A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Saturday, February 26, 2011


When I first came in as a PCV I was given a paper titled, “Critical Periods In The Life Of A Peace Corps Volunteer.” It is a chart breaking up the different months and periods of our service with the corresponding feelings and behaviors we will/would experience. I have looked at this chart at various times over the last 2 years and always found myself right on mark. As I have been cleaning out my house I stumbled upon it once more and was encouraged to read that my feelings and reactions are normal for months 23 – 27.

According to the chart this is what I’m dealing with:
-trauma of departure
-concerns about social re-entry
-bridging Uganda with US / former identity
-re-definition of “career”
-closer or re-definition of Uganda based on relationships

And this is what I should be feeling:
-obsession with planning and scheduling

Now, I don’t fit every description – giddiness and impatience not so much but the rest YES THAT’S ME! This chart was created by COSing volunteers in Senegal in the mid-1980’s. It sure is incredible how applicable it is 20 years later. It just shows human behavior doesn’t change that much.

There is a basket on the top of my bookshelf where I have kept all the cards, letters, wedding invitations, and baby announcements I have received from dear friends and family. These have come from places all around the world and have brought me so much encouragement, inspiration and love over the last 2 years. I re-read them the other day and laughed, smiled and cried. I spread them out across my floor and felt my heart over-flowing with thankfulness for the love and support I have from all you people in my life. I sincerely would not have made it through these 27 months of Peace Corps service without all you have given me.

So, Thank You from the bottom of my heart for:

The memories to remind me how special our relationships are:
• “Starbucks, matching outfits, road trips and laughter.”
• “The ‘camping trip’ down at the crick with Treva and Heidi and ‘floating’ down the crick in tire tubes from the tractor. Oh the days!”
• “When you are lonely, remember our trip to Alaska and what nerds we were – me who never showered and wore the same clothes day after day and always stole your overalls and you with your eye mask and plaid flannel shirts.”
• “Chocolate chip pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse that your mom used to make for us.”
• “What are you doing for your birthday? Let me describe the birthday fun we would have if you were here (it’s all small memories we’ve done being put together). I would suggest we spend the day at the beach after a lazy breakfast and sipping coffee on a porch. At the beach we would read great books, eat humus, chips, cheese and fruit, we would go for walks and share what we were thinking and struggling through. Then after we were a bit more tan, we would go home, take a nap and get ready for a fun night in the city. We would dress up and go dancing with all your friends.”

Making me laugh:
• “I hope that the flight went smoothly and that you still have all of your underwear!”
• “I’m writing this in the service. We just got done praying for you – that’s cool. Right now it is the offering so I’m not writing during the sermon or anything important. Oops, here comes the scripture reading. O.k. I’m back, but now I have to hurry because the sermon is starting. Have a great day!”
• “Amanda, please figure out the best way not to get worms. It would be nice if Treva and I didn’t get any if we come to visit. Plus, I hope you enjoy your African experience.”
• “I don’t know when you will open this, but it is probably hot there and cold here. You sweat – I shiver, and both of us think the other one has it better! (I’m right!)”
• “I am sending you 2 packages today. One of them has an interesting dress in it that somehow looked sooooo Ugandan! I doubt you’d wear it anywhere else!”

Knowing the days I’d have:
• “A day when you wonder, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
• “On the worst day you couldn’t possibly imagine.”
• “A day when you could just use a friend.”
• “For a ‘I miss my friends, my home, good coffee, and I feel like this isn’t going to end and I could use a hug right now,’ kind of day.”
• “The ‘sun is shining and I’m so happy’ day.”
• “On a ‘I need a martini’ day.”

Your sound advice:
• “Go running among the goats and beautiful children.”
• “Eat a lot of fruit.”
• “Feel free to cry more than you feel like you should.”
• “Find people who will celebrate life with you – people that know how wonderful you are and share your values and your dreams. People that love you almost as much as your family and friends back home.”
• “Stay away from the bats.”
• “Take lots of pictures – the dancing evening sounded hilarious! Hope you are capturing some of this on film.”

