Left Behind, the Forgotten Dagger and Home

After 28 hours of travelling, I’m finally home! I’m SOOOO happy to be back to water magically coming out of the faucet, paved roads and clean air. Here’s a little recap of the last couple of days…

On our last day in Uganda we went to a place called African Village to pick up some gifts. There are some serious shoppers in my group so we spent a few hours combing through the stores. As we were getting ready to leave, Joanna said she was going to go grab a few more african bowls and I told her I’d come with her. I told our other team member Geoff that we would be right back. Joanna and I ran back over, grabbed some bowls and made our way back to the car but the car was gone. A boy who had sold me a Ugandan wire toy told us that the car had gone to the other side of the shops so we walked over but the car was nowhere to be found. Thinking that CLEARLY they would not have left us, I told Joanna that the best bet when lost was to go back to the place where the car was and wait for them. Maybe they were circling around the block or someone needed their parking spot. We waited for a few more minutes and the boy came over to us again and told us that the group had split into two groups and gone in two separate cars. He paused and stared at us waiting for our response. We weren’t picking up what he was laying down so finally he said, “I think they left with out you.” Well, shit. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Joanna and I looked at each other, “What?!?” The boy very wisely guessed that each car thought that we were in the other and took off. We had no idea where they were going but for some strange reason, the boy had heard our team talking about going to Hotel Triangle for lunch. After a few moments of panic, we decided that our new strategy was to walk to Hotel Triangle. We started asking around and got several different accounts of how far the hotel was. As we were figuring out the distance, we noticed clouds were gathering and it looked like it was going to rain. Dammit. Strategy #3- let’s jump on a boda boda (motorcycle) and have them take us to the hotel. After negotiating a 2,000 shilling fare (less than a $1), Joanna and I hopped on the back of the motorcycle and took off. At this point, it starts raining and I start laughing so hysterically that I can barely breathe. Joanna busted out laughing too and the boda boda driver keeps saying “Are you ok? Are you having fun?” I can only imagine what he is thinking of these two hysterical American girls laughing so hard on the back of his motorcycle. We bobbed and weaved in some crazy traffic and I told Joanna that not only was it crazy to be on a motorcycle in downtown Kampala but to add rain to the mix was seriously insane. She agreed and thankfully we arrived at Hotel Triangle a few minutes later. It turned out that the boy was right. Both cars thought we were with the others until they passed each other on the street and realized they were sans Shelly and Joanna. A car had gone back to get us. Luckily, they had a cell phone with them so our leader called them and called them back to the hotel. With some good humor, a motorcycle and 2,000 Ugandan shillings a crisis was averted. Until London/Heathrow airport and the dagger incident…

Let it be known that Heathrow is by far the strictest security I have ever been through even without accidentally forgetting that you have a handcarved, African dagger in your bag. I am happy to say that for once, I was not the one causing problems. Amanda, in her haste to pack, had grabbed all of her souvenirs and shoved them in her carry-on, including a dagger for her brother in law. Heathrow security was not too happy with her oversight. We thought that they would confiscate the knife and send us on our way. No such luck. The security informed Amanda that in addition to seizing the contraband, they would also be contacting the airport police who would need to speak with her and it was quite possible that she would be missing her flight to the states. Double dammit. Thankfully, when the police arrived, they looked more like a welcoming committee than a hardcore security force ready to unleash fury. With a little chit chat and lots of smiling, Amanda was released without incident.

After the dagger shenanigans, I decided (again) that it was time for a bloody mary and cappuccino. The rest of our trip was relatively uneventful and we made it home a few minutes early even. I am ecstatic to be home. Kyle and I had some dinner and crashed out early last night. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some pictures posted shortly. Here’s to hoping for no jet lag 🙂

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Safari

As you can imagine, the safari was awesome! We went out in the morning for a boat ride to see hippos and Murchison Falls. I could not believe how many hippos we saw in the Nile. I am not exaggerating when I say that we saw HUNDREDS of hippos. They make really funny noise that kind of sound like Urkel laughing. We also saw a ton of birds, bush bucks and a ton of warthogs. In the afternoon, we went on a game drive out on the savannah in a little bus where the roof pops up about three 3ft so you can stand up but it shields you in case something gets to close. Within the first few minutes, we saw giraffes nibbling away on some trees. We got some amazing pictures. We also saw cape buffalo, tons of little deer like animals called oribi and the Ugandan Kob which is a ram looking thing that is on the Ugandan shillings. As dusk came, we got to see some elephants and I got a short video of one coming towards the car as it crossed the road.  The best was last. As we were headed back, I looked up the road and saw a female lion coming towards the car. We slowed down and she gave us a quick glance before sauntering into the brush. Not too shabby for our first day. Today we woke up early and went to see the falls from the top. It was an amazing view of two stunning waterfalls. Geoff and I were walking down the trail and came across a very poisonous forest viper. It was pretty small and by all accounts looked half dead, but we let the guide scoot him off the trail with his walking stick anyway. On our way back to Kampala, we stopped by a rhinoceros refuge and got to walk up pretty close to some rhinos that were taking a nap. Rhinos were poached to extinction in the 80s in Uganda and a South African woman has started a refuge to try and get them reestablished. All this time I thought rhinos were the dangerous ones but apparently it’s the hippos that get fired up and stomp people. Rhinos get agitated less easily and really only charge you if the feel threatened. Good to know- especially since we were 50 ft or so away from them while they were napping. All in all, a great safari experience.
After two days of safari-ing we are worn out! We’re back at the guest house in Kampala and getting ready to spend our last evening in Uganda. Tomorrow at around midnight, we start the journey back to the states. I hope I’ll have the chance to post once more before I leave but in the event that I don’t, I’ll see you all soon!! Keep your fingers crossed for good weather.

