Adventures from Here and There

Soroti, Dokolo, Amolatar and Kampala October 29, 2011

Filed under: Projects in Countries — travelchokri @ 9:52 pm
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 Uganda – the land of the red soil and lush green pastures. What an intense but great trip. I was out in the field for 4 days, doing site visits, meeting with all sorts of people and having meetings with the organization that funds our programmes. The last two days were spent training programme officers and teachers on how to write good texts. I was not sure how people were going to react, as some parts that I had planned felt perhaps too basic to me. But I learned that all was appreciated, even the basic stuff. I guess sometimes what we think is ‘known,’ is really not to others. The  people in general, that I met along the way, were wonderful. Beautiful. I have never felt a connection to the country before this trip. A few specific moments made my eyes watery. I guess Uganda is my third home. My mother’s home.

The Shoe Project continued in Uganda (read more on this at the end of this blog). Many people were happy. As in Kenya, as we drove to different areas and noticed people without shoes, we stopped to ask people why they were not wearing any. This lead us to determine whether or not someone needed a pair. One woman danced after putting hers on. She got down on her knees and prayed. I did not feel comfortable with the women going down on their knees. We had some confused people too. Why were we asking them where their shoes were? What did we want in return? We encountered an angry man today. We did not give him shoes because he had a pair. He followed us to our next stop, where we met 3 women and a man without any. He told us if we did not give him a pair, he would call the police! Then we had a blind man asking us for a spare pair. Something interesting to note – in Kenya there were equal amounts of men and women that did not have shoes. In Uganda, 9 in 10 men had shoes, while 2 in 10 women did. Research project??  We went through Lira this time to get back to Kampala, rather than using Soroti. It still took about 8 hours! But that is because we stopped to talk to people and distributed shoes. But really, the driver just could not multi task. He could not talk and drive at the same time! I finally made it to the hotel at 10pm and I got my first, proper, hot shower in days!

There is a young woman that i have been training, etc. for the past 4 days, and it was not until our drive back to Kampala that I learned more about her. she was an orphan. her parents both passed away when she was young. she has a younger brother too, who is still in the orphanage. she left the place when she was 23, when she found someone to sponsor her to go to college. after college, she joined a young professionals development programme and soon after that, she was hired by one of our programmes. she found out a couple of years ago, that she is HIV positive, but  shedoes not want to take meds, as she thinks that will make her feel like she is sick. how do i get this woman to understand that taking the meds is a good thing for her? she also seems to believe that there is a cure for AIDS. gees, i went through this with the kids at the academy in Nairobi, after they watched the news, where a woman said she went to the villages and was cured. and our driver indicated to her that there is some german organization who thinks that they have found the cure! she has written her life story. i cannot wait to read it.

I felt a bit panicky in the late afternoon. I realized that there is still so much that I want to do, and half my life is over!

Driving through Uganda

I am in Kampala for 2 more days before I head back to Geneva.

     Oranges being sold on the side of the road.

october 30

wanted to sleep in. and could not. have the whole sunday off today, so i decided to go buy more shoes for the shoe project and leave it here with my people, so that they can distribute. went to bata, as it was around the corner. 20 minutes later, they still could no sort out the shoes that i wanted and honestly, it was only 20 pairs. so i left, asking them to coordinate amongst themselves so that when i come back in the evening, they are all there without any issues. the man that makes the carrot  juice at nakumatt told me to come back in 15 mins as it was not ready. of course, when i got back he realized he forgot about me, and they only have one blender, which was being used to make tropical juices. i decided to unwind at the serena. imagine, i think it is the only serena i have been to that charges an additional 50 percent on top of the spa prices if you are not staying there. and to use the internet for an hour you  must pay, even if you are going to eat lunch there, etc. i was pretty annoyed and of course, me being me, just decided to up and leave at the ridiculousness of the whole situation. i guess i just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. i did decide to leave the kindle aside and buy a real book, so that will get me through the rest of the day. i have seen a lot more mzungu women here who seem to have adopted black babies than i used to see in kenya. just an observation. i finally bought the photography book, ‘kampala’, which i first saw when i came here in 2006 and did not see again during my last visit.


