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Adventures from Here and There

Kiatu/Amukat (Shoe) Project February 25, 2014

Filed under: Projects in Countries — travelchokri @ 12:53 am
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While I briefly wrote about this project in earlier posts (projects in countries), I realized that I had not written a full account of the activities that had transpired. Thank you to all who supported the shoe drive.

Kiatu/Amukat (Shoe) Project

It’s a matter of food or footwear for thousands of people around the world. A choice must be made between putting food on the table and buying a pair of shoes. This is especially true in many areas of Kenya and Uganda. Living in poverty means having to think about the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. To most of us, shoes are a basic need to protect oneself from the harsh environment which could lead to foot diseases and other long-term effects on the body, but to others, the need for shoes is not a priority.

My colleague and I drove through the bumpy, dirt roads within the Kinango and Kwale districts, just outside of Mombasa, on a day trip to the field. We were heading to 3 villages that day, in order to learn more about an early grade reading initiative that we were both involved in. Along the way, I witnessed numerous individuals – men, women and children – without any shoes. I had travelled to many remote villages in several countries before but this was the first time that I had noticed a great number of shoeless people. I asked my colleague if there was another reason, other than not having enough money to afford a pair, but in the end, it came down to affordability.

Later that same evening, I wondered how feasible it was to provide people in Kinango and Kwale with a pair of shoes that were good enough to protect them while they walked the several miles that they did each day. Sometimes, as foreigners we think that our ideas make sense and perhaps what we view as simple solutions, may not be really simple at all.

I woke up the next morning, with the same thoughts that I had fallen asleep to the night before. When my colleague picked me up the next day in the company pick-up truck, I buckled myself in and before he could even ask me how my evening was, I was already sharing my most recent idea with him. Growing up and working in Kenya gave him a better sense of the cultural nuances in those areas. The idea was well received by him, and by the end of the day, I had a better sense of what to do. I plugged in my Safaricom modem and sent a message out to friends in different parts of the world. I provided them with a brief background on how the idea came about and informed them that I was prepared to hand deliver the shoes to people in Kinango and Kwale myself. I requested that people give donations so that I could purchase the shoes locally. The response was delightful. Donations continued to flow in over the next 2 weeks. This is how the Kiatu/Amukat (Shoe) Project began.

I was based in Mombasa town while on this particular trip, and through my conversations with my colleague, I had already identified areas in which I could purchase shoes for our shoe drive. There were several independent shoemakers lined up in the narrow alleyways throughout the city centre. Flat shoes seemed the most sensible to distribute, but not all that I tried on, felt comfortable. I bought a few pairs from those vendors during my first afternoon of shoe buying. The following day I ventured to some smaller, independent stores but they had a very limited selection of flat shoes for women, and the shoes for men seemed too dressy. I came across shoes for children that were reasonably priced but they were made with a plastic-type material and so I opted to buy only a few pairs to test them out first. As the days passed, I realized that it was more difficult to find comfortable shoes at a price point which would allow for the purchase of many pairs. And while my intention was to support independent shoemakers, this proved to be somewhat difficult. I had to go into a larger retail store. Here, I was able to find shoes for the whole family. They felt comfortable and looked like they would last a long time. I decided to buy a hundred pairs, in various colours, styles and sizes.

As we drove back through the familiar territory of Kinango the following week, my colleague and I paid attention to people’s feet. We had come up with a strategy the day before. Since my colleague speaks Swahili, he would do most of the talking, as my Swahili would probably scare people off even before they tried the shoes on! This way, people would feel more comfortable and open to speaking in a language more familiar to them.

A young lady wearing a colourful Kitenge, balancing a large sack on her head looked into the pick-up as we slowed down to get her attention. She walked up to the passenger side where my colleague had been seated. After some light conversation, which I could barely understand, my colleague asked her in English where her shoes were. She giggled as she looked down at her feet. She was not the only one who found our questions amusing. This reaction was shared by many people along the journey. Perhaps they felt it was absurd for strangers to be asking them about their shoe whereabouts? Maybe it made them a bit uncomfortable? A few people told us that they had left them at home, finding it easier to work in the fields barefoot. But most of the responses we received were consistent with the fact that they could not afford them. We never indicated ahead of time that we were handing out shoes, so the responses all seemed genuine.

