Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We had our goodbye dinner in Uganda on Thursday, and we cooked and hung out all day-all of the friends and family were over, and it was just really nice to see that we were more than just host students to them, but that they took us in as their own daughters, just as the way my host family in Rwanda did. I'm sure it was also a combination of nerves, sadness, and exciteness, but also a little bit of food poisoning, because by Friday I couldn't eat anything, and when I did, it came out both ends. Still feeling sick we got on a bus at 7am Saturday morning for five hours to take us back down to Kampala. Once there I pretty much slept all day Saturday and most of Sunday and then met up with some friends to say goodbye. Monday morning comes and at 4:00am we take a taxi to the airport and 5 plane rides later, on Tuesday night, I'm back in Seattle!!!

I thought it would take a lot more re-adjusting and I would experience a lot more culture shock than I am...maybe I'm just too happy to be home to notice, but I've been alright coming back into this culture. Cooking is definately a huge difference though-to use a stove top, four burners at once, and to have a sink right behing me and not having charcoal over my hands and smoke in my face. And it's really been nice going to the bathroom in the middle of the night just walking across the hallway, instead of outside with a flashlight a ways from the house.

All of the different cultures that I have experienced have taught me so much-some parts I love, and some parts not so much-in my culture as well as in Rwanda and Uganda. But what definately made this trip was the people, and the experience after the program ended. I have truly made genuine friendships and relationships with amazing people with beautiful hearts who have opened their homes to me...

I am going to the doctor today to get checked out and make sure I have no weird diseases or bugs in me, so if I am all healthy with nothing exciting to post about, then this is the last post! Until my next journey....

Peace and Love
Kuc ki Mari


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Winding Down

Sorry that it has been a while, I havn't been able to make it much tot he internet, we've been so busy with everything and getting ready to leave, but I will see everyone soon! We went to Kitgum this past Saturday-took a 2 hour bus ride to visit a host sister who is at boarding school and to say goodbye to her. It's been really weird starting the goodbyes. We've just had to make a list and each day go visit someone else... Just outside Kitgum is where my host dad is from, so we took a bus there and met all of his family, and then got a ride back to Gulu with him.

Other than that, it's been the same things. Town is about 45 minutes walking so we go to town everyday to pick some fresh vegetables and fruits, and then usually take a long route home, which is about another hour and a half. The days have been going by so quickly, I really don't know where the time is going. This week especially, trying to say goodbye to people and get all of our last minute things done. We spent all of Monday roasting groundnuts to peeling and sorting them to grind with this other seed to make this paste called oddi. We've also ground and made millet flour, and we are making a few other things to bring home with us! So everyone be excited to have some little treats. Tomorrow we are having a big wabinen cok cok (see you soon) dinner, so we will be cooking all day tomorrow, and then Friday just finishing up packing and saying our last goodbyes. Saturday, we are catching an early bus and spending Saturday and Sunday in Kampala, and then leaving early morning monday to go catch our flight. After two days fo traveling I will be back in Seattle on Tuesday night!

I will probably do one more final wrap up post when I get home, but until then, this is it!!

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Living in Gulu

We have been back in Gulu now for two weeks, and the time is going by so fast! We have kept ourselves really busy, and I don't know where the days are going. The daughter living at home went to boarding school last Friday, so we spent most of last week helping her prepare for school. Since she was leaving, the family was teaching us how to cook everything so we could take care of the house during the day. I've learned how to cook most of the local dishes on my own, even using the charcoal stove. We took all of the jerry cans to the pump today and filled and carried them back to the house-I think that they were suprised that we managed.

I've really settled myself into a routine here and it's been such a different experience not being with the program and tied down. We went to the villages of where the host parents grew up. It was so beautiful and quiet, I'm glad I was able to go out and visit those places. I've also gone and visited back with the family that I lived with-they are all doing well.

Other than that-we have just been walking around all day, doing laundry and dishes and cooking. I feel like I am at home here-enjoying my time, relaxing, and just living. It's getting weird though, so think that in two and a half weeks we will be leaving to go back down to Kampala to catch our plane back home...It's difficult just getting settled somewhere for a couple of weeks, learning the language, making relationships, and then leaving, and not knowing when I will be back here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back in Gulu..once again

The last weekend in Rwanda was really nice. We celebrated Peace's birthday Friday, and then on Saturday she took us to a wedding reception. There was traditional dancing and music-which was amazing and beautiful! It was a nice way to end the weekend. We just had a nice dinner together Sunday, and then on Monday Caitlin and I hopped on a 6am bus back to Kampala, which was up there on one of the top worst rides of my life. I was already feeling sad about leaving and had a stomach ache from probably something I ate, and i just felt sooo nauseous. About halfway through (Luckily I had brought a plastic bag with me, just in case) because I started puking in my seat...and then had to sit there for the rest of ride holding my puke bag! retrospect it was really funny, but at the time, during the 11 hours bus ride, it was not funny. We stayed two nights in Kampala, and am now back in Gulu. We watched the game on Wednesday and it was soo fun! Everyone was pretty upset that Man U lost though! I wasn't really going for either team...

