Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving Week Uganda-style

Took this photo from the back of
the boda-boda as we were racing off.
But somehow I missed photographing
the elephants and giraffes I saw...
I love Thanksgiving. I like the food, the nice-though-possibly-historically-questionable story of Squanto and the pilgrims, hanging out with family, and official (in my mind) beginning of Christmastime. Usually, however, I’m not in the US, not with family, and not eating traditional Thanksgiving food, and this year was no different. Though, I generally try to at least make something out of pumpkin (I have some in my freezer, which I’ll use when I get back to Chad). This year, I wasn’t in hotels that I could talk into letting me use their kitchens, and even if I had been, there is too much involved in pumpkin foods that would not have been available there anyway. So my Thanksgiving meal was Ugandan chicken stew, chapatis, a neon green apple-flavored Miranda soda, and later that night—mangos. Let’s be honest, would I have preferred to eat turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce (the jellied, completely unhealthy kind from the can without berries), and several kinds of pie, followed by watching all the new Gilmore Girls episodes with both of my sisters, wearing all their clothes and using all their blankets (their houses are always too cold for me). The answer is…probably. I missed my family (and I really missed the food), but I had a pretty good Thanksgiving week, and I got to spend it with people who feel like family.

Thanksgiving meal
 With the influx of South Sudanese refugees into Uganda (nearly 3000 per day in recent estimates), Neverthirst is looking into supporting the relief efforts in northern Uganda. So, as Africa Programs Directrice, I last-minute planned a trip out to visit our local partners on the ground, worrying them with my spontaneity, though everything worked out fine, as it always does. I was also especially happy to be re-united with Repent and his family, who fled South Sudan and are now living in Arua, more on that later. (Note: I’m going to throw out names of Ugandan towns like you should know where they are, and you SHOULD. Get a map.)

I arrived in Entebbe at 1am, waiting an additional 30 minutes for my one bag to slowly tip off the conveyor belt. Good news, friends: Uganda has reduced its visa price back to 50USD! Last time I was here it was 100USD. I didn’t know it was possible to reduce visa prices, but I am ALL for it. I shuffled off to the hotel that I usually stay in and slept for a few hours. Later that morning, I headed to Kampala, where I would meet up with Asiki and bus it to Koboko (about a 7.5 hour drive).

With Asiki on the bus,
eye bags courtesy of
inter-Africa travel
 Adventures in Uganda started out with a bang. Though we arrived at the station on time, we couldn’t get a hold of Asiki, and we watched our bus slowly glide out of the station before we saw Asiki, standing right there, not answering his phone to tell us that he was there. We’d already looked for him and couldn’t find him. So as we are hugging and greeting each other, our bus is driving away, and he is totally unconcerned about it. It turns out, he had no reason worry.

Apparently, enterprising young men on motorcycles (we call them boda-bodas here in Uganda and South Sudan) hang around bus stations for just such cases as this. “Hop on,” they said, “We’ll catch the bus.” So we did. I tried to get on side-saddle because I have a slight aversion to straddling a man that I don’t know, but they said, “Ride like a man!”, which turned out the be the right call as we sped through town, trying to catch up. Spoiler alert: we did.

Goat bike bag. So handy.
Get one in Uganda.
We smushed into our seats on the bus (Asiki is a large man), and settled in for the long, slightly sweaty trip. Besides getting to catch up with Asiki, the highlights were seeing a large bull elephant lumbering by the roadside (no photos because my phone was buried deep), and hearing Toto blared over the bus loudspeaker. I mean, it is important to realize that there are some African radio stations that will play that song, though it wasn’t actually raining down in our part of Africa at the time.

