Friday, July 11, 2008

Thursday, 7/10

Lots of interesting noises in the night. In fact, when we got up, we were told that elephants had crossed the river and were nosing around near Steve and Cort's tent. We had a great breakfast and got on the road to Lake Mbarara, an 8 hour drive (including an hour stop for lunch). As we left Ishasha, we encountered a lone elephant who was crossing onto the other side of the road. He seemd indignant that we had appeared when we did, so he let loose a trumpet blare that surprised us. We stared each other down for a long minute, separated by a drainage gully that would have been difficult for a 6 ton animal to negotiate (although certainly not impossible). He decided to call our bluff and charged…about 15 feet before pulling up just short of the ditch. We got it all on video which we will post as soon as we have access to broadband. A moment or two later, as we pulled away, he trumpeted again and ran parallel along the road/ditch as we accelerated, calling us out! What a blast! We got threatened by an elephant!

We made it back to the paved Kasese Road thankfully in only two and a half hours, and stopped briefly at a Kyambura Gorge where chimpanzees live. This is a 350 foot chasm through which a river runs - we know this as we could hear it although it was completely blocked from view by thick vegetation. This type of natural beauty would attract thousands of visitors daily were it in the U.S.; here, for us, it was just a ho-hum bathroom stop!

We stopped about 2 hours outside of our destination for a nice lunch and a quick upload of blog text and photos at an internet cafe, then back on the road. We pulled into the park area, passed through the gate, yet were still an hour away from the Mihinga Lodge. Along the way we snapped pictures of bush bucks, cob, zebras, water bucks, and others. Our reunion with the other group was festive - a celebration, like dear old friends. Everyone had a dozen different stories to tell everyone else. That is it in a nutshell; this trip has been fabulous experiences to the tenth power. We related our encounter with the bull elephant, Kate talked about being surpised by warthogs emerging from a water culvert, Cindy befriended a lonely baboon, and the other group had seen three leopards! Some of us lounged by the pool while others completed a nature walk. We met for an elegant dinner by candle light, then down to the campfire to trade stories. By now we are planning our professional day on Thursday and how we will tie as much of these experiences into the curriculum. What an education though! At around 11:00 we were escorted to our tents by guides with flashlights. The accomodations here are spectacular - please have a look at the pictures. Nature's symphony lulled us all to sleep, played to us throughout the night, and woke us at dawn. Some of the sounds we have learned to recognize: "That's a colobus monkey!" but most are still unfamiliar and exotic. Coffee is served to us at dawn on our decks overlooking the valley!

This morning we are off to Entebbe Airport, departing Entebbe at 10:40 p.m. Due to arrive Boston at 10:25, Northwest Airlines flight 59. See Ya!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, 7/9

We departed the Mweya at 8:00 after a fine breakfast and spectacular view. Our trip to the Ishasha Wilderness Camp would take about four hours depending on the roads. As we left the Mweya, we encountered a mother elephant and her adolescent standing guard over their fallen child/sibling. It was quite touching, as they formed a protective ring around the body and stood vigil. "They will remain there in mourning for up to two days" our guide informed us. As the mother swayed back and forth, the surviving calf stood erect, almost at attention, without moving. Twenty minutes later, we turned onto Ishasha Road, a tortuous washed out dirt strip that is considered a main road but resembles a gully in many spots. The 80 kilometers took us nearly 6 hours! However, shortly after turning onto the Ishasha, we noticed two Land Rovers like our own approaching from the south. This mini convoy skidded to a halt and out jumped friends from the other group! It was a hug-fest in the middle of a washed out dirt gully in southern Uganda…how often does that happen? "Wait until you see the Mweya!" we told them. "Wait until you see the Ishasha!" they replied in unison. "Wait till you see the tree lions!" they added. "Wait until you see the hippos and warthogs!"we countered. Suddenly, our self-absorbed middle-of-the-road celebration was interrupted as 28 elephants crossed the road one by one about 50 yards away! We turned and watch in stunned silence. Wow!

