Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Greetings from Uganda: June 3-6
Greetings from Uganda, where life is one adventure after another! :)
It is hard to imagine that a year has passed and it is time to post a travelogue again! For those who are new, I will pass on an important message: When I am in Africa typing, I am usually paying for the use of time on the computer, plus I know that any minute “power shedding” may happen, and I will lose everything. Therefore, I type as quickly as possible, do no proofing or editing, and hit the send button. At times also, the writing may be a bit long if a lot has been happening, so I apologize, but hope you will enjoy reading the group’s activities anyway!
We have been meeting in the evening to discuss the day. So, much of what I will write will be the group’s impressions. It is fun to listen to them as some things I have become used to, but then enjoy remembering what it was like to be in Uganda for the first time.
Our flights went smoothly. The time in London was a bit hurried as we only had five hours before we needed to head back to the airport. They were working on some of the subway system, so we had to take the sub, transfer to a bus, back on the sub, etc. However, while trying to figure out the sub-system, a young lady who was waiting on the platform, Louise, answered a question for us. Then, she decided just to ride with us to make sure we arrived in downtown London as quickly as possible. We managed to see the Parliament buildings, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Louise was wonderful and saved us so much time! Cheers for friendly Britons!
I should throw in one funny happening. Last year, it was Ruben who was searched at the airport. We joked that it was because he looked suspicious with his Hispanic skin coloring and facial hair. This time we were betting if anyone was searched, it would be Paul. So, Paul shows up for the trip all clean shaven with a short haircut trying to pass the stereotype test. By now you have guessed! Paul was the one searched, and it was quite a thorough search. We were all watching and laughing. I talked Julie into filming it a bit. We got caught and were instructed to turn the camera off, which we quickly did. Now we just need to make a short DVD featuring LOL’s “most wanted”! Next year, Ruben is going again, so we will be taking bets on which will be the star of this continuing saga.
We arrived at Entebbe around 7:30 a.m. in pouring-down rain. We quickly went to Herb and Ellen’s and were ready to leave for Lake Mburo around 12:00. I will take time to insert the group’s impressions of the sights as we flew down the road in the van.
Impressions on the road
· Dirt everywhere, mud-brick homes, dirt paths and roads, dirt in front of stores, etc.
· Women carrying babies on their backs.
· Chidren and women carrying heavy items on their heads.
· Streams of people — walking, walking, walking!!
· Children of all ages walking beside the roads to and from school in their various colored uniforms while cars, vans, and trucks went screaming past.
· People with huge loads of goods, such as bananas, which totally cover their bicycles. The bicycles then being pushed down the roads and up the hills.
· Stuffed public transport vans so full you wonder how the people breathe.
· Small dirty clay-brick or cement storefronts as one passes through towns, along with many vegetable stands made out of tree limbs or old lumber.
· Beef hanging in the open on stands along the road.
· Children spotting us and then smiling and waving as we pass.
· Huge slum areas with single, small mud-brick homes or long row homes with each door housing a different family.
· Two lanes that become four lanes of traffic, with people, motorcycles, and bicycles weaving their way through the jammed traffic.
· Trucks who turn on their right signal to say don’t pass; no signal: pass at your own risk; left signal: go for it!
Now you have the picture; it is a different world. One feels like he/she has jumped headlong into a National Geographic magazine!
Our ride to Lake Mburo was approximately four hours. Riding in Uganda is like being part of the world’s largest “bumper car game.” Combine that with Herb’s real calling — that of being a NASCAR driver, and it is the ride of a lifetime! Herb swears he only goes about 55 or 60, but with the condition of the roads and traffic, it seems more like 105 for those riding. We did drive on a paved road (comparable to our bad country roads) to the lake. However, the endless potholes were so huge, it seemed that the whole front or back of the van might be sucked down into the earth! I wish I could share the huge eyes of some in the group as they watched vehicles pass at the top of hills and around curves, as well as right through the middle between cars.
Oh my! On top of that excitement, Paul and Robert decided to scare their wives. As we are rumbling along, they both screamed and jumped out of their seats. We were all shocked. They absolutely couldn’t stop laughing after that ... speaking of two year olds!
