June 16-Our Visit with Obama and his Family

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(Note: This blog was a team effort! Individual authorships are noted.)


After leaving Soroti, we headed to Pakwach for the night — just a small town on our way to Murchison Falls. We got up bright and early to drive into the Murchison Falls National Park and immediately started seeing many animals. A list for you! Elephants, giraffes (twice we saw hillsides spotted with so many of them!), duikers, kobs, waterbucks, oribi, hartbeests and monkeys. A few of us glimpsed a leopard jumping down from a tree, but otherwise we couldn’t find any lions or leopards. Our turning point was a watering hole with a bunch of hippos chilling in the water, rumbling and snorting. After a few hours, we drove to the Nile River to go on a boat ride to see the falls. While we were waiting to leave for the boat ride, we met some baboons.

So, the last time Joey came to Uganda and visited Murchison Falls, a pack of baboons raided his group’s van because they left the doors open with food inside. This time around, Joey was reunited with a baboon friend he’d made, but we were extra careful and made sure to shut the door anytime the baboons came close. At one point in the afternoon, Bethany, Harrison, Joey and I (Allison) were in the van waiting to go up and join Rohan and Rebecca at a lodge. We shut the doors and slid the windows closed until they were gaps, because this baboon had looked like it was about to try and jump up through the window or something. Suddenly, we see a baboon appear on the roof of the car next to us — uhh, something’s not right here. We see that the window right behind the passenger seat is still a tiny bit open and Joey shouts, “CLOSE THE WINDOW!” but too late – the baboon jumps from the roof of the car onto the windowframe, shoves the window wider and pushes its body through. It’s hindquarters are still out the window but it’s pretty much in the car. Harrison is holding a can of Pringles and thinks it’s going to go for his food and maul all of us. I’m yelling and images of monkey claws are flashing through my mind. Joey is trying to get out of the van to pull the monkey out but gets stuck by the door handle. Bethany’s finding her camera. We find out later that the baboons are bold but still scared of humans, but at this moment we don’t really know that. The baboon grabs the plastic bag closest to the window and tears it open to see a loaf of bread before it snatches it to its chest and jumps back out of the car back onto the neighboring car’s roof, where it proceeds to shred the rest of the bag and eat our bread. We’re stuck inside the van for a bit longer because a ton of baboons have appeared and are surrounding our car, hoping to get some of the food, but they soon lose interest. Unlike them, I don’t think any of us are going to forget that episode very soon.



To the Tune of Gilligan’s Island Theme

Now here’s our brave victorious crew,

They’re here for a short boat ride

To Murchison Falls and back again

Past crocodiles and hippopatomi,

Crocodiles and hippotami.

Now, dear reader, you’ve perhaps figured out that we did not get stuck on the little rocky island on which we stopped to get the closest possible pictures to Murchison falls available on the Victoria Nile. You have made your conclusion too quickly, because we are using a service of Orange called Internet Everywhere, which means that we could very well be posting from our little rocky isle. At least this isle was free of ants. ANTS!

Our three hour boat ride was uneventful, fortunately. We enjoyed seeing hippopotami and crocodiles. We saw many mother and child hippopotami, and kingfisher birds that live in holes in the (I assume sandstone) cliffs along the river.


We got up bright and early for the drive to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which is the home of the 10 wild white rhinos in Uganda. The sanctuary is 70 sq km and crisscrossed with tons of roads for trucks because they keep their rhinos under a 24/7 surveillance. We drove for quite a while before parking at the side of a road and walking for a few minutes until we saw three white rhinos: a male calf named Justus, Justus’s mother, and another male calf named Obama. We took a ton of pictures — Justus’s mother didn’t seem to mind our presence. The sanctuary has a newborn baby girl (born a few weeks ago in the beginning of June), but nobody sees her because her mother is still extremely protective and attacks pretty much anything.


