From Uganda

Posts from Uganda!

Lions, Mud and Birds, OH MY

Our second day in Kasese ended up being one of my favorites in Africa so far. We went on a forest hike in the Rwenzori Mountains. These peaks make up part of the border between Uganda and the Congo and are gorgeous. We actually got to see (from a distance) a snow-capped peak! We were all very tempted to make a run for the Congo before we learned that the hike would last about four days through the mountains. So we decided to veto that idea. The hike was incredible though. We went through an open forest that was made up of trees and agricultural vegetation. The view took my breath away and the sun beat down on us. I actually got my first sunburn on this little outing. After the open forest we got to the dense forest that I loved even more. It was harder to navigate but there were so many trees, it was cool and smelled just like you would expect a somewhat tropical forest to smell like. We did not encounter any animals although seeing monkeys was a possibility.

Half way through our circuit in the dense forest we came across the river and were able to kind of swim in it. The water felt so cold it hurt our toes after not too long at all. The rapids were pretty strong and one of our classmates almost floated away, which was rather hilarious to be honest. A couple of the walking sticks floated down river as well. After the river we continued up the mountain and once we reached some muddy patches things got interesting. I think most of us ended up almost knee deep in the mud at the risk of losing a shoe at one point or another. Luckily our guide and our driver were better at navigating the mud than us and they continuously were pulling us out of it. After about four hours of hiking we finally left the mountain and the forest and all headed back for naps and showers.

On our last day and night in Kasese we stayed in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and in the morning we went on a game drive. The part itself was beautiful, African savannah at its prime. Watching the sun set and rise over open lands and lakes George and Edward was such a treat. This was also one of the first times that we got to experience the intense darkness of night that I had expected much more in Rwanda. With this also came the stars. I actually forgot to look at them that night before going to bed. Thank goodness we were up before dawn to start on our game drive though. Looking up at them was awe-inspiring. I am sure I saw hundreds of stars I had never seen before. I wish I could have taken a picture of them to share. We set off on our drive with the goal of seeing the Big Four: lion, buffalo, leopard and elephant. The last one actually might have been hippo but it is irrelevant now. When our tour guide told us this he said it hopefully and made it seem like it was not typical to see them all. On our way into the camp we had already seen buffalo and one of us saw a hippo so we were doing pretty good so far.

Not long into the drive we came across a leopard walking right in front of our van! It was so calm. We took pictures of it, turned the car around and followed it a little bit and there were even two other vans behind us but the creature just kept walking slowly down the road as if we were not even there. Continuing on we saw elephants, hippos, baby hippos, a plethora of birds, kobs, warthogs and then, a lion! We saw him from afar so he was just a tiny speck really. A bunch of safari vans and cars were parked in the same area on a road where onlookers were spying through their binoculars and standing on top of vehicles to get a better look. Eventually our driver and a couple of others worked out a little plot to get a better view of the lion who was resting behind a large rock. After the other vans slowly continued on down the path to find other animals, our driver and the others got ready to drive through the grass, circle the lion for a closer look and come back. Let me point out that this is very much against rules of the park. Even walking too far into the grass can get you kicked out of the park and a minimum $500 USD fine.

We were all so excited for the moment when the buses took off until our van failed to start. This was possibly the worst time it could have decided to give us trouble, and the only time on the trip so far. We watched sorrowfully as the other cars got close to the lion and he eventually was fed up with people disturbing him that he got up from behind his rock and went to rest behind a bush.

Finally our driver fixed our van and told us to get in – he was determined to get us close to this lion. We drove through the grass and he stopped the car about four feet from the resting lion. He was majestic and huge. He picked up his head and it was amazing. We were all in shock afterwards. It was definitely one of the most awesome parts of our journey. I can now say that I have been within five feet of a real, humongous lion on the African savannahs and am so proud to be able to do so.

After the game drive we went on a boat ride that was equally incredible. One of my classmates and I sat by a couple other Americans who were ornithologists on a bird-watching expedition across the country. They taught us eight or so birds on the two hour-long boat ride. We saw hippos, elephants, buffalo, birds, more birds, some more birds, monkeys, crocodiles, Nile monitors and I cannot even remember what else. It was gorgeous. We were able to go on the top of the boat and the view was just amazing. I need to come up with some more adjectives to start using because I am sure everyone is getting tired of reading how awesome and amazing everything is. It truly is though. Our ornithologist friends were pretty cool too. Their reason behind picking up the hobby was that they loved nature (hiking, boating, just being outdoors in general) and bird watching gave them something to do so that they were not just walking through jungles. It made them become more aware of the areas they were visiting and they learned so much more about the habitats they traveled to. They pretty much sold us both on picking up the hobby.

