Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Historic Sunday in the South East Africa Area . . .

We got up this morning anxious to go to church. Today was special, no it was history in the making. It was the first time that the members in Uganda would see and listen to a General Conference of our church. Today, all over our region, from Zimbabwe to Ethiopia members were gathering to take part in this historical event. Imagine, every stake, ward and little branch had a TV and a DVD player and were gathering to listen to the prophet speak and for most it was the first time they would see the prophet and not just know him by a picture.

When we arrived at our ward the people were greeting each other, happy to be together and sharing this experience. Our 4 missionaries in our ward were there with investigators in tow and were welcoming everyone. They knew they were having a historical mission experience.
(Elder Andika (Kenya), Elder Amott (Smithfield, UT), Elder Glad (New Jersey) and Elder MacMillan (So. Africa). Very special Elders.) 
We watched the first session. There were many small children in the group but they sat quietly through the full two hours.  - 87 people came to experience this conference.

There was to be a 30 minute break between sessions so we went out into the church yard. After sitting so quiet the children needed a little run and a cookie before they sat through the second session.

We first thought we probably ought to feed everyone lunch between sessions and then realized that if you only eat one meal a day lunch is not a necessity. So we brought cookies and shared them with the children who had not brought a snack with them.

Just as we started the second session the power went out. We waited while they sent someone to get a generator but before they returned the power came back on.

As we listened to the second session we realized that all the talks gave us great comfort. Life is a gift. There are no guarantees and life does bring pain and sorrow but also gives great joy and comfort; sometimes from the same experience. It is all perspective and how much we trust in our Father in Heaven; and how much we rely on our Savior and his great gift.

Doreen, a member of the Young Women’s group in our ward came up to me and showed me her Conference Notebook. Last week I had given each Young Woman a copy of the “Conference Notebook” that Carrie had sent to me. It is a booklet that you write your thoughts and feelings in about conference. There is room to take notes on all the talks and several pre- conference activities to help you get ready to listen. I had noticed several of the young women but none of them had their notebook with them. Then Doreen came up and showed me she had been using her notebook while she watched both sessions. I was so pleased.
I had a chance to meet her mom and I asked her if she was doing personal progress with Doreen. She said no so I took the opportunity to explain to her how good it would be if they worked together on personal progress and experienced the program together.

What a great day! We were really feeling the Spirit and were so glad we could be part of this experience.

As we were leaving the bishop asked if we could help Godfrey get home with his generator. As we were the only car that comes to church it was pretty obvious who was going to help Godfrey.
The Bishop said, “Elder Barlow, it is right on your way so it should not be any problem.” Farrell and Godfrey loaded the generator in the truck with help from the missionaries and we headed out. Now most people don’t drive in Uganda so when they give you directions they are talking from a WALKING perspective. They wait till you are in an intersection before they tell you to turn and have no concept of the difference between a road and a trail.

We started down the road we usually take to go home and then Godfrey had us take a few turns and then a few more. The road got worse at each turn till we were in a rutted trail. Actually we felt quite at home as if we were in the Congo. We were in to the community
(hunger - survival)
and the sights, smells and sounds were right there, we could reach out and touch them through our open windows.
(The Butcher Shop)
We got Godfrey and the generator to his home. The road was so narrow there was only room for one way traffic and impossible to turn around but Godfrey told us to just keep going straight and we would hit the Clock Tower roundabout. Ah. . . we know the Clock Tower roundabout so we were in good shape.

We went straight and kept going straight till we hit a T in the road. No clock tower was in sight. We asked directions and as one man started explaining his ideas another man with great authority told us to go straight and then make a right turn and then when you hit the bridge don’t’ go over it turn right again and then you will reach the Clock Tower. So we followed directions and passed a lovely little church among the shacks and food stalls. We continued on and then we saw the same lovely little church again and the same butcher shop and knew we were really lost.
Now this trek was difficult and we about took out our oil pan twice and on each side of this trail was a big drainage ditch.
So not only did we have to navigate the pot holes but we had no leeway on the sides. We finally saw a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) and asked him how to get to the Clock tower. One of is passengers jumped off and said, “I’m going that way. I’ll show you.” He jumped in the back seat and had us turn around (huh? Turn around where?)
All things are possible.  We got turned around and it wasn’t long before we were at the clock tower.  We were so happy to find a familiar landmark we didn't get a picture of it.   It was only 2 hours since we left the church to haul Godfrey and the generator to his house.  We made it  home, safe and sound.
So there you have it - a very historical Sunday in Uganda.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

From the Clan of Mamba

Another spring trek this week.  Well when you have over a hundred springs you got to go see a few.  Farrell always says  "You seldom get what you expect but you usually get what you inspect."  I think he learned that from Earl Holdiing of Sinclair Oil but he is sure it will work here also.