So we are now staying with Caitlin's host family, and they have been very welcoming. It's nice to be back cooking and helping around the house. We walked and pumped water on Thursday and have been helping with dinner every night.

Peace and Love,

Friday, May 22, 2009


It has been a week since the group has left-and a week on my own with Caitlin in Rwanda. It has been wonderful living with Peace and Victor. I cannot seem to emphasize enough how amazing these people are-and it is people like them that reinforce my faith in the kindness of human beings. Caitlin and I have been walking a lot-usually between 6-8 miles a day, but we were really bold and walked 14 or so miles on Sunday. We have just been walking around, reading, eating, talking, and spending time with Peace and Victor. It has been the relaxing time that we both really needed after the program. On Wednesday we got up early and took a bus to Lake Kivu in Kibuye. We ended up spending our money on a traditional Rwandan painting instead of going to Burundi. So we ended up going a little cheaper and spending 3 days in this small town-smaller than Cashmere. We found this small little guest house, and just walked around. Everywhere in the town has an amazing view of the lake. Yesterday we decided to go swimmer, despite contradicting responses of how safe the water was. But we found this small bit of sandy beach and decided to join the locals and jump in. It was soo refreshing, and hopefully we dont end up with any weird parasites of bacteria...but honestly, if we do-it was worth it. We got such a deal going ont his little trip-for around $30-I paid for the bus ticket to am from, two nights in my own room with a view of the lake, a clean towel, single bed, two buffet dinners, breakfast, and a guiness and coke at the beach. It's going to sure be hard going out in the US and going on trips, because there is no way you can get all of that for only $30.

We got on a bus this morning, and came back around 4 for Peace's birthday. We had cake and wine, and an amazing dinner. It was nice to be able to celebrate this with Peace. It's really going to be hard leaving and saying goodbye, and not knowing when I will be able to see them again.

We are going to head back to Kampala on Monday, then back up to Gulu on Wednesday in time for the big football game!! Everyone watches the football matches, so it will be so exciting to watch! Although if ManU looses, then I think it will be a rough night, since everyone in Gulu supports them. Either way, I think it will be a fun night. Then we have about 4 weeks left in Gulu, and back to the US. It's weird to start thinking about coming back-by the time I come home I will have been gone for 5 months...

Peace and Love,

Saturday, May 16, 2009


So last Saturday I turned in my 42 page paper and did my 20 presentation, and I think it went well! We left Gulu Sunday as a group and went to Murchison Falls and went on a game drive and saw amazing animals! Then we went to Jinja to see the source of the Nile, which is still debatable. It was nice being with the group again, although it was really weird having everyone getting ready to leave and packing and knowing that I wont be going home for another - weeks. It made me a little homesick.

So the group left Friday morning for the airport and Caitlin and I hopped on a bus and 11 hours later arrived in Kigali. We are staying with my homestay family, who are amazing! I think we may go to Burundi or just travel around Rwenda, its kind of exciting not knowing what ours plans will be. We will try to get back to Gulu by the 25th or 26th or May so we can try to still do something with a womens soccer team.

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Almost done

The program is almost over. My paper is pretty near finished, all 43 pages plus 20+ pages of transcribed interviews. Only 1.5 spaced by the way. :) All I have to do now is print and bind and give a 20 minute presentation on Saturday! Then on Sunday we leave with the group to do some traveling to Murchison Falls and Jinja.
Caitlin and I confirmed out flight for June 29th. I think we will go back to Rwanda and visit my host family and from there take a bus to Burundi. After that-back to Gulu and we will stay with Caitlin's host family. We are not sure what is going to happen with the soccer idea. We are hoping to sitll meet with the empowerment soccer group from Seattle and try to buy soccer balls for the Gulu High School team. Right now, after being so busy and stressed about the research, I am ready to just play it by we'll see what happens.

Peace and Love,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Broken Mirrors

So talk about a bit of bad luck. One of the girls from the program who lives with me broke a mirror Saturday, so we all joked about having bad luck...which seemed to come true. On Saturday, Caitlin and I received an e-mail saying that in order to change our flight, Brittish airways was going to charge us an additional 175 for the difference in airfare, aside from the 150 just to change the ticket and 50 for the study abroad travel agency...which we really had to think long and hard how we could save money and stay longer...

Also, we are going to move out of the place we are staying. The landlords brother is drunk all of the time, which worries us a little. And we found out from some local friends who said that they ripped us off when we told them how much we paid...

