Thursday, May 29, 2014

Staying with Hussein Tadesse, One School Ugandan Program Manager

Hussein, his wife Afwa, and his five children (youngest to oldest:  Oman, Marshall, Shamsa, Shiaoban, Firdaus)

Blog post by One School board member, Ken Driese, who is in Uganda working with the program staff there (Hussein and Diana). 

I leave Kampala early Sunday morning for a two-week holiday in Namibia before returning to the U.S.  It’s been a whirlwind.  After a week working from the field office in Kassanda (a couple of hours from Kampala—see previous post), we returned to Hussein’s house and have been busy with a series of meetings and activities about One School programs, planning, and philosophy.  I’ve learned a lot from Hussein, Diana, and the very strong Ugandan Board. 

One  School employee, Diana, working in the office at Hussein’s house.

I’m staying with Hussein, in a house that serves as his family home, the One School Kampala office, and guest quarters for those of us that visit from the U.S..  Hussein and his family are remarkable hosts, and I feel guilty about being waited on hand and foot with little recourse!  Even my laundry is cleaned almost daily, which is helpful, since I didn’t bring many clothes. 

Photo taken at the local market, while shopping with Hussein. 

Hussein has five children.  I will undoubtedly butcher the spelling of their names here, so forgive me, Hussein, as you read this!  The eldest (Firdaus) is in boarding school for the term, and won’t return home until late August (summer doesn’t have the same meaning here on the equator as it does in the U.S.).  The next two (Shamsha and Shiaoban) are gone most of the day at school—they leave the house not long after 7 a.m. and don’t return until close to 5.  The other two, Marshall Rosenberg (3) (named after the man who developed the Non-Violent Communication philosophy that Hussein is studying), and Oman (1) (means “peace”) are home, though Marshall would normally be at school during the week—he’s recovering this week from a burn on his wrist.  Hussein’s wife, Afwa, and their live-in helper, Monika, have their hands full with cooking and caring for the kids, not to mention dealing with a house guest.  In many ways, their quiet support on the home front allows Hussein to do all that he does for One School.

Shopping for Firdaus before dropping her at boarding school for the term.

Mornings and evenings are spent with the family or working in my room.  Shiaoban loves to play a version of Chutes and Ladders with me (called snakes and ladders!), and Marshall loves to follow me around and ask questions or push buttons on my watch, as 3-year-olds are wont to do.  He’s very precocious, and I joke with Hussein that someday he will be president.   

In the mornings I drink my coffee under the avocado tree in the backyard while Afwa makes chapati on the charcoal burner and Monika sweeps the yard.   Interesting birds come and go, and sometimes a few chickens cluck around the yard, puckish.  Hussein and Afwa hope to augment the number of chickens drastically (to 300, and it’s not a big yard!) and sell eggs for profit, but that is a future plan. 

Yesterday, while I peacefully sipped my Peet’s, there was an enormous whoosh as a giant branch from the neighbor’s papaya tree spontaneously broke lose and crashed into their yard, sending the resident dog pack into a tizzy; it’s a different environment here on the equator. 

I’ll have a lot to digest and report after I return home and have more time to write and think, and access to the internet here is inconvenient, so I’ll leave those meatier posts for later in the summer.  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Working at Kassanda

The morning commute, just outside of Kassanda.

Post by One School board member, Ken Driese (writing this!), who is in Uganda visiting partner schools and working with Uganda Program Manager, Hussein Tadesse.  The internet is awkward to access in Uganda, so Ken will post when he gets the chance.  I'd hoped to post more photos with the blog, but the internet is just too slow.  

I’ve been in the field for a week visiting One School partner schools and sleeping at our field office in the small, wild-ish town of Kassanda.  Electricity is on and off even in town, though always on at night, and there isn’t any at the schools, except for small lights powered by solar cells.  Internet is nonexistent (I’m writing this ahead of time in hopes of posting it when I return to Kampala).  At night it seems that most of the electricity in Kassanda is used to power low-fi stereo systems in makeshift bars.  The “movie theater” is a weathered wooden building with a blanket for a door and a large loudspeaker attached to the outside and pointed outwards, presumably to lure you in with the soundtrack of whatever movie is playing. 

The One School field office is a small house on the edge of town, with a separate building for cooking and equipment storage, and a small two-hole outhouse that is literally that, two small rectangular holes in a concrete slab.  Comfortable cots in the bedrooms are draped in mosquito netting, and in the dining room, blue plastic chairs are arranged around a table where we eat rice and beans or beans and rice for dinner, depending on the day.  Breakfast usually includes a chapati and french fries, and always a fried egg and a couple of cups of the Peet’s coffee that I carried from the U.S. in enough quantity to support my habit while I’m here.  The “shower” is a small empty room at the end of the hall leading past the bedrooms, where you fill a washbasin from a yellow plastic jerry can and use a cup to splash yourself with cool water before scrubbing down, rinsing, and drying off.  The water drains through a small hole in the wall into a pipe that disappears beneath the backyard. 

The field routine is simple—wake up between 7 and 8, drink coffee and eat an enormous breakfast, cooked by Pius, who lives at the house and provides security when nobody else is around, or by the cook, Fatuma, who arrived from Kampala a couple of days after we did.  After getting organized for the day, I climb into our hired 4WD car with Hussein, One School’s Uganda program manager, and the other Hussein, our driver, to head out to one of the partner schools in the area.  The drives are on rough, narrow dirt roads busy with minivans (with names like Swaggerific), motorcycles, bikes, and people on foot, all carrying huge loads either lashed to their conveyance or on their heads.   We pass small family farms with fields of corn, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, ramshackle stores, and we drive through water where the road dips down to the level of swamps filled with papyrus where you can sometimes see magnificent crested cranes, which also appear on the Ugandan flag. 

Breakfast at the field office is not to be taken lightly!

One School is now working with five schools scattered about the area within about 10 km of Kassanda:  Kyamulinga, Kukanga, Bbinikila, Kassanda Boarding Primary, and Kassanda Boarding Secondary (this last one is not a full partner yet).  At each school sign the official guest register, meet with the school heads, teachers, and sometimes with board members, tour the grounds, and ask questions about the projects that the schools have initiated.

The students sneak looks from their classrooms at the muzungu (white person, charitably speaking) in their midst, or if they are between classes or on break, try to get a better look without getting TOO close.  My digital camera is a temptation, and soon they gather around, laughing at the apparently hilarious pictures of themselves in the LCD screen.  

It’s the kids that make it the most fun to be in the field, and of course they are the reason that One School at a Time is here. 

Two girls at the Kukanga School.