Paraa Lodge

We’re at Paraa Lodge and we’re in heaven. After 8 long hours on hot, dusty roads, we were greeted at the beautiful Parra Lodge by a woman who supplied us with ice cold towels and glasses of passion fruit juice. The calmness of the hotel was a welcome change from the break neck speed on bumpy dirt roads that we took to get here. On the way we saw several families of baboons, tons of warthogs, some elephants and hippos in the distance and an animal that I have deemed the deer-donkey. And we haven’t even started the safari yet!
We arrived and were absolutely amazed by the beauty and peacefulness of this place. It’s right on the Nile and has an awesome swimming pool with a swim up bar! Within a few hours of arriving, I swam, had a few drinks, got a massage and hit up the buffet dinner with the team. This is living! Such a welcome reprieve from the village. The massage was less than $20 so I might just have to go back tomorrow. I’m supporting the local economy one beer and one massage at a time. 🙂

Tomorrow we’re going on a riverboat cruise to Murchison Falls and then a game drive at 4pm. Woo hoo!!

Reefer Madness

So we can add drug bust to our list of accomplishments. One of our team members went for a walk around our host family’s property and was picking up various plants when he stumbled upon a neighbor’s marijuana patch. The team thought it was mildly amusing but our host was not too happy. He called the local police and about an hour later, two soldiers were tromping through the neighbor’s yard yanking up plants. I got an awesome picture of the soldiery guy with a bunch of 5 ft. pot plants at our plastic table. The best part is I got him to smile 🙂 The neighbor showed up a few minutes later and was questioned and arrested all in our front yard. T.I.A!!!

Even after a hard day of crime fighting, we were still able to make it to the graduation on time-ish. Time is an interesting phenomena in Africa. When one of my teammates complained that the nurses who we invited for a training at 2pm were just arriving at 4pm our hostess had the following to say: “God has blessed us with lots of time. So in Africa, 2pm means 4pm.” Well there ya go! I’ve definitely settled into the whole relaxed time thing. I realized I was fighting a losing battle on the whole “timeliness” issue so I figured it was best to just go native on that whole issue. Otherwise, I might have an ulcer right now!!!

We’re back in Kampala now and enjoying a few hours of free time before our farewell reception. Tomorrow we head off for our safari in Murchison Falls! I can hardly wait to check out all the animals. We’re doing an afternoon safari tomorrow and a morning rhino tracking the next day. I’m hoping for lots of animal sightings!!

On a final note, please think positive thoughts for Sudan. Their 9 day election has begun.

Graduation Day

Tomorrow is our last full day in the village. We have prepared some fancy certificates for all of the workshop attendees and will hold a graduation ceremony. It’s hard to believe that we’re leaving on Saturday morning to go back to Kampala. I feel like we’ve just barely begun the work that needs to be accomplished but now is time to see what takes root and what will be rejected. While we’re here, the villagers are eager to please us and tell us what we want to hear. Once we’re gone, we can see what sort of follow through they will have and how we can follow up ourselves to help them along the way.

As we’ve been winding down, several people have been making their pleas to us. Most of them ask for school fees. In Uganda, many people can’t afford secondary school so they do their best to try and solicit for “sponsors.” It is such a sad state of affairs that one of the main elements that could help to lift them out of poverty- education- is so difficult to attain. One thing is for certain, there is no shortage of ways to help. I’ve personally been struggling with how to help more. I’m hoping that the relationships that I’ve been building in the village and in Kampala will help pave the way for more projects and follow up in the future. Nkondo hasn’t seen the last of me! 🙂

Laundry and Jack Fruit

So when we were preparing to come out here, we were assured that someone would take care of laundering our clothes. When we arrived, we found out that they had hired a boy from the village to wash our clothes and he had been “in training” for the past couple of months! Very impressive 🙂 What we ALSO found out was that he has never washed women’s underwear and it would be very inappropriate for him to do that. Sooooo, I will add a washing machine to the list of amenities that I miss!!!

Yesterday we were really hungry and we had a few hours until dinner so I asked some of the boys who work here to help me find a ripe jack fruit. After hunting one down, I engaged them in a spirited jack fruit seed spitting contest. I’m proud to say that the US swept Uganda in the Jack Fruit Seed Spitting Cup! I wish I could say that it was my skill that brought home the gold but it wasn’t. I was a third place finisher but our very own Amanda Wirtz made the magic happen.

I facilitated a workshop for the villagers today on goal setting. My strategic planning skills have been put to good use! It was a complicated subject because in Lasoga, there isn’t really a word for “goal” or “objective.” It was pretty dicey there for a while, but I got them to give me examples and helped them map out some goals and by the end, I’m pretty sure they got it. At the very least, I wasn’t boo-ed out of the classroom.

Tomorrow the microcredit people are rumored to be coming. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!