A Travellerspoint blog

A Walk on the Wild Side

We spent the day at the Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe today. Lots of fun! Too exhausted to write but think I can manage a few pics.

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Posted by BriteLite 12:06 Archived in Uganda Comments (3)

Graham's Birthday

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We celebrated Graham's birthday with the Aylard's yesterday. Nothing super fancy...just some good ol'-fashioned chocolate cupcakes and a few presents.

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Posted by BriteLite 16:04 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Exploring Downtown

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First, let me just vent a little. A couple of days ago, after spending a significant portion of my evening typing up what I considered to be a fairly humorous account of the ongoing roadworks fiasco on Kiwafu, I lost everything due to an identified error. The fact that a report about said unidentified error was sent to the website administrators did little to alleviate my disappointment at losing an entire blog entry to cyberspace. I want it back!!!!

Now that I've got that out of my system... Today is the second day in a row that I have ventured downtown. Yesterday, after stumbling onto a blog which contained information about book week festivities at the Railway Gardens (which are not really gardens but rather a large patch of grass with a few trees), I took my kids and Leah there. Actually, I got distracted by a reference to the Uganda National Library, so initially we went there only to discover that the National Library is a reference library and children really aren't very welcome. And here I had these high hopes of finding a place where we might be able to get ourselves some library cards and check out a few books. Not so! I don't think the notion of a public library with fun books, books to read merely for enjoyment, has really caught on here.

The book week festivities, on the other hand, were quite enjoyable although we didn't participate as fully as we might have if we hadn't all been feeling a little spent after driving around the city looking for them. At the Railway Gardens, there were kids making sculptures out of clay, kids making crafts with papyrus, kids reading books in the book tent, kids painting posters. It was encouraging to see! There were also some traditional dancers. Fun to watch, but, as is so often the case here, the music was much too loud. Adjacent to the festivities was a large tent under which various publishers were exhibiting a variety books from religious to scholastic to literary. I bought a few familiar titles (The Ugly Duckling, The Magic Porridge Pot, The Gingerbread Man) to add to our almost non-existent collection of picture books. Other titles were interesting but not necessarily appropriate for my children. Freda Doesn't Get Pregnant and Sugar Mummy are two I can recall just off the top of my head. Clearly, there's no beating around the bush when it comes to educating young people about the risks associated with sexual promiscuity.

After a quick lunch of meat pies and baked goodies at a local eatery, we headed back in the direction of home. I was glad to be getting out of the city centre. It was good to explore a little but one can only take so much of the congestion, one way streets and scarcity of parking. I rewarded myself for getting in and out of the downtown core unscathed, with a gelato at Ciao Ciao's on the way home.

My trip downtown today was markedly different than yesterday's: no car and no kids. I've decided this is the best way to see the city. There's nothing quite like weaving through traffic, hair blowing in the breeze, on the back of a boda boda. It's fast and fun and pretty cheap. There's no waiting around cause boda drivers are always scoping out their next customer; you just have to start walking down the street and within moments, you're being offered a ride. And no parking hassles either. But I digress. I caught a boda to the post office (there's just the one) where I mailed a few letters and met with a man who took me to a lawyer's office so I could discuss some details regarding a work permit. My three-month tourist visa is about to expire! From there, I walked several blocks to the Alliance Francaise which I have been meaning to check out ever since I arrived back in July. Up until now, my sole objective was to see what kind of resources might be available to help the kids keep up with their French. But in the last few days, a new motive has surfaced. It turns out that Ugandans participate in triathlon (I couldn't believe it myself at first) and in just over one week the 5th annual Lake Victoria Triathlon will be taking place in Entebbe. Registration takes place at the Alliance Francaise!! Can you guess what I am doing Sept. 26th?

After a tour of the library and a brief chat (some of it in French even) with a staff member at the Alliance Francaise, I paid for a membership which allows us to borrow books and receive discounted admission prices to various cultural events around town. There are even French classes for children on Saturdays which I may or may not enrol the kids in -- our schedule is already so full!

Below are a few photos from today; they give a glimpse of the affluent side of the city.
DSCN1478.jpgDSCN1476.jpgDSCN1473.jpgThe Maribou Stork...Quite Possibly the Ugliest Bird You Will Ever Meet

The Maribou Stork...Quite Possibly the Ugliest Bird You Will Ever Meet

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Tomorrow, we are off to the Entebbe Zoo in celebration of Graham's 7th birthday. Stay tuned for some exciting wildlife photos!

Posted by BriteLite 13:05 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

You Know You Are in Africa When...

Another Monday come and gone. As usual, we enjoyed ourselves at the babies' home this morning. Brooke is a regular helper in the kitchen; she loves helping to unpack groceries and prepare lunch. Mara likes to play mother and is especially good at dealing with the scraps that regularly break out between the toddlers. Graham enjoys playing with the toddlers as well. He was really impressed today at how strong some of them must be to be able to push him around on the cars while he navigates around obstacles. Greg does his own thing for the most part; he's formed a strong attachment to one of the baby girls named Mercy, and likes to push her in her swing or hold her in his lap. I think the staff appreciate our visits and I feel like we make life a little easier for them, even if just by keeping a fussy baby quiet or changing the odd dirty diaper. Today they prepared a snack and some tea for my kids. Did they ever feel spoiled!