Yup, we are Family.
The next few days were fairly filled with work, and I’ll attach some of the photos. We were mostly in a town called Yumbe, as well as Koboko. Our partners are doing assessments of the water and sanitation situation in Yumbe, and I went to visit some local officials and see a bit of the area. Truthfully, I found myself on the verge of tears for much of the time. I spent some time just with Repent at the beginning of my time there and heard his stories of escaping South Sudan. The time his car was hijacked on the Juba-Yei road (where I traveled a few months earlier to the great concern of my boss), and the man in their group who did not have any money to give was shot in the head right in front of them, his blood splashing on Repent. Later, as Repent realized that the situation was too dangerous for him and his family to stay, he used the rest of his money to hire a car to take his family and their main belongings to Uganda. As they were leaving, they were caught in an ambush by Dinka soldiers who have been on the war path for Equatorians (including Repent and his family). Repent said that he made eye-contact with one of the soldiers, but somehow they let them pass. The cars in front and behind them weren’t so lucky. If you were praying for his family during this time (I may have hassled some people to do this), he thanks you, and believes that God chose to protect his family because of the prayers of the Church.

Home school in Uganda
As I heard Repent’s stories, my heart ached for what he had been through, but I’m also fiercely proud of the decisions that he has made for his family throughout all of this. When he decided to leave, his neighbors suggested for him to just run to the jungles with them, but knowing that he was not familiar with those jungles, as he was with the ones around Mundri, he decided to leave. Sadly, when the UNHCR brought them into the camp, they refused to transfer the things that they had brought with them, requiring them to leave them in a designated area where they could return for them later. Those things were all stolen. Another brave decision he made was while waiting in the camp, where they stayed for a little over a month. He realized that he was really struggling with witnessing the brutal murder of the man in the car hijacking. Knowing that he needed help, he went to a pastor, also staying in the camp and asked for prayer. That helped him to heal, and he is doing much better now. Finally, he decided to use his salary to move his family out of the camp. He moved to Arua, where our biosand filter partner, Loguya, helped him find an affordable house. Before leaving the camp, he informed the director of his decision, so he is still eligible to receive help as a refugee, even though he is now living in town. If he had just disappeared, he might have lost this benefit. He also set up classes for his children and his wife to help them learn English so that they can join the school system in 2017. He’s pretty great.

Camp--look way back and you can see tents all the way to
the horizon. Grass in front is being mowed to fit in more tents.
 Driving around Yumbe and Koboko, some places are filled with tents, as far as you can see. These tents are filled with South Sudanese refugees, who left behind everything they know just for a chance to survive. They are surviving in these camps, but camp-life is interminably boring. There is no work. There is no way to get work. There are lines to wait in for daily food rations that aren’t enough to fill up hungry bellies or medicines that aren’t enough to fully heal recurring illnesses like malaria or water borne diseases, likely contracted from poor sanitation. Lucky people might be near one of the hastily-constructed water points, but most are not. In these cases, they might spend their days searching for water, which might be enough to drink but not to bathe. NGOs are working to set up schools, and some are up and running, but there is not much else for people to look forward to.

Chairperson Aziz Aluma. This is a leader-
working hard for his people, generous
to neighbors in need, not in it for the glory.
If we had politicians like this, I might actually
try to find my voter's registration card.
Other places are being razed to make room for more tents and shelters that are coming soon to meet the needs of people that keep pouring in. It turns out, according to the chairperson of Keruwa Sub-county, the local population agreed to give this land to the South Sudanese refugees. Just to GIVE it to them. For FREE. Pretty impressive, huh? In his words, “They let us come in back in 1986 when there was fighting in our country. And many of us stayed for around 6 years or so. We want to do the same for them.” He also admitted that they are hopeful that NGO presence in their area will bring more infrastructure to their region, which is not as developed as other parts of the country. Apparently, most of their current hand pumps and many of their government buildings were built back in 1993 and 2007 during previous refugee relief programs. For this part of the country, where only 3 out of 10 families have access to clean water, there is need for some outside help. As NGOs prepare to help thousands of refugees, locals hope that their needs won’t be overlooked.

Water source that Ugandans are using.
They are hoping that the nearby camp will
rate a hand pump that they can share.
Some locals are actually pretending to be refugees
so that they can get access to some of the things
that refugees are getting. It's not a great idea,
but it's not a crazy one either.