The next question my colleague asked the young lady was ‘would you like a pair?’ She stared at him, wide eyed, but speechless. My colleague repeated the question, ‘would you like a pair of shoes?’ This time she nodded but looked away and giggled softly. I hopped out of the truck, pulled out one of the boxes that we had piled the shoes in, and assessed her foot size as I began to pull out a couple of pairs for her to try on. The first pair that she tried on fit perfectly. She had the most beautiful giggle and seemed truly happy. She thanked us and we said bye to her, without any other explanation, other than my colleague telling her that she should wear them and not worry about them getting dirty. They were there to protect her feet.

Our method of stopping people elicited many different reactions along the way in both Kinango and Kwale. Some people were confused and didn’t know how to respond to my colleague when he asked them about their shoe situation, so they just kept quiet. Others explained how they did not have any money on them to pay us if we were to give them a pair. We even had one elderly man ask us what we wanted in return. But many just smiled and said yes, they wanted some shoes! We came across two young boys that were so excited, they said they were going to run all the way home in their new shoes. The smiles were contagious and the laughter that echoed out of the many joyful people, were priceless. The hugs and high fives that were exchanged gave me a certain sense of happiness. A few days later my colleague and I headed to Uganda. We were able to find suitable shoes in the local market. The reactions were nearly the same as in Kenya when we stopped people. One woman danced and sang in the middle of the road, wishing us well and promising to pray for us. The most interesting run in was with a boy, around the age of 14, selling women’s shoes on the street. He himself, was not wearing any shoes! He was most delighted when we offered him a pair of new sandals and told him that he was not to sell them! Our final pair was left in the middle of one of the narrow but never ending dirt roads. We hoped that someone lucky would walk by and find a small surprise, making his or her day a happier one.

We did learn a few things along the way. It was interesting to note that there were many more women that did not own a pair of shoes, compared to men, especially in Uganda. Women’s feet were bigger than I had anticipated and so during our first drop off in Kenya, we had many small sizes that did not fit and could only offer men’s shoes to a few, which most women were happy with. Two ladies shared their concerns that their husbands would take the shoes away from them once they got home. In some villages, people did not speak the official language and on a couple of occasions, communicating was difficult. But in the end, the conversation was somehow understood.

2 men sporting their new shoes

2 men sporting their new shoes

It is easy to brighten somebody else’s day with something so small, like a pair of shoes – something that we take for granted. Of course, this does not solve the larger issue of poverty, but at least it will provide some protection to the feet and support to the body, as people set forth for their day’s activities, which for many includes walking miles and miles. My colleague continued purchasing and distributing shoes long after I had left Kenya.

Perhaps the next time I am back visiting those same villages, I will see more souls with soles.

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2 Years in a Nutshell, Part I December 16, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 9:00 pm
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The posts over the next couple of weeks will be in no apparent order, but it will document my memories of the last 2 years, specifically related to my work and travels.

I think that I have seen just too much sometimes, that things that might phase the ordinary person, do not always get to me. I mean, I have had my fair share of interesting sagas- I was almost locked in a restaurant on hotel grounds, with the music being turned up so loud that I could not even hear myself. Then 3 men walked into the restaurant from the back entrance…good thing my instincts told me to bolt out of there. I learned, that in some countries, you should never be the last person dining, especially the last woman. In some hotels, people come into your room when the do not disturb sign is up! Men will shake your hand and hold it for a few seconds too long. I sat next to a woman on a plane, chanting loudly and making tsk tsk sounds every few seconds. Oh and yes, how about the man who was clearly having too much fun under the blanket on a 9 hour plane ride! No joke.

