We woke up early in the morning around 6:30 am. Milly made us a delicious breakfast of fresh avocado, boiled eggs and a bread with tea.
After, we walked to the school which was less than 5 minutes from the house. We had hired workers who had already arrived at school. They were already working on-site, digging the foundation for the digester pit and the classroom. I told Bill to make sure the workers check in with him every morning before they begin work so they know what they are doing. The workers also get breakfast and lunch at the school. Breakfast break was from 10:30-11:00 am and lunch ran 2:30-3:00 pm. Prior to breakfast, the team reviews expectations and goals of the day.
The idea here was to create a system of how to report to work, establish a rhythm of getting paid, and define the lead skilled laborer and the lead general laborer. In the middle of my meeting with Bill, we noticed that there was a morning assembly happening outside. We had set up a little office in a corner of the church. We paused and walked outside of the church to be part of the morning assembly. The students were doing various stretches while teacher Odongo Jimmy was briefing the students what the week was going to be like. The morning assembly happens on Mondays and Fridays. Teacher Odongo Jimmy introduced Bill and I in front of the entire school and asked us to say a few words. Bill went first.
He introduced himself to the school and went on to teach kids how to say “Howdy”. He told them, “I will say Howdy out loud and then can you all say it back to me?”. He said, “Howdy” and all the kids replied back with one voice “Howdy” that was loud. In the middle of him explaining the Texas greeting, I pulled out my phone and I got the glimpse of the Howdy interaction between Bill and the students. A video on this later!
I then went on to introduce myself. In 2019, when I had come to the school and was trying to mimic the head, shoulder, knees and toes song but in Luganda (native language of Buganda Kingdom which is commonly spoken in our village), I would point to my head and the kids would yell out “mutawe” and then I would repeat the word. I would point at shoulder, kids would shout out “kidedega” and I would repeat the word back to them in Luganda. When I got to nose, they continued to shout out “nindo”. When I repeated the word back to the kids they were not happy with my pronunciation haha. All 300+ kids shouted, “No, nindo”. I was not rolling out my d like you would pronounce the word “dough” but with happy emphasis in the letter D. The kids kept on laughing with my pronunciation but would not let me pass until I said the word correctly. After 5-6 tries, they all said “Yes” in sync and we moved on to knees (Vevive) and toes (Bukele) with not much difficulty. At that time, the kids would keep calling me “nindo” over and over during my time here. In the assembly, I wanted to see if they still remembered that moment, so I went on and said the word “nindo” and those kids who remembered laughed. There were also many new students that have enrolled to the school since my last visit.
I went on to tell them that we have brought football equipment from the US to make a soccer team and they were so happy. I told them that we can make our own football team and try to organize a match before we go. In that friendly match, we can wear the donated soccer equipment. I had already spoken with teachers about having a team and hosting tryouts for boys and girls. So, I proceeded to tell them that this upcoming Thursday (Boys) and Friday (Girls) were going to have tryouts for the football team. They were all super excited.
After the morning assembly, we went to the job site in the back. Bill and I continued to talk about how to plan for building the foundation, coordinating the materials needed on-site, and labor needs each day. We went around the classroom foundation and directed the workers to dig on certain parts of the foundation to acheive the adequate depth needed.
At 10:30 am as the workers got some breakfast, Bill and I introduced ourselves. They also introduced themselves – a snapshot of the team that day:
I started to give the briefing to the group about making sure to check-in with Bill every morning before working outside. We didn’t want them to start working on-site and later find out their efforts were not needed. It was better to review designs together first. They agreed. I went to the second part of the briefing about payments. I told them that they will get paid for the work they did on a day-to-day basis however the paycheck will be paid out on Tuesday and Friday of each week. They were not very happy since the expectation was that they would get paid daily. I told all the workers I will pay you all consistently. They asked to get paid today at least because they didn’t have enough money to buy food to eat for the night. I was shocked to find out they were waiting for me to pay just so they can buy some ingredients from the market to cook food at home. Many had wives and kids at home. I agreed to pay on Monday and Tuesday back to back and then start to pay Friday and Tuesday from that point on. Paying them every day would require a lot of time for me to carry cash each day to the job site which was taking time away from ordering materials, coordinating the constructability of roof, etc. from a construction standpoint. We risked taking time away from other high priority work needed to do so we can complete the project on schedule, and budget. I had planned to go to the bank every Friday and Tuesday to pay them while I would be on the road to the city to buy various materials. They all understood and concurred.
