Uganda diary: The remaining days and final thoughts

3 11 2010

Bye bye.

I’ve decided to bring my Uganda diary blog posts to a close. The events I discuss are getting further and further away in my memory, and my ability to write about the sun and warmth is hindered by living in Preston, where it rains most days, and is normally a bit chilly and depressing.

Therefore, I’ve decided to write very briefly about my remaining time in Uganda. So I’ll limit each of my remaining days to two sentences (max) and a picture.

Monday 23 August

Waterfall in Bwindi Rainforest


I became quietly angry when an obese American lady on the table next to us told her guide all about how she had almost forgotten her razor (“so I wouldn’t be able to shave my legs!”), how she used alcohol-based hand sanitizer in Uganda (it didn’t matter to her that she was talking about her guide’s home country), that she “read the signs” of her guide suggesting he was ready to leave. Later that day, Emma and I went on a guided walk into the rainforest to see a beautiful waterfall, but it rained on our way back, and our clothes – including footwear – got soaked.

Tuesday 24 August

Didn't get any bus journey pictures. So here's a shot from the Rest Camp the night before. Good atmosphere.

Got up at THREE IN THE MORNING to catch the bus. I slept, drank enough water to keep myself hydrated, listened to music, had a mild argument with someone outside a toilet (it cost 200 shillings to go for a pee, so I gave him 1,000 expecting 800 change. He gave me 500. I stood my ground and got my change – it didn’t dawn on me that I stood out like a sore thumb, that I was the only white bloke in the area, that I was stood BEHIND the market and so not many people around to help if things went pear-shaped, and that the bus would be leaving soon), arrived in Kampala, was nearly killed quite a few times by buses, taxis and boda bodas, but most importantly… I didn’t vomit.

Wednesday 25 August

To be satisfied with a product isn't enough, only delight will do.

Didn’t do much. Relaxed.

Thursday 26 August

Biogas digester. There should be far more of these.

Just like Asda. But in Uganda.

Went to see a biogas digester (a brilliant idea), went to a supermarket (it was like a ‘normal’ supermarket… which was a bit odd), went to an Indian restaurant. The restaurant itself and the food it served were fantastic.

That's a waterfall (sort of) INSIDE the restaurant, but still outside.

Indian restaurant ambience (15sec shutter speed, so it was darker than this).

Friday 27 August

Bancafe. Miles better than Costa, Caffe Nero, Starbucks et al.

Went to Bancafe and bought a kilo and a half of freshly ground coffee, went to a meeting with Emma in which I contributed sod all (but one bloke had the deepest voice I’ve ever heard), went to the Banana Boat craft shop and then to the craft market. I learnt that the public toilets in the shopping centre did not provide toilet roll, but I had some tissues in my bag, so it wasn’t an issue – could’ve been though.

Saturday 28 August

Just chillin' in the Ugandan sun.

Ate barbecued goat and drank beer.

Sunday 29 August

My first viewing of Avatar was on this. (The grumpy woman was on my right.)

Got on a plane to the UK and sat next to a large old lady on the plane who was very unsociable, so I watched Avatar, which I assume is better in 3D. Arrived back home in Lancashire.

Final thoughts

Without wanting to regurgitate the generic post-Africa trip drivel, I’m afraid I’ve got to be honest (cue post-Africa ponderings). It was an incredible two weeks filled with memorable experiences, ranging for the amusing to the devastating.

I was utterly charmed by the place. I am not generalising or exaggerating when I say that every conversation started with: “Hello, how are you” – followed by a genuine smile. Sometimes, the conversations would even start with: “Hello, I am fine” which sort of rendered my reply useless: “Hello, how are you? Oh yeah you just said.”

Riding in a blue and white taxi (known as a matata – a Swahili word) was a continual near-death experience. As was crossing the road, and walking beside the road, and generally being anywhere near a road.

Does that matter? No.

I can’t realistically compare Uganda to the ‘west’. Geography dictates that Africa and the western world will always be different, and that’s a good thing – just accept each place for its own merits and its faults.

One thing I did wonder about, though, is that Uganda seems to be a politically and socially stable country – but could that change?

For the generation that lived under Idi Amin’s dictatorship, post-Amin life was a relief. They no longer had to live in fear of a volatile leader (although, fighting, killing and kidnapping still occurs more often than it should in the north of the country) – their ‘normal’ lives left them feeling content. Akin to leaving the dentist after having had a filling, ‘normality’ can feel like the best the thing in the world. Without an underlying widespread relative contentment, acting as a societal safety barrier, could future generations inadvertently let the country once again fall into the hands of someone with misguided and immoral political reasoning? Could people start desiring, more and more, what western adverts tell them they want, becoming prone and vulnerable to advertising and marketing campaigns?

