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Archive for the ‘Uganda’ Category

Rest

An old post I realized that I forgot to post!  Written on April 14, 2011:

Casey and I just returned from our first real break since early November, where we spent three nights camping on a little island on a lake in Uganda – called Lake Bunyonyi; the deepest lake in Uganda.  The border of Rwanda/Uganda is only 2 hours away from Kigali, so taking advantage of a particular week in Rwanda when everything is officially shut down**, we slipped away for 4 days to rest. 

One of the 28 islands on Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

The view from our safari tent

And rest we certainly did.  We stayed in this lovely safari tent (picture) on a sweet little island called Busara Island, which could only be reached by boat.  We walked around the island multiple times and took in the variety of extravagant birds that would creep up and sing to us.  We read books, talked for hours, explored the island, slept tons and ate wonderful food.  It was beyond peaceful. 

Pulling up to Busara Island by boat

Upon our return from the Lake this morning, we were greeted with our suitcase that made it safely to Kigali last night!!!!!

Long story, but the short of it is that our moms sponsored a large suitcase to be carried back to Rwanda through a colleague that was visiting in San Francisco, but due to a family emergency she was unable to make the trip to SF at the last minute.  Therefore, our suitcase was stranded.  Since that time, a friend of a friend offered to carry it for us since she was coming to visit her daughter here in Kigali.  We pay the extra baggage fee of $150 and this lovely woman, Julia, kindly brought our goods to Kigali for us.

I cannot begin to tell you what a treat it was to get all of these goodies from the US that we can’t find here (quinoa, grape nuts, dark chocolate), our important motorcycle helmets, and the love that came from our moms Cindy and Stephanie, and dear friends Liz and Katie.  There are certainly many treats, but also big essentials for us that we haven’t been able to find here (for instance, quality motorcycle helmets).  At one point Casey says, “you can tell your friends had a hand in this when you find Clift Blocs inside, and it has your mom written all over it with all your favorite comfort foods!”  It’s like getting a care package back in college all over again!

Score!

** the week following Genocide Memorial Day on 7 April is designated an official week of mourning.  Cities throughout Rwanda, Kigali in particular, shut down their businesses and take time to remember the genocide and talk with genocide survivors in an attempt to work through the tragedy.

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Safari

Safari [suh-fahr-ee]: A journey or expedition to explore.

We explored Uganda.  Murchison Falls National Park to be exact.  Here is a short photo safari for you.

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It’s a Small World After All

It can be astounding how small that our circles can be.  Only six weeks into our RTW and we have already stayed in 3 homes that have been opened up to us by strangers who have either never met us, or only met us once. Amazing really. I can’t remember the last time that I opened my home to a complete stranger where I fed them and showed them around my own city and country, often dropping my normal plans.  I certainly hope that we will have this honor in the future, and I already have many schemes to make that happen (Lord willing) in the future; from housing foreign exchange students in our home, to hosting couch-surfers needing to stay a night or two in San Francisco.  So I guess my point here, is that one of the many lessons that I have learned on this trip is that hospitality seems to run freely in this world.  Not only that, is that the world is often much smaller than we thought.

– We stayed 3 nights in a home in Kampala with a couple of whom had never met us. Jim and Esther were friends of a friend that I went to grad school with (Sherri), who opened their home to us after they received an email from Sherri telling them that we would be in town for a few days.  The best part of this connection, was that they shared their home with us during our worst bout of traveler’s diarrhea we have had as of yet.  Let me tell you from experience how much of a treat it is to have a warm shower, a flush toilet and running water at your disposal when you are dealing with explosive diarrhea every 15 minutes (things we take advantage of at home, but make a serious difference in Africa).  We were so thankful to have a real home to be in during a time in which we were both pretty ill…

– Just a few weeks before we left on our RTW, we happened to stumble upon a darling couple from Germany in the middle of Yosemite National Park during a camping trip.  We liked them.  And apparently they liked us too, because about 3 weeks later we were staying in their home in Munich, Germany.  Mathias and Tanja.