After all of this fun we finally hit the road and headed back to Rwanda. Clean, organized Rwanda. Altogether the trip was amazing. Some of our best weeks so far. Coming back to Rwanda also meant that our classes were finished and our internships would be starting in the upcoming week. This also meant that we were two months into our program with only three left to go and that we are half way done with our homestays. The time is flying by. Whenever I think about going back to America the thought seems so strange. It is going to be so different and weird, definitely weird.

Categories: From Uganda | Leave a comment

A Real African Man Knows Everything

Uganda and Rwanda are interesting countries to compare. We have gotten in the habit of calling Rwanda “Europe” or “Fake Africa” and considered our trip to Uganda a trip to the “Real Africa.” Our director reprimanded us for this. He admitted that he was one of the first in the group to say these things but pointed out that in saying these things we were applying negative and hugely generalized stereotypes to Africa. We were basically saying that to really be Africa a place must be dirty, crowded, smelly, undeveloped and disorganized. This is not what we intended for our statements to mean. Uganda simply fit many more of our stereotypes of Africa that we came to the continent with. While this plays out poorly for Uganda (and I guess all of Africa other than Rwanda) it shows that Rwanda disproved many of these stereotypes. Going to Uganda also showed us that we chose a very well maintained and organized country to spend our time in.

This probably makes it seem like Uganda was a terrible, dirty place. It was not. Uganda was beautiful and I loved being there. It was just very different. Yes, it was dirtier than Rwanda but for a couple of reasons. In Rwanda, people sweep the dust off of the roads and gather the garbage left on sidewalks and roadsides by hand. Rwanda also prohibits plastic bags, which more or less eliminates that particular contribution to waste in the country. Additionally, Rwanda’s population density far exceeds that of Uganda and therefore Uganda’s countryside tends to feature much more uncultivated and seemingly barren land. From what we learned and saw, Uganda’s corruption rates top those of Rwanda and driving through the country, one can see the extreme poverty much more easily in Uganda. Uganda’s infrastructure is not as developed and things simply seem less organized everywhere you go.

Nevertheless, going to Kampala was awesome. It actually felt like we were in a big city and now I understand why so many people call Kigali a small city. After visiting Kampala, the best way to describe Kigali is to say it resembles a bunch of small neighborhoods rather than a big city. Different neighborhoods do form the whole of Kigali but each of them seems so much like its own little town that they don’t quite go together. While we did not travel around Kampala as much as we have in Kigali it seemed much more like one big city. There were many more high-rise buildings in Kampala. Street vendors are much less organized and informal. The informal sector in general is more prominent, contributing to the development and regulation issues.

When you actually find a sidewalk more than two feet wide and with less than 3 potholes per 10 seconds they are taken up by salesmen. Most of them try to sell you second-hand clothing or shoes, fruit or g-nuts and my personal favorite, the insanely cheap burned DVDs in little plastic fold over bags with paper print outs of the case inside. Each DVD only cost 2,000 UGX so less than a dollar. That is a price you cannot really argue with. Unfortunately we have all become very stingy, and I can fairly say that the selection was not the best, although plentiful, so we only got a couple between the six of us.

The night and lack of street lighting does not hinder these entrepreneurs work. They simply light a candle, or a chunk of cardboard, and shove it in the top of a bottle in the middle of their display. The only thing that could make this more of a nervous situation is the fact that Kampala’s sidewalks are more or less taken over by boda-bodas and especially so at night.

Motos or boda bodas (the guys – I’ve never seen a woman at least – that drive motorcycle taxis and are considerably cheaper than an actual taxi) drive way more recklessly, do not require licensing and do not have to wear helmets whereas in Kigali they are organized by area and must wear helmets and provide helmets for the individuals they transport. A perfect example that we saw frequently: a boda boda driving on the already crowded sidewalk with three passengers (four people total) and zero helmets. It was not abnormal to come close to being run over by these. The cars also do not give any indication of willingness to stop let alone slow down for pedestrians to cross the road. Our director in Kampala told us that when she came to America once, crossing the street gave her such culture shock that she could never get comfortable enough to not run across the road, even at an actual cross walk with the cars completely stopped and waiting for her. Kampala had real traffic too. At certain times in the day the traffic jams were so long and backed up that drivers frequently turned off their vehicles to wait for them to move.