Aside from that, my research has been frusterating. My advisor wont meet with me-I gave her my paper to start proof reading and giving me suggestions and she hasn't gotten back to me in almost a week. Then this morning I was really sick-on the toilet for 3 hours-then had to drag myself out of bed for an interview, where I walked 45 minutes to get to, for her to tell me she was too busy to meet with me. SO then we went to the resource center where we do out typing for free, and the power is off, and they kick us out..

With the paper due next Friday I'm freaking out a little!!

On the upside, the women I have been working with are so wonderful and nice. They showed me how to do tie & dye and let me dye some fabric. ANother one of the ladies showed me how she did her embroidery. I'm enjoying that part-aside fromt he interviews, its nice to talk with the women. They are all employed by this organization that provides income generating activities to these women.

I'm just really excited for the paper to be turned in...and for the soccer project. A girl I went to high school with is coming to Gulu to help build a soccer team and a soccer field with her boyfriend. What a small world! SO, we are going to meet up and maybe work together. Their blog is

SO, as of now, I think we are getting a flight that leaves the 29th of June from Uganda...if all of the airfare stuff works out.

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


So we've been back in Gulu for about a week and a half now. The time is stressful trying to get all of the research done for my independent study. We have 2 weeks left until our 40 page paper is due. I'm working on a paper on the relationship between gender and poverty in a post-conflict society. I've found a lot of useful information, and I am also planning on working with an organization that focuses on income-generating activies available for women. Hopefully I can get it all done in the next two weeks.

Other than research, nothing much else is new. The power in all of Gulu keeps going out for a couple days at a time, so it's been difficult to get on computers.

I'm really enjoying my time here, and I'm excited to be here after the research part of over and just enjoy having some free days.

Peace and Love,

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Settled in Gulu

Finally all settled. Our apartment/compund is nice. Very basic, just a bare room with a bed. I am going to have to buy a desk or ask them to put in some nails to hang my clothes. The water hasn't been working so it's been bucket showers for the past few days. I've started my research, but am thinking that it will be a little stressful with only 3 weeks left. Hopefully it will all work out! I forgot how much I missed Gulu and how friendly everyone is here! I'm excited to be here for another 2 1/2 months.

The rainy season will be interesting...we got caught in a HUGE downpour yesterday and had to seek shelter with some security guards. Man, when it rains, it pours! And will probably be like this every day for the next month, but it has made Gulu nice and green. Instead of so dusty. But, sionce most of the streets are dirt roads, they flood and turn into pure mud!

Just time for a short update!

Peace and Love,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back in Uganda

I am back in Gulu after an 11 hours bus ride from Kigali to Kampala, and another 6 hour bus ride from Kampala to Gulu.

Rwanda Wrap-UP-Last Monday-Wednesday, we took a trip to Western Rwanda to Gisenyi. Another long 8 hour drive, because the bus driver took us to the wrong town and then took "short-cut" on the worst rode, that took longer than if we had just returned to Kigali and then started over. Tuesday was the start of memorial week in Rwanda, which made things even more intense. We went to a memorial site on Tuesday, with hundreds of other Rwandans. In a society that came off as so closed off, it was hard to see everyone so emotional. The place was really beautiful though-we were on a huge lake with volcanoes all around. The last few nights back with the homestay was nice. It was really hard to say goodbye because I'm not sure if I will actually ever see them again, like I knew I would with my Gulu host family. I was really lucky to have ended up with them, they were some of the most genuinely nice people I have ever met.

We left Kigali Friday, and got into Gulu last night. We just lucked out and found a place with three bed-rooms, and we all have our own shower/toilet room. And by that I mean, a small room with a shower head over the toilet to shower. I am just thankful that it is a flushing toilet with running water. It also has a bed which is good-so we dont have to buy one. We are going today to negociate a price, but its in town and from what the landlord said last night, will be a reasonable price. It's so nice to be back in Gulu, and I'm really excited to go visit my homestay family.

The next few weeks are going to be hectic. We have 3 1/2 weeks to do our research and write a 40page paper...

Caitlin and I are also really excited to get started on our soccer project and go meet with the girls at Gulu highschool. She has a family friend sending soccer balls to us, so that is a good start!

Peace and Love,

Saturday, April 4, 2009

First-Thanks everyone who left me wonderful, supportive comments on my last entry. I am feeling better, but am still feeling really burnt out. Through it all, I am stilll learning so much and my perspectives and views on what I thought I once knew have been completlely questioned and changed.

