Catherine’s Ugandan Journal

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Kimera trip – Catherine’s Blog

Day 1 – Friday July 25th – Arrival and Chicken Dinner

After a flight delay in Amsterdam which caused us to miss our connecting flight from Nairobi to Entebbe, we finally landed in Uganda at around 9:30 am-about 10 hours later than what was previously scheduled. When we stepped outside the airport we were happy to see Eddie greeting us as Rashid-our driver, came to pick us up (a local member of Kimera). Then we made our way towards Kampala; on the way to our hotel we stopped at a roadside market so that my mom could pick some fruits to buy which she liked, such as mangoes. When we got to our hotel, we greeted Rachel and met Zulaika (a local member of Kimera) before heading to our rooms and taking an all-afternoon nap. Then we almost ended up being forced to take cold showers since no hot water was appearing; however, we decided to first check with Rachel if there was any way to turn on warm water…And there was a switch outside the bathroom that needed to be turned on that allowed the water to be heated; Rachel said she had a couple of days of cold showers before finding out, so thank you Rachel!

After getting up we drove to an outdoor Ugandan “food court” near Wandegeya market. It contained numerous tiny restaurants with small eating areas next to a parking lot area. There, people cooked mainly chicken, and some fish, vegetables and chapati (similar to Indian naan). The food was great, and the chicken that I ate at night together with the vegetables was less-dry and had a more soothing flavor than the chicken in the U.S.  Plus, everyone on the Kimera team treated us with hospitality so far, which had encouraged me to help out Kimera Orphanage’s goals.

Though the first day of Uganda wasn’t all that eventful, it contained some light that made it shine.

Day 2 – Saturday July 26th – Tennis and Hot & Sour Soup

The second day in Uganda was better than the first. I had a good sleep before going out to play tennis with Eddie in the morning. Socializing by playing tennis with Eddie and his “tennis-buddy” Charles was not only entertaining but also allowed me to understand how people in Uganda behave, so that I can be prepared for anything that the African people dish out to me.  I was a bit wary of playing on clay/dirt tennis courts, since the last time I played on clay courts was about 4 years ago (And I wasn’t very good at playing on it at the time). Happily, this time I felt more comfortable, and dad mentioned that he loved playing and sliding on it even though he was playing a little worse than usual, while mom was her usual tennis self.

After tennis came lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant called Fang Fang-which-in my humble opinion-was even better than some of the Chinese restaurants in America. The bowl of hot and sour was bigger and better than what I initially expected. So, I’ve so far concluded that the majority of the food made in Africa tastes better than the American version of the same food selections. About the eating-we went to a supermarket and bought various grocery items, such as drinks, sausages, chocolate, bread, breakfast items, and a few more.

We ended the day by having a good dinner that Zulaika had thoughtfully prepared for us at the hotel.

Day 3 – Sunday July 27th – Rubaga Cathedral  & Intimate cultural show

Today was quite eventful, as we started out the day by attending mass at the Rubaga Cathedral. While walking up the steps to the church, young children were handing out Sunday bulletins at a small cost, and there were vendors sitting around the cathedral selling religious crafts. Both the inside and outside of the cathedral were beautiful. While the service was in English, most of the singing happened to be in Ugandan. The singing was energetic and fun, often involving people who were clapping to the beat. Another interesting and pleasant difference in the services here was that people would applaud lightly after certain parts were completed (Homily, Last Super Consecration…).

After church, we planned to eat at the 2K restaurant which Eddie had recommended; however, we arrived there far too early, (around 11:30) and they weren’t ready yet to serve most of items on the menu until 12:30. While waiting, we went for a walk on the grounds of Uganda’s best university (Makerere). They were nice and even had some jackfruit trees which mom loved. We then went back the 2K restaurant; it was a busy place by now, but the food was good. Rachel ordered a juice that she felt didn’t go down too well and made her a bit ill later.

In the evening we attended a traditional Ugandan music/dance show which wasn’t too far from the hotel. The event was in an intimate setting, with the band playing on the front porch of a house and the dancers performing on the grounds in front of it. The audience-which consisted of a couple dozen people and us-both sat on chairs on a small grass mound next to the dance floor. It was a great setting and the singers were quite good. And I was the first one to be dragged onto stage to perform with one of the dancers, even though I was a bit nervous at first! However, it was enjoyable. Mom and dad also had their turn being dragged onto stage to dance with the show. Zula also danced a bit at the end.