 After spending a few days driving around refugee camps and local host communities, I went back to Koboko with Repent and Loguya to visit the biosand filter project. This project helps to provide filters to refugees and host communities. And I always enjoy hanging out with Repent and Loguya. We come from a breed that doesn’t worry too much about safety standards. Last we were together in Morobo, we squished 3 to a motorcycle to drive around to project sites. We did that again in Koboko, but mixed things up a bit riding in the back of a truck with the filters. Some people run 10k races on Thanskgiving, I rode in a truck and then walked around for two hours from house to house installing filters. Got a nice little chacos tan on my feet. Then, in true Thanksgiving fashion, I ate too much for dinner. It differed in that I ate mangos instead of turkey and pie, but that stuffed feeling was there without the background noise of a football game that I don’t care much about. So basically a win.

Riding in the truck.

Repent and Loguya joined me.

Robin and Victor installing filters.
Robin really liked it when I told him the
story of Robin Hood.

The first house where we installed a filter.
Beautiful view, lovely South Sudanese refugee family.

Thanksgiving pre-feast walk. Somewhere around here
Repent told me he was hungry, and we tried to finish up
so he could get some food...

About half of the family who will drink from this filter.

The family dog came with this family all the way from Yei.
That is loyalty.

Hey-I stopped working and just played with the kids.

Rose Nyoka is a woman who is going to succeed
no matter what. She and her family fled the fighting in Yei.
She then registered as a refugee, but rented this house outside
the camp where she has started a small shop, selling whatever she can.
She and her family were cheerful and hard-working. Super-excited about their
filter. It says a lot when people realize the importance of clean water and
are willing to pay a small (to us, not to them) amount to get it.
Rose was mad that her sister got the guys to install the filter in her kitchen.
She wanted it in the sitting room so people would see it. 

3 on a motorcycle. Just like old times in SS.

Thanksgiving meal in Uganda with Family.
Good food. Especially Repent liked it because he was really hungry.

After I had almost finished the meal, I saw this bug.
And the thing is, I had not ordered bugs for dinner--
you could, but I had ordered chicken.
I push this guy off to the side and ate the food that I ordered.

The school where Kambagiri Foundation is building
biosand filters has many signs like this all around.
Life lessons on plaques.
I have yet to 'think twice before acting' or 'promote patriotism.'
I also take pleasure in breaking school rules and regulations.

I also avoid the monotony of safety,
if at all possible.

This one, I got down though.
Check mark for me.

Mango Thanksgiving

My last day in the north, I decided to spend with Loguya and Repent’s families. I got to meet Loguya’s wife and adorable mischievous youngest child and forget to take photos. Then I spent the rest of the day with Repent and Joy. They were so excited to make lunch for me. Joy made my very favorite South Sudanese dishes—peanut butter greens and beef stewed in a tomato sauce served with the blob, aka aseeda aka posho aka ugali aka linya. I stuffed myself again, and it was a nice Thanksgiving 2, even though there were no leftovers. It was especially great to see where Repent is living and hang out with his kids again.

Me and Halina.
Still BFF and E and E and E.

Joy's amazing cooking. So good.

Oliver had an earache and he kept moaning.
But he let me rock him to sleep. Sweet boy.

Family photo sans Oliver.
I had just got him to sleep!

I carried Halina most of the way to the store,
and I nearly died. Glad she was a lot smaller
last year in May.

After lunch, I took them to a nearby supermarket with the idea that I would buy them whatever they wanted. My nephews and nieces love it when they get to choose, but I think this overwhelmed them a bit. I was just thinking that it would be nice to for them to have some toys, as they lost all of that when their stuff was stolen. Repent told me that Halina was crying for her doll that I’d bought her before so he had gotten her one of those terrifying plastic white girl dolls (no wonder children are afraid of me after seeing those things), but it broke into pieces a few days later. I wouldn’t blame the boys if they helped it along. (If anyone wants to make another little cloth doll for her, let me know. Shameless begging but I really think sewing people could make one for way cheaper than I bought it in the airport in Addis.) Anyway, this time Halina chose a large green car for her toy. You can pull back on the tires and it will roll by itself. Awesome. And no worries about gender-stereotypical toys for this girl.

