Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Warning! Danger!

                My update comes a little early this week since tomorrow morning I will be going under for the removal of my wisdom teeth! The dreaded day is fast approaching. So while I still have common sense and am able to articulate an idea I will write my blog. I have been getting ready for my trip which is also quickly approaching. I have a few dozen forms which need to be filled out and sent in and cheques which need to be written. I have things that need to be bought and many more things which need to be done! It’s going to be an interesting few weeks while I prepare. Before we leave we have to do a chart which analyzes the risks and makes us think about what we will do if we are faced by those risks. I found it pretty interesting so I’ll post what I found below:

Personal Safety Risk Assessment

What is the Risk?
How likely am I to encounter this risk – not likely, likely, very likely? Why?
How severe is this risk? Rank it – low, moderate, or high. Give your reasons.
What will I do to manage this risk?
Crime – Armed robberies have increased and can happen during daylight and in public areas. Highway travel is dangerous at night time. Petty crime, including pickpocketing, purse and jewellery snatching and theft form vehicles is common.
Very likely – pickpocketing will be highly likely in busy areas.
Moderate – petty crime is more likely than armed robbery
I will not venture out alone after dark in dimly lit or unlit back streets. I will travel in groups to make me be less of a target. While travelling in a vehicle I will ensure that the doors remain locked. If there is an emergency I will call the emergency number – 999.
Drugged food or drinks offered from strangers, it may be drugged
Unknown – there is nothing stated about the likelihood of this occurring
High – unknown if there will be anything that happens if the food is drugged
I will not accept food or drinks from strangers.
Marburg Haemorrhagic Fever
Not likely – I am not planning to go into caves during my visit to Uganda
High – a Dutch tourist died of Marburg haemorrhagic fever in June of 2008.
There is no commercially available vaccine or medication to prevent infection.
I will avoid going into caves where bats may be present
Photography of security forces, diplomatic sites (including Owen Falls Dam at the source of the Nile near Jinja), government installations or airports, is prohibited. This could result in a jail sentence.
Not likely – I will not take pictures of people in military-style or camouflage clothing
Moderate -  This action may result in a jail sentence
I will not take picture of military-style or camouflage clothing.
Pedestrians/ Vehicles
Likely – I will be walking quite frequently around Kampala.

I will also be using services such as the boda-bouda.
High – there is a high likelihood of being in a traffic accident. There is a high amount of accidents which occur every year.
The intercity bus (including overnight long distance buses) should be avoided due to reckless driving, excessive speed and poor vehicle maintenance.
I will be cautious when walking and while crossing roads.
I will ensure that the vehicle is in good condition before departure and ensure to wear a helmet at all times.

Political Risk Assessment

What is the Risk?
How likely am I to encounter this risk – not likely, likely, very likely? Why?
How severe is this risk? Rank it – low, moderate, or high. Give your reasons.
What will I do to manage this risk?
Riots, political unrest; most recent at the Kasubi tombs on March 16, 2010
Likely – I may see protests occurring. The Kasubi tombs are located in Kampala, which is the same city that I will be living in.
High – a UNESCO world heritage site was burned down and there were casualties
I will monitor the situation; avoid large crowds and any demonstrations.
Violent incidents in Murchison falls National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Kidepo Park, or Semuliki National Park
Not likely – because I will follow all guidelines and proceed with caution if I choose to go to any of those areas. I am not located in those areas so I am able to avoid them if necessary.
High – there have been violent incidents
I will monitor the situation, and if I travel to Kidepo National Park I will proceed to do that by air.
Political unrest on the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the northern border of Uganda – Sudan
Very likely if I am in those areas.
High – the Lord’s Resistance Army is located in Northern Uganda and is a terrorist group. The Lord’s Resistance Army continues to be a serious threat in the following districts despite a ceasefire signed in 2006: Adjumani, Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, Lira, and Apac districts.
I will avoid the high risk areas and will not travel into northern Uganda. If travelling in northern Uganda it is advised to use extreme caution and follow the advice of local authorities.

