April 15, 2014 — Jinja day 4
The three of us — Robbie, Malia, and I — took a motorcycle ride through surrounding villages with the intent of finding specific physical needs to meet. In the face of the extreme poverty in this area, so little of our money and time goes an indescribably long way, so we set out spread a little of both.
Because we’re coming into rainy season, there is torrential downpour almost every night, so our mornings are often slow-going while we wait for the streets to dry up and the sky to clear. We hit the road around 1 and were gone most of the day, spending hours on the bike. It really is the best way to see a country; it takes me back to the days when Dad and I got lost on his Harley in Hawaii and indadvertedly wound up at a motorcycle gang’s clubhouse in the middle of the night, but that’s a story for another time.
I’m quickly learning that things rarely go as planned here. There was an issue with the bike’s electric starter, so we headed to the mechanic for the third time in the five days I’d been here. Turns out it was a battery issue — it was leaking acid — so it needed to be replaced. Did I mention the electricity was out in the entire city?
More than an hour later, we were really ready to go.
We headed to villages we honestly don’t know the name of around the bay of Lake Victoria. The scenery was absolutely stunning. The sky was blue, the road was orange, the grass was green, and it was all absolutely perfect. Except the roads, which, understandably because of the rain, were a mess. I’m still shocked the bike made it as far as it did, especially with three people on it.
Malia told me later that the villages we went through were some of the poorest the two of them have seen since being here. Most villages, she said, have at least a couple concrete houses, but we saw none of that; everyone we encountered is living in a small mud-hut, housing several people.
People waved at us from their houses, often yelling “mzungu” — white person — as we drove by. Safe to say we drew a crowd whenever we stopped. As we would talk to families, more than a dozen kids would gather around. There are actually no words to describe how adorable they were, with their big, bright, beautiful eyes just staring at us, and chasing after the bike as we drove away.
Everyone was extremely friendly and didn’t hesitate in their hospitality. The second we walked onto someone’s property, they had chairs in the shade set out for us and we got to broken conversations between Robbie and Malia’s working Luganda and the villagers who, it turned out, spoke an entirely different language all together.
We took the road as far as we could and wound up at someone’s house. There the road just ended. It was eerily quiet and no one was around, so we got outta dodge asap.
On our way back, we came across another family. Here is an account of the experience in Malia’s words:
“Robbie noticed a family sitting outside their mud-made house beginning to prepare their supper. We were warmly welcomed by Beatrice, the daughter of Gertrude, who has seven children of her own. We asked to meet them but only three were actually living at home. Frank, the oldest son, 14, told us that the other four decided to go live on the streets because the family struggled to support so many. We believe that Beatrice’s husband is out of the picture.
Usually people don’t invite us into their homes within the first few minutes but Beatrice was eager to show us something. In a small room in the back corner of their tiny mud-hut behind a curtain laid Gertrude. Beatrice explained to us that she was very sick. She has been suffering from a stomach ulcer for the last month. They were able to have a doctor come a few times but as of last week they were no longer able to afford the medical attention that Gertrude needs. We were informed that each doctor’s visit costs 5,000 Ugandan shillings which is the equivalent of just over two American dollars. Thankfully we had a bit of money with us at the time, we were able to give them 20,000 shillings for a few more doctor visits but we would love to help provide them with more of the medical care needed to determine how serious the ulcer is and for them to be able to obtain the specific antibiotics for her healing.
When we entered their home, we took notice of the poor sleeping situations this family has. Their thin mats that they sleep on overlap each other from the lack of space and have become brown and very smelly. We also noticed that there were no mosquito nets. Malaria is a huge burden here in Uganda but most families cannot afford to take precautions to prevent it.”
The desire is overwhelming, like a physical pull, to just open your wallet and give everything you have. It’s nearly impossible to grasp that we toss around $10 like it’s nothing, grabbing ourselves a convenient, delivered-right-to-you lunch on our breaks at work, but that $10 could get Gertrude five doctor visits and possibly save her life. I’m not saying we all need to abandon our lives and our possessions to live in huts halfway across the world, but rather that we should all be less hesitant to do and give what we can, because what we have to offer goes so much further than we can even imagine.
And now for a shameless plug: Robbie and Malia have started an organization, Just Because, which is dedicated to helping people, help people. They locate physical needs here in Uganda, and then post them on their website so people can donate to specific causes with no strings attached. Check out their website and vision video, the one we’ve been working on the last week, at <a href="http://http://www.justbecauseuganda.com“>www.justbecauseuganda.com.
On the drive home, we got stuck behind a truck of men working the sugarcane field. We stopped to gnaw away at some cane they graciously gave us, and were on our way. We then got held up by a cowherd, because why wouldn’t we?
Oh, we also saw goats. We love goats.