Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Worm

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Actually, the visit to the doctor was WAY more interesting than the stupid worm that's living off of me (little maggot - almost literally, EW! GROSS!!!)

I thought it might be good to have the worm in my arm checked out by an African Dr since it might be an "African" worm... something that an Asian or American Dr might not recognize... So I went to a clinic across the street and saw Dr. Shariff based on recommendation from an older expat couple living here.

When I actually found the clinic, I couldn't figure out how to get in - like, where the reception was... or how to tell someone what I was looking for. I stood out as the white girl wandering around the building. I finally found the lab with an open door and asked the guy there. He totally laughed at me.

I filled out a card at reception and she sent me around the building, upstairs and to room number 3.

I love this... It asks what tribe I'm from... and my father's name. (What does my father's name have to do with the worm in my arm???)
All in all, I waited for about 30 minutes before I saw the Dr. He was SO kind. I explained my worm, he looked at it, was puzzled, and decided to take an ultrasound. So we walked about 4 feet to the ultrasound machine, he did a quick ultrasound of my arm, he walked me back to the chair, sat me down and explained what I have. Total, I think I was in the room with him for 10 minutes.

I'm actually too horrified to tell what it is.

Suffice to say, people never get this in their arms... He's never seen it there before. The whole thing is a mystery.

Good news, it can be killed! So he wrote me a prescription for a couple things and I was off with a total bill of 9 bucks. Wild.
The clinic - waiting for my prescription.
He said if the meds don't kill the thing to see another Dr as I travel. It's pretty disgusting, but makes for a good story!

I've been in Arusha for four days now. The time is flying and I'm wishing I hadn't booked my flight out so soon... A full post on this city and why I love it so much to come.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Back in Nairobi

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Holy mother of LOVING NAIROBI!


Yes, I did probably just get ripped off by booking my bus through an agent instead of directly through the bus company. But the ease of having somewhere to call “home” for a few hours, a place to put my bag, someone to show me where the coffee and the bathroom are, and the general feeling of being taken care of are ALL worth the ten bucks I just spent. Man… Happiness abounds.

Having a bit of East Africa behind me, my view of Nairobi has changed. Everyone speaks English (or SWAHILI!!!), people are super friendly and willing to help, there are MANY MANY ATMs, they brought CHILI SAUCE with my eggs benedict, I’m sipping my second cappuccino, and (drumroll…) there’s ONE travel agent who can take my VISA!

Consider me booked for Thailand, folks!!! (Oh yeah, I couldn't get a visa for India... argh.)

So after spending five more days in Kigali than I’d originally planned, I managed to book myself a flight from Kigali to Nairobi (FINALLY!). I flew in this morning, and am here for five hours while I wait for the bus to Arusha. That journey will take me a whopping (God-willing) six hours. I’m actually really excited about returning to Arusha which surprises me since I had such a difficult time making up my mind on what to do.

Arusha will be some wind-down Africa time. I have no real plans other than to run as much as I can, visit the Masai market again, do a LOT of laundry (it does feel like I’m always doing laundry, or talking about doing laundry… hmmmm… Missing my washer and dryer…), and visit with some friends. Really, I’m just going to soak in as much of Africa as I can before I leave.

Note to close friends and family: leaving this continent is going to break my heart. Prepare for messages/phone calls/texts indicating meltdown. Please keep reminding me that Africa will still be here when I’m ready to come back.

My issues getting out of Kigali are a little bit complicated (I’ll save you the gory details). Suffice to say – TIA (This Is Africa). As organized, clean, and safe as Kigali is, getting accurate information about busses, finding someone who will take a debit/credit card, actually obtaining a decent internet connection for an extended period of time proved difficult – at best. So difficult that I actually just decided to stop fighting the system and settle into the place. When I managed to book a flight out of Rwanda yesterday I figured that was the sign that it was time to leave.