Classes in Kampala were wonderful for the most part. Unfortunately we have discovered the huge flaw in having a different lecturer for just about every class. They have little to no idea about what we have already covered and therefore repeat material frequently. I think they also are not familiar enough with the intensity of American universities (at least liberal arts universities) to provide us with classes at a level that we are used to. Many of our classes end up seeming like introductory ones that deviate from one another minimally. I wouldn’t expect the first year of any program to be perfect though. The classes in Kampala varied a little more than the usual and were a fresh topic in a new country so we welcomed and appreciated them greatly.

One of Kampala’s other tremendously appreciated treasures was the Rolex. A Rolex is an absolutely delicious street food, an omelet (usually made from two eggs and meager amounts of onion, tomato and cabbage) rolled up inside of a chapatti. Our director actually told us about them during our debriefing on Uganda and we happened upon them during our second night while searching for a place to eat dinner. We decided to go ahead and get one each and then stopped by a grocery store for some other snacks in order to feel like we had an actual meal. The choice was such a good one. We ended up eating Rolex for dinner every night that we stayed in Kampala. The walk from our hotel to the Rolex stand was about fifteen minutes there and fifteen minutes back and was worth every minute of walking in the dark, avoiding potholes and uneven sidewalks, basically playing frogger trying to cross the road and dodging boda bodas driving down the sidewalks around us. Did I mention that they only cost 1,300 UGX, which converts to about $0.57 USD? We all wish they were a thing in Kigali.

One of our last days in Kampala we tried going back to the huge market we had visited before in Old Kampala. Right when we got there it began to rain so our (absolutely amazing) driver told us we should just go back to the hotel because things were going to get crazy. One would think that in a country with as much rainfall as Uganda, people would not freak out when it rained. But oh how they freaked. People scurried out of the street and under the tiny awnings of stores. They scrambled to pull tarp over their products out in the open air and the traffic was absurd. Driving down a small section of the road took long enough that our driver finally agreed to let us go shopping and more or less told us how to walk back to our hotel when we were done. The rain started to let up by this point as well but a few sprinkles still persisted. This shopping experience could have been amazing and I could have found incredible deals, however I felt awful and the insane amount of clothing for sale simply overwhelmed me. I desperately tried to find dresses that I liked but every time I tried to start looking at an item, the 40 others around it flew into my view and then a salesperson would pop out of nowhere to try and convince me that the dress was perfect for me. None of which was conducive to me spending money. I ended up getting a $6 USD (if I remember correctly) cardigan so the day was not a complete loss. I went back early with two of my classmates and rested until I felt well enough to eat a Rolex for dinner.

We eventually said goodbye to the lovely city of Kampala to head out West to Kasese. This was a long a bumpy drive, and not what you probably think of when you read bumpy. No, the roads did not feature a plethora of holes and unpaved sections. Just lots and lots of speed bumps. I am not exaggerating in the least. One stretch of road had 21 large speed bumps in a row with about six seconds of driving between each of them. When the speed bumps were not featured in such a way they were instead in groups of five small speed bumps, all right after one another. The drive was frustrating to say the least.

Categories: From Uganda | Leave a comment

So Many Soybeans

Another Ugandan excursion was to SESACO. This is a company that makes the majority of its products from soybeans and focuses on providing healthy substitute for meat products. Charles, the founder and owner of SESACO, talked to us for a while about he started his business. He started out selling roasted g-nuts (groundnuts or peanuts) to his coworkers when he was a casual worker. Eventually he expanded his business but unfortunately he was too trusting and his employees stole his recipes and left the company. Charles became a driver and eventually, after running into former customers who told him the quality of products was falling and asked him to come back to his old job, reopened his company. He started up again by borrowing from small lenders and eventually tapped into microfinance. Things kept going good for him and he now is working to expand his business, not just to subsist. SESACO is doing well in Uganda now and there is actually a store in Dallas, Texas where his products can be purchased.

SESACO does not currently have contracts with local soybean producers. Instead local farmers grow for subsistence and he buys their surplus from them. He said that he respects daily changes in market prices and is working on plans for investment and contracts in the future. He hopes to enable farmers to produce more efficiently as well as permitting them to supply him with increased quantities as his enterprise grows.

