Today is the first relaxing day of the trip - we've taken all of the students to Munyonyo Speke Resort on Lake Victoria - a place that our Ugandan participants wouldn't normally have had the opportunity to go. It's gorgeous and has a large pool and lots of fun things to do - like eating whole tilapia poolside (see below). Even the eyeballs were eaten. I've spent most of the day giving swimming lessons to Enoch and Ortega, two of our Ugandan students. And yes, I am getting a killer tan.
As for the trip itself - it could not possibly be better. Very few cases of any traveler's "D", just a little fatigue here and there. We've had some more incredible speakers - the Permanent Secretary of Internal Affairs, who is in charge of the Juba Peace Talks, spoke to us on Friday morning. We spent the afternoon exploring Kampala and introducing the students to getting around on matatus (taxi buses) and boda bodas (the much quicker and extremely dangerous motorbike taxis). Friday night we were back at Rouge - the night club we went to in June. Good times were had by all, and I even received compliments on my Butvin bounce dance moves (they love reggaeton here). Colin told me I need some more work.
Yesterday was our first day working with communities. We split into two groups and took half to an orphanage (where they cleaned dishes and cooked) and the other half with me, to Namuwongo. Henry, the youth leader in Namuwongo, lead us on a tour of the slum community that he and thousands of other people displaced from the northern war call home. Conditions are horrific and life is extremely difficult. It's a lot to digest for the students, and the upcoming week will be even more difficult. We are easing them into the issues and having lots of discussion and interaction with the Ugandan students, which has been tremendous in keeping the morale up.
In the afternoon yesterday we arrived back at Namuwongo, where Immaculate, who I met in June, had arranged entertainment, complete with a DJ and tent to shelter us from the scorching midday sun. I was overjoyed to see everyone, including Faith, the 11-year-old girl that my friend Julie is sponsoring. The women and children in Namuwongo performed dances for us and gave speeches, and then asked me to give a speech! I was totally unprepared, but it was a very touching experience to thank the community for setting up the performances and welcoming us into their homes. I even had a Luo interpreter so that the residents could understand my speech.
Last night at dinner we had a nice surprise - Otim Jimmy, a formerly abducted child soldier, came and shared his experiences with the group. Since his abduction in 1996 (he was in captivity for 9 months and met Kony several times), he has finished school, completed university and two additional degrees, and now works as the Public Information Officer for the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has issued indictments for Kony and 4 other leaders of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).
As you can see, it's been quite a week. We head up to Gulu tomorrow on the postal bus, and are leaving at the crack of dawn. It's about 200 km or so, but the trip will take 6-8 hours, depending on the bus and the road. So to relax and enjoy before that trip, we're spending the day at the resort and having a blast. Tonight we are seeing the Ndere dance troup - an internationally renowned traditional dance group.
Enoch enjoying the poolside at Munyonyo: "I am so happy right now."