I have been alone for a few days now and I’m loving it. One great thing about traveling alone is that it leaves the door wide open for making new friends. And so, I did.  The other day in Bourbon (best coffee shop in Africa) a beautiful Kenyan named Anthony started asking me about my computer. Of course, these questions turned into a nice, long conversation about where he was from, where I was from, what I was doing in Kigali… etc, etc, etc,… He is a PhD student and a professor in Kigali. He studied Information Systems in India and is currently working on a project analyzing the effects of Enterprise Resource Planning software on business. (For those of you who don’t know, I worked for a company that developed and sold Enterprise Resource Planning software for 7 years.) TRIP OUT! So, we had some things to talk about.

I ran into Anthony in the store later that evening. It was a really weird moment for me to hear someone call “Stephanie!” in the grocery store. Difficult to explain, but when you’re traveling in an area where you’re CERTAIN that no one knows you, you get used to never hearing anyone call your name. So weird. It felt like home for a minute, just to have someone recognize me in the grocery store and stop and talk. Made my day, actually.

Last night I ventured off my beaten path to a new place someone had told me about called the Sundowner Bar and Grill. I sat at the bar by myself (and talked to Arline!!!) until I noticed an older man sitting a few spots down, also alone, drinking whiskey. He was distinguished and I was completely intrigued. He finally took note of me after I’d stared at him for about 20 minutes. After a formal introduction he bought me a whiskey.

I will say this: Rwanda has a pretty gnarly history. It took a while to get it through my thick head that the discrimination that led to the genocide in 1994 started many, many years before the mass slaughtering that finally got the delayed reaction of the world. Many of the people I met in Rwanda were actually Rwandan, but hadn’t spent most of their lives in Rwanda. Some had lived in the DRC, some in Uganda, some in Tanzania, and some in Kenya. Towards the end of my time in Kigali I finally learned what they meant when they said, “I am Rwandan, but I didn’t grow up here.” Meaning, somewhere along the line, their family had fled. The fact that I was never able to get any of these people to tell me the whole story of where their family started, why they left, where they went, and how they ended up back in Kigali is very telling about the culture of silence regarding the genocide and the prejudices leading up to it. The community is now focused on peace between the two cultures (Hutus and the Tutsis) and do not discuss the conflicts of the past – at least not in public. I was able to get the men from the UN (who were not Rwandan) to give me a little bit of information through whispers in a loud restaurant. Still, interesting to me how strong the code of silence is. I’m not sure if I think it’s good or bad, whether it’s protecting the newfound peace or allowing the sordid past to stew in Rwanda’s belly.

The man sitting next to me at the Sundowner became my new best friend after he bought me second whiskey. He called himself an “old man” – almost 60, which is old for Africa. People don’t live past the age of 70 here. He is an accountant, but he and his wife run a University in Kampala. He has four children. One is a lawyer, one is a journalist, one an accountant, and one a priest. He is the first person I’ve come across in Africa with such a wild success story. As he put it, he came from a family of “nomads” never really settling into one place… roaming from Uganda to Tanzania or wherever there was land to grow crops. He is Rwandan, but has only lived in Rwanda for the last ten years. I still don’t really understand how this man who was raised by nomads managed to become the stoic, educated, brilliant man next to me.

We talked about politics – he told me I am crazy. (He’s right.) He was fascinated by my story of circumnavigating the world and lectured me about keeping a better record of it telling me, “You need to send me a signed copy of the book.”

So, as of today I’m dedicating myself to keeping a better record of my journey. Not so that I can write a book, but because I can tell from looking at pictures that I’m already forgetting things that happened just a month ago. (NOOOOO!!!!!)

