Day 6, Ecuador 2020

This morning was our last time waking up on Isla Puná. While our luggage was being stacked onto the bike carts, the team looked sad to be leaving. Actually, now that I think about it, the appearance may have been due to waking up before 6 A.M.  Once all the luggage was loaded, we walked along side the carts to the dock. While waiting, Mercedes came out of her home to offer us breakfast sandwiches and coffee with sugar for the ride. Most people fell asleep or came close to it on the boat, then we transferred into the bus and drove back to the Wyndham.

Back at the hotel, breakfast was still being served so we all ate a “brunch.”  Our luggage and equipment were stored since we could not check in yet and we loaded back into the bus to head to a National Park. Isla Santay, un Área Nacional de Recreación, is an island located between Guayaquil and Durán. We had to walk across a very long bridge which we passed under to get to and back from Isla Puná. We walked the Ecoaldea trail which was 1.8 km one way. It was a boardwalk along the edge of the island with beautiful views of marsh and the occasional very large palm trees. The end of the trail was a rest area with drinks and crafts to purchase as well as cabañas to rent. There were also crocodiles in captivity not too far from the rest area. A local told us that the crocodiles are endangered in Ecuador so they are raising as many as they can there. He said there were 15 in captivity in total. And then there was a short trail to el mirador Huaquillas, a lookout at an inlet for el Rio Guayas into the island.

Eventually, we returned to the hotel where we split into two groups. One group worked on lab work while the other group got ready for dinner. The groups switched and then we met in the lobby to head to what was described as a “fancy” dinner with members of Interagua. People wore the best clothes they packed, but no one was expecting what was arranged for us. We were taken to the top floor of the Banker’s Club where we socialized with trainees of Interagua who were a couple years older than us. Once seated, we were welcomed with a speech from an executive member of Interagua as well as a speech and gratitude from Benito Mariñas. Everything was amazing from the food, decor, and spa inside the bathroom, to the Spanglish conversation about our work and theirs. Juan Pablo described it as polar opposites going from Isla Puná to the top floor of the Banker’s Club. We concluded with a photo on a staircase that is famous for taking pictures at the Banker’s Club. Numbers and What’s App info were exchanged before we loaded on the bus to head back to the hotel to end our day.

Attached pictures: Banker’s Club, National Park sign (below)

– Nick Bartuce


Day 5, Ecuador 2020

¡Buenas dias de Puna Island! ¡Me llamo Abby Iuorio, y voy a escribir el blog hoy! He practicando mi español en este viaje.

Good morning from Puna Island! My name is Abby Iuorio, and I am going to write the blog today! I have practiced my Spanish in this trip. (I didn’t use google translate, so I hope that’s right.)

Today is our last day on the island before we return to the city. They say if you love something, let it go, and this last day on puna island has reminded me of why this saying rings so true. It was a shock to arrive at an island without consistent water, Internet, or air conditioning, and I often wished I was at home, cuddled up in my bed in my apartment. But now, as I’m about to leave, I’m getting sentimental. These people have been so kind to us. I hope to savor this last day.

We woke up tired, as we have every day, but ready to work hard. Returning back to the plant, we got to work. My biggest job was to walk around and survey the community about their water and how they use it. With the sun beating on our backs, we began our journey. In total, we talked to 4 homes, and received a wide variety of answers. This community was served by a well before the current plant started operation, and many drank this water even though it wasn’t treated. Even though their water is now better, no one drinks it anymore because they don’t think they can. Problems in the distribution system have given the water occasional sediments and discoloration and lost the residents trust. They’re wary of the new system, so they spend lots of money and waste plastic buying bottled water. The conversations reaffirmed my conviction that this community needs a better solution. We continued testing water in the afternoon and evening, even collecting samples from the homes to test for differences.

After we were done testing, it was time to go to our last night dinner with Mercedes, the woman who had been cooking for us, and her whole family. When we walked into the home, we were greeted with balloons and streamers all over. They had prepared for a party, and it warmed my heart. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, Mercedes put down a beautiful homemade cake. We had a delicious meal with rice and shrimp, complete with dragonfruit, candies, and delicious cake. The kids finally got the courage to talk to us, and I used my broken Spanish to become friends with Mercedes’ sister. She is 16 and just graduated high school, and she’s planning on going to university in Guayaquil to become a doctor. There are so many people on this island with such bright ideas and dreams, and they just need the resources to achieve them.

