PART II (of III) – Snakes and Crocodiles

The eMi team, pictured out on the island we visited. From left: architect Lewis from Texas, architectural intern Lindsay also from Texas, civil engineer Pat from BC, Canada, Pat's wife Kara, civil engineering intern Ryan from Edmonton, civil engineer Chris from South Dakota, graphic designer Grace also from Canada, civil engineer Ryan from South Dakota, me, and architect Mike from Connecticut. One of these people had to be photo-shopped in because they didn't make the trip to the island...can you guess who??

Day 3 – Thursday, March 12, 2009: Once again, after sleeping very well in the tent, we were awoken around 6am to the sound of rain. This time, water started pouring directly off the rain-fly into one of the windows in our tent! Fortunately, we quickly fixed the problem so only a small puddle formed. Had we been sleeping and the window left as it was for even a few minutes, the whole tent would have been flooded.
Today was a full work day, and the team got right to work after morning devotions. The civil engineers headed out to dig bore holes and take more water samples up at the spring, the architects continued to work on the master plan, and I started working on some preliminary truss calculations for some of the roofs. Also, the graphic designer worked with the ministry on their fundraising and promotional materials, and during this time they came up with a name for the site: ‘Musana Camps’, which means ‘Light’ in Luganda. They also came up with the motto: ‘Encountering truth; Transforming lives’.
Just as we were gathering for lunch, I got to see my first deadly snake in Africa! Apparently, one of the guards was using the latrine and noticed a green Mamba inside crawling up on the roof – it was about 2 1/2 feet long and about an inch thick. He quickly got a stick and killed it. They cut off the head, and then squeezed out an undigested gecko that amazingly was still barely breathing and moving (though it soon died as the ants swarmed in to steal the snake’s kill). Anyway, apparently the mamba’s like to climb trees and fall on prey from above. Syd from New Hope quickly cut down the tree branch that was hanging over the latrine to hopefully prevent more snakes from getting in there. Not looking forward to the next time nature calls, since that’s the only toilet on the site!

This is a perfect picture of the biblical idea of 'crushing the serpents head'. They had already pretty much killed it before they finished the deal with this blow.

The snake's body is barely seen here on the left, with it's severed head and the recently deceased gecko.

After a full day’s work and another great meal, we lit a large pile of clippings and tree limbs using a little gasoline and enjoyed a bonfire. Since 4 out of the 10 people on the eMi team are from Canada, we took the chance to learn about our neighbors to the north by asking them all kinds of questions. It’s amazing how little many (most?) Americans know about Canada and Canadians. Honestly, I have always thought of them as pretty much the same as Americans, and though there are not that many differences really, I think a lot of Canadians are a little perturbed that so many Americans don’t really know anything about them or their country. So it was good to learn a little about Canada, and also to get to know these team members better in the process.
We stayed up late around the campfire, so at 11:15pm I braved the cool breeze and stuck to my nightly ritual of showering under the moon.
The only picture I have of the shower stall is this one - you can just see the brick walls behind the trees on the left of the house/work room. The wooden door is open in this shot, and there is no roof.

Day 4 – Friday, March 13, 2009: Since many of us had gone to bed late, we woke up a little later this morning – but once again a rain storm blew in just before sunrise. This time, the tent stayed totally dry thanks to a little tweaking the day before. Actually, being up on a platform and with the tent now staying dry during the downpours, I actually like sleeping in a tent in the rain (a bit of an about face for me, as in the past I have been known to pack up camp in the middle of a rainstorm and drive home several hours rather than to camp in the rain!).
Work space is tight on eMi trips. I was happy to have carved out a corner of the table for a minute, though it meant hanging my laptop off the edge of the table.

After the morning devotional and a couple more testimonies, we got back to work. I love the testimony part of project trips as it really draws the team together and gives us a view into their lives. It’s amazing how on these trips adults can be so open and vulnerable with people they’ve never seen before in such a short time. It really goes a long way in building team unity.
Today was more of a ‘grind out the work’ kind of day, without much else in the way of activities. The architects worked on trying to get this enormous project down on paper, while the engineers wrapped up their data collection and are set to begin the design process tomorrow.
A meeting of the minds - the architects and civil engineers discuss some design issues

