Day 10: Headed Back to the USA

February 12th, 2017 by Brandon Lung

We arrived in the Entebbe airport and had to go through 3 different waiting areas since we arrived about 8 hours before our flight due to a delay.

We had dinner at about midnight Uganda time which is about 3pm Chicago time. I believe everyone took a small 6.5 hour nap until breakfast. This was until 7AM Uganda time and 10PM Chicago time. The airplane food was not that bad either. They gave us two meals for both our 8 hour flights. All meals came with deserts despite it being breakfast.

The nap felt great, however we’re going to feel jet lagged when we finally arrive back at U of I. We arrived at Amsterdam at 8:30AM Uganda time and 6:30AM Amsterdam time. We gained 2 hours. Some people slept, and some people decided to get homework done.

We had a small talent show that a few people decided to participate in. Wen and I played the piano. I also decided to rap for everyone. My “High” of today is that Gabi told me that I was a good water engineering student.

There’s a casino in the Amsterdam airport so we decided to donate a bit of money there.

Nearing the 24 hour mark of traveling home. This blog day is especially long because of the time change. 24 + 9 = 33 hours long travel blog.

On the plane to ORD, estimated time of arrival is 2:32PM it’s weird that Amsterdam departure time is 12:30pm and we will arrive to Chicago in about two hours for our 8 hour flight.

Everyone is tired and wants to go home, however not everyone is ready for school. This past week has flown by so fast that school due dates have crept up on many students and there is a rush of calculations and assignments being done furiously in the planes and airports.

We landed at O’Hare at about 2pm. My “Low” for today was the landing. It was very windy today, and over half of us got motion sickness and nearly puked.

Finally arrived in ORD. We had to go through US Customs and Border Protection before leaving the airport.

We got into our rental cars and drove to Champaign at 4pm. Everyone was tired because many haven’t slept since the first flight to Amsterdam.

We arrived at Newmark at about 6:30pm.

Total travel time back home was 34 hours. We had an amazing time. The experience was eye opening, and I am so glad that I got to spend a week learning and exploring Uganda with my classmates and teachers. It makes me realize how well we have it in America and how we should not take what we have for granted. This trip was definitely a highlight in my college career. Thank you to the department for funding this trip and thank you to our readers for following us throughout this blog! Suula balunji!

Day 9: Market & Last Day in Uganda

February 11th, 2017 by Kazami Brockman

Today was our last day in Uganda. Peter Luswata met us for breakfast and we exchanged contact information and well-wishes. We will keep in contact with him and update him on our progress. He also wanted us to contact him with any questions we had, so that we could deliver to him the most useful reports possible. We also plan to welcome Peter at UIUC later in the semester, at which time he will be able to interact with the entire class, not just the travel team.

After exchanging money at a nearby bank, we went to a market for some souvenir shopping. We wandered and shopped and haggled for around two hours. Haggling was new and fun for much of the team, and was (mostly) successful. The team returned to the hotel satisfied.

Brandon and Mingming browse merchandise.

We then had a very long time until our flight and nothing planned to fill the time. After the hectic schedule of the past week, the open time seemed out of place. These leisurely hours put me, at least, in a state of dread for our very long journey home. Sitting and waiting will be all we can do for the next many hours.

Our last meal in Uganda.

Day 8: Peter’s Farm

February 10th, 2017 by Jack Morrissey 

Today after sleeping in and a well-earned breakfast we drove to our host, Peter Luswata’s model farm just outside of Kampala. On just 3.7 acres of land, Peter grows passion fruit and bananas, in addition to raising pigs.

Peter houses this cute little guy, and lots more, in a cost-efficient and sustainable wooden structure with tarp lining.

After admiring the dozens of piglets we saw Peter’s anaerobic digester, which he uses to create biogas from the pig manure that can be used for cooking and lighting as well as potentially being compressed into cylinders. The biogas system Peter is using is the first of its kind in Africa and is one of the many urban farming innovations that Peter hopes to teach his fellow Ugandans about in order to improve their productivity and quality of life.

Kazami inspecting the anaerobic digester

After visiting the farm the team went to see some traditional Ugandan dancing and had a nice farewell dinner in Kampala. At the end of the show everyone got on the stage with the performers and we learned some moves of our own.

Day 7: Safari!

February 9th, 2017 by Mingming Gui

Today is the day full of excitements. It is the safari day. Departure time: 5 AM.

We sit on top of safari cars.

We got to hang out with many friends from Lion King: warthogs, lions, elephants, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, impalas, monkeys…

We went on a boat ride and short hike.

We witnessed the magnificent water fails in Murchison Falls National Park.

Today is also the day full of stresses.

One car broke down inside of the Park.

Another car broke down on the way to Kampala.

A lot of great bonding happened.

It was a fun day. Arrival time: 10:30 PM.

Day 6: Last Field Day

February 8th, 2017 by Krish Saxena and Jessica Villie

Having had a long two days in the Bweyale area, the team prepared for the penultimate day here. After a sumptuous breakfast highlighted by some juicy pineapple juice, the team convened to plan for our first stop- the Arnold Primary School, which is partly funded by the UNHCR. It was an overwhelming sight to see the students pouring out of their classrooms and surrounding us with curiosity as we stepped into the yard. A hundred handshakes and plenty of pictures later, the team finally proceeded with the teachers to a larger compound for a short presentation on good drinking water practices. The team specifically educated the students on the use of WaterGuard before drinking water drawn from wells, the ill effects of excessive fluoride in water and the invisible transfer of dangerous pathogens through contact.

