Of course internet access has been spotty for our Africa travelers, but I just go this update from employee Jason Staples who is along for the ride. Enjoy a few days of his unique reflections!
We have just landed in Uganda! It is quite a small airport, with quite a few Coca-Cola logos. We were immediately greeted by Andrew from Invisible Children. We traveled approximately five hours from the Entebbe airport to Gulu, where we were staying in a hotel in the middle of downtown. The first culture shock of the trip occurred when we immediately were thrown into the craziest traffic I have ever seen. Our van driver was constantly honking at cars, scooters, and bicycles riding the shoulder of the road. Along with the people on the side of the road, we witnessed goats, cows, and monkeys. Some of them were even riding in the back of the trucks! The power seems to go out in Gulu on a semi-regular basis, also. We have been adjusting pretty quickly though and our flash lights have come in handy on a few occasions.
July 7, 2010
Breakfast. We have become quite accustomed to Spanish omelettes, toast, bananas, and fruit juice every morning at our hotel. Apparently though, you become a target of mosquitoes when you eat a lot of bananas and then sweat. Most of us have chosen to live dangerously and just eat lots of bananas.
After breakfast, Andrew picked us up from the hotel and took us to the Invisible Children office in Gulu. There is a case on the wall in the lobby, displaying all of the products that IC has created since they started. He gave us a short history of the organization, and then introduced us to James and Patrick. Both super nice guys. We then went to four schools that have benefitted from our donations, and Invisible Children. Each school had a library in a different stage of progress. It was amazing and very satisfying to finally see some physical evidence of the work that we have been doing since we have each started working at BWB. A few of the people we met were very interested to talk to us, and we were able to interview them for our website. Very exciting stuff. The teachers and the students were great, and were very happy to see us.
July 8, 2010
Spanish omelette, bananas and toast. We met up at the Invisible Children office, and visited three more schools with Andrew from IC. We started by traveling a couple of hours to the first school and then worked our way back to downtown Gulu.
At the schools we visited, we met even more excited and friendly teachers and students and saw more libraries. We spotted several books with our BWB barcodes on them and saw boxes with Books For Africa logos on them. Very cool. Andrew introduced us to a few of the classrooms full of students, and they applauded us! Just then, I felt the proudest I have even been of my association with Better World Books.
Lunch was at a restaurant in Gulu with live music. Our second meal of authentic Ugandan food went even better than the first. Mattuck is quickly becoming my favorite dish here. Very similar to mashed potatoes.
During our trip back to the hotel, a soldier asked if we could give him a ride down the road. Andrew politely declined, as our driver was not licensed to carry any armed passengers. I would have never thought I’d witness an armed soldier being told “No.” Pretty amazing.
July 9, 2010
No school visits today. Instead we went to the homes of some of the students! Most of us went on our own, to shadow IC mentors. Mentors who mostly got where they needed to go on motor bikes! Since Maura, Stephanie, and I are not as adventurous as the rest, we traveled together in a van with a mentor named Stella. The first two guardians we met paid for their children’s school fees from planting crops. Mostly maise, cabbage, onions and assorted greens. We were offered freshly grown maise, which we excitedly accepted. If you have never eaten maise, it is very similar to corn on the cob, but much lighter in color. No butter and no salt.
The best lesson that I have learned on this trip so far, is to live within your means. Don’t stress about what you cannot immediately acheive or afford. You will alleviate a lot of stress. If we were able to speak the native language, I’m sure we could have spent an entire afternoon talking to some of the parents. Tomorrow we are sitting in on a meeting with IC, and then heading to a wildlife park! More later.
– Jason Staples, Customer Care