I’m starting to grow attached to this site, and though being with Alisha and the boys is always on my mind, at the same time being out here reminds me that I really don’t like living in the city. I think if we lived more remotely I’d feel a lot more connected to Uganda than I do living in Kampala. Two of the boys from the main New Hope Uganda site up north are spending 3 months working on this site as a part of a co-op with their schooling and they have been assisting us with all kinds of tasks and learning about engineering. Alex and Alan are their names, and they both want to be engineers someday. They are 16 years old and in level S4, which is roughly equivalent to 10th grade back home. They’ve been a lot of fun to have around. Alex was teaching me some Luganda last night, and has been keeping me posted on Manchester United highlights since he’s a fan too (he hears the daily updates on his radio). Another late night shower under the stars finished off my night, though the full moon is slowly fading and was behind some clouds on the horizon, making for a much darker night and shower.
Day 5 – Saturday, March 14, 2009: For the first time, we didn’t wake up to a rainstorm this morning. After breakfast and devotions, we got to work on the design. Also for the first time, all 10 of us were in the work room all morning as most of the data collection has been completed.
After lunch, we walked down to the beach where I had arranged for a boat to take us out on the lake for a little break from work. First, I had to go buy some ‘petrol’ for the boat (see the picture of the ‘gas station’) and then we had to wait while they repaired the boat. While we waited, the local kids from the village gathered around us and we got to play with them. I kicked a small ball around with these 2 kids for nearly an hour while we waited for the boat. It was a lot of fun. I also got to practice some of the Luganda I learned the night before. It was funny, one time I said ‘How are you?’ to an old man, and his face lit up with excitement as he started saying a bunch of things in Luganda, to which I had to reply that I only knew a little. His face immediately turned back to normal and he said, “Oh, ok” clearly disappointed. I guess that’s what I get for trying out the language!
Waiting for the boat actually turned out nicely, as it gave us over an hour to hang out with the village children. We kicked little balls around, took pictures and showed them on our cameras, and just hung out with them.

Every kid out there wanted their picture taken

We finally got on the pretty old, wooden boat and headed out about 2 miles to this small island, maybe 150 yards long and only about 20 yards wide with steep, rocky cliffs up about 25 feet above the beach. After a choppy ride that took over an hour, we arrived on the uninhabited island and were told by the boat drivers to be careful because crocodiles were regulars to the area around the island (now they tell us!). Within a minute of being off the boat this was confirmed as we spotted a dead, 12-inch long baby crocodile.

The 'gas station' where we bought fuel for the boat trip. A woman came over, unlocked the door, and then poured gas in a coffee cup to measure the amounts as she transferred it into our jerry-can. The price was 3200 Ugandan shillings per liter, which is about $6.10/gallon.

Looking back towards the site from the island
We moved up to higher ground and looked around down on the beautiful scenery. On top of the cliffs was about a 25-foot wide flat area covered in rocks and basil plants that extended over most of the island. After exploring around a bit - some of the team spotted two monitor lizards - we all headed back to the boat, taking with us the baby croc to show the others left behind back at camp (someone also

Our boat
mentioned that we could use the baby as collateral if a big croc approached the boat. We'd just pretend it was still alive and tell the big croc to back off or the little one would 'get it'. Heehee!) I have to say, with a poisonous snake and a dead croc now in the trip’s archives, this is shaping up to be a pretty ‘epic’ project trip - certainly a very testosterone-inducing one anyway.

I'm not exactly the next Steve Irwin, but I did feel kind of cool holding a wild crocodile! (Significant information omitted in this caption that could affect any conclusions you may be making about my manliness: 1) it was a baby; 2) it was dead)

The ride back to the mainland was very rough. Our wooden boat (actually more like a canoe) was tossed about pretty good by the large swells in the lake. Generally the waves were around 3 feet, but a couple of them were 5 feet tall and gave our boat a pretty good teeter. At that height, the waves were taller than our heads as we sat on the bench down in the boat – a wee bit unnerving. The boat is made of 1x wood planks, attached together with 1 1/2" metal strapping. You could feel the waves bending the boards under your feet every time we hit a wave.

It is unbelievable how sharp those little teeth are!

This partially submerged ridge of rocks connecting to another nearby island is supposedly where the crocodiles like to hang out.
Since we knew crocs were in the water now, it made all those waves a bit more nerve-racking than they otherwise would have been. But more on my mind was the fact that I was getting very sea sick. By the time we reached the beach, I was starting to feel like I might see my lunch again. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

The rocky back side of the island was beautiful. The boat drivers told us that there were caves somewhere down there where the crocodiles liked to sleep.

We were also greeted by the assistant pastor, Lois, who had an older gentlemen with her who wanted to meet me as well. They re-invited us to church, and we told her that we’d be there. We’re all looking forward to that – it should be very interesting.

Just heading out from the beach, I was doing good. The trip home was a different story, as the waves really started getting to me.
Since we were dirty from the island, I broke my tradition and showered in the daylight. I have to say it was nice to be warm, though I missed the moon and stars. After dinner, the team got back to work as we’re starting to feel the pressure of Monday’s presentation.

Glad to be back on solid ground, I hung out in front of our tent for awhile to try to get my brain to stop rocking back and forth


brian c. berry said…
sweet tent. fun times. Wish I was on this trip. Looks like fun. Probably the first time in a long time I wished I'd chosen to keep my engineering major or pursue my architect degree that I thought I was going to do as a freshman. So stoked for you and this experience.

Love the tents on platforms. Super cool. I think I want to live on one somewhere for a time.

Oh.. and the guy in the back with the blue and orange EMI shirt is photoshopped in. Someone did a great job, but cuz you can see his feet, he's floating a little on the rocks.
Traci Morrow said…
This is my all time favorite blog account in this whole "we've" been in Uganda!

I can absolutely see why you say you'd rather live in the country....and like Brian, seeing you on the platform outside the tent, I want to play too! Its like Survivor, but no one gets voted off! :) SWEET!


A shower under the much as there is a material sacrifice in living there - you are REALLY experiencing LIFE in a way that God intended! How cool is that?!?

Love your guts!!!

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