I haven’t got a clue. And the above questions could apply to many countries. However, I think it would be a great and irreversible shame if cultures lost sight of what makes their culture theirs, if they lose the identity and individuality.

Clearly, I’ve digressed. So, would I recommend Uganda to you? Without doubt, yes.

Here’s a model of a retarded cow.

A retarded-looking cow (I'm sure the unfortunate appearance was unintentional, though). I miss this cow, which is in Emma's kitchen.

Without wanting to regurgitate the generic post-Africa trip drivel, I’m afraid I’ve got to be honest (cue post-Africa ponderings). It was an incredible two weeks filled with memorable experiences, ranging for the amusing to the devastating. 

I was utterly charmed by the place. I am not generalising or exaggerating when I say that every conversation started with: “Hello, how are you” – followed by a genuine smile. Sometimes, the conversations would even start with: “Hello, I am fine” which sort of rendered my reply useless: “Hello, how are you? Oh yeah you just said.”

Riding in a blue and white taxi (known as a matata – a Swahili word) was a continual near-death experience. As was crossing the road, and walking beside the road, and generally being anywhere near a road.

Does that matter? No.

I can’t realistically compare Uganda and the ‘west’. Geography dictates that Africa and the western world will always be different, and that’s a good thing – just accept each place for its own merits and its faults.

One thing I did wonder about, though, is that Uganda seems to be a politically and socially stable country – but could that change?

For the generation that lived under Idi Amin’s dictatorship, post-Amin life was a relief. They no longer had to live in fear of a volatile leader (although, fighting, killing and kidnapping still occurs more often than it should in the north of the country) – their ‘normal’ lives left them feeling content. Akin to leaving the dentist after having had a filling, ‘normality’ can feel like the best the thing in the world. Without an underlying widespread relative contentment, acting as a societal safety barrier, could future generations inadvertently let the country once again fall into the hands of someone with misguided and immoral political reasoning? Could people start desiring, more and more, what western adverts tell them they want, becoming prone and vulnerable to advertising and marketing campaigns?

I haven’t got a clue. And the above questions could apply to many countries. However, I think it would be a great and irreversible shame if cultures lost sight of what makes their culture theirs, if they lose the identity and individuality.

Clearly, I’ve digressed. So, would I recommend Uganda to you? Without doubt, yes.

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Uganda diary: An offer for a tea plantation

4 10 2010

In the UK, sometimes someone will offer to buy the next round at the pub, or maybe treat you to a cake from Greggs at lunchtime. Spontaneous mild forms of generosity are common in the UK – when we’re with friends, family or colleagues, us Brits are good at giving each other little treats. In Uganda, I was offered two hectares of a tea plantation.

Whether this was a genuine offer, I doubt I’ll ever know, but it was nice all the same.

A lazy day

Friday 20 August passed by without any real event. Emma and Vianney jumped on the back of a couple of bodas for the day, visiting friends’ families, but I opted to give my brain some time to adapt to the new surroundings and so I just stuck around my new neighbourhood.

Because of this absence of anything of real interest happening, I’ll bullet point my day:

  • Awoke and ate breakfast
  • Emma and Vianney left
  • Did some laundry
  • Went for a walk to find the internet cafe
  • Reached a sign which pointed right, and said “Internet cafe 200m”, so I turned right
  • Got lost
  • Six-year-old Ugandan boy gave me directions
  • Found internet ‘tent’
  • Did some emailing. Realised this was the first time I’d ever been on the internet while surrounded by mountains and rainforest
  • Returned to rest camp
  • Befriended some English people
  • Read Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety
  • Chatted to Herbie and Rebecca again (Cool Swiss Couple), and Ryan, a South African also driving around Africa. Then sat with English friends until Emma and Vianney arrived back
  • Had spaghetti with Buhoma’s tomato/mixed herb sauce
  • Played ‘Peruvian’ card game and drank beer
  • Slept

Brew and biscuits, Uganda style

After a three-quarter-hour journey along winding, steep and bumpy dirt roads through some of Bwindi’s gentler mountains, at about 10:30am on Saturday 21 August, we arrived at a pleasant little bungalow overlooking a vast area of tea plantation.

The two boda bodas. Three up on one bike - extremely dangerous, but likewise very funny

We were here to meet Sam, the director of Kishegyeri Community HIV/AIDS Awareness School – an incredibly hospitable man, but with a quiet and thoughtful demeanour – who welcomed Emma, Vianney and I into his home.

