Archive for the ‘Birger’ Category

Never Gamble…

Birger and Rohan here. So its been a few days since our last update, so we’ll I try to catch you up on what you’ve missed.

After a week of long, uncomfortable car rides to and meetings with the villages, Sunday was a well-deserved break from the work. The plan was originally for half of the group to make an excursion to go hiking at Sipi Falls in the west, but this fell through due to difficulties finding a driver (not to worry – we made it up on Tuesday instead). In our wait and unusual amount of downtime, Stephanie decided to teach Ivett, Birger, and Rohan a new card game: Euchre. After some initial confusions everyone quickly caught on and games continued with sisters’increasing intensity and vigor. Gradually we rotated through every combination of partners (Euchre is a four person partner game), playing for best two out of three each time. Alter egos, playful dissing, and general delirum were not uncommon, especially as games progressed ‘late’ (even early times become late in the Ugandan heat) into the night. Rohan and Birger very narrowly lost out on their last game after being tied with one round each against Stephanie and Ivett in the first match-up. Ivett continued her success in the next set with Birger as a partner against the ‘sorority sisters’, Stephanie and Rohan, including a sweeping 10-0 victory to close. In the last pairing, Stephanie and Birger are tied with Rohan and Ivett at one round each – the final outcome is yet to be determined. After the first game, the group decided to go out into Soroti Town, but first had a chance encounter with an old friend of previous travellers, Baker, a student at Pilgrim’s Beacon of Hope college. Baker accompanied Rohan and Birger into town for some time and finally everyone reconvenened at the usual dinner place of Landmark Hotel to have a nice dinner with Julius The Magnificent, his wife, and two beyond-adorable kids (Stephanie especially enjoyed playing with them).


Monday started out on a productive note, with a 3-hour meeting between the group, local technician and resident expert on Lister Engines and MFPs (supposedly even moreso than the great Julius) Paul, Julius himself, and key members of Pilgrim’s Agriculture Department David and (the other) Julius. The meeting was both a debrief on all site visits and occurences of the past week, and more importantly a great planning session for the future of the MFP project as a whole. Calendars and budgets were discussed and agreed upon, issues from all ends were brought up and addressed, and everyone left the meeting feeling a whole lot more optimistic and comfortable with the direction and situation of the MFP project. In the mean time, Ivett and Min Ye also talked to some Beacon of Hope College administrators to get a better feel of the success of the Rainwater Harvesting Project. In the afternoon, the original plan was for the group to be able to climb Soroti Rock, a large geographical feature that Soroti is built around. However, this failed to happen (as was the case in last summer’s implementation trip), since the local authorities, despite appeals and paperwork from Pilgrim, did not grant us permits to do so. Instead, the afternoon was spent playing more Euchre and relaxing. Our last night in Soroti ended in an appropriate way, with a glorious meal cooked by our friendly Golden Ark hosts Grace and Esther. Stephanie had been wanting to try Atap, an interesting doughy and slightly grainy local dish made from Millet, for a whole week and we finally had a chance to do so together with local African sweet potatoes, and different kinds of greens and ground nut sauce.


On Tuesday, however, we embarked on yet another journey as we traveled back to Kampala. Luckily, this time we had some fun and exciting pit stops on the way. The first one was hiking Sipi Falls, which are a group of waterfalls that are part of the mountains that mark the border between eastern Uganda and Kenya. It was truly a beautiful place with an amazing view. It seemed like you could look out over Uganda and see miles and miles of the perfectly flat land.

The hike itself was a lot fun but mainly incredibly sweaty, which we can’t say was a surprise considering we were hiking up a mountain with the hot Ugandan sun overhead. It was definitely worth it though to see the three main waterfalls and learn about the community that lived there. It was a great way to break up a very long car ride.

The next stop was at a town called Jinja, where the Nile River begins its trek up Africa and to the Mediterranean Sea. It was a quick visit where we got to see the Nile and take a quick boat ride to the source of the Nile which is an underground spring and the bordering Lake Victoria. Being so close to water, the surrounding area is incredibly lush with green everywhere, something that hasn’t been too present in the dry season.

Leaving Jinja, we continued on the last leg of the journey and finally reached Kampala at night, where after a quick meal we collapsed into our beds.

Yesterday we were lucky to not have any long trips planned, but of course that meant there were meetings instead. The first meeting of the day was with another Ugandan NGO called Sasakawa (coincidentally located just one floor up in the same building as Prilgrim). The reason for the meeting was that since 1997 they have been running a MFP project very similar to our own, and we wanted to learn from their many years of experience. After talking to them, we were heartened to hear that they had run into the same problems we are currently facing but that they were able to overcome them. All in all, it was a very interesting and helpful meeting and moving forward, we hope to be able to use what we learned from them to better our own project.

The other meeting we had planned was with Patrick, the Country Director of Pilgrim. The meeting was just to give him a summary of what we observed and learned from our trips to the villages and to make sure we were all on the same page, which included going over the schedule we made in Soroti. After the meeting, we had a free day and were able to do a little souvenir shopping, which was a nice, easy break for us.

Today is our last full day in Uganda and will be another busy day with a few (you guessed it!) meetings which you’ll hear about in the next post. I’m thinking we may need a vacation when we get back :-P.


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