But we had schedules to keep, and miles to go before we sleep (slept?). We quickly said our temporary good-byes ("See you tomorrow night!) and off we headed in opposite directions. By now, our friends are enjoying the spectacular view over the Kazinga Channel connecting Lakes George and Edward just as we did for the last 2 days.

We arrived at 1:30, and were enjoying a nice lunch by the river when a family of elephants came down for a drink. Our guide Martin tells us that typically these beasts require 45 gallons of water daily…they had at least that much while we ate! In any event, we reconvened at 3:00 and headed out to find the lions. We traveled over rough terrain for about 90 minutes when finally Pam shouted "There! Over there! A cat!," and sure enough, there were six cats splayed out on the thick limbs of a Ficus Africanus. As we approached, they yawned and looked at us with bored disinterest. Later Cort noticed a tail hanging from a distant tree (courtesy of Pam's binoculars)…Martin thought it might be a monkey, but it was a fully mature lion, mane and all, bored senseless by our attention! We've pretty much seen it all now, with the exception of a leopard. Stay tuned though…we still have a day. Anyway, love to you all and see you soon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday, 7/8

Another fabulous day in Africa! It was still dark when we departed the Mweya Safari Lodge, headed out on a game watch. The spacious and comfortable Land Rover (seats 7 comfortably and we were only 5) had it's roof raised so that we could stand and keep a sharp eye out for game. Things began slowly - the first photo we took was of the rising sun, coming up through clouds that resembled mountains, so it looked like a red orb spewing out of a volcano. After one or two false alarms, we spotted a water buck; an elk-like creature with ringed horns and powerful shoulders. It is hard to believe that such a magnificent animal has anything to fear. In fact, it wasn't the least bit spooked by us, although it was quite accommodating, standing to get a better look at us, and in turn giving us a better look at him. Warthogs began to appear everywhere, then cobs, then an elephant and her calf! And we hadn't even left the compound yet! Soon we did though, crossing over into the open savannah where animals abounded. In the distance was a hippo! So far from water we pondered? Martin tells us the will range up to 5 kilometers inland of water. We happened upon a couple of carcasses that were stripped relatively clean, but there remained evidence that this was a relatively recent kill (i.e. there was still meat on the bones and the internal organs were splashed off to the side!). We did not take photos.

On the way back, we encountered several elephants: some young 'uns and a couple of adults. The largest who was in the road, ambled over to the side, let loose some gas, bulled into the bush, turned around and called for an adolescent that we hadn't seen. Undoubtedly Dad said "Come along, nothing to worry about. It's one of those beasts that's full of humans." Pam has it on video which we shall try to post.

Back to the lodge for a late but delicious breakfast, followed by some rest for the weary. At 3:00 we were on board the river boat which took us up and down the channel for unbelievably close looks at hippos, cape buffalo, crocodiles, and a dozen or so elephants. The elephants I must say are the most magnificent creatures of all. Several of them were on a graded cliff making there way to the summit, having bathed and drunk water. Imagine pushing 6 tons of weight up that hill! Hippos and cape buffalo appear to get along quite well, both enjoying the water in close quarters with no squabbles at all. We came upon a fishing village, shelter high upon a hill with open rolling landscape down to the river, where kids bathed (some au naturel) in the presence of hippos and buffalo. Wait a minute! I thought they said these were dangerous animals! Hard to figure, but a surreal scene nonetheless. Back in the lodge at 5:30 with our spectacular view from on high of the lake channel. Tomorrow early we are off to another part of Queen Elizabeth Park, where we will reside in tents and see lions sleeping in trees. Our thoughts are with you all, family and friends stateside and those in the other groups who are charting different paths. The largest group: Cindy, David, Debra, Gary, Linda, Kate, and Chris are due here tomorrow, and may be coming from where we are heading. Debbie and Katya we are unsure about their itinerary. All of us minus Barbara and Wayne (whom we will meet at the airport) will rendez-vous on Thursday night.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Monday, 7/7

