Monday, January 11, 2010

This Is Africa

The very first thing I will say about Uganda is internet is way more difficult than I found it in Rwanda. But, I guess, this is Africa. Kampala is drastically different then my soft, comfy life was way back in Rwanda. Kampala is how you envision an African city. It is jam packed with people on the street especially down in the old part of the city. The streets are narrow and packed with people, vendors, food stands. Taxis, mini van taxis, boda motorcycles almost running me down every time I step off the curb (if there happens to be a curb). The streets are clogged with vehicles and traffic is often at a standstill. The air is filthy with fumes. When walking people practically trample me and I am constantly clutching my bag close to me. But I honestly have to say I love every bit of the energy of the African city life.
When I arrived, I believe it was four nights ago now, I went straight to Backpacker's Hostel, which was the closest hostel. The room I got felt like a prison cell. It wasn't really a room but more of a partitioned off space. There was blood smeared all over the walls from people smashing bugs all over them. If felt just disgusting and filthy, but it was really cheap. I was determined I was going to find a new place the next day. The place was also filled with the very ratty type of backpacker, which I had decided that at this point I was just a bit above all that. But by the time I woke up the next day, after a 10 hour bus ride the day before, I just could not bring myself to pack it up and move again. At breakfast I was looking around at all the ratty looking backpackers and decided maybe I needed to get over myself and these were probably the real travelers with some pretty interesting stories to tell. And the room was just so cheap so I stayed another night. By the next day I decided I could not longer stand my prison cell and it was also just way too loud. So I decided to bump up to the next price category and moved to a room outside. It was as if I had moved up about 5 rungs on the social ladder. My room is big and clean and it faces the yard where all the tent campers are. I also have a little patio to sit on. All this for around $9 more than I had been paying. I have also decided I now love my little home away from home in Kampala. It is on the outskirts of the city so after a day of loud chaos in the city it is a great place to come home to. Everyone knows my name now and it is just a cool place to hang out.
I have not been doing too much beyond just hanging out around Kampala. Found an awesome coffee shop called 1000 cups of coffee and love to hang out there.
My first full day here I went to Sanyu Babies Home. It is a Christian based place that takes in abandoned babies from around the city. The babies are anywhere from 1 day to 3 years old. They have a very good rate of adoption so most of the babies are eventually adopted out. They can hold up to 50 babies and at this time they have about 32 I think it was. They really promote people coming in for the day to see their operation. After the tour and they determine you are not a whack job you are open to just wander around and play with the babies. They are always understaffed so they appreciate all the help they can get. If you want to help feed and bathe the babies they will definitely let you help. The different age ranges are separated by rooms like 0-6 months in one room and so on. My friend, Goodman, took me there at around 3pm and we did not end up leaving until after 7 or so, or at least until we got the little ones to sleep.
When I very first arrived we went into the 0-6 month old room. Almost all the other babies were out in the courtyard playing with people but for some reason one of the babies, Emmanuel was still in his crib. So we picked him up and carried him around with us on our tour. The whole 4 hours I pretty much never ended up leaving the little babies room. After a time they brought one of the littlest ones back to his crib. His name was Edward and he could not have been more than 2 months old. Then they brought in a little "girl" in a frilly pink dress and put it in it's crib. Turns out "her" name was Joshua. I could never figure out why they had him in a frilly pink dress. I guess this was all they had? Anyway baby Joshua was sick and had a fever. I tried to feed him but he just did not want to eat. He just wanted to lay on me so I just held him. My buddy Goodman held Emmanuel until he went to sleep and I ended up holding Edward and then Joshua until they went to sleep. Those little babies just hold right on when being held. There is no way, with what little help they have there, that those babies get held enough. After it was finally dark and the babies were finally asleep we slipped their mosquito nets over their beds and snuck out. I can honestly say that was one of the best and most gratifying afternoons I have spent in a very long time.
My time to leave Africa is coming up way too quickly. I already get choked up when I think about going to the airport. I feel like I have been here such a long time that I almost feel like part of this place now. My other life seems like so long ago that it does not seem real anymore.
Goodman, the young guy who took me to the babies home, was actually my seat mate on the bus from Kigali. That is a long bus ride so you have LOTS of time to talk. We got into a long discussion about my travels and my feelings about Africa. I told him about many of my experiences, about how beautiful the children are, about the orphanage, about the wonderful widow ladies I met in Kigali who are trying to develop their business of sewing batik. He listened and then asked me a question I had just asked myself the night before. He said that it was great that I felt all of this now but how will I feel about it after I go home. I tried to answer but then I got so choked up that I had to stop. He asked me why I was bothered and I said that I had just been thinking about it the night before and I guess I was afraid of losing the feelings that I had now. I feel so strongly about all of these people I have met. Right when I met the sewing ladies or the kids at the orphanage I felt so strongly passionate about them and their stories. And I guess I was crying because I was so afraid that this will all change when I go home, that they will become just a memory and at some point it will all seem like it never really happened at all.
Africa has been one of the hardest, scariest things I have ever done. I have been sick. I have been desperately lonely. I have been scared. At times I have been terrified. I have been sick of being hot, sweaty, dirty, thirsty, hungry. I have taken terrifying bus rides, crammed in, jammed against others where I could barely move a leg or arm for hours. I have slept in rooms that were so hot I felt like I could not breath. I have walked around in a country that is constantly at the brink of war and filled with UN security just trying to keep the peace. I would not trade one moment of any of this because through it all, during every second of it I can say I have never felt so truly alive. I always know I am alive here, alive and really living my life. I do not always feel this way at home and sometimes I go for long periods of time without having this feeling. So I guess that day on the bus I was also crying because I believe this is what life is truly suppose to be, many moments of feeling really alive.
I told him to shut up because he was making me cry. Then we both just started cracking up and we could not stop laughing. So this is Africa. I laugh a lot and I cry a lot but at least I know I am alive.


  1. Although the feelings may fade in and out,they will always be with you - and I have a feeling this won't be your final visit to Africa!!
    Be careful in Kampala & more on Goodman - glad he is with you!

  2. When you find your life's goal, sometimes it's a job or vocation, sometimes it's something else, you experience those feelings when you've achieved a goal or milestone. Keep pursuing whatever your goal is and you'll continue to have that passion for life.

    There are more experiences ahead for you. savor them all. Everyday should be filled with as much passion as you can bestow on it.

    Really glad to hear from you again. Keep them cards and letters coming!

    love You!!!


  3. I love your honesty and your proud to know you. You're a beautiful person, and I hope we see each other again soon!

    (I would have a hard time leaving those babies too...)