Saturday, January 9, 2016

Ruhanga, Uganda, Part 2: Swimming Holes and Football Matches

Selena left Uganda Lodge about a week into my stay, as she had plans to meet up with friends in Rwanda. However, my friend Jesse (Australian; I'd met him in a hostel in Dahab, Egypt) had mentioned when we met that his plans were flexible after Christmas. So on a whim, he came down to Uganda to volunteer with me at the Lodge, coincidentally arriving the same day that Selena left.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • The morning Selena left, I got roped into taking some of Dennis' kids and their friends to an amusement park in Igongo, about an hour away.  By amusement park, I mean a giant field filled with inflatable jumping castles and kiddie pools.

Seriously, this place was wild. But I can officially say I am never taking 5 rowdy kids to an amusement park again - I think I spent 90% of the day looking for one or the other.
    Why did they not have jumping castles like this when I was a kid.

    Patricia, Joel, and Jordan. Balloon hats courtesy of a balloon man who approached the kids, roped them into wearing them, and then came over to me and their nanny and demanded money for the hats. Sneaky, yet smart, balloon man.

    The kids are such hams: Calvin, Ivan, Jordan, and Joel. Also, the kiddie pools were filled with like 3 inches of water and the 50 kids crammed into each one still loved splashing around inside them. It was weird.

    Patricia discovered a facepaint marker and went to town on herself.

    And there were these poor, poor camels that had to haul around hoards of screaming children every second of the day. Aisha, the children's nanny, also secretly bought me a ride and the kids got the biggest kick out of watching me struggle in a dress (trying to be a lady and not flash the world) on top of a camel

    • The kids loved the amusement park so much that I think we spent like 9 hours there, and all I have to say is: never. again.
    • Jesse arrived at the Lodge the next day from Turkey (where he'd been traveling with his brother and his friend) - unbeknownst to Jesse, I'd spent the week before he arrived signing him up to do activities with me without his consent. His first day, I'd agreed for the both of us to accompany another expat, Duncan (I briefly mentioned him in the last post - he's a former volunteer that now lives part-time in Ruhanga) to take some local kids to the swimming pool.  Duncan does this trip annually - this year, he invited 12 local boys, ages 11-20, on a big trip to Mbarara (a larger town about an hour away) for a picnic and swim.  These kids were so, so incredibly sweet. Some spoke amazing English, some spoke none, and all come from pretty poor backgrounds. A couple of the kids are orphans or come from broken homes, etc. -  but for the day, the kids just got to all be kids.  They were all super excited about getting to go on this super-fun, super-rare trip - and I found them to be completely delightful and so, so great. 

    My hot pink sunglasses were quite a hit. You'll see a bunch of different kids wearing them in different photos. This is Ian, he's 16, and he was one of my favorites.

    Uganda is pure lawlessness = 14 people squeezed into the back of a van. Also, see how my sunglasses have been transferred to Ben.

    Here is Jesse, Duncan is sitting in the middle, and we are all having a picnic in the park pre-swim

    Group shot! Kids in Uganda often look much, much younger than they are - can you believe the youngest one is 11??  These kids were so, so incredibly great. They come from backgrounds and are in circumstances you can't imagine, but were so delightful all day. I LOVED THEM.

    And then the cutest was when a bunch of the boys wanted to take a solo photo with me. A day or two later, when Jesse and I were walking to a neighborhood soccer game, some random kid came up to us and pulled out one of these photos of me and one of the kids - a bunch of them had printed out the photo of me and them to keep.  It was so random but really, really cute.

    And here are the kids at the swimming pool!  Only a couple of the older kids knew how to swim, so the rest were relegated to the shallow end. Duncan had also bought some arm floaties for them to share.

    This is Robson and his arm floaties

    The kids don't have swimsuits, so they all just swim in their underwear.

    I tried to teach Robson to swim

    Robson's learning how to swim with floaties; I'm learning how to hold my breath underwater without plugging the nose (impossible).

    How cute are these kids 

    Another things the kids loved to do - pose all baller with cars that aren't theirs.

