Another life changing visit to Uganda comes to an end.

Here is a short introductory video from last year’s work in Uganda. This was recorded by Great Primate Handshake (GPH, primatehandshake.org), who kindly made it available. I’ll post a new video soon related to this year’s work.

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At about 1pm, our old friend Edward drove me to St. Mary’s Kisubi (SMACK) so that I could see Mr. Mawulugungu and Dominic and finalize plans for Dominic’s three week school holiday preparing at the US Embassy for next steps in his education.

I asked Edward to help me find the Kisubi Post Office so I could make one last attempt to find Dominic’s missing SAT books. I’ve been advised consistently by Amazon UK that Dominic’s SAT and TOEFL books arrived at the Kisubi Post Office On July 11. But the books are among the missing. This is especially frustrating since Dominic has this one three week chance during school break to study and prepare for the exams.

Weeks back, enroute to Ft. Portal on July 19th, my driver and I had looked high and low, unsuccessfully, for the Kisubi Post Office. Eventually, we gave up. Today, Edward said he knew the location. We drove along the Entebbe Road, talking about all manner of things, including the sad story of his nephew who was expelled from SMACK for going home without permission.

Before long, we turned into the SMACK driveway. I said, “Wait, wait, first we need to find the post office.” Edward gestured to the left and responded patiently, “It is here.” Unbelievable. The Kisubi Post Office is located right at the base of the St. Mary’s driveway! A nice young man, Gibson, brought out his record book. Imagine, Dominic’s books were delivered yesterday. I wanted to fly through the iron bars that separated us and hug Gibson! When I saw Dominic a few minutes later at school, he was elated to have received the treasured resources.

Dominic is First in His Class at St. Mary's College Kisubi or SMACK, Arguably the Best Secondary School in Uganda

Dominic is First in His Class at St. Mary's College Kisubi or SMACK, Arguably the Best Secondary School in Uganda

On my final day of working with the schools, I was so pleased to have the chance to record Lydiah talking about the literacy initiative.

I have a two year tradition of reading with a child named Sandra on my final morning at Kasiisi. Sandra loves books, sitting close, and reading aloud. This year, she couldn’t wait to show me how her reading skills had advanced and I couldn’t wait to listen. She and hundreds others are why the literacy initiative matters.

Reading in the Kasiisi Library with Sandra

Reading in the Kasiisi Library with Sandra

After final farewells at Kasiisi, Kaiswa Amooti and I took the back road through the tea plantation and were on the Kampala road just before 11. Almost daily, we had driven through acres and acres of tea in order to reach Kyanyawara School. Every day I appreciated the scenic beauty but also the grueling labor involved in harvesting the crop.

Acres of Tea

Acres of Tea

And More Acres of Tea

And More Acres of Tea

We stopped for roadside chapatti in Kyenjojo and gonja (roasted banana) in Mubende. At the traffic circle just outside Kampala, we picked up David, the brother of my driver, and an expert in navigating Kampala. We arrived at the US Embassy at 3:30.

My driver, Kaiswa Amooti is on the right. His brother, David, our Kampala navigator, is on the left.

My driver, Kaiswa Amooti is on the right. His brother, David, our Kampala navigator, is on the left.

I met with both the Ugandan and American academic advisors on Dominic’s behalf. We left at 4:30 and we made our way through terrible traffic to Garden City and the book store, Aristoc. The missing SAT Preparation books needed by Dominic were not in stock. Further, Banana Boat was unable to accommodate the on the spot request for crafts for fall sales. I did, however, buy two large and sturdy wall maps for the Kyanyawara reading room. Amooti will deliver them to Josephine. Leaving Kampala at rush hour was next to impossible and we sat still in traffic for quite a long stretch. We arrived at the Boma,at 8:30.

Kabahuma Beatrice, a great friend and treasured P1 teacher at Kasiisi, walked with me to the preschool, where her son Eddie is in the middle class.

The Beautiful New Preschool at Kasiisi

The Beautiful New Preschool at Kasiisi

The preschool is out of this world. With small classes, young energetic teachers, a gorgeous learning environment, this is bound to become a model school in Uganda. Beatrice and I visited awhile and delivered some books that the children were all over! This small gift is but a beginning.

