Saturday, July 19, 2008

Last Post!

Sorry it has been so long since my last post, things have been very busy. We're back at Mudd now, but we had a busy couple of days before we left Jinja. On our last Sunday in Uganda, we were fortunate enough to be invited to Kakira Sugar Works. It turns out that a Mudd alumni from Jinja was friends with a Ugandan ambassador to India, Nimisha Madhvani, whose family owns Kakira. We were treated to a tour of the sugar factory and the hospital within the compound, and we had a delicious lunch with Ambassador Madhvani and some other members of her family. We talked about some potential projects that Mudd could take on to continue this partnership with TASO. The entire experience was very interesting, and I'm glad that we were able to fit it in.
On Monday, I went out in the field to participate in the baseline survey that TASO is conducting. The survey is designed to test knowledge of AIDS, in terms of how it is transmitted and how people can protect themselves, and it is being administered in different villages. That day was also exciting in terms of transportation, since the van that we were traveling in hit a monkey on the way to the village, and broke down on the way back. The group that I was with administered the survey at a primary school. Since I was limited by language, I was only able to conduct three interviews, and I'm not sure how well those went since I think that the people I was talking with had trouble understanding my accent. All in all, though, it was a very interesting day, especially being able to see the villages and interact with the students.
Tuesday was our last full day at TASO. It turns out that while I had been out in the field, Nadia and Erica, another intern, had designed a program on career guidance and empowerment for a local girls school. Even though I wasn't really a part of it, I decided to go along to observe. It turned out to be really fun. Nadia gave a great talk on the importance of a technical education, and Maurisho and Sebastian answered questions about the transmission of AIDS. The best part was watching the girls participate, they were all so excited and enthusiastic! I really felt like our being there had impacted them, and we are hoping to set up a penpal program between their school and a local school in California. When we got back to Jinja, Nadia and I had one last dinner at the Gately, and, after saying goodbye to all of the waitresses there, finally had to start packing.
On Wednesday we went to TASO for the last time. We had one more meeting with Simon, discussing what was going to happen with each of our projects after we left, and then we each gave a short presentation on our projects. After taking a lot of pictures, and cutting the cake that Eva brought in for us, it was time to leave. It was really sad to say goodbye to all of our friends, especially since we don't know when we'll see them again. From TASO, we walked down to the town to buy a few last minute gifts and have one more meal at Ozzie's and a few more cookies from the Source Cafe. We walked back to the Hotel and by the time we had sorted out the payment situation, Ronald was there to take us back to the airport in Entebbe. Apart from a near-collision with a pedestrian on the road and a minor scuffle at immigration, the trip back to the states was uneventful. I was at home for three days and it was wonderful to be able to relax and see my family.
Now we're back at Mudd for two weeks to work on our final reports. My report consists of the monitoring form that I designed, as well as an explanation of the rationale for it, guidelines on how it should be implemented, a series of other suggestions for improvements to TASO's Sustainable Livelihood Program that I came across in my interviews and research, and a reflection on my time in Uganda. Nadia and I have also been debriefing pretty intensely with Prof. Haushalter to determine what we want to happen with the project next year, as well as planning how we're going to share what we've learned with the rest of the HMC community. This past week I've been able to reflect a lot on my time in Africa, and I'm continually amazed at how much I've learned. I am so glad that I got this amazing opportunity, and I hope that I will be able to do it justice in the future.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Last Full Week in Uganda!

We’ve had a very busy week!

