Dust. That is THE word to describe today. No matter how hard you try, you cannot get rid of any of the dust. Plus, it probably wasn’t the best idea to wear a white shirt that shows all of the dirt and grime that accumulates throughout the day.
The day began with a beautiful unplanned scenic route through the vast hills of Uganda trying to find the Millennium Village, which is a village funded by the UN in order to be an example for other villages in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals. What was supposed to be less a half an hour drive turned into an almost two hour drive- off-roading with dirt flying everywhere, making it almost impossible to breathe with the windows open, but also just as difficult to breathe with the windows closed due to lack of air flow. Once found, the village itself was innovative with water pumped to individual houses, electricity, and a health clinic. We did not stay in the village very long, since we had other plans and, although an unforgettable adventure to find the village, took a very long time to find. Retracing our steps, we started to head back through the hills with more dust waiting for our return.
We then traveled to the UNHCR Oruchinga Refugee Settlement Base Camp, where most of the operations for the refugee camp happen, for lunch. After lunch almost everyone was going to the refugee settlement camp in order to talk to the people and get an understanding of the needs of the community, except for three students (including me), a TA and a tour guide. We were staying behind to set up a weather station to test for wind, solar, pressure, rain, and other weather measures in the area in order to collect data on what renewable energy resources would be possible for the community. Once up it will be the second weather station in Uganda, so it is definitely an exciting process. The only problem is that since it is measuring weather it has to be in full sun, meaning we would have to be standing under full Ugandan sun for hours trying to piece everything together and make sure it works.
The site we arrive at to put up the weather station is very obscure pit near the back fence of the Base Camp, which apparently used to be the garbage pit a couple of hours ago. We now got to stand in dirt and get even dustier! At least it was in full sun, I guess…
The first thing we had to do in order to put up the station was make sure it would stay stationary and could not be stolen. In order to do this we needed to cement the station in place. As Civil Engineers you would think all of us would know how to mix concrete, but to our dismay we had to wing it and play it by ear for how well our concrete was mixed and just hope for the best. It all worked out in the end, mostly due to the help of some local men and their expertise in how to build things.
I would have to say my favorite part of the weather station build of the day was giving the bubble wrap from the weather station packaging to some of the local kids trying to watch what we were doing. Who doesn’t love bubble wrap? It was glorious to watch their faces light up by popping a plastic bubble.
Unfortunately we were not able to finish the whole weather station set up in one day, since we had to finish early in order to go for a “cultural experience” which was a mystery to everyone. Since we were running late for this experience we were not able to wash up so I was not expecting it to be anything too fancy, but then our caravan pulls up to a really fancy hotel. By this time I realized how covered in dust and dirt I was (especially with a white t-shirt) and this did not help my hygiene self esteem. Other than feeling somewhat out of place in this very nice hotel the cultural experience was fantastic. We had traditional Ugandan food accompanied by traditional Ugandan dancing.
Today was definitely a “cultural experience”.