We learned that the school has a severe shortage of funds, which was evident in a regrettable student-teacher ratio of almost 180. After surveying the compound, it was determined that there was great potential for rainwater harvesting on the large roofs of the school buildings, and for the construction of a storage tank to hold municipal water in times of shortage. Two borewells were also surveyed in close proximity to the school (~100m radius) and the water was found to be turbid in one and with high amounts of chlorine in the other.

The team headed back to the hotel to brainstorm potential projects that could be implemented in the communities visited so far. Following this, part of the team visited the Kiryondongo General Hospital to collect water samples for microbial tests. Also, the hospital administrator gave us a tour of their laboratory, in which approximately 80% of their lab work consists of testing for Malaria. The other part of the team headed to Cluster E in the Kiryondongo Refugee Settlement to interview refugees at their homes where we also collected some water samples. In one of the interviews, the mother informed us that if she gets to the borehole at 7 a.m. then she will return to her home around 1 p.m. Even though the borehole is only about 1 km away from the village, people will get there hours before the well is open just to get their spot in line. Other households told us that the water does not taste good and frequently causes headaches and stomach aches. After the interviews, the team returned to the hotel early to finish up lab work before dinner due to a very early start the next day!

Interacting with young students at the primary school.

Day 5: Second Day in the Field

February 7th, 2017 by Xiaorui (Sharon) Wu and Anjana Krishnan

Today we finally got the chance to visit the host community and explore their daily life. In the morning, we stopped at a large family with 20 people, including 12 children. The first thing that caught our eyes was a pot set to boil water, which suggested that the family had good drinking practices. The whole family, as well as some residents nearby, drew water from a shallow well built in the center of their yard. This facilitated their life to a large extent: with a nearby well, they did not have to walk long distances to get water from a borehole.

Collecting water from the well

The CEE 449 team members worked as two groups: one of them taking samples from the well while the other interviewed some of the family members and their neighbors. While taking samples, our group observed some latrines just a few steps from the shallow well, causing potential risks to well water due to cross-contamination. Our testing results confirmed the existence of fecal contamination – we found ammonia in the water, with its concentration exceeding the regulation value. Next, we stopped briefly to collect a water sample from an open spring, before arriving at a borehole to collect samples and interview people lining up around it to collect water.


Field water testing

In the afternoon, our team visited a secondary school at the Kiryandongo refugee settlement. There, we had some fun demos about the effectiveness of chlorine in disinfection and the effects of fluoride on teeth. We also collected information about the school’s rainwater harvesting system, their solar lighting backup, and local water sourcing and consumption patterns. We then returned to our hotel for a night of lab work testing the samples for various water quality parameters.

Measuring roof height for solar panel placement

An interesting finding of the day was that that local people generally preferred borehole water to chlorine-treated tap water, due to lower cost and better perceived taste. This encouraged us to brainstorm ways to make our final design more acceptable in terms of social factors such as taste, as well as in terms of water quality.

Day 4: First Day in the Field

February 6th, 2017 by Hannah Perl

Waking up for 7:30 AM breakfast was tough after our late night last night! But breakfast was worth it! Fried eggs, spaghetti, bread, peanut butter and jelly, and fruit set us up for our long first day conducting fieldwork. A lot of us tried the jackfruit for the first time- it was super sweet, kind of like pineapple! We started the day at a meeting with the assistant commandant of the refugee settlement to be briefed and then went out to collect our samples at a nearby borehole. We conducted interviews with refugees and collected some water quality data. It was so interesting to see the process every household must go through to get water to use and drink. It made us all realize how much we take for granted at home. After the refugee settlement we went back to the Max Hotel for a large lunch! After lunch we visited a groundwater treatment and distribution area to learn about what changes could be made at the distribution level to get water to more people. We took water samples there as well. Our final stop of the day was to a water tower within a community. We took samples from the communal tap where jerry cans, the container water is transported in from the borehole to the homes, are filled as well as visited homes to get samples from within their own personal taps. Some more interviews were conducted then. After our dinner we started our first evening of lab work to test for contaminants and double-check our field data. No one was used to the intense heat so even with a really exciting day, we were all worn out! Ready for sleep and another great day tomorrow!!

Day 3: Kampala to Kigumba

February 5th, 2017 by Courtney Ackerman 

Since we landed yesterday after dark, we did not have the opportunity to see much of Kampala. Luckily, we were given some free time in the morning to explore the beautiful hotel and see some views of the city. We were treated to a full buffet breakfast with many options we’d find in the U.S. such as cereal, milk, muffins, omelets, and pancakes; on top of that, we got our first taste of some local food including delicious fresh fruit (passion fruit/papaya/etc), a mushroom dish, and fish filets. After our late breakfast, we packed up our vans and began our 4-hour drive to Kigumba, a town just outside the Kiryandongo refugee settlement. The drive gave us an opportunity to see the roads of Kampala crowded with many motorcycles, bikes, pedestrians, and an assortment of livestock. Roadside stands were prevalent near Kampala, but as we got away from the city, the many stands were replaced by mostly trees and vegetation. The drive was excited by a rest stop at a pit latrine and being passed by a fleet of police vehicles, which our drivers assumed to be the convoy for the President of Uganda.

Traveling to Uganda: Day 1

Friday, February 3, 2017 by Claire Dodinval

Today was the day! We were all so excited to meet at Newmark this morning and head out on our adventure. After sorting out all lab equipment and personal bags between the rental cars, we made our drive up to O’Hare, chatting and singing along to songs like “Africa” by Toto to pump up the enthusiasm. We flew through KLM Dutch airlines. Our first flight was from Chicago to Amsterdam, which left Friday afternoon. This was just the first of three flights to Uganda, the start of a long day-and a half of travel. We all tried to use the 7-hour flight get some rest in preparation for the days ahead, and had fun watching movies as well!