After speaking with Charles we toured the factory and were given some samples. Everything was pretty delicious. We tried soymilk, brown butter (peanut, soybean and sim sim butter), soyacup (an alternative to coffee that is produced from soybeans with a similar taste – more like a chai latte once it has sugar and milk in it – but without caffeine), and soy meat (dried tofu). Everything we tried was delicious and I really enjoyed the tour. The machines used for processing were all fairly small and a good deal of the labeling and packaging was done by hand which was impressive. He talked about plans to upgrade machines to improve and increase production but was also able to show us some that were pretty new. The newer ones included the brown butter machine and a milk-pasteurizing machine. We got to see how the brown butter machine worked and I wanted to dive into the huge tub of butter underneath it. Afterwards we bought some treats to take with us and went on our way. We pitched some ideas to Charles for future products and he was very open to our ideas. Who knows, maybe we will get some joint ventures started up soon.

Categories: From Uganda | Leave a comment

Microfinance in Uganda

Our trip to Uganda covered our module on microfinance and poverty reduction and featured a number of meetings with different individuals and groups taking out loans with different microfinance institutions as well as the institutions they borrow from. We visited Finca, DFCU and BRAC.

Finca began as an international NGO but their branch in Uganda is now a for profit lender. They offer loans at slightly over the national interest rate of 24%. (Uganda is facing very high inflation right now.) Their loans are smaller than those typically offered through large commercial banks and have very short repayment periods. We had the opportunity to speak with a client, which was an eye-opening experience. It might have been the language barrier or maybe the woman did not feel comfortable talking to us but it was very hard to get her to answer our questions the way we wanted her to. We were trying to figure out how she had benefitted from taking out microloans but all she would tell us was that her business had expanded and she had plans to expand further in the future. She did tell us that she took out a 1 million shilling loan every four months. (About 450 USD) When we asked what her interest rate was she did not know but she knew that she paid back 1,200,000 every four months. Meaning that her interest rate is 20%. This was actually a low rate compared to many of the groups and individuals we spoke with. Also when we asked her whether or not she saves with FINCA she said no but her loan officer interjected himself and explained that she does have a savings account with them.

Again, I do not know if it was the language barrier or the situation that caused her to answer incorrectly. While financial literacy needs extensive expansion and revision, I do not think this woman would have been unaware of a savings account that she opened. These high interest rates with short repayment terms are typical for many microfinance lenders. Through many of our discussions in the group about this we wonder whether, and doubt, that people realize how much money they are paying in the long term to borrow large sums of money for short periods. Other than the fact that they have flat interest rates, they really are not much different from payday loans or similar schemes in America. However, there are other microfinance organizations that take an approach that integrates micro-lending with other community development services.

BRAC was one of these types of microfinance institutions. The organization was started in Bangladesh and is hugely successful there. They are fairly new in Uganda but seem to be making an impact there. Before BRAC distributes loans to their clients they have to undergo a month long training program where they are educated on what their loan means and ensuring that they have a practical business that will enable them to pay back their loans.

In addition to offering loans, BRAC administers programs in agriculture, poultry, livestock, health and employment/livelihood for youth education in Uganda. These programs are mostly educational and capacity building and also increase access to resources in each of these areas for their clients. Through these programs they hope to not only help with community development and poverty alleviation but the businesses of their clients will expand noticeably over time instead of simply maintaining themselves.

One of BRAC’s downfalls is their 45-55% interest rates on microloans. These seem absurdly high but when you really thing about it they kind of make sense. Going off a base of the national interest rate of 24% they are only making 20-30% on loans they give out. While the amounts repaid by clients are a lot to them they might not be that substantial to an international NGO like BRAC. Also when I see these high interest rates and hear about the programs that they institute in their areas I consider them as more of a subsidy for the cost of these services provided to clients. I am sure that they are still making a profit – we did not ask about this or see any financial reports so I am speculating – but it seems pretty reasonable. Regardless, an organization like BRAC is going to be much more sustainable if they can support themselves instead of relying solely on aid funds for all of their operations.

DFCU is more like FINCA than BRAC. We spoke with a woman there who talked to us about the basics of loans and clients there. Then we had the opportunity to speak with a group who took out loans as a Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCO). SACCOs tend to benefit individual members by providing a safety net should they fail to repay a loan at any period. The groups also generally provide loans within themselves. Members will save up and on a weekly basis the savings will go to one member who repays the loan with interest and the process repeats over and over. It was a group of people who all sold dried fish in the nearby market. We asked a few questions and the loans they were taking seemed to be helping them improve their quality of life. Many of them had bought land and built houses instead of renting, their children were going to school and overall they seemed pleased with what they were doing. These are the types of things we keep hearing from clients of microfinance organizations. While I am all for them improving their overall quality of life they do not seem to be expanding their businesses. I might be letting my western ideas of business loans influence my opinions here but I feel that the loans should be helping the clients increase their business productivity, thus increasing their household income which would eventually lead to them not needing these loans because they would be making enough money without them. Microloan clients seem to be stuck in a cycle where they have become dependent on their loans instead of saving and increasing their own profits.