Kasiisi Preschool

Kasiisi Preschool

Former Weston Field School Scholar, Jenipher, and Her Preschool Class

Former Weston Field School Scholar, Jenipher, and Her Preschool Class

Former Weston Field School Scholar, Maureen, and Her Preschool Class

Former Weston Field School Scholar, Maureen, and Her Preschool Class


Beatrice's Son, Eddie, Reads Fountas and Pinnell's Literacy Beginnings

Beatrice's Son, Eddie, Reads Fountas and Pinnell's Literacy Beginnings

Kasiisi Teacher Proscovia's Daughter Attends the Preschool

Kasiisi Teacher Proscovia's Daughter Attends the Preschool

Then it was off to Kyanyawara to put the final labels on the bookshelves and to help Josephine welcome the Book Aid team at 10. It was just great to meet Karen Sharkey, of Book Aid UK, Dr. Bernard Bazirake Banuhinga, University Librarian at Kyembogo University, Nairuba Gorretti and Mary Kyogaba, Kyembogo Library assistants, Jennifer Nalwanga, Senior Assistant Librarian at the National Library of Uganda, and Muhangi Bernard, Head Librarian at Ft. Portal Library.

L to R: National Library of Uganda's Jennifer Malwanga, Book Aid International's Karen Sharkey, Kyambogo University's Dr. Bernard Bazirake Banuhinga

L to R: National Library of Uganda's Jennifer Malwanga, Book Aid International's Karen Sharkey, Kyambogo University's Dr. Bernard Bazirake Banuhinga

The Team from Book Aid International, Kyambogo University, and the National Library of Uganda Marvel at Kyanyawara's New Library

The Team from Book Aid International, Kyambogo University, and the National Library of Uganda Marvel at Kyanyawara's New Library

Josephine described the Kasiisi Project and the literacy initiative and the group was generous with their praise. The children’s work on the walls, the library itself, the fact that students had already borrowed books, and that we had a card catalog! Then the students came in and presented poems that they had memorized.

Kyanyawara Students Present Poems

Kyanyawara Students Present Poems

We left for Kasiisi in the Book Aid van at about 1pm. Lydiah Kasenene gave the visitors a brief history of the literacy initiative and then we were treated to observe a student run literature circle on the book Homeless Bird. The discussion director asked questions like: “What other title would you give this book?” or “What did you think about Koli’s mother-in-law? Why?” or “How did you react to the ending of this book?”The investigator shared information about the Ganges River, Varanasi, the Indian custom of burial, and other things. The connector made this point, “Koli had no one. That is different here in Uganda. We always have our family and community.”

I don’t think the group was even a little prepared for such impressive evidence of how a reading culture is growing in these two Kabarole District schools. Lydiah will be invited to speak at World Book Day in Kampala in March.

I had a very late lunch with the Book Aid group at the Garden Restaurant in town and was home by about 4:30 to pack and buy Rubingo baskets.

A very full day. I got to school just in time to hear the students sing the Tooro Anthem and then pray before their first class. Irene and I continued book preparation. Tracking down the 2010 books and getting them into the Kyanyawara card catalog has been a time consuming challenge.

Josephine and I divided the P7 students into two groups and gave each a 20-25 minute orientation to the library. This was an introduction to many new concepts: genre, reference books and how they work, what a “global” book is…I also explained the borrowing system and Josephine oversaw the signing out of books.

P7 Students Wash Hands Before Signing Out Library Books

P7 Students Wash Hands Before Signing Out Library Books


Josephine Teaches Students How to Sign Out Books

Josephine Teaches Students How to Sign Out Books

Following the borrowing, Irene, Josephine, and I did a poetry activity. I wrote two poems on the board. The kids were great oral readers and they were really good at following the punctuation rather than reading line by line. We talked about poetry in general and the two selected two poems in particular. Afterward, each student made a self-portrait head out of the recycled book shipment boxes.