And all the Love a girl could read:
• “Dear Amanda, I miss you so so so so much. Happy Valentine’s Day. Have fun in Africa. Love, Corinna”
• “I LOVE YOU! I’m picturing you riding a bicycle in Africa from village to village. A lady’s bike, basket and all! Picture me riding along with you, hey maybe it’ll happen:)”
• I wish I could squeeze myself into your luggage and go along with you – but I know you are only allowed a certain amount of weight, and I alone probably exceed it! I love you Amanda and I miss you so much.”
• “I love you so much and am so blessed to have you as my sister. I’m proud of you for stepping out and doing what you believe is right. Thanks for being one of my heroes!”
• “Amanda, I am so proud of you, wherever you are. I pray only that you continue to love and continue to give. I think the ability we have to choose love, the ability to tell our stories, share ourselves, express, create beauty, heal, redeem, humble ourselves etc. etc. is what makes us most human and most like God. It also helps us reverse the suffering somehow. This is why I am so excited about your life and what you’ve chosen to do. Keep loving. You are loved here.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning - changing

I have a hard time with change. I hate it! I have even been known to become immobile when it comes to change. I shut down and become incapable of functioning. I dissolve into tears and feel utterly overwhelmed. Realizing this about myself and also knowing change is coming and I have to face it, I decided to slowly start the processes of packing up and cleaning out my house. If I do it a little at a time maybe it won’t overwhelm me so much.

I decided to start with my closet. I have no idea how I accumulated so many clothes! I’m supposed to be living simply in deepest darkest Africa, right? Somehow I lost sight of the “simple” factor in regards to clothing. Each piece of clothing brought back some memory from the last few years. What should have taken me half an hour to sort through took me 2 hours of reminiscing and fighting with myself. I separated the ones I know I’ll never wear again, the ones I could potentially never wear again and the ones I can’t live without, at least for the next few months. Then I bundled them up in a cloth bag and walked down the road to the health center where my good friends Susan, Christine, Maureen, and Norah work.

What ensued were moments of pure excitement, thankfulness and friendship. Christine and Susan were the only ones working at the time and they laid out all the clothes on a hospital bed making piles of skirts, shirts, dresses, jeans and bras. Once they had it arranged they then went pile by pile, flipping through as if they were in Owino (the big market in Kampala). They would scream in delight over different articles and hold it up against each other. There were many comments of, “This one will be good for Norah because of her big breasts,” and “My cabina (butt) looks good in tight jeans,” and “You take this one for that girl of yours because she’ll look smart.” They were even excited over my over hand-washed, disfigured bras.

There were many pauses while flipping through where sentences started like this: “Oh, Amanda, I remember when you wore this…” and “Amanda, your cabina always swings so much when you wear this. I remember it best.” It is interesting how clothes have some effect in how we are remembered. It was really fun to share my clothes with these friends. I don’t like giving things away, especially in Africa where I think a culture of entitlement has come about from all the money pumped in. But seeing how sharing my clothes with my friends was allowing them to keep pieces of me, it made me feel good. This first change hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Maybe I can handle change after all!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Naked Moments

I left my house to go to the market this morning. As I was walking through the school compound on my way out I heard the shouts of fun and delight from students on the pitch (large field used for sports). It was early in the morning so I knew this meant the P1’s were out for P.E. (physical education). I love watching the little ones at P.E. They laugh, jump and run with their full beings. I can’t help smiling. Their joy is contagious. Now, it’s not only their carefree happiness that makes me smile but also their attire. They are naked! Dark little bodies in their white underwear zig-zag throughout the field. Who wouldn’t smile at this site?

I share a block of concrete bathing rooms with other teachers at the school. I get so excited and happy on the mornings or evenings I bathe at the same time as Rose. Rose loves to sing as she bucket bathes. This makes me laugh with happiness to which she always asks me what makes me laugh so happily. We then carry on a conversation as we both soap up and pour water over our naked bodies. This camaraderie gives me a sense of belonging and contentment.