Environmental Risk Assessment

What is the Risk?
How likely am I to encounter this risk – not likely, likely, very likely? Why?
How severe is this risk? Rank it – low, moderate, or high. Give your reasons.
What will I do to manage this risk?
Heavy Rains and Flooding
Not likely – The first month that I move to Uganda will be during a high rain season; the next two months will  not be during the rainy season
Potentially high risk – during the rainy season the flooding and mud slides can cause evacuations, casualties and damage to infrastructure
I will watch the weather report and ensure that I do not go out during a day when mud slides are at a high likelihood of occurring.
I will stay out of high risk zones where the flooding occurs.

Those are some mighty big risks! I know this much, I have to be careful when I am in Uganda, it won’t be like Toronto. I have taken a special note for what to watch when I am in Kampala and where there is a danger zone. Besides the riots and the petty crime Kampala doesn’t seem to be such a scary place. The more I hear about the city the more I feel like moving there will be an adventure. I do not believe that I will be experiencing any heavy rains or flooding in the country since I will be coming at the end of the rainy season and at the beginning of the dry season. I know that there are risks associated with travelling to Kampala but I am trying my best to minimize those risks (the 5 shots in my left arm will agree with me on that point). Hopefully all of this reading, being a pin cushion and preparing is going to help me when I am in Africa to make sure that I don’t get into too much trouble!
                I cannot wait to arrive in Kampala and to find out what it is, exactly, that I will be doing there or even where I will be living. I saw some of the other girl’s placement homes and they look amazing, defiantly not what I thought (or others for that matter!). They are not the “tiki huts” that everyone has been picturing, some are nicer than my house that I’m currently living in! With all of this said, I’m still not sure where I will be living or what my living conditions are going to be like. I don’t have a problem with things like squat toilets but it would be nice to know ahead of time just to prepare myself! I wish I had the luxury of information that a lot of my classmates know. I don’t even know what field I will be working in this summer! Everyone knows at least that they will be doing things like working with sustainability, teaching how to sew, promoting local artists, or working with HIV infected people. I wish I had that luxury of information. I guess that I will have to be very adaptable! Until I know what I’m doing I can promise this: I will continue to be very nervous (more so than getting my teeth out!). Well I am sorry this is such a short post (minus the huge table of course)! I need to go prepare for the unexpected.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hello, My Name is Jacquelyn. I am a Human Being.

                This weekend our group held a yard sale and a pancake breakfast. We made quite a large chunk of change and this event has taught me so much. First thing I learned: never take the lead on something if you aren’t going to be able to dedicate yourself 100% to the project. I know that everyone pitched in but so much of the planning and the organizing weighed down my already burdened shoulders. I would just like to thank all of you who helped; I came close to my breaking point almost every day while planning this event. It was those little things that really went a long way. Now with all this said and done, I can relax (as much as possible because this is pretty much full steam ahead).
Another thing I learned: corruption. I have heard the story of the person who saw corruption in third world countries. A delivery is made and the recipients take more resources than they are supposed to. A westerner’s response: “How could they do that? Don’t they know how many children are hungry and would appreciate that food?” I can’t lie, I have had the same reaction to this story. How does this relate? Well while planning the event I was entrusted with keeping the food at my house until the event was able to start. I can’t lie, I ran out of margarine at my house and I went into my fridge and took out a butter package to use it for myself. This happened 3 or 4 times before the event started. I know that this is not on the same scale as some other situations but it taught me something valuable. Corruption is something that occurs so easily, especially when you really need something and it’s all right in front of you. Everyone is a human and as much as we think we are not capable of something we are just as capable as that person. Most people do not believe that they would hurt their fellow neighbours but in the Milgram experiment the participants, who were citizens of the United States, administered electrical shocks to their fellow American, as they were led to believe. The participants were following authority and they were led to believe that they were actually giving electrical pulses to someone on the other side of the wall and many of the participants went up to a lethal level of electricity because someone told them to. This shows exactly what humans are capable of. We cannot sit in our comfy homes, sipping our lattes and judge why there is corruption in the third world. We really do have to walk for a mile in their shoes in order to really understand what is going on. As a North American I am not exempt from this type of behaviour. While preparing for our event I exhibited corruption by consuming something that was not mine and I did not pay for those butters that I took. I know that I may come across this type of corruption while I am in Uganda, or maybe later on in life, but I have to remember to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before I so easily judge them. There are different circumstances which put people in different positions and we are all susceptible to these types of actions.
On another note getting ready to leave has left me feeling like I am running, out of breath, about to fall over and I can’t stop and take a walk to catch my breath. There is so much that needs to be done: the regular stress of getting all of my assignments in on time for classes, making sure my shots have all been given to me, making sure that all of my shots are up to date, starting to shop around for supplies that I need to take on my trip and making sure that I get the best bang for my buck, and making sure that I still have some down time so that I don’t go crazy. Everything just feels insane. I am getting to the point where I am looking forward to facing one of my biggest fears, getting my wisdom teeth out, just so that I have a medical excuse to be made to relax for a few days. I will be on doctor’s orders to recoup after the procedure. I know that in all of this time where I should be relaxing I will be doing all that I am able to do so that I do not miss a minute of studying. Here is a note to my future self when I am freaking out: breathe, everything will be ok. What gets done is what gets done. You are only human and you can only do so much. Relax. 

