Saturday, August 6, 2011

Of course!

I traveled to Lwaaje Island last week. This was a much different trip than last time. Our party consisted of Jja Jja, his friend Sam, a veteran Volset volunteer from Australia, an American from a nearby village, and me. Our goal for this trip was to evaluate a cash-return program implemented in 2007. The “return” part of the program never happened and we wanted to find out why. This was much different from lining people up to test for HIV.

The trip out there was a….unique experience. We were carried out to our boat and I foolishly sat next to a block of ice, which meant as more people crowded into the boat, I had to squish closer and closer to the now melting block of ice. After 30 minutes of sitting idle, we asked Festus why we hadn’t left yet. He said, because the boat is leaking and we were going to switch boats. Of course it is leaking.
All these people are in our little boat
 Then almost immediately after our inquiry, we start leaving the shoreline. Uh, Festus, why are we leaving in a sinking boat? Oh, because the boat we are switching into is in the middle of the lake without any more fuel. Of course, we are now rescuing our rescue boat.

Then we almost crash into the boat in the middle of the lake and somehow float away fine. Once we get them fuel and drive back to shore, we have to walk from one boat to another while still on water. Of course we did.

It only took about two minutes for me to realize this new boat has a big hold in it right beside my leg. Of course, it leaks the entire two and a half hour ride. 

It was a beautiful ride

We had good company! Me and Jja Jja
From the time we got on the first boat to the time we arrived to our island was about five hours of travel. Then it took an hour of us standing around before we were taken to our rooms. Despite the blanket of bugs lying on my top sheet, this “hotel” was much nicer than the last. Most of the walls were whole and there was a protective layer of cardboard covering the holes. Classy. A little bit of 95% Deet bug spray killed the extra blanket and I was able to lay my mosquito net on top so I didn’t get anything too nasty in the night.
My luxury suite
We waited for almost an hour for Festus to return with food (it was about 8:30 pm now) but we decided to go to sleep and eat breakfast in the morning. Forty-five minutes after I curled up into my cocoon sleeping bag, Festus knocked on our doors. He brought us sodas and chapattis but only Kathy was awake enough to open her door, we all thanked him but said we would eat them in the morning.

We didn’t think about the rats. Kathy set the chapattis down on the floor and as soon as her light went out, I swear I could hear every rat on the island scurry in from every nook and cranny for a bite of our Chapati. I could have slept better!

I woke up early to a beautiful sunrise in the distance. Since our Chapati was out of the question, we drank the soda and ate pistachios for breakfast as we watched the fishermen come in from a night on the lake. 

We only waited another hour for Festus to return and he brought us to a restaurant that served us Chai tea, rice, beans, and Chapati for real breakfast.
The restaurant we ate each meal at
As we finished our breakfast, it started to drizzle and a nearby man (who had been watching me creepily lake a hawk) opened a sort of storage shed for us to stay dry in. No more than five minutes later, God released the floodgates and every drop of water in the Earth’s atmosphere came down from the sky above our island. Insanity is the only word I have for this rain. We couldn’t see outside for an hour because a sheet of water fell down in every direction. I am from one of the rainiest places in the world and this was a lot of rain to me!

Then it stopped and within minutes, we were on our way to do our evaluations. This island was so baron that all the villages are found along the shoreline. We had to locate 16 participants but due to death or relocation, we only found seven. Great information from them thought. All that walking and talking took us the whole day! When we finished, we decided to explore the island and we found an incredible lookout point.
Sam, Me, Tony, and Kathy

Our trail to the other villages
The look out point
The toilet!

On the last island, we used one shack-like outhouse for the toilet. It was a hole in the ground with four panels of wood around it. This island didn’t have a hole in the ground. It had ground though…the problem was that it was so baron we ladies had to walk about a kilometer just to find some privacy…or just wait till dark and go anywhere.

Despite the obvious poverty on this island, it was still a beautiful place. I realized this trip that I am fortunate to get a glimpse into their world. Very few people who travel to Uganda ever get to see these islands. There are islands they visit because of resorts, but few people get a sneak peek into the true Ugandan island life. 
Eating a freshly picked pineapple from a grateful client (sorry it is sideways)

Jja Jja and I after a successful day of work!

It amazes me how the in-your-face poverty, dirty room, lack of toilet, and billion marriage proposals hardly phased me.

Such a pity I leave so soon. 

With love, 

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