We exchanged gifts and appreciation all night long. We wanted to sing a song, but it wasn’t actually anyone’s birthday, so we sang “Baby” by a Justin Bieber to them. As we finished cake, we stayed late taking pictures and swapping WhatsApp contact info. I could barely speak to these people, but they left such an imprint on my heart. I left that house with a big smile. It was honestly the best party I’ve ever been to.

– Abby Iuorio


Day 4, Ecuador 2020

Our TA’s gave us a small blessing this morning to help us start our day. Instead of a 7:15 start like Monday, we got an extra 5 minutes of sleep and had a 7:20 start. As soon as we stepped outside, it was already hot, foreshadowing for some of the day’s events. After a short and groggy walk to breakfast, we got to dig into some food. We had a classic breakfast sandwich with croissant bread, hard-boiled egg and a banana. Julia came up with a little trick to spice up the sandwich by putting the sliced-up egg on the sandwich for some extra flavor. We also got some much-needed coffee. Normally I detest instant coffee but for some reason, I love it in these early mornings on Puña.

We arrived at the hotel and Juan Pablo told us some of the rules for the desalination plant. We needed three things in order to be allowed to be safely in the plant: Hard hat, boots, and long pants. In addition to safety, these items all had one thing in common, they all made you very hot. On our walk to the plant, we took a new path to get there and got to see some new parts of the town.

We were greeted at the plant by a safety officer. We signed into the plant and went upstairs to the lab to drop off our equipment. Immediately upon entering the lab, we could feel the air conditioning but alas, we had to make our way back outside in order to begin our plant tour. I won’t bog down this post with the details, but one thing sticks out about plant. It is so much more modern and is in stark contrast the rest of the island. There’s this multi-million-dollar plant and mere kilometers away, we talked to some family that wakes up every morning and carries a bucket of water to and from the local well to get their water for the day.

After the tour, it was time to get to work. We were already working up a mean sweat from simply walking around the plant and now we had to collect some samples. We began by collecting a sample from the well that the plant currently draws it’s influent. The well was housed in a small building a couple hundred meters away from the plant. In addition to a pump, this building acted as a storage facility for some of the various treatment chemicals used. As we were checking out the pump and gathering our sample, Benito began asking us about what each chemical in the building was and what it was used for. Being the young students that we are, we had a very difficult time of figuring it out. In fact, it was mostly Benito noticing that we had no idea what each chemical did and then explaining to us the processes while we frantically took notes.

On our walk back to the plant, the heat really started to set in. It felt as if every piece of fabric on my body was soaked like I had just jumped into a pool. If I recall correctly, I had probably had about 2 liters of water at this point and I was still thirsty. It wasn’t even noon yet. We got to the plant and began taking samples at a couple of points throughout the system. Unfortunately for us, the next two samples were going to be taken right in direct sunlight. As we collected our samples, we transported them back to the lab so that the other team could get some data. After we had gathered our three samples, it was time to break for lunch.

I felt bad for the family who was making us lunch. We all walked into their house all drenched in sweat and smelling terrible. Fortunately for us, she was about to make us an amazing meal. We had an appetizer of some bean and potato soup. Then a main course of seafood fried rice with plantains. Now I can’t comment on whether it was good of not because I’m not able to eat it, but it looked exceptional. We wrapped up our meal, ready to finish up our data collection at the plant.

A couple of us headed back to the hotel to get what was left of our water to bring back to the plant. We didn’t bring as much water to the plant as we needed initially. The heat, confounded with the fact that we need to use bottled water to rinse the equipment, and we were piling up empty bottles. It seems kind of ironic that we came to the island to solve a water crisis and sort of ended up in a mini water crisis of our own. I just wish that the island’s problems were as easy to solve as our own.

We quickly wrapped up the second half of our sampling which was much easier than the first half. Most of the collection sites in the second half were out of the sun which made it easier on us. We then departed back to the hotel. Some of us very excited to ditch our hard hats, take off our boots and put on some shorts.

After the desalination plant we planned on heading over to the local clinic to talk to one of the head doctors on the island. That plan was delayed a bit due to unexpected circumstances. We first had to get some ice cream. This ice cream of course served a purpose, to cool us off. Once we finished our ice cream. We departed over to the clinic where we asked the doctor some questions with Juan Pablo translating for us. We learned a lot about the common ailments of the island’s people as well as some of the sanitation practices people have.

