Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Packing for Uganda

Just a day and a half before we begin making our way to Entebbe – I am dreading the airplane, but that old excitement about going to the airport and moving is making me giddy. I love the smell of airplane fuel. It smells like . . . freedom.

I’ve never packed for a trip like this before. Some of the things we’re taking aren’t for us at all. Brother Elio, the director of the orphanage, asked Sharon to bring underwear for the girls, so we each stocked up enough underwear for 80 girls from toddler-types to adolescents. We are also bringing toys that do all of the following (a) fit in our suitcase, (b) won’t choke small children, (c) can be shared by the kids (can’t bring 80 individual toys), and (d) don’t require anything but kids to power them. Shopping for toys in this context is new for me. So many of the toys that line the shelves are completely wrong, for other reasons. Barbie dolls? Really? Would the children we are going to meet have any point of reference for Barbie’s Dream Van? For the weirdness of the Transformer? Or do you need a cultural point of reference to have fun with a Barbie doll? I don’t know the answer to that question, yet. I am bringing some frisbees, jump ropes, a couple of inflatable beach balls, and a few posters for the schoolrooms with number lines and the periodic table. It feels like I’m throwing pebbles into a chasm, hoping to fill it up, but it is something.

There are other things that I’ve never had to pack in a suitcase before. 25% DEET insecticide. Malaria tablets in case the DEET doesn’t work. A few used computers from the university to donate to the school. We’re taking our own toilet paper, too. Sharon is the expert packer for this trip – she learned, for example, when she was going to Uganda the first time with the CDC, that you always take duct tape. Really! You can repair screens with it (mosquitos again!), close your suitcase if the lock breaks, and redress untold other unexpected mishaps. Oh, and as Pete pointed out, connect ductwork.

If we make it past customs with the duct tape, a hundred or so pairs of girls’ underwear, laptop computers, and rope – well, I think the rest of the trip will go pretty smoothly. Wish us luck!


Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

A word about this trip, and why we’re taking it.

I am writing from Amsterdam, where it is early morning.  We are waiting for our last flight, which will board, we keenly hope, in about an hour.  We have a short layover in Kigali, Rwanda, and we will arrive in Entebbe around 10:30 pm tonight, which will be around 3:30 pm at home.  Someone -maybe Brother Elio – will meet us at the airport and take us to a guest house in Kampala. We will meet Max and Adam (recently graduated), and Max’s brother Ben, and their friend Ethan.  Tomorrow, we will drive north to Gulu.  I thought now would be a good time to introduce you to our trip, now that we’re packed and on our way.  

Sharon Crary is, as many of you know, a biochemist.  (We ran into Chris White at the airport in Indianapolis, and she referred to Sharon as “that beautiful scientist,” which is a much better description.)  During her post-doctoral studies at the CDC in Atlanta, Sharon did field work in Gulu, Uganda at Lacor Hospital (pronounced “lachore”) during an ebola outbreak.*  

When Sharon signed on to the CDC, it was with the strong caveat that she not be disappointed because “not everyone gets to do field work.”  Sharon was more than fine with that, and in fact made it very clear that she did not want to travel anywhere.  This, of course, guaranteed that she would be out on the next plane.  Fortunately for us, she was able to bring back the wisdom of the duct tape, along with other useful information about the nasty but interesting ebola virus.  (She assures me that there is no ebola outbreak now.)

Brother Elio was the one who met Sharon’s CDC group when they arrived in Gulu.  He is the director of engineering at Lacor, and also the director of the St. Jude’s Children’s home.  (A story unto itself for a later post).  On the way to Lacor, Brother Elio had to make a quick stop at the orphanage.  Sharon refused to go inside, and in fact, wouldn’t set foot near it for nearly two more weeks.  Once she did (and perhaps before she did), she knew she could never forget it.  Since that first visit, Sharon has been back twice more, once with her husband, Pete, and once with a student of hers, Cody.  She has taught courses in which it figures largely.  She has organized fundraisers to raise money for Comboni Missionaries, which oversees the operation of the hospital, and through the connection with Brother Elio, the orphanage.  This wasn’t enough, though, and with the help of family and friends, Social Promise, Inc. was born.  (More about that another day – I am too bleary-eyed to go on).  

