Saturday, April 30, 2011


The buses are always overcrowded in general but, it being Easter weekend, it was even more extreme. As per usual I had the misfortune of sharing my bench seat with a slightly obese woman and the tallest man in the world. About a third of what I had rightfully paid for remained for me- one butt cheek’s worth of space. What’s the last thing you need on a bus that’s already overcrowded? That would be someone cramming boxes of baby chicks through the windows. About 20 chirping boxes came in that way. Slightly annoyed but overall extremely accommodating passengers managed to help stow the chicks away. They were placed up in the luggage racks, under the seats and in the aisles- pretty much everywhere.

We were barely out of the bus park when the first managed to escape. The fluffy yellow chick hopped down the aisle, scratching the ground, looking for bugs. The five back rows watched, not moving. Naturally, it wasn’t one of the Ugandan passengers (who most likely grew up with food animals at home) to catch the little bird but the only foreigner on the bus who happens to be a bit scared of chickens. A second popped out shortly after, then a third. Things were starting to get crazy! It’s not easy catching chicks on a moving bus. That’s when I realized what was happening. Right then, Easter weekend 2011, I was being invited by circumstance to partake in the first ever Adult Easter Egg Hunt!

The premise of the game is the same- find the egg/chick and place it in your basket/overloaded chick box. The challenge is stepped up by the fact that, in the adult version, the ‘treasure’ is a moving target and there is a good chance that it will either peck you or poop in your hand. The most notable difference is that, unlike the traditional Easter Egg Hunt for kids which is based around rewarding the participant, the Adult Hunt is punishment driven. If a participant fails to collect all of the chicks they run the risk of stepping on one and thus becoming covered in bird guts and suffering emotional trauma from the experience.

Having collected about a dozen chicks throughout the trip I have declared myself the winner- I had about 12 more than all of my competitors. While the challenge was fun and certainly kept me entertained I was relieved when the chicks were either lulled to sleep by the jerky motions of the bus or ran out of air in their cardboard boxes and stopped jumping out. One of the greatest things about traveling is experiencing new customs from different parts of the world. I’ll be happy host an Adult Easter Egg Hunt at home to share a piece of my Uganda experience with all of you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When Opportunity Knocks

Today I had a meeting with the management committee of one of my VSLA groups to go over how to record loans in our record books. Unfortunately Martin didn't tell any of the other committee members about the meeting (despite the fact that they were all there when we chose the date and time) so it was only the two of us and Dorcus, the wonderful owner of the house where we meet and our group treasurer. Dorcus and Martin are two of my favorite people in Ngai so it was nice to hang out under the mango tree, catch a cool breeze, and talk about all of the things that have been going on in our respective lives.

While we were chatting a woman walking by came over to greet us. After a series of formal and informal greetings she launched into a passionate dialogue which was directed at me but I didn't understand. Martin translated. She said that on the day that I had been in Kula Kula trading center looking for disabled children I hadn't been able to find her. Not to worry! Here she was to introduce herself! She had a disabled child- blind and unable to use his legs- and would be happy to take me to her home. This is always to point at which I can't control my totally inappropriate laughter. I have never gone on a search for disabled children nor have I been in Kula Kula trading center since mid December. It's amazing how often situations like this happen. People approach me with detailed stories of our last interactions, meetings that I never held, promises that I never made. Naturally I've questioned whether they've confused me with someone else, after all, we white people all look alike. The only problem with that theory is that I am the only foreigner in the entire sub-county (a very large area). Plus, they all know exactly who I am.

Curious to learn more, I asked the woman if there are other families with disabled children in the Kula Kula area. Yes, there is a couple who have a child with a very large head- more inappropriate laughter (please don't judge, I was so taken off guard). Then the woman, Timo Betty, revealed that she is the representative for families with disabled children for the sub-county. Given her position she can easily reach out to hundreds of families who need extra support that I never would have been able to find on my own. I asked Martin to tell Betty about his experiences as a VSLA member to see if she thought the families would benefit from the program. As soon as he finished speaking she said yes, they are interested, they are ready to begin (this immediate enthusiasm and speaking for other people is also very common and a more legitimate force than you would expect- I'm a fan). She said that she would mobilize 30 families in the Kula Kula area (including the parents of children with big heads) for a meeting to discuss the idea on Wednesday. From there we will expand into the other areas.

Moral of the story is that every interaction offers something and opportunities meet you when you least expect it. It's amazing how a lady walking down the street, a made up memory or rumor about my tireless search for disabled children, and a little patience, respect, and curiosity has lead to a connection that will hopefully help a lot of people.

Life is in the details.