As we were departing from the clinic, a soccer game had begun at the soccer court outside. Not ones to pass up some free entertainment, we watched about five minutes of the game as Benito and Juan Pablo wrapped up with the doctor. To our surprise, we saw someone who has been serving us dinner as one of the goalies in the game. Unfortunately, as we were on our way out, we had to watch him get scored on, but we pretended we never saw that. Dinner was a simple meal of rice, beans, fried plantains and for dessert we had this fruit that was reminiscent of a cherry but was a lot sweeter. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a much-needed shower before we began our lab work. We finished up the lab work around 11:00 pm, ready for another 7am start

-Alex Hanskat


Day 3, Ecuador 2020

We started our first full day at Puna island with breakfast at Mercedes’s house. She owns a restaurant and is cooking for us this entire trip! After a good meal we head off for the big day. Today we are visiting two local communities to interview them and collect water samples: Tabor y Concordia. We walk to the bus and head off!

We arrive near Tabor, but the road to gain direct access to the community is in bad condition from last night’s rain so we park the bus and hike to the community entrance. It is a quick hike (10 minutes) and once in Tabor we immediately notice the elevated water tank and the beautiful large tree with orange flowers in the center of the roughly 7 house community. 

We interview a handful of the houses and ask about how they store the water. What it tastes like, what it smells like, how they feel about the water and their supplier, education, family, societal structure, sanitation, and more. They are really friendly!!

Luisa has two reservoirs and when they empty, the well pump is run and it refills her reservoirs. She is overall happy with her water and said her most pressing needs are a road to Puna and better healthcare. To treat her water, Luisa only covered her indoor barrel with a piece of wood to keep the bugs out. Her outdoor tank has no cover and is featured below:

After we interviewed various houses, we went to look at the wellhead and storage tank and talk to the operations manager. The manager says the well has been active for 5 years and has shown no signs of running dry. The well is not pressurized, however, and for only being 5 years old the structure supporting the tank seemed to see considerable weathering. 

After we collect samples we begin to do some lab experiments and hang out with the local dogs. Because this is our first field lab of the trip, it takes a little while and after some work we take a break to eat guava from the orange tree. 

We said goodbye to Tabor and headed back into Puna to eat lunch and plan our trip to Concordia. Concordia is a little bit further away (20 minute drive), is larger than Tabor, and allegedly has worse water quality. We arrive late afternoon and the tide has already started rising. We talked to the community leader and many of the residents and then split up into groups to maximize our productivity.

There are 5 wells in Concordia and an experimental well. We collected samples from 3 of the 5 wells, the experimental well, and a house water reserve. Some of these wells were constructed by the elderly men in the village and have been in operation for over 30 years. 

We leave Concordia and head back to Puna for some sweets from the local bakery, dinner and a long night of lab work! Yay team!

– Julia Schultz

Day 2, Ecuador 2020

Wow! What an exciting and fascinating second day it was for the CEE 449 travel team’s expedition to Ecuador. After a tiring flight, we were fortunate enough to sleep in and have a relaxing morning. This consisted of an enjoyable breakfast from the hotel in Guayaquil. After breakfast, some students went for a swim in the hotel’s swimming pool while others went for a walk outside the hotel.

At 12 PM, we checked out of our hotel in Guayaquil and boarded a bus shortly after. The bus dropped us off at the port where we would board our boat to Puna Island. We saw an iguana roaming around while we waited and also had the opportunity to meet and talk to some local people.

The boat ride itself took about an hour.

Once we arrived, we entered our hotels, with the girls staying in one hotel and the boys in another around the corner.

After getting settled into the hotels, we began walking around the island. Juan Pablo showed us the location of the desalination plant and the location of a well which is also used to provide water.

We then had a fantastic meal at one of the houses on the island, consisting of meat, rice, and beans. After we were well fed, we went over our notes on what we had learned earlier today, and also went through potential questions to ask community members. The last event of the night was calibrating some of the equipment that we will need to use to test our water samples later in the week. After this, it was time to shower and get some sleep!

Our plan for tomorrow is to visit two communities on the island, Tabor and Concordia, that do not have access to the desalination plant. We plan to interview residents of those communities and take samples of their water to analyze. Until then, it’s time to relax and get excited for the rest of this trip!

