Disclaimer: The views expressed on this website are entirely my own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.
World AIDS Day
I walked into town today and they had a couple of tents set up for free male circumcisions. The program was put on by the Infectious Diseases Institute and it is the first time they are doing this in Hoima. They were hoping to perform 90 circumcisions and they will probably do more than that if they have time. Circumcision is one of the ways they can help to decrease the spread of AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.
I joined a few other volunteers to put on a World AIDS day event. We had about 100 children and parents. We had 4 stations which included volleyball, an AIDS trivia game with prizes, a mural drawing contest on white sacks, and an educational table where I taught about AIDS and handwashing and answered questions. I was a bit surprised at how much they participated at my table and I was able to dispel some myths such as “you can’t get HIV if you have type O blood” and “same-sex partners are the only ones who get HIV/AIDS”. The program was a big hit.
Last week I visited the Bwindi community hospital which was very nice. Of course, it is a private hospital and funded 82% by donation. It had a hostel where mothers come to stay 1-2 weeks before delivery and very updated labor/delivery, neonatal, and pediatric wards. What was lacking was an isolation ward (although they had a separate room in both the men’s and women’s wards with 2 beds), an emergency evacuation plan (they were close to the Congo where rebels have been known to wreak havoc), and their pediatric isolation was just 3 beds separated from the others by a low wall. There was a special kitchen in the pediatric ward where the staff prepared food for the malnourished. They had a small garden where they taught family planning: showing one area in which few plants are planted grows better and stronger than areas where too many plants are planted – meaning it is usually easier to provide for families with fewer children. They even had 6 washing machines and 2 incubators which were donated.
They celebrate Christmas here with lots of family, friends and food. They have artificial trees that they decorate with store bought or homemade items. They also have a cake for Jesus’ birthday. When it comes to gifts, it depends on their financial status and how important the holiday is to them. I have not seen lights in windows – probably because many people do not have power.
Travel in Uganda: A PCV Adventure
By Lori Cleveland (12/18/12)
Up at 0430 to catch a matatu from Fort Portal to Bwindi. We knew it would be a long drive, but we wanted to share some Christmas spirit with Eric and Mary who are based extremely far away from anyone in a tropical forest. Surprise, surprise the taxi leaves early - 0545. The driver promises to take us to Mbarara via Kasese. Stop to drop off, stop to pick up, stop to drop off, stop to pick up. And on and on it goes for 2 hours. We can see a police check point ahead when the matatu stops, turns around and the conductor says, “everyone off, you ride boda.” Hmmm, driving without a license? The cacophony starts and, being the good PCV that I am, I chime in yelling, “We can’t ride bodas!!” But nothing works. We get out in the rain with our backpacks and bags; one older woman with a large rolled-up mattress and 2 bags and one man with 3 large coils of wire-resigned to walking or bodas. We start walking. “Hey look, there is a man sweeping off his roof in the rain!” About 2 miles later, wet and alternating between whining and laughing we are picked up by a large truck and the wonderful gentleman takes us another ½ mile to the taxi stage.
In Kasese we pick up our second matatu for the 5 hour trip to Mbarara. Trying to sleep as he stops to drop off, stops to pick up, swerves to avoid potholes, stops to drop off, stops to pick up and swerves to miss bodas. Story of my life. It doesn’t even faze us anymore, pretty uneventful leg of the journey.
Arriving in Mbarara the driver stops on the side of the road, tells us to get out and run across the road to the bus that is going to Kihihi. As we grab our things, he starts yelling at the bus driver to wait because he had a couple of muzungus who are coming. Buses are much more comfortable, you know. But I guess they didn’t want to wait the 2 minutes it took for us to get out of the matatu and left without us. What happened to Uganda time?? Searching for another ride to Kihihi (pronounced cheeheehee as I discovered, after much laughter by the locals, when I tried to explain where we were going.) Hence, matatu it must be for our trip to Rukungiri with a promise to continue on to Kihihi (uh, oh – another promise?)
More stops to drop off, stops to pick up, swerving to miss the goats, and a sudden squeal of breaks with a rapid swerve to miss the cow that stepped into the middle of the road – Dumb cow!! Partway into this trip someone loads 2 chickens into the matatu…right under the seat in front of me. Now you have to know that I am wearing sandals. One of them, with his legs tied, slid around on his belly, bumping into my leg with every turn, The other, after shifting positions multiple times and making me squeal as his feet scampered over mine, finally settled down on top of my foot for the rest of the trip. If he/she lays an egg, do I get to keep it?? Does it make you feel better if I tell you I was wearing socks? Whew!
Two hours later we arrived in Rukungiri and pulled into a taxi park that was empty with the exception of 2 cars, 1 matatu, and 2 pick-up trucks. Didn’t look to promising (there’s that word again). We got out at the conductor’s request, and then began the gesturing and yelling because we had already paid to get to Kihihi. The conductor took us to a pick-up truck and told us that it would be our ride to Kihihi. Oh, joy – we’re definitely sitting in front -We are still wet fish out of water, and don’t really want to be flopping fish in the back of the truck IN water! Since I really needed to pee before we left, I visited the local latrine for 200 shillings. It’s too bad that the money is not used to improve the latrine – that was the worst one I have ever seen. There is a benefit to wearing a skirt! Imagine dropping my pants while trying to keep the pant legs off the floor – LOL!
About 20 minutes later a bus pulls in on the way to Kihihi. WooHoo! We grabbed our things and ran. Unfortunately, we could not find the conductor of the matatu to forward our ticket to the bus (conveniently dodging), so we paid an extra 10,000 to get ourselves to the next destination in as much comfort as possible. This leg of our journey included about ½ mile of winding road with a cliff on one side. The road, as in most of Uganda, is poorly maintained with ruts, bumps, and crevices. So, the bus sways right and left as it hits the ruts, passes over large rocks, and bumps into crevices. As it sways right I am praying that it gets out of the rut fast enough before it sways right over the edge! God’s blessing we made it safely to Kihihi where we were met by Reverend Bernard who drove us the last hour to Bwindi. What a calm ride compared to the rest of our journey, although he did have to swerve to avoid a few goats. Arriving just after dusk – a meager 14 hours later, we are met by Eric with smiles and hugs.
Mukama Asiimwe (Praise God) for keeping us safe.