Up and at 'em early today as the Wild Frontiers Land Rover was due to pick Johanna, Pam, Steve, and Cort at 8:00. Wayne and Barbara are off to other locales and we shall converge again in Entebbe on Friday. What a surprise that John, Joshua, Beatrice, and Moses appeared for a final good-bye (see pictures). Our farewell was surprisingly emotional; several of us were misty-eyed, blinking back at each other through the car windows. A fabulous trip up to Fort Portal then west/southwest on the Kasese Road. As we turned onto the road to Fort Portal, a road that we know quite well by now, we overheard an older woman say aloud, "Bazunga abaa kunda abaana." Our driver and new friend Martin (who claims to recognize over 700 birds by sight…and we believe him) interpreted the old woman's words: "There are the white people who love children." Editor's note: bazunga is an endearing term, not disrespectful in the least. A touching and fitting sentiment on our final pass through town. Just north of the equator, Johanna asked to get out as nausea had gotten the best of her. About 12 miles later, she was out again with stomach woes. After finishing her business, she hopped back in and cheerfully exclaimed, "I bet I'm the only person in recent history to have thrown up on both sides of the equator within 20 minutes!" We laughed and cheered and marveled at her spirit. It never dampened her enthusiasm about the beauty that was rolling by throughout.

We pulled into the Queen Elizabeth National Park at about 1:00. You should see this place - in fact see the photos that we hope to post. A five star hotel in the middle of the African savannah, replete with internet access which will allow us to post these entries (although at a much stiffer rate). Warthogs graze around the grounds like tame animals. On our walk we encountered elephant tracks, other evidence of elephants, warthogs everywhere, maribou storks, a Ugandan kob (like a gazelle). As we write this blog, we are high on a cliff on a deck with a pool, looking out at hippos bathing and yawning. In the distance are the Ryenzori Mountains, looming at some 17,000 feet. This is the beauty of the African continent.

Sunday, 7/6

Our day of rest, so we slept in a bit, and decided we would attend a church service on the Kasiisi campus. Wow! A three hour and twenty minute service replete with prayer, song, dance, speeches, an auction, gift-giving, culminating with a nice lunch outdoors under a tree. Standard protocol in these affairs include what we have come to call ambushes, i.e. you will deliver a speech in about 3 minutes so get ready. Both Steve and Barbara responded admirably this time. Barbara's was in the form of a prayer which was so good it could have been right out of the Book of Psalms. The auction was an experience, as we high-rolling Americans outbid each other for avocados, pumpkins, an 8 ft. stock of sugar cane, beans, ground nuts, a pineapple, etc. With every cry of "sold!" the drummer would do a triple beat like the kind that accentuates a Rodney Dangerfield joke, accompanied by an organ flourish. After church and lunch, into Fort Portal we headed to visit their Botanical Gardens. Home at 5:00 in a driving torrential hail and rainstorm, with our last dinner at the Makarere Field Station. Professor Kasenene and wife Lydia came for dinner and one last look at photos and final reminiscing.

Saturday, 7/5 (continued)

Life continues without our friends who are off to Bwindi to track the gorillas. Wayne, Barbara, Pam, Steve, Kato (field station manager) and Cort went into town for the afternoon (minus Johanna who was feeling queasy) to gift-shop and have a nice dinner. One of the highlights was that Steve took the fabric he had been given and had it made into a shirt, just in time for dinner at Mountains of the Moon. Fabric and labor at a cost of $6.50! We treated Kato to dinner also. Kato has been our driver, guide, and resident expert in all things Ugandan, so he has more than earned it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wednesday, 7/2

Today the most incredible thing happened. But let's start at the beginning.

We began at the Fort Portal area local outdoor market where thousands of vendors sit on the ground and thousands of customers amble by inspecting the wares and haggling over cost. Many of us purchased beautiful fabric (there goes that surprise), some bought bongos for about $3, and others paid 80 cents for two great beach baskets. It's enough to make one feel guilty; in fact some of us waived any return change as it seemed petty. We then proceeded to a hotel for lunch - Mountains on the Moon, a luxurious hotel with a familiar menu. The afternoon was basically free with the exception of a couple of us who had promised to go to Joshua's Fort Portal Secondary School. But wait, we had seen Joshua at the market where he explained he had to leave town, but would we please go by his school nonetheless? "Of course we would" we replied, although only two of us were firmly committed. Fortunately, those two convinced 7 more to attend, so we pulled up in the van in front of the school right on time at 3:00.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we have been waiting for has finally arrived! Please welcome our American visitors!"