Not much different from our earlier trek except we did find some springs that the community was failing to care for and allowing water to backup and puddle at the spring site.  They should dig a ditch away from the site to channel the runoff back to the stream.
At another spring they had turned the water into the spring before the cement had dried and the cement was washed away. They will have to lay down more cement.  Our contractor will work with them to solve the problems.
At the first spring we met Francis Nsubuga Ntanda the clan leader of the Mamba clan.  This is also our contractor Eddi's clan.
Ntanda was very gracious,dignified and appreciative of having a spring for his people.  His wife was there also.  She was very bashful but was eager to shake our hands and when she shook my hand she knelt and bowed.  This was a little unsettleing but just a custom that is hard to get use to.
On their property were three buildings.  The brick house which was made from the mud (or dung) from the large ant hills that dot the area.
and two out buildings.  One had a fire in it and then this little thatched roof building.. 
We wondered why it had windows drawn on the sides with charcoal.  We were told that this is where the windows will be when he can afford to buy and install them.
Now Ntanda was so taken with Farrell and me he decided to make us members of the Mamba clan.
He can do that since he is the leader.  He named me NAMUTEBI and Farrell he named MUBIRY.  Not sure what my name means but Farrell's means problem solver or the guy you send in to confound the enemy, take yor pick.
Mama was trying so hard to stay in the back ground while papa was acting very chief like.
I gave mama 2 suckers I had in my purse.  She was so happy she nearly turned inside out.  She immediately unwrapped one and stuck it in her mouth.
We thanked him for making us clan members and said our goodbyes.  As we were pulling out mamma went into the house and came out with a huge pineapple.  She wanted to give me a gift since I had given her one.  I think I won on that deal.

Two of the spring workers were showing us around the springs on a motorcycle.  Guides are necessary as the forest or maybe it is more like a jungle is very dense and the roads are very narrow, more like a trail.Their tire went flat and we  had to put the cycle in the back of the truck and take it to one of the larger villages where it could get repaired. 
As we finished seeing spring number 4 the rain came.  We decided it was best to get off the mountain dirt roads and head home.  Ssembwa was drivng and he wandered around down the mountain and we ended up out on the shore of Lake Victoria.  I had said I had not seen a lake since we got to Kampala and that was rather strange since the map shows numerous lakes all around Kampala.  Ssembwa decided I needed to see a lake even if it was raining cats and dogs.
As long as we were at the lake Eddi and Ssembwa decided they needed to buy some fish (the real reason for going to the lake.  They stopped at a stand and asked prices on fish requiring the seller to walk up to the car in the rain and negotiate.  They weren't satisfied with the price or the fish we weren't sure which.  We finally stopped again
The man came out with two big black shopping bags that held 8 k of fish.  He placed them in the back of the truck.   They said they were little fish (with a funny name) about the size of your thumb.  They boiled them and fed them to the children because they were so nutritious.  We asked if the kids liked them and they said of course, they are good for them.
We had a long trek home and it rained all the way.  Traffic into Kampala was stop and go and we ended up taking a back route that brought us right to our apartment.  We went to get the fish out of the back and the bag had broken and their were little fish all over the back of the truck.  It is still raining hard and Ssembwa is up in the back of the truck trying to collect his little fishes.  He guaranteed us that he got them all but we noticed the next day that the man who washes the truck for us had pulled the cover off of the bed and was washing every inch of the truck bed.  It must have smelled bad.
Another day of life in Uganda.  Hey, we're Mamba clan. Ha! 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring is in the air but in Uganda we are talking a different kind of SPRING

I know, I know, I just talked about clean water here in Uganda; about boreholes and the blessing of pure water but there is more to the story.

We had not seen the protected spring projects yet so we took a little tour with our contractor, Eddy Mutebi, and our site monitor, Ssinbwa Busulwa, to look at five of the springs they have developed (only 5 of 60 that they are constructing).  Ssinbwa was elated when Farrell asked him if he would like to drive our truck. These springs are deep into the bush and the roads are not roads but walking trails. Farrell was elated when Ssinbwa jumped at the chance. I’m sure it was no reflection on Farrell’s ability to drive here on the wrong side of the road and Ssimbwa’s desire to have a little control over his destiny.