And with that, the next part of this journey begins – a long bus ride to Tanzania with 60 of my closest new friends. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kigali Highlights

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I'm leaving Rwanda today so thought I would compose a quick list of highlights of my week in Kigali – besides Kigali being a highlight in its own right…

-       Blowing it out doing karaoke in some random pizzeria/bar. 80% Africans, 20% Mzungus. Feeling like the color of my skin didn’t matter for the first time in in a loooong time. FUN!
-       Cutting my ankle with Marshell and Annika so that we could be “blood sisters”… (Do 33 year olds do this??? Apparently so.)
-       Running in Kigali – trying to figure out what the kids were thinking when they laughed at me as I ran past them. (They were fascinated by my legs – not sure if it was the chub, the BRIGHTNESS, or the fact that I may have been showing too much leg for this part of the world…)
-       Going to run an errand at the UTC (shopping center) and bumping into choir practice outside the church. (I’m staying in the old nun’s quarters of the church.) Stopping to listen and being invited to participate. I did. :-) :-) :-)
-       Dinner with six very friendly, very brave men at the Hotel des Mille Collines: Security officers for the UN in Darfur. Each of them from a different country: Zambia, South Africa, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Rwanda. Talking to them for hours about politics and the value (or lack of) human life.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rwanda - the Switzerland of Africa.

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I have been avoiding writing about Rwanda. It confuses me. Plus, I’m very busy soaking in the “western” feel of this place… ahhhh… almost like home.

If I hadn’t known the recent history of Rwanda or the ventured through it’s neighboring countries before my arrival it wouldn’t be so striking. It’s very developed, organized, and clean. We’re talking streetlights, sidewalks, traffic signals, western shopping centers, and a coffee shop that blows starbucks out of the water (with free wifi!). It’s really very comfortable.

The fact that they were slaughtering people with machetes on these streets almost exactly 18 years ago gives this place a bit of an eerie feeling (for me). It’s baffling.

A hefty dose of kerosene was thrown on my flame for Africa about 12 years ago when Dr. Donald Miller gave a guest lecture on the Rwandan Genocide in my Terrorism and Genocide class at USC. At the time, he was working closely with the orphans of the genocide. His passion and brilliance for the topic was contagious to me, I guess. I followed Dr. Miller’s work with the Orphans of the Rwandan Genocide for several years, attending lectures of his long after I graduated.

I’m not sure why the story of this genocide is so striking to me. Genocide is always horrific. Maybe the combination of it being so recent, being so fast (1 million people killed in one month…), or because of the way I first heard the story. Suffice to say, I’ve felt close to this place since I sat in that lecture hall 12 years ago and listened to the brutal events that took place on this soil.

So what’s really wild about this place is that with the exception of the Kigali Memorial (the Genocide Museum), there are no visible remnants of the genocide. This city appears to be on its feet and leading East Africa as an example of success in development.

But then - to be totally honest, it makes me nervous. It seems too good to be true. I have spent hours walking this city and (no joke) sitting sipping fizzy water at the Hotel Des Mille Collines (Hotel Rwanda) trying to figure out how this city went from complete chaos and despair to THIS. (Again, comparing Kigali to any other major city I’ve visited in Africa really magnifies its development.)

After visiting the Kigali Memorial it occurred to me that every single person that is from this country and over the age of 18 has a story to share about that time. Almost every adult I walk past either took place in the massacre, was a victim of it, or has a family member that was. Keeping this in mind while wandering through a city that bears no indication of hostility confuses me more than anything.

On an individual level – trying to forget the fact that there was a genocide here – I would say that I love the city. I ran at dusk last night – once the air had cooled a bit. It’s the first time I’ve run on sidewalks under streetlights in three months. People are less confused by me here – though they refuse to smile at me until they see me smile (with TEETH!). Once I acknowledge them with a big, stupid grin I almost always get bright, cheery greeting in return. Sometimes they even gave me a thumbs up or words of encouragement (I’m assuming they were saying nice things, but were speaking French or Kinyarwanda). I actually saw another white woman and three other African men running on the street. I was SO excited!

I haven’t taken many pictures here since it really looks like some combination of a city in the US and a city in Europe. (Meaning, it feels like Europe but there aren’t any cool old buildings to take photos of.)

I’m beginning my three-day bus journey back to Arusha tomorrow. (Really not looking forward to that…) I will spend a few days in Arusha before heading up to Nairobi to fly out to India on the 25th (assuming I can get Qatar Airways to cooperate…)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Running in Bunyonyi

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Marshell and I went running around Lake Bunyonyi on Sunday. I got my ass kicked. Marshell is a wildlife firefighter and has a pretty natural talent of putting me in my place in regards to fitness. (Meaning, she is a machine.) Ouch.
The view of Bunyonyi from my run.

