Sunday, April 20, 2014

Amboseli and Mombasa (very belated, sorry!)

Maasai in Amboseli, traditional dancing


Amboseli National Park!

Mombasa Sunrise

Thanks for lending me your shorts Dad

Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Our translator during the overnight Maasai home stay

Fort Jesus

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Uganda UGANDA! Exploring Kampala for a month...

Sunday, April 13th:  Arrival Day

Well, I’m here! I am finally in Kampala, Uganda…..UGANDA!  Wow, I thought it would never happen. But it did, and I’m here in this lofty, white-walled room with pale pink floral curtains.  I am currently sitting on my equally floral bed, but it’s blue, which is better than pink.  So much is going through my head right now:  where the heck am I?  Kat, you are totally alone! YOU have to depend on YOU.  But you know what? That is a good thing.  It is probably one of the best ways to grow, if not the best way.  **Side note: Music is powerful and with every new song that comes on my iTunes, my emotions fluctuate.  Problem or normal? Citizen cope, then Adele, then the Beatles, Paul Simon, Lana Del Rey, Beyonce, Grouplove, Bon Iver…one can only imagine the mood vagaries.  **Another side note: there's Islamic music playing right now outside my room, or in my guest house, the Makerere University Guest House. 

Monday, April 14th:  Day One

            Today was the first day of my internship with the Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence.  I was picked up at 8:30am by Charlotte, the executive director’s assistant of RECESVID.  She started as an intern for RECESVID, but she is now employed at this NGO and has been formally working there for two years.  From MGH, we walked to work, which is only about a ten-minute walk.  First, I met Sharon, the Executive Director of RECESVID, and she basically interviewed me, asking me where I was from, what I desired to do in life, why I wanted to intern for RECESVID, and what I would be able to offer.  I talked about my experience with Advocates at St. Lawrence, as well as my training as an AWARE Advocate.  She agreed that this was helpful background to prepare me for my counseling sessions that I may have with survivors this month.  Sharon wanted to know how we answered the “hotline” at my university and our style of counseling.  She was pleased with my answers and inquired if I ever spoke with international survivors, outside of the U.S.  Sharon then told me about the type of work I would be doing over the course of the month.  She said that it would mainly involve in-office reading reports of cases that made it to the courts, as well as ones where the survivors did not testify.  She then told me “you will be taking part as a passive participant in the counseling programs of clients of Sexual and Gender Based Violence with guidance and support from RECESVID staff, take part in outreach programs in the community, follow-up programs and attend network meetings.”  Then, I met Jennifer, the other intern!  She is interning at RECESVID, as well, and her name is Jennifer and she is from Sweden.  Jennifer has been with RECESVID for three months so far, so it was really nice having someone to tell me about their experiences at this NGO, and also about Uganda!  Basically, today I read reports, and newspapers stories involving a range of gender-based violence topics.  These included GBV cases of rape and defilement, domestic violence toward women and men, marriage and relationship stories, help/advice columns, women’s health, maternal and pre-natal health, and female leadership.  In conclusion, Charlotte informed me about a referral points meeting that we will be attending on Wednesday of this week.  The meeting is scheduled with another center for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Kampala.  I left at 4pm to walk back to MGH.      

Tuesday, April 15th : Day Two

             My second day in the office was a bit more eventful in that I learned more about RECESVID and it’s criteria.  I arrived at 9am again, and Charlotte took me through the report sheets that they fill out after a survivor shares his/her story with them.  I asked some questions, like “how do you differentiate between 'defilement' and 'rape'?”  The answer was good but not complete, I feel.  This is all a learning process for me and I certainly am challenged even if it is just through conversation.  We talked about abortion and the fact that it is ILLEGAL in Uganda, and in most African countries.  Charlotte did a great job at clarifying some things for me, and answering my many questions.  I was informed of a three-day visit to a school/home for street kids next week.  I am very excited for this!   

Wednesday, April 16th: Day Three

        Charlotte and I went to a meeting at the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP), where several other NGOs joined to discuss methods of referring survivors to one another, and ways to improve their network.  This was very interesting and it was my first formal meeting as an intern.  We discussed several things, which included: the corruption of some police officers which makes the whole process more difficult for survivors, transportation for survivors to get to rehab centers should be FREE and provided by the police, the NGOs will find out who community leaders are in each district, and update the contact list in each office. During the meeting, it was decided that every person must have a copy of the referral list to other NGOs to give out these numbers for the survivor’s use.  Some issues that we discussed are: health workers tend to be biased based on their religion, survivors are afraid to speak out for fear of being believed by officers, some programs do not give out the drug PEP, and some organizations also did not know all the contact numbers, before this network was established.  Some accomplishments include: increased sensitization throughout communities and for health workers, people are becoming more empathetic, and improving their listening skills.  In the end, it was decided that Action Aid and CEDOVIP would work together to improve the network of referrals between all the NGOs, and these two groups were chosen mainly because of their capacity to provide, organize, and they have a budget!  Overall, this was a productive meeting for a number of small-scale NGOs.  I was humbled and impressed by the passion these people have – they will not stop for anything, and they are dedicated to this cause. 