We were welcomed with some biscuits and some real Ugandan tea. The biscuits were similar to shortbread. They were crumbly, so I did an excellent job in making more of a mess than Sam’s three or four-year-old nephew, Elvis.

The tea was like no other tea I’ve ever had before. It tasted like strong Ugandan water. To me, Ugandan water tastes a bit earthy, a bit like drinking water filtered through soil. Regardless, there’s never a bad time for a brew and some biscuits (NOTE: in Uganda, ‘biscuit’ is pronounced ‘bisskwit’).

‘When you come to Uganda next time, I will give you two hectares

Sam, Sam’s brother, Sam’s brother’s son Elvis, one of Sam’s children, and a nameless man (he had a name, but I didn’t find out what it was) who carried a machete took us for a wander through Sam’s tea plantation.

As we wandered through the tea plants, Sam turned to me and said: “When you come to Uganda next time, I will give you two hectares.” So, if I ever decide to make Adams Tea, I have potential land (I would suggest ‘Adams Family Tea‘ but I donn’t want people to automatically click their fingers when they read or hear about it). I’d want to grow some trees though. And also have some tourist lodges (but not taking up much room – tea takes priority). This would be because whenever I am in Uganda (I’d probably run the business from home for most of the year, because England is, after all, still my home), I would want there to be some fellow travellers around, just to make it a bit more homely. I’d also buy a Land Cruiser.

Eventually, Machete Man led us to Kishegyeri Community HIV/AIDS Awareness School (for reference, it’s in the Kanungu district, very close to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park).

Since opening in 2007, the school has grown from 50 to 210 pupils, with the aim to raise this number to 400 by 2012. Many of the pupils are orphans who have lost both their parents to AIDS. These children either live with their parents, or the family is headed by the eldest child. Some of the children are HIV positive, and others are from pygmy families. The native pygmies lost their homes after they were evicted from the rainforest when it was designated a national park in 1991.

The children raise money for the school by making jewellery, and carving wooden gorillas, zebras and masks – Sam is the orchestrator of this, and sells it at a shop near to the Buhoma Rest Camp.

Carving a gorilla

Making beads

Paper bead jewellery

A lesson on reality

We were shown how the jewellery is made, and how the gorillas are carved, and then the inevitable singing and dancing followed. Emma and Vianney fully deserved the thanks. I did not. It’s a strange sensation to be sat watching about 20 children – each of them directly affected by HIV/AIDS – dancing for you, seeing in you hope and salvation (you’re white, you’re from Europe, you have money) from the cruel legacy that AIDS leaves behind once it has annihilated families. I was just there as a tourist and to take some jewellery home to sell on their behalf.

Nevertheless, putting the more sombre perspective aside, it was great fun to see so many of the children dancing, singing and clearly enjoying themselves. For one of the final songs, Sam made Emma get up and dance too. I declined. The reason I gave was that I was getting a video of it (which I was), but the real reason was that I’d have looked like an utter pillock. So I left the dancing and singing to those who knew what they were doing.

Three speeches followed. Two by a couple of older lasses (about 17/18), and one by the headboy. Each speech, or ‘message’, was about HIV/AIDS. It soon sunk in how lucky we are to live in a country, in a part of the world, where one of our biggest concerns is the cleanliness of the hospitals on our free national health service.

Saturday was a fun, but likewise humbling day; a day where I encountered, on a personal level, the reality that so many people in Uganda face. Sunday would be far worse.

Uganda diary: An offer for a tea plantation

In the UK, sometimes someone will offer to buy the next round at the pub, or maybe treat you to a cake from Greggs at lunchtime. Spontaneous mild forms of generosity are common in the UK – when we’re with friends, family or colleagues, us Brits are good at giving each other little treats. In Uganda, I was offered two hectares of a tea plantation.

Whether this was a genuine offer, I doubt I’ll ever know, but it was nice all the same.

A lazy day

Friday 20 August passed by without any real event. Emma and Vianney jumped on the back of a couple of bodas for the day, visiting friends’ families, but I opted to give my brain some time to adapt to the new surroundings and so I just stuck around my new neighbourhood.