-Ethan Heidrich


Day 1, Ecuador 2020

Today has been a LONG day for the CEE 449 travel team. Our venture to Ecuador-Guayaquil started at 3:45 am in Newmark.

With our hard hats on, and bags stuffed full we were ready! Our bus arrived around 4 am and then we were off to O’Hare international airport. The bus ride excitement lasted about ten minutes before everyone dozed off.
Once we got to O’Hare we had a long wait at group check in.

But as all great college kids do, we just keep chugging along (some of us running on minimal hours of sleep!). Once we got through check in and TSA we all met up at nine other than… the big glowing Illinois “I”

Again… hard hats on!
Fun fact: an alumni took this picture for us!
After getting settled we all got breakfast and finally sat down. Most of us working on homework!

The fun was just beginning.
We left O’Hare around 10 am and arrived in Miami at 2 pm. From there we had a two hour layover.

Soon enough the time came to board yet another plane. We hopped on the 737-800 and made our way to Guayaquil!

Our flight was good, we got sandwiches and most of us slept. We landed in Guayaquil around 9 pm. Once we landed we had to go through customs and then attempt to find all of our bags. Of course we each had our own, but we also have all of our equipment. We were fortunate and all of our luggage made it in one piece! From the airport we hopped onto a bus where we met up with Professor Benito and our guide for this trip Juan-Pablo.
We took a short bus ride to our hotel. Once w walk got our keys and rooms we had to get all of our equipment to one room. From there we were all able to relax a bit and hang out.

Today has been long yet exciting… who knows what fun awaits!


– Kylie Burkett





Saturday, February 16th, 2019 (Uganda)

Hi everyone, reporting live from the airport in Uganda where I’m making sure I have an on-time blog post* to make up for my lateness last Friday when I made Emily and Megan 18 minutes late to Newmark. Today was an emotional and sweaty last day in Uganda. We started off with breakfast of course, and enjoyed the last day of fresh fruit with breakfast. We said goodbye to Benito, who left Gabi in charge (Wen is next in line if Gabi gets taken out, in case anyone was wondering.)
We then set off to tour Peter’s factory, where he produces affordable sunflower oil to make cooking healthier for Ugandans. His tour was inspiring, as he showed us how he utilizes all parts of the process to keep all waste products in the community and benefitting people. After the sunflower seeds go through his machinery, a cake is produced which he sells at a low cost for animal feed. The process also produces soap stock, which he also sells back to the community at a low cost. One of the aspects of his business that makes it good for local people is that he sells small bottles of the oil, with the smallest at just 200 ml going for 1000 shillings. This small size and corresponding low price makes it easier for people to buy, whereas the big companies sell it in larger containers that isn’t as accessible.
We had some emotional goodbyes with Peter, Diana, and Joan, and then headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch buffet before heading to the market. Our wonderful TA Gabi had us preorder dinner to be ready when we get back from the market, since we were told we had to leave at 6 pm to get to the airport in time for our 11:30 takeoff (any idea where this is going? Stay tuned!).
The market was overwhelming, and we all came away sweaty with lots of exciting presents for friends, family, and of course ourselves. We learned to bargain and came away with paintings, clothes, jewelry, figurines, coffee, and lots of spoons. It was very hot in all the little shops, and most of us were dripping with sweat by the time we left.
We had a quick dinner at the hotel, and left half an hour late for the airport of course. However, there was no traffic and surprise surprise, we’re here very very early. Currently we’ve gone through security and we’re sitting without water waiting to get on the plane. Hoping for some good movies and felling sorry for all the people sitting by us after the sweaty day we’ve had! It’s been a great last day but we’re all sad to be leaving this beautiful country for the cold in Champaign. See you all soon and thanks for reading all these blogs!!
*Blog post would have been on time if Entebbe Airport WiFi was working
Author: Alana Rosenbaum

Friday, February 15th 2019 (Uganda)

Friday morning we got up early to leave Mbarara and head back to Kampala. We had two stops on the way back at schools! The first school was one of Peter’s projects where we got a tour of all the facilities. The second school was where Peter’s two daughters attended. We ended the day with a surprise performance in Kampala!

