Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shady's Back, Tell a Friend

This post is for all those SIT Post-Conlict Fall 2011 folks... all 11 of you.

I am here and when I was the US I don't think I was able to fully grasp how much I missed all of you. Now that I am here, I am experiencing vivid flashback memories. It is crazy.

What I have realized is...

1) Our group was absolutely amazing.
2) It was the best semester of my life with you all
3) It was a truly once in a lifetime experience and I want it back... now.

Now... Some memories I have forgotten...

1) When Morgan picked us up from the airport looking like a million bucks.... Charlotte and I went in that car and were convinced we would be murdered. You all were in the bigger car packed to the max with bags.

2) We showed up at Bat Valley and got some yummy sambosa and I bitched about how tired I was. We then had a nice little pow wow with Dr. William and Morgan telling us about the future experience we will have. Then we went to get cell phones and almost got hit by cars 3 million times because we were 14 American kids trying to walk through Kampala.

2A) That second pow wow with Morgan outside Bat Valley where we got eachothers numbers and spoke of monsoon season and hitler.

3) The bus ride to Gulu. It broke. We waited until some taxis came and then we saw Baboons and I freaked out.

4) Acholi Ber. Finding Cafe Larem. Our "drop off".

5) Finding sunglasses.

6) The first weekend at our homestays... Idk about you all but I was freaking out and kind of bored.

7) Our first trip to Kitgum... Munu Mischeif... Acholi bar whatever it was called where you handed money through a peephole.

8) KSP

9) BJz

10) So many pirated movies.

11) That time Samantha almost got me killed in Rwanda. It is okay girl. I forgive you along with my U.S. Embassador father/ Owner of Discovery Channel father.

12) My first boda ride!... I am sure you remeber your first as well.

13) Pink Room with Bethany... All of those extremely intelligent conversations. I miss those.

14) Champanzees are smarter than humans?

15) OC Time! also PLL.

16) Sippi Falls! Winnie trying to walk down to the fall...

17) Winnie... In general.

18) Runescape or w.e. game you losers would play...

19) One-beer Samantha!

20) Car ride with Kony's brother/uncle!? RIP Charlottes Ipod

21) Miley Cirus homestay party... Wtf.

22) That time Annie came back to our ISP house from visiting her homestay... Too many alcohols.

23) Winnie's birthday cake.

24) That dude who spoke about amnesty and offended most of us... on purpose?

25) All that water at our ISP house... Oh wait.

26) Ping pong games while watching Annie scream whenever Tuft's ugly singer came on the TV

27) David on the last night of our Kitgum party.

28) Thanksgiving

29) Acholi Pride 2 times a day... every day... for a week

30) Sippi Falls hotel... The view of the mountains.

31) Sippi cups from the orange supermarket and trying to open wine bottle

32) Visiting Gulu Independent way too many times.

33) Trying to watch the Uganda Cranes at 348394 different places

34) Fuglies?

There are many more... but holy eff I miss all of you and that experience way too much. We had it good. I say SIT reunion party in Gulu at some point in our lives... I am not kidding. Really... I am not.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, I hope it was nice and delicious. With some boda riding, and major craziness, we managed to pull off thanksgiving and feed around 20 people. Here is how...

We had some dedicated people in our group who were insistent that we would cook a real thanksgiving meal, but we didn't have an oven. In order to cook a pie, pigs in a blanket, baked mac and cheese, green bean casserole, stuffing, pumpkin muffins, and I am sure I am missing some, a few people bodad to San Kofa, a place that we often eat at and used their oven while also helping them cook a thanksgiving meal for their costumers. Meanwhile, a lot of us stayed at our house cooking on two charcoal stoves and one gas stove. I personally, had two focus groups in the morning, and then went to the market several times to get food. I cooked Malakwang (it was mostly the woman who works here named Linda and I watched) and no bake cookies. Everyone else cooked some guacamole, beans, rice, chappati (that was bought but shhh), turkey (One girl got a turkey, brought it into our house, and then killed it in our backyard with  Linda when I was out), some more stuffing, and I am sure I am forgetting things again. In the end... we had too much food, and everyone was pretty happy with their meals.

Earlier that day I had my first focus groups. They went amazing because I had a 4th year medical student helping me translate. Along with helping me translate, he also helped rewrite many of my questions and really was personable so people would feel comfortable answering. I had one focus group of 6 males and one with 6 females. Their answers were very informative, and complete opposite of each other.

Anyways, I hope everyone had a great thanksgiving!

Oh, and theres only 23 days left...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Life is awesome sometimes.

I am so incredibly happy today, and here is why...