Never mind the cockroaches, ants in my hotel bed and mice I’ve had to battle. Oh yes, I cannot forget the 2 children who massacred the plane, as their parents watched. The best in flight video ever….different types of cutlery are shown on the screen above the toilet with a big red X on them. Seriously, how many people take their meal trays in the bathroom with them? This lady cried once because she wasn’t allowed on the plane. It was about to take off and she was too busy shopping. Apparently, it wasn’t her fault that the gate was so far away. She screamed to let her on the plane while it was in taxi. Then she made the person at the desk walk her back to the main terminal to pick her bags up. I watched all of this as i waited for my delayed flight. And yes,I have missed 3 flights this year alone.

A bachelor party took place on the plane from Majorca to Geneva. They were a fun bunch though, dressed in pink. In front of me sat a little boy, about 2 years old. He was traveling with his father, who left him alone twice to go to the bathroom, unbuckled and who then fell asleep before we were even all the way up in the air. The poor boy was so bored, tearing up a magazine and crawling under the seat. At one point, I got up, reached over the father, and brought the child back to sit with me. At least we could entertain one another. His father didn’t even blink. We played games on the iPad and took funny pictures with the iphone booth app. It was great fun. It wasn’t until the pilot announced that we would be landing shortly, that the dad awoke and panicked. I tapped him on his shoulder to tell him the little one was with me. He just said ok and closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Of course, sometimes the journeys are chilling. Like when the helicopter had to land in the middle of nowhere in Kyrgyzstan. There were about 11 of us if I recall correctly. How would 11 ppl find their way to the city while in the middle of the mountains? A trailer type thing drove by. An Australian and New Zealand couple were on a road trip. They were on their way to Afghanistan. Imagine they had exactly 11 seats left in the vehicle. Divine intervention.

I was forgotten once at 3am when I landed in Islamabad, Pakistan and recovered my lost luggage, which was dropped on the runway and later found. Instead of doing the obvious and heading to the Serena with one of their cars which would have been the safest thing to do, I found ‘mommy’. He claimed to know where the hotel was that I had to go to. I told him there were two with the same name and I needed the guest house. He said he’d been living there all of his life and he knew where he had to take me. To make the story short, we ended up at the wrong place, got lost going to where we were supposed to after he got directions to the right one and ran out of gas. I was left alone at 430am in the middle of the road, while he went to find a cab, which he didnt get. He called a friend to get us…yes, I know, mad thing to do. I finally insisted he take me to the Serena and I’d sort things out the next day. Lucky for me he was a nice man. Honest. And he really did make sure I felt comfortable. He actually made his friend stay behind on the road and watch his car while he dropped me.

I must say that anyone that I know that has been to India has had a nightmare story. I was rather lucky to have met great people for the most part. No rickshaw drivers took me for a ride- well a joyride! Once one got lost but it was my fault because I didnt realize there was more than one Taj hotel, and he was super apologetic. I then decided to walk at 11pm, having no clue where I was and not knowing that Delhi was one of the unsafest places in India to be romping around, let alone. After all these years of living alone, I rented an apartment in Delhi, well a room. The other room was empty and I honestly did not think after a month of being there by myself, that someone would move in. Yes indeed, Hugo from Paris. A 20 something year old who was there on an internship….to party! Beer bottles lay around and chip wrappers were left here and there, along with the countless number of pizza boxes. But leaving the doors unlocked and the iron on….gees. He fell in love with a Russian model and soon I saw Hugo less. She had a 10pm curfew so they tried to make the most of the evening. He was a nice boy though, always offering me his pasta with ketchup or trying to get me to come out and party.

Of course, there was Josephine from Uganda who journeyed with me from Dokollo, Uganda to Kampala. She shared her tragic but inspiring life story- a woman who had fought all odds. However, about 6 months ago she emailed me to say that her caregiver had gotten her pregnant. Sometimes, life is made too difficult for people. However, her baby is negative as Josephine was infected with HIV.