Running along the dirt road that borders the lake we found the typical scene of village life... kids running around in the bushes/farms, people staring at us and asking us where we were going, cows and pigs in the road. All normal until we run by a little kid standing his ground at the side of the road. He looked angry. He glanced at my watch and said something I didn't understand. I knew he wanted something from me and said "No." - which is when he promptly started throwing rocks at me. The little MAGGOT! I wanted to run back and push him down the hill, but managed to check my playground antics and kept running.

Not too much further down the road we ran into another group of kids that came spilling out of the bushes with machetes (they were working in the garden). Another little boy, who seemed happier than the rock-throwing-maggot said "give me money!" I yelled back "NO MONEY!" His response (machete in hand), "I CUT YOU!"

In my head I muttered words that cannot be typed on this blog. In reality I said "that's a first" and ran faster.

Suffice to say, the kids in Bunyonyi are not as friendly as the kids in Bwindi.

I'm off to run "Kigali style" this afternoon. In case you're not aware, Kigali is SUPER hilly. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lake Bunyonyi (Southwestern Uganda)

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This is NOT what I expected when I pictured Africa... Unbelievable beauty. 

Sunset view from the lodge/hotel/treehouse lawn.
Living in a treehouse... Right up my alley!!!
 
Canoeing in the worlds skinniest, longest canoe.
Feet!

Sunset... ahhhh... Africa. I love you so.

Monday, March 12, 2012

(Running in) Bwindi

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Note: Pictures and proof and all that fun stuff to come... Sorry this is long --  as you can see, I got some power, and internet!

Training for the Abel-Tasman 36k Trail Run has officially begun – I could not think of a better place to initiate this program. (Details of this race and why I chose to sign up to come.)
To place Bwindi on an aesthetic map of Uganda, I need to explain what I’ve seen since I’ve been here.

I was shocked at how green and lush Uganda was when the wheels on the plane touched down. The contrast between the vast deserts of Tanzania and Kenya and the lush forests of Uganda really magnified the beauty of this country. That being said, the eastern part of this country is put to shame by the forests of the west.

Arrival at the southwestern part of Uganda brought swelling green hills filled with bright green tea farms and banana trees (they look like little palm trees) for as far as I could see. These farms fill the sides of the mountains in beautiful patterns, like patchwork quilts. There are volcanoes that lie in “no man’s land” literally and figuratively. They climb from the ground that lies between Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), but they grow to a height somewhere between the earth and heaven. They surprised me, growing so high, “something I need to climb,” I thought. And then decided to extend my time in Rwanda for a few days to be sure I set foot on the Voncans National Forest in Rwanda.

The girls (Caroline and Marshell) went gorilla trekking this morning. I’ve heard people raving about the gorilla trekking since I got here, but at a hefty 500 bucks to spend an hour with the gorillas, the same as the cost of flying to India, I opted out. Ummm, let’s see… “India? Gorillas? India? Gorillas?” Sorry, animal lovers – there was never really a contest about it. I realize that there may be a day when I regret not going to see these massive, beautiful primates. But when I woke up this morning and realized that I hadn’t been awoken by an alarm clock, rooster, or warthog, I was very happy. I laid in bed in my very own tent and dozed in and out of sleep. Hello, heaven.

When I could tell that the gorilla trekkers had departed for the day I crept out of my tent, enjoyed a quiet breakfast (bread, eggs, fruit – as always) with the Norwegians then retreated top of the hill to overlook the home of the gorillas as I partook in my morning ritual of indulging in the most necessary of liquid drugs. Peace with myself on the top of the hill overlooking Uganda’s grandest gem. These moments are rare and constant at the same time. I’m hoping one day I’ll find the words to make sense of it.