I met with my academic director this morning to get my research started. We started by taking tea, of course. He then showed me all of these articles on the stigmitization of HIV/AIDS here in Gulu and then gave me all of the statistics that are present here. Here are some statistics he told me... 1) The municiple district I am in has an HIV/AIDS prevelance rate of 1 in 4 (2) The barracks that contain Ugandan soldiers have a prevelance rate of 50% (3) A pub here called Buganda Pub on any given night would have a prevelance rate of over 70% (4) You go outside of this district, and the prevelance is 12%. First, that is insane... Second, it is also really messed up. I asked Dr. David why the prevelance is so high and he explained that it was because Kampala sends their infected soldiers here to Gulu, where it is then spread to the rest of Gulu. I am not sure if the government does this on purpose, but either way, it is not okay.

So that isn't why I think life is awesome sometimes... this is why...

I have been dealing with some added B.S. from the US on an action I participated in last May. I was protesting AIDS budget cuts to PEPFAR. I have been doubting my action ever since there has been all of this extra drama from the US court, but today made me really happy to have done the action. I was speaking the the head doctor of the Infectious Disease Clinic and she asked me where I was from.... I said the US. She then looked at me and said "Oh, you guys scared us this year when you were deciding the budget for PEPFAR". I asked her how the cuts would have affected her unit (it is a government unit), she said they would have had to cut staff by half, and may not even have been able to keep it running. I then told her how I participated in an action against it, and she gave me a big hug and said thank you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let's blog it up...

It is ISP time! Yay! What is my project you may be asking? Well, I was hoping you could answer that for me. Just kidding...

This is part of my proposal because I am lazy and don't feel like rewording it.
The Effects of ARV Treatment on Patients’ Risky Sexual Behavior in Post-Conflict Northern Uganda


Uganda is often looked at as a model for HIV/AIDS reduction because of their very successful campaign to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The campaign started in the late 1980s, and has lost momentum since then. Currently, the HIV/AIDS prevalence is increasing at an alarming rate despite the increase in access to life-saving ARV treatment. Antiretroviral drugs have changed the perception of AIDS from a death sentence to a treatable, manageable disease. This change in the perception may have reduced the fear surrounding HIV; therefore, it could have led to an increase in risky sexual behavior. The research that will be conducted will look at the perception of HIV/AIDS and how the perception changes sexual behavior.


The history of HIV/AIDS in Africa has three distinct phases. The first stage was the rapid increase of HIV/AIDS in urban areas and areas along highways; especially in the Lake Victoria region. Doctors’ in this area began to call this disease “slim disease” because it caused people’s bodies to waste away. The first official diagnosis of AIDS came in 1982 and doctors’ quickly linked “slim disease” to HIV/AIDS. In 1986, when the civil war ended and President Museveni came into power, the first major HIV prevention program was founded. Unfortunately, HIV/AIDS had become an epidemic by this time and affected 30 percent of people. In 1987, the first AIDS control program was set up to educate the citizens of Uganda on the ABC approach (abstain, be faithful, use condoms) to preventing HIV/AIDS. The program also ensured safety of blood supply and started HIV/AIDS surveillance. There was very strong political leadership that committed itself to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Along with the strong government programs to stop the epidemic, many grass-roots programs began. TASO, a community-based organization was formed in the late 1980s along with The AIDS Support Organization.
The second phase of the HIV/AIDS epidemic ran from 1992 to 2000. During these years the HIV prevalence fell from 30 percent to 5 percent. The decline was due in part to the ABC prevention method and the grass-roots movements. A majority of the reason is said to be because there was little treatment available, so the high-numbers of HIV/AIDS patients simply died out in this time period. In 1998, the Ugandan government ran a test trial to see if it was feasible to provide HIV/AIDS treatment to developing countries.
The third phase of HIV/AIDS in Uganda is the rise in HIV/AIDS prevalence. In 2004, free ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) were made available in Uganda. In 2006 the prevalence of HIV/AIDS jumped from about 5 percent to 7 percent. There are two popular theories to why the sudden increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence. The first theory is that Uganda’s shift away from ABC and towards abstinence might have caused the increase. The second theory is that ARVs have made HIV/AIDS a treatable, livable disease so people have lost the ambition to practice safe-sex.
The Problem Statement
The recent increase in ARV distribution in post-conflict Northern Uganda has also been met with an increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence. This could be attributed to a new misperception of HIV/AIDS as a minor life-long illness rather than a death sentence that HIV/AIDS used to be a mere ten years ago.


The reason of this research is to determine the cause of the steady increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence in post-conflict Northern Uganda. The data collected will be used to provide information on how to improve the use and distribution of ARVs. If risky sexual behavior is a cause to the rise of HIV/AIDS further research will have to be done on how to provide a more multifaceted treatment program that would target the issue of risky sexual behavior.

On to ISP time...