I have been asked to climb on the back of motorbikes without a helmet and almost attacked by baboons. I have had to sly away from stray dogs. Walked with keys in my hand just in case I needed to poke someone’s eyes out. Been spat on. Sunken into mud. Hugged and been hugged. High fived. Been adorned. Laughed so hard it hurt. Danced in the rain. Been drugged. Been eaten alive by bed bugs. Thrown up on an airplane. Seen flight attendants throw up because the turbulence was so bad. Shared intimate conversations with strangers. Fallen a few times. Had nice, strong strangers help me with my bags. Had some of the best, unhealthy foods. Loitered at the grandest hotels. Smiled with glee. Loved. Been peed on….

I have gotten lost plenty of times, including in the subway station in Moscow because I couldn’t find my way out amongst the hundreds of people in there and that made me a bit anxious. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. I saw a bus driver in Delhi get beaten. That made my arm hands stand up. I’ve watched children play all sorts of outdoor games. Gotten rashes and DE. Seen some of the best beaches in the world. Listened to some of the loveliest tunes around. Lost things. Found things. Melted in the heat. Gone blue in the cold. Seen different kinds of wildlife. Gotten stuck in the most horrendous traffic jams. Shopped till I dropped.

It is true what people say….once you start, you can’t stop!

 

Josephine November 30, 2011

Filed under: People — travelchokri @ 12:31 am
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I had written about Josephine in an earlier bl0g. Her and I travelled  7 hours from Dokollo to Kampala. It was not until I got back to Geneva, that she shared the intensity of her journey with me. She has given me permission to share. How do I convince this young girl to take HIV medicine? I have been thinking about this for the last 2 weeks, when she sent me this story.

My Personal story.

Being a communications officer for Uganda now with East Africa Quality for Early Learning (EAQEL) a project under Aga Khan Foundation, I am very grateful to God for the love he has for me. I am a ninth born from a family of ten, and now we remained only three, Immy, Chan and I, since all my other seven sibling passed away during the war that brought president Museveni into power.

I am born to late Namuli Teopista and late Katho Anthony who were both Catholics. My father Anthony died in 1995 and my mother Teopista died in 1999, they died of HIV/AIDS and it was such a painful death because by then treatment was only for the rich. I was 12 years when my mother died and my brother Chan was 7 years.

The year 1999 marked the beginning of my suffering. Because my sister was born of a different father who also passed away in 1993, her relatives came and took her away from us and left me, together with my brother, with a lady who claimed to be a sister to our late father, Auntie Noeline, when he was still alive. Moreover, when my mother died, she turned her back on us and claimed she was not our true relative and sent us away. It was such a perturbing moment, yet I was left with only one week to sit for my Primary Leaving Exams (PLE). However, God is good because our headmaster by then, Sheik Ibrahim, allowed me to go to the boarding section and sleep in the girls dormitory, together with my brother, until I finished my exams. Besides, Children of Uganda Organization (COU) had selected me to be on their sponsorship programme since they had seen some potential in me, although my mother could not raise my school fees on time because her source of income was selling alcohol on a small scale which we supplemented by selling firewood.

My late father was a soldier but with little influence, given his low level of educational, but he had a brother who used to stay in Bombo.  Though his family didn’t turn up for my mother’s burial, I tried my level best to follow him up and when we reached his place, we had the worst welcome ever.  He was a good person; his wife was not.  At first she refused to let us to stay with them, though when she was convinced she took us in but we worked like donkeys, slaves, to earn our living there. I used to wake up 5:00 am and go to sleep at midnight, and all that time I was doing housework. As if the work alone was not punishment enough, it was accompanied by beating and insults, so within two years I decide to start looking for my sister because I had heard a rumor that she was married and living in the trading centre nearby.

