September 10, 2016: 1st Day in Muko Sub-County

There are worse, but probably no more effective, ways to be awakened than a cacophony of unfamiliar bird songs... We were up a little earlier than planned.

As we headed out towards Muko Sub-County, we saw several Crested Cranes, the Ugandan national bird, in a field just meters from the hotel. Farther down the road the bats were making a racket in the bat tree as they settle in to sleep.

Traffic is controlled by means of many, many speed bumps -- they come in series of 3-5 bumps and are very effective in keeping the speed down. The refrain from the back of the bus was, "Ai,ai,ai,ai!" until Christopher made a special effort to slow way down.

When we got to Muko, everyone was waiting for the bus to pull in. People who had been there before were enthusiastically greeted with shouts and hugs; the rest of us were warmly welcomed. A group of children hung back shyly, wanting to meet the muzungus (foreigners). Sheryl and I both went to talk with them and introduced ourselves. Others did as well -- I later watched Nena teaching a group of kids to do high-fives -- but once I knelt down to talk with the children I lost track of everyone else, so can only speak about my experience.  The first thing that struck me was that as soon as they mustered the courage to approach, all the children wanted to touch me. One brave little girl reached upto touch my hair. (She patted it and pronounced it good.) When I pointed out Larry as my husband, the immediate question was "Where are your babies?" I had an easy answer -- pictures on my iPad. It seemed like a good idea at the time...but I was instantly mobbed with children of all ages wanting to see the pictures, know who was who and what they were doing, and then wanting to control the iPad (some of them definitely knew how to change the picture, make it bigger, etc and the rest wanted to learn). A Ugandan mother came to help. She and I were soon sitting on the ground, so surrounded that we couldn't move and I almost missed the first official meeting as a result.

The meeting focused on Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) -- the sustainable direction in which ACT wants to work. ACT has already been trying to act in accordance with the principle, but we want to make it even more of a conscious method. Part of this includes encouraging the Ugandans to give full and honest feedback so we can avoid imposing purely American ideas and instead, help in ways that most directly make a difference.

We brought small solar lamps as gifts for the staff (they're cool -- Google them: Luci lights). They're packed flat and you blow them up like a balloon, a concept that turned out to be a foreign one, providing quite a lot of amusement all around. But once they were operational, the lights were a fantastic success. Sue also brought business cards for each staff member; Generous advised they should be used economically.

Sue, Generous, Dave and Karen, and the Ugandan staff had some detailed discussions after lunch concerning the music program, pros and cons of the two local high schools, and staff transportation difficulties. The rest of us went to the Saturday market. During that time there was an earthquake -- only the people who stayed in the office felt it, but they say it was a good sized one. After a great deal of complicated haggling involving some very strange math, we bought some more fabric, but that was all. Then we had a short road trip to the Echuya National Forest, where lots of baboons live. We were all in the bus, ready to go, when suddenly Generous's sister, brother-in-law, and 6-year-old nephew, plus Richard's brother and Tito, a staff member, decided we needed native guides, so they jumped in to ride along. We learned later that some of them had never been up the mountain (approximately 15 km) to see the baboons.

We stopped for a view of Lake Bunyonyi, the deepest lake in Uganda, second deepest in Africa. Then we went higher up to find the baboons. They saw us coming and ran up to the bus. We tossed small bananas to them and they were eager to grab and eat. They peeled the bananas, but then they ate the peel too. One large baboon scared the little ones away and grabbed all the bananas for himself. Joshua, the 6-year-old, sat by the bus window, absolutely fascinated, making faces and growling fiercely.

After leaving the baboons, we drove a bit farther to a scenic viewpoint where we could see, not so very far off, three enormous dormant volcanic mountains, the largest of which is shared by three countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda.

Then it was time to go collect the rest of the team and head back to Kabale for dinner, the day's debriefing, and, eventually, rest.

ACT Muko Center; Greetings from staff