After a 25 hour-long journey, 5 movies, 1 book, a couple of hours of sleep, I made it to Africa! I’m arriving on a Tuesday but I can only get a lift to Mbarara (where our project is based) on Saturday or Sunday when the nursing students from University of Saskatchewan arrive, they are part of a different program, the LCP (Leadership in Community Placement) program. It’s too expensive to get a private hire and the bus is apparently really hectic and crazy and I was strongly advised not to take it alone. So I’ll be spending the next couple of days in Entebbe.
I slept pretty early the first day and for over 12 hours, needed that! Had the company of my friend the gecko who chilled on my wall to protect me from malaria infested mosquitos and woke up to my friend the roosters beautiful singing :P Ps: Roosters do not only sing in the morning, they start in the morning but sing all the way to early afternoon lol!
In the morning I decided to go visit the botanical garden in Entebbe. It was an extra 50 bucks for a private tour so I decided to
just walk it alone. But it’s huuuuge and there’s no way to know where to go and what things are (To have an idea, it’s where they filmed the original Tarzan!). Luckily for me, there was a nice German family getting a tour and I saw them and asked if I can join and they gladly accepted, hustled my way in!
Got to swing on vines and got some really cool info, sucks cause I don’t remember the name of the plants or animals but I remember the fun facts: Like there’s this plant that is a natural bug repellent if you eat 2 of the leaves, but if you eat 3 you’re blind for 2 hours! And there’s this bird that eats pretty much everything including dead animals, and during the genocide, dead bodies were thrown into the lake and occasionally they wash up to the shore. Some people from the mainland hunt and eat these birds and you can find all sorts of things in their stomach like watches and fingers and pieces of clothing! Hope it’s not lunch time while you’re reading this!
At the end there was monkeys hanging out everywhere and we got
some bananas and they came to take them out of our hands! My sister did something of the sort in Thailand on the beach and said that her monkeys were super angry and aggressive when you didn’t give them food. But not these monkeys no! On the contrary these Ugandan ones were much more well behaved and had great manners :P. They gently took the pieces out of my hand and I could feel their cute little fingers. It was really cool. Crazy how humanlike their gestures are.
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I think my ultimate goal being here is for my time to mean something and to actually create some sort of positive change. And I didn’t want to waste any time and I was really anxious to start the project so I decided to go ahead and take the bus from Kampala to Mbarara the following day. Frank dropped me off at the bus station about an hour away and came with me (thankfully!) through the crazy busy packed bus park and made sure I got into the right bus and was sitting in my seat before he took off.
So… we complain about the STM but
let me tell you, taking the bus in Uganda is nothing like taking a bus in Montreal. First of all, there’s no such thing as not enough seats. People will sit in the aisles, on the floor, on the stairs, and they’ll even pile up all their bags in the front of the bus and about 10 people sit on top of it all. And even if you have a seat, don’t expect to have personal space haha there is no such concept here, personal space does not exist! I had a man sitting next to me who was stuck to me and talked to me the whole way there. He said that I was his second white friend and insisted I go eat supper at his mothers place in Mbarara lol. I had to politely decline but he was said he was still very happy he could tell his family he knew someone from Canada. Four and a half hot, smelly, squishy hours later (haha) I made it to Mbarara! My new friend was nice in helping me get my suitcases and bringing them to the car where Laura, Sarah and Brittany were waiting for me.
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Our place is at Mbarara university and the entrance to the houses here have a guarded gate so it’s pretty safe (you don't need to worry mom!) It had concrete floors, a living area that's pretty chill, a kitchen and bathroom that's pretty yucks haha but I’ve been told its luxury for Uganda! The bathtub is jokes, it doesn’t have a shower head, it has a hose that’s like not long enough so you have to bend your head to get water on it, and I have yet to take a hot shower but cold water is good for firming up my skin so it’s cool (no pun intended :P)
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Upon arriving, the girls informed me we were taking a trip to Queen Elizabeth national park the next day and would be staying there for the weekend (we have weekends off). We are looking to expand the goat pass on project there but for a different reason than women empowerment. The communities around the park face a different kind of problem. Their livestock is often hunted and eaten by the lions, and elephants break down their enclosures. People from the community have poisoned many lions
Planting Napier grass cuttings
Napier grass is an important feed source for goats!
because of this; after all, their livestock is their source of money and food so they are looking out for their families. But it’s unfortunate because it does not work in favor to the parks conservation efforts. So we are working with them to find a solution to this.
Dr. Siefert (a wildlife veterinarian from Germany that came to Uganda 40 years ago and hasn’t left since) runs the Uganda carnivore program which focuses on scientific research and monitoring of large carnivores including lions, leopards and hyenas, and also focuses on community based wildlife conservation. He’s now working with Vets without borders to create goat husbandry that works for the communities surrounding the park. We are just in the initial plans, but we met up with two communities to explain the basics of the project and to help them set up the feed for the goats. The girls and I will be working on a training session to be held for them in the next couple of weeks!
Uganda's a lot greener than I thought. I don't know about you but I pictured savannah all over :P but in and all around the communities, it’s filled with matoke
trees, tea plantations, and just so much greenery !
The drive to the park was mad cool cause there were elephants hanging out by the side of the road, had to stop to let a group of baboons pass by and saw some buffalo chilling in a mud bath. But the craziest thing of all was when we were walking back to our room after supper, there was a huge hippo just hanging out there, munching on some leaves. A HIPPO! That shit does not happen at home :P
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So for the first week, I say that was a nice introduction to Africa. The next week will be all about meeting and discussing with our 17 established communities and working out our plans for the summer. Also I will be spending next weekend Gorrilla Trekking !!! Stay tuned…
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