Kyanyawara P7 Students Link Poetry and Art

Kyanyawara P7 Students Link Poetry and Art

The Kyanyawara teachers and I had talked about ways to link art projects to books, then put the art in the library and reading room to encourage students to think of the library as their library. Their space. The heads project is one that Field School art teacher, Lucy Leyland helped me accomplish at Kasiisi School in 2009. Watching the Kyanyawara kids make their heads was really fun. There was no problem sharing beads. Not one bead was lost. There was not a single issue regarding following directions, the over use of glue, or keeping track of the tiny red tops of the craft glue. Every student was engaged and worked patiently and carefully with an occasional giggle or laugh when a classmate’s head looked funny.

Heads Made from Recycled Book Shipment Boxes

Heads Made from Recycled Book Shipment Boxes

Midway through the heads, carpenter Moses, who had done such a great job on the library shelving came by to give an estimate on a round table and 10 chairs for the reading room. I paid him on the spot and he will begin right away.

Josephine and I moved on to Rose’s P3 class. I read Patrick Paints a Picture by Saviour Pirotta. The children knew all the color words and loved drawing and coloring with craypas. Later, we covered the old damaged reading room blackboard with P3 color.

P3 Students Draw with Craypas in Response to Michael Paints a Picture

P3 Students Draw with Craypas in Response to Michael Paints a Picture

I had a memorable experience at lunch break with Josephine and 8 of her GEM, or Girl’s Education group members. This group of girls will make up the first literature circle at Kyanyawara. I’d set aside what I hoped would be a perfect book for these girls, entitled Amazon Women, a collection of 6 or 8 stories about strong and capable women. Josephine read the first story and I modeled how to stop from time to time and “turn and talk” to a neighbor. It was a new experience and the girls were out of their comfort zone. At first, the girls were very hesitant to share their ideas, but they were strong like the Amazons and they did it. It very special to hear each one define what to her is a hero. Then after turning and talking again, each one shared who her own hero is. Many described their mothers, including me. The girls were very good at telling why. I will never forget this experience.

Josephine Reads with the Gem Girls about Strong Women

Josephine Reads with the Gem Girls about Strong Women

Gem Girls Turn and Talk... "What is a hero?"

Gem Girls Turn and Talk... "What is a hero?"

After lunch, Josephine asked if we could read Catch that Goat with her P4 students. She read the story and I circulated through the class with the goat puppet. Lots of laughs and fun.

At 3, we had the second literature circle for teachers. They had read the second third of A Year With Miss Agnes and we organized the discussion according to Harvey Daniels model. Teacher Kenneth was especially good as summarizer and Josephine was great as vocabulary enricher and literary luminary.

Afterward, we exchanged gifts and did some final tidying in the library in preparation for tomorrow’s Book Aid International visit.

St. Steven’s Church holds two services, an early one in English, the second in Rutooro, the local language. I attended the English service with Library-Reading teacher, Moses, and Kyanyawara Deputy Head Teacher, Rose. Kazairwe Maureen, former Field School scholar and current Kasiisi Preschool teacher, acted as lay leader. Last year, Maureen volunteered for weeks processing the 2010 books.

Former Kasiisi Scholar and Current Kasiisi PreSchool Teacher Maureen

Former Kasiisi Scholar and Current Kasiisi PreSchool Teacher Maureen

At about 11, Emily Otali, daughter Pani, Mathew Koojo, and I drove to the new KFSSSP (Kibale Forest Student Support Project) farm. Mathew acted as guide, explaining the overall plan and progress to date. The farmland has 200 yards of footage on the Mahoma River and we walked to its edge. Beautiful! Eventually the farm will grow crops and livestock, and will even have a visitor’s lodge. The initiative will make the porridge project sustainable.

Mathew and Pani at the Farm

Mathew and Pani at the Farm


Foundation for Chicken House

Foundation for Chicken House

I returned to Kasiisi School in time for a 1:30 pm Mother’s and Grandmother’s meeting, one of the true highlights of my trip. Kyakyo Beatrice has led the group every other Sunday from 3 to 5 pm since August 8, 2010. The group meets to advance literacy amongst themselves and especially to build the foundations of literacy in their young children who range in age from 2 months to 5 years.