Babies in Uganda are perpetually running around naked. I, for one, fully support this as it is too hot to wear clothes and their naked little butts are just so darn cute. Of course, this may also contribute to problems with worms and other health concerns so I probably shouldn’t encourage this too strongly.

I had a roommate in college who had a poster with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It said something about God creating us to be naked vegetarians. I like this. There is beauty and joy in the naked. And I’ve found it’s cross-cultural!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gayaza News

My dear friends Betty, Fred and Louis have reappeared in my life. They used to be my neighbors but were transferred deep into the village last year. Louise has grown but still has the exact same face at the age of 2½ as he did at 1½ years. Fred also hasn’t changed though he is now in P6 and boarding here at St. Theresa. Betty feels the education is better for Fred here and he has more of a chance. Fred comes to visit regularly and has taken up his former role of jack fruit cutter. He climbs the trees behind my house and knocks on the jack fruit testing to find the ones that are ready for eating. He then cuts it up and passes sections out to my neighbors and me. I think we’re all happy to have him back!

In other news, 2 of my best friends at site have been transferred. Jen and Annet (and Grace) have left St. Theresa. This has been a difficult time for me. The past 2 years have been filled with conversations, errand running and routine life living with these 2 dear friends. They have shaped my love of Uganda and its people. They have taught me so much about living as a Ugandan, culture, relationships, school and being a woman. It was difficult to see them go. I always thought I would be the one to leave them but they have been the ones to leave me. I don’t like to be the one left behind.

When the day came for Jen to move out, her new school came with a truck to take all her belongings to her new one bedroom home. Most of the teachers from St. Theresa had stayed into the evening to help her finish packing and load up the truck. It was a beautiful site of friendship and support. They offered words of encouragement and advice as they lifted her bed and carried her suit cases. To Ugandan teachers, transfers are a way of life. They may be sad to see one another go but they don’t dwell on that. They look to the future and offer prayers and support to the one leaving. Though I have shed many tears over this change, I too offer my love and prayers to my friends who embark on a different life. I know they will open their homes to me whenever I visit. And, visit, I will very soon.

Monday, February 21, 2011

All Quiet on the East Africa Front

We've made it through election day and even the result announcement with very little disturbance. Museveni was elected president once again. He won with 68%, a percentage no one knows to be absolute truth, but he won and there is peace at the moment.

There is a lot of talk about the future of the economy here in Uganda. The NRM (National Resistance Movement political party) and Museveni spent a lot of the countries money campaigning for office. How will that lack of money play out in everyday Ugandan life? Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Elections are Upon Us

This Friday Uganda will be holding their elections. The last months/years have been full of campaigning and, dare I say bribing? The current president has been in power for 25 years and intends to stay in power. Posters of his head are plastered over every market stall, temporary tin wall, power poll and even hanging on string from trees.

Museveni has done a lot for Uganda. He brought stability and peace after decades of war, set up free primary and then secondary education open to all and opened commerce and trade. There are many who are eternally thankful for the change he brought and don't see a need to change. There are others who have appreciated what Museveni has accomplished but believe it's time for a new perspective. And then there are those who have nothing good to say about the president.

I, for one, am ready for the election season to be over. I'm tired of the lorry trucks cruising around with their speaker systems hooked up yelling out voting messages, empty promises and many times propaganda. Many newspaper articles are slanted to support Museveni (no surprise really when he controls them). And everyone is speculating on the course of peace the elections will play out.

The president is not the only person being elected. Members of Parliament and local government are also up for election. I was recently visiting another area where a Local Chairman was talking to a group of villagers. At the end of his long speech he began handing out money. I saw one woman with a baby get 20,000 UGX which is about $10. She started screaming and dancing through the crowd. There are signs and commercials everywhere about not letting people buy your vote. I don't think those campaigning have taken this seriously. Does this happen in the States? Sure it does, but in a private setting. You would never see Obama at a rally passing out $50 bills - though if he did I would want to be at that rally. Corruption is everywhere but the visibility of it in Uganda is still a hard thing to face.

