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July 19, 2011

Jinja was so exciting. This weekend was the perfect time to go and make the most of our last full weekend in Uganda. It was lovely just to spend a big trip with all the other interns and go on an exciting adventure. Before I go into a too long description of our weekend, I’ll give a quick update on my project. So the Family planning seminar went over great, and the final seminar on financial savings went really smoothly as well. Erin, one of the other interns, came with me to my community to teach about the differences between commercial banks and micro finance institutions, and the benefits and disadvantages of both. Even though this seminar did not focus on health necessarily, I think saving your money is an important subject to know about, especially when focusing on the welfare of an entire family. I also wanted to learn more about what my community’s options were to attain loans and make money off of savings. Because in the case of the Lutweete Farmer’s Cooperative, that little bit extra made by dividends in a microfinance fund could help pay off school fees, and loans could help in preparing for bigger crop yields and investment into seed projects.
Now that my project is rounding to the end, I am really sad. I have grown really close to many people in my group, and I don’t think I am ready to let go of everything yet. So what I have tried to do is put in place a system that can help continue to fund my water-harvesting projects while keeping the members accountable. This way I can continue to be invested in the project, while the members take over the control of organizing construction days, making sure they get the other materials from both town and their community and bringing the receipts back to the Foundation for Sustainable Development. I am hoping that this will also help keep a strong relationship between FSD and my community so that they receive more interns to help bring more projects to the community.
So Jinja. First off, Jinja is completely different from Masaka. It wasn’t bombed by Tanzania during Idi Amin’s time and it is home to the Nile and Bugagali Falls. It also used to be a very large industry town, and because it caters to tourism now, there is a lot more investment in infrastructure. The environment is beautiful. There are tons of tall trees filled with various birds and monkeys, the town has way more craft shops and there are all kinds of thrilling activities to do. On our first night we got yummy Thai food and then on Saturday we went White Water Rafting. This was one of the most exciting and frightening things I have ever done. Not only are the rapids Grade 5, but also the Nile was at a higher water level than usual this weekend so there were more waves.
The way rafting works is you get about six or seven people with a guide and you hop into a simple large raft. No belts, no real seats, just you sitting on top of this raft side walls with your life jacket, paddle, and helmet. Our group consisted of Margot, Elana, Chantel, our guide from New Zealand named Grant, and then three Ukranian United Nations Peacekeepers who had just finished a twelve-month term in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their names are Andre, Alex and Valerie. They could probably kill someone in a heartbeat but they were so sweet to all the girls. Apart from wanting to get smashed by huge waves, one of their main goals was to protect us from getting hurt. So many times if we fell out of the boat, they would just grab our life jacket and throw us back into the boat. Rafting on the Nile was probably my favorite thing I’ve done in Uganda. During the day you glide down the beautiful massive river, and then you would go through a rapid, glide through another part of the river, and then go through another terribly frightening rapid. Sometimes you would fall out, I did twice, because the raft would flip over but there were so many safety kayaks and giant rowboat rafts that you are bound to find someone to grab onto. In the middle of that day we breaked for a snack and ate half a pineapple each, cut by a guy on a rowboat raft using the bottom of an upturned kayak as a cutting board. Even though all the rafting groups were foreigners, at least half of the guides and safety kayakers were Ugandan. Many Ugandans who live in around the Nile are amazing swimmers, because they have grown up around the rapids their entire lives. So the rafting company hired lots of local people to be part of the company because they know so much about the river. I ended up in one of the rowboat rafts after flipping out of my own raft, and I was able to sit and chat with this man named Jibooni. He said he loved working in the company because he could come out all day on the river and then meet lots of people. Grant, our own raft guide, also told ‘Team Extreme,’ our raft team, that a lot of the local guides used to be Bugagali Falls swimmers. They would get people to pay them 10,000 – 15,000 Uganda shillings to swim down these falls on jerry cans. So kayaking and rafting was a bit safer and more consistent options for making a living. I really liked this aspect because after reading so much about how tourism is harmful to local populations because it doesn’t necessarily involve locals and just takes away resources, this example at least shed a more positive light on Uganda tourism.
On Sunday a couple of us went horse back riding, which allowed us to spend sometime doing a relaxing activity and see more of the Nile.
I can’t talk about Jinja without talking about transportation. Getting there was another adventure. We all took public transportation, and trying to navigate through three taxi and coach bus parks was difficult to say the least. But we managed to all arrive in one piece, and getting home was a lot easier. A lesson about Kampala, taxis and cars don’t stop for people, and people just walk in front of moving vehicles. I wish I had more pictures because descriptions don’t do it justice.
The next week is going to be really strange. I came back last night to my host family’s house and they were so excited to see me. I actually missed them a lot this weekend, especially Sunday night. Every Sunday Philo, Dorothy and I watch the Big Brother Africa eviction show. We get really into it, and even two weekends ago, our power went out right before the show started so we literally ran over to my host father’s pork joint because he has a generator so that we could see who got out. Even my host father joined us as we yelled at the TV eating pork on kebab skewers and drinking pineapple soda. I was really happy to see them yesterday. I know that I will be so sad to say goodbye to them, but I am glad it turned out that way.
Below I will put some pictures from our rafting adventure, I hope whoever might be reading enjoys J. I just want to say thank you so much Mr. Heston. I don’t want to leave Uganda now, and I would never have been able to come if it wasn’t for you. This experience has taught me more than I have learned in two years at college. My community and I are so grateful for the opportunity to do so much productive and beneficial work. Thank you again so much.


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