It is unbelievable what we are taught and what we take for the truth without pausing to question any of it. Everything we learn are all biased accounts of some form of the truth, and how many people really stop to think about why we are being taught these things. Afterall, history is written by those in power, never by those who have suffered. We met with a man who works in government here in Rwanda, who wrote a book called, Hotel Rwanda or the Tutsi Genocide as Portayed by Hollywood. It basically discredits everything that was shown in the film, and especially criticizes and discredits Paul Rusesabagina. It just blows my mind how easily the story of someone can be told, and pushed as truth. How he could be seen in the eyes of so many as this amazingly couragous heroic man, and it turns out that he fully took advantage of the situation and portrayed himself as someone who in reailty, was far from a hero. Everyone I have spoken with in Rwanda is so angry and frusterated at how he basically exploited those who suffered and reaped the benifits, when there are so many real life people who have done amazing things and saved many lives, but who go unnoticed and continue to simply live their lives...

Just something to think about-constantly question everything you are shown and think about who is feeding you this version of "truth."

Friday was our last day of official lectures. We are taking a three day trip to the Western part of Rwanda. I'm still feeling aprehensive about the upcoming week though-because starting Tuesday, it is mourning week-and really it is the whole month of April. I feel like it really isn't my place to be here during this time...

I'm looking forward to Friday and going back to Uganda...specifically Gulu to really be on my own.

Peace and Love,

Monday, March 30, 2009


I am really feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed. Rwanda has been pushing me to my limits, and I am at a point where I dont know how to handle anything. We went to three more memorials in the past week, and I cant get these horrific thoughts out of my head. All I can see is death, all around me.
I have started to become so angry and frusterated and helpless. Every day I feel like I understand less and less. I just have no comprehension of how a human being can commit these acts to a fellow human being. Day after day, I am more and more worn out physically and mentally.
Not only dealing with and learning about death, but I am extremely culturally fruserated. I am tired of being touched and groped and verbally harrassed because I look foreign. I am not a cultutral relativist, and this is not something I can continue to handle.
I have no escape from my own head. I dont have music to listen to, I dont have non academic books to read, I cant seem to find a way to get out of my head, even for just 15 minutes.
I feel bad, I have no energy to devote to my host family, and they really are wonderful and welcoming. But I dont want to talk about my day and all Ive been wanting to do is go sleep, because that is my only distraction. I feel like everyone in the group is feeling like this, and for my own sanity, I really need to get out of Rwanda. I have reached my threshold.
Besides going to the peace caravan yesterday, where there was music and dancing, I really havnt experienced any true Rwandan culture, except for the learning about the genocide. That is all we learn about, which is detramental in my opinion, because I know there is more to Rwanda than the genocide.

I just feel really lost.

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We left Sunday morning to Kigali, and it was possibly the worst car ride of my life! Of course, I forgot to take my motion sickness pills and by the end of the 3 hour drive I was puking my guts out for the rest of the day...

We were picked up by our homestay families that same day...and it has been an interesting experience resulting in a homestay switch. My first family was a older man who I thought was younger but turned out to be 40, and his girlfriend who is either 19 or 21. He owns a bar and his girlfriend works there so the first night they didn't come home until 1:30am...very drunk and barges into my room to try to talk to me. The next day I went to the bar to visit and there were many creepy drunk men so I ended up going home at 8ish and again they didn't return until after I was asleep. Besides them being never being home, there was something weird going on between their relationship...another host mother made a comment to a girl in the group that I should have never been put with that family. So...I talked about this with the director and last night they switched me to another family. A young couple again, just the mother and father, but they were very sweet. I ended up being put with them because one of the boys in our group got very ill and had to fly back to the US, and that was the family he was suppossed to be with. The mother works for a women's empowerment group so I think we will have a lot to talk about. Other than that, I havn't really experienced much of Kigali since we have been in classes and I have been trying to get settled. We will be here until April 10th and then back to Gulu!

Peace and Love,

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memorials and Peace Rallies

This time of the year is always difficult-and I anticipated as much, especially being away from home where my emotions are understood. It has been difficult coming and dealing with my own personal issues of death-while being in a place were death has occured so abundantly all around. Coming from a culture where death is not very common-it is difficult to process my own grieving when everyone I talk to, everyone I meet, everyone I see has witnessed and experienced death so intensely.

Saturday we went to Murambi Genocide Memorial. We had been briefed on what we would see when we went, but it was still hard to imagine. On the drive there all I could think about was death and my own personal issues. As we approached, I saw all of these people living and going about their day and I was just trying to imagine how it is for them to live "normally" after what had happened. It all just came over me and I broke down in the van as we pulled up. It's hard for me to let myself be comforted when I am feeling so vulnerable-but it was a moment where I couldn't hold it in, and it needed to come out. I was able to get it together long enough to hear the explanation given by our guide and start walking with the rest of the group. The first area we went was a long row of classrooms-full of bodies that had been covered in limestone for preservation. It was almost unreal because they had lost the look of real bodies, and were almost just skeletons. But, what really brought me back to reality was seeing bits of hair and tattered clothes still remaining. It was also really difficult to see the shapes and positions of the bodies-all mangled and missing limbs. Seeing the small child bodies was also really heartbreaking.