After we spoke with the group we went into the nearby market to see their stands. The market is located in Old Kampala and is MASSIVE. There is anything you could want to buy and a million of them. It is overwhelming to say the least. One of my classmates and I bought some mangoes and avocados for later but other than that there was way too much to take in and not enough time to do it in. The market was crowed and filled with so many smells. There was garbage everywhere and so many people. It was crazy.

Categories: From Uganda | Leave a comment

If you give a refugee a chapatti…

I am driving through Uganda as I write this. I am very pleased that we have had the opportunity to come to a second African country. The differences between the countries amaze me. Before I get into all of that let me catch you up on my last week in Kigali before we came here.

Our last week of classes in Kigali wrapped up our Ecology and Sustainable Development course and touched into our module on Microfinance and Poverty Reduction. In addition to this we got started on internship stuff.

One of our excursions was to visit Urwibutso, an enterprise started by Sina Gerard. This was a very interesting visit. Sina is an entrepreneur that started very small; selling doughnuts (not what Americans consider doughnuts though – they are balls of sweet bread basically) at a roadside stand and now has a pretty big business going. Everything he has done is very impressive but at the same time a little scary. Let me explain – in addition to his shops and factories in the town, he employs over 400 people living there, has built schools that employees’ children attend for free, provides health insurance, contracts with local farmers to buy their goods as well as helps them maintain crop quality with the help of hired agronomists.

We visited many parts of the town – all of them pertaining to and controlled by Urwibutso and by extension Sina. First we drove up a Rwandan sized hill to a small livestock stable. There were cows and sheep there and we were told that this was only a small group of what the enterprise owns/controls. Afterwards we walked through a small field of integrated crops. There was a strawberry patch (full of delicious strawberries), banana trees, macadamia trees, maize, avocado trees and I cannot quite remember what else but there was more…cabbage I think. After this we visited a primary school that was adjacent to a plot of pineapple trees, more strawberries, banana trees, squash, avocado and a vineyard. Urwibutso has recently begun producing wine. Then we visited a big area with pigs, rabbits, and even a couple of turtles, turkeys and monkey. It was very interesting. Lastly we visited the factory that produces juice and juice concentrate. From standing at one end of the factory it appeared to have less than 20 employees. I enjoyed everything that I saw on this excursion but the fact that the welfare of the entire town seemed to rest on one man or at least one man’s enterprise bugged me. So many people depend on the success of Urwibutso and not just for their salaries. Their health care, the education of their children as well as the livelihood of the farmers in the area all rely on Sina’s company. Thus far things have gone well for him and the enterprise but I cannot help but worry about the sustainability of it. If the farmers have a bad season and do not produce enough for the company then it is questionable whether all the benefits of Urwibutso would be able to withstand the hardship. Of course I am not an expert on the company and the safeguards it has in place in the event of something like this but it concerns me. Additionally if something were to happen to Sina Gerard it makes me wonder if there is a second in command ready to take over and ensure the smooth running and security of the company and all it’s beneficiaries. Overall the excursion was awesome and simply allowed me to critically evaluate an initiative set forth by an individual in contributing towards Rwandan’s growth.

One of the last things we did before leaving Kigali was work on planning our internships and getting in contact with organizations and individuals who could help us. I visited with an organization called Lifemate. They are a social business in Kigali that works with farmers to grow, process and export coffee on the international market. They work with YES (Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability). This is an international NGO that empowers young people and encourages their entrepreneurial endeavors. I am very excited that Lifemate is considering working with me. I still have not heard a decision from them but their director has been travelling so I am not terribly concerned. If I am not able to intern with them I hope to secure work with a similar organization or cooperative that works in coffee production and international trade. Our internships will last for our remaining three months here and will be an amazing opportunity to involve ourselves more deeply with a specific aspect of the country.

