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Published: February 25th 2007
Me standing at the equator
I’m back in Kampala from a whirl-wind tour of western Uganda & Rwanda. Let me first say, the countryside is gorgeous: rolling green hills in every direction. I was looking back through the pictures I took this morning, and they just don’t do justice to the landscape.
We started our trip with a stop at the equator in a little town called Masaka. This was a very touristy site; while we were there a group from China were very excited to get their picture taken with Americans! They almost wouldn’t let us leave. Then we drove on to Mbarara where we stayed the night, had some good Ugandan beer and relaxed. The next morning we split in to smaller groups (my class has 23 students!); one group visited a refugee camp, another visited a microfinance NGO, and my group went to a Millennium Village. This village is the creation of a famous economist, Jeffrey Sachs. It’s being funded by the UNDP and Millennium Promises. Basically Sachs is implementing his ideas about development in villages all over the world. I can’t remember exactly how many there are, but there’s only one in Uganda. The village is taking a
A house on the way to the Millennium Village
holistic approach to development, working with the community on projects in agriculture, education, health, sanitation, and participation. Funding will last for five years, at which time the community should be at a level where it can continue progressing without aid. So this is where my problem with the project arises; whenever we asked about the fate of this community we got shoulder-shrugs…it is as though they’re going about this project with their fingers crossed. They’re pouring money in to this community, and it is experiencing improvements in some sectors, but no one had a good answer about the sustainability of the community after funding stop. Hmmm…I can’t help but think that by propping this community up with funding they’re making it dependent, which in the long term will have a negative impact on its growth.
But, moving on, this vacation turned in to the How will Brittney hurt herself today? Show. At the Millennium village I stepped out of the van in to a depression in the ground and rolled my ankle, falling flat on my face. Very painful. But after a while I was able to walk around, so I wasn’t too concerned. The very next morning as
I was walking to the vans I got tripped up on uneven pavement and shoulder-dived in to the ground. This one hurt even worse as I got all scraped up on my arms and legs, and I landed on my right hand. This time we decided I needed to go to the hospital because my fingers may be broken. At the hospital in Mbarara the doctor on call didn’t know what a finger splint was, and the building didn’t have an x-ray machine. We left, found some ice and drove, with the rest of the group, all the way to Kigali, Rwanda. The hospital in Rwanda was a better experience, sort of: they had an x-ray machine, and a doctor that new what she was doing. Oh, I forgot to mention that at this point my ankle had swollen up to the size of a tennis ball, from the previous accident. So I was concerned about it being fractured. But the x-rays showed that nothing was broken. They just cleaned my wounds with straight alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide (not sure, but it was not pleasant). As the nurse cleaned the cuts my doctor looked with a smirk: I had refused
After you cross the border to Rwanda the hills get steeper. They are so green!
painkillers because it would have been by an injection -no needles for me. She was quite amused every time I winced from the pain of the alcohol. Oh well…I’m alive and the injuries are slowly healing. My finger is regaining its dexterity, and the swelling in my ankle goes down a little every day, though it is still sore.
But let me tell you about Kigali. The city itself is completely different from Kampala: the roads are newly paved, there are sidewalks, very little pollution, and there’s no trash lying about. We were told this is because the city has strict rules about littering, and every month they hold cleaning days for people to pick up trash around their neighborhood, and they also have a day for planting trees (once a month, I think). It’s very visually appealing, and the people are so so so kind. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine the atrocities that went on there in the early ‘90s. But that’s what our excursion to Rwanda was for: to gain a better understanding of the genocide. We visited the memorial in the city, and two churches. The churches are outside the city, and in 1994 people ran
to these sites for safety because they didn’t think they’d be killed at church. However, in both cases the Hutu were able to get inside the churches and carry out the genocide of the Tutsi. Over 10,000 people were killed at one of the churches. A very brief overview of the genocide: when the Belgians colonized Rwanda they separated the people on the basis of how many cows a family had -10 or more cows made you a Tutsi, less made you a Hutu. There was no distinction between the people before this. The Belgians gave the Tutsi more power and so resentments grew. But after Rwanda’s independence in the ‘60s the Hutu gained the upper hand -they controlled the military and the government. By the early ‘90s there was enough animosity between the groups that Hutu’s in power were able to convince other Hutu’s that their lives would be better without the Tutsi. April 1994 is when the genocide peaked, but the killing of Tutsi had been happening for a few years. Other actors in this include France, who supplied weapons to the Hutu to help them carry out the genocide, and the UN which basically did nothing until
it was all over. Sorry to give you a history lesson, an incomplete one at that, but if you’re interested a good book on the genocide is We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families by Philip Gourevitch. Needless to say our time in Rwanda was emotionally draining. So our excursion back to Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park was a welcomed holiday.
At QENP we took a boat ride in the Lake seeing hippos, cape buffalo, many birds, and elephants! Just so you know, a life goal of mine is to see an elephant in the wild (OK, so a national park is not actually the wild, but it will have to do). We took a game ride in the evening, and watched the sunset at one of the crater lakes. And the next morning we did a sunrise game ride through the grassland savanna. It was so much fun to see the wildlife, and I didn’t mind playing the role of tourist with my camera snapping pictures every time some animal appeared.
Today I’m relaxing at my home-stay. I’ve got homework to do, laundry to wash, and I might meet
up with some friends. For the next two weeks we’ll be in Kampala doing our in-depth study. We’re splitting in to smaller groups to focus on Gender, Health or Grassroots NGOs. I’m doing the grassroots development module; we will learn the concepts, theories, methods, and principles that relate to grassroots dev. Then we’ll do site visits to different NGOs. The whole thing wraps up with a paper and presentation to the other students.
That’s all for now. I hope everyone is healthy, happy, and enjoying life! I miss you all and will update you again soon.
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