One thing I found interesting was how people had left flowers in the rooms. For some reason, this caught me off guard. I couldn't imagine having to go to such a memorial as this to visit my loved ones who had been killed.

As we continued, I couldn't go into any more rooms. There was just door after door or rooms full of bodies and bones and skulls. Instead I just kind of walked my myself trying to process it all and just feel what was happening. At the end I did go into one last room where they had collected clothes and displayed them.

Halfway through the tour, one of the woman survivors who was walking with us started to put her arms around me trying to comfort. All I could think about was how she could handle comforting me when she was the one who lost her entire family and managed to live through what happened-she was one out of the five survivors out of 50,000 who were told to come to this school for safety and were then all killed.

This experience really took a toll on my body. I felt my emotions with my every being-I was shaking and crying, and my whole body just shut down-I ended up puking in the bathroom at the end of the tour and couldn't really function the rest of the day.

It really put my own grieving into perpective and I think in some ways helped me deal and get through the day on Monday....

On a more peaceful note-yesterday a few of us went to this peace caravan. It ended up being mostyl rained out-so they just played music. But it was beautiful with all of the people around dancing and singing and just enjoying themselves. The peace caravan is a group of people from all different countries in East Africa who travel around and bring people together through football and peace. We are going to get to see the whole show when we are in Kigali, so I am really excited for that. And Chelsea-you would have loved it!! It was all reggae and the band played a lot of Marley. :)

Peace and Love,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Butare, Rwanda

I really feel the need to start off by expressing how unbelievably beautiful Rwanda is. I am pretty sure that this is the most breathtaking place I have ever been.

We arrived in Butare Tuesday evening, and I already had an idea of the place we were going to be staying, but we were never fully informed of it's history. We have asked, but everyone seems reluctant to go into the history or even discuss it. So of course, the first night here I slept maybe an hour because I freaked myself out thinking of all of the things that could have happened and let my mind get carried away with my imagination. I tried looking up some information online, but havn't had any luck. I think because I learned so much about the genocide before I came, it is having more of an immediate impact on me and all I can't stop picturing the genocide. I keep wondering how such aweful violence can happen in such a beautiful place...

We walked to the university yesterday and hopefully we will get our student ID's soon so that we can use the internet and check out books. We also had our first lectures today, which were really interesting.

Overall Rwanda has been extremely different from Uganda. Aside from the beauty, the infrastructure is really nice, and there are a lot more inniciatives to keep the country clean and are moving towards more development. The town we are staying in for the next week and a half is really small and sort of eerily quiet. No one is on the streets past 10pm and people sort of have been keeping to themselves-not as eager to talk as people were in Gulu. I have really enjoyed being able to practice my french-although it is still really difficult to communicate and understand with the different accents.

Monday, March 9, 2009

extended plans

On our way to Rwanda, we decided to stop in Mbarara (a town in west Ugdanda) to break up the 15 hour drive to Butare, Rwanda. We arrived last night and today we went to a Hutu refugee camp. Our visits to these sites are always insiteful and interesting, but I am still having a problem internally dealing with stopping to talk with people for only an hour and then leaving and never seeing them again. As with every visit, we were ask how we are going to give back aftertaking all of this information and how they always have groups of foreigners come to talk and research, and the community never receives any thing back...

Off of this topic, since it has been something I have been really having an issue with, I have decided that I am going to stay in northern Uganda after the program with another girl and we are
now planning to try to start a soccer team focusing on young women affected by the conflict in northern Uganda. The whole idea is to empower women using sports therapy as a way to help give these young woman confidence and a way to express themselves physically and emotionally in a positive way. This plan will only go as far as the funding will allow, so we are trying to get organizations to help fund so we can turn this into a long term sustainable program.

Well, that is about it...we leave for the last 10 hour lag of our trip to Butare tomorrow.

Peace and Love,

Thursday, March 5, 2009


So I have been in Kampala for about a week now and it has really been a love/hate relationship.

Our visits to cultural sites have been really interesting-we visited the Kusubi tombs where the kings used to lived and were buried, and we also went to the parliament building, but because government buildings in Uganda are very secretive, they didn't show us around much.

