Friday, September 16, 2016

The Jopfan Hotel Area Wildlife Report (besides bats & crested cranes):

     1. Gecko in Dave & Karen's bathroom. It was relocated.

     2. Giant moth in Dave & Karen's room. Dave said his first thought was that it was a bat, but then he remembered that the African bats (at least the ones we've seen) are quite big. We asked if he'd taken a picture so we could try to identify it. "Picture?? No -- I killed it!"

     3. Dogs -- various, mostly small, very short hair,  pointy ears -- unidentified breed. The neighborhood dogs yowl at random times after midnight -- sometimes it'sa solo performance lasting just a minute or two; sometimes it's a whole jam session. One night it sounded like a seance raising the dead, who then counter-attacked in retaliation. Every morning right around 5:00 or 5:15 they really get going. One starts, then another and another join in until all together they finally rouse the roosters. The roosters, in turn, rouse a host of other birds, some of which have pretty songs and some of which are just raucous. End result: we really don't need our alarm clocks -- we have both the primary alarm and the secondary snooze alarm right outside our windows.

We started the day by driving up to the new Rubanda District Headquarters, where they were having a ceremony to install the newly elected officials. (Muko Sub-County has recently been placed in a different district -- sort of the equivalent of moving the city of Midland to Bay County -- which necessitates some governmental restructuring.) It was culturally important for the ACT staff to be at the ceremony to see and be seen, and the presence of Americans would have enhanced the usefulness of the activity. Unfortunately, we had a full schedule for the day which couldn't accommodate the fact that the ceremony, which was supposed to be finished by 9:30, wasn't ready to start at 9:30. Sue, Lisa, and most of the staff stayed anyway for a while; the rest of us came in to the Center and got busy with the day's agenda.

The HEAL Team conducted their first (practice) village dialogue today, the purpose of which is to work with the villagers to determine a prioritized list of concerns and needs as well as an action plan for moving forward to address the concerns. It was, of course, conducted in Rukiga (the local language), so Sue wasn't understanding much of what was being said. Here are her reflections from the morning:

"I'm compelled to describe where I find myself. After 25 years of facilitating groups in the US in very sophisticated meeting rooms with the most bells and whistles for lighting, seating, media, etc., I now sit on a crumbling concrete platform with a tin roof, in the middle of the Muko marketplace. Next to it is a small pen with several sleeping animals. There are bicycles and motorcycles buzzing through, goats bleating, children playing, birds calling. As Rauben Turyaheebwa, our HEAL manager, and Generous Turinawe, our ACT Muko director, began the village dialogue, people began to gather one by one -- mostly out of curiosity, and some, I suspect, for a chair to sit in. About 20 adults and 14 children have gathered! They are participating! As Rauben begins, he gets them to contribute some ground rules for the meeting..."

The greatest success of the dialogue is that it was, in fact, a dialogue: people spoke up. In the large group, the women didn't say much, but when they split into smaller groups, the women felt free to speak. It was understood that the HEAL project addresses health in general -- this encompasses social and economic health, not just medical issues. All of the small groups, including the children's group, brought up alcoholism as a major problem in the village, but it was not even mentioned when they reconvened as the large group. Underage pregnancies suffered the same fate. The villagers did agree on a specific problem: lack of access to quality education. They actually made an action plan, but it was written in Rukiga, so we don't yet really know what was decided. The meeting lasted four hours, so Rauben is going to work with the villagers on Wednesday (after we're gone) to work on an action plan for a second problem dealing with agriculture.

Karen, Nancy, Sheryl, Nena, and I interviewed and gave blankets to 52 orphans today. The majority were high school students, but we also saw several who hadn't been able to come yesterday or Wednesday. Karen didn't recognize some of the kids when they came in because they had grown so much since the team was last here.

It was fun talking with the high schoolers because, for the most part, we didn't need interpreters. There were a few bloopers -- I thought one boy was telling me he wanted to be a pirate when he finished school. He had been acting a little bit goofy, so it didn't seem entirely out of character, but we talked further and I finally figured out that he wants to be a pilot. I only hope I didn't make similar mistakes that we didn't catch!  Sue spent time with her orphans, Miracle and Dishon.

The blankets were an especially big hit today because the weather has turned and it was cool and cloudy, with occasional showers -- the kids wore their blankets all day. Only eight blankets have not yet been claimed.

Sheryl went to help with lunch preparation and was put to work grating carrots. When she finished that task, Mabel asked if she could cut cabbages. Sheryl replied that she'd be happy to help but she'd rather grate the cabbage. Mabel said it wouldn't work, but she provided a grater and was very surprised to see that it did work. Sheryl was then given the rest of the cabbages to grate. When she finished, the women paid her a very high compliment, allowing the she did "a really good job, for a Muzungu!"

Just before lunch, 25 students from Murole Preparatory school arrived unexpectedly, putting a kink in the schedule. There wasn't enough food for that many extra mouths, so Dave and Guma made an emergency shopping trip. In addition to more rice and potatoes, they bought goat meat, which turned out to be the most expensive meat so far. But it was worth it -- there were no leftovers.

Dave M. and Roger spent most of the day doing computer work, with Larry serving as an occasional technical advisor. They installed Open Office (a shareware version of MicroSoft Office) on two of the donated computers. They also added other required programs such as Firefox browser, printer drivers, and etc. Dave also spent time with Moses, giving him further training in Excel and helping expand ideas for its use. They used up the entire internet budget -- by 4:00, nobody else could get online. Guma will top up the internet card tomorrow.

Guma spent some time this afternoon sorting all the baskets so that we can label them according to the weaver. This will help us tag the baskets for sale in the US -- we have found that people like to know something about the basket weaver.

The orchestra sounded like a real orchestra today! Nancy conducted, Karen played cello, and there were twelve first violins, twelve second violins, and 3 violas. Every available violin was in use. Two students plan to learn the cello over the weekend (they already play violin.)

The usual crowd of village children was waiting to see us off as we went to the bus to leave for the day. Having heard "Bye-bye, Bye-bye" over and over, Nena decided it was time for something new and different. So she taught some of the children (who caught on remarkably quickly) to say "Hasta la vista!" instead. Roger joined the fun, contributing "Estoy bien!" to replace the "I am fine" response we hear several times per day, and soon we were calling "Adios!" "Auf wiedersehen!" and "Sayonara!" out the bus windows -- we were definitely in need of a rest!

Above: HEAL team practice dialog in Muko village (photos by Sue Waechter)
Below: Guma sorting baskets; village kids waving 'bye' to the bus.