The Norwegians told me to run to the “Top of the world” … down the road, through the village, till I see a sign for the school then veer right on a little trail and head towards the top of the hill.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that 100% of the things I love about this place are best magnified by a good, long, solo run. Running through villages onto trails, through forests, up hills and down the dirt roads has brought me the most unusual connections with locals that just aren’t possible from the safety of the pope-mobile. Sometimes these interactions are funny, sometimes infuriating, sometimes intimate, always appreciated.  No less important than the connection with the communities is the fact that I can get to nooks and crannies of places I would never see any other way. The sights I’ve been gifted with while on my feet are some that I will treasure forever.
Happy little munchkins gathering wood for cooking.
Today was no exception. The villagers are different here. They are much more friendly than those I’d met in Kyabirwa, less aggressive. I like to believe it’s because they are surrounded by a landscape of exceptional beauty – seemingly perpetual green land and cool air (hurray for the departure of oppressive heat!!!). They didn’t chase me down the road, didn’t even so much as run to the edge of their properties. The children would stop and stare – sometimes wave. The women would smile and say “hello”… men just grinned and stared at me. It is rare, and doesn’t make a lot of sense for a white woman to be running alone on these rural, mountainous roads. Their confusion was apparent but their warmth a sweet treat for me.

I started running with music again on my last run in Kyabirwa. I wished I’d started earlier. Music provides the perfect balance of being able to connect with the local earth and the local people but still keep the pieces of me that I hold tight to.

That day, my last run in Kyabirwa as I approached the turn off to my home I was oddly alone on the dirt road until I noticed a cow running full speed towards me. It scared me! (Do cows charge people?) He had horns, BIG horns! I stopped running in hope that he would too, stop running. He did, which is when I realized that he had a leash around his neck (hilarious) and that a woman was running behind him – chasing him down the road. As she got closer she smiled – which told me that the cow was not going to impale me with its horn. As they passed I soaked in the ability to be alone on the road again, U2 providing a soundtrack to this experience. Around the next bend in the road I noticed a little girl, maybe 9 years old, walking – wearing literal rags. It’s not rare to see little kids walking on the road in rags. What is rare is for them to 1) not know who I am because of the fact that I am the mzungu teaching at their school (meaning, she must not be going to school) and 2) to not ask me for something (money). She smiled the sweetest smile and greeted me “I am fine” – which is what many people say before you even say a word to them. It’s the first English sentence they learn in school – the teacher walks in and the students stand up and communally say “good day” and then the teacher says “How are you?” and then the kids say “We are fine.” And then she tells them to sit down and they sit and say, “We are sitting down.” (It is really pretty funny and sweet – I have it on video.)

So based on the reaction of the little girl, I figured she didn’t know much English. Until she said to me “What’s your name?” I pulled my headphones out of my ear and we exchanged names. We quietly walked along the road together, hand in hand, not saying much. I pulled a headphone to my ear and heard Miranda Lambert singing “The House that Built Me.” I placed the other headphone in the little girl’s ear and we listened together on the dusty hot rot road in rural Uganda. She giggled along as she listened, probably never having heard anything like this before. When Miranda stopped singing it was time for me to turn off the road to the small path towards home. The little one gave me the headphone back and said “goodbye.” I wished her a good afternoon and turned. About 10 steps towards home I hear her yell “Stephan!” (this is how Africans pronounce my name) I turned and looked toward her and said “Yes?” quietly, with her sweet smile she said “Thank you.”

I turned – got out of her sight, found shade, doubled over, and cried. I’m not sure if it’s because of her sweetness, because of how much she’s going to miss in this life – as a totally valid, beautiful human who certainly deserves at least the opportunities I was given, or if it’s because I realize I cannot help her. I cannot save her. To this day, the memory of that moment makes the hairs on my arms raise and my eyes fill with tears. Small sweet moments like this whack me over the head like a baseball bat, beating gratitude out of me.