The cast iron solid gate swung open and seven of us (two had gone to run an errand w/a promise to catch up afterward) faced down thousands, yes 1000s of students, admins, dignitaries, et al. We were quickly ushered forward into the courtyard as the gate swung shut and the students behind us closed ranks. We were now surrounded! :)

"Rest assured that you are now secure!" the emcee boomed through the microphone. Many of us looked at each other wondering if our security was something we ought to henceforth be concerned about.

Music blared, people cheered and applauded - it was something out of a movie, like Chevy Chase and his family on an African vacation, suddenly stumbling into his own swearing-in as mayor of the town! We could only look at each other, smile, shake our heads, and accept again this adulation that has showered down on us since our arrival. We were treated to more dancing, although this time a bit more comical and risque. We were presented with gifts (it seemed to go unnoticed that several of our party were absent), and asked to sing our national anthem (again!). As we were singing, our two errand runners from several blocks away were asking themselves what all the noise up ahead was about. Students in the look-out tower (yes, they have a look-out tower) spotted our own Debra Dunn and Cindy Mahr and called for the gate to be opened, and they processed in to their own celebratory welcome! To say they were wide-eyed is a vast understatement. There is so much more here to say but time commitments preclude more detail. It is important to note that celebrations of this scale can pop up at any time in this country, so have your speech ready, make sure you know the lyrics to "A Star Spangled Banner," don't hesitate to show your dance moves (any questions, direct comments to Pam Bator), and be ready to be moved almost to tears and to incredible inspiration from moment to moment

Tuesday 7/1

Today was day two of our school visits. The children are getting accustomed to seeing us around but we are still applauded as we enter classrooms and can virtually engage anyone in conversation and get a positive response. As the novelty wears away, realism sets in, reinforcing our shared sentiment that there is a dichotomy at work here: poor teaching and learning conditions conflicting with a profound desire to learn on the part of the children and a deep commitment to save as many children as possible on the part of teachers and admins.

At night we were feted this time by Joshua Kagaba who had hired the obligatory dance troupe and percussion musicians. But there was one wrinkle this time - a tour through his plantation where we sampled sugar cane, cut free about ten ripe pineapples and some avocados that were so enormous as to arouse suspicion (was there a nuclear plant nearby?).

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday 6/30

This is it: D-Day. Today began the real reason we have come. We fanned out around the region and visited classes to teach, observe, ask and answer questions. It was invigorating, touching, inspirational, and also very sad. The general sense is that there is a deep desire on the part of the kids to learn. They understand what is at stake, and despite the trying environment one teacher before classes of 60 kids, they all concentrate, are well-behaved, and take copious notes. Studying at home is not a given though, as some students do not have kerosene to fuel light by which to read. Not a problem one boy told us, "I manage to do it during the daylight hours." Not to preach to our own children, but they need to understand the opportunities that they have and do honor to them. So much that we take for granted as a given is toiled and competed for over here. As teachers we know that intelligence is nice, but nothing beats desire and motivation, a will to succeed. The sad part comes when we realize that even with these determined qualities, many children will fall short. The demand is too great and the resources too scarce. Just as we encourage our kids to eat all the food on their plate, we hope they will make use of all the opportunities we provide them, to let nothing go to waste, as Ugandan children are hungry for any scrap of opportunity.

Some of the more common questions posed to us during our classroom "interactions" w/kids:

- What do you think of our climate?

- How does your curriculum differ from ours?

- Do you think Obama will win? What does America think of him?

- How did you travel to get here?

One young lady at the St Maria Gorretti all-girls school asked us, "What do you think of us?" Instead of showering her with words of praise about their lovely country and wonderful people, we just replied, "Come here and we'll show you." She trotted down to us smiling, to a chorus of laughter, and was embraced by three teachers to thunderous applause. What a moment! Sometimes you get tired of talking about things and you just need to show. When we left that classroom at the end of the period, dozens of girls came forward for their hugs.