I am living with all the other students in a house near a place called Acholi Inn. I have been cooking which is fun. We had family dinner night where we attempted eggplant parmesan with pasta and no-bake cookies for desert. It went well. Last night we made mexican Acholi food, which meant chapati, rice, beans, and a gauc salsa... Delishhh.

I am heading home in a month and am really excited to see my mom and dad and my new kittens they got the day after i left which I am still bitter about, and of course my sister (but most important in this group is the kittens... just kidding family). I am going to cook dinner for them and start helping out around the house... now since it is in writing and announced to everyone who reads this it will be done.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Millenium Village Whaaa Whaa?

Yesterday, 96% of us went to the Millenium Village here in Rwanda (I like using percentages that may or may not be completely incorrect to make myself sound more legitimate). What is the Millenium Village you may be asking yourself? No worries, I got your back...

The Millenium Village project was started by the Earth Institute at Columbia University under the guidance of Jeffrey Sachs. The village project uses the eight Millenium Goals to frame its objectives (end hunger/poverty/HIV, TB, Malaria, other dieseases/ reduce maternal and child mortality/ promote education and gender equality and global partnership/ ensure environmental sustainability). It uses evidence-based techniques to bring one village to complete the Millenium Development Goals. See its website/wikipedia for more information...

To get a tour of the village it costs 30 USD... I was surprised in its overly touristy feel. We had a tour guide take us to meet of the village's farmers, the medical facility, basket weaving women, and in the end we saw traditional dances. At first, I was incredibly dissapointed that the entire village and everyone in it had become a tourist attraction... I still don't know how I feel about it.

Something did change that made me happy with my visit. Once you got past the overly touristy feel, I could see something I have yet to see here in my stay... a sense of genuine happiness and peace. The village is determined to bring unity to the survivors of genocide and the perpetrators. I thought this was impossible, and though I was only there for five hours... there was this sense of peace. What gave me this feeling? I honestly could not tell you... Mostly because there was no specific instance or thing that made me feel this... It was just there.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween.

Going to three genocide sites on Halloween is quite the feet. In case you were worrying I wouldn't get my skeleton fix on Halloween, rest assure, I got my fix... and then some.

I could go on forever about the fact that there was a genocide here and the memorials are graphic and overwhelming and disturbing and whatever other word you can use to explain seeing thousands of skeletons or clothing items or the occasional blood stain from children being thrown against the wall or hearing several accounts of survivors.... but no matter what words I use or how I phrase the experience it cannot be properly expressed because you have to see it to feel it... even believe it.

Here are my immidiate thoughts...

Genocide sucks... along with: Murder, rape, torture, discrimination, prejudice, ignorance, inhumanity, evil, death, colonization, super-powers leaving one million people to be murdered within two months. I don't know how Rwandans (or any people from most of Africa) look at people from developed nations (aka myself and my group) and smile and act friendly. Colonization put Rwandans into Hutu Tutsie ethnic groups and created the imbalance. France supplied the Hutu extremists with weapons to commit genocide. When genocide was occuring, we left. Genocide ended, and we come back giving money because we feel guilty. If I was Rwandan I would hate my presence.

Also... My dog died? How does the sadness an animal dying fit into this larger picture of sadness over people being exterminated like "cockroaches". I feel pretty pathetic for being sad... I guess that is how it fits.

Oh the irony Halloween brings.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everything is in French...

I am in Rwanda today... I was also in Rwanda yesterday.

Yesterday was my first day in Rwanda, and since they use Franks, I decided to go get some money from the bank. In Uganda there are plenty of banks that love my Mastercard... Rwanda, however, hates my Mastercard. A simple task of getting money from the invisible space and into my pocket was quite the experience. I first asked a Rwandan man what bank would take my Mastercard... he laughed at me. I asked our director, and he asked his friend, and I found out Bank of Kigali likes them some Mastercard... so I went.

I walked into the bank and it was so crowded. One thing I learned I hate now? Lines. There are no lines in Gulu because there are no people... It is not the same here. I waited in line for twenty minutes only to be told I had to go to the headquarters. This would seem easy enough right? Wrong. I took a motor-taxi to the first bank without any money. I needed to take the same one to the one in town... with no money. My boda did not understand why I was not paying him,and I though he was going to punch me in the face. Luckily... another boda came over, gave him 500 franks, and told me he would take me. He was cool.

In Gulu driving on a boda is quite easy because they go so slow because there are no real roads. Here, there are real roads so they go fast. As badass as I felt afterwards, I thought I was going to die the whole ride. When I finally got to the bank my hand had been holding on so tight to the back handle that it hurt to stretch it out.

Good news? I got some money...

I also celebrated Halloween here. We went to a bar dressed as soccer players because all we had were jerseys. Rwanda knows how to dress for Halloween and we were laughable in our soccer jerseys. To say the least, it was fun.