Because of this absence of anything of real interest happening, I’ll bullet point my day:

Awoke and ate breakfast

Emma and Vianney left

Did some laundry

Went for a walk to find the internet cafe

Reached a sign which pointed right, and said “Internet cafe 200m”, so I turned right

Got lost

Six-year-old Ugandan boy gave me directions

Found internet ‘tent’

Did some emailing. Realised this was the first time I’d ever been on the internet while surrounded by mountains and rainforest

Returned to rest camp

Befriended some English people

Read Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety

Chatted to Herbie and Rebecca again (Cool Swiss Couple), and Ryan, a South African also driving around Africa. Then sat with English friends until Emma and Vianney arrived back

Had spaghetti with Buhoma’s tomato/mixed herb sauce

Played ‘Peruvian’ card game and drank beer

Slept

Brew and biscuits, Uganda style

After a three-quarter-hour journey along winding, steep and bumpy dirt roads through some of Bwindi’s gentler mountains, at about 10:30am on Saturday 21 August, we arrived at a pleasant little bungalow overlooking a vast area of tea plantation.

We were here to meet Sam, the director of Kishegyeri Community HIV/AIDS Awareness School – an incredibly hospitable man, but with a quiet and thoughtful demeanour – who welcomed Emma, Vianney and I into his home.

We were welcomed with some biscuits and some real Ugandan tea. The biscuits were similar to shortbread. They were crumbly, so I did an excellent job in making more of a mess than Sam’s three or four-year-old nephew, Elvis.

The tea was like no other tea I’ve ever had before. It tasted like strong Ugandan water. To me, Ugandan water tastes a bit earthy, a bit like drinking water filtered through soil. Regardless, there’s never a bad time for a brew and some biscuits (NOTE: in Uganda, ‘biscuit’ is pronounced ‘bisskwit’).

‘If you come to Uganda, I’ll give you two hectares’

Sam, Sam’s brother, Sam’s brother’s son Elvis, one of Sam’s children, and a nameless man (he had a name, but I didn’t find out what it was) who carried a machete took us for a wander through Sam’s tea plantation.

As we wandered through the tea plants, Sam turned to me and said: “When you come to Uganda next time, I will give you two hectares.” So, if I ever decide to make Adams Tea, I have potential land. I’d want to grow some trees though. And also have some tourist lodges (but not taking up much room – tea takes priority). This would be because whenever I am in Uganda (I’d probably run the business from home for most of the year, because England is, after all, still my home), I would want there to be some fellow travellers around, just to make it a bit more homely. I’d also buy a Land Cruiser.

Eventually, Machete Man led us to Kishegyeri Community HIV/AIDS Awareness School (for reference, it’s in the Kanungu district, very close to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park).

Since opening in 2007, the school has grown from 50 to 210 pupils, with the aim to raise this number to 400 by 2012. Many of the pupils are orphans who have lost both their parents to AIDS. These children either live with their parents, or the family is headed by the eldest child. Some of the children are HIV positive, and others are from pygmy families. The native pygmies lost their homes after they were evicted from the rainforest when it was designated a national park in 1991.

The children raise money for the school by making jewellery, and carving wooden gorillas, zebras and masks – Sam is the orchestrator of this, and sells it at a shop near to the Buhoma Rest Camp.

We were shown how the jewellery is made, and how the gorillas are carved, and then the inevitable singing and dancing followed. Emma and Vianney fully deserved the thanks. I did not. It’s a strange sensation to be sat watching about 20 children – each of them directly affected by HIV/AIDS – dancing for you, seeing in you hope and salvation (you’re white, you’re from Europe, you have money) from the cruel legacy that AIDS leaves behind once it has annihilated families. I was just there as a tourist and to take some jewellery home to sell on their behalf.

Nevertheless, putting the more sombre perspective aside, it was great fun to see so many of the children dancing, singing and clearly enjoying themselves. For one of the fi

Uganda diary: An offer for a tea plantation

In the UK, sometimes someone will offer to buy the next round at the pub, or maybe treat you to a cake from Greggs at lunchtime. Spontaneous mild forms of generosity are common in the UK – when we’re with friends, family or colleagues, us Brits are good at giving each other little treats. In Uganda, I was offered two hectares of a tea plantation.

Whether this was a genuine offer, I doubt I’ll ever know, but it was nice all the same.

A lazy day

Friday 20 August passed by without any real event. Emma and Vianney jumped on the back of a couple of bodas for the day, visiting friends’ families, but I opted to give my brain some time to adapt to the new surroundings and so I just stuck around my new neighbourhood.

Because of this absence of anything of real interest happening, I’ll bullet point my day:

Awoke and ate breakfast

Emma and Vianney left

Did some laundry

Went for a walk to find the internet cafe

Reached a sign which pointed right, and said “Internet cafe 200m”, so I turned right

Got lost

Six-year-old Ugandan boy gave me directions

Found internet ‘tent’

Did some emailing. Realised this was the first time I’d ever been on the internet while surrounded by mountains and rainforest

Returned to rest camp

Befriended some English people

Read Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety

Chatted to Herbie and Rebecca again (Cool Swiss Couple), and Ryan, a South African also driving around Africa. Then sat with English friends until Emma and Vianney arrived back

Had spaghetti with Buhoma’s tomato/mixed herb sauce

Played ‘Peruvian’ card game and drank beer

Slept

Brew and biscuits, Uganda style

After a three-quarter-hour journey along winding, steep and bumpy dirt roads through some of Bwindi’s gentler mountains, at about 10:30am on Saturday 21 August, we arrived at a pleasant little bungalow overlooking a vast area of tea plantation.