In the evening we had a relaxing dinner and exchanged our experiences of the day. Tomorrow, day 2 in the field. Stay tuned.

Sunday 6/29

Today was our chimp tracking day. We were too many to do our trips together so we went out in early a.m. and noontime teams. Both groups met with wild success (get it?)! Many of us were shadowed by baboons immediately as we got off the bus. Heading into the forest, guides typically would halt us to listen for the chimp families calling to each other. All of us eventually found families who noticed us but were otherwise disinterested - sort of like us when a squirrel skitters by. At one point, all noise and hell broke loose as chimps began jumping up and down, flying up trees, all pointing in the same direction; "They've spotted a monkey and are now on the hunt," our guide said. Some chimps sprinted right past us on all sides towards the quarry, others leapt from tree to tree faster than any of us could have run through the forest. In the end, they failed to corner their target, thankfully, as our guide described the 3 ways they typically kill their prey, and none of us was in the mood to witness any of those choices. Things fell silent, as the chimps were ready for their mid-morning nap. Some were still in the trees above us, and as a couple of us crept by, one decided it was time to descend. He slid down, making a racket all the while, then courteously waited while two of us got out of his landing spot. Kate Brewer, one of the two, turned and snapped a picture which we shall post soon. It is of a fully matured male from about 4 feet! This was an experience we will never forget.

In the evening, we were guests at Professor John Kassenene and his wife Lydia's home. Once again we were surprised when we entered the compound to see rows of chairs for local dignitaries. A dance troupe entertained for most of the evening, the food was good, and the local guests and our hosts were so gracious. Do not be surprised if we return to you on 7/12 with swelled heads. We recommend that you continue to treat us like royalty for several days, only gradually weaning us of adoration. Take your spouse out to dinner until at least 7/15, as we are now accustomed to having meals prepared for us. Forget about our doing the dishes for a bit longer. Do not ask us to do any errands or chores either until then. Children, we have become habituated to your kneeling before us (seriously, many do do this), so try this once or twice, at the airport even, to ease our re-entry.

On a more serious note, as we go further now into our second week, we are wistful for all of our loved ones. Here's to you for letting us go for such an experience, three cheers again for WEEFC, and we look forward to seeing you a week from Saturday.

Saturday 6/28

Today we attended a reception for the scholars, that is, secondary students who are being sponsored, many of whom have a real chance at university. The function was at a Fort Portal Country Club - not swank but nice nonetheless, beginning with "interacting" i.e. some mingling and chatting, followed by speeches, dances, songs, and poetry. A nice lunch followed and many of us were struck by the heaping servings that the students helped themselves to - this may be the only full meal of the day for them.

The evening activity was magnificent. Trying to capture the beauty of Ndali Lake and the Lodge at the top of the ridge overlooking the lake is like trying to describe a fireworks display - only a picture can do this, so see the photos. :) There was spectacular scenery off both edges of the ridge, and the lodge was beautiful, intimate, and the food delicious. We met Bill Wirthlin of the Leakey Foundation which supports evolutionary biological research - in fact Mr. Leakey originally hired Jane Goodall to do her work. Rubbing elbows with eminent players in this type of research Like Mr. Wirthlin and Dr. Wrangham is causing us to want to pinch ourselves. In any event, a fabulous dinner and overall experience.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tuesday through Friday

Tuesday 6/24

"Don't be alarmed if you hear gunshots in the night…they're just scaring away the elephants."

This was the last comment many of us heard last night as we went to bed, but let's go back to the beginning. Tuesday morning began with an early breakfast and a quick toss-up and tie-down of our bags atop the van roof. In two vans we set off with a wave good-bye to our gracious Boma Guest House hosts at 7:00 a.m. and headed north to Kampala, then due west toward Fort Portal. We were continuously struck along the way by both the beauty and the struggle of life for Ugandans: the choking smog in the city was offset by the beautiful smile and tenderness of a two year old at a fruit stand. Cars rule the road, and pedestrians must yield or pay the consequences. More than once we saw people on foot scrambling off the road into a ditch to avoid a motorist! On the other hand, as we entered and left each village, we were obligated to slow to a crawl due to speed bumps - the idea has some merit!