On Monday, at TASO, I went to another sustainable livelihood organization in Jinja to check out their monitoring system. Tom, the trainer that I interviewed, was so knowledgeable and passionate about farming! When I listened to the recording of the conversation as I was transcribing it later, I realized that I really should have brought a video camera, because the words alone could not capture all of his gestures and jumping around! After telling me about their program, he showed me many different types of gardens. Unfortunately, at some point that day, I also developed some sort of bacterial eye conjunctivitis (diagnosed using Wikipedia), so I wasn’t able to wear contacts for a few days.
On Tuesday, I spent a lot of the day doing online research on international sustainable livelihood organizations and working in the pharmacy, where I counted out sets of 400 vitamins from containers of 1000. When I do tasks like these, whether it’s typing up notes or counting pills, I sometimes feel like I’m wasting my time, because it’s such a dull activity. However, these are probably some of the most helpful things I can be doing. The people working at TASO are always so busy, when we went in to see the drama group last Saturday, it seemed like half of the staff was there working on things from the week. If I can help them get these little jobs, like counting out packets of 56 pills, out of the way, then maybe it can help them to be able to devote their time to the more important part of their jobs, or at least help the organization run a bit more smoothly. After work, Nadia and I walked into Jinja’s downtown area and went to a little restaurant that had been recommended to us by another group at the hotel. It is run by a little Australian lady that has been in Uganda for 20 years!
Wednesday was stress management day at TASO! In the morning, there were presentations on a research project that TASO is participating in, and in the afternoon the whole staff went to the Kingfisher resort for lunch (a buffet of Ugandan food: rice, matoke, potatoes, beans, etc.) and activities! I played volleyball for awhile, but spent most of the day watching the antics of my coworkers. At one point, I was excited because I thought that they were bringing out dessert, something I’ve really been missing here. But it turned out to be a big container of roasted goat meat on sticks, with bones and all. That was a let down. Overall, the day was great, though, and I had a lot of fun.
On Thursday, I was reminded of one of the major reasons that I love traveling, all of the other travelers that you meet. At breakfast at the hotel, a man came up to me and struck up a conversation about what I was doing in Uganda. Eventually, it came out that he was an optometrist, in Uganda to do eye exams for children! Remember my eye problems? He was able to diagnose it and give me eye drops, and a recommendation for an antibiotic! It turns out that he was actually raised in Tanzania and moved to the US when he was 16. He had many sad stories about giving eye exams at local schools, but one really great one about this boy he encountered at a school for the blind. It turned out that he was not actually blind, he just needed really strong glasses, which the optometrist was able to order. He took the boy outside with the preview lenses (I don’t know what they’re actually called) and the boy was able to see a soccer game for the first time. I really like the idea of people taking their skills and using them to help people who need it. At work, I helped the data guys with some transcribing and worked in the pharmacy in the morning. Later that afternoon, I had a long talk with my boss, Simon, about my project. My project has turned into designing a monitoring form that counselors, field officers, or project managers can take with them on home visits to monitor the success of a sustainable livelihood client, and also the effectiveness of the program in addressing food security and economic empowerment. It seems like this will be really useful for them if it is actually used, but I’m concerned that it will take a long time for them to implement it, if they do at all. I wish that I could come back for a longer period, like for a few months, and work on the implementation, because it seems like most people at TASO have way too much to do already. Later that afternoon, I interviewed a client, Florence, who is about to enter the SLP, about her expectations. It was so interesting to hear about her experiences, particularly about how much her life has improved since she was put on antiretrovirals, she is so excited to start earning her own income.
On Friday, I did an interview with another local organization, and spent some time talking to a new intern that is here for a year about the possibility of her taking over my project. I would really like that because I feel like there is a good chance that the form could otherwise just sit on someone’s computer rather than actually being used, despite the need for it. After work, Nadia and I met in the downtown area for dinner.
On Saturday, Nadia and I went kayaking on the Nile! We were on the water from about 11 in the morning to 6 in the evening with a half hour break for lunch. In the morning, we learned basic kayak skills, including what to do when you capsize, which is to either unhook yourself from the kayak and get out, or to stay strapped in and bang on the bottom of your boat until someone comes and bangs their boat into yours. At that point, you find their boat with your hands, put your head on it, and flip the boat over with your hips…I learned how to do that method, but decided that if I flipped over, I would get myself out. After lunch, they took us on a truck with our gear to the top of some rapids. We did some more practice, where Nadia and I secured our positions as the worst kayakers in the class. But, when we started actually going through the rapids, we were the only two in the class to stay upright. I think that this was due less to our skills and more to our fear of flipping over, because neither of us had any interest in hanging upside down underwater and banging our hands against the boat. It was so much fun! At one point, I went down a few rapids by myself when I drifted away from the group. Luckily, I crashed into some bushes soon after and got stuck, so everyone else was able to catch up easily. The scenery along the way was amazing, I wish that I could have brought my camera in the kayak. After we finished back at the camp, we had dinner at the campsite with some people from the class. Everyone has such interesting stories about why they’re here. There was one man who has been traveling around Africa in a truck with a tent on it for three years, another couple took a year off from their lives to travel the world doing volunteer work, the instructor is from the US, and came here to do a project similar to ours, but keeps on extending her stay as she finds new activities. Today really inspired me to do more traveling. We had to get a taxi home, which we shared with an Australian volunteer that we met that is also staying in Jinja. After we dropped her off, the car stopped working for awhile and it had to be pushed. Nadia and I seem to have that effect on cars, this was the third one this trip that has stopped working while we’ve been in it. Then, I accidentally left my phone in the taxi, and called the driver about 10 minutes later, but the car had already broken down again, so I needed to pay for him to take a Boda to the hotel! I will NOT miss the complications of Ugandan methods of transportation, but I’ll miss pretty much everything else.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Past Week

The past week has been very busy!