And so, we've entered the last few days of campaigning. The presidential hopefuls have brought themselves to Kampala to do their last big rallies. The electoral commission continues to promise free and fair elections. Ugandans await the public holiday they will receive so that they can go vote. And I hope and pray for peace.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Family Visits Part VII: Jinja

Our last activity together before my family went back to America was to visit Jinja where the Nile River starts. Melissa went a day before us and risked her life white-water rafting and bungee jumping over the Nile.

We met up with Melissa and took a boat out to the Source of the Nile River. We saw the place where the Nile comes out of Lake Victoria. Rwanda and Burundi also claim to hold the source of the Nile River but for us this day, we said Uganda holds the title. It was a beautiful day out on the water but bittersweet as we knew our time together was coming to an end.

I am very thankful my family had the opportunity to visit East Africa. It was a great trip exploring much of Uganda and Rwanda and living my life for a time. Next family vacation? We'll see what country I live in next.

The Nile River begins from Lake Victoria here
Measurement begins here
0 degrees

Friday, February 11, 2011

My Family Visits Part VI: Gayaza

Most of the last week of my family’s visit was spent in Gayaza. They were able to meet my friends and co-workers and see a snapshot of my life. Melissa was able to work in the health center with me, Mom took tea with the teachers during break and Dad talked farming with my friends. Gayaza is too close to my heart to properly express what my family experienced so I’ll leave it to my mom to convey her thoughts:

“Philip and I stayed in a village next to Gayaza called Kasangati. The first morning we got our own matatu (van with more people than should ever be packed into a van) and met Amanda and Melissa at church. I got to meet my African granddaughter Grace. She is Amanda’s neighbors’ little girl. I have been talking to her on the phone most Sundays when we talk with Amanda. I think we both carry on our own conversation but don’t have any idea what the other one is saying but we have become friends anyway. She hugged us and knelt before us and giggled. As we walked to church, the first thing people saw was my cane. Amanda said finally they don’t stare at her for being white - they never get past my cane.

Our eating experiences have been most interesting throughout our time in Uganda and being in Gayaza didn’t change that. Besides the multitude of Shacks we have eaten at we have also been invited to many of Amanda’s friends’ homes. First the priests and nuns had us. Of course there was no electricity so we began supper without any idea what we were eating. We did know that somewhere on the table was matooke (smushed plantain steamed all day in banana leaves), posho (maize mixed with water, very thick), sweet potatoes, irish potatoes, plus pork and chicken. They very seldom serve meat here so we were very privileged in deed. Then we went to Annet and Grace’s where she made us cassava and the best passion fruit juice. Melissa became addicted to Passion fruit juice. Jen invited us to supper one evening but in true Ugandan fashion she had not begun to prepare so we had to go back to Kasangati before it was ready. Melissa and Amanda ate with her and said it was good. The next day we went to Susan’s, the girl Amanda works with at the health center. We went to her house and had the best Ugandan food. She made some noodles with sauce, eggs scrambled with things in them, cabbage salad and fruit. On another day, we were invited to Joan’s, a teacher for adult literacy where Amanda helps out. We took a matatu to the village center and then walked through all sorts of villages, plantations, jungle, up and down hills, over creeks, slide down clay banks….for over an hour until we came to her house. Throughout the walk little children were yelling “muzungu, muzungu” and waving like crazy. They followed us to the next little village and new ones took over. Finally we got there and visited with her and her 4 day old baby. So adorable!! She also has 3 other children. When we got there she began preparing the food. She prepared another very Ugandan meal and wrapped everything in banana leaves. Quite the presentation.

We love Uganda. The country is so diverse and beautiful. The people are the kindest and most welcoming we have met anywhere. So many people have thanked us for “producing” Amanda and letting her come be with them here. Her Uganda family is very large and while they have taken such good care of her, they say she has taken better care of them. They told me that no one could replace her and they are praying that she will be able to stay.”

