A Travellerspoint blog

Singin' in the Rain

rain

It's been raining here on a daily basis...I guess that's why they call this the rainy season. The rain comes down in sheets and water rushes river-like in the ditches alongside the roads or flows like a flash flood across the tarmac. I cringe when it rains because I know the rivulets of water rushing down the pathetic excuse of a road to my apartment are carving ever deeper the crevices that threaten to engulf my vehicle each time I 4-wheel my way up it. And it's not just my driving that's affected by the rain; it's the washing as well. It's become a real challenge to dry my clothes when all I have is the clothesline and when every afternoon brings a fresh downpour. During this time of year, the entire populace appears to be at the mercy of the rain, and the inclement weather brings a feeling of something akin to comradery as young and old, mzungu and Ugandan alike run for cover when the heavens open up. Even before the first drops fall, one can feel the anticipation of a storm in the air. Pedestrians can be seen running on the streets, racing against the rainclouds to reach their destination before the rains begin in earnest. Shop keepers hurry to cover "perishables" like cushions and clothing with tarps and then hunker down under tin roofs to wait out the storm. Everything comes to a standstill. Often within minutes, however, the deluge has passed and the sun makes its way back out from behind the clouds. I suppose it could be worse...it could be snow! (insert snicker here as I think about all my fellow Canadians who've already had their first dose of the white stuff)

In other news, Brooke has come down with the chicken pox right on schedule (2 weeks after the first spots showed up on Greg) and just in time for her birthday which is tomorrow. All week she was telling everyone that she expected to get the chicken pox for a birthday present from her little brother. On the bright side, she seems to have contracted a milder version of the illness than Greg had. On the downside, she has a very low pain (discomfort) threshold, so I suspect even a small break-out will be quite traumatic for her (and consequently the rest of us!)

Posted by BriteLite 10:51 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

I Painted Peace

I recently read this poem in a collection of writings submitted by students affected by the war that raged in the North of Uganda up until 2006.

I Painted Peace

I had a box of colours -- bright, alive and bold
I had a box of colours -- some warm, some very cold

I didn't have red for the blood of the wounded
I didn't have black for the cry of the orphans
I didn't have white for the faces of the dying
I didn't have yellow for the burning sands

But I had orange for the joy of life
And green for the shoots and nests
And pink for dreams and rest

I sat down and painted peace

Posted by BriteLite 00:17 Comments (2)

Ziwa

Maybe the travel brochure should have said something about needing long pants and proper shoes...or maybe we should have gathered that rhino tracking would involve sloshing through marshes and trail-blazing through grasses as tall as my five-year-old son.

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In any case, our flip flops and capris proved not to be the most suitable attire for our mission: a foray into the jungle to see wild rhinos up close. Fortunately, buoyed up by our excitement (and, in the case of the children, instilled with the fear that any noise louder than a whisper might get us charged by the wild rhinos) we managed fairly well. Actually, the rhino sanctuary staff were good enough to offer us adults and a few of the older kids some of their extra gumboots. Very classy! We wore them with pride!

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The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (www.rhinofund.org) is a 70 square kilometre chunk of land set aside for the protection and breeding of the only wild rhinos in Uganda. The last of the Southern White rhinos was killed by poachers in 1983. In 2005, six rhinos were imported (4 from Kenya and 2 from the States) in an attempt to re-establish a viable rhino population here in Uganda. Since then, three babies have been born and five more adults are expected to arrive from South Africa in the near future.

White rhinos are less aggressive than their cousins, the black rhino, so it is actually possible to approach these big animals on foot. Enclosed by an electric fence and patrolled by rangers 24/7, the sanctuary is also home to a number of smaller games species like the oribi, the bushbuck, the vervet monkey and the duiker. Some of these have been rescued and rehabilitated on site and are now quite tame.

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Upon our arrival, we were greeted at the gate by a ranger and asked to fill in the required paperwork. With the formalities out of the way, we drove a few kilometres to the site of the lodgings and restaurant and waited while our rooms were made ready for us. We wandered around, just enjoying the sights and sound and smells of the country. I was so happy for a chance to escape the congestion and pollution of the city. Even the 180 km drive to get there was enjoyable after bumping around on Kampala's roads for the last few months. We headed out to see the rhinos at about 4:30 in the afternoon when we were told they would be getting mobile after lazing about all afternoon. The rhinos led us on a bit of a goose chase but eventually, with the help of our guide, we did track down a momma with her baby. The younger kids were getting pretty hot and tired by this point so Kara and I took them back to the guesthouse while Pat, Mara and Jordan went off with the guide to see if they could find the other rhinos. And find them they did...the two other mothers with their babies and the dominant male, Talieo, grazing not far off. They were able to get even closer to the second group of rhinos and enjoyed watching as the baby rhinos frolicked and chased one another around under the watchful eyes of their mothers.