Kwaheri Kenya October 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 11:00 am

today is the last day…tomorrow i head for uganda. many thoughts and feelings coming together right now –  some happy, some sad, some empty, some thankful, some overwhelming, some of satisfaction, some of excitment. who knows when i shall be back here. i will miss the sunshine. the water. the sand. i will miss the good people i met along the way during these 3 weeks. i will miss some of you. this time, it is really hard saying goodbye. KWAHERI my second home. I shall return.


Shoes and More October 21, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 6:52 pm

today was the last day of my work in kenya. the drive to kwale was long and bumpy, as always, when going out to the field. the sun was out early, blasting rays.  i suppose it is better than being caught in the rains , like the week before. the last 2.5 weeks in kenya have been fruitful. it is always nice coming back to mombasa, where i spent 2.5 years. nairobi meetings were intense. seeing friends that i made in the 3.5 years of living there was great.

there is a lot of good stuff happening on the ground in kenya. we still have a lot to do to get the reading and continuous assessment programme to where it should be. the 2 day training/workshop that i did with the teachers and programme officers was hopefully informative – and something that they can apply in their classrooms and schools. 

last week, as we drove from mombasa to the rural areas in kinango, about 3 hours away, i noticed that more than half the people i saw walking, were shoeless. how can one walk miles without shoes? jiggers, a disease which can be found in the foot, is a result for many. a few days ago i thought i would buy some shoes for the people of kinango and kwale. however, more than ‘some’ was required in order to help the  many shoeless people. i sent out a facebook message to friends and the response was great. several people have donated funds and more are intending to do so. i picked up a ton of shoes from bata and some local vendors, both. i picked up a range of shoes, from closed toed, flip flops, to ‘fancier’ and more supportive ones. today on the way to my ‘work’ programme areas, we distributed shoes to random men, women and children that we saw on the roads. we looked out for people who were walking around barefoot, stopped them, asked them why they were not wearing shoes, and if they did not have any, went through the process of helping them find a pair that fit. some individuals told us that they had shoes but left them at home today. for example, the man who had to climb the coconut tree, felt no need to bring his shoes along with him today. so we really were looking for those most in need.

we had some interesting responses from people.   a lot were too scared at first to stop and talk to the 3 men and myself in a pick up truck. what did we want? why were we asking them where their shoes were?! as they warmed up to us, we engaged in more conversation, soon finding out if a pair of shoes were needed. people were happy, thankful and confused. a couple of individuals asked what they had to give us in return. i guess getting new shoes from strangers is not common practice. i am happy to say that  most of them are going to pray for everyone who assisted in this project. there were some wonderful smiles and happy faces – giggles and laughter from 2 women that were walking miles to get to the main road. there was one woman who wanted a specific pair of shoes but we did not have her size. we offered her another pair but she did not want it. she wanted the small pair that didn’t fit her. we tried to explain that we could not give her a pair that was too small, as it would result in other physical problems. she ended up leaving without a pair. we met another older man who did not want to speak to us at first. then he became nice when he found out we had shoes. upon asking if i could take a picture of him, he said that it would cost me another pair of shoes! incredible. it was so nice to see so many people happy because of of individuals who were kind and big-hearted – so thank you to all that donated and to those that are still planning on it. we still have a lot more people to equip!

the final pair of flip flops went to….?? i left them on a long, dirt, windy road. someone lucky will find them!

this has been a great trip overall. it was an ‘eat’, ‘pray’ ‘love’ session. i ate well for the most part. i did pray as i made it to khane (mosque) often. it was kind of nice to be part of the ‘community’ for a short while. i do not have the opportunity to do that on my other work travels. and being in geneva, well the sense of community is non-existent for me there.  love; well, i guess if you count loving the work that i do with the foundation, well then that must count!

i am taking the weekend off to recuperate. i  head to uganda on monday for more field visits and trainings. the visits in uganda are always a bit more tough. i will take the idea of the ‘shoe project’ to that part of east africa with me.

