Hannah and I spent milele (forever) trying to figure out how to get ourselves to Tanzania and Zanzibar back when we were looking at a week plus off at Easter. After some hemming and hawing I thought to myself, “Why don’t we go to Uganda?” It’s cheaper, still gets us out of Kenya and basically, it’s cheaper.
That’s how we found ourselves on a plane headed to the Pearl of Africa. I had planned for us a 10 day extravaganza of white water rafting, visiting the school I was at the first time I came to Africa, a 4 day safari and a boda boda tour of the capital, Kampala. About a week before we were supposed to leave, we found out Hannah’s visa was not going to be renewed so she had to leave East Africa. That in itself was a bit of a conundrum just in terms of cost and dates and places to stay (she ended up going to Paris… tough) so we decided to cancel the safari part of our trip to save some money, since we live in Kenya and are planning to go to the Massai Mara during wildebeest migration season anyway.
Thursday we landed in Entebbe and right away got stuck in traffic for miles and kilometres and what should have been a 2-3 hour drive took us more than 6. To add to that misery I woke up that day with a slight cough which turned into a full blown fever and headaches (which I never get) all in the equatorial heat behind a huge lorry spewing gas that would certainly not pass AirCare. Despite feeling like total junk, I was determined to power through it because the next day we were white water rafting the Nile! Now the last time I did it I chickened out on a class V rapid called “The Bad Place” which looked terrifying and I vowed to Hannah that when we went I was not going to back out. But that was before our trip left 2 hours late due to a late bus full of Chinese tourists from Kampala whose brakes had fallen off at some point during their journey to meet us. 4 hours later in mildly hot afternoon sun with a headwind causing us to paddle during long stretches of flat water I gave up. Our raft didn’t opt for “the Bad Place” anyways so I didn’t feel too bad about bailing halfway through the 23 km trip and I got to be rowed the rest of the way in the safety raft.
In Jinja we also met up with Kim who did her orientation with Hannah back in Georgia. She’s working at a project called Good Shepherd’s Fold in a village near Jinja. She’s also a nurse so after another awful day of fever, aches and other symptoms we did my first malaria test. Thankfully it was negative especially cause I’m not on a malaria prophylaxis (what can I say? Rebel without a cause). We’re also lucky we had Kim because we also lost our rooms at not one, but two different guest houses and would have been stranded without her!
We also travelled across the country (crossing the Equator) back to the Timothy Centre in Masaka where I first fell in love with East Africa. The school was not even built when I was there and now it’s fully functioning with science labs, dorms and a dining hall. The Field Director and his family were also around the first time I was there so it was cool to see them again. It was also nice to talk Canadian instead of being surrounded by Americans as I am in Nairobi. A particularly funny anecdote about their family going through a security check and the guard asking if they had any guns and their 7 year old adopted Ugandan daughter saying “yeah 2! Bang! Bang!” and showing off her biceps. Apparently it was so funny that now when they go through other checks she asks, “Do you wanna know if we have any guns???” in hopes of repeating her joke.
Finally we returned to Kampala and stayed at Matoke Inn, an AIM guest house in the city with a lovely family from Indiana serving as hosts there. They had 3 awesome curly haired boys, one of which I had a very informative conversation with where I learned that 1) Fort Wayne, Indiana is a 1/2 of a 1/4 of Kampala. 2) A 1/2 of a 1/4 is called a milliquarter. 3) A woman survived on Mount St. Helen’s when it erupted. 4) The Earth is made of rock.
Our last day before Hannah left for Paris was spent on a boda tour of Kampala. Bodas are far more commonly used in Kampala and traffic is crazy and in some ways, worse than Nairobi because there’s actually some speed to be had (nobody goes faster than 20 km/hr when there’s traffic in NBO). Risking our lives aside it was a blast and we got to see some sights around the city including a Hindu temple on formerly Nazi occupied land (this doesn’t seem historically accurate to me but there were swastikas all around the fence), one of 8 Bahai’ai temples in the world, Africa’s 3rd largest mosque built by Muammar Gaddafi and the former torture chambers of Idi Amin. As missionaries and even just Westerners it’s interesting to come into this place where conservatism reigns supreme and Christianity is the bulk of the population but see these large monuments and temples where other religions worship and practice. If one can glean nothing else from visiting these sites they are some magnificent pieces of architecture and building to behold in this city. They also represent a piece of modern history in this country and for me are reminders that history is constantly being made.
Uganda is a beautiful country that is so lush and offers its visitors and residents so much. The people are friendly, the climate is nice and it’s geographic position really do make it the Pearl of Africa. Nonetheless, I was surprised though how much I missed Kenya when I was gone and the feeling of comfort that came over me when I stepped out of the airport into Nairobi air. It really just reassured me that I’m right where I’m supposed to be and I’m so thankful that I get to live out my life here.