Day 4 – Monday July 28th – Kimera site and other orphanages/schools

The Kimera group traveled to the Kimera Orphanage site in Mpigi. It was a pleasant drive on the way, and I thought Zula how to play Tic-Tac-To and connect four. We first stopped at a small roadside market where Eddie got lots of sugar cane as he loves his sugar cane. The site was impressive and beautiful, bordered on one side by a forest and a few village homes on another; I was assigned to be the videographer and recorded some footage of the scenery within and outside of the forest along with interviewing the others. (I went last and said that I enjoyed the hot and sour soup the most out of all the foods in Uganda.)

Then we went to see a German-founded orphanage- it was a bit sad, appearing overcrowded and somewhat filthy with several kids having no shoes. We were observing an English lesson where a teacher was surprisingly bad with his grammar; it actually sounded funny but it was not a laughing matter. I really wish to help those children learn better English through the works of Kimera and I’m sure that we can do much better than this.

Next, we came to a sports-themed boarding school mostly focused on baseball, where I learned that the kids there have tons of opportunity to do sports as it was said to take up half of their schedule! I really pray for the best for their futures in the Olympics!

Day 5 – Tuesday July 29th – Tennis and traffic

We relaxed at the hotel in the morning before heading to lunch. The first place that we stopped at advertised the best pizza in town; however, when we came in they mentioned that most menu items including pizza were only available at dinner time. We then headed to Café Javas which Rachel had mentioned before. Anyways, it was a nice place, and I was glad to enjoy a type of vegetable soup that I hope the people in Africa will eventually be able to enjoy.

After this, we went to play tennis with Charles again at the Lugogo Tennis Club. I began to be more comfortable playing on clay/dirt courts. My dad said that we should keep in in mind the cost of tennis equipment in Uganda and prepare to bring/send some with whomever we go with in the future; for example, we bought 2 cans of tennis balls (3 balls each) at a cost of 60,000 Uganda shillings (about $12 per can!! How can Ugandans afford to play at these prices?) It had been meant to be a relatively relaxing day, but the traffic resulted in lunch and tennis adding up to nearly 8 hours!

Back at the hotel, I learned some card games from Rachel, which I also think would be fun for poor African kids to learn because it could teach them how to adjust both quickly and accurately to situations.

Day 6 – Wednesday July 30th – Lady Irene school and Nile

We went to visit the Lady Irene School out in a rural village near Iganga, and it was located quite a distance east from our hotel with the last 10 miles or so on a bumpy dirt road. At the school, the principal informed us nicely about the academy’s main principles and talked about how they also teach handicapped (deaf and blind) kids and the challenges of doing so especially due to lack of braille material. I spent some time teaching the kids some English, asking them questions, and overall they did quite well. And while I doubt any of them had ever used a computer my dad showed them how they could make a happy/smiley face on the computer.  They also asked us some good questions; in particular one of the teachers asked us some tricky political questionsJ. The kids also sang some songs, including the Ugandan national anthem. Rashid, Zula, and I then joined the kids in some outdoor games.

After the school we headed back and stopped briefly at the Nile River, near its source. Eddie and dad dipped their hands and feet into the Nile just for the experience. We also passed by the Nile brewery which made one of the Ugandan beers that my dad enjoyed during the trip.

As we got closer to Kampala, we were stuck again in massive traffic; I was a bit frustrated, but looking back, I knew that it was good to experience to help inform future Kimera volunteers and visitors about the traffic, which is one thing that we were meant to discover as being the first Kimera family. Hopefully someday, maybe even with the help of kids that will be attending Kimera, future leaders will make most of those dirt roads and disdainful traffic disappear! We should all give kudos however to Rashid for trying to find ways out of the traffic by looking for shortcuts-some of the shortcuts were interesting in themselves, while the main roads in Kampala were all paved. However, as soon as we got off the main road, looking for a shortcut, we would often find ourselves immediately going off-road on dirt/bumpy roads!

Day 7 – Thursday July 31st – Relax & power failure

After the past few days with tiring traffic and Rachel being quite ill, we decided it best to take it easy today and stay at the hotel, with the exception of my mother and father going to the market with Eddie and Rashid.