When I found my sister Immy in July 2003, I asked if she could take us in, but by then she had so much on her plate that she could only care for her children and her husband at that moment. She sent us away from her house, claiming that we were rebels who were going to break up her marriage because the husband did not want us to overload his feeding budget.  So we had no choice but go to the street. I am so grateful to God that even when I reached the state of sleeping at Arua Park street with my brother, I never despaired.  I stood firm and studied hard since God had provided to me sponsorship through Children of Uganda organization. I worked hard, peeling food in hotels, washing clothes for students at school, cleaning people’s compounds and many other tasks in order to raise some money to keep my brother in school as well.  But at some point, the load became too heavy for me.

When I got a chance to pick my bank slip at COU, I told Auntie Ritah, the sponsorship coordinator by then, that Chan and I were sleeping atArua Pack Street. In addition, I asked her to consider us for a place in the orphanage, although it was clear that only those without known guardians could have that privilege. It took long for her to say yes, but it happened when she presented the matter to Auntie Alexis Hefley, who was the director then. I was granted accommodation, but because they helped only one-person from a family, I had to give my brother to friends to keep.  I will always remember Aisha, Joan and Mohamed doing me this great favor.

I always asked God for three things in life:  one, not to die of the same sickness as my parents. Two, to study hard and get a degree. Three, to get a chance to go abroad for greener pastures. In my family nobody had ever studied to complete even senior six (advanced level) and I had zeal to change that history. I know the devil tends to steal, kill and destroy people’s visions and to me being diagnosed with HIV in my second year at the university was a big blow, but I believe God has a greater plan in all that has happened to me than I can ever imagine. Although I am not where I need to be, thank God I am not where I used to be, I am happily pressing on and I am on my way.

When I was at the orphanage in my Senior.6 vacation, I had no personal sponsor and in our orphanage, if you didn’t have a personal sponsor, you could not be taken to the university; they would rather take one to a vocational institution, which was not my dream. So Uncle Joseph, the programme officer by then, used his power to abuse my rights by forcing me to sleep with him, if I wanted a sponsor to go to university. Although it was a difficult decision to take, I took it basing on how I felt and viewed my life as well as my brother’s. And after some time we received visitors at the orphanage, and he helped me get connected to one of them, Auntie Donna. Luckily enough I received the sponsorship. But it was not all that easy because the money could only meet the tuition and hostel fees, I had to look for some money for all my requirements and also pay for my brother’s school fees.I think I would have been dead by now because of the bitterness and anger I harbored towards people who really hurt me badly, like uncle Joseph who infected me with HIV, my sister Immy who deliberately left us when we needed her most, my uncle’s wife who treated me as a slave, and Auntie Noeline who did not consider our pain on becoming orphans at such a tender age, and decided to break our hearts the more by sending us away. But I thank God that, His grace has always kept me filled with tolerance, patience, perseverance and forgiveness. I know that if He has always forgiven me, it is my obligation to forgive others too.

I went through a great deal of rejection, pain and disappointments that I sold my heart, my pride and feelings yet I undertook work of any kind as long as it could contribute to my brother’s school fees and my well-being. I did students’ course work, brushed their shoes, and went to canteen to buy them food, but this continued to strengthen me to be close to my brother and fight hard to get a degree and find a job. That is why even today, I consider him my mother, my father, my friend and my counselor.

God never fails and He is always merciful, it reached at time when my brother joined secondary school, the money that I always fetched could no longer be enough for his school fees for even one term, so I at some point failed him.  He had to sit out for a year, but lecturer Deogratious at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) where I studied, stepped in and promised to contribute half of his school fees.

When I failed to meet my obligations to pay his school fees, I still had to contribute to his stay wherever I took him by buying him necessities, so it became very hard, but God opened a way for him in Empower African Children through Music Dance and Drama, with strong recommendations from Mum Donna, my sponsor, and since 2009 this organization has taken on my brother. He is now in Senior five at Taibah College.