With her car.

My time with the Repents was too short, but good anyway. Next day back to Kampala via bus, and I saw two giraffes just wandering by the road looking all cool. I was unfortunately too far away from the bus driver to yell at him to stop so I could take a photo.

Got to hold this cutie while his mom got situated in the bus
the next row over. Such a calm, beautiful baby.
So nice to be able to borrow other people's kids for a bit.
And then hand them back over so you can finish what
you were doing before, which in this case was
texting Micaela. 

The view from my hotel in Uganda at breakfast.
I should have stayed another night, if I had
known that Ethiopian Airlines would not give me
a hotel overnight since I could have taken a flight this morning,
and that would have allowed me to make their once a day flight to NDJ.
But if that is the case, then they could always deny hotels to people-
"Sorry, there was a flight two days ago to Timbuktu. Should have taken that.
Now wait 78 more hours until the next flight."
So I decided to pull an all-nighter in the airport, which is where I'm writing this.
It is after 6am, and I'm still not tired.
I've gotten a ton of work done. Maybe I should do this more often.
Maybe I am one of those people that doesn't need to sleep at all, so when I try
to sleep, I can't. And instead of getting frustrated that I can't sleep, I should just not sleep.
Of course, I don't usually have a giant bag of Haribo Smurfs with me. I think they helped.
Thank you, Entebbe Airport for having the best candy.

My beautiful friend Charity and her cousin Daniela came to see me off.
They are both university students. Daniela has a scholarship, but I'm helping
Charity. Donations are welcome. Charity is getting her degree in social work, and
hoping to work with the refugees coming in to Uganda. She especially wants to
help counsel those who have suffered traumatic experiences. She's hoping to get
an internship in one of the camps this summer.
Last time we were together, we were in South Sudan, trying to find ways to get
her to university. She was feeling stuck in Mundri, finished with all the studies there,
unable to find work. Fending off proposals from eligible and not-so-eligible bachelors.
She knew she wanted an education first--not typical for most girls her age in town.
She was willing to wait and now she is in school.
I said it on FB, and I'll say it again:
these ladies are the future of South Sudan. They give me hope for the future.
They love their country and their people. They are educated, wise, kind, and hard-working.
I hope that someday they will be in positions of leadership in their country.
I know that wherever they are--whether in a career, in the government, or raising a family of their own,
they will be excellent role models for those around them. I'm honored to know them.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Luck of the Irish (but will it stay with me when I move out of her house?)

There are moments in my life where I’m suddenly overwhelmed with how lucky I am to live this life. Those moments do not involve me sitting in a white-picket fenced house surrounded by adoring children. Nor do they involve me doing something impressive like accepting the Nobel Peace Prize (that’s for later). Usually, it’s when I’m doing something most people would be perfectly happy never to experience in their lives—standing on the side during a wedding, sweat dripping down my back and heels teetering precariously under my tortured feet or squashed into the middle "seat" between the driver and our American guest who we hope to partner with to do some water projects as we bounce down the road to a remote village. People sometimes think I’m doing something heroic living out here in an under-developed nation in a sweltering desert climate without the luxuries of paved roads or functioning political systems (hey-do you really have that in YOUR countries, though?), but I’m not really. If I hated being out here, but I was doing it anyway because of my deep Mother-Theresa-like love for the people, then maybe you could make a case for heroism. But I really like being out here, and that may actually be more of the draw for me than the suffering people, if I’m going to be perfectly honest. Because one thing I’ve learned about the “suffering people” is that, sure—they need some basic things that, yes, we can and should help with, but also, they have a lot of things that we “privileged advanced people of civilization” do not. And if I were to suddenly find myself in a white-picket fenced house surrounded by adoring children, it would not ultimately make that much difference to the “suffering people” out here. Someone else would take my place—maybe a much better qualified person who is actually from here. So for the time being, I’m just going to enjoy my life—even the crazy uncomfortable adventures and spontaneous plan-ruining detours. I’m lucky, privileged, blessed—whatever word you choose, I recognize that I had very little to do with the doors God opened for me, but I really appreciate them.