Our drive to Uganda was beautiful! The scenery in Rwanda and Uganda is absolutely breathtaking. Each time we drive through the countryside it amazes me. Getting to the border only took about two hours from Kigali and passing through immigration was a breeze. Once we got over the border one of the first things we did was exchange Rwandan Francs for Ugandan Shillings. This intrigued me because we negotiated our exchange rate, which I did not know was something that you did – at least not on an individual basis for small amounts of currency. We exchanged at .268 meaning we got (according to my very confusing calculations which may or may not be accurate) 3.73 shillings per Rwandan Franc and that going from USD at that rate from Francs would have been .0016. Basically, 24.875 USD = 15,000 RWF = 55,970 UGX. Which also means that they are facing very high rates of inflation and you more or less feel like you are playing with monopoly money when you are holding their currency. Some of the differences between Rwanda and Uganda were noticeable immediately after crossing the border. First off the national language is English so communicating was much easier than in Rwanda. Also the country is dirtier, less organized and for the most part things are laughably cheap.

Our first stop in Uganda was in Mbarara and our first excursion was to the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. This was a very interesting journey. It is 45 kilometers across and there are over 56,000 refugees in the settlement. The camp hosts Congolese, Rwandans, Burundians, Somalis, Kenyans, two Italians, a single Iraqi and Sudanese. Also the camp and the drive out to the settlements looked much more like I expected Africa to look: vast empty spaces, dry grass and scattered tufts of bush and trees. While we were at Nakivale we had the opportunity to meet and talk with a group of Rwandan refugees and a group of Congolese refugees. The camp is operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ugandan Government. A handful of other organizations help with aid and assistance including the World Food Program (WFP). The Deputy Secretary Commander (a Ugandan employee in the Prime Minister’s office) of the camp met with us and gave us a basic rundown of the operations. The process for entering the camp involves acquiring status as an asylum seeker and then undergoing a series of interviews. Three or four times a year a team from Kampala, the Refugee Eligibility Committee, visits the camp to interview the asylum seekers and determine if they will be granted refugee status or not. I found it surprising that this part of the process occurs so few times a year. It means that an asylum seeker can wait up to four months before the government or international community even begins to consider them as a refugee. The Deputy did not know the specific criteria for consideration of refugee status, or at least claimed to not know it. Additionally, if the team rejects a client they have the right to appeal the team’s decision and have conduct the interview process when they return to the camp. After two, and in rare cases three, rejections by the team, individuals are taken back to their home country. However, he did not tell us the process for forced repatriation of asylum seekers who fail to acquire refugee status. Once asylum seekers receive refugee status the camp grants them a plot of land to build their house and engage in gainful economic activities. There are three options for refugees living in the camp: eventual voluntary repatriation after the country has come out of conflict, becoming citizens of the host country and resettlement. We learned that only 5% of refugees in Nakivale voluntarily repatriate. After talking with the Deputy we went out to meet with our two groups of refugees.

The Rwandans were very interesting. We all felt as if we had an extremely hard time getting information out of them. The things they said to us did not feel honest and were very hard to believe given our studies of Rwanda up to that point. The stories they told us and their reasons for refusing to repatriate did not line up with what we have heard and know about Rwanda. Of course we are not experts on Rwanda nor do we know everything that happens in the country but their claims were very far-fetched and their mannerisms and presentation of the stories made it hard for us to believe them. Meeting them was still very enlightening. Even though we did not get what we anticipated from speaking with these refugees it showed us a very interesting side of the refugee story. After talking with the Rwandans we met with a group of Congolese refugees. They were much more willing to share their stories with us and seemed a good deal more genuine. Their stories were hard to listen to and the violence they faced (or at least said they faced) was heartbreaking. I really enjoyed hearing about their pasts and the challenges they currently face. I cannot honestly say that I am not somewhat biased against the Rwandans, even though it is unintentional, simply because I know more about the country’s history. Despite this the physical appearance of the refugees told so much about them. The way they answered our questions and their body language told us so much. Also, the desire that the Congolese had to return to the DRC and their interest in what was occurring in the country at that moment made them seem much more genuine and easier to trust and sympathize with. Needless to say, meeting with the refugees was such an exciting and invaluable experience.

Oh yeah, on the way out we were eating sandwiches and chapatti on the bus. We drove by some kids and one of the guys gave him a chapatti out the window. Just as soon as that happened there was another kid running towards us. And another. And another. You get the picture. It lasted for a couple of minutes until we had given them all away as well as one of our directors sandwiches. Thought I would try to explain the title a bit 🙂

Well this barely touches on our trip to Uganda but it is a start. I will get the rest of the journey posted this weekend!!

Categories: From Uganda | Leave a comment

Blog at