Last Monday, I went out in the field with the Sustainable Livelihood Project Research team. We were gone all day, visiting other SLP organizations. I got to listen in on their interviews, as well as conducting a few of my own. At one point, they needed to go print something out, and left me at one organization, Africa United, for awhile by myself. The people that I met there, Charles and Winston, were very helpful in giving me information on SLP monitoring, and then we were able to talk for along time about differences between America and Uganda. I really felt like I made friends there, and Charles and I are planning to keep in touch by email. One of the highlights of the day for me was visiting the homes of a few clients that have gone through the SLP. I was able to learn a lot more about the program from them, as well as seeing some amazing gardens and farms. I took some great pictures, which I will have to upload once I’m back in the US (One week from tomorrow!!!).

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, I spent a lot of time at TASO, conducting interviews there, transcribing interviews and documents, and helping out in the pharmacy. The days that I remain at TASO as opposed to going out in the field are not as exciting, but it’s really interesting to see the inner workings of the organizations.

On Friday, one of the field officers that I had previously interviewed invited me to go out to a client’s home with him. We went way out to the villages, to the home of a new client. Moses, the F.O., counseled her and her family on living with an HIV positive person, and tested all consenting members of the family as well. This is to make sure that the client is not tempted to share her medications, since that would be very unhealthy. Each person is counseled individually upon receiving their results. It was very nice that all of the family members, even her husband and child, were all negative, but Moses said this was not the norm. The visit made me wish that I understood Luganda, the native language, because I would have been very interested to hear what was said in the counseling sessions.

This weekend, Nadia and I got to see the adolescent drama group perform. This is a group of adolescent TASO members that perform songs and dances to educate people about AIDS. They were so good, and so fun to interact with. It was definitely a highlight of the weekend. We also spent a good deal of time exploring downtown Jinja, checking out all of the shops and restaurants. Since our friends at the hotel who took us to other restaurants, the army men, have left, we decided to branch out on our own, and went to a nearby hotel for dinner. It was beautiful, with a really peaceful gardens, and delicious desserts! On Sunday, we tried to go to the TASO Corporate Soccer League, which we didn’t end up seeing much of because we weren’t operating on “African time”, which is where everything happens about 4 hours after people tell you that it will. We are trying to make the most out of our last week here, although I think we’re both really looking forward to getting home!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Weekend in Kampala!

Last weekend, Nadia and I went to visit a friend of Prof. Haushalters in Kampala. Phoebe was a visiting professor at Pomona last year. To get there, we took a taxi from Jinja. The taxi system is basically just that they squeeze as many people as they can fit into a van and bring everyone to Kampala for only 3500 shillings (less than 3 dollars). The trip took about an hour and a half, and I realized about 45 minutes into it that the shopping bag I had been squashed up against actually contained a live chicken!! That was pretty exciting. Phoebe met us in Kampala where we got off the taxi, and took us to a shopping center that was very western. Almost everyone inside was white, and I felt like I was back in the US. Due to a big traffic jam, we had to take boda bodas (motorcycles) to dinner, which was pretty scary. Although it is more culturally correct for girls to sit on the seat with their legs off to one side, I don't have very good balance so I decided to change into pants and ride the way men do. Also, we were holding our big bags of clothes and gifts for the weekend! The ride took about 20 minutes, and it actually ended up being really fun, although I felt like there were a couple of close calls! We had dinner at a hotel with a group from Phoebe's church. They were very nice and welcoming, and we got to watch their elections of officers, which involved very little actual voting. Phoebe's nephew Peter showed up just in time for dinner, which consisted mainly of Ugandan food. There was also a cake, which was especially exciting because I had been craving desserts all week!
After the dinner, a friend of Peter's picked us up, dropped Phoebe off at her house, and brought us to Peter's house. It turns out that he lives pretty far out of the city, and we had to make a couple of stops along the way. By the time we got to his (really nice) house, we were exhausted! The next morning, Peter prepared us a delicious breakfast of eggs, juice, bread and these crackers called digestives. Then, we went into Kampala, to an area called the African Village to do some souvenir shopping. I'm not very good at negotiating, so Phoebe helped me get some more reasonable prices than those that are usually given to mzungo. Nadia was a pro!
From there, we went to Entebbe to go to the zoo! We saw chimps, zebras, a lion, an otter, snakes, an ostrich, and monkeys running free around the zoo! It turns out that Peter is afraid of most animals, ESPECIALLY monkeys, so that made for some funny moments, like when he dragged me away from the ostrich cage while I was taking a picture because he was afraid it was going to fly over the fence and hurt us! Peter's friends Julius and Eva were also in Entebbe for the day, so they stopped by the zoo and we chatted with them for awhile.
After the zoo, we stopped at Phoebe's brother's house. He is a farmer, and gave us a pineapple and plantains! It was really interesting to talk to him and his wife, they were very welcoming to us. After we left there, we got lost, then we got in a terrible traffic jam. It seems like there are always traffic jams in Kampala. Once we got out, we dropped off Phoebe and were continuing on to Peter's house when the car broke down in the middle of a rotary. It turned into kind of a big disaster, but I kept myself busy by eating almost an entire box of digestive crackers that I found in the backseat. We (finally) got back to Peter's house and Julius and Eva were there, but we were both too tired to stay up any later.
The next morning we went to Phoebe's church. It took place in a tent, and it was really interesting to see how their service went, although I don't have much to compare it with. We had to go up on the stage and introduce ourselves, and there was singing, dancing and a skit! I think I may have raved about the cake on Friday night a little too much, because the woman made us an ENTIRE cake! It was delicious, and she gave us a big chunk to take home. After the English service, while the Lugandan one was going on, we helped Phoebe with Sunday school. The kids were adorable. We had to leave church early to go out to lunch with Pastor Michael, who took us to a restaurant at a golf course, where we had delicious Ugandan food. After lunch, they took us to the Kampala taxi park, which has soo many cars everywhere, I didn't even know where to start looking. Luckily, Phoebe brought us to the taxi to Jinja, and we said goodbye. While we were waiting to leave, people kept leaning in the door and trying to sell us everything from shoes and sunglasses to water and bread! We made it back to Jinja eventually, and although I had a great time, I'm not sure that I could have handled 6 weeks of staying in Kampala, it is too fast paced for me, I was happy to return to the good old Hotel Triangle in Jinja.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