I ran today with Sara who (unbeknownst to her) produced an album for me a year a half ago. I still listen to it obsessively. Truth: this trip is rehab for me - in a sense. It felt exactly like that as I climbed my way to the Top of the World and kissed (with my feet) the ground that overlooks the home of the gorillas – magic land – I’m sure. In every way, I am stronger than I was the day I left my home – 70 days ago. I’m still confused. Still sad. Sometimes furious. But moments at the Top of the World do their best to contend with the greatness of the love lost and the anger that accompanies it. I see God there, and I see myself there. I am enlightened just a little bit at a time.

From the Top of the world I ventured further down the road (cause it was downhill!). I ran past a woman who was so beautiful that I had to stop. She had a baby strapped to her back, a beautiful orange cloth covering her head and an umbrella in her hand (all of this is normal, but she was exceptional for some reason). I wanted to take her picture. I asked her if I could but she just stared at me. She looked at my jewelry and the phone in my hand and said something. I reached out my hand to shake hers and her face lit up with a smile. As our hands embraced I said to her “you are so beautiful.” She had no idea what I was saying. I asked to take her picture… she didn’t respond and walked away. I snapped the picture from behind and gave her 2,000 shillings for allowing me to do so. When I did, she asked for another 1,000. I said “Nope. Webale! (“thank you” in Luganda and Lusoga) BYE!” She smiled, laughed and said in English “BYE!” We were mutually content when I turned to go bounding down the road.
Not an amazing photo - but she was amazing.
Little moments like these… they fill up the space that didn't exist until the the space was created. I could sit for hours and write and blab on about this continent (as I have done), but would never do it justice. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A rough day. An amazing day.

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So I went to bed last night with my little backpack next to me, as I usually do when I don’t feel secure in my room. This way I know if someone tries to take my laptop/passport/money, etc… (also slept with the pocketknife and pepper spray at my side). To be clear, I wasn’t unsafe, the room just wasn’t secure, didn’t lock well.

In the middle of the night I started to feel pain in my little toe – it had been a little irritated for some time, but now it was pain, unavoidable. It was throbbing and I assumed I had an infection or something under the nail.

I woke up with ants all over my bag (yes, IN THE BED) from a little spill of beef stew the night before. Sick.

I looked at my toe and realized what it was: an insect – what they call chiggers here – had burrowed itself into my toe right next to my toenail. To be totally honest, I was slightly relieved to know it wasn’t some crazy infection that was going to kill me within the next 24 hours (you know, the African nightmare… some worm that crawls into your skin, cannot be killed, but takes your life within a day…) Then I processed the fact that an insect was living in my foot and wanted to cry.

Lucky for me, I am traveling with a doctor. I walked to Caroline’s room and knocked – my exact words were “I’m freaking out and I need you to not freak out or I’m gonna start crying.” Her exact response was, “That is never the way I want to start the day.” She proceeded to dig at my pinky toe with tweezers and a needle until she got the little bugger out. It hurt and it pissed me off. I almost barfed. (Yes, a there is a barfing theme…)
So I cleaned the ants off my bag, bandaged my toe and we headed out around 7 am to our final game drive to try to find some lions.

We are traveling in an open roof car – a safari-van, if you will. It’s one of my favorite things, driving with my head out of the top of the car trying to negotiate the bumps and divots of the dirt road without falling down. (Kinda like mountain biking, but you rarely get hurt… ) To be honest, I didn’t think we would find the lions. I have seen all the other animals I’d though I would see here… but lions. And frankly, I REALLY wanted to see one! Our driver/guide found out from another driver/guide that lions had been spotted off the main road (weird, not safari-like at all, but whatever)… He drove us there very quickly and we soon spotted the 15 other safari vehicles checking out what we assumed to be lions.

They are as majestic and beautiful as you would expect, and much much more. A mama and her baby. We watched them hunt and attack a group of warthogs (POOR PUMBA!!!)  - though they did not actually catch the warthogs… it was amazing. The whole thing. I sat on the roof of the car and watched them for about an hour. It was the highlight of my day and probably this entire “national parks” trip for me.

Upon arrival at the hostel I decided to wash my backpack, which had been through three weeks of mountain climbing, a lot of touring through Africa, at least part of an adventure race and who-knows-what-else since it’s last been washed. I realized recently that every time I wore white I would turn it brown from putting the backpack on. This combined with the beef stew/ant incident made me decide to wash the thing. I swear to you, I’ve never seen water so brown. It was mud, really.