We were here to meet Sam, the director of Kishegyeri Community HIV/AIDS Awareness School – an incredibly hospitable man, but with a quiet and thoughtful demeanour – who welcomed Emma, Vianney and I into his home.

We were welcomed with some biscuits and some real Ugandan tea. The biscuits were similar to shortbread. They were crumbly, so I did an excellent job in making more of a mess than Sam’s three or four-year-old nephew, Elvis.

The tea was like no other tea I’ve ever had before. It tasted like strong Ugandan water. To me, Ugandan water tastes a bit earthy, a bit like drinking water filtered through soil. Regardless, there’s never a bad time for a brew and some biscuits (NOTE: in Uganda, ‘biscuit’ is pronounced ‘bisskwit’).

‘If you come to Uganda, I’ll give you two hectares’

Sam, Sam’s brother, Sam’s brother’s son Elvis, one of Sam’s children, and a nameless man (he had a name, but I didn’t find out what it was) who carried a machete took us for a wander through Sam’s tea plantation.

As we wandered through the tea plants, Sam turned to me and said: “When you come to Uganda next time, I will give you two hectares.” So, if I ever decide to make Adams Tea, I have potential land. I’d want to grow some trees though. And also have some tourist lodges (but not taking up much room – tea takes priority). This would be because whenever I am in Uganda (I’d probably run the business from home for most of the year, because England is, after all, still my home), I would want there to be some fellow travellers around, just to make it a bit more homely. I’d also buy a Land Cruiser.

Eventually, Machete Man led us to Kishegyeri Community HIV/AIDS Awareness School (for reference, it’s in the Kanungu district, very close to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park).

Since opening in 2007, the school has grown from 50 to 210 pupils, with the aim to raise this number to 400 by 2012. Many of the pupils are orphans who have lost both their parents to AIDS. These children either live with their parents, or the family is headed by the eldest child. Some of the children are HIV positive, and others are from pygmy families. The native pygmies lost their homes after they were evicted from the rainforest when it was designated a national park in 1991.

The children raise money for the school by making jewellery, and carving wooden gorillas, zebras and masks – Sam is the orchestrator of this, and sells it at a shop near to the Buhoma Rest Camp.

We were shown how the jewellery is made, and how the gorillas are carved, and then the inevitable singing and dancing followed. Emma and Vianney fully deserved the thanks. I did not. It’s a strange sensation to be sat watching about 20 children – each of them directly affected by HIV/AIDS – dancing for you, seeing in you hope and salvation (you’re white, you’re from Europe, you have money) from the cruel legacy that AIDS leaves behind once it has annihilated families. I was just there as a tourist and to take some jewellery home to sell on their behalf.

Nevertheless, putting the more sombre perspective aside, it was great fun to see so many of the children dancing, singing and clearly enjoying themselves. For one of the final songs, Sam made Emma get up and dance too. I declined. The reason I gave was that I was getting a video of it (which I was), but the real reason was that I’d have looked like an utter pillock. So I left the dancing and singing to those who knew what they were doing.

Three speeches followed. Two by a couple of older lasses (about 17/18), and one by the headboy. Each speech, or ‘message’, was about HIV/AIDS. It soon sunk in how lucky we are to live in a country, in a part of the world, where one of our biggest concerns is the cleanliness of the hospitals on our free national health service.

Saturday was a fun, but likewise humbling day; a day where I encountered, on a personal level, the reality that so many people in Uganda face. Sunday would be far worse.

nal songs, Sam made Emma get up and dance too. I declined. The reason I gave was that I was getting a video of it (which I was), but the real reason was that I’d have looked like an utter pillock. So I left the dancing and singing to those who knew what they were doing.

Three speeches followed. Two by a couple of older lasses (about 17/18), and one by the headboy. Each speech, or ‘message’, was about HIV/AIDS. It soon sunk in how lucky we are to live in a country, in a part of the world, where one of our biggest concerns is the cleanliness of the hospitals on our free national health service.

Saturday was a fun, but likewise humbling day; a day where I encountered, on a personal level, the reality that so many people in Uganda face. Sunday would be far worse.