Friday, March 19, 2010


                So an update on my life as I prepare for getting ready to leave, every week I have a new needle that I have to get. Did I ever mention that at the beginning of the year I was afraid of needles? I don’t mean like I get a little scared, I mean like I would start shaking head to foot and have a small panic attack at the thought of a needle. Slowly and surely I have been facing this fear, or been forced to face this fear rather, and have been getting all needles that I need for this trip and then a few that I thought would be important to get. One thing that this program never really advertises: costs. Yes they tell you about the $1400 that you have to pay and then $2000 that you have to raise. Here is what they don’t tell you, you need to pay a lot more for things you need when you go over there. Yes you would think that I would have thought that I would be going over with supplies but until the costs hit you it never really enters into your consciousness. Here’s a small list of things you need to get: shots (most are covered but if you don’t have separate insurance other than school insurance, you are not really covered too well), rehydration salts, water purification tablets, protein bars to bring over (in case you get lost and hungry), clothes which are appropriate for wearing over in your placement, mosquito nets, DEET, hygienic things for when you are over there (soap, etc), medications that you may need (tums, immodium, advil, etc), etc. The list goes on and on and it is one that makes your head spin around in circles. What is the bright side of all of this? Air Miles. I am going to get a lot of those this year.
                Beyond Borders has taught me a lot so far this year. I have learned how to organize better than I have ever done before. Every week my agenda is packed with a million things to do and somehow they all get done. Time management has become a speciality for me to be able to do. I can balance homework, planning a fundraiser event, volunteering, writing essays, doctor appointments, sleep, social events (to help keep me sane) and the random unexpected thing that comes out of left field. I have also learned how to work in a team for a long period of time and how to get things done effectively in group dynamics. I have also started to look at things a little differently. My entire university career has been teaching me how to look at the world differently and this course offers nothing less than what I have been enjoying for three years. Peace and Conflict Studies is an amazing program that really makes you look twice at everything, to the point where you will refuse to eat a banana because it is not fair trade. My family has already noticed the difference. One person in my family asked if I could go back to normal. I just thought, what is normal? In my program we learn a great deal about wars, the global south, alternative dispute resolution, etc. This program has opened my eyes more than I could have ever thought possible.
I am excited about the idea of going away this summer. Right now, however, I am so busy that I don’t really have time to be excited right now. I’m still a little nervous. I don’t know much about my placement. I know that it is in Kampala, Uganda. It is called the Kamowkya Christian Caring Community. I know that they work with health, education, micro financing and advocacy. That is all I know. I am not hiding anything else from you. You now know as much as I do. I do not know what I am going to be doing, or who I am staying with, or how many people live in the family. I don’t know anything. It is making me incredibly nervous. I am going to a strange country and I hardly know anything. This little information is unsettling. I am very uncomfortable not knowing anything. I evidently will not know anything until I go to my country regarding all of the previous questions. This makes me very, very, very nervous. I will have to learn one more thing form Beyond Borders: how to let it go with the flow.
An update on the fundraising events before I sign off this blog entry! The band night went very well! The bands which came include: Junca (Junka?), IVS and Stone Fox. They were all amazing bands and we were excited to see everyone out at the band night! The event raised quite a bit of money for our group. A special thank-you to David Perrin for his continuous support that we have received throughout the year! Our next event is a yard sale which is going to take place on Sunday. We are collecting donations and will hold the sale on Sunday March 21st from 8:30 – 2:00! There will also be a pancake breakfast for all of those who are hungry! Please come out and support us!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My fears are always difficult to discuss with other people; I don't like to seem weak. The easiest way for me to portray my feelings is through stories. With this said the story can apply to many different aspects in life and travel abroad. Anyways, enough of my babbling. I hope you enjoy:

                The wind playfully brushes against my hair and blows it into my face, and I carefully push it back out of the way so that I can have a full view. I look out on the horizon while the wind blows a warm breeze that blankets me and makes my skin tingle. I am standing alone on the edge of a cliff, watching the sun paint the sky with its beautiful brush strokes. The colours surround me. Orange is playing with the pink in the sky and the pink is mixing with the blues. The sky is light up in a symphony of colours. I soak up all that the sun has left to offer during this peaceful moment; the warmth, the light, the hope, the happiness. I try to focus on all that is positive around me while gazing out upon the vast land which surrounds me, stained with colour. There is so much to see, and so many possibilities all within my eye’s view. The sight is a sad beauty to behold.
                It is so funny how quickly it happens. One moment you are surrounded by warmth, love, light the next moment you are in unfamiliar territory. I am scared to step anywhere and any wrong move could be certain danger. My vision has been lost, I cannot see and the world seems so dark. Goose bumps start to crawl all over my skin as I pull my sweater closer to myself for warmth. Panic starts to rise up within me and I wonder, who will save me? I am truly alone. Despair and hopelessness seep into my body, like the darkness that is constantly spreading, further and further. What will I do? Where will I go? Who can I trust? I feel numb from the cold now. I try to peer down to the bottom of the cliff; how far was it until the bottom? The bottom. The bottom of the cliff somehow seems close to me, as if I can just step down. I could play with all of the animals who live down there: the snakes and the horned animals. How kind the animals seem, they are calling out my name. There is a party that they threw in my honour, I can hear the drums playing. It isn’t far away now, the bottom. I can feel it starting to suck me in. I cannot go a moment without thinking about it. What harm would it do to be sucked into this world? There is no more light, no more hope.
                These thoughts tumble in my head, over and over the questions are asked. Who would miss me if I went to the bottom? Is anyone else even here? As I contemplate these thoughts trying to peer into the bottom of the cliff. There is light creeping up over the horizon! Is it just my eyes playing tricks on me? Have I been plunged in darkness for that long? No! It is light, there are colours dancing in the sky. The pinks and the oranges start to make their grand entrance into the world. All at once life starts to flow back into my body. The animals in the bottom of the cliff are starting to disappear. Were they ever really there to begin with or was my mind playing tricks on me? I can clearly see the bottom of the cliff now. I have to take a few steps back, for fear of how close I am to the edge. The sun continues to rise; it is a new day. Day. Warmth, light, hope, and happiness come back to me like old friends that I have not seen for a long time. I turn and head away from the cliff, now on sure footing, to continue my journey. There will be other cliffs that I will have to face and other dangers to encounter but I am reminded that even though the night may seem long, the sun always raises.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Days

                First days are always difficult for me. I never know what to do, where to go, or even where I am going. This week I started, very late I know, volunteering! I went to St. John’s Kitchen. Here’s a little recap of how it all went:
12:05am – Calling my friend.
Them: “Hello?”
Me: “Hi.”
Them: “What’s up?”
Me: “I’m nervous.”
Them: “About?”
Me: “What if I go there and I didn’t dress the right way and then everyone gangs up on me and then I end up freaking out, which only makes the planet spin on its axis faster, making the days go by quicker, which causes global warming to occur faster, which ends up killing everyone that I was trying to help in the first place, and me!” (This was said very quickly)
Them: “...”
Me: “...”
Them: “You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
Me: “But I’ve always been a little scared of homeless people.”
*This is where Joanne’s voice chirped in my head reminding me that everyone is human.*
Me: “You know what! Tomorrow I am going to go in and be the best volunteer there! And I will smile at everyone and treat them like people!”