Shortly after we returned home, a young student doing a masters in community theatre (I mentioned him in my Jinja entry) came by to do some one-on-one storytelling with the kids. He told one story about Mr. Snake and Mr. Frog and why they are bitter enemies and another about how the Acholi people of the north first started quarrelling with the people of the West Nile. I think that hearing these African legends is an invaluable part of the kids' education while we are here, and Dan's theatrical presentation makes it quite entertaining!

WARNING: the next paragraph is pretty gross!

Graham has been afflicted with a couple of different skin ailments as of late: first an infected hangnail which made his finger so swollen I was sure I was going to have to take him to a clinic, and then a boil on his forearm (at least I think that's what it is). I was freaking out a little after showing it to one of Pat's co-workers who thought it might be a mango fly larva. Apparently, the fly lays its eggs in wet clothes hanging outside or in damp soil that has been contaminated by animal feces. (On Saturday, Graham, along with a bunch of Ugandan kids was playing in a big wet pile of sand next to the field where we play soccer). When an egg comes into contact with human skin, it hatches and buries into the skin where it begins to grow into a larva (read maggot). To extract it, you have to smother the skin with vaseline which brings the maggot to the skin surface for air so you can squeeze it out. I googled mango fly and that was a big mistake because it only freaked me out more. Anyway, today, I finally got up the nerve to squeeze the thing and was relieved to see that only copious amounts of puss came out of the abscess, hence my diagnosis of a boil. Phew! Still gross, but definitely not as bad as it could have been. Poor Graham was beside himself, but I assured him he could have some candy the next time we visit the supermarket and that seemed to help settle him. Ahh, the joys of living in a tropical country!

Posted by BriteLite 11:45 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

A Smattering of News

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Life has somehow gotten busy all of a sudden! It seems the saying, "Wherever you go, there you are" has some truth to it. I imagined that moving to Africa would bring a slower pace but, as is my tendency, I have managed to fill up the spaces on my calendar at an alarming rate: hanging out with the wee ones at the babies' home on Mondays, volunteering at the BeadforLife office on Tuesdays, ARA co-op on Fridays, story-time at Mama Jordan's shop Saturday mornings, "women's" football (women still greatly outnumbered by children!) Saturday evenings, church on Sundays when I'm feeling particularly energetic, and homeschooling wherever we can fit it in!! Local schools are back in session after a one-month break so we have stopped doing the kids' club program for now after learning that kids are often in school right up until 5pm. With kids putting in such long days, an "after-school" program just wouldn't make a lot of sense.

The girls and I are really enjoying our Tuesdays at BeadforLife although last week I felt like I might have stepped in over my head, taking on the role of banker and sales tracker after just one brief orientation session. The women who come each week are a lively bunch; we start with circle time where everyone joins together for singing and dancing. It's all very impromptu -- one woman will start belting out a song and soon the whole group is singing and dancing along. In the photo below, the girls are busy bundling beads. Each week, thousands of pieces of jewelry come in via the bead sales and they all need to be counted and prepared for shipment to the North American BFL headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. Last week, the girls got to try out the new soap-making machine. BFL has sourced out shea butter producers in rural villages in northern Uganda and have developed a lovely lavender soap bar which will be available for sale in North America very soon.

Busy with Beads

Busy with Beads

Kampala is beginning to feel like home now that we've been here awhile. I enjoy bartering with the local vendors (although often it's not necessary...this guy was selling 15 tomatoes for a dollar!)

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There are still a lot of things that make me shake my head like this burst water pipe that I passed early in the morning and then passed again later in the day. Nothing had been done to try to remedy the problem except that someone had placed a piece of styrofoam beside it (maybe to make if more visible? though I hardly think anyone could have missed it).

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Then there are the speed bumps on Kiwafu road; paving of the road has been ongoing since I arrived two months ago. The first stage was the dumping of huge piles of gravel along one side of the road, next came the grading, then the watering and packing and just when you would expect some tarmac to arrive, new piles of gravel were dumped at regular intervals along the way and later shaped into speed bumps. The kids and I counted 39 of them along a stretch of road which can't be more than a couple of kilometres. The kicker came just last week, however, when I saw a grader demolishing the bumps and labourers shovelling the now-loose gravel back into wheelbarrows. Still no pavement in sight. Go figure!

I encountered another funny scenario the other day. I had just gotten out of my vehicle to take a picture of yet another bicycle

Bike Carrying Charcoal

Bike Carrying Charcoal


when a young girl called me over and told me to take her picture. In short order, a couple more girls joined her and being the obliging person that I am, I agreed to take their photo as well. When we had finished previewing the photos on the camera, the girl then said something about her mother wanting 1000 shillings. I looked to Mama Eunice, my house help who was with me at the time, for some kind of explanation. She informed me that they wanted money in exchange for "allowing" me to take their photos. Unfortunately for them, I was completely out of money at the time so I just shrugged sheepishly and walked away.

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I guess it's all just part of the cross-cultural experience!

Posted by BriteLite 12:58 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

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