Before we arrived at the first school we stopped on the side of the road because we saw zebras! When we arrived at the first school we met Peter’s mother and some of his brothers. Then they and the headmaster showed us around the school and into some classes. We saw that they had a science lab with some chemistry materials and many vocational classrooms for things like sewing and soap making. They also were completing construction to build more classrooms as some of the classes are currently in an old chicken house. They also had lots of food growing on a farm there so we got to see coffee beans up close and some people tried them. We spoke with a crowd of students in the cafeteria and Gabi led us in asking questions and handing out prizes! During this meeting with the students we found out that they were going to name one of the new construction buildings “Benito” after professor Mariñas!

We then went to lunch at an outdoor restaurant in a town nearby. We got a buffet and ate quickly so we could go to the next school. A former CEE449 student, Anjana, who is now working in Uganda met us there and told us about her NGO, Brick by Brick.

The next school we went to was where Peter’s daughters attend, and it was an all girls boarding school. This school had a very beautiful campus and lots of useful facilities including a fairly large computer lab. They had the beginnings of a library for the girls but it needed many more books. We spoke to a group of girls at this school and handed out prizes, although we had to go quick as we were running low on time.

After we got back into the cars, we started to head back to Kampala. We all knew Peter was planning a surprise for us, so we couldn’t wait to find out what it was! As we were running late, we did not have time to stop at the hotel and went straight to the surprise. It turns out it was a performance show of songs and dance of many local cultures in Uganda. Everyone really enjoyed the performance and thought learning about all this culture and history was very interesting. They performed dances and music from many different regions in Uganda. We even got to dance at the end too!

Finally we headed back to the hotel after everyone finished dancing. Most people were very exhausted so everyone fell asleep very easily from our long day and got rested before our last day in Uganda!

Author: Abby Cohen

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

Wednesday, February 13th 2019 (Uganda)

Today was by far the best day of the trip so far. Our team arrived at the Nakivale Refugee Settlement around 10am and met with Janet Asiimwe, the Field Program Coordinator of Humanitarian Initiative Just Relief Aid (HIJRA). She was very welcoming and was pleased with the idea of a partnership with us. She explained how HIJRA provides aid in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. Much of their work includes providing legal services to refugees and others who do not have access to such representation. The HIJRA helps individuals who are know as PSN’s: Person with Specific Needs. These include orphans, women at risk, the elderly, the disabled, and many more. Janet also explained how the HIJRA provides incoming refugees with hygiene kits to help with their sanitation and health. As Janet was speaking to us, a visitors book was passed around that all 16 students, 4 TA’s and Professor Mariñas signed. I was eager to sign the book and leave a remark about how grateful we were to be there. I think it would be really cool to return one day to the Nakivale Settlement and see my name in the book from my time in college. Professor Mariñas and Peter (our outstanding Ugandan contact who we are working with) then explained what our team was doing in the settlement and the purpose of our work. Janet was very receptive and hopeful for a lasting partnership with us. She understood that the impacts of the environment affect the protection of the refugees, so our work will help their work.

After our meeting with HIJRA, we went to visit a primary school within the refugee settlement. When our four vans pulled into the compound, children ran from the buildings smiling and waving at us! They were so excited, and if we simply made eye contact with them and waved they would melt with joy. I got out of the vehicle and immediately was swarmed by kids. They were all reaching to grab my hands and saying “How are you?”, as this is what they are taught us our greeting. Although English is taught in schools, the children were young and their English vocabulary was limited. Teachers were approaching and swatting the kids away with a soft branch and told them all to return to their classroom buildings. But there were only about 10 teachers and (not exaggerating) THREE THOUSAND STUDENTS. So their attempts were futile. I, however, did not mind. When the initial crowd was shooed away, I started walking towards the building our team would be meeting at. I didn’t get four steps before a child ran straight into me with a bodyslam hug around my waist with a “How are you?!” Then two more. I slowly walked as more and more students snuck around their teachers, smiling wildly, to come give me a hug and run back away. As more and more children ran up to greet me and hold my hand and hug me as tightly as they could I was overcome with emotion. There was so much love surrounding me that I started to tear up. I knew they wouldn’t understand why I was crying, so I tried to hold it in. Thankfully a teacher came to shoo away the current crowd of kiddos so I could escape and wipe my face. Professor Mariñas and the TA’s had a meeting with the headmaster while the rest of the team waited outside. Kids were sneaking peaks out of classroom windows at us and giggling. I saw kids ranging from 3 up to around 15 years old.