I feel lucky to be one of the friends that helped get Social Promise off the ground, and more awed than I can express to be traveling to Gulu today.  It is a trip I never imagined myself taking.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to post again, but I hope to send something from Kampala.  Sharon checked my facts for this post, and wants me to quit talking about her, so next time I will write about the savannah views or something.

* This experience was in all scientific and narrative aspects exactly like the movie “Outbreak”.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

In Kampala

It is just after midnight-about 5 pm at home. We are safe and sound at the Lacor Guest House. Sharon was shocked to learn that there is wifi here. More in the morning.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Schematic of St. Jude’s School And Orphanage

Sent from my iPad

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

North to Gulu

After a good night’s sleep, Stephen came around to pick us up at the Lacor Guest House. We changed some money, which resulted in our being handed a sackful of Ugandan shillings, and then drove through and out of Kampala – not for the faint of heart! The rule of the road is something like this: the bigger you are, the more right of way you have. This seems to work – we did arrive in one piece!

Kampala is very hilly, but as we drove north and up in elevation, it flattened out. Small, round huts with thatch roofs and small square houses, both made of homemade bricks, and small patches of corn and soybeans and vegetables punctuate stretches of palm trees, banana trees and shrubs. There are tiny shops in front of what must be the shopkeepers’ homes, and everyone farms a little bit for food. More rarely, there are small villages and markets along the road. About three hours into the four-hour drive, Stephen directed my attention to a pair of baboons hanging out by the side of the road. Before I had time to process that, Sharon told me to look right, and we passed over a bridge spanning a beautiful river. I asked what it was, and Stephen said (with great nonchalance, I thought), “The Nile.” Right. Of course.

Once we arrived at St. Jude’s – the orphanage – we settled in and went back into town to the supermarket for staples and to the market for vegetables. By the time we got back, the boys had arrived. Ethan and Adam are staying in the guest house at Consolation House, and Sharon, Ben and Max and I are staying on the other side of the compound in the orphanage’s guest house. For dinner, we made a tomato sauce of tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, onions, and greens. We had not eaten since breakfast, which consisted of a piece of bread and coffee, so we were hungry! After dinner, it was another cold shower and sleep.

This morning, Sharon woke up first to the sound of people around us getting up, pumping water from the well next to the guest house, and children getting ready for the day. The older kids were doing laundry at a big basin next to the well and showering in a big stall next to that. I was sleeping with earplugs, so I woke to the dulcet tones of Sharon running into the room to announce with great terror that there was a lizard running loose in the kitchen. I sprang up to help (do what?), and the lizard disappeared under the door to Ben and Max’s room. We decided not to wake them.

After the Great Lizard Scare, Sharon and I had breakfast – oatmeal for me, grits for Sharon, and coffee all around. Then we walked over to the school. We met Victor, the Director of the school, and he gave us a tour. The school is run on donations, and some parents send their kids to school here and pay tuition when they can. We also met Samuel, the head teacher at Consolation House. Consolation House is the home for the disabled kid live. Those who can be in a classroom are sent to school, and this integrated approach is very unusual on Uganda. (I’ll post more about the school in a few days, and try to get some pictures up too.)

That brings us up to the present moment. I am sitting on the porch in front of the guest house. The children over at the school are rehearsing for a music and drama competition that is happening tomorrow, and the music from that is blending with the quiet sounds of of a few children playing in the orphanage courtyard, the swish of someone sweeping a porch, and adults talking in the next building. It is very peaceful.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Uganda Map — National Geographic