Here are some photos and stories from my lucky moments:

Wedding time! Emelie invited me to come to her friend's wedding because, as she said, "You've never been to a Chadian wedding before. Come see it!" In true Chadian style, she arrived at my house about 2 hours after she said she would come (after initially saying the wedding would be at 10am and then saying it had changed to 1pm, and we left around 2:30pm). No worries, though, for Asia Girl. Jam karet, as we say in Indonesia. Upon arriving at the wedding (late), everyone was already seated, but someone ran around trying to find a seat for the poor foreigner. I refused it because I don't think a wedding crasher deserves a seat that should be reserved for friends and family. Then I had a crisis of conscience, and asked an African friend from a neighboring country who lives in the West for her opinions on whether or not I should accept the gracious hospitality of the people here or stand against remnants of the colonial mentality that the white person gets a seat. Later, after standing 2 hours in heels through the various sermons (church wedding), I did accept a seat during the gift/offering time after many people had left or gone to get food maybe. Just like in church, each aisle danced up to the altar in their turn and put money in the basket or their gift on the table. I did have a photo of women carrying blankets and cooking utensils on their heads and dancing to the front of the church, but I forgot to upload it.  Too late now! Enjoy the post-wedding car selfie from me and Emelie.

I shared my wedding food with this cool girl.
She graciously agreed to eat all my bananas and we toasted
the bride and groom with our sodas (mine's pineapple and hers is grape fruit).

(The above line signals a change in story. Should be obvious, but I know my 2 readers. Sometimes they need extra explanations.)

Can you observe what is happening in the following photos? Yes, a woman is selling live chickens, hanging down from the pole over her shoulders. We bought 10. We stuffed them in the back seat of the truck where they clucked and crapped for the next 5 hours. 

I've since learned that whenever I pass through Mongo and/or Bitkine (two towns on the main paved road that stretches from N'Djamena to Abeche--fyi, Dad, who loves to look up these places on the map), I will almost certainly drive home with chickens. This happened with Emelie before too, if you recall.

Further proof of the Mongo/Bitkine Chicken Theory: we picked up this guy in Bitkine. This time, having a full car, we tethered him in the back. Actually, it was a girl. She laid an egg in the back, but we didn't know until we stopped to buy watermelons, and by that time it was already smashed.


It is so nice to have a boss and colleague who will come over to your house on the weekend and fix your toilet. I'd been pour flushing for so long, it felt really luxurious to have a button flush, thanks to Leif and Kandos.

And while they were fixing the toilet, I was also doing some home improvement. Be impressed. I fixed that light cover (below) all by myself. The cat had been using it as a jumping off point to get on top of the cabinets and it was busted off thanks to that Fatty, and all the wires were poking out. How do you know when to call in a professional? When you can't fix the thing with tape. Believe me, if I could have fixed the toilet with tape, I would have done it already.


This is not a story--but I think it fits with the theme of how my life is lucky. How cute is that gummy penguin? Definitely not too cute to eat, but certainly cute enough for me to force all guests coming to my house to eat one.


Speaking of eating--this bread, fresh out of the mud oven in Guereda was mumtaz. Our drilling team has been staying right next door. While we were over there picking up some PVC pipes before heading out to the drilling site, this lovely lady was baking bread with the help of a couple boys from her family. The smell was incredible so I had to buy some. She was going to give me a piece, but this bread deserved to be bought. And I did. And it was SO. GOOD.


An older photo with a cool friend I met in France. We were watching the sunset over the Chari River. Yes, I made her eat a penguin. She loved it.