– Thanks to my dear colleague and friend Beth Schulz, we were connected with Mark in Uganda.  Mark once worked for my former employer some 10 years ago or so.  Now Mark had never met us before, had probably received one email telling him a bit about us, and then we exchanged two measly emails before my husband and I showed up on his doorstep at 4 a.m. about a week ago.  Talk about hospitality!  He housed us and fed us for a few days, while we rested up from our traumatic Egypt experience, and then we did a bit of exploring the countryside on a safari on our own for some time, only to return to his home for a few more days at the end of our trip.  Mark has a beautiful home overlooking Lake Victoria in suburbs of Kampala, an incredibly darling son named Giovanni, lovely Ugandan friends, and, he works in HIV/AIDS prevention and care (Which of course peaks my interest – For those of you who don’t know me as well, HIV/AIDS prevention work, particularly in Africa, is something I am passionate about.  I hope to be more involved in this area in my future, though I’m not exactly sure what that might look like).  So not only did our new friend Mark open up his home to us, but he also offered to take us to his local district to see some of the HIV prevention projects that he manages.  What hospitality!

All thanks to connections that we’ve found around the world, I am reminded not only of how large our world is, but how small it can really be.

Attached are a few photos from our visit to the Kayunga District to see some of the MHRP PEPFAR programs, which includes a male circumcision HIV prevention project.  Very cool!


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Knock on Wood

You should never speak too soon.  I learned this lesson today.  I’m not sure where the phrase or wives tale came from to “knock on wood” when you say something you’re thankful for, but the moment I return to an internet connection I will make sure to google it.  As I type this blog entry now, I am sitting in the Kigali International Airport (Uganda) hoping that our plane will arrive and not be canceled for the second day in a row.  Our friends, Kristen and Greg, are sitting at the Kigali Airport in Rwanda waiting for us to arrive.  They have likely been sitting there for a few hours now.  This morning I shared with my husband, “I have been surprised at how ‘on-time’ Africa has been so far.”  I should have knocked on wood…

I spent about 6 months in East Africa as part of a college exchange program in 1995.  I was in Kenya, just one country northeast of where I sit now.  I learned some of the best (and challenging) lessons about life during this experience.

Beautiful Ugandan children

I learned a lot about me personally, and grew leaps and bounds in my faith.  Mostly though, I fell in love with the developing world, and have always had a draw and yearning to be back in the place of beautiful dark faces and glorious white smiles in this part of the world.  I am not sure why it is.  I have asked and wondered many times.  But my heart yearns to return here.  And here we are.  I am so incredibly thankful to be here again, and honored to experience it with Casey for his first visit here.

The first and most important lesson that I learned in East Africa back in ‘95, is that our idea of time in the American culture looks incredibly different from that of African time.  In fact, the phrase that best describes just about anything that goes wrong here is, in fact, “Africa time.”  Africa time means: expect it to happen…sometime.  Or simply, nothing happens on time.  In Latin America, this can also be described as a “manana attitude.”  Everything will happen tomorrow.  I don’t say this to be disrespectful of this culture, in fact, many of my African friends will use this phrase themselves!  It is a given here.  So upon my return to East Africa a mere week ago, I was fully expecting a lot of waiting around.

So by day 7, when much of everything has happened as planned and on-time in Uganda, I felt compelled to share that surprising piece of our Africa experience with Casey this morning.  Fast forward about 4 hours and things had changed a bit… our taxi driver who was hired to take us to the airport showed up a half-hour late, then proceeded to run errands on the way to the airport in downtown Kampala (grabbing groceries and phone cards and whatnot along the way) delaying us further, and then was pulled over by the police for having broken brake lights for a good 20 minute affair of arguing.  We were dropped at the airport a mere one hour before our international flight, which made me very nervous in Africa.  But as he said, “it’s ONLY to Kigali” – a short 45 minute flight to Rwanda that most people take a 6 hour bus drive to instead of all the white folk who choose to fly it.  So safely to the airport in time, we proceed through security and to the check-in counter where Ethiopian Airlines is unable to find out reservation.  We have no tickets!  We have to leave security area with all our bags and go upstairs to the airline office and try to sort it all out.  After sorting (yes we did have tickets), they hand-write us a few boarding passes that have no seat tickets or flight number or anything written on it.  Totally ghetto.  Hilarious.  We proceed back through security, check our bags (luggage tags also hand written – no bar code on these things) and get to the immigration booth where they barely glanced at our make-shift boarding passes and have us fill out ARRIVAL cards (the same ones we filled out when we arrived to Uganda).  This never would’ve passed in some countries.  Love it.  We then walk up to look for our gate

with about 15 minutes to spare before our flight was scheduled to depart.  Phew!

