February 8, 2003 - KPC News : Debbie Laird traveled to Uganda to see daughter in Peace Corps
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February 8, 2003 - KPC News : Debbie Laird traveled to Uganda to see daughter in Peace Corps
Debbie Laird traveled to Uganda to see daughter in Peace Corps
Read and comment on this story from KPC News on Debbie Laird who traveled to Uganda to see daughter in Peace Corps. “It was a hard trip,” Debbie said. “Nothing was easy over there, you have to use bottled water even to brush your teeth ... and we had to coat ourselves with insect repellent. They are having a cholera epidemic in Kampala and we really had to watch out for mosquitoes.” All of the beds were covered with mosquito netting, she added. Debbie looked at the inconveniences with similar philosophies. “I think if everyone would experience going to an underdeveloped country like this, we would all appreciate how much we have,” Kathy commented. “Their life is so hard and they do the best with what they have. It is amazing to see how they live.” Read the story at:
Area woman travels ’round the world to see daughter in Peace Corps*
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Area woman travels ’round the world to see daughter in Peace Corps
By Julie Buttgen
LIGONIER — Many people travel to warmer climates to visit family around the holidays. But few people travel as far as Ligonier residents Debbie Laird and her sister Kathy Hagen did when they visited Debbie’s daughter Kelley, a Peace Corps worker in Uganda, Africa.
Debbie and Kathy’s adventure began Dec. 28 when they flew from Chicago to London. From there, they flew into Entebbe airport, one hour from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda and their main destination.
Kampala is where the U.S. Embassy is located for Uganda and the Peace Corps office that oversees Kelley and the many other Peace Corps workers throughout the area.
Kelley began her stint in the Peace Corps in March 2001. She will be finished in June, but plans to travel a bit before coming home. Kelley is a 1995 graduate of West Noble High School and received her education degree from Indiana University in 1999.
Adjusting to the differences in the accommodations and lifestyle in and around Kampala took some getting used to, Kathy and Debbie explained.
“It was a hard trip,” Debbie said. “Nothing was easy over there, you have to use bottled water even to brush your teeth ... and we had to coat ourselves with insect repellent. They are having a cholera epidemic in Kampala and we really had to watch out for mosquitoes.” All of the beds were covered with mosquito netting, she added.
Kathy and Debbie looked at the inconveniences with similar philosophies. “I think if everyone would experience going to an underdeveloped country like this, we would all appreciate how much we have,” Kathy commented. “Their life is so hard and they do the best with what they have. It is amazing to see how they live.”
“We take so many things for granted,” Debbie added. The temperature in Uganda is hot pretty much all the time. (Kampala is about an hour from the equator.) And there are no fans and no air conditioning.
Uganda also has a rainy season which was just ending about the time Debbie and Kathy arrived. “Uganda is very lush, green and tropical. One night when we were out at Kelley’s village, it was clear and the stars were out. I had never seen so many constellations. It was beautiful,” related Debbie.
After their first night in Kampala, Kathy and Debbie headed up the mountain to the Kingfisher Resort. This was an area where Kelley had planned to ring in the New Year with some of her friends. The resort, Debbie said, was run by missionaries and there were other tourists from Australia and Europe as guests there. It was while staying at this resort that the two Hoosiers ran into another American couple Kathy had met previously through Bible Study Fellowship International. “It was quite a surprise to run into other Americans — let alone someone we knew,” Debbie said.
Experiencing New Year’s Eve in Uganda was also interesting, both sisters reported. The Ugandan people beat drums throughout the night to welcome in the New Year. Debbie and Kathy also commented on the strange hollering and howling noises the people made.
While both Debbie and Kathy admitted to being somewhat apprehensive about their safety during the trip, they said they feared the wild driving of the transportation services throughout Uganda much more than actual terrorism. “The cab rides were scary,” Debbie said. “They place a very low value on human life and unfortunately we saw a child struck by a military truck while we were there. He didn’t appear to be seriously hurt but it was very scary. It is chaos getting around.”
Public transportation is offered through several modes around the city: a “special hire” is a cab; “public transportation” is a van similar to a mini van which has seats for about 15 people but usually holds about 20; a “boda boda” is a bicycle; and a “piki piki” is a motorcycle.
A highlight of the trip was visiting the village where Kelley teaches. It was called Mbali and it sits at the base of Mount Elgon. Everyone there was very excited to meet Debbie because the people around the village are very fond of Kelley. Everywhere Kelley took Debbie and Kathy to meet people, they were asked to “stay for tea,” which meant they were invited to share a meal.
The food was unusual, Debbie said. Bananas and plantains are served frequently. There is a dish called “matooka” which was made up of plantains, steamed, then mashed, and Debbie said it was served to them several times. “There are banana trees everywhere and lots of fresh fruit,” she added. “They also eat a lot of rice and beans. The meats served are usually beef or chicken. And if you had chicken, it was fresh. I mean they would have to go kill it, pluck it and then cook it.”
Debbie and Kathy were overwhelmed with their reception by the Ugandan people Kelley works closest with. “They were so happy to have us there,” Debbie said. “Everyone wanted to feed us.”
Included among the many people Kelley wanted Debbie and Kathy to meet was Dr. Paul Mugambe and his family. When Kelley first arrived in Uganda, she stayed with this family for three months while she got acquainted with her new surroundings. This family consists of the parents and 16 children. The Dr. and his wife have taken in children of other family members who have died of aids.
“It was very amazing to see the support these families have for each other.” Kathy said of the Mugambe family. “Many of them (the parents) take in the children of their siblings, their nieces and nephews, as the parents die from Aids and they become Mom and Dad to these children. It is an awesome thing to see.”
Another highlight of the trip was the safari Debbie, Kathy and Kelley went on during their second week in Uganda. The safari was held at the Meywa Safari Resort and was located about a six-hour drive from Kampala. “The drive there was beautiful,” Debbie said. On the way to the resort, we saw six lions - three cubs and three females by the side of the road.”
The resort was very restful and more luxurious than any other stay on their trip. During the safari, Kathy, Kelley and Debbie saw elephants, water bucks, wart hogs, and water buffalo. They also took a morning trip on their third day that was called a “Chimp Trek.” The trio from Ligonier wouldn’t recommend it. “It was very scary,” Kathy said. “I was definitely out of my comfort zone there.”
Debbie described it as walking through the jungle of very thick, dense foliage. As they climbed up and over and around Kymbura Gorge looking for monkeys, they could have run into lions, tigers, leopards or snakes ... lots of kinds of snakes. “One of our guides carried a gun, just in case,” Debbie said. “There were hundreds of species of monkeys but we saw only one chimp. We could hear the monkeys and chimps, but we only saw that one.”
After the safari, Debbie, Kathy and Kelley returned to Kampala to prepare for their trip home.
“The people are very friendly,” Debbie concluded. “Most of the people we came in contact with were very religious. My fear for Kelley being over there is more for her getting from one place to another safely than anything else.”
Kathy’s impressions were much the same.
“It was a great trip. I was a little nervous before we went. But I found the Ugandan people so kind, so gracious. They treated us like royalty. Until you really experience it, you forget how much we have here and how little they have there. I truly appreciate the simple things in life, like having indoor showers and toilets. It is amazing to me that people can live like that and they are content.”
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