We stopped at the location in which the equator passes through Uganda. There is a big circular sign where one can stand with one leg on each side of the equator. There is also a young man there who demonstrates the difference of force on each side. He has a basin full of water with a funnel under it. He places a flower in the middle of the water and then stabilizes the water. On one side of the equator, the water swirls clockwise as it progresses down the funnel; on the other side, the water flows counter-clockwise. Directly on the equator, the water flows straight down. Feel free to think on that a bit, as we did!
Ugandans swear it is for real! Hummmmm.
We were at Lake Mburo for 1½ days. The game drive was great with us viewing the following animals up close and personal: impalas, Crested Cranes (national bird of Uganda), herds of zebras, and cape buffalo, yellow beard storks, topias, water bucks, reed bucks, wart hogs, tons of monkeys and chimps, banded mongoose, and bush bucks.
I might add I mentioned up close and personal because our fearless driver loved to spot animals and then just head off the path straight for them. We should have great photographs! We did have one cape buffalo decide to charge our van before he backed down!
One slight mishap: Herb accidently drove right into a cape buffalo mudhole! Stuck is the right word to describe our van! However, we had Moses, our security guard/game ranger traveling with us. He and the guys shoveled mud and broke off branches to put under the tires. Then Herb “revved” and we shoved. Before long we looked as though we had all wallowed in the mud with the cape buffalo, but we were free and off for more adventure.
That night we stayed in rooms in individual small buildings in the park area. The beds were quite comfortable. Our rooms didn’t have electricity, so we used lanterns. The toilets (squatters of course) were in the “out-house” back behind the buildings. Many of the group used mosquito netting for the first time. We ate at a café located right on the lake. The cafe was “open air” with a thatched rooftop. There were long boards for the lower part of the walls.
We enjoyed beef, french fries, and cabbage salad. The amazing part was the cooks cooked on charcoal burners behind the café by moonlight — once again, no electricity! There were several hippos in the water. One came walking out of the water and decided to eat supper (grass) right next to the café. It was quite a sight!
To end this part of our travels, we climbed out of bed at 5:30 to travel to the top of a mountain in the park to Kazooma Lookout point! It is hard to describe a sight this awesome! Picture standing on a mountain at daybreak looking upon a vast valley that stretches out and surrounds you, with its many numerous, beautiful lakes. Over and over those in our group talked about how inspiring it was to witness God’s magnificent creation on this morning! Personally, after we returned to the café, I went and sat alone on a log, spending time in tears — visiting with the creator of what we had just witnessed.
Yesterday evening we spent shopping at a place called the African village. It was fun, but of course, we need to return for more shopping!
The group is off today (the 7th) for a day of fishing on Lake Victoria and will be visiting Chimp Island. I will fill you in on details later. I am having fun visiting with Ellen.
Today, I did a drop-in visit on last year's library! I was thrilled with what was happening. A schedule is in place so each class comes to the library every two weeks. As I walked in the library, Damallie, was teaching a review lesson to about 55 students on how to use the library. She would pause and they would fill in the blanks. For instance: If you look at a page and you do not know how to read five words, then you know the book is not on your ... "level" The class easily gave all the answers and then were quite efficient in using the library. Next, they sat on the floor and shared their books with each other before returning to their class. As I looked through the cards, almost all of the books I checked had been checked out many times from the children's section. I didn't have time to look at the non-fiction or fiction yet, so I will check that tomorrow. The students have free reading time every morning when they arrive at school.
Jane, the headmistress, has arranged for me to meet next week, after we return from Mbale, with the entire staff. I want to review with them ways to use the library books in their lessons, as well as various ways to encourage the students to read a variety of books.
In summation: I was amazed again at the physical beauty of the library and ecstatic that it is getting the use for which it was intended! Cheers once again for our first Library of Love - Namirembe Laurel Library!
We will head to Mbale on Friday to begin work on the library! We are all anxious to start!
In the meantime, we are making the most of every minute!
Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, and I will try to keep you filled in on our days as they happen!
Love and best wishes,