So, Nadia started a web album, and some of my pictures are up there, too. It seems to be the easiest way to share pictures, given the slow internet speed. So, check it out at
I will update soon about our exciting weekend in Kampala!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Outreach Clinic

Today, we went to a TASO outreach clinic, which is when TASO holds a clinic in an area far away from the center for the clients that live there that can't make it to the center for regular appointments. It happens once a month in each of two locations. Counselors, doctors, pharmacists, and other TASO staff members piled into a bus and we drove up some crazy hills, and then we set up in an old hospital. I worked in the dispensary, counting out different amounts of antiretrovirals, aspirins, and malaria medicine, which were given out to the clients. Lunch was prepared for us by a client there, I tried groundnut sauce on my matoke, it was great! I thought it tasted kind of like peanut butter, but Nadia was not as impressed. I think it's really cool how TASO was able to function even from such a remote location, especially without any computers, which would be unheard of in the US! The outreach clinic lasted for almost the entire day, so now we're back at the hotel. My other work project, which is basically doing an audit of the sustainable livelihood program, is going well. I've finished going through the transcripts of all of the previous interviews that have been conducted on the topic, and I've just started doing my own interviews, and I'm looking forward to talking to more clients, I like hearing people's stories. My first was yesterday, with a client that works in the aromatherapy department at TASO.
We're off to Kampala this weekend, I will post pictures when the internet connection is going a little faster.
I hope that you are all having a great summer!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Weekend

On Thursday, Nadia and I mainly worked in the pharmacy on Thursday. It is a therapy clinic day, so clients are coming in to get their antiretrovirals. Each client has to get enough for 4 weeks, so we did a lot of counting out sets of 28 or 56 pills into containers, and labeling them with how often they should be taken. It was really eye-opening in terms of health care here- people were just counting these pills by hand, I’m sure that some counting mistakes are made, leaving some people with not enough pills for the allotted time. It seemed to us like people should be given a couple of extra pills, or at the very least everyone should have been wearing gloves. Similarly, in the afternoon, we were entering the ID numbers of patients who had picked up their medication into their computer program, and then the computer froze, so some of the data that was entered was lost. We weren’t able to re-enter it later because the power was flickering and it just would have been lost again. It’s frustrating to see these limitations that wouldn’t happen in the US.

On Friday, we finally started our projects at TASO. I’m going to be working on their sustainable livelihood project. This project aims to help clients on antiretrovirals return to their normal lives in ways including employment, food security, their domestic situation, etc. In the past, the program at the Jinja center has focused mainly on clients with children. I’m going to be researching past progress reports on the system, interviewing clients who have gone through the program, talking to local business partners who help with the program, and looking into a similar, successful program in Bangladesh to try to develop a series of guidelines for a program that can be used at all of the centers. It’s a little overwhelming, but I have some great resources in Simon and Sebastian, so I think that they will be able to help me get started.