Ok so now to explain this skit out a little bit. I grew up in Mississauga, a land where there really aren’t that many homeless people. Growing up close to Toronto means that I have seen them but usually when I go to the city for the day. I was taught by society well: keep your eyes ahead of you, don’t look, pretend it isn’t there. We do not treat these people as humans but rather we don’t think about their existence and we continue on to whatever we were going to do in our lives. I know this is wrong but it has been taught to me so well that breaking out of that cycle can be difficult. In our class we read many different books on a wide variety of subjects. One of the subjects regards treating people as human. For this subject we read Jean Vanier’s Becoming Human. While this book does tie in well with what I was experiencing the book did not touch me like it did others. One of the books that has taught me so much about humanity and what it means to be human is Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. This book always helps be when I feel scared or when I feel like I need a reminder of what human feels like. In this book there is a main character that is dying and he frequently speaks about what it is like to be human. The important message to relate to in all of this is that these people are human just like me. I should not be scared of them because there is a chance that I could one day be in their shoes (especially with all the school bills). So I went to sleep with all of these rolling around in my head.
                I get so nervous before first days that I can never sleep. I constantly wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats. I have insane dreams where the whole world ends because of what I am doing. Who would not be nervous when their subconscious tells them that I would be the cause of 1.6 billion people’s suffering?!? So nerves in check I left the house the next morning and headed out to the bus stop. I got the bus and headed down to Kitchener. I ended up wandering around Kitchener wondering where this place could be. I ended up calling a friend to Google map for me. The entire time I was wondering around I kept thinking “In Uganda I won’t have a dial-a-friend option. I will not be travelling around with a GPS.” It scared me a lot. I am so reliant on technology. I love it, I Google map everything. I even use street view now so I know what I should be passing. Well I eventually got to my final destination. I went inside and I found someone wearing an apron and nervously said “Ummm...I’m the new volunteer?” I was so nervous! I didn’t know where to look or what to do. I felt so uncomfortable the entire time. I was asked to sort the lettuce and the entire time I was so nervous. What if I screw up? What if I am not good enough?! These thoughts always go through my head on the first day. I get so incredibly nervous. So I tried to be extra careful. I worked for an hour and a half and I was so relieved to know that other Beyond Borders students were there. Cat and Lara showed up! I felt a lot more relieved. The rest of the day went by without that much excitement. When I was giving out food I smiled at everyone and said hello. I made a point to be friendly with everyone I met. With all of this said and done I will still very quiet. Even the head of the kitchen noticed and asked if I was really that quiet.

When it was time for my break I sat by myself in the corner and read the paper. I enjoy being by myself and I tend to like to find a quiet safe corner to go to. That is exactly what I did. This made me start to think of Uganda as well. Will I seek out solidarity there as well? Will I want to find my safe space? What if I withdraw during my culture shock and never come out of that safe corner? I tend to want to go to my safe space when I am uncomfortable or scared. I need to start to extend further out and push myself to not withdraw the way that I am so accustomed to. Anyways by the end of the day it was long but insightful.
Last update! (This is a long post I know) The AEF and the Band Night! Today OliviaRaquel and I went up in front of the AEF board and pleaded why we thought we should be granted funding. We luckily were not given a tough time with questions, as the previous students did with the AEF. We spoke and answered questions within the time that we were allowed. They seemed to be willing to grant us the extra $250 for the sound technician for our band night. We also told them that if we have more than 100 people coming to the event that we would require further funding. Everything seemed to go well though (knocks on wood) and hopefully we’ll hear something back from them shortly. The Band Night (Music with a Mission II) seems to be planned well right now. We are meeting on Monday to discuss the event further and hopefully we will be able to see many people out to the event! If you would like a ticket message me in the comment section and I will be able to meet with you to sell the tickets. Thank-you for making it through this long post!