We returned to Kampala, and stayed in a lovely hotel, as always. We went to dinner at the Nakumatt Oasis Shopping Center, Café Javas. Pilgrim must have cleverly picked this location to help us culture-shock back into the states, as thiscafe had a menu with every kind of food (except, conspicuously, and unfortunately for me, looking for my last hurrah of posho or matooke, Ugandan food) and pasteurized dairy products, namely, ICE CREAM! Probably healthier ice cream than we eat in our dear old US of A, as it melted quickly and must have been lacking our usual stabilizers. Joey kept my side of the table in stitches, as we all had a light discussion of polygamy, the scent of New Jersey, and future plans to fight malaria (Well, the latter discussion was not as light). Joey’s stomach was already keeping him in stitches, but not in the way that he could appreciate it.

(Spoiler alert: We’re already back in the states, but stay posted for what happens next, in between eating dinner and arriving home! Also, “Final Reflections”, plans for the future, maybe more photos… great stuff, all around)

Title Explanation, in case you didn’t read thoroughly enough:

Politics, or any awkward conversation topic, is often described as the 500 pound gorilla in the room. In this case, we are not actually talking about anyone involved in politics, but a very large African land mammal, the 1500 lb baby rhino, Obama. Now we need a new idiom because we have ruined that one.

What Greed Does to Us


Skittles and a Lazy Sunday


Joey’s First Post

So Joey is our professional EWB mentor. He works with us throughout the year, giving us advice for our projects, and then volunteers to travel with us over the summer

**Disclaimer: We had to edit Joey’s post for content, this is a family blog people, gotta keep it PG

After a 12 hour flight to Dubai with a 12 hour layover and another 5 hour flight to Entebbe, Uganda, I finally have made it to Soroti for the second time.  It has definitely been a long awaited return since 2008.  Today, we played with children, and not in the creepy Michael Jackson type of way, but with a Frisbee.   It was a ton of fun.  I found a lizard in my suitcase today, I will name him Skittles and I will care for him until I leave.  I hope he enjoys crushed mosquitoes, because that is all I have to offer him at this time.   The team was also able to give me a quick tour of the progress with the rainwater harvesting system, and I have to be honest, it needs work.  But, I am proud of their progress.  They have made their mamma duck proud!  All-in-all it was a great day, except for the part where I almost died in the car on the drive from Kampala, but I am here and alive so, a great day.  Oh yeah, I already have a mosquito bite and I am pissed!

The actual post:

Sorry for no posts yesterday, but David was our resident blogger and now he’s back in New York, so I guess I’m going to have to pick up the slack and actually write my first post.

Today, while Joey and Harrison were on the road from Kampala, Rohan, Allison, Bethany, and I explored Soroti. We stopped at a video store to pick up some questionable copies of DVDs, and then went to visit some of the bookstores in town. We’ve all spent a lot of time reading, so by now we’ve gone through all of the books that we brought with us. In Soroti, there are a bunch of stores that are called bookstores, but they don’t actually sell any books. But on the recommendation of Grace, the manager of our guest-house, we tried two bookstores. Most of the space in the store was dedicated to textbooks and paper, but they did have a small selection of classic novels and works by African authors.

After leaving the bookstore we were walking to lunch when we stumbled upon what looked like an alley lined with small shops and stalls, but actually led to a huge market. Although we got there a little late in the day for a typical market there were still a ton of people. As we weaved our way through the canopy of stalls, vendors were constantly trying to attract our attention, and of course the little kids would scream “muzungo hi” constantly. There was a ton of produce, and huge sacks of rice and beans for sale. There were also a bunch of seamstresses sewing clothing. Allison tried to hire a woman to make her a skirt, but there was a bit of a language barrier, and none of us trusted our drawing skills enough to sketch the type of skirt she wanted, so no luck there.

We finally met up with Joey, Harrison, and Edward, who drove them up to Soroti from Kampala. After grabbing a quick bite in town, we headed over to the school to hang out with the students. While Allison and I tried to get some Ateso lessons, the guys played some version of ultimate Frisbee with the students. I’m not really sure who won, but Joey was complaining that the kids lied to him about the rules, so who knows what really happened.

Tomorrow we’re splitting up again, half of us will be going to Tubur to visit the MFP site, and the other half will be at school working on the downspouts and first flush systems.