Back to Kampala and straight back to work

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I got my multiple-entry visa for Uganda.   Even thought I know it will be a hassle getting it renewed on this trip, it sure makes clearing customs easier when I land.  After that long flight, it’s nice if things can go smoothly getting out of the airport.

Picking up inscription tiles in Kampala and checking to make sure everything is spelled right.

George met me at the airport.  This time of year there is a lot of business to attend to before we get in the field.    I prefer not to spend too much time in Kampala.  The city is hectic, the traffic is insane and handling business takes forever.   But somehow this time things go more smoothly than I expected.  I’ve learned a few tricks that really help.  Instead of staying at one of the super cheap guesthouses on the outskirts of town, we forego renting the truck for the time we’re in the city and instead stay in a hotel right in the middle of it all.  Then we just take the motorcycle taxis around to do the business.  It all evens out in terms of costs and it’s much more efficient and less frustrating.

In the past, we’ve spent long hours and many days at the Ministry of Internal Affairs but this time it was a breeze.  The visa renewal went surprisingly quick.  It costs $100 to renew the visa for one year and they only take cash (new $100 bills).  After that we ease over to the NGO office to see if our renewal had been approved.  They have a board outside the offices, in the blazing sun, where they post the numbers of the NGOs, which have been approved.  I don’t know who they turn down but they sure ask for a LOT of documentation, letters, budgets and work plans, when you submit for renewal.  I think they just want to monitor who is providing aid and make sure they know what they are doing.  I don’t think we would ever be declined but I do fear they might ask for some additional documents or something, which could slow us down from our work in the field.  Our number is on the list and we’re good to go.

For the rest of the week we run around dealing with random issues.  We’re in and out of offices dealing with business, meeting with our head drillers to discuss our new contracts and generally getting things ready for the field.  We buy airtime for the satellite phone, design new ID cards for the crew and buy supplies for the office and the field.  It’s slim pickings after you get out of Kampala, so you have to stock up on anything you’ll need before heading out.

On the last day, to avoid running all over town in the crazy traffic, we arrange for everyone to meet us at a local parking lot for last minute issues. We receive the engraved tiles from Edgar, Fred delivers our truck to us, and John brings our new ID cards over.  Fred comes with his lovely wife Roseland.  She runs an orphanage in Jinja, Uganda, and is a beautiful person.  She told me that she’s been voting for DITB every day online in the Intelligent Use of Water Campaign.  That is so exciting to hear.  Everybody is voting!!  And it looks like we are going to win the money.  We will know for sure next week.

Finally we are fuel up, stocked up and ready to head out.  There is so much work to do and I’m eager to get back in the field to make sure things are lined up and ready to go.

Between projects in Uganda and Sudan, we have 17 wells being drilled and two sanitation systems almost complete and ready to be handed over to the communities.

This time of year it is busy.  It’s the dry season, which has the best conditions for drilling and scouting, but it is HOT.

The rains usually end around November but then things come to a screeching halt during the holidays.  Usually things gain momentum again in January but this year the election delayed any progress for another month.  Because our projects are centered at schools, it is hard for us to do much when school is not in session.

Our community mobilizing team in the field has been working non-stop for the past few weeks to get the new schools lined up and ready for the projects to begin.   They’ve been running around getting MOUs signed, training the communities and arranging for the hydro-geological surveys to be completed.

It’s important that we stay on schedule.  We have five drilling teams scheduled for different projects.  So everything must go according to schedule.  The drillers arrive on site with full crews and trucks loaded down of enough materials needed to complete five wells at a time.  We can’t waste their time.  The communities have to be ready to go and things must be organized on our end.  The roads must be cleared for the trucks, the water committees must be prepared with food for the drillers, local materials for construction must be onsite and community members must be ready to assist with manual labor.  It’s a small miracle when things go off without a hitch but we always do our best to get off to a good start.

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Author: Stacey Travis

Founder and Executive Director of Drop in the Bucket a water charity building water wells and sanitation systems at schools in Africa.

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