New clothes, thanks to Kandos, who brought the cloth back after his vacation. Emelie and I went and had dresses made together. She did not like hers. I like mine, though I'm pretty sure I asked the guy for a full skirt. That skirt is NOT full. And this guy is from Ghana, and I was speaking English... Well, it's hard to walk in, but it looks good (according to Emelie), and that is all that matters.


Below are some photos of me actually working...kind of... Herve had the camera. They are from our impromptu 1000+km trip to Guereda. We had put it off waiting for funds and the end of the project. Then on Monday we realized that we had to go, so we went on Wednesday. Herve had initally planned to drive all the way to Guereda in one day. I knew when he showed up at my house at 7:30am, instead of 5am (my suggestion), that this would not happen. We stopped 900km in at Abeche and drove the rest of the way the next day.

Talking to Emmanuel, our Kenyan Drilling Chief. This bore hole was dry (observe the piles of sand),
but they got water at the second location.

I decided I wanted to ride this donkey. So I asked the guy (his sleeve is pictured on
the left), and he said OK. He handed me his solar panel and machete, which are tucked under my right arm. Then
I tried to find a graceful way to plop my ass on the ass (sorry, Mom, I could not resist). I did not find a graceful way,
so Radwan, our local partner who is installing the pumps onto the bore holes, reached one of his beefy arms over the donkey,
grabbed me under the armpit, and deposited me on the back of Abagash (donkey's name, so I was told). Radwan is not really tall, but his arms are the size of my thighs (which aren't small--I'm a runner). 

The installation team! We have fun.
Herve and Radwan (the team leader for the installation team) were telling me about
how women can't usually take it being in the field. I gave a small choking feminist scream of indignation,
to which they replied, "Pas toi. Toi--tu es très cool." I was mollified because as long as my ego is
soothed, who cares about the reputation of women in the field? At least, I'm très cool.
Spreading knowledge of selfies around Chad.
I like taking selfies with people because they get a huge kick
out of seeing themselves in the phone.


I got back from Guereda with one day to rest before hitting the road again. I spent it in the pool at the Hilton until I had several phone calls informing me of other stuff I had to do. There's not much rest for the wicked, but fortunately for us Wicked People, we are often good at taking rests even when we don't really have time for it--I'm particularly skilled at ignoring my work if there is a pool or some other body of water nearby. 

Trip two involved 2 Americans and their Chadian partner and me, and after we got to Bitkine, my awesome Chadian partner, Job. We spent lots of time bumping around in the car, and I spent lots of time translating French for the one American who did not speak French and Arabic for the locals who did not speak French. And Brain was tired.

I love camels. They are so cool. When I'm driving, I hate being impeded by obstacles that should not be on the road,
including but not limited to speed bumps, cows, donkeys, goats, motorcyclists, pedestrians, other drivers, and the like.
However, if it's camels, I'm totally fine with it.

The pastor's wife had a sheta/piment/hot pepper garden.
It is what heaven will look like. Beautiful firey peppers.
I ate 6 or 7 just walking through the garden, and
people were freaking out.
Hey--I grew up in Indonesia. I like my food to burn.
(That's Job with me--he smiles with his whole face. I love him.)

Seriously, though, how gorgeous are these chilis?
I love them. And my new friend gave me a huge bag of them.
And she gave me a bag of peanut butter that she made, which
was also So. Good. I've almost eaten it all in less than a week.
It was just smashed peanuts and a little salt, but WOW-it's the simple things in life.