I’m very glad my family was able to spend time in Gayaza. Everyone was thrilled to meet each other. My Ugandan friends were so welcoming and made me proud. My family was so willing to meet everyone and try anything given to them. Somehow, my mom has become a saint in Uganda and received many gifts and words of thanksgiving and praise. People would have been disappointed if they hadn’t met her. It was a great experience for everyone on all sides to come together. It made my heart swell with deep love and gratitude for the special people in my life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Family Visits Part V: Murchison Falls

Since we’d spent time in the Central Region, done many activities in the South West and even hit up Rwanda, it seemed about time to get a bit further North and West. So, we headed to Murchison Falls, the largest National Park in Uganda. Murchison Falls itself is a narrow crevasse where the mighty Nile River must fit through. It is the biggest force of water in the world!

We went on a game drive and boat ride along the Nile to see all the animals. After seeing lion, Ugandan Cobb, buffalo, crocodile, hippo, giraffe, elephant, bird, antelope, spider monkeys, lizards and baboons, my mom still holds to liking the warthog the best. The park ranger who took us around pointed out the Ugandan Cobb which is the national animal to which he said, “. . .they are so lazy.” Is this telling of Uganda also? Perhaps to some degree. When it comes to women working this is a false statement but in many other regards it is very true.

It is the dry and hot season in most of Uganda now. This proved to be a trial while in Murchison as the temperature during the day sat above 100 degrees with full equatorial sun beaming down. For some wimpy Minnesotans who left the United States at 9 degrees this was especially draining. By mid-day they were ready for a nap and by evening they were the first to go back to the tents to sleep, usually around 7 or 8 pm. Of course, I was still full of energy and wanted to continue exploring. It sure is a struggle having visitors who don’t have the African sun running through their blood yet. Ha! Maybe this isn’t completely true. But don’t tell them I don’t either!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Family Visits Part IV: Rwanda

The African Massage continued as we made our way from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest further South to Rwanda. The Kisoro Uganda to Rwanda boarder is considered a remote border crossing. We bumped across rough dirt roads then walked across the border after only a brief glance at our passports was made. Crossing the border from Uganda to Rwanda is like changing from broad day-light to the blackest of midnights. The roads are paved, without pot-holes. There is a remarkable absence of garbage and the smell of burning garbage. Towns and roads are labeled with landscaping throughout. Everything seems much more organized and ordered.

We spent a few days in Gisenyi on Lake Kivu. It’s a small town on the boarder of DR Congo. It was a relaxed time where we played cards looking out over the lake, ate good food and took leisurely walks.

From Gisenyi we headed to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Here met up with my friend Jacelyn from medevac for dinner. I have loved our friendship and the ease we have had visiting between Uganda and Rwanda. It’s always nice to see her.

We spent a morning at the Genocide Museum. This is a horrific place that should be viewed by everyone. My family was surprised at some of the information given. The media in America covered so little about it at the time and even to this day people know the basics and what they saw on Hotel Rwanda. The museum is really well done. While, “enjoyed” is too strong a word “appreciated” is how we felt about our visit there.

Rwanda was just a quick little trip for us and so after Kigali we went back to Kampala. The only options for travel between the 2 capital cities are by bus or airplane. Airplane tickets are expensive and I really thought my family should experience the African bus so bright and early we boarded Kampala Coach. Here is what my mom had to say about the bus:

“We took the Kigali/Kampala bus as 5:45am. They fed us tea and samosas (fried pies in a thin fried tortilla like thing) and chapatis (flat bread made with flour, oil and water). Little did I know that this could possibly be our last supper. Once on the bus it took off like it was jet propelled, honking the horn, passing where no motor cycle could get through, with the music on as loud as it possibly would go. A mere 8 hour trip turned into 11.5 hours. By the time we got off, my ears were ringing and my nerves were shot!!!!”

