Autumn Day in the UK

Day two in London only allowed me to be a tourist half the day because of my afternoon flight back to Seattle.

The morning starts off with a free breakfast in the mission hotel. The hotel was very quaint; every room had elegant detailed wall paper – reminiscent of patterns off old English teacups. I felt as if I were wandering through one of those houses from a Jane Eyre novel. Breakfast starts with a buffet style of what looked like waffles, but were actually hash browns shapes as waffles. By the way, syrup does not go well with hash browns. Welcome to another culture.

We took a path to the tube station through a park. All the trees in the park had turned amazing colors of orange and yellow, which fell to the ground to cover the sidewalks. I pranched threw the the crispy leaves acting more immature than the young school girls in their proper uniforms walking  in front of us.

The choice of sightseeing for the morning would be Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. I looked around the Abbey for several hours – there’s just so much to see. I must say no one soaked up the atmosphere more than me – I loved examining every detail of architecture from the graves in the floor, to the stained glass windows, all the way up to the intricate almost Gothic ceilings.

Before I knew it, time sent us away with a few rings from Big Ben and we had to be back to the airport. We jumped on the Tube one last time and I tried to take as many pictures as I could of anything before we reached the airport. I became enamored by London; this place felt like a second home to me. I wished I could have stayed there longer, but I made a vow to myself that I would make a trip back someday as soon as I could.

 

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First Night in London

I’m one of those people who need to make sure I have a window seat – that’s just how I roll. I need to see the world. The whole ride to London, and not to mention to the States, I had the advantage of sitting by the window. Flying out of Africa to London, showed me the view over the African landscapes, from jungles to the endless desert.

I overlooked the Mediterranean Sea – which looked like a long strip of leather. I flew over Spain and into England. Coming into England, you fly over perfectly manicured landscapes, over looking castles, and into the rainy weather I know so well.

I got off the plane and had go through the long line at customs, and took the tube (subway) from Heathrow into the city to enjoy our overnight layover in the city. At this point, I knew absolutely nothing about London.

My travel group and I decided that we all want an authentic English meal: fish and chips for sure. After entering several pubs to check if they serve the dish we want, we finally find a restaurant after walking across London for over an hour. That’s how I love to venture though new locations – I take my time to find exactly what I want.

The restaurant had a red and black checkered floor, the layout extended narrowly with the walls to the left and right covered in full length mirrors to give the illusion that it was bigger than it looked. The pieces of fish were as big as my hand, and remember, chips from anywhere other than America resemble jo-jos, not french fries or potato chips.

After dinner, half the group took a taxi to our Mission house hotel. The other four of us could not wait to be set loose on an adventure on foot through London to find the hotel. We went through a handful of underground stations, wandering in and out of random parts of town, and walking through downtown London at night – which I must say… gorgeous! Walking through London at night, to me, feels like walking through a fairy tale. Of course I had just spent the last two weeks in a poverty stricken place.

Around midnight, we finally find the hotel and I can’t wait to do another day of exploring in what has become one of my favorite locations in the world.

 

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Last Days

During the last days of the trip, I got make many trips out  to explore the countryside and the city.

I got to go shopping in a marketplace in downtown Kampala. This marketplace had little wooden covered booths set up in a semi-circle. Everything there was hand-crafted and super cheap. I ended up buying too much stuff, even a large sized drum – who knows what I was thinking.

The pastor’s sons showed us around, so we decided to take them out to lunch to a hamburger joint. These were the first shakes they had ever consumed in their lives. Across the street, there loomed an expensive hotel – one you might see in a U.S. major city – the hotel did not look like it belonged in the country at all.

We stopped at a grocery store – it had two tight rows of food in a small narrow building. The store didn’t resemble a U.S. grocery store in the least.

On another day trip, we went to the source of the Nile. In right side of the park near the source of the Nile, a group of young people were dancing and partying away, with a strong stinch of pot floating our way – which you could smell consistently wherever we went. At the source of the quick moving stream of the Nile, a dock overlooked the area with a sign explaining a bit of it’s history.

We drove a little further away to find a trail leading down to an area of small and large waterfalls. The waterfalls constructed the edge around the park with rocks that frame the water. As you walk down into the park to get to the Nile, the flowers, greenery, and the waterfalls made me think of how Eden must have looked.