A cool village elder and his bow and arrows.
Backstory, one of the Americans was a young hipster guy. Naturally he resented being labeled as a hipster, but he had a beard, wore plaid shirts and fitted pants and is from Oregon. Also, he made himself a pair of shoes and is in the process of making his own bow and arrows in the US. tell me. But he wanted to shoot a bow and arrow in Chad, and I told him that I could make all of his dreams come true (he'd also wanted to try Chadian peanut butter, which I shared with him). So I asked Job to find me someone with a bow and arrow for our foreign friend to shoot. And this guy came. He passed me the bow, which I handed over to Isaac (who was très happy) and then handed me the arrows. I started to pull one out to give to Isaac when everyone freaked out at me. Apparently some of the arrows were poisoned, and they didn't want me to pull out the wrong one. That would have been awkward, and possibly would have really put a damper on the whole trip if I'd accidentally stabbed our potential donor with a poisoned tipped arrow. Close calls like this one are part of what makes my life so exciting.

A shooting lesson.

As usual, I was the only girl on this trip, which
of course is nice for having my own room, but I try to make sure to
talk to the women in the villages so I don't forget how to be a lady.
Also, they are the ones with the most relevant water information anyway.

I am fascinated by the cattle watering holes. It's hard to grasp how many hundred of cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, camels, horses, and humans drink from these ponds. And when they are all clustered around, it just looks cool.

Herve's wife had a baby! This happened on Monday while I was driving out to Bitkine. I got to visit the new little Beautiful on Friday.

Emelie and I were so excited to visit her. Since we don't have our own kids, we love on other people's kids and get more sleep at night (well she does anyway, I still have the Cat). I showed this photo to Kandos and he said, "Why are you afraid of the baby?" So I am also putting on another photo of me actually holding the baby to prove that I am not afraid of them. If they are not mine.


So I convinced Neverthirst to work in Chad too, which is great because now there are some parts of my life that overlap a bit. We are doing a pilot Biosand Filter Project in a town outside of N'Djamena. Herve is helping me with the project, and he is loving it because he loves trying new things. Also, the people are loving it so far, which is really exciting. I love it because I get to go on bumpy road trips, but come home at night to the house of the lovely Naomi (the very tall Irish leprechaun who is giving me her luck while I watch her cat for a few more days until she gets back and I move again). Herve said to me, "You like adventures, like me!" And this is true. And whenever we are bouncing over unpaved roads after dark, he laughs and says, "Well, it's an adventure!" 

This most recent trip to the village, we got stuck in the sand after we were already running late. And we got stuck in the sand when we were trying to avoid the sandy part of the road. Herve was driving. His idea was to go down a short but steep incline to a lower less-sandy road. As we tried to get off the sandy road we were stuck. We called some local farmers over to help push the car. I got to be the driver in charge of getting the car down the steep incline, while not running over the gardens growing along said incline.  I somehow managed to do this with my eyes closed as I screamed and gripped the steering wheel and careened over the edge and down to the slightly more level area resembling a road. "It's an adventure!" said Herve. Fortunately one that did not end with our car flipped over on top of me.

No dotted lines because this next part is actually relevant...wait for it...

Have you ever played with one of these? My surrogate grandparents had one I used to play with before we moved to Indonesia. You use a magnet pen to move hair onto Bald Willy's head. Endless fun. The iPad of the 20th century. The pile of magnetic sand in the bottom of the plastic window is what our car windows looked like as we were driving through real sand.

It's hard to tell, but see the sand gathering in our window? If the we had had time (we didn't, we were already an hour late of course), we could have stopped when there was a larger pile of sand so I could have taken a better photo, but I actually leaned over Herve as he was driving to take this photo out of his window because Safety First.

Ha. I love these kids.  They loved the camera.

The ladies. I gave a short training in French about the biosand filter, while
my colleague translated into Ngambai. I didn't take many photos because I was
busy talking, which involves much hand waving on my part, and snatching up various babies
that were not afraid of me, amazingly.

Herve made me take a photo with everyone before we left. Can you find me?


In conclusion, it's a pretty good life. Join me next time if I have time to write about my trip to Uganda, which is happening très soon (two days). But when I get back, I'm moving into my new apartment and making several trips to the field and probably buying a ticket to go see my family for Christmas. Asks my mom, "When are you coming for Christmas?" Responds Amanda, "December." She did not think it was as funny as I did.