On Saturday, Nadia and I went to the source of the Nile with Sebastian. It is just down the street from our hotel, we were able to walk right through the golf course. On the way in, we saw monkeys! Later, on the boat, we saw a tree with lots of monkeys climbing in it.

The source is the point at which Lake Victoria turns into the Nile River. From there, it takes 90 days for the water to reach the end of the river in Egypt. You can actually see where it changes, but you have to take a boat out to it.

On Sunday, we went out to lunch at another local hotel with a few members of a group of American military men staying at our hotel. They are working with the Ugandan army, and have helped introduce us to the area.

Later on, we walked down to the town by ourselves so that I could use the ATM. We’re finally getting used to walking around by ourselves, although it’s still an adventure. Everyone that see’s us yells out “Mzungo”, we are always having close encounters with motorbikes, and there are chickens, goats, and cows wandering around on the sidewalks. When we went into town on Saturday we got pretty lost, but we’re beginning to know our way around Jinja.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


So, I started work at the AIDS Support Organization today. There are 11 centers throughout Uganda. The Jinja center caters to 20,000 clients (7000 are active, meaning that they have come in in the past 3 months), who are HIV positive, and their families. Services that they offer include counseling (family counseling, testing counseling, treatment counseling, etc.), medical care (antiretroviral treatment, treatment of opportunistic infections and help with other medical problems), outreach clinics for clients that cannot easily travel to the center, a child play center for the families, paying for the education fees of at least one child in a client’s household, skills training so that the client can remain employed, aromatherapy to treat medical problems, and family testing (so that clients won’t be tempted to share their antiretroviral drugs, which allows the virus to become much more difficult to treat). All of these services are free to the clients. They also have a food delivery program to their poorest clients, and they offer free condoms to everyone. We also met members of the traveling drumming group, which is a group of clients that prepare songs and skits about AIDS prevention and then travel to communities to educate them. On Tuesdays and Fridays, the center holds a therapy clinic for clients on antiretrovirals, and on Mondays and Thursdays they hold a general clinic to treat other medical problems that clients may have. On Wednesdays, counselors go on home visits to the clients. I think that what I’ll be doing is helping out in the clinic, possibly doing some work with kids, and working on their sustainable livelihood program. This program involves encouraging clients to become more involved in their own livelihoods, in ways that help both them and the community. From what I understand so far of the program, it does this through ways including providing loans to clients so that they can start their own businesses and offering training in skills so that they can get employed (at the center at Jinja, they have sewing machines that they train clients on). One example is that lunch at the center is offered for staff and clients at TASO every day for 1000 shillings (about 60 cents), it is prepared by the family of a client, so it helps both the family and the center. I’m still not sure specifically what I’ll be doing, but it definitely seems like a worthwhile project.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


OK, I can't get the pictures to come through because the internet is too slow, I will try to upload them separately later.

So, this weekend in Kampala was kind of a bust, but I did get this cool picture of a bug I found in the bathroom

One interesting thing is how much coverage the democratic primaries are getting in the news here (as well as the Celtics and Lakers). People keep on asking me whether I like Obama or Clinton. When I asked Priscilla from TASO what she thought, she said that most Ugandans prefer Obama because his father is Kenyan, so they feel that he is like them, although if not for that, they would prefer Clinton because they all really liked Bill Clinton. I asked what the feelings were on Bush, and she said that she didn’t like him because he was a war mongrel (sp?). I thought this was interesting that they followed American politics so closely.

Yesterday, we went to TASO headquarters in Kampala, ate a real Ugandan lunch, and then went out to Jinja in a truck. After checking in at TASO Jinja, we went back to our hotel. This is the view from our hotel room of the Nile, although we’ve since had to switch rooms because there were too many mosquitoes.

That’s actually a juvenile detention center across the lake.

Today is Martyr’s Day, a national holiday celebrating Ugandan Catholics and Protestants who were killed in the 1800’s. Since we didn’t have work, Sebastian and his wife took us to see a beautiful waterfall. The only bad thing was that I was wearing a skirt and flipflops, which made hiking the small mountain that Sebastian led us up difficult.

Tomorrow we start actually working at TASO!!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

We're Here!

We got into Entebbe last night, and took a van to Kampala. The ride was really interesting because there is a PEPFAR conference taking place in Kampala this week, so there were a bunch of US health officials interested in AIDS with us. I only wish it had been during the day so that we could have seen more of the scenery. Now we're just at the hotel, trying to get over jetlag, pictures to come soon!