Sunday, April 13, 2008

Market Day!


My first day in Uganda was Market Day (Saturday), and while we only got to breeze through the 20,000 people who flock to Nyahuka to trade and sell their matoake (above, right), meat, beads, cloth... it was full of life, color, and community.

I woke up yesterday morning in my bed in Charlottesville and grinned... Market Day! I love the city market, which just started its season last week. As I gather my market bags and put on my walking shoes, it is really fun to be reminded that my friends in Uganda did the same thing 8 hours before me! I'm pretty sure I have an easier time getting what I need though.

Yesterday was such a day of participating in Charlottesville, I just had to write about it. I got up and enjoyed the usual (and mandatory) cup of coffee, lounging on the couches with Lauren as we read our books. Then my sweet friend Maggie and I went for a great run along the Rivanna trail. From my house you can walk 5 minutes to be on a bike path by the river and not even know you're in the city. Walk 5 minutes the other direction and you'll be in the center of downtown-- and the market! It's fabulous. So post-run I jumped in my little convertible, top down, and made my way for a quick trip to the market. Now, if i was being "true green Charlottesville" I would've walked... but I was pressed for time and on a hunt for veggies.

The market is full of my favorite venders... like the guy on the left. He sells goat cheese, which apparently the government has now regulated so he can't sell it... so he gives it away! People give donations to help support, but its free! There are always a multitude of flowers and fruit... usually I just walk up with a few dollars, enough to get a freshly made bagel, coffee, or lime iced tea from my favorite stalls. It's still early in the season for all of these fun things, so yesterday I got fresh salad greens for our dinner.
After the market I headed to Bread Works, a local bakery, to find some treats for dessert and breakfast. A few weeks ago I played Bingo at Johnson Elementary as part of their fundraiser (they raised over $2000!! someone else try this!) and had great prizes. I won 3 or 4 times, and I'm still living off those gift certificats to subway, salad creations, and Bread Works.
I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning our house and making homemade veggie lasagna with homemade breadsticks-- my first attempt at both! I even tried to mow the lawn (my roommates know this is my least favorite task) but my attempts were thwarted when I couldn't start the lawn mower. Yes, there was gas in it. I wasn't that sad.
All of these preparations were in anticipation of my sweet friend Emily Weaver coming to visit! Emily has been in Botswana, Africa for the past 2 years working with Journeymen, a Baptist Mission, doing abstinence and HIV/AIDS education, and recently returned in November. We lived together/next door 3 of 4 years in college, and hadn't seen each other since graduation.
The day ended with us talking of Africa and what she misses most... we talked about how you linger over things like meals there because they take so long to prepare... and we ended our night lingering over that delicious lasagna and market salad, just catching up. A great C'ville day with flashes of Africa.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Christmas Goats

Right around Christmas, I was reading the Myhre's blog ( and noticed that Jennifer had offered a non-traditional Christmas gift idea that would benefit World Harvest Mission.

A goat.

As WHM strives to live out their call to spreading the Gospel as well as making "life to the full" possible, they are thinking forward for the district of Bundibugyo. The Matiti goat project is taking mid-grade dairy goats (87%) and breeding them with the local (and useless) goats of Bundibugyo. The idea is that in a decade or so there will be a sustainable and extremely useful resource for the district. The goats that have been donated are being given to HIV positive mothers who wean their children from breastfeeding after 6 months to prevent the risk of HIV transmission. They are also being bred by the townspeople! We visited several villages where goats are being kept and saw how proud the Ugandans are to be entrusted with such a task!

Both of these are "goat owners." The man is holding a record of all the times his goat has been "serviced" by female goats! The woman on the right was so proud to show us her two female goats that she is entrusted with.

After a full day, I was really tired and not terribly excited about seeing one more goat (my true American self coming out in full force at this point in the trip)... but the last village we tromped through turned out to be such a blessing to me. We joked that there was an 18:1 ratio of children to adults in this village, and the children flocked around me, probably because I was their height!! While the others attended to the goats (again Wade's hand made its way into their mouths) and listened to the presentation, I was busy distracting the children and occasionally causing problems! They were afraid of my lily-white skin, and when I would reach out my hand to them they ran back a few feet squeeling!! Finally, one brave boy pushed his way through the inner ring of children and walked up to grasp my hand. Apparently that was all they needed to be encouraged to get close... for the rest of the visit they were like a small, moving skirt around me and Lisa! And their presence, laughter, and curiosity was so uplifting...
The Christmas goat donations were amazing generous, and just the other day at 3am about 50 goats were delivered to the Masso's door! They are being distrubuted to new homes across the disctrict (a big job!) and with eat goat comes hope for milk and food, determination for change, and a restoration of community pride. The project is ongoing, and you can learn more here: as well as on the Bundinutrition blog:

Christ School

This is an aerial view of Christ School in Nyahuka, taken as we flew into Bundibugyo on our first day. The blue roofs mark the school's buildings-- which include a cafeteria of sorts, boys and girls dorms, Rwenzori Mission School (where the younger missionary kids study with Ashley and Sarah as teachers), and many classrooms.

