When the heat of the sun’s rays begged my eyelids to open that first morning on the southern plains of Uganda, I awoke startled at the emotions they evoked.
So it’s been a few weeks and I have a lot to catch everyone up on about my travels. Since I last blogged I went hiking at Sipi Falls, which consisted of a relatively steep and muddy hike to three different but equally beautiful and magnificent waterfalls. The landscape was lush, and we passed through a few villages with excited children shouting “jambo”! We also saw many animals including a sheep that appeared to have five legs! The day was wonderful except for a small mishap when I pulled something in my back attempting to do a back bend for a picture in front of one of the waterfalls. The lesson being: don’t do yoga on mountains (especially when you are out of shape and clearly have no flexibility). The day finished with a wonderful Ugandan style feast at a lodge overlooking the falls.
This weekend I went on a 3 day safari at Murchison Falls. The trip included an evening game drive, a morning game drive, a river cruise, chimp tracking, and a visit to the rhino sanctuary. The whole thing was incredible but the highlight was definitely seeing a family of elephants all walking in a single file line off into the sunset. I’m pretty sure my heart stopped when I first spotted them. The giraffes and other animals were great too, but seriously nothing tops the elephants. We also saw baboons, monkeys, antelope, gazelle, several other deer like animals, water buffalo, Pumbaa (wart hogs), hippos, crocodiles, a leopard (which is supposedly really rare because they’re shy), almost a lion, and several bird species. During the river cruise I was a bit disappointed to only see a plethora of hippos and crocs, when I was promised elephants drinking from the water, but unfortunately the rain had caused them to find alternative drinking places. However it was nice to see the animals and the falls from a different perspective. Then we pretty much walked into the jungle book to track chimpanzees on foot, which consisted of following their scent and extremely loud and expressive chimp calls to one another. We finished at the white Rhino sanctuary where there are currently 13 white Rhinos, which were once extinct in Uganda. After signing my life away, we got to get about 20 feet from them while they were resting and grazing. The safari truly was an experience of a lifetime and one of my top 3 best moments, up there with sky diving, and rafting on the Nile.
So, a lot has happened since my last post but I will try to sum it all up. Saturday I went white water rafting on the Nile River on grade five rapids which was amazing! We flipped four times and the first time I was sure I was going to die when I was stuck under water for what felt like eternity, but eventually I surfaced and all was well. The rest of the day was exhilarating and surprisingly peaceful between rapids, I even saw an otter and a fish eagle (which looks a lot like the bald eagle).
After two days here in Jinja, a couple of things have happened…Firstly, I am falling in love with Uganda! Secondly, I am learning what it means to be on “Africa time,” similar to Fiji time = always late or no real concern for time. Thirdly, I’ve realized motorcycles are not as scary as they seem. Everyone uses motorcycle taxis or “boda bodas” to get around here (sometimes even with 3 passengers), and they are quite fun! There are also Matatu which are basically taxi vans where complete strangers all pile in without seatbelts, which I will experience when I go to the village. I also learned that the roads are chaotic whether you’re a driver or a pedestrian, it’s simply a free for all! Unfortunately, I’m also learning how difficult it is to find gluten free food here, but so far I’m making do on fruits, vegetables and nuts. Finally, I’m experiencing truly being a minority and constantly being reminded of it when all the locals constantly call me “mzungu” (white person). Although it’s in a friendly manner and it’s really cute when the kids say it.
Day one: I was quite disoriented and jet lagged but still managed to do quite a bit. I had my first boda boda ride and went to the Arise and Shine Babies home where I got to meet all the adorable kids! Then we took the eight disabled kids on a mini field trip to go swimming at a hotel pool nearby which was really fun. I met the project coordinator and determined that I’m going to be working on HIV and family planning with women in the village in addition to teaching at the school which I’m really excited about! I also met most of the volunteers at dinner last night, which consists of a lovely group of people from all over the world. Everyone is so nice and helpful, and I feel comfortable with most of them already. I don’t go to the village until Monday, so I have the weekend free which I’m taking advantage of.
Day Two: This morning I went with two other volunteers on a wild goose chase to try and sort out an educational workshop for family planning/ HIV for health day in the village next week. We started at TASO, and then were directed to USAID, then MSH only to conclude that we wont have a drama group performing an educational workshop at the event.
I also went horseback riding along the Nile River and through some villages where all the kids shouted “Jambo Mzungu” as we passed by. The scenery was extremely beautiful and I even saw some monkeys!