I don't have any photos yet, because I have only been in UG for two three full days.  Tomorrow, after work, I take off for Jinja for the four day holiday to visit fellow SLU students who are interning for other organizations.  Rafting the Nile is number one on my list!  Happy almost Easter everyone!

                            "But who am I to blow against the wind…" -P. Simon

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tanzania's Treasures

Where to begin….this was one of the most eye-opening, fascinating, and physically challenging weeks of my life, so far.  Last Saturday, we woke up at 5am to hop on the bus to drive to Tanzania.  It was roughly a 7-hour drive to Arusha city, not including the 45-minute stop at the border to fill out visas forms.  Arusha was hot and humid, which reminded me of New England and the east coast in general.  Our safari guides were members of a NGO called “Dorobo,” which leads tourist trips to national parks and to visit and observe various ethnic groups, such as the infamous Hadzabe!  Every semester, for the last 40 years, the St. Lawrence KSP group gets the opportunity to interact with the Hadzabe (“Hadza” for short) for a weeklong adventure of hiking, hunting, and gathering, filled with countless unforgettable conversations, life-lessons, laughs, and traditional Hadza dancing (but, we also taught them the Cotton-Eyed Joe and Build Me Up Buttercup). 

Break down of the week:

Saturday – arrived in Arusha, drove (in the coolest safari Land Rover) with Mama Maggie (one of my newest role models), and camped out in “the bush” next to a waterfall!

Sunday – three hour hike to the top of a ridge where we had lunch and drove four hours to the Hadza camp!  (It looked a bit like New Zealand.)

**The Hadzabe are a nomadic, hunter-gatherer community, one of the last one’s to hunt with their own hand made bows and arrows. (I made my own arrow with the help of a Hadza man named “General”)

Monday – woke up at 7, hiked to the Hadza village, and met about 30 Hadza men women and children.  Dug for tubers with the women and roasted and ate them there on the spot.

Tuesday – “The Long Walk”…..we walked across part the great rift valley, the Yaedza portion.   This walk took us about 6 hours, and we stopped to witness a Hadza shoot and kill a bird, and they dug out a bee hive for honey…they eat the honeycomb and the bee larva right from the tree trunk! I ate some too…best honey I have ever tasted.

Wednesday – “The Hunt.”  Carina, Sam, and I went hunting for eight hours with “General,” a 28 year old Hadza man.  Though we didn’t kill anything, we got to experience what hunting is like for them on a typical day. General said that they typically only successfully kill 3 animals a week (per person). 

Thursday – drove back in the safari trucks to the Dorobo camp in Arusha

Friday – drove with Njau back to Kenya, back to Karen.

TZ pictures:

The safari trucks that can plow through ANYTHING

Growing illegal things....

 Hadza women

 Bao Bob tree!  The Hadza climb them daily to rest in the branches and get water from the hollow trunk inside.

Too cute...couldn't resist

 We all ate the honey comb

The Hadza drink this water daily and their stomachs are conditioned for it, so they don't get sick...incredible!

 While hunting with General, these thorns got my legs pretty bad. Oh, and I also got stung by a tste tste fly!

 Making fires on the spot is crucial for their livelihoods

 Possibly the best hunter in the community

 The six hour walk across the Yeadza part of the Great Rift Valley!


The Massai and the Datoga graze their cattle near, and sometimes on, Hadza land. This creates several conflicts between the ethnic groups.  

Post GRV walk

 Young Hadza hitting the target on the second try...

 The face of sheer concentration

 They get stung approximately 100 times when they dig the honey comb out

 General scouting for animals from above the bush

The cave!  General took the three of us to this really neat cave where they rest often while hunting.

 Sean and the huge rock we would rest on, next to our camp spot

 One of the most beautiful places I will ever set my eyes on.  I did not want to leave!

Making new pegs so we could climb the BaoBab tree. The pegs rot after a week, because the tree moistens them with water from the inside-out.

One of our three camp spots!

 Made it to the top!

 Emlyn and I, sweaty and happy

 Post GRV walk...

 Camp fire scary stories and much needed massages


 (An old picture from hiking Mt. Longonot)

More difficult than it looks...

 Making arrows...I was struggling a bit with this.

I will never forget my week in TZ, having met and exchanged stories with such incredible people - our Dorobo guides, the Hadza, and other Dorobo staff.  I learned more than I thought I would about this hunter-gatherer community, Tanzania and it's government, Tanzanian people, and myself.  I feel very lucky. 

Today is Sunday, February 23rd, and I am about to start packing for my Urban Homestay Component, which is three weeks long!  I meet my family in three hours! 

Funny/Scary/Painful Facts:  
***There was a lion two miles away from our camp spot the last three days of the week!  On Wednesday night, I actually heard it roar, very far away, when I went outside to use the outhouse...I'd be lying if I said I walked slowly back to my tent......I sprinted.  

***Every single person out of the 18 students (including myself), got sick with traveler’s diarrhea, more than 5 students soiled themselves, the safari trucks had to pull over more than 20 times to let us out….the rest is self-explanatory.   Haha!  It’s funny now, but it was a bit awkward having several Tanzanians watching you use their dirt roads and bushes as bathrooms…

"But who am I to blow against the wind..." - P. Simon