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.

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

Looking at the church from the side

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.

Children sitting on the wooden slabs at church.

Inside Margaret’s house.


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.

Taste of Uganda

One major difference between the United States and Uganda was the cuisine. In the United States, we can chose from a vast array of choices: Mexican, American, Chinese, Italian, Thai, etc. You may not realize how lucky you are until you are given very few choices.

Every night at the place I stayed, the motel provided a large buffet style dinner – almost like a big bbq. Tables sat on their big concrete patio under the stars. The usual set-up included a potato wedge, which in most places in the world are called chips. They never had ketchup, so I had to use a sauce similar to sweet and sour. The spread always provided some meat choices: such as beef, and a few times they served goat – you might guess I would run from that, which I did. About every other night, they served matoke. Matoke, a typical African food, was usually a roasted plantain banana. Each dinner ran from about 200 shillings, which equaled about five dollars.

Each balanced meal of Uganda included beans and rice. Every home or place our group got invited to eat at served very large portions of rice and beans with some other things added. Once I had peas with the mix. I know not all of Africa does this, but it seemed to me that everywhere we ate Ugandan food, they never used any seasoning. The lack of seasoning made me yern for home as well as a big ol’ stick of butter.

One evening our group didn’t want to eat at the motel, so we ordered a pizza from a Domino’s branch. The pizza guy did not make it in 30 minutes or less – of course he kept to the standards of Africa time. Africa time, as I define it is: taking your sweet ass time, no need to hurry – of course I’m an impatient American, everything needs to be rushed. Anyway, our pizza arrives and it’s the most unappealing pizza that I’d ever seen. The pizza had some kind of meat on it – sure couldn’t be pepperoni – and the cheese sat in big chunks of goat cheese. Never again did we order pizza in Uganda.

I must say the fruit of Uganda offered the best that the country’s tastes offered. Actually, the fruit there remains the most amazing food that I had ever consumed. The juicy pineapple, the bananas bursting with flavor, and the delicious jack-fruit. Jack-fruit hangs off tall trees in a very strange shape – almost looking like it came from a Salvador Dali painting. The stickiest food I’d ever held in my life tasted like a mix of cantaloupe, pineapple, and a coconut. Trying to take the fruit apart can be comparative to trying to separate a warm marshmallow. After enjoying Ugandan fruit for two weeks, I remained ruined for any other fruit from anywhere else for the rest of my life. I actually couldn’t bring myself to eat one of our cardboard tasting bananas for six years – I still find it hard to enjoy one knowing that I have eaten the best that the world has to offer.

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The Rare Mzungu

My first ride into Kampala, Uganda surprised me; I did not quite expect to see all that I did. The closest environment of poverty that I surrounded myself with was in Mexico; in Mexico, they had basic necessities. When I mean necessities, I am talking about: clothes, food, etc. Even most of the housing I saw didn’t have doors, no glass for the windows – if they had a hole for a window – the floors lie with dirt, and the roofs that cover their homes are ridged metal slabs.

Looking out my window, shops provide meat hanging in the open from old wood looking shacks, people lay out a blanket and display their produce, and sometimes I would view clothes hanging from a line for sale. All the while, you see the mothers carrying baskets on their heads while trying to keep their children in line.

I never experienced an environment like this before and everyone knew that I clearly did not belong. Have you ever felt like you stood out “like a sore thumb.” Being one of nine white people among a country of residents who rarely see our paleness, I definitely stood out like a sore thumb on fire.  For first time in my life, I felt like a minority. Everywhere we went, people would stare at us.

Whenever we would pass children, either in the taxi van or when we would walk by them, they would call us a certain name. The children would jump up and down, chase after us, and point at us yelling “Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu!” They loudly alerted the other kids around them and the Mzungu callings grew. Our group asked someone from the town what “Mzungu” meant; Mzungu basically means ghost or very light-colored person.
Adjusting to being labeled a Mzungu minority among a very foreign place proved to be an experience of a lifetime.


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