When God says yes, no one can say no. When I went back for my long holiday in first year as a volunteer at the orphanage, though this time I was at the Rakai home, Uncle Joseph proved that he not only wanted me when I was so desperate, but he intended to make me his sex machine throughout. That is why I refused to go back to the orphanage for holidays because he was so influential that my voice could not really be heard even if I wanted to report him. And when he noticed the change in me, he tried to jeopardize my relationship with my sponsor and though it worked somehow, Mum Donna kept her promise and paid my tuition until I completed my stay in UMU. He resigned and left the orphanage, but I remained sick. Mum Donna still helps me indirectly because she is one of the big funders of the organization where my brother is helped, but she made it clear that I need to use the education she gave me to stand on my feet alone. But still God brought the late Father Geoffrey of Nebbi Catholic diocese in line although he died in May 2010, when I was still trying to learn how to stand firm.

I tried to study hard at UMU, but at times my spirits sank, because God had raised my hopes though my sight was still short. I didn’t know whom to talk to or where to run to, but I gathered strengthen and faced, professor Burrell, and he has done a lot for me. The day he introduced me to World Vision was my turning point. Although I didn’t have official clothes to wear in the office to look presentable, the little I had was enough, I did my best and that is where I got introduced to Nebbi District Local Government, the electoral commission, Pathfinder. I began as a Young Development Professional (YDP) and my placement was Madrasa Resource Centre Uganda.

“Patience, perseverance and trust in God has carried me through!”

 

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.

 

Back to the Motherland September 21, 2011

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 2:29 pm
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june 24

the glamour girls and laura and nadeem’s wedding party

 It has been some time. To my aunt’s who told my mom they had not heard from me at all…this is for you! Okay, not just for you!
 
I have had a fruitful visit to EA. Spent one week in Mombasa, traveling to Kingango and Kwale and had a bit of time of time to hang out in the evening with friends. The work on the ground was intense, with 4 hour drives each day, 3 hour school visits and 1 hour follow-up discussions. But all worth it. On the second last day I attended a meeting where I was thrown into an unexpected situation and ended up providing training to 41 individuals that are involved in the Reading to Learn programme- the programme that I was visiting. It was a great session. The last day was kept aside for meeting with government officials etc to discuss the way forward.
 
Uganda was even more hectic. Flew into Kampala and then drove straight to Soroti, about 5.5 hours. Small town. Small hotel with no hot water, etc. We were traveling to Dokollo and Alomotar each day, about 2.5 hours one way on bumpy, dirt roads in a pick up truck. I think I am still bruised. Kenya seems to be a bit more ahead in the plans than Uganda. But the visits there were also enlightening.
 
On my way to EA I stopped off in London for a friend’s stagette. We had a nice time…must say certain parts of that night were also very enlightening! I still love london.
 
Got to spend a weekend in nairobi on the way to uganda. quick trip. landed friday night and was off again on sunday morning. had friday night dinner, attended a pre wedding party and had a small brunch. went out on saturday night as well to the… usual.
 
I am back in kampala and off to geneva later tonight. Will have some time to recouperate over the weekend and then back to work on monday…i leave for portugal on thursday for 5 days. wedding. looking forward to that!


   Brunching at Art

  Great Time with Gal Pals (and boy pals).

  Chai!

Aliyah and Farouq got married in Cascais. I spent one night in Lisbon before that. It was nice to connect with old friends, and meet some new. We did maja!

Aliyah and Farouq's Wedding in Portugal, July 2& 3

  Munira, Saira and I have known each other since we were about 5 years old. Growing up in 2 different small towns, we met on Friday’s at the mosque. Munira left us when it was time, and heading to  U of T. Saira and I followed a year later, but we both decided on Western. Saira and I then heading to the same school in toronto, to do our post grad stuff – her in human resources and me in marketing management. Saira went on her path and me in mine, in the wonderful world of Saatchi & Saatchi. We both lived in toronto, but grew apart as the years went on. Now, we are back on track. It was great to re-connect with the Grimsby girls. Nice to have them around again. And of course, we have already planned a trip for December 2011! Trouble is about to begin…

 
 
 
 
the ex farrah sunderji, now farrah jamal and I
 

farrah…there is just too much to write about this strong and amazing woman. one lady i know that i can always count on. love you.