Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekend Excursions

I volunteer Monday through Friday, but the weekends are all mine. My hosts encourage the volunteers to explore Uganda, whether it’s spending a couple of nights in another city, or just a day trip to see some sights. So far I have stuck to the latter.
The first weekend I just relaxed. I organized all of my things, did a few items of laundry and started looking around for plans for the weekends in the future. Sunday I attended church with my host family and then to a backpacker‘s hostel for coffee and internet with my roommate Freda.
This weekend was much more adventurous. Saturday Freda and I took a day trip to Entebbe, the former capital of Uganda and the city where the airport is located. It’s in some ways the same as Kampala, but in other ways it’s totally different. The shops and types of businesses are very similar. What’s different is the air. You can BREATHE in Entebbe!The town is only 30 miles or so away, but it feels so different. People seem more relaxed and it is much easier to navigate. Freda and I walked around to find a hotel for her to stay at in January for her last night, since her flight is too early to drive from Kampala.On the way up we stopped at a swanky hotel called Lake Victoria and drank Fantas by the pool. They were almost a dollar a piece and we were shocked at how expensive they were compared to the same ones at a market.
Then we continued walking and stumbled upon an internet café were I was able to upload a few blog entries and some pictures. We took our time, had some coffee on the nice, breezy patio and I tried the African’s attempt at Hawaiian pizza.After a little more walking we arrived at Entebbe Botanical Gardens, the final destination and original purpose of our field trip. It was such a great experience, thanks to a volunteer tour guide who knew all of the good spots, plants’ uses, and even showed us where the original Tarzan movie was filmed. Towards the end we saw a dozen or so monkeys. It was a perfect interaction, because they were familiar enough with people to come very close, but not aggressive at all. At first one thought a flower in my hand was a piece of banana, but as soon as I dropped it and showed my hands were empty the mommy sat back up, giving her baby a better grip around her torso.
We also saw spiders, a pack of napping wild dogs that didn’t care about us at all, and our guide broke open a termite hill to show us how they are organized.I kept saying how I’ve never really been interested by plants before, but this was a different experience. There were lots of plants that were indigenous like royal palms, flowers that I think Georgia O’Keefe would have gushed over, and all kinds of leaves. Some that felt like animal furs, some that were like sand paper, and touch-me-nots that folded inward upon contact. Many other specimens were imported, like cacti from Arizona. We learned the difference between the ‘good’ aloe vera, which I rubbed on my mosquito bite, and the poisonous kind which has a different smelling sap. Who knew there was a poisonous aloe vera?! Unfortunately they looked almost exactly the same.Anyway it was probably much more fun in person than I am making it sound in writing, but it was a peaceful, child-free experience that had perfect timing between my two weeks at Ttega. And with my lack of experience (or eagerness to gain such experience) with the African wilderness, I would be happy to call it my most nature-y moment in Uganda.

Sunday I went with Freda and Richard to what I'm pretty confident is probably the most peaceful place in central Uganda. It's a temple for an obscure religion called the Bahai faith. The religion itself reminds me of a cross between buddhism and unitarian universalism. The service was a little strange and not engaging to any of us three, but the campus was so beautiful it was well worth the trip to visit.
The photos don't do it justice, but the view of the city was amazing.
Then we went into town, to Garden City, where all the Mzungus shop. I ate fries and tried the ice cream that was called 'strawberry' but was actually pepto-bismol flavored. Then I found Nutella and all was well again.

I'm sure to have more weekend field trip stories to come =)


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