    Their baller-ness was obviously aided by my pink sunnies.
    • Overall, the day was one of the greatest I've had - I loved getting to spend time with the local kids outside the school, and all the boys were so incredibly good-natured and fun.
    • The next couple days Jesse and I walked around the compound, spent time with the kids (this now refers to Dennis' kids and friends again) and went for a nearby hill hike.

    Jesse in front of the school

    Jesse's favorite expression and a mural inside the volunteer house

    A nighttime pool game with some of the compound employees and locals.
    The volunteers all leave their handprints with their names and dates on the wall; here is mine.

    We had to take another day trip to the exciting city that is Ntungamo (and the year 1990) to print some photos Aisha had asked me to. The photo lab was HOPPING - tons of people uploading digital photos off this super old-school desktop monitor, and then they would print off a printer in the back. Ugandans LOVE their printed photos. Seriously.

    The kids showing off their acrobatic moves and constantly trying to one-up each other.

    And then we had a tickle fight.

    And then Jesse and I managed to escape the kids and go on the most beautiful hike ever. We seriously just followed a dirt path behind the church that wound through people's farms, huts, and plantations. Kids ran out of their houses to wave to us and these tiny children even gave us a mango from their tree (seriously, resources are super scarce here and a mango is a big deal, so I was incredibly touched).

    Me: Please love me
    Goat: No.

    • After winding our way down from the most gorgeous, cultural hike ever - we remembered that some of the boys from the day before had mentioned there was a village soccer tournament happening. So we stopped by to watch. It was seriously like being a (brief, D-list) celebrity - tons of the locals were there and stared at us the entire time, others came up to introduce themselves and shake our hands, and the kids gaped at us from behind older siblings' legs. It was like they couldn't believe we were there. We recognized a bunch of the kids from swimming day, and they would shyly come say hi. So. Cute. How many times can I say cute in a blog post.

    And here's the match!  It was Uganda Lodge (which is who we were supposed to support, obviously) vs. another neighborhood (whose name sounded suspiciously like "Kacheesi", which to me sounds like a sneeze).

    The whole village turns out to watch.

    And then the final score was Uganda Lodge- 4, Kacheesi (Gesundheit!) - 0.

    Another Ruhanga sunset <3

    • These local experiences are my absolute favorite - I loved getting out of the compound/school for brief moments and getting to see how the locals actually live, as well as getting to interact with some of the kids that aren't at the school. The school itself and the people in it are pretty used to mzungus coming in and out, but the villagers still seem to be genuinely delighted when they see you or get to interact with you.  Ugandan people are the absolute friendliest, and they seem to genuinely love interacting with foreigners or people who are different from them. I love that.

    Fun Facts of the Day:
    • You have to be pretty careful with things you give the kids here.  Duncan was telling us of an example once where a kid cut his foot open and had to go to the hospital, and a volunteer bought him a pair of shoes: and the next day, all the other kids tried to cut their feet because they wanted shoes too. So you def have to watch what you decide to give one kid vs. another.
    • On that note, shoes are a huge, huge, important possession here. They're a big deal, especially because a lot of people go barefoot here.
    • Jesse had mentioned he was interested in maybe renting a car and road-tripping through some of Africa. When he asked the Lodge's driver, Nicholas, how he would go about renting a car, Nicholas told him he could just flag down any car from the side of the road and for a fee, any local would probably just hand over their car to you.  Interesting approach, Nicholas, but not sure how that local would feel when they found out their car ended up in South Africa...
    • Again on that note, every car I've been in here looks like it's been through a war - broken doors, overheating engines that make the seats really hot, no seatbelts, cracked windows, broken locks; the works. I spend half my time in them praying that the entire thing doesn't blow up.
    • The weather has actually been very temperate! There's only two seasons - wet and dry (summer/winter don't exist here), and besides the difference in rain, they're pretty similar. 70-80's during the day, and 60's at night.  It's honestly perfect.


    1. These are the best posts of the trip!

      1. Thanks, Drew! Though I'm not sure whether to be offended about the other 110 posts I've written......

    2. Am I the only one who catches the Taylor inspired reference here? Goat: No. ---- LOVEEEE!! These posts are so wonderful!! <3