So, clothes, bag, etc washed, lions spotted, chigger removed… I was ready for lunch.

Sitting at the fancy hotel near the hostel we are staying at, I realize that a little bump on my arm (it stems from a bite I got in Nairobi almost 6 weeks ago) is moving. I’d asked Caroline about it a couple of weeks ago and she said “If it’s not infected, don’t worry about it, but don’t be surprised if a bug comes crawling out of it at one point.” So this bump is not really a bump anymore; it’s more of a line. I looked at Caroline and told her that I think I have a worm in my arm. I can tell she’s annoyed, which is fair seeing as she just removed an insect from my toe not more than 6 hours ago… When she looks at it though, she realizes that it is a strange thing. She tells me to draw a line on it so that I can track its movement – so I do.
Looking at the marker now, the thing in my arm has already moved. SO FREAKING WEIRD!
I should be grossed out by this, but really – it’s part of the journey. I kinda laugh, really. I’m lucky to be traveling with someone that can give me an idea of what to do or how to get rid of these things.

I’m good, I’m good, I’m good, but TIA – This Is Africa – a land where you see lions crossing the street and things smaller than you crawl into your skin to live. Weird and amazing and a million other things all at the same time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Off the Beaten Path...

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Wow, so if I was isolated in the village in Kyabirwa, I am isolated multiplied by  ONE THOUSAND where I am now...

I haven't had internet in days, little connection to the world back home, staying in hostels or super low budget "hotels" in rural Uganda, flushing toilets are RARE (seriously... rare), mosquitos are out in FORCE (hello, 30 bites on my feet alone...), and it's about 150 degrees (ok, exaggeration... but it's been HOT - until this very moment where the storm rolled in with a breeze and torrential downpour).

Where have I been, where am I, where am I going?

I left my sweet new home on Saturday morning (feels like lightyears ago, honestly) via matatu - public taxi which is really an undersized, overstuffed minivan. Overstuffed meaning, you will often see these little vans driving with up to 30 or more people in them, hanging out of them, hanging on them, off the back of them, or on the roof - no joke. Ours was not THAT packed, but probably still sported 20 people plus our bags (um, some of you have seen my bag -- it's the size of four people, at least. The ride was bumpy and included a TON of starts and stops and traffic. For me, it was the lowlight of the entire trip. I hadn't been feeling well - a cold or something. Anyway - I thought I was going to barf on everyone in the bus, there was nowhere for me to go so I just sat in the back and concentrated on not barfing for three hours.

Alright - so it ended ok. I didn't barf.

Reader's Digest version: I stayed at a hostel in Kampala - LOVED Kampala, bodas there imparticular. Crazy fast madness. Drove early Sunday to the Rhino Sanctuary up north, stayed in a hostel-ish thing there, saw rhinos (awesome!), drove the next day to Murchison Falls, saw animals, a LOT of them (elephants, giraffes, buffalos, warthogs, etc, etc, etc), drove to some podunk town in Africa (LIKE SERIOUSLY podunk) and stayed in a "Lodge" that will be properly described at some point) drove to Ishasha (border of the Democratic Republic of Congo) to see the (invisible) "tree climbing lions", then drove to some place in Queen Elizabeth Park on a peninsula, staying in a hostel down the road but found a SUPER FANCY HOTEL up the street with Sapphire and WIFI!!!

Here I am.

I'm good. Tired of driving on VERY bumpy dirt roads and wondering when/what my next meal will be. I am VERY MUCH looking forward to Rwanda and seriously thinking about a little splurge (coddling) in a fancy hotel (ok, mid-range) in Kigali or Arusha (hot shower??? YES!!!).

Totally honest: I miss my friends at home, my bed, a hot shower, starbucks, MY FAMILY, and so much more. But I'm holding tight - looking forward to Rwanda and seeing my friends in Arusha - and especially INDIA!