Here is a link to a map of Uganda

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Thursday Tours

After breakfast, we toured the school at St. Jude’s with Victor, the head teacher. The kids were very excited to see visitors, as they always are. After our tour, we walked about 20 minutes to the village of Lacor, where St. Mary’s Hospital is located. The best source of information about the hospital is its own website, which is at We had a very brief tour, talked to Brother Elio for a bit, and had a welcome bottle of genuine cane sugar Coke at a cafe in the village run by a woman named Helen. After sizing us up for a little bit, she announced that we could come back anytime. We got a ride back to St. Jude’s, where we were supposed to wait for Stephen to take us into town for supplies. Stephen was delayed, and so we sent Ben and Ethan into town for takeout (cheeseburgers!) and Adam, Sharon and I sat in front of Consolation Home and talked about the day, and gradually began to succumb to a bit of hopelessness. The problems here are so big and so deep. It goes beyond all the problems you would expect: poverty, illiteracy, no schools, no infrastructure, food shortages during the dry season, oppression of women, corruption in the government and graft by the police. On top of all of this, the people in this community must be in a mass state of post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving the unspeakable atrocities of the LRA, even though the LRA has moved into the DRC (“Democratic” “Republic” of Congo) and aren’t likely to return. What can we do to overcome any of this? They need books, food, medicine, all the basic things that we simply take for granted. We’re just a small group, and even though any money helps, it seems like we could never make a dent. But still, I know it makes a difference.

We sat on the porch at consolation house this evening, watching kids play as the sun went down. Three girls started a game of Monkey in the Middle with a beanbag (literally, some beans wrapped up in a piece of cloth), and they played with such ferocity and concentration we were moved to remark that our own kids wouldn’t last a day here! These kids are tough and strong. Those girls must have woken up with bruises the next day. But wow, they were having a good time.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Untangling a Knot

Friday morning, I am feeling overwhelmed by last night’s conversation, so I decide to get grounded in something right in front of me. My poor target was Christine, a girl of about 12 or 14. She is sitting in a wheelchair with useless feet and very busy hands – she is knitting something with some rough yarn. I ask her, what are you doing? No answer, she just darts her eyes and looks away. Okay, leading questions. You must have spun that yarn yourself? Same, but with the very slightest nod of affirmation. In retrospect, I don’t think she’s actually understood me at all.* I ask her if I can watch, and she nods yes, but when I sit down next to her she seems uncomfortable. Someone comes over to her, another kid, and they converse in Acholi. I stand up after a minute. I don’t want to walk away just yet, but I am at a loss. Standing up creates a little more distance, and I try to think of a way to talk without language about our mutual interest in knitting. I watch her hands move, and then she becomes irritated with a pile of tangled red yarn in her lap. She throws it on the ground. Her friend picks it up, tries to tease it apart, and drops it with disinterest after just a moment. She has unwittingly given me just the opening I need. I am expert at untangling knots (and I invite you to bring me your tangled balls of yarn. What patience I lack for other areas of life I make up for in this.) I move to pick up the yarn, asking if it’s okay if I help, and Christine gives me another nod. Was that the ghost of a smile I saw? I wanted to think so, but I never get another one. I begin working at the knot. It is a doozy – five or six separate strands that have been co-mingling for days. Every once in a while, I glance over at Christine. Sometimes she looks at me, sometimes not. Other kids come up to her and talk. A toddler comes around and she shoos him away without missing a stitch. Each time I pull a stand free from the mass of yarn, I wind it around my fingers, leaving a tail in the center of the ball to pull from. I wonder if that’s how she does it, or if she would know to pull from the center; the yarn she is working with is wrapped around a well worn stick-spindle. I place each ball of neatly untangled yarn next to her wheelchair (which, incidentally, was nothing more than a regular chair with wheels attached). We steal glances at one another, each time lingering a little longer, but her expression does not change. I finish the last bit of knot with regret. Christine is busy with her hands. Her small piece of fabric had grown. I pick up the detangled packages of yarn from the ground and hand them to her. She barely looks at me. Thank you, I say. She turns back to her work, and I walk away, wondering, discouraged.

*The kids here in Gulu are raised speaking Acholi and don’t start learning English until primary school, but even so, many kids don’t speak English at all. Most adults use Acholi as their primary language, and it is not spoken regularly at home. Acholi is the first language at the orphanage as well.