Womens' Literacy Group

Womens' Literacy Group


There are 42 consistent members of the literacy group. Beatrice has kept great records and I noticed that in April, the women began meeting 4 times a month. They have decided to meet twice for literacy and twice to promote entrepreneurial ventures.

Kyakyo Beatrice Leads the Womens' Literacy Group

Kyakyo Beatrice Leads the Womens' Literacy Group

Lydiah and John Kasenene, Joshua Kagaba, and I had dinner at Kyaninga Lodge, set on a ledge above Lake Kyaninga. We watched the sun set behind the Ruwenzori, or Mountains of the Moon.

Sunset at Kyaninga Lake - Looking to the Ruwenzori

Sunset at Kyaninga Lake - Looking to the Ruwenzori


Friends at Kyaninga Lodge

Friends at Kyaninga Lodge

I had another productive day at the library with Irene. Books, books, books… Then at about 1, Emily Otali, Director of the Kibale Chimp Project, picked me up and we drove to the Chimp House in Kibale Forest for a fantastic luncheon prepared by well known chef, Margaret. So so good!

Unflagging Energy

Unflagging Energy

I always love time with Emily. Her daughter, Pani, is 21 months and beautiful. I got to hold and hug her and enjoy her big bright smile. She looks like her mama.

Em and Pani

Em and Pani

It rained and on the way home we slid a lot on the muddy roads. It’s quite like icy roads in New England or Colorado.

It is the end of the day on Friday, July 29. I’m experiencing a complete change of plan due to a national teacher’s strike and the day-long cancellation of all Ugandan government schools. It was a surprise to arrive at a quiet and empty Kyanyawara School yesterday morning. I certainly support the teachers but wish the timing for the strike had been just slightly earlier or later.

I hate missing school (we were to open the library today!) but there is a silver lining and it has to do with people. Yesterday, I captured time at the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS) with Caroline Riss, the on-the-ground Director of the Kasiisi Project in Uganda.

Then today, I caught up with Ineke Jongerius, owner of the Ruwenzori View, just back last night from two months in the Netherlands. Ineke is a friend and valued advisor.

Ineke and Barbara at Ruwenzori View Guesthouse

Ineke and Barbara at Ruwenzori View Guesthouse

Over the course of these two days, I’ve processed all but one box of Book Aid International books. The last one sits at Kyanyawara and I’ll pick it up tomorrow. The gigantic task of processing these books could not have been accomplished without the work of an international team: Kasiisi scholar Irene, year 2 at Makerere, majoring in Economics, and 3 current or former Kasiisi scholars: Mathew, BA in Business from Kampala International last year, Arthurn, S6 at Katikamu, and Patrick. On Sunday Kyanyawara teachers Josephine, Patrick, and Generous learned the ropes. There is now a good solid Ugandan group who knows the system. Carl, Chris, Michael, and Iver, all from Dulwich College in the UK, helped a great deal. They depart tomorrow and I will certainly miss them.

At Kyanyawara, it was a day for students and parents to listen to the educational leaders.

For over an hour, Kagaba Joshua addressed all students, P1-P7, about the importance of the library. Sometimes Joshua was serious, other times he was funny. He had all 600 or so attendees in the palm of his hand.

Kagaba Joshua Addressing Kyanyawara Students

Kagaba Joshua Addressing Kyanyawara Students

Parents began assembling for the 10 o’clock parent meeting at about 10, and by 11, the Kyanyawara Church was filled to overflowing. It was a formal, dress-in-your-Sunday-best event. Josephine Kisembo and Joshua led the meeting and representatives from the School Committee and the PTA spoke. While the meeting was unfolding, Irene and the Dulwich volunteers prepared books.

Josephine and Joshua Sensitize Parents to Their Role in Supporting a Reading Culture

Josephine and Joshua Sensitize Parents to Their Role in Supporting a Reading Culture


Joshua Describes the Connection Between Reading and Mathew's Success

Joshua Describes the Connection Between Reading and Mathew's Success


Kyanyawara Parents LIsten

Kyanyawara Parents LIsten


"I have one American son, Steven, and two Ugandan sons, Kagaba and Apuuli."

