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Published: July 11th 2014
I figured I should add this because I didn't take any photos of where I was staying till just before I left.
After our night of clubbing at The Mist, the MUST crew woke the next morning bright and early, with a nice little hangover, so we could be ready for the bus when it came at 8am. At around 11am, we found out that it's running on African Time – you'd think we would have learned to give up on “Muzungu Time” by now. I tried explaining to Ivan that we were always ready when we were told to be, just in case it's the one time things are actually running on time here. Without hesitation he responded, “that time with never come, my friend.” And so far, he's completely right. Since we had no food left and didn't have breakfast, Leandra and I fried up the rest of the beaver tail dough for lunch so we wouldn't be famished as we wait. Deep fried, sugary dough; the lunch of champions, I say! All the extra time in the morning ended up being a nice thing, allowing us to hang out with the staff a little more and say proper goodbyes. At around 2pm, we were told the bus would be at Kihefo in 30 minutes, or according to Tonny, “one hour,
African standard time.” And, as we should have been able to foresee, the bus pulled up at approximately 4pm. Impressively late, even for African Time. We were the last group to get picked up (they actually almost left us behind) and the entire bus was packed. Isle room only. So the Kihefo crew climbed in, literally, on top of suitcases, boxes, and other random belongings, perhaps the odd person, and filled the isle in a nice little row. We squished and cuddled together on rolled up mattresses, which was surprisingly not too uncomfortable, and the elevation above the rest of the bodies on the bus allowed us to get a nice breeze!
In typical Ugandan fashion, the bus broke down twice. Once, where we had to send someone to town to get a missing part, and a second time when the bus was completely beyond repair, and we had to send for another bus. Luckily, MUST has one other bus, appropriately named Menopause, as it is so incredibly old and has been around since the school opened. Now, this is the bus the girls took to Rugazi and back and it is an absolute piece of shit.
Patricia and Lilian with their new mushrooms seeds
Leandra and I ordered the seeds as a thank you gift for Patricia for being so wonderful to us. She was so ecstatic to get them! And I've heard they've already started to grow since we left!
On this particular day, when the other girls were taking it back to Mbarara, it had already broke down eight times. . . on the drive that should take no longer than an hour and a half. But good 'ol Menopause was coming to our rescue! Somehow, Menopause pulled up her big girl, granny panties and she was on her way to save us. She actually made it and in the pitch blackness of the night we strapped our bags to the roof and off we went. Thank god we were only 7km from town, and at about 11pm we finally arrived in Mbarara. And in case you don't remember from an earlier blog, this drive should only take four to five hours.
The weekend was another really relaxing one, where the six of us U of S students spent one afternoon laying around by a pool trying to get rid of our frighteningly awful tan lines. We also played a game taking turns sharing the insulting “compliments” we've received from the Ugandans we've met – Leandra has big legs, but a small body, and as her face was healing from it's bad sunburn she was told
it “looked. . . nice. . .” with a concerned and semi-surprised voice. Heather just has big arms, and I have a “fat ass”. Not just a little fat, but so fat that they asked if I “use padding to accentuate it” fat. However, the winner goes to the women who told Lindsay that she was too skinny, followed by an offer to breastfeed her. I can't make this stuff up.
During this week we also had a couple celebrations – Canada Day and Lindsay's birthday, which happened to fall on the same day. After supper with the VWB crew, I came home to a house full of people,including friends from both the Kifefo and Rugazi groups, as well some other classmates from MUST. We had some cake, sang happy birthday and took turns giving a speech to the birthday girl. And in Canadian spirit, we sang them the Canadian anthem. It wasn't pretty, but we did it. Norman, from the Rugazi group even bought all of us Canadian girls bracelets, which was so incredibly sweet of him! Oh yeah, all of the celebrations happened by candle light because the power was out most of this week.
Apparently, power now costs extra but they forgot to mention that.
During this week, I also met up with fellow vet students who are also working on the Vets Without Borders (VWB) goat project. There is a student from PEI and one Ontario, and four students from the WCVM. I only had three days with the VWB crew before I had to leave for my safari (eeeeee!!! So excited!) and I've already fallen in love with the program. Basically, the goat project works by loaning a goat out to a women, most often a widow, in hopes that it helps her start a mini business and generate some income to support herself and her family. We get donations from whoever to buy the goats, and give them to women we believe will be the most successful raising them. We also get the help of the community to choose who receives them, and our only requirements are that they have a properly built pen to house them in, and that they have not received goats from us in the past. Once they have the goat, they breed it with a male in the community and they are asked
to “pay back” VWB by either passing on a baby goat to someone in the community who meets the requirements, or by selling the goat for a fair price and giving the money to the revolving fund. The revolving fund is like a bank in the community that the VWB members can borrow from if they need, but they have to pay it back and they are charged minimal interest. That's the overall idea of how the program works. So, if anyone wants to donate money for a goat, it costs $50CAN and you can just message me if you're interested.
For the first couple days I've helped out by spending long days in the field taking blood from goats, so we can test for brucilla bacteria, and going to community meetings. And I must say, I'm loving every moment of it! This is exactly what I hope to do with my vet career. It's both animal related and it's helps to empower women. Two of my biggest passions, all rolled up into one perfect package. I firmly believe that educating and empowering women is one of the most crucial steps for positive change around the world.
In the developing world, generally speaking, when men earn the income and are in charge of the finances they often spend it selfishly, like on booze, gambling or prostitution or other wives. However, women are far more likely to spend it on food for their family or sending their children to school. This is exactly why programs like the goat project are so important; to help women generate their own income to help them and their families be more sustainable. Well before I was accepted into vet school I knew about the goat project and I am thrilled to finally be apart of it. Aside from all that, it feels amazing to be busy with work all day and I'm finally getting my hands on animals again. There is a very good chance I will be trying to come back next year to continue working on the project.
But I'm going to keep this short because I'm on a safari (eeeee!! So amazing already!) so I'll go into more detail about the goat project later when I'm back. And just a heads up, get ready for lots of animals pics in the next blog!
Handmade, leather sandals, for $8? Yes, please.
PS Go feminism!
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