"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Thursday, December 18, 2014

blog post from team 8 leader natalie!

Among her other star qualities, Team leader Natalie is also a very good writer. I think you'll find her first blog post from Uganda both entertaining and poignant.

"Having visited Uganda twice before, I left this time feeling like I knew what to expect. I have my favorite things to eat. I know what shops to visit in Kajjansi to make sure I get a fair price on my afternoon Fanta. I even have a favorite driver to take me to all the places I want to visit. So I have to admit, when Melissa told me that we would be going into Kampala today to finish up Christmas shopping for the kids at SMK by taxi, and then taking a boda boda back to school with our heavy packages of undershirts, bras, and vasoline, those anxious feelings of not knowing what to expect, or how to behave, that I had prior to my first visit crept back in. 

Taxis here are not like in any other city I have ever been in. They are closer to small buses with designated routes. They aren't marked with their destination, and you kind of just need to know which one to get into. Thankfully, as Melissa says, this is how she rolls, and I really didn't need to figure any of these things out for myself. It was, however, for this newbie, still quite an adventure as we drove down Entebbe Road into the heart of the city.

Sponsored student Rachael helps shop at the market

In order to purchase the items on our shopping list we make our way through the wholesale market. This crowded alley was filled, stories high, with shop fronts selling literally everything you can imagine. In bulk. Think Costco, on a busy Saturday at Christmas time, but with large trucks making their way through the aisles as you are trying to carry your purchases without the aid of a large shopping cart. Then multiply that by five. It's overwhelming at best, but I couldn't help thinking the whole time what a treat it was to have the opportunity to do something so new to me.

We made it back to Kajjansi with all of our goodies, and got off at our stop that was still  more than a mile from home. With no other option, we hopped on a boda boda--in other words, a motorcycle taxi. Well, Mel hopped, I sort of hesitantly sat down after carefully explaining to my driver that I had never been on a motorcycle--ever, and he need to go slow. Very slow. His good nature obliged and we made it through the village in one piece. I can't say that this is my favorite mode of transport here, but I did enjoy the short ride for the new experience it gave me.

So feeling pretty proud of myself for trying all of these new, slightly intimidating, things, I unexpectedly encountered another 'first' as I sat down to recount my adventures. A gentleman who works at the hotel came over, and after chatting for a bit, he asked me if I went to high school. Naively, I was taken aback. Well, of course I went to high school, I thought. I actually went to college. And graduate school. Then as immediately as the thought entered my brain I remembered what a luxury attending high school in Uganda really is. Most kids don't. And of those that do, only about 30% actually finish. 

And that is why I am here. It is what CTT is working so hard to provide for our kids. Not just the opportunity to go, but a support system that encourages them finish. I'm under no grand illusion that CTT alone will be able to provide every child that needs it with a high school education. But I do know that for those we can assist, it is a lasting gift that will continue to benefit them, and their community, long after they have left the security of SMK. This year, our team members will proudly get to celebrate with three wonderful young women who have attained this goal. Racheal, Catherine and Shelia have recently completed their Senior 6 exams and have a lot of new 'firsts' in their futures. And it is because of this, that I am really so incredibly excited to be back in Uganda. - Natalie

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