Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer solstice in the Rift Valley, Thursday, June 21, 2012

The summer solstice over the Rift Valley...  There is a misty cloud that settles into this little valley of Masaka welcoming you to the day.  The sun rises outside of my balcony and, along with the sounds of a new day, it makes for a delightful beginning.  The sunrise this morning was another stunning and unforgettable one and quite apropos as we welcomed in my first summer on the African equator.

Showering in Uganda…Let me first say that I am very thankful for the shower facilities in this country.  After a warm, dusty day it is always rejuvenating to be able to shower and feel clean and fresh again...and it is so much more than most of this country has access to on a daily basis.
Our shower here is a ¼ circle whose greatest depth is @4 ft. from the center to the furthest outside circumference.  There is a shower curtain that keeps most of the water inside the shower but what does escape can either invisibly pool on the cream-colored tile floor or find the drain.   Cleaning up this water prior to stepping out is essential to avoid hydroplaning when exiting the shower resulting in some possible serious bodily damages! 

There is a removable shower head, as well, which comes in handy.  The challenge comes with keeping a constant temperature, maintaining a consistent water pressure, keeping the water IN the shower, and keeping water out of your mouth to avoid the eventual effects of the bacteria in the water on your system.  That latter challenge is very important!  Try doing this at home.  It is a bit like waterboarding…I would have to assume, having had no personal experience. 

The water temperature is generally a comfortable one that can be adjusted... except when it can’t be…or takes on an independent attitude and suddenly turns scalding hot or ice cold, which happens quite often.  Now keep in mind that the size of this shower prevents one from a natural reaction: removing oneself from the assault of the ever-changing temperature of the water.  Barring jumping out of the shower to a wet floor with wet feet (remember the possibility of hydroplaning?), your only option is to suck it up and take it while trying to get to the controls and alleviate the problem!  Aaaahhhhh…the joys of foreign travel! 
Water pressure:  Among other things, I am not really sure how water pressure is regulated here.  I do believe, however, that someone with a twisted sense of humor is at the helm.  The distribution of hot water is fairly random, as well.  I have been fortunate in that area, whereas Michelle has not been so lucky!

Thinking about yesterday's student club demonstrations:  The clubs showed such promise in the future of these students and could, potentially, affect their destiny.   But the harsh reality is that they are living in a country whose illiteracy rate is 63%…63%!   This is a steep mountain for them to climb.  Of the children who go to school, of which there is no accurate way of determining, only 20% of the boys go past a 7th grade education. Naturally, for the girls it is worse.   Only 17% of young women get an education past that of a 7th grader.   This leaves a country with mostly uneducated citizens who have few skills past those of survival or manual labor, farming, and a few crafts.   It also leaves these children with few role models to emulate and goals to pursue. 

However, Sylvia and the school's adults encourage the students to go past the 8th grade education offered at Mbiriizi.  Sylvia has promised to pay the school fees of every child who does this.  Many students have gone on to high school thus far.  Sylvia's Children is the divine intervention and serendipitous stroke of luck that these kids needed to achieve an easier future and to avoid living the difficult lives of most of their parents. 

So again I am sitting on the balcony and I hear a band playing somewhere and lots of people responding to the performance - cannot see them but can hear them quite clearly.  There is a constant stream of bicycles, boda-bodas, and walking people on the road beneath us - the rush hour of Masaka.  A few cars and trucks drive by on this particular road, although there are many more in the central part of this city. 
Each day is ended this way giving me time to reflect upon what  I've seen, felt, and learned and to assess what I've experienced thus far.  Tomorrow is our final day at Mbiriizi.  We will celebrate the birthdays of all the children with cake and a celebration and a special meal at lunchtime.  It is going to be a difficult day.

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