Thursday, February 14th, 2019 (Uganda)

After three long days of field and lab work, we were finally given a chance to relax. Safari day was upon us. Although we had to wake up at 4:00am (to catch the lions, who like cool early mornings before the sunrise) we were all very excited for the opportunity to experience the geography and wildlife of the country a little bit more. We had a quick breakfast and packed into our vehicles to depart.

Three hours later, our safari vehicles descended down a hill into Queen Elizabeth Park. It turns out that the vans we have been using all week were actual safari vehicles. The roofs of the vans were able to extend upwards so that we can stand up and see outside. We hopped on the roofs of our cars and began the journey through the prairie. We had four vans of students, and we all got very excited when we saw our first animal: an antelope! We drove through fields of waterbuck, water buffalo, and various species of birds but were not lucky enough to find any lions or elephants while on the trails. After a bit, our driver pulled off the trail. It turns out Professor Mariñas was able to pull some strings and a few workers led us to three lions that they tracked. We pulled up to a large cactus tree and saw two female lions lounging in the branches. After taking a few photos we were shocked to find that there was another lion lurking around near our safari vehicles. We followed it around for a bit before heading outside the Safari zone.

After a quick lunch consisting of fried chicken and fries, we embarked on the boat portion of the safari. Our tour guide Martin was extremely personable and knew endless facts about the hundreds of species of animals and birds in the area. Every time we asked a question about the wildlife in the area, he knew the answer! Each time we saw a group of male water buffalo, he would exclaim “more losers!” This was because the absence of a female meant these male water buffalo lost a fight and were banned from the herd. During our boat tour we saw many hippos (many of which were much too close to our boat), baboons, and a few herds of elephants. We learned that out of all the animal species in Africa, 6% of them are birds that live near the water. Overall it was a really great day, and our team appreciated that Benito and the TA’s rewarded our hard work throughout the week with an amazing safari day.

Not only was it a successful Safari day, but Valentine’s day is also my girlfriend’s birthday. Our fearless team leader Gabi, surprised Sara with a birthday cake and we ended the night off in celebration.

Author: Erwin Lavric

Tuesday, February 12th 2019 (Uganda)

Today we visited two water treatment plants. One was a conventional plant that takes water from the lake. Here they were doing an expansion and we saw a plant that was undergoing construction. We also ate random berries Yuehao found in a bush on the ground. Hopefully we don’t die! (They were aptly named ground cherries and were very good),

At the current plant they explained to us how the treatment processes they used worked and the how once the new plant was online how the old plant would be used. This plant worked pretty much the same way as the one at base camp we saw yesterday. This plant has a capacity of 300-400 cubic meters per day.

After that we went to lunch with Jean Baptiste and Silvia the people in charge of water management for the Nakivale camp. During that lunch some members of our team used that opportunity to learn more about the plant operations, Gabi our wonderful TA used the opportunity to make fun of Mike for drinking his Coca-Cola too fast.

The next plant we visited pumped groundwater. This plant pumps groundwater 500m up a hill into a sand filter and then from there gravity is used to send it to the spigot used by the refugees. Team 3 drive up in one of the trucks to check out the filter and the rest of us ran our water quality tests and interviewed the community. We got a lot of information about water availability at the source. The source turned out to be pretty good. The only major problem was that the water table would fall below the pump during dry season and there would be no water.

We also went with one family to there home where they told us about their daily life and thought it was really funny we wanted to see their wash basin. The intermittency of the water source was a big issue for them because one of the other sources they went to for water was the lake. When they took water from the lake the people who own the land around the lake make them pay.

Plant under construction

Current plant

Landscape around the plant no lions 🙁

Author: Michael Boetel

Monday, February 11th 2019 (Uganda)

Starting our first day of field work, we first drove to the office of the Prime Minister where we were formally welcomed into the country for our efforts. As Amos, the director of the Nakivale and Oruchinga camp explained the government of Uganda’s commitment to improving the camps, Peter expressed his gratitude for allowing us to conduct research in the settlement, outlining his motivation to make sure our research would not go without tangible change within the community.

After driving another hour towards the settlement, we were greeted by the assistant to the commander of the UNHCFR camp associated with the office of the prime minister of Uganda who explained the current conditions of the camp. Currently, there are 102,000 refugees consisting of mostly French speaking residents who all have the potential to receive full Uganda citizenship. The government’s role in the camp comprises providing a plot of land for the refugees for farming and housing and arranging services through NGOs such as the World Food Programme and UNHCR. They are also in charge of security and policing within the camp to ensure the safety of the refugees. Unlike refugee settlements in other countries, Uganda’s government encourages the citizens of the camp to farm their own land in order for families to use new skills to bring back to their home country. The Uganda refugee camps also differ in their policies to allow citizens to grow their own food when WFP donations are not sufficient.  Although the government arranges services for the refugees, there are various outside players. NGO’s, for example, provide the funds for water, food, and construction of infrastructure within the camp.  The camp has been around for 60 years consisting of 27 villages, and there is a census every three years conducted at the camp. It was clear driving through the settlement’s dusty roads, there were many families and local businesses within the camp, and we were frequently greeted by the residents as we passed.

Once we spoke with the leaders of the settlement, we arrived at the Basecamp Water Treatment Plant to learn about the water treatment and distribution process the camp employs. Hearing from the operations manager of the water treatment plant, Jean Baptiste, we listened and took notes as he walked us through the treatment methods already in place. Collecting from Lake Nakivale, the water is pumped through a galvanized iron pipe to pre-chlorination tanks where alum, chlorine, and soda ash is added before flocculation and sedimentation. As we familiarized ourselves with the plant more and more, it was clear that Jean Baptiste was eager to see improvements made within the camp, always willing to explain things twice if needed to us if we didn’t understand or wanted clarification on the current dimensions and materials used to construct the plant.