Friday morning at breakfast, Ethan and I picked up the thread of a conversation that he had started the day before about the trash here. All the trash – plastic, paper, everything, gets haphazardly dumped into a pit behind the orphanage, where it is burned. It is certainly an eyesore, but it’s also stinky and attracts a lot of pests. Not very healthy, right? So Ethan had the very good idea of starting a compost program. This would ideally get the kids involved in a community improvement project, but it would also be something we could dovetail some good science education with. We were very excited about it and got to work right away. We looked up different methods of composting – open piles wouldn’t work because of animals and evaporation. Wood containers wouldn’t work because of termites. We settled on black plastic barrels that could be modified into good compost bins, and rolled around in the garden behind the orphanage dining hall to take advantage of the compost “tea” that leaches out and is great for the soil. Not only would our fabulous plan cut down on the food waste, but it would reduce the amount of garbage being tossed behind the orphanage.

Right. Ethan very gamely went to inquire about the fate of food waste, and quickly learned that (a) there is very little of it, since they eat much of what we would cut off as undesirable, such as skins and peels and stems, and (b) what food waste that is produced is already composted – by the pigs! Still, it was a terrific idea, and one that we could have gotten off the ground if it had been useful. Ethan didn’t give up, and has already started thinking about a fundraiser he wants to organize when he gets back home.

In the afternoon, Brother Elio picked us up and drove the 800,000 or so kilometers to the farm he bought for the orphanage. He bought it far from town, of course, because that’s where the big plots of land are available. It was all bush before he bought it, and had to be cleared. He has planted cassava, a starchy tuber eaten like potato, corn, beans, onions, sunflowers, and greens. He is also trying to get a bee population growing around the perimeter of the farm, both for honey to sell and as a repellant to monkeys and elephants that might wander through. However, there are three stages to beekeeping according to Brother Elio, and he is only now entering stage two: Stage One is bee-killing, wherein you find a wild hive, break it open, kill all the bees, and get the honey. Stage Two is bee-having, wherein you provide a hive environment, take the honey out without killing the bees, and hope the bees will come back and build another hive. Stage Three is bee-keeping, wherein you create a hive in bee-boxes, pull the honey out of the hive, and do so without disturbing the bees or leaving them homeless.

The farm employs former students from the school, and current students can work the farm between school terms to earn money. Brother Elio values the farm not only as a source of food and income for St. Jude’s, but also a place where the students can learn to farm. Ugandan law forbids any child over the age of 16 to reside in an institution, and most students and orphans have to return to their family village or find a village to live in. If they can’t farm, they can’t survive, even of they intend to continue their schooling and go on to college.

After our long, bumpy trip to the farm, we cooked dinner and had warm beer from the little shop across from the orphanage. (It is an understatement to say that zoning is pretty loose here -good luck getting a liquor license across from a school in the States!). We have been promised a trip to Murchison Falls National Park tomorrow, and we are all hoping it will happen – this is Africa, though, so we know we will just have to wait and see if Stephen will be able to drive us.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Links of Interest

Here is a good summary of the history of the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa. The LRA got its start in Northern Uganda, and something like 100,000 people were abducted and/or slaughtered by these rebels and their recruited (enslaved) child soldiers in Uganda alone. The LRA was finally chased out of this area in 2008, but is still operating in the DRC and Southern Sudan. For more statistics about the LRA’s impact, click here.

Here is a link to a page featuring more links to several Ugandan newspapers.

Here is information about one of the Comboni Missionaries projects – an artists’ fair trade co-operative called Good Samaritans which supports HIV/AIDS patients in the community. The Comboni Mission, based in Cincinnati, supports many Catholic relief projects here. There are many, many sources of foreign aid here, NGO and government sponsored. The UN World Food Program and UNICEF are here also.

Here is a link to a website for Lacor Hospital.

If you’re planning a tour of Uganda and you’d like it to be a tad fancy, check this out.

Here is a great place to visit: Murchison Falls National Park

If you like your Uganda information presented more covertly.

If you like to read about Uganda with a British flair.