The second part of the trip was beautiful! Deep green tea plantations colored the landscape, lush vegetation everywhere, all at a temperature of about 80 degrees with very little humidity. Even in the rural areas, miles from the next village, the road was dotted with walkers and bikers, many of the latter weighed down by wide loads. We arrived in Fort Portal for an elegant lunch and some phone calls home. Pulling into the Makerere University Biological Field Station at 4:00, we were met by the Welcome Uganda crew, that is, those same teachers that visited us last year. What an incredible scene! There were long embraces, some tears, and much rejoice at promises kept - we had made it to Uganda! Accomodations are quite comfortable with two to a room and plenty of space. Dinner with the Ugandan team was so much fun as we reminisced about their visit last spring and what lay in store for us this visit.

Wednesday 6/25

Each day is more spectacular than the next! Our first official function as the Welcome Weston team was at the Kasiisi School. We were paraded into the Kasiisi School compound surrounded and cheered on by hundreds of students. We were treated to a quick tour of the school grounds - the recently constructed classrooms, the nursery school and dormitories under construction, and then a viewing of the new brick-making machine in action. Next we stood while a brass band play three anthems: the Ugandan, the regional Otooran, and the American. Next, we were seated under large umbrellas reserved for local, regional, and national dignitaries (international also if you count us J) and graced by a wonderful program of greetings, thanks, music, dance, song, and poetry. Our own Barbara Stevens and Elizabeth Ross did us all proud with fine speeches which were, incredibly enough, rendered in large part in the local Rutooro language! The Ugandans were touched by this as a gesture of profound interest in their culture, but were further grateful since many in attendance did not undertsand English. We were in turn touched by our hosts' concern for our colleague Cheryl Maloney (who lost both parents this month) as they asked for a moment of silence - a request respected by every one of the thousands in attendance. Without a doubt, one of the moments we will all remember and cherish was when the parents of children at Kasiisi were invited to come forward and personally thank the visitors as representatives of the Weston community. It must have been how Lindbergh felt as he tried to climb out of the Spirit of St. Louis once safely aground in Paris. A throng of parents came forth with no hesitation to thank each of us, many with misty eyes, all with expressions of deep earnestness and appreciation. Those of you who are reading this blog that have sponsored a child or have offered housing to the visitors or who have in some other way contributed to the program, please know that there is deep-felt gratitude for your generosity.

We made it back to camp at approximately 5:00 p.m., had a nice dinner (the food here is great by the way), and were all in bed by 9:00, physically and emotionally spent by our day at Kasiisi.

Thursday 6/26

Today we made the rounds to the five primary schools: Kiiko, Kigerama, Kanyawara, Rweteera, and Kasiisi to meet with the principals, observe classes, and learn about their curriculum. The children are fascinated by us, have a poignant admiration for teachers and other elders, and are so respectful of the learning process. Wide beaming smiles and applause greeted us as we entered each classroom. The best moments were when we were invited to circulate and interact with the kids. They loved showing us their work - a sign of pride which of course is a principal building block to high academic achievement. Given a chance, these kids would go far. Is there a cure for cancer among these minds? The discovery of a cheap, renewable energy source? We are all looking forward to our return next week to these schools.

Cindy Mahr, Kate Brewer, Steve Shaw, and Cort Mathers decided to walk back to camp and were rewarded several times over. Half of the five mile trip we were accompanied by three sisters on their way to Grandmother's house (no, they were not wearing red riding hoods) who helped us with our Rutooro speaking, the other half we were mobbed like the Beatles everytime we trooped by a house with children. The best part however was encountering a family of baboons as we approached camp. Mothers with babies remained on the edge of the forest while the males foraged in the grass just off the compound. We drew within 100 feet of the males who took notice of us and were wary but otherwise undeterred. What an experience! Anxious to inform our colleagues who had ridden the bus, we rushed back and proudly related our experience. As it turns out, they too had seen them as they got off the bus. We walkers feel that our viewing was more in line with the spirit of the trip, whereas theirs was more like getting off the tour bus at the zoo. Let us know what you think by providing a comment on the blog. :)