My list of priorities was simple. First, keep Bill and I safe and sound from anything and everything. Second, was building the new school building and micro flush toilet. Third, was to get involved in the school curriculum. It is one thing to build the school’s outside, but the real work starts when we get to the inside, focusing on the education in the classroom.
After the meeting with the workers, I got a day rental for a motorcycle. David and I drove to Kayunga, the major marketplace to exchange some United States Dollars (USD) to Ugandan Shillings (UGX). Kayunga is also the district where our village Kirindi is located. Anyways, we went to the Post Bank office there. I was able to exchange money and then donate the money into the bank account. I also withdrew cash to buy materials, pay workers, etc. Bill gave me a list of shopping to do while I was in the city, which we completed before heading back to the village.
On the way back, we saw a bicycle with some pineapples on the back seat. We had to stop to buy the pineapple of course. Did you know the “world’s best pineapples” are in Uganda, particularly in the Kayunga district? David hand selected two of the best ones. The seller literally tied up two pineapples with a banana leaf fiber. I placed the pineapple in front of the motorcycle.
Milly was so delighted to see us with pineapple. She also told us that she was making chicken that Pastor Lule gave us last night. We first ate the pineapple as an appetizer followed by the real meal.
Everything was absolutely delicious. I almost forgot what a fresh chicken tasted like until that moment. It reminded me of Nepal because my uncle used to get us the biggest chicken in town when we visited. We called it “Bhale”.
After eating, I remember there was a dog in the neighborhood. I ran across the house to give the pieces of bones with some meat to the dog. The dog was skinny and when I took the food to it, the dog immediately ran away from me as if I was going to hit the dog. A dog’s life in a rural community is one of the parts I do not enjoy during my trips. They have terrible lives and people are so mean to them. I picked up the pieces of the food and started chasing the dog in the hope that it would trust me and enjoy some yummies. Eventually, it started to go to the house owner next door and started barking at me. The owner told me, he was scared and to just toss the food near him. I did, at first the dog ran away and then after 10 seconds or so, it came towards the food. It literally gobbled down the food. I proceeded to give him all the pieces and watched from afar.
We went back to the school to look at the progress of the construction. The work was coming along nicely. I paid the guys for the day just as promised. Afterwards, there were these students who started to talk to me. They asked if they could braid my hair. I said HELL YES! All the students surrounded me and started to braid.
I remembered earlier that day when David was walking to school, he mentioned how the community expects the boys to have short hair and girls to not wear pants. Literally girls are frowned upon to wear pants. It brought back another memory of my mom when we were in Chitwan, Nepal growing up in a village similar to Kirindi. My mom had forbidden my two older sisters, Sheela and Shushila, from wearing pants. It is kind of wild cause my mom wears jeans and pants nowadays and I remind her about that time years ago. She hates it when I do that, but I get this weird enjoyment from annoying/teasing my mother. Anyways, I thought it would be cool to have my hair braided and all these young boys were also seeing me with long hair. The older students gave me weird looks as they passed by which I found really funny.
Later that night, we ate dinner and David shared with me some of old photos of his students.
He pointed at the students and started to tell me the companies they now work at, how some are much bigger than him now, and others he hadn’t heard much about. He takes so much pride with where his students are now and these are signs of a dedicated teacher who genuinely cares about his students. It is so very nice to see.
It was a wild day and I experienced so much already and it was only the first day.
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Thank you for sharing, Saroj. Keep up with it please.