If you’d just like to pretend that the last 100 years never happened.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Murchison Falls National Park

Saturday arrived, and Stephen was going to be picking us up in the old ambulance to take us to Murchison. He didn’t get to the orphanage until around 1:00 pm, and in the meantime, we played with the kids. We had brought frisbees, inflatable beach balls, and jump ropes, and as soon as I walked out of the room with them, the children descended on me and the toys disappeared with shouts of great joy. I wish we could have brought more.

Stephen arrived, and we all packed into the ambulance. (Should we have been concerned that we were taking the ambulance as a precautionary measure?) The roads for the two hour drive were all dirt and very rutted except for one inexplicable patch of asphalt about 50 yards long. We paid our entry fee, and were rewarded with sighting a herd of giraffes within about 20 minutes. I will get some pictures up just as soon as I can. We also saw Uganda Kobs (the national animal), water buffalo and warthogs – how funny they are with their fierce tusks being trailed by their tiny tails up in the air like kittens! About one hour through the park, we started seeing long views of the Nile River (did you hear the note of nonchalance in my voice?) Then, suddenly, we passed through another gate, and there it was before us. We tried to get a boat tour up to the Falls where the Nile begins, but we were too late, so we made arrangements for a place to sleep and booked a guide to take us on a game drive the next morning. We were glad to be out of the ambulance, and we got out and walked around and had some peanut butter and crackers. Someone made the mistake of leaving the back of the ambulance open, and a baboon who was keeping an eye on us made away with a bag of cookies. No humans were successful in chasing them down, and we never saw them again. After the baboon caper, we went to the fancy hotel to get a couple of beers in the bar overlooking the Nile. No one wanted to spend $20 for the dinner buffet, and Stephen and Ethan went out to find something for us to eat. They came back with goat chapatis – goat simmered in sauce and then folded into flatbread. I’ll tell you, it was the best goat I have ever had, and the best meal that I’ve had here.

We slept in a hostel which consisted of four bunks to a room and no toilets. It was very . . . natural. We woke up Sunday morning early, just after five, ready to seize the day and see some lions, elephants, and hippos. We forgot we were in Africa, though, and things did not work out precisely according to our plan. On the way down to the gate to meet the guide, we nearly hit two hippos crossing the road*. We were all pretty excited about that, but we suddenly became aware of a noise we couldn’t identify coming from under the ambulance. Stephen knew what it was, though. We had a flat tire. We pulled over in the entrance to the hotel, and Stephen got to work on it. He found the jack, assigned Max and Ethan to help get the tire off the roof for him. (No one was injured). Stephen creaked the ancient jack, and up went the back of the ambulance. He changed the tire, but then we couldn’t get the jack back down. It was decided that Stephen would drive off of the jack. Everyone stood back, Stephen ground it into gear, and the jack settled politely on the ground as the ambulance came crashing down on . . . a flat tire. The spare was flat. We all saw our dreams of lions and elephants dissolving into the sunrise. But Stephen was unperturbed, and immediately went under the ambulance to loosen the extra spare. We cheered when he drove off the jack the second time. We were back in business! Our guide James showed up a little peeved, thinking we were lingering over a fancy breakfast at the hotel, but soon we were on our way, only an hour behind schedule.

We drove around for a long time, Stephen behind the wheel and James looking for signs of a lion. We finally found one lying next to a bush. We got so close, as the pictures will attest. He looked at us with his beautiful eyes, but he could have cared less. As we took in the sight of the enormous head, the scrubby mane, and the black-tipped tail, we noticed that he was injured – he was missing part of a rear leg. James explained that he had gotten into some wire a few years ago and nearly died. The park vet tranquilized him (just like Wild Kingdom!) and they amputated the injured leg. This lion, James said, is very strong. He is part of a pride, and has a mate and a couple of cubs. He was the only lion we saw – sorry, no cubs, Eleanor.

We then decided to go looking for elephants. We saw three or four herds of them once we found the first herd, closer to the river, and then we went to see the hippos lounging in the river. Along the way, we saw many more Kobs and warthogs, more giraffe herds, waterbacks, baboons, monkeys in the trees, and lots of birds – kingfishers and cattle egret mostly, and a few pelicans and vultures. We did not see any crested cranes.