Friday 6/27

Another day of pomp and circumstance! We arrived at the Fort Portal political headquarters, sort of the equivalent of the State House, and were welcomed out front by the brass band which played the Ugandan and the Otooran National Anthems. Then we were asked to sing a capella our National Anthem! After this stirring rendition, we were invited to "inspect the honor guard," which we did to a rhythmical beat provided by the band. Future visitors to Uganda be forewarned: it is not unusual for the host to ask you to speak before a large audience with merely 30 seconds notice. Cort was asked to provide opening comments and obliged, and Barbara has on at least two occasions come through for us. Dear readers, when you come to Uganda, bring several versions of a prepared speech and be ready to deliver! :)

Next we were ushered into the vice-chairman's office to sign the visitor's book (this is an exercise we are asked to do a half dozen times a day) and listen to his review of the morning agenda. Then down into the chambers to listen to a fabulous chorus, various speakers and very high officials. We know how Wayne and Garth feel when they say "We are not worthy!" We boarded the bus and were off to the King's palace - yes that's right, the King. Although we did not meet his Majesty (who is only 16 years old), we toured the grounds which were atop the highest point in Fort Portal - what a view! The final leg of our trip was to one of the two secondary schools - St Maria Goretti where our friend Richard who visited us last year is the headmaster. We first had lunch and then toured the school. After some ceremony with school officials and the all-girl student body, we "interacted" as the Ugandans say, diving into the mass of students and chatting. So much fun.

Monday, June 23, 2008

First Full Day

Today began with an amazing 45 minute journey across Lake Victoria to the orphan chimpanzee reserve known as Ngamba Island (see photos). On the way back, we stopped on the equator where it is believed fish swim in confused circles :) After a bag lunch, we visited the Uganda Wildlife Education Center for a tour of the rescued animals (Colobus monkeys, warthogs, black rhinos, a lion, hyenas) followed by a discussion on conservation and some sharing of curriculum ideas. One orphaned monkey jumped up on Principal Shaw and snatched a banana right out of his backpack. Back at the Boma House we enjoyed a barbecue of freshly caught tilapia-kabobs. Delicious! We leave tomorrow at 6:45 for Fort Portal. Good night!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Safe Arrival

It is 10:56pm in Uganda and the team has arrived safely at their hotel. They called to say that they had a wonderful trip and are sitting on a veranda relaxing.

Tom Bator

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A happy crew met at Logan to get the bags checked, weighed (holding of breath) and off of shoulders. Here is most of the crew before going through security.
-Tom Bator

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

T minus 4 days and counting...

Papers to grade, grades to submit, bags to pack, so much to do and only four days in which to do it. Everyone is so busy that when we happen upon each other in a school hallway, at Case House, or around town, we share a sheepish smile of commiseration - how will we be ready in four days??? But of course we will. It's a sprint to the finish line!

Thanks for visiting this blog, and please do return. We will do our best to keep you informed of our progress, but bear in mind that internet access is not always a given, and intermittent power is an added complicating factor. We will do our best to keep our loved ones and friends abreast of all that we do. Wish us luck!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Departure date: June 21, 2008

As June approaches, we all rush to finish up our business and get ready for the trip. We've been meeting all year, exchanging ideas on what sorts of clothes make sense, what activities we should do, what gifts we should offer our hosts, wondering how the students will receive us, and how we will best fit in. Many of us have even invested in Rutooro lessons so that we will be able to attempt to make ourselves understood. Each of us has his or her personal goal that relates to our professional assignment, e.g. reading proficiency, a unit on science, shoring up their technology, but the collective goal of our trip is to promote collaboration and communication between our schools to enhance learning for both Ugandan and American students. Our hope is that this blog will set an example for how easy international communication can be. Visit our blog, follow our trip, and mwebalo muno (thank you all)!