The city in general is really overwhelming and had a rough couple of first days. We went out last Saturday to a night club, just to get out and enjoy the city. On the way back, three of us were walking, and it was about 2:30 in the morning, and we were close to the hotel so we thought it would be okay. About halfway, a man started following us, and the three of us kept looking at each other thinking maybe we were just being paranoid, but sure enough, we started speed walking and so did he. We reached the front of the hotel, and all kind of breathed a sigh of relied, until we realized that the gate was locked and the security guard must have been somewhere else. We started banging really loud, and turned around when the man following us started to attack us and trying to rob us. Luckily the guard came and scared the guy away.
I mean, this really could have happened anywhere, but just being somewhere unfamiliar makes it especially difficult to process. The few days after, while walking around-the incident really shook me up, and I was really jumpy whenever someone touched my arm or yelled. The people here so far have been a lot more aggressive towards "muzungus." In Gulu, we did get a lot of attention and people calling us and touching us, but overall I felt it was more out of curiosity and friendlyness.
Being in the busy city has made me really miss Gulu, and I wonder how my experience here might have been different if we spent the three weeks here with our homestay families. I think its just natural to compare everything to somewhere that you have grown to love.
Monday we started our lectures at Makerere University. The campus is soo big and beautiful. The lectures in general have been interesting, but I feel my self getting anxious and just tired of the classroom setting. I am really looking forward to my 4 week independent study at the end of the program. As of now, I am going back to Gulu and am going to focus on organziations impleting Income Generating Projects. I will focus on looking at the cost of living needed to survive, and then seeing how much people are making through these imcome activities to see how beneficial they are. I will be picking organizations like beadforlife, that focus on women and those affected by the conflict in the North.

On the brightside-the food in Kampala is sooo good, and I usually have some sort of Indian food everyday, because it is so common and delicious!

I leave for Rwanda on Sunday and will hopefully update once I get settled there.

Peace and Love,

Friday, February 27, 2009


So I am definitely falling into Murphy's Law of what can go wrong will go wrong. My wallet fell out or was stolen out of my purse, which had my drivers license, Ugandan student ID, Credit Card, and some money. Man...I am having some not so great luck!

Monday we went to a place called Baker's Fort, which is a place where Arab slave trading occurred. It was weird, if I didn't know the history of the place, I would have thought it was just a beautiful site outside of Gulu. As we were on our tour, it was still hard to imagine what really happened until we reached this long flat stone area. They explained that this is where people were beheaded because of the slant-the heads would just roll down. You could still see the axe marks in the rock...

Wednesday was my last night with my host family. They really welcomed me and I would love to go back and spend time with them-except for the awkwardness of them trying to baptize me...
I made them burritos because it was only thing "American" that I could think of to cook using Chapatti, beans, avacado and some veggis. It was nice being able to cook and share something with them after all they had done for me.

We drove to Kampala yesterday and on the way we stopped in this place called Luwero triangle. There were many killings and they had a memorial full of skulls and bones. I only briefly looked-but it wa really uncomfortable to see. We got to Kampala last night and the city is so overhwelming and busy. I have been missing how compfortable I felt in Gulu.

I will update more about Kampala soon!

Peace and Love,

Friday, February 20, 2009


So...again with more bad luck. All of my pictures from my camera were deleted. I was messing with the settings and accidentally reformatted the card and EVERYTHING is gone. All of the photos from home, basically everything since December AND everything that I had taken here. I am really trying to just put in into perspective and remember that they are just photos., but its frustrating.

On Wednesday we drove to Kitgum, which is about a two hour drive from Gulu. The first day we met with an organization called Straight Talk. They work a lot with youth and the impact of the conflict. We went to a community of child mothers, most of whom had been abducted and then became pregnant in the bush and are now young mothers. Many do not have husbands and they all have not been accepted back into the community because of the fact that they have a child and are a single mother. It was extemely heartbreaking to hear their stories. They asked used what we were going to do for them, and it is hard to say "well, nothing directly, we are just here as students learning about the problems."

Thursday we did some research for Straight Talk and met with a group of youth. We interviewed them about the idea of becoming youth leaders and what kind of training would be most helpful for them to take back to the community. We then went to an IDP camp/community and asked the other side. What they felt about youth leaders, since usually the elders are the main leaders, and what kind of services are most needed in the community. I met this mother named Irene and her baby Justin. (Everyone usually has an English/Christian name besides their Acholi name) The mother let me hold him and he was so adorable and just played with my hair and my hands. He was only 9 months old, and most likely born in the bush or born from a mother who was pregnant in the bush by rebels. Even when he puked all over me, he just pulled at my heart. The next day we gave presentations to those at Straight Talk about our findings and I felt like we did something really helpful for the organization.

On the other hand, everywhere we go we only meet with these woman or youth for maybe an hour and then are pulled away. Its been difficult actually being able to form any significant relationship with anyone. You meet people and you feel some connection, and then to realize that you may never see them again. Along with this, most people we talk to ask how we are going to help them. They want answers, and I am really struggling internally with myself on this issue of what I really doing here. Education aside, how am I helping anyone really by just asking questions. I am feeling really selfish in the sense that I am here gaining all this knowledge and not forming any relationships, and am only staying in each place for a couple of weeks. How am I helping or making an impact on the people who are really suffering and needs answers, and need help. Even when I try to explain why I am here, as a student, trying to learn and understand-the response is still, but how are you going to help US?

