We woke up early in the morning and it was raining hard. When it rains here, life comes to a pause. Luckily it was Sunday so work and school were already off. However, when it rains on a weekday, school still gets cancelled. I smiled as I thought to myself how the children will soon have a new school building that will allow them to continue to attend class even when it rains.
We starting working at 7:00 am, staking the ground for the bathroom and the channels of the classroom. After that, at 8:30 am, we started to dig the foundations of the classroom and the micro flush toilet. We didn’t expect the weather to be so persistent. What felt like a complete rain on our parade, we had to call off work at 9:00 am due to the torrential rainfall. Nonetheless, it gave us a day to reset. We did more planning around some of the project complications such as figuring out where to find big rocks for the soak pit, where to get 1,500 worms for the digester pit, where to access a bank in the village, how to get a motorcycle for hire, assessing the availability of construction materials in the village and the list goes on…
After awhile, we paid a visit to the church. We had arrived to find only 5 people there. Church service typically ran 9:00 am to noon. Due to the rain though, the service had been delayed. Everyone who was there had taken their shoes off. Naturally, Bill and I followed although everyone kept persisting that we keep them on. There was way too much mud on our work shoes, which felt unfitting for a place of worship despite the others’ thoughtfulness. We removed them out of respect.
As we entered the church, we sat down and teacher Steven gave us some drums. These drums were at least 4 decades old. Teacher Steven taught us how to play them. Billy was the base, I was the middle drum, and teacher Steven was the smallest one. It was epic jamming with them! David joined us shortly after and played as well. Later, we plugged in the piano, and microphones. We sang gospel songs with other teachers and it was amazing.
Finally the rain stopped and after a few minutes more people started to rush in. David kicked off the service by welcoming everyone. Dancing and singing followed. Testimonies of people healing happened where people shared how their back pain was gone when they came to church this morning while that pain was hurting them so much throughout the week. I had never been to a church service before. The energy was awesome. Everyone singing and dancing was so healing and spiritual at the same time.
Towards the last 30 minutes of the service, Pastor Lule came on. His preaching was about love and how grateful he was to have us come to the community to build a school. He was a little bit sad that we only got to eat rice and beans for dinner. He recommended that we eat meat such as chicken, fish, and goat while we were here. He did not want us to go back to the USA skinny hahah. Later that day, we went to visit Pastor Lule’s house where he cooked us a fresh chicken for dinner.
Earlier that day after service, we met with the construction team, focusing on discussing the foundation plans with them. The workers gave us insight on the different construction practices of Uganda. For instance, we had originally planned to pour concrete into rebar form for the 2.5 ft. deep foundation of the building. Match the foundation to the slab with leveling the classroom building. After that, put interlocking bricks all the way up to the roof. The roof is something we still need to have a conversation with the workers to better understand the Ugandan methods of roof building.
As we spoke with the builder, things got complicated very quickly. We changed our approach to the foundation now with bricks. We are not putting in big rock followed by gravel and then concrete. Level this up to 1 ft. or so. We place regular bricks on the foundation with brick columns in between until the ground level. The workers also recommended interlocking bricks columns above ground to solidify/strengthen the building structure. I had a big dispute when the workers said the columns need to be in the mid-point of the walls instead of the corners. I was shocked. Examples of buildings with brick columns in the corners appeared typical. We visited the church which had utilized this approach. I agreed and the entire plans of how we were going to build during the planning phase in the United States had changed. The logic here is that the workers know how to build so why try to push them towards something they are not used to doing. If we agree on the workers’ approach and pivot on the design plans, it will make the workers work faster, allow us to learn how to build in Ugandan style and ultimately help complete the school construction before we depart.
We came back home and teacher Steven also came to the house to visit us. When I was in Uganda in 2019 with Claire, teacher Steven had told me right before I was about to leave the village to bring a football jersey for our school. Sure enough, I was lucky enough to bring them with me thanks to a volunteer (Alessio) from Providence who donated soccer gear to us a few years back. Come to think about it now, these soccer gears traveled a lot. Providence to California, two years in the garage and a flight to Uganda. It has finally made it to Kirindi village and is ready to be put to use! Teacher Steven was so happy. As a fellow football lover to another, it was a moment I will cherish for a long time.
Bill and I visited the local hardware store to assess what materials were available. There were galvanized sheets, cement, iron bars, nails, PVC pipe, and so many other things we needed for the construction. The hardware store also was able to bring in materials such as regular sand, bricks, lake sand, big rocks, and gravel in a truck. We basically had 85% of the goods available. With happy thoughts, we proceeded towards Pastor Lule’s house to greet him and pay our respects. On the way, we picked up some “Rolex.” “Rolex” is like the ultimate Ugandan street food. It consists of chapati (bread), eggs with onion and tomatoes rolled up like a wrap. It is absolutely delicious. We only ordered two and shared among three because Milly had cooked us lunch. It was also Billy’s first “Rolex” and he enjoyed them too.
Upon arriving at Pastor Lule’s house, we just chilled on the veranda for a bit. His house is right in the town center where there is a lot of hustle and bustle. People watching can be fun. We did that for a bit and told Pastor Lule we are going to find a chicken to eat. He insisted we take his chicken as a gift. I accepted the generous offering and then took off back home to eat a late lunch.
Milly had made Irish potatoes, noodles, eggs, and vegetables. It was absolutely delicious.
A fun fact about Bill – he is an avid runner. We wanted to go for a run to the Nile River and back which was roughly one mile. Marvin, Milly’s younger brother, also lives in the same house. Milly asked Marvin to run with Bill. He agreed and off they went. When they got back, Bill was breathing heavily and sweating. On the other hand Marvin was just standing there effortlessly. Bill went on to say, “Going down to the Nile river was downhill, but coming back uphill killed me”. I was shocked. Bill is a very good runner and the fact that he struggled to keep up with Marvin, a 7th grader, was surreal. Mind you, Marvin did not have running shoes. He was running with flip flops. Wild. It was another day to remember. Marvin 1 Bill 0.
Milly asked me what we’d like for breakfast. I replied avocado!! Marvin went up to the avocado tree that sat between the bathroom and the house and effortlessly climbed up. I stood on the bottom as he tossed perfectly ripe avocados to me. I collected a total of 10 avocados for breakfast. It is moments like this that make me so happy we are in Uganda where all the food we eat are SUPER FRESHHH!!
We had a late lunch so dinner was fruits and warm milk. With thoughts of getting the foundation done the next day, we went to bed.
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Thank you for sharing, Saroj. I feel like I am there with you guys when I read your blog and I love it. Keep writing.