Time keeps on slipping away from me! July is almost over and I find it slightly hilarious that it has been way hotter back home than it’s been on the equator. Seriously, what kind of crazy bad luck do you guys have? At this point, though, I am several weeks past the half-way point and will be home before you know it. Gird your loins.
A lot has happened in the past month but I feel like there aren’t many stories to tell. Our second round of interns arrived and they have settled in nicely. They’re a bigger group and are pretty chill, so it has been really fun hanging out and getting to know them better. Also, our first round of interns left last weekend and I have been missing them a lot. I can’t believe that it has only been one week, it feels like forever! Before they left, though, we got to have some fun experiences, like going to SIPI Falls for retreat, checking out their projects and communities, and spending one last weekend together.
SIPI Falls is a place on the other side of Mbale where there are some beautiful mountains and big waterfalls. We took all of the interns there for a weekend and it was great to get to relax and spend time with all of them together. We stayed in cabins, played card games, and the interns hiked up to the waterfalls (unfortunately I didn’t get to go). I wish I had those pretty pictures, but I was still able to have a good time while they were gone. It doesn’t sound like much, but I found this crazy cool wooden swing hanging from a tree near my cabin. I went and sat on it for hours because it was just so peaceful and beautiful there. It was on a steeper part of the mountainside and when I would swing forward my feet would swoosh out over the cliff a little bit. My favorite part about it was that it was so quiet. Aside from the occasional bleating of goats roaming nearby, all I could hear were insects chirping in the ravine below and the distant roaring of the waterfalls on the other side. But each time I swung out over the cliff, the sound of wind rushing past me would fill my ears and there would be this moment where it was like there was no room for any other sound in my head. It pushed all of the thoughts out of my mind and gave me a sort of calming, peaceful emptiness. It was special to me because I feel like I’m in a constant state of mentally and emotionally preparing for things to go wrong, like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. In order to escape from that and get out of my own head I usually put in my headphones and blast music so loud that I can’t think of anything else (I’m going to go deaf), but that provides a different type of calm. The swing was just so soothing. I miss it.
After retreat we started focusing on wrapping up the projects for our first group of interns, which involved visiting the communities where they had been working and seeing the work that had been done. It was actually really cool! There were some really elaborate projects, and all of them were very work-intensive. One was a research project (sorry Phil, I don’t have a picture of you at St. Francis!) that resulted in a report almost 70 pages long and saved the host organization over 12 million Uganda shillings. Another project was centered on creating a support group for HIV+ mothers so that they would consistently come to the medical center for their treatments (Cailey, you should send me the chicken pictures!). Then there was a project that built a rainwater harvesting tank and installed a drip irrigation system so that the community could yield more produce during the dry season. The last group established a community bakery that hinged on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in order to advocate for their rights and increase sensitivity and awareness of them within the community. It was pretty overwhelming to see all that these guys had done and the changes that they had facilitated within their communities. I wish they could have stayed longer to see the true impact of their projects but after completing these evaluations it was time for them to head home. We had one last dinner at the hotel where they stayed when they first arrived in Jinja and then we said a teary goodbye before they took off for the airport. I miss them all but I know that they were excited to get home after being away for so long so that made it a little easier letting them go.
Now our last round of interns only has two weeks left in-country, which just blows my mind. I feel like they just got here! They’re relaxed but still a really lively bunch and there is a good mix of personalities. We’ve had a lot of fun hanging out, having movie nights, roasting marshmallows at SIPI, and going to trivia night at a local club called The Office. In fact, we went this past week and almost won! We were so excited, we were in first place until the very last round when we lost it. I thought it was so funny that we did well on the section where we had to look at pictures of guns and name them. The only knowledge that we had of guns came from some of the guys playing Call of Duty. Apparently video games can be useful! Right now they are all on safari and I’m just praying that none of them get eaten by lions.
Well, that’s all for now. Time will fly by and before you know it I will be coming home, too! For now, though, it’s back to the Ugandan grind.