’s Orphanage is a great place where Sister Filda takes in children who otherwise are not cared for. Some of them are living with HIV, others have no living relatives, and others were abandoned by parents and other family is unable to take them in.
We now have a great relationship with them, and two girls in my group are even trying to start a reading program there for the kids after school. They are teaching the older kids to read to the younger kids, in hopes that it can continue after the few weeks that we are here.
We had scheduled a visit for Sunday afternoon, and shortly after we arrived things started to go bad. I was honestly real excited to visit the kids and play with them. Unfortunately about 3 minutes after we got there, one of the mothers had run from behind a building saying something about a kid who fell. Some of the women ran back there, and we weren’t really sure what was happening. Slowly, we walked back to where they were, and a little boy had fallen down into a sewage hole, basically a latrine hole. Some people from our group were reaching into the hole to help pull him out. He had probably been down there for a few minutes by the time we got him out. Some teachers starting giving him CPR, but he wasn’t breathing. Then three teachers then went with a mother and him and rushed him to Lacor hospital. It all happened so fast that I didn’t even know what to think. I stayed with about 6 other teachers as they rushed him to the hospital. The six of us were still at the orphanage and we were trying to figure out what to do as we stayed there and the others had gone to the hospital. It was real awkward, so we stayed and prayed a little with the kids and some of the mothers. Then we just walked back towards town and caught bodas back to town.

By the time we reached home, we got word from the three teachers at Lacor that the boy did not make it. Apparently they arrived at Lacor and went running into the hospital and through the wards, but some how they were surprised at the lack of concern people showed as they tried to get help. They felt like they were tearing down the halls, trying to find the emergency room, and people weren’t even phased by it, as if it wasn’t an emergency. They finally got him to a bed, as in the bottom half of a bed that already had someone with an IV at the top half. Some people came over to help him, had a machine that was suppose to help him, but the machine apparently didn’t even have a cord, and they couldn’t figure out how to plug it in at first. Once they figured out the machine, at this point the teachers finally were able to stop giving the boy CPR, and let the machine take over. Sadly, he didn’t make it.
The boy’s name was Samuel. He was about 2 years old.

We had collected some money earlier in our trip and we were going to buy them some much needed pots and pans (think giant pots) so that they could do a better job of feeding the kids. Now that this tragedy has occurred, we have decided to take our money and give it to the orphanage to pay for Samuel’s funeral costs. While I write this I realize that maybe together we can help this orphanage. With a few dollars from you we could very easily help to purchase some pots and pans for these kids. Please think about giving just a few dollars. Money here goes far and together we can give them some much needed supplies.
The widget on the right will feed right into my PayPal account, and I will then take the money out of my account the day before we leave, and purchase some much needed cooking supplies for St. Judes. Please pass this link along to anyone you think may be interested in donating. A few dollars goes really far here.
Thank you for your generosity.

Pabo; the 'b' word and little Trisha

I had forgotten how bad the road to Pabo is when you are riding in a SUV Vehicle. I went with Jenni and Pablo who are the two American teachers that have been placed at Pabo this summer. They only have one week left before they will return to America. The school had a celebration day because the organization Better World Books had come to donate some books to their new library.
One of the most amazing things was to walk into their library and see all the shelves of books. They were so proud of the books. While walking through the library all I could think of was my students back in King of Prussia and the HOURS, really DAYS, we spent in the basement of the school packing and organizing books. Some of those very books we boxed up in our school basement, and I saw them sitting on the shelves of the Pabo Secondary School library. I was just amazed at the sight of the Better World Books boxes stacked up around the room. Those very same boxes could’ve been sitting in the basement of Upper Merion Area High School, or maybe I loaded them into a truck with 1000 other boxes and the help of 15 students on a Saturday, or maybe they were loaded into the truck at 10pm while 3 inches of snow came piling down from the sky. Either way, I have now seen the fruits of our labor, and boy is it an amazing feeling to see the excitement on those kids faces when they are able to check out a book and take it home with them.
So at this point I felt like I could not hold anymore excitement or warm fuzzies for the rest of the day, but I knew there was more to come. It was so wonderful to come back to Pabo and be greeted by so many teachers who were there two years ago. Baloo, Dennis, Boron, Peter, Walter, Geoffrey and Christine were all SO excited to see me in Pabo again. I had met some of them at the conference including Chrsitine. If you are an avid blog reader than you realize that Christine is the woman who was pregnant when I was there two years ago. I met her daughter, my namesake. Little Antimango Lisa Trisha is a beautiful little 22 month old Acholi girl. She spends most of her time at home, thus she was pretty shy with not only a ton of Acholis around, but she was real quiet when a Munu (white person- me!) was sitting next to her, trying to play with her. She had a whole pink outfit on and even had little shoes that squeaked whenever she took a step.
I asked Christine what Antimango means and although she had a hard time explaining in English, finally she said it means “it is just there.” As I asked her to elaborate what she explained was that it deals with the way she felt at the time of the birth. She talked about struggling to provide for her family, and the idea of living through those struggles. This may seem very pecular to us in America, but all of the tribal names here are given in a way that it describes the state of the world, or of the family’s/mother’s life when she gives birth. It is very, very common to have a name that some how deals with struggles, or not being able to provide, etc. Oh, and her birthday is September 24th. She’ll be two years old this September.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Far from Kampala

No worries! We are here in Gulu, about 6 hours away from Kampala. You may have heard of the bombings that occurred here in Uganda just after the end of the World Cup Games. Three bombs went off at three different locations across the capital, Kampala, killing around 60 people and injuring hundreds other. So far what is known is that a group of Somali’s are unhappy with both the Ethiopian and Ugandan forces within their country. Thus they targeted an Ethiopian area of Kampala and two other Rugby clubs. You should probably just read the many articles from the internet as my knowledge is probably not very accurate.
The one thing I do know is that Invisible Children was about to send a group of Roadies over here to tour parts of Gulu and Uganda. This has become a sort of typical practice for IC over the years. One of the Roadies came over here a little early with some friends (US and Ugandan). This small group of ICer’s were at one of the three locations watching the World Cup Final. Tragically, one of the IC roadies was killed from the bombing, and others injured. Nate Henn was an IC roadie from Wilmington, DE. I don’t know much about him just yet, but hearing this news really shook me. I imagine that he was probably at some of the local Philadelphia area IC events when I was there. The IC office is closed for the day up here, and many of the Americans are just trying to lay low for the next couple weeks.
We are in no major danger up here, as the bombings were meant to bring attention to the Ugandan and Ethiopian occupation of Somalia. No one up here has any reason to believe that Gulu will be victim to any bombs, terrorism, etc. But we are of course taking proper procautions. Even before this happened we have had an armed guard at our house 24/7. We are now staying at our house during the night, from sunset till morning. Rather than go out for Quiz night at a local bar, we’re just going to have our own quiz night at our house on Thursday. Plus, we have plenty of DVD’s, books, cards, and even electronic Catch Phrase to keep us busy at night.
Hope you all are well. Thanks for your prayers, concerns, and thoughts. Thank you for the many ways in which you’ve supported me on this trip. I couldn’t be here, doing this, without your support. Love you all!