The trip so far...
Trip Start Jan 18, 2009
4Trip End Aug 05, 2009
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Our first stop: Nairobi. It's such a crazy place! So many colours and totally vibrant culture I was stoked to just sit and watch it all go by. We arrived right around the time of Obama's inauguration...so everyone was going mental all over the city...greeting each other with "Yes We Can!" and yelling "Obama!" at any white person in sight, thinking that they were American. Everyone was so friendly and repeatedly asking about where we were from, asking us how we loved their county and making sure that we knew we were welcome. We got to have a lot of yelling conversations between the different Matatus during traffic jams, which was awesome. We stayed there a week, spending the days listening to lectures from the University of Nairobi and hanging out with the students there, hearing about water and sanitation projects in Nairobi at UN Habitat, meeting with people from Kibera Slum and seeing some of the extreme living conditions there and learning about some of the major difficulties, having more lectures at the Canadian High Commission regarding local politics, shopping at downtown markets, meeting with the questionable CEO of the water board, and many many more. We only had a little set back of super chlorinated water that made everyone pretty sick but after our first little introduction to Kenya we were ready to head into more rural areas. So we hopped on a plane to Entebbe, Uganda after a week.
Entebbe is right near Kampala on the edge of Lake Victoria but we were heading closer to the south western border, in the foothills of the Ruwenzori Mountains between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, to a place called Kibale National Park. Kibale is a dream. It is this gorgeous rainforest that is littered with monkeys, apes and elephants among a lush trees, plants, and flowers. We stayed at the research station just within the park boundaries in little bunk bed cabins. Baboons took over our area...stealing our mangos, books and leaving little smelly presents on our door steps in the morning. There actually so cute though, but you just really gotta keep your eye on those nuts. In Kibale, we started our first of our three sessions of courses. Mine was an anthropology (yahh Dino) course on development with the environment. Kibale was the best place to take this course because there are a lot of troubles between the protected area and the local communities because locals, who once were able to retrieve firewood, game and medicinal plants , are now pretty much cut off. It's a pretty hard situation for many of the surrounding parishes so most of our time for my specific group was spent outside the park interviewing people on their different livelihoods that they have now taken up to survive. We visited a bunch of farms and a new tea plantation as well as visit schools, churches and farmers markets. We also took a day to drive over and around the Ruwenzori Mountains to the Rift Valley to meet with a newly settled Pygmy Village that faces the same complications with a protected in the valley there that they used to live in. That specific visit was pretty intense...this Batwa group was forced out of the forest by the government because of what they called rebels in the forest...but then only shortly after they settled them they made this huge park that was used as a tourist site. These people now live is pretty harsh conditions...conditions that they are so not used to being former Pygmies and all, and the government has really neglected them on a whole variety of public goods that the rest of the country enjoys. We spend a lot of time going over our research, presenting and writing up what we had learned...so Kibale was overall a pretty jammed- packed week. Our last night there, however, was my 21st birthday so we let loose in the park and danced all night! It started with all of us dancing with a few of our friends from town who brought their Ugandan Top 40s mixed in with some Rhianna and Akon...and then by the end of it we had an army of villagers come in who wanted to get in on the dancing too...mamas even brought their babies and little kids! It was so much fun, and set us up for a long 9 hour bus ride at 6 am the next day to Lake Nabagabo.
We went to Lake Nabagabo to camp and meet up with some fishermen there and to learn more about the fishing scene with the Nile perch in that area. It's a pretty intense business that's going on there, which responds to the huge demands of the local and world market so our prof was adamant that we did some research there. After Lake Nabagabo we carried on to Jinja to do more on the fishing industry, visiting fish freezing factories and research centres that I won't bore you with but it was good times and we finished up our first session there and left our profs to continue with their work.
Now I am back in Kenya on the other side of Lake Victoria chilling in Mbita. On our journey in between the two countries we visited Jeffry Sachs' millennium village and city. I don't know how many of you who are familiar with him but he is a famous development economist who theorized about poverty traps and that the only way to get out of the trap was through small, very focused, amounts of foreign aid. So his has been working with a village and city in the area to test out his theory with respect to the UN's Millennium Development Goals in basic needs like water, electricity, infrastructure, but also gender equalities and education ect. The village is doing so so well, its beyond anything I have seen so far in Uganda but the city is way more complicated and there is less really moving forward there. Anyway, after a super sketchy but awesome ferry ride across the lake, we are now in Mbita learning about the health situation here...which is quite rough. We have been learning a lot of HIV/Aids and Malaria at the research institute that we are staying at as well as through different people in town. I went to an orphanage the other day and tried so hard not to let them see me crying. These kids are so beautiful and spirited and these wonderful people in the town have giving up everything to help these kids get a bit of food and education during the day. I went with a few friends and each class sang us a song and some performed skits. One of the little girls who had Aids performed a monologue on her Aids experience that was so incredibly performed all I could think of was how far she good go in somewhere like Canada with her skills. It was a bitter sweet visit...on one hand they are facing extreme poverty issues, where huge portions of their weekly expenditures go just to semi-clean water. One girl i was talking to had lost her mother 3 days ago and her father a week before that and this is a common situation for most of them...these kids have so much that they need to overcome and get through just at an earlier age and the road ahead is pretty rough for them. On the other hand these kids have incredible people surrounding them and teaching them everything that they possibly can and sound extremely devoted to their success.
That's my not so short summary of what I have been up to...I hope next time I write I will be able to write more interesting stories rather then just a list of things I have done, but in any case I hope that helps to give an idea of whats going on over here! Time for me to go to the garden to pick my veggies for the dinner I'm making tonight! Kwaherini!