After the safari, it was time to head back to Gulu. We were all quiet and hot and hungry, having not had more than nuts and granola bars since the goat chapatis, and we went into town for a cheeseburger at the Coffee Hut right away. After that, we were spent. A few of us took naps, and we ate a simple dinner of pasta and tuna later on, and went back to bed, probably dreaming of peaceful herds of elephants waving their ears in the heat.

*Why did the hippo cross the road? It was duct-taped to the chicken.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Yes, Malaria

We were told when we arrived by brother Elio that a one-year old had died just a few weeks ago at the orphanage from what was suspected to be a combination of HIV and malaria. On Thursday, another volunteer from northern Italy, Lidiana, started feeling badly, and she was diagnosed the next day with malaria and given medicine for it. (She is better already). Florence, the head mother at the orphanage, has it right now, and is still going to work. Brother Elio has it right now too, and he is still out and about (although I think it would take a big train to stop Brother Elio).

Malaria is an interesting disease and one that I didn’t understand at all when I came. It is a parasite that attacks the red blood cells, and humans can build immunity to it – which is why children are more likely to die from it than adults. Not everyone dies from it. Symptoms are flu-like.

We were all very worried when Lidiana came down with it, since she is taking a prophylactic. However, we are all absolutely fine, sleep under mosquito nets, douse ourselves several times a day with DEET, and take our medicine every morning. No worries!

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Loose Ends

I had a moment alone and was sitting in a chair in our guest house reading. It was very quiet. Something caught my attention out the window – a woman, dressed in a burgundy uniform, carrying a rifle. She was creeping around, trying to be as quiet as she could. A minute later, she circled around the back fence of the orphanage. I breathed a sigh of relief when one of the mothers seemed to notice her and move on with her activity, unperturbed, but then I thought maybe she was just trying to play it cool so this person wouldn’t trouble her. Sharon came back a moment later, and of course the woman was gone, and I began to think that I had imagined it. Later, when we came back to the orphanage after being out with Brother Elio, the woman was standing inside the gate, chatting one of the workers, and casually leaning on her rifle. Brother Elio said the woman was employed by the orphanage for security. They had a male security guard, but he raped one of the girls living at Consolation Home. He was arrested and prosecuted, but the girl was sent back to her family. She wasn’t living at Consolation Home because she was disabled; she was there as a sibling caregiver. Sibling caregivers provide support for the disabled student, help the staff, and most importantly, learn how to care for their disabled family member so that when the student returns home at 16 (Ugandan law requires this), he or she can still be properly cared for.

I never did learn the girl’s name; her sister was Christine.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Small Rocks and Small Loans

Monday morning, Sharon, Max, Adam and I met with Julius, the director of the orphanage. Julius is a Ugandan who was recently hired to run the day to day operation, freeing up Brother Elio somewhat. We had an impromptu board meeting after that and discussed various projects that we might want to encourage or fund – flouride treatments, a visiting nurse, or hiring someone educated in early childhood development to train the “mothers” – the women who live here at the orphanage and look after the kids when they aren’t in school.

After we met, we went into Gulu for more supplies. We hire boda-bodas to get into town – small motorcycles. The first time, I was wearing a skirt and had to ride side-saddle, which was very thrilling. On the way back, Sharon came with me to look into a business I noticed on the way into town: The Centre for Reparation and Rehabilitation. The program manager, Simon Ogen, talked to us for quite a while. Most of their cases are pro bono, and involve mediating land disputes. (When the LRA was active in this area, citizens were moved into refugee camps called Internally Displaced Persons camps. this was ostensibly for their own protection, but people were routinely abducted from them in large groups. When the LRA moved towards DRC, the Ugandan government told everyone they had to get out of the camps and go home. Naturally, land ownership disputes arose). Other cases include assisting women domestic abuse situations and child neglect cases. There is a great deal of corruption in the legal system here, especially at the local level, and people don’t trust it or understand it. Simon is also working on improving access to justice by building awareness, educating people, and literally providing access to the tribunals here by picking people up in his mobile legal aid clinic – a truck – and driving them where they need to be.