Sorry family! The bus was by far their least favorite part of our travels. But at least they understand that aspect of my life more intimately.

My Family Visits Part III: South West Uganda

Lake Mburo was a wonderful first stop in our East African tour. Next, we moved deeper into the South West of Uganda. We passed through beautiful changing landscapes. Kabale is known as “little Switzerland” with its big hills and lush green vegetation. In Kabale we picked up a new driver named George. George was the best driver we had throughout our travels. He was very personable, respectful and informative. George took us by Lake Bunyonyi and told us the history of the Crater Lake and local legends. There is an island in the middle of the lake called Punishment Island. It was used for girls who became pregnant outside of wedlock. They would be abandoned there to die. Times quickly changed and once a girl was dropped off a man who couldn’t afford a dowry could go and rescue the girl and make her his wife. Neither tradition is in place anymore.

Kabale District made way into Kisoro District where we ventured off the main road and headed into the Impenetrable Forest. The roads declined drastically. It seemed like we were driving on pure rock face much of the time. Up and down winding roads we traversed. It took us 1 hour to go 10 kilometers! George told us driving on those roads was an, “African massage!” But the drive was worth it because the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It isn’t called impenetrable without reason. This was the jungle/forest your mind conjures up when you think of Tarzan: dense, vibrant green, tall trees, vines, etc. The only things living in this forest are mountain gorillas. The gorillas were actually our reason for going here. We went to track them!

There is only one small area in the whole world that holds the last remaining mountain gorillas. This small area is the corner of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. With this unique fact, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet our hairy brothers and sisters.

We began our trek early in the morning walking down steep hills on small footpaths. This only lasted for a small while and then we entered into the impenetrable forest. Again, it is named impenetrable for a reason. Our guides used machetes and hacked away at vines, leaves, trees, etc. as we stumbled over forest growth and ducked beneath tangled branches and large spider webs. (I’m not sure how this factors into the ecologically sustainable factor their brochures assure us is their highest priority.) As we made our way into the forest we could hear the gorillas moving around and grunting at one another. Our excitement spiked and Melissa and I could barely contain the smiles on our faces, though we needed to with all the bugs flying at us and the extreme humidity chocking our throats.

These mountain gorillas are beyond describable. It was truly a unique experience and incomprehensible unless you have seen them yourself. They are HUGE! We were surrounded by them and within reaching distance at most times. Their fur looked so soft and there were moments I was tempted to reach out and feel it. Don’t worry, I refrained and kept my life. The family we trekked held 3 silverbacks, 3 babies and 12 women. What surprised me the most was how much they moved. I thought we’d see them and they’d be relaxing, just laying around for us to take those post-card perfect pictures. This was not the case. They were continually moving deeper (and further down the mountain) around the forest constantly eating any vegetation they put their mighty hands on.

After an hour it was time to leave our new friends and head back. Mountain gorillas are wild animals and they are only allowed a small exposure to humans due to the ease of diseases that could be spread which leads to sick gorillas and extinction could be much closer than desired. An hour doesn’t seem like a long time when you sign up but once you are there an hour is the perfect time. Now, that we’d navigated further down in the impenetrable forest, we had to climb out, a much harder task and quite daunting at times. But we made it and it was worth all the leg pain, the lung heaving and the gallons of sweat we excreted from our bodies.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Family Visits Part II: Lake Mburo

Continuing into the Southern Hemisphere, we went to Lake Mburo National Park. Lake Mburo is the smallest park in Uganda but it’s truly a gem. It is the only park that holds a whole host of animals and birds that can only be found in one other park in the country or no other park at all! As we drove in we immediately saw herds of zebra, antelope and warthogs. My family turned and looked at me saying, “Now, we feel like we’re in Africa!”