There was another power outage at the hotel and surrounding neighborhoods. This time, it lasted most of the afternoon and evening, and we were lucky that Rachel’s and Zulaika’s hotel room had just been outfitted with solar lights. So we weren’t completely in the dark, and the fact that the gas stove could still be used to cook our food meant that we would still have food to eat.

Day 8 – Friday August 1st – Craft Market & Lake Victoria

We went to the weekly (Friday) Craft Market Fair in Kampala where local vendors bring crafts (clothes, decorations, beads, drums…) that they’ve created to be sold mainly to tourists. It was a nice setting, even though it was a little tight-space wise-but not too overcrowded as the vendors were nice (not too pushy). The vendors placed their goods on tarps on the ground, and there was also some tarp providing shade for everybody. Eddie and Rashid helped us with the bargaining process so that we would get a reasonable price for items we wanted…my parents got a drum and some other items while Rachel got some beads. I bought a little boat and nativity hut for my parents after they persuaded me to do so for them.

After the craft fair we walked along the shores of Lake Victoria at a couple of locations…one was a little fishing village and the other was a hotel resort where we had some races! Eddie raced my mom, and then he raced Isaac and before racing me and Rachel. Finally I raced Eddie two more times one-on-one. And, of course Eddie won all the races easily, but it was still a great experience.

P.S. He was even running backwards for part of the race against my mom!

Day 9 – Saturday August 2nd – Chimpanzee Island

Now came the adventure of the Chimpanzee Island (officially Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary) on Lake Victoria. On this island the owners keep chimps that were rescued from being sold to pet owners-this island helps raise awareness against this practice as they told us about 10 chimps being killed each time trying to protect the baby from being taken as a pet. Though the wait to go to the island was a little longer than I expected, I concluded by the end of the day that going to visit these black-haired beasts was entirely worth it. First of all, the boat ride both to and from the island was quite adventurous as the waves kept splashing aboard our ship. (And the second ride had rain, which forced us to wear yellow raincoats which were kindly lent to us!) Anyways, the way the beasts acted on the island was very remarkable as nearly each chimp who was called by its name responded to our tour guide, along with using tools when they were thrown food that was out of their reach (they used branches). 95% of the island is free for the chimps to roam around as they wish, and the other 5% is for visitors and staff along with an elaborate holding area where chimps go to each evening to sleep (this is to avoid them having to frequently create nests which would destroy too much of the island vegetation).

We also got to cross the equator line when going to and from the island; on the way back we stopped for a few seconds on the equator to savor the moment.

After the island adventure was finished, we stopped at Café Arthur, where I had some good fish and chips. Rachel had some salad, and Rashid, Isaac, and my father ate some pizza. My mother didn’t eat and was just resting as she had some motion sickness on the boat, since she only took half a Dramamine pill, thinking that the-once calm waters at the shore would continue, and she wouldn’t need an entire piece. But unfortunately, she did and was forced to skip out on lunch.

Day 10 – Sunday August 3rd – Eddie’s Grandmother & Ndere Center Show

Visiting Eddie’s grandmother, Jaja, home in her village in Bunsunju was a great delight to all of us. My parents, along with the majority of the Kimera team, agreed that she was nice and looked entirely-young for a woman in her eighties. She treated us with hospitality as we played games with some of the children living there. Life in the USA looks so much more comfortable and easier than there; however, even though their lives are much more strenuous than ours’, the people there still appear to be happy with where they are and what they have. Jaja gave my parents a framed picture of herself which Eddie said was hanging on her wall for many years. My dad gave her his hat, which Jaja seemed to like, since she asked him to look at it earlier while he was digging and was already wearing it…Plus, I think I looks better on her than on my dad. I also gave the village kids my tennis jump rope. Jump-roping seems to be a universal game as the kids were all were skilled at it.

On a side note, one thing that was amazing was how Eddie was extremely talented at throwing rocks into the rolling tire, along with my mother’s digging skills which she displayed while the three of us (dad, mom and I) planted a banana tree for them and also got to experience how hard they must work every day. (Future workers may want to bring gloves as the tools are a little rough and can give you blisters, as my dad had found out.)

