Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hi all,

I know it’s been a few days since we all parted ways but I thought I would put up one final blog post.  Being still in Kampala, I’m a little nostalgic about our wonderful trip!  I’m not sure who, if anyone, will read this but I thought I would talk briefly about our experiences together.

When I left Montreal one month ago now to travel to Uganda and meet all of you in Brussels, I had no idea what to expect.  Yes, I had been here before and I know we often talked about how both trips related and differed, especially in terms of their timetables, but I knew this time around would be unlike anything any of us had ever witnessed.  And it was.  Looking back, our three weeks together were filled with some incredible moments, amazing surprises and great laughs, but overall, some fantastic memories.  I will always cherish singing the “Tuna Song” while we asked Imbaho again and again, “are you sure you mean the dark nonald?”  I will also never forget sitting around in Jim’s courtyard on one of our first mornings in Rukungiri and playing mafia for the first time.  Little did I know how prominent that game would figure in the rest of our trip!  I loved our time exploring Kampala and Queen, as well as all of our days spent on the road enjoying the absolutely stunning scenery that Uganda has to offer.

I also loved our time at Bishops.  Two years ago, we didn’t interact with the students in the same way.  For any Groton kids reading this, you went above and beyond.  You stepped outside of yourselves to become part of a group of students with a completely different way of life and most likely a totally alternate perspective too.  I loved watching and being a part of these interactions and I am so proud of how you all made the most of the situation you found yourselves in.  I recognize that being in a foreign place for an extended period of time is not easy.  It requires confidence in yourself and your group and a willingness to leave behind your comfort zone.  I experienced this two years ago when I first came to Uganda and again this summer.  I think that feeling of newness and trying hard at something that may be uncomfortable or unknown is something so valuable.  To me it’s an experience that everyone should have at some point.  Taking risks is hard but all of you did and you did it so well.  I was so impressed with the effort you put in and your desire to really get to know Ugandan culture.

I LOVED my time with everyone and I wanted to share that.  Thank you so much to everyone for making Uganda 2014 what it was.  Thank you to each and every Groton kid for all that you did and for making me feel so welcome as another member of this trip.  I can’t wait to get down to Groton hopefully sometime next year to visit!  Thank you to Randi, Tim and Margaret for leading us and to Nishad for so much of the coordinating and planning that went into this trip.  I’d also like to extend a massive thank you to Lesley and Michael at Venture for all of their hard work and consistently upbeat attitudes.  Everyone contributed to making this trip great and I thank you all for letting me be a part of it.

I’m here for another week and am looking forward to the rest of my time in beautiful Uganda even as it winds down.  Yes, I am still having matoke and yes I am looking forward to a delicious salad once at home but I’m so happy to be here.  I have loved my time with all of you here and feel so lucky that everything worked out the way it did.  Thank you all again for all that you did- here’s to more amazing Groton trips to Uganda in years to come!

Enjoy the rest of summer!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Photo Collage

Last Day in Kampala! Be home soon.

July 8th 2014


Today was our last full day in Africa and we spent it hanging out in Kampala and seeing more of the city. We first visited an art studio where Mr. Reed and Margaret ended up buying a watercolor and we got to see some Ugandan art. Then we went to a mall and bought snacks and shopped around. Afterwards we got lunch at an international hotel, but sadly we couldn't use the outdoor pool because of the rain. We left a few hours later and went to another shopping center to stock up on some DVD's for our last night and for the flight tomorrow. It's so strange to be leaving tomorrow, and while I'll miss the people and the country of Uganda, I'm very excited to come home soon.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Journey to Kampala

Hi everyone!
Today we woke up early, packed up all of our stuff, and left out hotel. Before we started our 7 hour long journey to Kampala, we went on a game drive for a few hours. After some searching, we were able to see a few lions in the national park. Then we set out on the bus ride of all bus rides. About two hours, we stopped for lunch and were very excited to find that the restaurant in Fort Portal specialized in burgers, shakes, and pizza. Everyone ordered milkshakes and bacon cheeseburgers. It was an interesting change from rice, beans, meat and matoke. We stopped at a craft market before we left Fort Portal. The rest of the bus ride we all slept, played games, and took pictures as we passed baboons walking along the road next to us. It was sort of surprising to be in a city again. Seeing the crowded streets was so different than being in the village of Rukungiri and even in the national parks. We are all now settled at our hotel and ready for the next two days in Kampala.
Bye for now, Jessica

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday, July 6th

This morning we went tracking for chimpanzees in the Kazinga Gorge in the rift valley with our guides, Nelson and Lawrence. Here you can see the view of the gorge from almost 100 meters above the rift valley. The walk was extremely long lasting a little over three hours, and we spotted our first chimpanzee more than two hours in. During the entire walk we saw two chimpanzees and a couple of various different species of monkeys, which was disappointing for me but apparently we were extremely lucky to have seen any chimpanzees at all in their natural habitat. Here in the next photo you can see one of the chimpanzees we spotted this morning. It was eating near the water when we first spotted it, and Nelson told us that he is approximately 16 years old. Although it got really hot and tiring during the walk, I realize now that it was an amazing experience to have trekked through the Kazinga Gorge in the natural habitat of the chimpanzees. Nelson told us that because humans have recently been destroying the habitats of these apes for agriculture, it has increasingly become difficult for these chimpanzees to mate and reproduce. It made me realize the seriousness of the issues concerning the habitat loss of endangered animals.