There are currently five treatment plants in the Nakivale settlement, three of which use raw lake water and hand pumps while the other two are motorized from groundwater. Basecamp is the largest of the plants with a capacity of 600,000-700,000 L/day supplying water to 89,207 residents at 17-18 L per refugee per day. For many of the residents, the walk to the nearest water tap is 500 m, and there are still many challenges within the settlement to address in terms of water access. In order for improvements to be made, Jean Baptiste would like to prioritize increasing the capacity of the plant, adding more chemicals, acquiring more fuel and generators to power the plant, and extending the pipelines. Though the amount of work felt overwhelming, we all wanted to work to see the improvements were implemented.

Our time visiting basecamp, collecting samples, and performing field tests on the raw source water and treated water from the plant ended with us traveling to the center of the camp for lunch, where we had the chance to speak more with Richard, Peter, and Jean Baptiste. We all loved trying the different cuisines we were starting to grow accustomed to while learning more about the language and customs of the cultures within the settlement.

After lunch, we split into two groups to take samples from the community water taps and survey the residents on the quality of their water. Surrounded by Gerry cans in rows, the tap operated systematically with children sliding cans down the rows as each was filled. With Richard as our translator, we were able to speak with members of the Water Committee at the tap and ask them questions about the biggest challenges their community was facing with water supply. In terms of quality, most residents had no complaints, however, the committee reported the capacity of the water was barely sufficient to meet the needs of the entire community.

Our long first day of field work ended with all of us tired from the heat and activity, but as soon as we got back to the hotel, there was still a lot of lab work yet to do. Dividing into groups after dinner, we tested the samples collected from the raw source water of the lake, the basin at the plant, the chlorinated and treated water, and the two taps we visited. For some of us, it was our first time using the titrators and calorimeters, but by the end of the night, each of us had learned something new.The lab work ended our first day, but we were ready to return to the camp the next day and learn how we could work to meet the growing needs of the community.

Author: Amanda Darling

Friday, February 8th & Saturday, February 10th, 2019 (Uganda)

9 am start to the day today! We met in Crane Bay at Newmark and after everyone had double checked that we had our passports and yellow books, Alana and friends finally arrived (18 minutes late to be exact). We began loading the bus with our luggage and left for O’Hare airport while listening to Africa by Toto, of course.
After about a two and a half hour drive we arrived and waited in the front of the airport for check in to open because Gabi planned for us to be there a short four hours before departure. We received our seat numbers, and I’m still convinced Gabi was punishing George by putting my seat next to his, but thankfully Anisa was there to make sure I didn’t bug him too much. Together we walked the terminal twice before deciding where to eat and finally settled on Mexican food, which is arguably the worst food to eat before being stuck on a plane for nine hours but everyone agreed it was worth the risk.
The first plane ride departed at around 4:30 pm and it was a full 7 and a half hours of game play for my row, and about four hours worth of my loud card shuffling to make sure everyone was wide awake to hear me continuously beat George in Yaniv. However, after a winner takes all bet, George stole my brownie and he’s still holding it hostage five days later (George, please give it back or eat it because you’re wasting my brownie). 7 and a half hours later we landed at midnight Chicago time 7 am Amsterdam time.
We had around two hours before our plane to Uganda departed, so we went to brush our teeth and grab some European food while we had the chance. After wandering around Amsterdam’s giant airport, we settled on Amsterdam Bread Co. and got a variety of pastries and sandwiches. We boarded and played some card games, but I was unconscious for the next six hours, so I guess we’ll never publish what happened during that time period.
We finally landed in Uganda at 10 pm their time and made our way through customs. They wrote in my passport Male instead of Female, so that’s good to have on my official documentation. After customs we grabbed all of the equipment and our luggage from baggage claim and stepped outside for the first time in about 24 hours. It was a crazy feeling to finally be in Uganda and for most of us, be in Africa for the first time. We bused for about an hour to our hotel, sadly I will not be sharing my experience because again I was dead asleep in the back seat.
After we got to the hotel everyone couldn’t stop talking about how nice it was and how excited we were to be able to lay down soon. Of course, food out weighed the fact we’d barely slept and we waited for two hours for dinner to be prepared. The food was amazing even though we had to be careful about what we ordered and ate, and it was a great start to the amazing food Uganda had to offer us for the rest of our trip. Immediately after putting our forks down people started heading up to shower and sleep one by one. Overall, it was a tiring but great start to the adventure we would have in Uganda!
– Author: Ashley Klauck

Traveling to Uganda: Day 2

February 4, 2017 by Tim Herzog 

After a long first flight, we took some time to relax and have a traditional Dutch breakfast. Later, we took off for our flight to Africa around 10 AM Amsterdam time. We all knew that this flight would feel longer, as most of us had tried to get some rest in transit between Chicago and Amsterdam. Some people got some homework done on the flight, but many of us watched movies and lightly napped. We arrived in Kigali, Rwanda at about 8 PM local time. After a brief delay, we then disembarked to Entebbe, Uganda. Luckily, this flight was short, only about 40 minutes. After getting through customs, and learning that we lost one of our equipment bags in the flight, we took a drive to Kampala and arrived at the Golf Course Hotel at around midnight. Everything considered, it took us around 29 hours of travel to arrive to the hotel.