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Everyone seemed to really enjoy our time at Ziwa, but, as is often the case with kids, it's the simple things that please them most. As we were getting ready to leave, I asked Graham what his favourite part of our visit to the sanctuary was: "the playground", he responded without a moment's hesitation!

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Posted by BriteLite 10:51 Comments (1)

Friendship Village

On Saturday morning, the kids and I headed out to the BeadforLife village (called Friendship Village) where there is now a comfortable guesthouse on site. (I was expecting squatty toilets, but was pleasantly surprised to find outhouses with real toilet seats...funny how one's standards change with the circumstances!)

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We arrived to an enthusiastic welcome from Harriet who was our host and cook for the duration of our stay. As soon as we settled into our room, there were children peeking around the corner of the building, trying to get a good look at the new mzungus. We pulled out the trains and lego that we had brought along and the kids were instantly engaged.

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We spent the afternoon and some of the next day touring the village, playing on the playground which is a new addition since my last visit in 2008, and trying our hand at making beads with some of the women in the village.

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The kids even gave the pump a try!

These are the recycling facilities which, though they seem rather rudimentary by our Western standards, are more than anything I have seen anywhere in Kampala. Recycling, in a formal sense, is almost non-existent here; reuse, on the other hand, is very much alive and well. The other day, I saw a young boy pick up a bag of garbage from the curb and hoist it onto his head, apparently intent on taking it home to sort through it for anything of value -- it gives new meaning to the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure".

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Below is a photo of the house I worked on last time I was here in Uganda. I had hoped to see the homeowner but she wasn't around...maybe next time. The village has grown so much that I don't think I would have found my way to the right spot if my new friend, Fatuma, hadn't shown me exactly where to go. There are already banana and papaya trees bearing fruit in the yard!

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It was a treat to visit with Jane (on the left), a woman whose house we dedicated last time I was there. She was proud to show off her new grandson and she let the girls roll beads while she washed their shoes! (Shoe-washing is a pretty big deal here)

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It was a quick trip and next time we go, we'll try to stay longer. The kids loved it and can't wait to go back. For me, the visit was bittersweet. It is truly wonderful to see that these women have escaped the hopelessness of life in the slums. Fatuma couldn't hold back her excitement as she explained what a blessing her new three-bedroom home is after living in a room not much larger than the veranda she has now. On the other hand, just spending a day without running water and electricity made me realize I would have a very hard time living as these women do. And while they do have their homes, many of the women still struggle to put food on the table and were curious to know whether I needed any extra house help. It is this huge disparity between their standard of living and mine that makes living here so difficult. I plan to take the kids to the Rhino Centre one day this week, an excursion which will likely cost me more than the average Ugandan family would spend in an entire month. At a red light at one of the major intersections downtown today, street vendors were so desperate to make a sale that they were literally throwing merchandise into my vehicle and offering absurdly low prices. "I'm hungry...I have no money to by food. Please, madame, what will you give me?!" Young children begging for money, ran along beside me with their arms reaching in through the windows while I fished in my wallet for a small bill before the light changed and I had to move ahead with traffic. A young woman with scars all over her face also approached, a baby in her arms, asking for charity. There is no end to the need and that is what gets me down sometimes. Sometimes the little that I do, just seems like a negligible drop in a vast ocean.

Posted by BriteLite 11:45 Archived in Uganda Comments (4)

Transports Exceptionnel

So thanks to our membership with the Alliance Francaise, I heard about this intriguing dance presentation featuring not only Kampala's Discussion Percussion and Breakdance Project but also this guy who supposedly dances with an excavator (Transports Exceptionnel). It was a free show in the parking lot of one of the shopping malls downtown, so I figured I couldn't go wrong taking the kids for a bit of an excursion. It took us nearly an hour to get there thanks to bumper-to-bumper traffic and a slow-moving train (we hardly ever see trains...Murphy's law I guess) that went forwards and backwards more than once over the crossing. But it was totally worth it! We all loved it! After the show, the kids kept asking me if I had ever seen anything like that before and if I thought I would ever see it again. Nope! This was definitely a performance like none other. Check out the photos! Now imagine loud opera music in the background! Check out this YouTube link to watch video footage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFh-mbpnyis (Thanks for the link, Paige).

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The Breakdance Project dancers were pretty good too. Greg tried busting out some moves when we got home. Too funny!

That's all for tonight. I gotta get some sleep!

Posted by BriteLite 13:01 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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