We drove around the park taking pictures of the many animals. We also got to take a boat out on Lake Mburo. Our eyes couldn’t even take in all the wildlife that was present here. We saw HUGE crocodiles, several schools of hippos, buffalo and rare birds. I would never call my family the bird watching type of family, but this trip awakened an appreciation for birds in all of us. It was just so thrilling to be looking at a beautifully colored bird and be told it is a bird that is only located in this one small park out of the whole world! How cool is that?!

My dad, Melissa and I got to take a walk through the park early in the morning with a park ranger. We followed the animals as they woke up and started grazing and going to the water to drink. I couldn’t believe how close we got to the zebras and Elans (a rare antelope/deer like animal). I continue to be amazed, impressed and thankful for the experiences I have here in Uganda.

Me with Warthog skull
Buffalo asleep with hippos near by in the water
HUGE Crocodile sunning himself
Melissa and I with our "arms"
Park Ranger, Melissa, Dad and I out on an early morning walk through the park
Melissa with a field of Elan, antelope and bush buck behind her
Melissa and Dad bird watching
Dad with morning animals grazing behind him
Cape Buffalo
Bush buck
Melissa and zebras
Here is what my mom has to say about Lake Mburo: “WOW what an amazing place. As we entered the park, Melissa and I went nuts over the cattle with these huge horns. The driver looked at us as if we were a wee bit daft but stopped for us to take pictures. We were so excited! Can you imagine our reaction when we saw our first Zebra? Within the first 5 minutes we had seen just about every animal the national park had! It was as if the rangers had railroad cars full of the different animals and opened the doors as we went by and told the animals to put on a good show for the muzungus. It was unbelievable!!! Zebras, elans, warthogs (my favorite), gazelles, bush bucks, cape buffalo, impalas…. I will have to looks at my pictures to remember them all. Next we took a boat out on the lake and saw hippos, crocodiles, cape buffalo, shoe bill birds (supposed to be almost extinct) fish eagles that looked like our bald eagles, and lots of other birds. Philip and the girls meet an armed ranger at 5:30 am and walked the park and saw even more animals as the sun rose. It was all so amazing.”

My Family Visits Part I: Welcome to Uganda!

The New Year has brought my family to Uganda! Mom, Dad and Melissa came in mid-January for 3 weeks of travel and Ugandan life. It’s been a whirl-wind trip moving around East Africa and spending time at my site in Gayaza.

My good friend Celeste also had a happy visit from her mom and brother. We had the opportunity to introduce our families to the joys of local food together. Restaurants in Uganda are not always marked. You must look for certain clues. On our walk in search of food that day I saw a lace curtain flowing in the wind from a door at the back of a house. I also saw a hand washing station directly outside that curtain. We decided to investigate and discovered it was a restaurant. Originally, we all ordered fish. The first three people got beautiful chunks of fish. Then Melissa was next and got the head. I followed with the tail. Then the lady told mom, “This fish is over.” Poor mom had to change her order and ended up with a plate full of rice and a small chicken leg.

After our local food experience, I decided to ease my family into Ugandan food a little easier so I took them to the best pizza place in East Africa. It’s a cute little brick-firing place on the shore of Lake Victoria. My family has claimed it may be the best pizza they have ever tasted in their lives!

Soon we left the safety and calm of Entebbe to the craziness of Kampala. We walked and rode matatu’s (public taxi’s) all around the city. They got to see the mass organized chaos of the taxi park area and markets. They continue to be amazed at how many people are all around at all times. The dense population was not something they were expecting.

Amidst the business of Kampala is a little restaurant on Lake Victoria. They serve whole fish and chips. They don’t have silverware so the fish must be taken apart by hand. Everyone loved this experience. We’re not sure if it’s the best fish we’ve ever eaten because we ate it fresh from the lake we were looking at or because it truly is. Maybe a little of both.

After a few days in and around Kampala adjusting to the time difference and getting used to Uganda a little, it was time to start exploring the rest of the country. We rented a car to take us into the Southern Hemisphere were we spent the following week a and half traversing the South West of Uganda and parts of Rwanda. As Uganda is one of about 10 countries where the equator passes through, we had to stop and take a picture.