Christ School was founded in 1999 by World Harvest Mission as a secondary school in the Ugandan school system. On the morning of our tour David and Annelise Pierce, the current headmaster of CSB and his wife, gave us a crash course in Ugandan education. Children enter pre-schools and primary schools, which are largely subsidized by the government now. However, for a child to attend they must wear a uniform, shoes, and have a shaved head (which is why we Americans have a hard time telling the boys from the girls sometimes!). Although the fees for attending school are taken care of for the most part, the additional fees for uniforms, notebooks, and hygeine are often too burdensome for families. As a result, a child may be run off the school property for having hair that's grown out and it will take him 2 weeks to earn the money to get a hair cut and thus return to school. As you can see, attendance is a challenge.

On top of that, the children aren't the only ones missing from the classrooms. Teachers are payed government salaries, and there is not much supervision over the system. Often teachers just don't show up for class.

Children attend Primary school P1-P7, somewhat like our 1st through 7th grades, although because of the delays caused by attendance and unclear age regulations a child in P7 may be significantly older than one of our 7th graders. At the end of Primary school there is a really tough exam called the PLE-- Primary Leaving Exam. This tests all the years of primary school knowledge and is the student's ticket either into secondary school or immediately into the work force. As Annelise described to us, in Uganda knowledge is power. The teacher holds the power and if you are lucky enough, you will be able to glean some of that power from them. It is not always the teacher's priority for their students to succeed. If a student passes the PLE with a high enough score, they can apply to various Secondary Schools. Unlike primaries, secondary schools are not funded by the government, and fees are steep by Ugandan standards. There are four levels of secondary school (again roughly equivalent to our high school). At the end of the four years, a student sits for the intense O-level examinations. If they pass O-levels, they can leave Secondary school and go into the work force, or continue on for two years of Advanced or A-level schooling (also taught at CSB). A student in A-levels chooses a concentration, math and physics for example, and spends a great deal of time focusing on these studies. Some A-levels then advance to the Universities. Others then join their peers in the work force.

I have to admit, once I heard the schedule that the CSB students adhere to, I was even more impressed with the dedication of the students and staff. Classes start around 7:45am and run until 4 in the afternoon. From 4-6pm there are clubs and sports (football being far and away the favorite of the Ugandans). Then dinner (cooked by a phenomenal and resourceful staff of 8!!) in the cafeteria, and 7pm-10pm mandatory study hours. Bed... repeat. The 340 students of CSB live on campus, as do the staff members. Below is a class and a girls' dorm (about 24 girls in this one room... simple bunks with a very few personal belongings).

Right now the staff of CSB is trying to increase the school's agriculural production to help feed the students and staff. A few years ago the students were given a choice between beef and rice/beans and they chose rice & beans. So their diet consists of three meals a day-- porridge for breakfast, rice and beans for lunch and dinner. They never get meat or fresh fruits and vegetables. The staff gets meat once/week, usually rabbit. The school is participating in World Harvest's attempt to breed the local goats with mid-grade dairy goats to eventually produce a sustainable source of milk and meat for the students... so we spent some time with the goats (Wade, being a large animal vet made sure they were all healthy by promptly sticking his hands in their mouths... yuck).

Our visit at CSB was wonderful... obviously my heart is for education and the work that they are doing is truly going to impact the future of the entire country! Part of me longed to return one day and teach the Ugandan kids, like my fellow Tribe member Scott Ickus did for a year. Keep tabs on David and Annelise here: and please pray for their ministry! There's a link from this blog that tells how you can help with prayer and financial contributions... a worthy cause.

Here's Ashley in her sweet little classroom. She's done an amazing job with very little making it a wonderful place for her two Kindergarteners and

two third graders to come and learn every day!

Below is a picture of the batteries for the whole school in their chargers. The entire school (and all of the electricity in the district) is run on solar power!!

As with all of Uganda... Christ school was full of beauty.

sorry for the break

Sorry for the break in posts lately... it's been a busy April, and we're only 10 days in.

The big news is that I got into the University of Virginia for graduate school! In the fall I will start a two year program working towards a Masters in Teaching in Early Childhood and Developmental Risk Education. It's the only program of its kind in the country and exactly what I hope to do with the rest of my working life, so needless to say after months of anticipation I was pretty pumped to recieve a letter from UVA! Lauren was with me and we woke up all our neighbors with our screams I think! :)

Appropriately, where I left off in the story of my trip to Uganda was the day where we toured Christ School...