"I have one American son, Steven, and two Ugandan sons, Kagaba and Apuuli."

Amooti and I left at about 3 so that I could stop at St. Leo’s for a quick visit with Tulinde Michael and Namara Godwin. Unfortunately, Namara was in exams. On the way to Kyambambe, I saw the Pastor of St. Steven’s Church, Kasiisi, outside a church. We stopped so I could greet him. He was pleased I stopped and said he hoped I’d come to church on Sunday. Finally, on to Kyambambe for an annual visit with our S2 scholar, Kangume Annet and her friend, Kirungi Ruth. Annet is a double orphan and Ruth lost her mother last summer. When Annet saw me, she just buried her whole self into me. She would not let go and would not stop the hugging. Ruth was wearing the shoes I brought last year. Now each one will have an identical gift bag, including outfits chosen by their American friend, Courtney, who they met in 2009. Once Annet let me go, she wanted to know “How is Courtney?!”

Annet and Ruth

Annet and Ruth


New Clothes!

New Clothes!


Tulinde at St. Leo's

Tulinde at St. Leo's

Back at Ruwenzori View, I spent two more hours cataloging books.

Today was a teacher’s workshop day for Kasiisi and Kyanyawara teachers. Head Teachers Lydiah and Josephine cancelled school to make time for a literacy workshop and I felt the responsibility!

Kasiisi and Kyanyawara Reading Comprehension Workshop

Kasiisi and Kyanyawara Reading Comprehension Workshop

The day started well before the crack of dawn. Amooti dropped me at Kasiisi at about 7:40, then drove to Kyanyawara by 8 to pick up five teachers. Caroline Riss, Kasiisi Administrator, picked up the other four. We began by 9 and focused on reading comprehension strategies all day. Midway, though, the bulb on the Project projector burned out. It was a scramble for Mathew to find an alternative, but he came through with a small projector. He and Michael saved the day.

It was challenging to get the teachers to speak freely. (Classroom talk was a huge part of the comprehension strategy training.) So, after lunch, I made a “winner’s basket.” Now, when I asked a question, names were called. When that happened, it seemed to free some to participate. Or maybe they just caved to the pressure.

At 1 PM the Kasiisi chef, Araali, prepared a feast of posho, matooke, chicken, and groundnut sauce. It was so good I went back for more. It’s the peanut sauce that did it.

Some time afterward, timekeeper Tom rang the bell to reassemble. All through the DVDs, I was greatly relieved to hear chuckles, hmmm sounds and so on. Everyone was attentive and I am fairly sure the Ugandan teachers connected with at least some of the material. Lydiah was, as always, so supportive.

At about 2pm the rain started. Not cats and dogs, rather hippos and elephants. HUGE rain. Almost scary, especially as more than 30 people have died in the last few months from lightning strikes. The wind blew, the skies opened, and water pelted, just slammed against the metal roof. Everything stopped. Kagaba Joshua says this is enjato, “hurling wind.” We were unable to talk for the noise, even to the friend right close by. It lasted what seemed an eternity. The Ugandans just relaxed and accepted it as part of normal life. I have never been to Uganda in the rainy season and this rain was impressive!.

After 40 minutes, the rain eased. As soon as a voice could be heard above the din, I read the poem “In the Ebony Room,” from “The Distant Talking Drum” by Olalaye. Moses found it on the poetry shelf for me. It describes school children who are detained at school because of the rain.

Amooti and I dropped Kasiisi Deputy Head Teacher Stephen, Nurse Lucy, and Kyanyawara Head Teacher Josephine at various points along the Ft. Portal Road. When we got back to the Ruwenzori View, I spotted Fred, our driver from Bwindi to Fort Portal in 2005. We had a happy reunion and Fred remembered many details of that trip.

I love Uganda.

Kasiisi School

Kasiisi School

Kasiisi Primary School (click to enlarge)

Kyanyawara School

Kyanyawara Primary School

Kyanyawara Primary School

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