Later, we went to the Ndere center in Kampala to enjoy traditional music and dance from the various parts of Uganda starting at 6pm. Going to and from the Ndere Center was the only time of our trip that Rashid didn’t drive us. He was feeling ill (it could be from something he ate since he seems to always be eating). The show, including the dinner buffet, ended up lasting about FOUR hours-which wasn’t nearly as impressive as the show itself. Though I concluded that the show shouldn’t have been more than three hours long, I admit that the performances were quite impressive-especially the man who jumped through the ring of fire. The MC introducing the different parts of Uganda did a good job keeping the show moving with some comedy.

Day 11 – Monday August 4th – Tennis Lessons at Makerere University

I taught some Ugandan children how to play tennis at the exact University (Makerere) we had visited earlier in the trip. In my opinion, the children played far better than I expected them to play (after having thought that they’d be beginners who barely knew how to hit a tennis ball). Eddie even joined in and led the drills for both him and us, especially the children, before supposedly whipping Charles on his own surface!

Then afterwards, we went to the Cafe Java Restaurant, where I had eaten the previous week. (I ordered two vegetable soups instead of one like before.) We ate outdoors under a cover when it began to rain, soon after we heard a car crash just nearby.

It doesn’t appear anyone was hurt in the car crash but the rain changed our evening plans of going back to the place we ate the tasty chicken the first night we were here as any rain would most likely make traffic much worse in addition to the possibility of being rained on. So we decided to have dinner at the hotel restaurant, now we’re not exactly sure what happened to the hotel cook that evening but it took them about two hours before they served our food with nearly each of us getting served our food about 10 minutes after the other. Good thing they also had a microwave to reheat food while some waited for others to get their orders before eating. At least the food was pretty good!

Day 12 – Tuesday August 5th – Packing & farewell dinner

Today we spent some time packing our bags since we would be leaving early tomorrow; we also left a bunch of clothes and shoes behind to be given away to the needy.

The main event of the day was the big dinner party at Rachel’s and Zulaika’s hotel to mark the last full day we were to be in Uganda-everybody was there, even Rashid’s girlfriend, whom we were questioning whether had actually existed. Before the party Rashid and my parents went to the market to pick up the various items that would be needed to cook the dinner. There, we ate good solid food (but no chicken as there was no pan to cook it in), played cards, and even chatted for a while. Plus, some of us even played with the cute baby (son of the lady who cooked most of the dinner) before my family and I said good-bye to the kind Kimera team and their families. Everyone had treated us very well during this trip, so it was a bit sad to have to say goodbye. But we were glad to have met them all. We will see Rachel again shortly as she will be back in San Diego about a week after us, while Eddie won’t be back until sometime in September.

Day 13 – Wednesday August 6th – Mweraba & Weebale (Goodbye & thank you)

Rashid, Rachel and Sevala accompanied us for the early morning drive to the Entebbe airport from where we flew to Nairobi, Kenya, to finish our trip with a safari in the Masai Mara.  Arriving at the airport reminded me how safe it felt being in Uganda even more because of all the security precautions. There’s considerably more security there than in the US. For example, when arriving at the airport, passengers need to exit their vehicle and go through a metal detector before being allowed into the airport-and getting inside the airport required us to pass through another security checkpoint TWICE  before going through our gate. Other places had similar security such as hotels, malls, and upscale supermarkets. So it appears that any place where multiple tourists may gather means there’ll be more security.

Summary:

Overall, the Ugandan trip was mostly what I had expected it to be. Though some of the food, such as the chicken and fish, tasted better than I expected them to be, everything else was as expected as the villages were all poor where we visited and the roads were extremely bumpy.

While I realize that we were the first Kimera volunteer family and a large part of our contribution to this trip was to help pave the way for future Kimera volunteers and also in the running of the orphanage, my personal feelings on what could’ve made the trip better was if we had shorter drives but also got to work more on “orphanage” stuff, such as helping out the orphans for longer periods of time. It will be feel much better once construction of the Kimera orphanage actually begins, everyone seeing their efforts and donations making concrete progress will build excitement.

I personally also would have wished to have met more Ugandan children during the two-weeks we were here or helped the ones we met even more, but I still believe and hope that the orphanage turns out to be all right for the Ugandan orphans after Kimera expands further than the small forest (compared to the world).

But starting somewhere is better than nothing.

 

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