Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Monday the 8th

It has already been a long day and it is only 1:30 here! We got up early and rushed to the church to start wrapping the bamboo for the first stage of the bikes. Today, we have to take the sisal we cut last week, soak it in an epoxy solution and wrap all the joints where we joined the pieces of bamboo. It is a hard job as the joints have to be very exact in order to ensure the integrity of the bike. Working with the epoxy was VERY hard! Barr had given us some great measurements for mixing the epoxy with the hardener, but this is a different epoxy than what we used in California and our hands started to burn quickly. We had to wrap the joints and immerse our hands in a solution to clean up the epoxy before we could do it again. The heat from the glue was very hard on our hands. I was fearful at first, but when I realized I could put my gloved hands in a solution of IMO and water and relief the heat, I was satisfied that I could continue with the work. I didn’t want to ask anyone to do anything that I wasn’t willing to do. Heather even helped. We repeated this process for over five hours. It was hard work, but it is worth every minute of it. We can actually see a bike forming!! The best news is that the reporters who visited with me last week have given us a lot of publicity! I was on the radio…or so I hear… and there is a great article in the Ugandan newspaper with my picture and a story about the bikes. I am thinking I am going to get lots of calls soon about this project. I have already had two follow-up interviews. If you get a chance, go to Google and type in www.newvision.co.ug and you will see the article. It is fairly representative of what I said. As a former journalist, I know what happens when an interview is taking place; the interviewer projects what he or she wants to hear from the interviewee. But, it is pretty good. We are going to need to find financiers to help with this project. It is going to be an awesome way for many, many people to work their way out of poverty. The initial cost will not be high and when we are able to mass produce the bikes, they will finance themselves. I am determined to see this project through as I believe Craig Calfee has come up with an awesome project! We left around 3:30 for Lamintoo, a village where we put in a water well and where Jackson Middle School is paying for toilets.. As it is, the students go to class under make-shift rooms that are just tarp with some benches. The younger children go to class in a building that once served at the headquarters for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The other students go to class under a canopy of tarp only. Two of the grades have to study under trees. It is no wonder that the kids in this village do not speak English very well! But, there are about 400 children in the village now and they need to go to school. In March, we gave the kids uniforms and that has boosted the population at the school. In fact, the headmaster has asked us for more uniforms as the children are very motivated to attend because of the skirts, blouses, pants, and jumpers that we provided. We will have to visit with Molly, the head of the sewing/tailoring school, to see about making more uniforms. One thing that I an encouraged about is that we did visit a place in Kampala last weekend where young men were using knitting machines to make sweaters. It seems that no one in Gulu is making sweaters; the schools have to buy them from the capital so I intend on getting into that market as soon as possible. I really wanted to write about the land in Lamintoo. It is really some of the most beautiful land that I have seen in Africa. The lush green foliage is like a blanket that covers some lovely hills in the area. Sadly, the LRA used to use those hills to be on the lookout for campfires and they used their vantage point as a point of reference for attacks on small villages. It is such a tragedy that such beautiful land has such a tainted past. I would give anything to walk up the hills through the green bush that is loaded with mango trees. It is a sight to behold…for sure. We are back from the village now and it is getting to be around 8:00. We do not eat dinner until 9:00…at the earliest. We go to a small place just down the street called the Kakenyero. It has adequate food and it is VERY cheap. I can get a meal of beans and rice for about 3,000 shillings which is about $1.50. We know the people there and they treat us so well! I am looking forward to a shower, although it WILL be cold. I have not had a hot shower the entire time I have been in Gulu, but I would be very surprised to have one. It really doesn’t matter. We learn to tolerate ourselves very dirty and smelly, too. It just isn’t a problem once a person settles into the routine of being in a third world country. I did want to mention that I saw Kenneth, one of my “sons” on Sunday. He came to church. He is such a dear. He was captured by the LRA and was forced to shoot. He told me, a long time ago, that when he held a rifle, he would deliberately shoot off to the side of the person he was supposed to be killing and he would pray that his bullet would not go astray and actually harm someone. He has Amnesty papers to prove that he has gone through the acculturation process and it is something that he really hates to live with. But, he is one of the lucky ones. We read in the paper yesterday that Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA captured 200 people in the Congo and is really on the move. I wish someone would kill him. I really do. He just does not deserve to live. On our way back from Lamintoo, I really was struck by the hardships these people endure. The homes in Lamintoo are built with sticks and mud…they cannot afford to use any commercial products. When the rains come…and they come often now that it is the rainy season…their homes are flooded and everything they own is saturated. I just wish there was more that I could do to help these folks; however, I continue to remind myself that what I am doing does matter to “this one.” Hugs and peace

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