After the walk in the morning we went on a boat cruise in the Kazinga Channel between Lake Edwards and Lake George in the afternoon to see the different wildlife in the river valley. We saw buffalos, hippos, elephants, water bucks, bush bucks, and an alligator. It was really interesting to see these animals in their natural habitat from so close. In this picture the elephants are drinking water and washing themselves. It was really interesting to see these animals doing their natural 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saturday, July 5th

Hi again! Today was one of our more relaxing days on the 24 day trip around Uganda. We took a large bus from Jim’s house all the way to Kazinga Channel View Resort.
The ride was long and about 4 hours including our stops along the way. The morning was spent at Jim’s house relaxing and watching movies in the boy’s part of Jim’s house, which they like to call the “mave” which stands for “man cave”. We all snuggled up and watched a few classic movies like Sherlock Holmes and Hunger Games. The time to all hangout after being separated for a while at our homestays was awesome, and seeing our friends at Jim’s house, Alice (basically our fill in mom), and JB (our master chef) was great. We had our last breakfast at Jim’s house ever, and we got a few special treats from JB including some sweet yellow bread, and mandazi fresh out of the oven (donut like bread). At around 12:30 we took off to the Rukungiri Inn to have lunch. This was our second time eating here and we got either fish and chips or chicken and chips and everyone seemed satisfied. After a quick lunch, we were off to Kazinga Channel View Resort at Queen Elizabeth’s National Park. The ride was pretty smooth, minus the first 30 minutes or so where we had to pass through a construction area, where people (sometimes even kids) were holding up green and red flags for the cars to come and go. Unlike America, where the cars take priority, in Uganda we had to wait 20 minutes just to move up ten feet to the next stop. The construction took priority. It was smooth sailing from then on, and we even were given a chance to stop and have a soda of our choice courtesy of Mr. Reed. The rooms here at the resort are very nice compared to our home stays. The bathroom has an actual flushing toilet, not a hole in the ground! And even though the shower is cold, it is better than a small bucket of cold water. Dinner was at 7 at the resort, and they had a buffet of fish, chicken, potato fries, and some bean like item that I was not so interested in taking for myself.

 Overall, the ride was beautiful and filled with great scenery.
The road trips have actually become my favorite parts of the trip so far. Just getting to sit and listen to music and look out at all the banana plantations, and gorgeous hills that go on forever is all I could ask for. We passed by an enormous tea field, and also the Rift Valley that leads all the way to Kenya. It was beautiful to see. Dinner was followed by a campfire courtesy of the resort, and we are enjoying some Nutella that we bought at the local supermarket. It reminds me off home, minus the part that there are cacti everywhere and hippo warnings. Tomorrow we have to wake up bright and early for breakfast, then we are off to chimp tracking!

Thanks for reading!

Caitlyn DiSarcina

Friday, July 4th

Happy Independence Day! 
Today was the last full day here in Rukungiri. We started the day off by going to Kosarosa Primary School, which was just a 10 minute drive from Jim’s house. The schedule at the school was very similar from our last visit. First, we played some games with the younger students. Tyler, Chris, Angus, and I played a game of Duck, Duck, Goose with the kids in the 4th grade.
It took a little time for them to fully understand it, but in the end, they were having a lot of fun. The other Groton students were also playing different games with the other students. Grace and Amani were playing Red Light, Green Light. Diva, Jessica, and Caitlyn were also teaching kids how to play Duck, Duck, Goose. And Marie and Sunny were playing Follow the Leader. After 45 minutes of games, it was reading time. Mr. Reed and Cristina had a bunch of picture books they brought from the United States and Canada to give to Kosarosa Primary School, and so today, we were supposed to read some of the books to the students. It was a little awkward for me to read a children’s book to 14 and 15 year olds. I thought listening to me read a story about a talking bear would bored them out of their minds. I know I would. But they seemed to be fascinated by the pictures and the stories from America. After an hour of this, it was time to head back to Jim’s house. Since today was the big, Independence Day party for the homestays and the teachers, as the hosts, we had some things to prepare. But the party did not start till 5:30, so we still had some time. After lunch, everyone went to the rooms and just relaxed until it was time for us to set up. When it was around 4, we started to set up the chairs and tables in the backyard. After an hour, the guests started to show up.
I sat with Monday, my homestay, and his family, and talked about how much fun we had in the past week. When all the guests arrived, the local dancers started to perform and showed us some unique Ugandan dancing. Then, it was the Groton students to perform. We sang Let Justice Roll, a Groton School favorite, and the girls sang Gold Digger by Kanye West. Soon after, the photographer showed up and the homestay families rushed all the Groton students so that they could get some pictures with us. When it came to about 8, it was finally time to eat. There was a lot of American food like guacamole, pasta, sausages, and many more. It was amazing, and a lot of this was done by Margaret, who spent most of the day cooking. The Ugandans seemed to be enjoying the food, even though they were at first skeptical about trying it. After everyone finished eating, it was time to say good-bye to the homestays. Monday’s parents gave me some gifts. They gave me a homemade basket for my mother and traditional Ugandan shirts for my father and me. I was very grateful for the hospitality they had given me during the past week and it was hard for me to say good-bye. I had a wonderful time in Rukungiri, and I’ll never forget the people I met here.
-Kei Nawa