When the day came to head to the airport to start my journey back to America, I could not wait to get my travel on. I experienced and learned a lot from traveling Uganda; however, I still had England on my agenda to explore.

Next stop: London.

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People of Uganda

I must say the people of Uganda shine with kindness and openness. Everyone we met welcomed our small group into their homes, invited us for dinner, wanted to share their life stories with me, and were overall very friendly.

One evening, we went to dinner at this older lady’s home. She cooked the food in a huge pot over the open flame in the back yard. Which probably took her hours and hours to cook. She dished the food onto the big plates, almost like she tried to replicated mountains by piling that much food onto them. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a small person. Imagine this pile, or mountian of food, on my plate that I can barely lift. I ate about a handful of food to where you could almost see to the bottom of the plate; as soon as she could see the plate she grabbed it to fill in the gap.

Another woman I met lived among a village a bit away from Kampala. Her name was Margaret and looked young – maybe 5 years older than me at the time. She brought me into her home and gave me a tour. A bed mattress sat upright onto the wall and she glowed with pride as she showed me that she had one. Next she told me her life story as I flipped through a photo album. Margaret joined an African singing group as a child that traveled around the United States, she told me how they were supposed to act and dress, and that the guy who ran the group treated them all horribly. She left the group and went back to living in Uganda.

The reason we went to Africa was to help the church that my pastors had built a relationship with. The church construction had large openings for the doors, the chairs were long pieces of wood with no backs, animals would roam around it while peaking in during a service. People would walk miles out of there way to go to church in the morning. During the services, children would sit as close as they could to you – like they do in Mexico – which never made too much sense to me, because they are super hot places. Here in the United States, the last thing you want on a hot humid day is someone being too close to you.

Funny enough, the children would gently poke my skin or touch my hair, only because it looked different or it’s a rarity for that part of the world.

One of the best things about traveling includes meeting people from the country you visit. When you meet the locals, you really get to know the culture, hear some interesting stories, and really learn about the place you traveled thousands of miles to get to.

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Inside the church – the boy in front died of AIDS a month after we left.

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Looking at the church from the side

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Moses, who helps at the church, and Joshua, the pastor’s son at the older lady’s house of the never-ending plate of food.

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Children sitting on the wooden slabs at church.

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Inside Margaret’s house.

Perspective

One morning I found a station on a walkman. The DJ discussed the differences in the English accents. For each accent, someone would mimic each culture. For the Australian, they would say “good day mate.” The British tended toward the proper speech. Then they portrayed the American English as: yo yo dude, what’s up, like all of us are gangsta homeboys.

I learned on this trip to Africa, that when you leave your country, you can really see how others view the United States and see things in our own country you never saw before from living within. Here in the United States, we have life pretty easy in regards to basic needs. In Uganda, they don’t have running water in most of their homes, their houses are of bricks out of mud that they made themselves, and the bathroom is a hole in the ground in a shack. Going to Africa makes you appreciate all that we take for granted.

Another aspect of the States that I missed: strict driving laws. In Uganda, you would be better off with a blindfold so you can’t see the crazy weaving in and out of oncoming traffic – especially in the dark when the headlights appear as a few yards away. I’m surprised in the vans we took, that our hand prints weren’t permanently crested on the back of the seats in front of us – from holding on for our lives.

Houses line the road and go as deep as the eye can see. There seemed to be no end for how deep their neighborhoods went. One of the various times I roamed through the neighborhoods of the countryside, I just couldn’t believe that I got to be so engaged in a culture. I got to see what typical tourists would never see. I walked along the dirt roads of Uganda, meet countless individuals of the country, ate with them, and got to see how this population really lived.

Some houses were no bigger than a dog house with legs laying outside it while the person napped inside. Others could be a size of half a tennis court with a several rooms. I’m not saying that every single home in Uganda was made of brick and no one had running water – only a lucky handful outside the city got the luxury of what we call home necessities.
Neighbors really get to know each other, people would hang out by the roads, and children would get together and play. People there, truly appreciate everyone they know and everything they have. I found that they have a true appreciation for life and knowing what’s important; this is a culture we could learn a few things from.