We notice a group of wazungu (white folk) who gathered in a group and are asking about our boarding gate.  They seem a bit exasperated.  We get their story.  They were in this very exact situation yesterday at the same time, for this same flight – Flight 811 to Kigali on Ethiopian Airlines.  A few minutes before their departure they were told that the airplane had technical difficulties and to wait a bit while they try to sort it out.  This group waited 6 hours in the airport before they were told that the flight was canceled and that they had to come back the next day to take the same flight.  Most of these individuals were never given their luggage back for the night because they were unable to locate them!  Hmmmm.

As quickly as we learned their story, we were then told the exact same story for our plane by the airline personnel.   Our plane had “technical difficulties” and would likely be arriving late.  Casey and I looked at each other and said, “Well, where else do we want to go in the world”?  We can go anywhere!  We looked on the departure screen to see what flights were leaving Kampala during the day and there were a few flights to Kenya, one to the DR Congo, one to Mozambique and one to Dubai.  All places that we want to visit!  But we couldn’t get permission to leave the boarding area to look into a change of flight so we decided to sit it out a bit.  We also have friends waiting in Kigali for us, of whom we can’t wait to see, so ideally we’d like to get there today.

Warthog who visited our tent nightly during safari.

The problem for me now, is the likelihood of experiencing what these other wazungu experienced yesterday is incredibly HIGH.  Do I really want to sit in this airport for 6 hours and get my hopes up that our flight will show up?  Do we want to spend another night in Kigali, and now without our luggage (since it is already checked in) and have to spend another $60 round trip in taxi fare to get us to and from our friend’s house to the airport?  Not

only that, I forced us to spend every last Ugandan shilling today without any in reserve because we were leavi

ng the coun

try (No one excepts credit card in Africa – cash only.  It costs us $5 every time we use an ATM, there are cash limits for withdraw every day [no more than $200 a day], and if we leave with Ugandan Shillings we lose tons of money trying to exchange it to the next currency).  Even if we wanted to find an ATM and get more Ugandan shilling for our air

port visit, there are no ATMs on this side of the airport immigration. They do however, except US dollars but all of our US currency we had brought with us on this trip was stolen from our bags back in Turkey (about $300).  So needless to say, we feel a bit stranded here in the airport.

This culture shift forced me to slow down.  To be content with waiting.  To go-with-the-flow.  To have patience.  Sadly, it has been 15 years since I learned this, and right now I don’t feel that entire content sitting in it.  Part of the joys of the experience I take it.  We shall see what transpires…

Update five days later: we made it to Rwanda!  And for African time, it was only 4 hours late.

Our hand-written boarding passes! Made it through immigration and security with these.

However, we then waited another 45 minutes for our baggage to arrive, only to have to accept the fact that Casey’s bag is missing!  This is now our fifth day in Rwanda and they have been unable to locate Casey’s luggage.  It has our big Canon camera in it, and of course all of his clothes.  Today they think the bag is in Ethiopia.  Who knows?  Of course we have been taken care of though.  We are staying with the Urquharts, and thankfully, Greg and Casey are

about the same size, so we have twins walking around everywhere.

Greg shared with us a new saying last night; “Americans have watches and no time, while Africans have all the time in the world and no watches.”

I have faith that Casey’s bag will make it soon.  Knock on wood (of which I am literally doing this moment)!  Call me superstitious, and I’m perfectly fine with it.

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The Pearl of Africa

At 3a.m. this morning, we arrived in Uganda.  East Africa.  Walking off the plane I was welcomed with a familiar climate, familiar smells, sounds and words (in Kiswahili).  I let out a sigh of thankfulness.  This feels like the Africa I fell in love with almost 15 years ago.

Though Egypt is technically on the African continent, it felt more like the Middle East to me.  But this… all I can say (insert smile), is that it is good to be back.

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