We arrived in Uganda last Monday night, March 7th 2016, after over 24 hours of traveling. As soon as we stepped outside of the airport, we received the best greeting from Monday Collins, Ronnie Mpagi, and Stephen Onek, all three of whom we have been in close contact with in preparation for this journey.
We have been staying at the beautiful Roots Retreat and Camping Resort in Entebbe for the past week, and we have been eating delicious food, getting to know some amazing people, and soaking in the sun. Roots Resort is gorgeous, and we feel right at home.
For breakfast there are omelettes or hard-boiled eggs, and African tea, which is made with hot milk. Our favorite lunch is called Chicken Choma, which is boiled curry chicken, rice, and a curry stew.
Dinner is either tilapia (the whole fish with scales and everything), or pork, with chips (french fries). The water is smoked, which makes it taste like a campfire, and the jack fruit is sweet and tasty (like melon, with the texture of al dente pasta). We have also met Roots, Mizizi, and Stephen, the cats that live at Roots Resort. Every day they emerge just when we’re about to eat, and they follow us back to our banda each night.
Everyone we have met has been so welcoming and wonderful. Monday Collins, the art facilitator at Hope North has been with us every day, and will accompany us to Hope North School. He has been our right hand man, and has become a great friend. We would not be where we are now without him. Ronnie Mpagi has been essential with organizing instrument deliveries and all other logistics for the program. Stephen Onek has been our tour guide here at Roots, and has greatly aided in our transition to life in Uganda. And of course, none of this would be possible without Okello Kelo Sam, the founder of Hope North, owner of Roots Resort, and a true inspiration to all of us. We are proud and honored to be a part of his family.
There is a wonderful sense of community here in Uganda that we have not quite experienced before. We have seen people share with each other, help each other out, and connect with one another, even if they are strangers. This culture seems more welcoming, creative ,and loving than we have seen back in the US.
We ordered many instruments for our music therapy program from the best instrument makers in the area. Every day we have seen more and more of them arrive, and it is very exciting. We have a set of large and small drums made with snakeskin and cow hide, fiddles, shakers, a large xylophone, and a set of adungu (a Ugandan style guitar) that we will pick up on our way to Hope North.
On our third day in Uganda, we headed into Kampala to purchase guitars. We rode in several taxis, but our favorite was riding on the back of a boda (a motorcycle taxi). Kampala is busy! The traffic can get congested, but little by little it keeps inching forward until the few and far between traffic lights turn green. In Kampala we bought two classical guitars, as well as gig bags, pics, straps, strings, tuners, and capos, in addition to harmonicas and recorders. We cannot wait to give these instruments to the students at Hope North!
We will most likely drive to Hope North on Wednesday, March 16th 2016, and begin setting up for the program. Stay tuned for more updates!
~Ashley-Drake and Haden