In the afternoon, Brother Elio drove us over to Good Samaritans, the art co-op that employs and supports HIV/AIDS patients. After shopping, we were slammed back into reality by visiting a house that Brother Elio is building for a for Christopher, who used to work for him making bricks. Bricks are formed by hand, and then ingeniously stacked into a chimney shape. Then, fires are built inside the chimney to comp,complete the process. After the bricks are fired, they are removed from the chimney structure as needed. Christopher was firing bricks with another man and they were carrying a load of wood. The other man dropped his end, and the wood fractured Christopher’s skull, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. His wife left him immediately, but didn’t take their two daughters; now they take care of him and go to school as well. His uncle, who is a local official, sold all his land out from under him because it was assumed he would die, then blew the money on liquor. Christopher and his daughters live in a couple of the round, thatch-roofed huts made of bricks, and they will be moving to their new house in a month or so. Christopher was able to get some corrective surgery and now has the use of his arms. He wants to start a kerosene business to support his family, and he could do this comfortably with 500,000 Ugandan Shillings – about $200. Microlending is starting to take off here, so hopefully he will find some seed money.

After that, as if it wasn’t enough, Brother Elio took us to what he referred to as Dante’s Inferno – a quarry where the rocks are cut out of the ground by the men and turned into gravel BY HAND by the women. This quarry is populated by hundreds of women with their children in tow, sitting before piles of rock shards in various sizes, pounding away at them with mallets. (Budding filmmakers: Breaking Away, Part 2?). However, this is a well-paying job.

Survival is in increments.

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Tuesday – last day

We went over to the hospital and met the director, Dr. Martin. Adam was able to spend some time shadowing a doctor for most of the morning, and I think he is hoping to come back here during medical school and do a rotation in infectious diseases. We met Brother Elio again and went out to run errands with him. He was looking for a part for one of the trucks, and let me tell you, there isn’t a shop you walk into with a part number! We went to three junk yards before he found what he was looking for. Then we went over to the Comboni Mission for Northern Uganda, saw the beautiful grounds, and toured the technical school, where stide ts learn woodworking, metalworking, and auto mechanics. After that, we came back to the orphanage to make lunch. We went back to Lacor, had a Coke at one of the stalls, walked through the Lacor market, and then Brother Elio drove us to the beautiful seminary so Sharon could take pictures. On the way, we drove by a small section of a former IDP camp. The graves are nestled in between the tiny huts, and children play on them. Most of the camps were leveled, and only a few bits and pieces remain.

After that, we saw Sharon’s friend Florence. Sharon met her in 2000 when Florence was just 15 and living at the orphanage. Florence was able to go to school, and works in the labs at Lacor. She has a son, Giovanni, who is three. Last night, it rained, and Brother Elio offered to take us back in the truck. Before he did, he fed us: tuna packed in olive oil, bread with more olive oil, a hard boiled egg, and plain boiled beans. I would advise anyone thinking about doing any humanitarian work anywhere to find an Italian mission to associate with!

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011


Now it is Wednesday morning, and we are packing to leave. Sharon fried some bananas for breakfast and asked me if I had written anything about how magical and satisfying it was to live with her for 10 days straight without a break. I told her I would. We are keeping the duct tape close at hand for any emergencies (we have used it since trying to fix the screen, but I haven’t been able to upload more pictures yet – I will do that when we get back home.) I am ready to come home, but also sad to leave. I was just getting to know this place. My eyes are full and need to see home, but even though my heart is heavy, I am so very happy to have been here.

See you all soon. We’ll be back, if our flights are on time, around 5pm Thursday. If I don’t have a chance to post anything else, thanks for reading along!

Posted by: Laura Paul | July 22, 2011

Famous Last Words

We arrived home, 36 hours after leaving Gulu in the old ambulance, and we were so glad to see our families! However, I must update the malaria post to report that Max picked up the little parasite, probably when they were traveling in Kenya. He started medication immediately, and is feeling much better already. He will have great story to tell.