Eventually the teachers gathered  all the students in the courtyard for our water and sanitation demonstration. And let me tell you, that did not go so hot. The entire school was in the courtyard so the student to teacher ratio was probably somewhere around 75:1. So corralling these super hyper, super excited children was not happening. I saw pushing, and slapping and crying children all just trying to move closer and closer to us. Because we were in broad daylight, our blacklights were not working for our demonstrations to show bacteria and the roar of the crowd meant they couldn’t really hear us anyway. After very strong attempts to make the demonstrations work, we decided to just call it and spread out so that the waves of kids stepping on each other would disperse too. As I threw myself out of the circle we had inadvertently created and into open space, about a dozen kids followed. This was good though because the chaotic crowd was dispersing to follow individual team members around. The kids continued to ask me “How are you?!” And shaking my hand. And when I asked them back, they responded “I’m fine.”  Every single one of them. It was clear they were taught this as the English greeting and response. I asked a lot of them what their names were and I would slowly respond back “My name is Sara, it’s great to meet you!” To which they would bashfully giggle and run away with their friends only to come back a minute later to ask me again how I was. I loved talking to the children and giving them a reason to be excited, simply by giving them a little bit of attention.

Our team then went into a classroom to repeat the water and sanitation lesson to a smaller and more controlled audience. This one went well! Gabi asked the students questions about water and they responded correctly most of the time. After doing a few demonstrations, we handed out sunglasses to those who answered our questions. Once this was done, it was time to leave. We had to cross the courtyard again, which took me about 15 minutes because I couldn’t help but talk and hold hands with the children. By the time I got to the van, they were waving us goodbye and saying “I love you so much”. It melted my heart.

We had lunch at the Nakivale offices for the third and last day in the settlement. After lunch we had a team discussion with Peter about any lasting questions we had about the settlement and our upcoming design projects. Peter gave us very good insight on how best to design a technology or system that could succeed in the settlement and beyond. He expressed his gratitude for our team’s assistance and presence in Uganda. It was a open and motivating discussion.

We left the offices around 2pm to visit the Nakivale Secondary School in the more rural part of the settlement. Secondary schools host students aged 14-18. Many of the schools in Uganda are boarding schools, including this one. Gabi, Peter, Professor Mariñas, Amanda, Ashley and I met with the headmaster of the school in his office. He was very aware of the water issues that the school faces and discussed them openly with us. The school has one 10,000L tank that is filled every night around 10pm. Then water is available in the morning for the students, but there is never enough. We further discussed the challenges that the secondary school faces and took notes. After this meeting, our team split up with half of us teaching the water and sanitation lesson to a classroom and the other testing the schools water. Turns out we collected water from the primary school to test later in the lab, but I was too busy with the kids to notice. I went with the water testing group. Because the students here were older and calmer, we did a full test on site. Erwin and I used the calorimeter to test the Ammonia and Bromine concentrations while Abby and Amanda rested the total and free chlorine concentrations. A couple other team members used the probes to test the water’s pH, Nitrate concentration, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. As we were doing our tests, students were arriving at the tap to fill their Jerry Cans.  Because they were older, they knew more English and we talked with them about the water. They said the quality was fine, it’s just that it runs out. Our conversation slowly shifted into more casual topics about each other’s homelands. They asked us about the differences between Africa and America. I met this really sweet girl named Emily. I told her that my sisters name is Emily, and she liked that a lot. We started taking pictures with my phone and a few girls asked for a selfie with me. It was fun chatting with them and showing them the photos. Erwin ran to the car and grabbed the Polaroid camera. We took the first picture and showed them how it develops if kept in the dark for a minute. They LOVED it. I don’t know if they have ever had a photograph of themselves before. After that the students were asking for pictures with us left and right. They were so delighted to have a keepsake from our visit. This school visit was just as rewarding as the primary school energy. But because we were closer in age and could speak the same language, the time spent together felt more sincere. It really sucked when we ran out of film and many students didn’t get photographs. But like most of this experience, I had to focus on the happiness we brought, and not on all the sadness that’s still there.

We left that day knowing it was our last at the refugee settlement and in the field. It was bittersweet. We drove the 1.5 hour trek back to our hotel where we showered and ate dinner. After dinner we worked in our makeshift lab in the hotel’s boardroom. Here we did further tests on the water that should be more accurate and also that can test for different things than in the field. We finished up our work around 10:30pm and went to bed. We’d be getting up early the next day.

Author: Sara Pattison