I think this will be an issue that I struggle with the entire time that I am here...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rollercoaster of a Week

So the last few days have been very up and down. Just letting everyone know, this entry will be bluntly honest about what I have been going through.

So on Wednesday morning I woke to intense stomach pains and as the day progressed I started getting pretty bad diarrhea. I has a hard time eating so my program director took me to the hospital. I was nervous going to a hospital in a foreign country alone, but they were very helpful and I felt safe. They took a stool sample and as it turns out-just my luck-I have ecoli. Wednesday night was aweful. I was running to the bathroom every 15 minutes and in this culture you don't really talk about what is going on. My host family was nice and seemed concerned but it was really hard not being in my own bed. Because I could not ask for a bucket, at one point I had to quickly empty a plastic bag that had my shampoo in it and throw up. There are no garbages in the home so I just had to rince it out and re-use it each time I would get sick. Luckily the puking did not last long. I have been on two medications and today am feeling so much better. I called home for the first time since I left and it was nice to hear a familiar voice. Monday I have to go back and get retested to make sure it is not a strain resistant to the medications. I was a little upset, I did not get to go to the IDP camp and had to miss some classes.

So many of you probably do not know to the full extent the history of Gulu-I would recomend researching it! Even I did not know the extent to which conflict has devistated this area. My family has not yet talked about it, so this morning I brought it up with my host sister, who is maybe 10 or 11. As much as you hear stories, it never hits home until you talk to someone close to you about what they have gone through. My sister told me about what happened one night at the house I am staying in. As the violence got worse, my sister could see dead bodies from her house scattered along the road, and huts being burnt, and she said there was always blood everywhere-sometimes people find bones in the dirt from bodies forgotten about. A few years ago, the rebels came to my host house and began to sworm the house. It is made of cememt and the windows have gates and the doors are metal so it was better secures than most-especially the huts. The rebels began shooting and her and her sister hid under her bed while her father hid in the living room. She could hear the gunshot hitting the side of the house and the yelling of rebels to let them in. She said she saw one rebel come to the window of her room and take out a knife to break the glass. She showed me the windows that were shot out or broken. She said her family is lucky-if they would have gotten in, they would have captured the children and turned them into soldiers or wives just as many other children. She told me of cousins who had been abducted and then raped by the soldiers, who then had to give birth in the bush.

I am expecting that this is how the rest of my time will be-very up and down.

Peace & Love,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


We moved in with our homestay families on Sunday. Currently there is my father, James, a sister; Maureen, and a brother; Innocent. The mother has been away visiting family but should be back today or tomorrow. The place is modest. I have a single cement room with a small bed and small desk. I have been very lucky and have an indoor toilet and shower. It is very small and the toilet and shower are open, so you are kind of showering over the toilet. The water is very cold, but refreshing after the sleeping in the heat. The family has been very nice about respecting my non-religious beliefs and not eating meat. I just explained that I have a sensitive stomach and meat upsets it. I feel like a stranger in the house though, since they will not let me help out yet. I am hoping when the mother arrives I will be able to help out more and feel more comfortable.

We started University also. We have been taking Acholi lessons and so far we have had lectures about the cultural identity in Uganda and one conflict resolution/prevention. So far they have been interesting and nice to get back into some sort of academics after being out of school for so long. I have been walking a lot. The walk to school is about 45minutes to an hour. My host dad drove me this morning, and offeref to drive me when he is available. So far I dont mind the walk, it is very peaceful. However, I am still feeling a little iffy about walking alone. It is hard to get used to everyone staring at you and being alone in an unfamiliar place.

Thursday we are going as a group to an IDP camp, so I will try to update this weekend.

Peace and Love,

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I have finally had a chance to get to a computer and have some time to fully update! I am currently in Gulu, which is in Northern Uganda staying at the Acholi Inn. It took us a long, terrifying, bumpy seven hour drive from Entebbe to Gulu. There is one single road, where two cars side by side can only fit if everyone holds their breath! When an oncoming car drives by, there is literally an inch in between, and everyone is swerving and honking and the people on the side of the road or at boda bodas (motor bikes). One amazing thing about the road was that we crossed the Nile. It is beautifully intense. We also saw some monkeys in the trees. We had our first Acholi lesson this morning, and it is exciting to get done with the orientation and finally get on the the school. We had to split up into group of 2 or 3 today and walk into town by ourselves for 4 hours and try to speak the language and get lunch. Most people ended up speaking English, and laughed at us when we attemped our Acholi. I think it was more out of suprise. Everwhere we go we get called mazunga! which means white person. It's pretty funny. The food here has been pretty good, and I have been able to hold to my vegetarian ways. A lot of starchy foods like rice, noodles, and potatoes, and usually some sort of beans but hardly any vegetables. The weather since we arrived in Gulu has been soo hot, but usually in the early evening it downpours for about a half hour leaving everything flooded. When I say downpour, I mean like nothing I have ever seen before! I love it. I am excited to get out of the hotels and start our actual lessons at Gulu University and moving in with my homestay family. I guess that is all for now, miss everyone from home!