2 men sporting their new shoes


Last Days October 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 12:34 pm

I have been in Nairobi since Tuesday night. I was not sure how I was going to feel about being back here, after my history and connection to this place. I must admit, it has been hard. I have hidden from the world for the most part, staying in my hotel in the evenings and going to work in the days. I did get out on Wednesday  for dinner and on Friday night, met with a few good friends and that was nice. I am looking forward to heading back to Mombasa, where the continuous pit in my throat or stomach feeling, will hopefully disintegrate. I find it peaceful there. And let’s hope that there will be sunshine, rather than the monsoons that I had been experiencing while I was there.


Bitter Sweet October 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 9:47 am

i am now in nairobi. here for meetings at the stanley hotel the last 2 days. some big suprises have been thrown in our direction and has caused some turmoil. not sure how i am feeling about being here again. this place and my past is not totally out of my system. mixed feelings about the last couple of days. happy and sad. i think i brought the mombasa rains with me here too! went for dinner last night. was nice. today i plan to fix my ugly feet by getting a pedicure.


Enough Rain Already! October 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 4:16 pm

who told it to rain as soon as i got to mombasa?! and we are talking monsoons! arrived on thursday 1am, so really friday, after many delays and baggage issues. went into work to discuss the plan for the next while on friday during the day. and then headed to my apt which i have rented out for 2 weeks, instead of staying in a hotel. met up with friends on friday and saturday after work. and sunday, the only tanning day, it poured all day!

this trip has been a bit tough so far. the field visits have been difficult in the rains. the traffic to and from kinango has been bad. the inside dirt roads that take us to the villages have been washed out or badly done in. the drive into the villages has been really bumpy. and we are walking through a lot of mud, etc to get to where we have to. i feel that my safety in some sense is almost being compromised. was i really expected to hop on the back of a motor bike on the rural roads for 5 km or more in the rain, without a helmet?? some of you recall me having some difficulty with knowing how far to go and not to go when in the field. this time i put my foot down though. at some point i felt like i was on one of those scary movies when we decided to walk part of the way in the deep ‘south’. the baboons we came across left us alone!

today it was decided that we would take a different route to the airport from the field so some papers could be dropped off. we were in a traffic jam for 3 hours. cars and massive trucks were going into the on coming traffic lane. we started to do the same. got blocked a couple of times. then one of the matatu drivers got angry and i think he was threatening the programme person i was with. then they noticed my luggage in the car and i thought great…we cannot even go anywhere to escape if they decide they want in. got to the airport a bit late so had to take the next flight and i am waiting for it now. the one i was supposed to take to nbo was delayed and i could have got onto that one. i have not had a hot shower since friday. yes friday. it is now tuesday. the water  takes a really long time to heat up at the apartment and i came to know that i have to run it for 10 to 15 mins after that…what a waste of water! i sit at the airport with mud on my feet. i did pull out a change of clothes from my suitcase to change into so feel better.

the plan is to be in nbo until monday morning. no field visits, but  meetings. a good change perhaps for a few days before heading back to mombasa and then the field in uganda. it is going to be a long one!


Geneva Stopover October 4, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 9:44 am

So I got back into Geneva last night. The flight seemed damn long. Had a stopover in Amsterdam, but only about 30 minutes, which was not great because I wanted to buy a pair of sunnies. I ended up buying Prada Candy though, which I love! I think I am getting sick because the man next to me coughed every 10 seconds, no joke. My throat is already sore.

The trip to Russia was good overall. It was not really a ‘field’ experience. A lot of good work is going on and the programmes are moving in the right direction. The people in the office were great. I got see a little bit of Moscow. Had way too many chai lattes. Survived the cold. Tried some Uzbeki food. Had some Russian goodies as well. Got lost. Wandered. Tried on fun furry things! Bought a really savvy Russian outfit. Did a shot of vodka. Picked up a few gifts, including a Russian hat for my grandfather. Watched Russian TV. Took a ‘gipsy’ taxi. Didn’t get hit by the tram. Went to a cool mall. Tried on thousands of 4 inch heels. Visited a couple of public libraries. Took some photos of this and that.

Now, 2 days before the East Africa trip. Unfortunately, I locked my closet as I always do when I travel, but cannot find the damn key now! So I will spend this evening searching for it. If I do not find it, then I will have to get someone to break the damn lock. How did I manage to do that? Just more work added to what I already have to do!