People usually gather water early in the morning or late in the evening. They often have to walk a great distance hauling water back up the hill to their home. The water source is often a small water hole or a natural ditch runoff or maybe a small swampy pond. The source is always clouded with dirt and bacteria and the shallowness of the source makes it difficult to fill a container.

The concept of a protected spring is quite simple but it takes a good contractor to do the job right. In the area around Kampala you can find many springs on a hillside. You can stand on the hill and spot water seeping down the hill coming from many directions.

The idea is to build a cement wall up against the hill much like a retaining wall cementing two to three, 2 inch PVC pipes into the wall. A metal pipe is secured like a sleeve over the PVC to secure and protect it. You build steps on the sides of this wall leading down to the pipes and lay a layer of cement, gravel or even tile at the base of the wall for water to splash onto to prevent erosion and to provide a clean area for collecting water. Once the wall is built you dig out the hill behind the wall, lay down a layer of clay as an impermeable layer. Then you lay a stack of small gravel up against the hill, then larger rock up to the cement wall.
You cover this catchment basin over with a sheet or polyurethane then dirt and vegetation; you then build a fence around the catch basin area to keep people from walking on it and packing the soil down. The springs feed water down to the catchment basin and gravity pulls it down to the cement wall barrier and on out through the pipes. The water has been virtually filtered by the layer of rock and clear, clean water is the results. So where people have been laying their jerrycan down in a stream or pool of dirty water they now can fill cans readily via the developed springs.

The best part of this story is actually seeing what use to be and what is now. It was amazing to see what a beautiful water site people have now to get their water.

Namungogna Protected Springs gives 80 liters in 40 sec. per pipe

When our contractor, Union of Community Development Volunteers - Uganda started to develop the spring they had quite an audience. It seems the UK, USA, and other international NGOs (nongovernmental org.) had tried to develop this spring and had failed. They all showed up at the worksite everyday taking notes and learning how to develop a successful protected spring. The villagers said the others had not been successful because of the forest gods from above the site had confounded their work.
The worksite was a day of celebration everyday of construction as the community turned out in mass to watch the project.

Eddy Mutebi is our contractor and execute director of the UCDV

At one of the springs there is the Bugolo Junior School where a rainwater catchment system was installed.  They placed rain gutter around the school and channeled it to a large tank.  The latrines were redone and water was diverted to the latrines to supply a washing station for the children.  The project including the improvement of 15 schools..
The school grounds were clean and the rail fence was painted with health suggestions.
The head mistress of the school was so grateful for all the work and it was obvious she was trying to help the school live up to the upgrade they were given.

More spring
mamma needs the water now
boys stole her cork and she had to chase them down to get it.
got to have the cork in the hole so it doesn't splash
banana - cork - what ever it works
about 30 pounds on my head
I am really good at this!
It's his job to get the water
It takes a lot of containers when you're small and can't lift those sixty pounders
working that hard you may need a little treat for your efforts
A sucker makes it seem a lot easier.
Right in the center - look hard - you can see the spring
Clean water captured from a spring running right through the center of the housing!
As we finished our tour for the day we were walking back to our truck and Farrell went to jump over some mud landing on some debri which gave away and his shoe sunk in to the not so pleasant smelling goo. Ssimbwa said, “Don’t worry Elder Barlow, it probably isn’t sewage.” (even if it smelled like it.) Eddy Mutebi,execute director of UCDV immediately went to a near by lady washing clothes got a bucket of water and a cloth, knelt down in the dirt and washed Elder Barlow’s shoe. It was such a tender gesture.  We were so overwhelmed we didn't take a picture.
On the ride back we passed the rice paddies
and papyrus growing on the side of the road

Ssimbwa said this was the Lake Road - very expensive frontage property.
Such a nice lake that this guy decided to stop and wash his bodaboda.
- and these guys their truck.
What a great day.  We now have a better idea of the value of these 60 springs that are being constructed.  Eddy Mutebi is a returned missionary who has a great vision.  He has a skilled,knowlegeable crew, a solid company and they are having great success.  We are in awe of this work. 
We say it again . . . Clean Water is Life!