Peace and Love,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Only have a few minutes, just wanted to write a quick update. I havn't had any internet or phone access. I am in Entebbe doing orientation. Everyone in the group is great!! We leave tomorow, 6 hour drive to Gulu for a couple more days of orientation. I will hopefully get a cell phone Thursday and be able to update more at an internet cafe.

Peace and Love,

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bead Party

I happened to pick up the Seattle Times and found an article about an organization working in Uganda. I read through the article, and it was about an organization called Beads For Life. I went to their website and did some research and learned a little about what their mission was. Their goals really hit home, since I would soon be traveling to Uganda.

"BeadforLife eradicates extreme poverty by creating bridges of understanding between impoverished Africans and concerned world citizens. Ugandan women turn colorful recycled paper into beautiful beads, and people who care open their hearts, homes and communities to buy and sell the beads. The beads thus become income, food, medicine, school fees -- and hope. It is a small miracle that enriches us all. All profits from BeadforLife are invested in community development projects that generate income and help people work their way out of poverty."

I wanted to get involved and found out about holding a bead party. I held it last Sunday and invited some friends and family. I cooked food local to Uganda and Rwanda. I really wanted to open up people's eyes to what is important in my life. I was able to fund raise over $1,000 worth of handmade jewelry, which means that $752 are going back to Uganda thanks to all my wonderful friends and family!!

Here are some pictures from the party and of the organization.

Here is their website if you are interested in checking it out and learning more.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Maps of Where I Will Be Staying

The map to the left shows Butare (southern part of Rwanda) and Kigali (central Rwanda).

The map below is where Rwanda is located in Africa.

This map to the left shows both Gulu and Kampala. This is where I will be staying in Uganda.

The map below is where Uganda is located in Africa.


Friday, January 2, 2009


Hi All!
I am getting excited to leave for my trip, and thought I would write an overview and explain a little more in detail about my trip.

My trip will be set up in three phases. 1/3 of my trip will take place in Uganda, 1/3 of my trip will take place in Rwanda and the last 1/3 of my trip will take place in either of the two countries of my choice. The last part will be the most independent. I will be working on an project separate from the rest of the program. The research project will be of my choice and I can choose to do my research and independent study in either Uganda and Rwanda. Below is more information on what I will be doing prior to my independent project.


The Uganda segment of the program is divided into two parts: the first is based in the northern town of Gulu and the second in the capital city of Kampala.

The two-week period in Gulu focuses on the human cost of conflict and on local communities’ and civil society organizations’ efforts to rebuild war-affected districts of northern Uganda. Short excursions and lectures by local professors and professionals illuminate the history of the conflict, conditions in Internally Displaced Peoples camps and the process of resettlement, the re-integration of ex-combatants, and the role of civil society organizations and local cultural institutions in promoting sustainable peace and economic development. Two-week homestays with Acholi families help students adapt to life in Uganda, and afford a privileged, personalized perspective on conditions in the region.

The program then moves to Kampala, Uganda's capital city, for lectures and site visits that address national-level issues that have contributed to the conflict in the north. Lectures by faculty from Makerere University and other experts focus on topics such as constitutionality in Uganda, Uganda’s foreign military entanglements, and the role of the International Criminal Court in pursuing justice for aggrieved parties in the north. The cultural and political history of the southern part of the country, addressed through lectures and visits to sites of historical and cultural importance, helps students understand approaches to the northern conflict at the national political level, even as they reveal the depth of the roots of political instability in Uganda.


Like the Uganda segment of the program, the Rwanda segment is also divided into two sections: the first is based in the southern town of Butare, and the second in Kigali, Rwanda’s economic and political capital.

Students will spend one to two weeks in the university town of Butare attending lectures at the Center for Conflict Management at the National University of Rwanda and visiting nearby cultural and historical sites. In Butare, the program examines the origins of the genocide in Rwanda’s cultural and political history, and focuses on the broader political and philosophical issues implicated in Rwanda’s efforts to build both state and society in the aftermath of genocide, such as memorialization, reconciliation, justice, and the meaning of nationhood.

During the two-week homestay in Kigali, students turn their attention from theory to practice, focusing on organizations and institutions engaging in post-genocide work of various kinds in preparation for the Independent Study Project period. Students will visit a number of organizations and institutions, including gacaca, Rwanda’s traditional court system, the Gisozi Memorial and Information Center, and Ibuka, an organization working for the well being of genocide survivors. Host families provide invaluable perspectives on Rwandan history and politics and facilitate students' entrĂ©e into the life of the city.

Well, I hope everyone has a little more of an idea of what I will be doing.