Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gganda is on the Map!!!

Last June, after the completion of St. Kizito Primary School, a prominent man in the village of Gganda proudly exclaimed, “Thank you for your work, you have put Gganda on the map!!”

The village of Gganda, lies about 7 miles north east of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. It is a small area, and not well known, as it is just another village on the outskirts of town. Even in the bustling new taxi park, where a regular stream of matatus runs from Kampala to the neighboring villages of Jenina and Kibando (and almost anywhere else you would want to go), people looked confused when I asked where the minibus to Gganda was. Many times the men whom I asked would look around at the chaos of hundreds of unmarked matatus that comprise the taxi park and declare, “Gganda? Sister, you are in Uganda!!”

No kidding, I would I think as I walked away in search of more informed assistance.

These stories came to mind yesterday, when out of curiosity I decided to search Gganda on Google Earth. I began the search in Kampala and followed the satellite images of roads that made the all-too-familiar route from the city to Gganda. We could clearly see the streams of traffic through old Kampala, and the wide circle where Hoima Road intersects with the Northern Bypass. We laughed as we recounted the story of the “Walker Special” - a way to get into the city via bodaboda and bicycle. Continuing further, we would turn into the village and we could see the swamps that frequently flooded the road, but were also home to the frogs whose chirping at night is a pure symphony. We would continue, using the satellite images all the way to the orphanage, and further to images of the old school. We could even see the amazing mango tree that once stood outside of St. Kizito, who was unfortunately uprooted despite our desperate attempts to preserve it.

Earlier in the year a friend said this area could not be found using Google Earth; anything outside of the city was black. Today, the images are amazingly clear and detailed, right down to the bodaboda stage on the corner and that magnificent tree. Gganda is, quite literally, on the map. I look forward to checking back in several months and seeing updated images of the area and looking down, proudly, at the completed St. Kizito Primary School.

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