Monday, July 31, 2006

The Presentations

Friday I was all set to do my presentations to the Ziwa Rangers on how to identify snakes, which ones to avoid, and general first aid. We were supposed to start at 5, but do to a problem with the solar power we didn’t get underway until 5:45. It ended up being split into 2 different presentations. The first one I gave and it was in English and the second David gave to the Ziwa herdsmen and locals in Swahili. I liked it because everyone had seen me around but didn’t know who I was or why I was here. Afterwards they came up to me and asked questions. They found all the information really helpful and Yvonne was pleased too. Now I am greeted by name instead of “madam.” Very cool experience.

Side note: We found a compromise on the going out and looking for snakes issue. David and I took a book out to the herdsmen that had pictures of the snakes in East Africa. We asked them to point out the ones they had seen and from that we created the list of what was confirmed to be on grounds.

Pictures

I have pictures that go along with each post, but this computer is unable to handle uploads except on few occassions. Once I get it figured out I will add more.

Kampala

The trip this weekend was very interesting and eye-opening. We did a lot of things but I’ll just give you the highlights. We arrived by bus around 11:30 on Saturday morning. The first stop was to get a car; David has one to use at his disposal from a friend. It is not what I would expect from a capitol city. Many people live in houses made from wood, mud, or whatever piece of sheet metal they could find. All the roads aren’t paved and trash is everywhere. We drove through multiple traffic jams since there are not lights or people to monitor the situation.

Next we went to Red Chili to give the payment to secure my spot on the coming weekend’s trip to Murchison Falls. (If you google it you will find out about it). Its basically the #1 game reserve in Uganda and has all the keynote species. I will be leaving for there Friday morning and returning Sunday night, so don’t expect any new messages during that time. I am very excited because the trip includes a game drive on the reserve, a trip to the top and base of the falls, as well as a launch to ferry up the Nile to see hippos and crocs.

From there we ran a few errands David needed to do and decided to drive to Entebbe. I did land here, but was unable to see any of the city. He took me to the Ugandan Wildlife Education Center to see some of the species living there. Out front was a troop of wild vervet monkeys that are very habituated. They came up very close and made for some good pictures. I saw lions, hyenas, shoebills, and many antelope. Right next to this is the Jane Goodall Institute which was exciting for me to see. We decided to stay there for dinner and had fried tilapia caught fresh from Lake Victoria. The restaurant was right on the beach and it was beautiful. We ended up driving back to Kampala for the night and stayed in a cheap hotel. (My room had a bit of a cockroach problem).

The next day we decided to take a drive East. We passed the National Stadium, the Sugar Cane Factory, the Coke Factory and lush, green countryside. We ended up in Jinja, the town known as the source of the Nile. There was a place people were launching for rafting trips we stopped to look at. Here life presented me with an option that I did not realize the impact of. I could stand by and watch others participate, much like I have been doing this trip, or suck it up and experience Uganda. Little did I know taking that leap of faith would make me feel so alive and force me to realize the experience I am currently living.

1..2..3 BUNGEE! I strapped in and bungee jumped myself into the source of the world’s longest river. The free fall was amazing and thrilling and scary all at the same time. I splashed into the water head first up to my waist and shot back out in a split second. Once the cord tightens and you realize you are ok, the adrenaline rush is like nothing I have ever felt. (I’m sure Em can relate being a fellow bungee-er) Today I became an active participant in this trip. I’m deciding what I get out of it and taking home an experience many people don’t get to have. For the first 10 days my mind was at home, counting down the days until my return. While those waiting for me there are not forgotten or any less loved, my focus is now on my trip in Africa.

Love you all!

Transportation

I know a few times I have mentioned the car rides in Uganda. However, after this weekend I experienced all forms of transportation and would like to give you all a more detailed account of the experience.

First we must list the “guidelines”:
1. Stop signs are really more of a request than law
2. There are no speed limits, but please reduce from 120 km/h (89 mph) to 80 (55) in town areas
3. The biggest thing on the road has the right of way
4. You must be an aggressive driver
5. Horn must be used as excessively and obnoxiously as possible
6. You are only too close if you hit

Secondly we need to discuss the road, or lack thereof, situation. So far I have come across two paved (I use this term lightly) roads; the main highways. Calling the shoulders abrupt would be an understatement since they drop off unpredictably and quickly. Every road has potholes so deep and wide my Hyundai’s airbags would deploy if I hit one. Where there is no pothole there is an attempt and rehabilitation (aka construction). This leaves the paved roads looking like a patchwork quilt. Most roads are dirt with the same pothole situation lack of space. People drive on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road than Americans. It typically has 2 ½ lanes. One goes one way, the other goes the other and in middle there is what I call, the “free for all” lane. If you feel the need to pass someone, you may half enter this lane and speed by the car you pass in hopes you get over before the car coming at you hits you.

Boda Boda

This Ugandan creation looks like a cross between a moped and a motorcycle. Most have just a single cylinder from what I can tell, but the must pack some heavy torque to carry the loads they do. These are driven by the Boda Boda men and a helmet is a luxury. They will put anything on the back to take their passenger. Giant bunches of matoke (green bananas), bundles of sugarcane, up to 3 people, and I even saw someone holding a goat while riding. They drive on the road when they can, the “shoulders” if they cant and are fearless. They will squeeze through the tiniest passage way and weave in between cars as if they are invincible. This is the cheapest and quickest way to get around short distances.

Matutus

Type A: the first kind of Matutu is the non-stop version. This are mini-buses that can hold 14 people and take you from point A to point B. These drivers are the most aggressive and horn-happy on the road. They also have some weird hand signs they flash each other when they pass on the road. Its not always the same and I haven’t quite deciphered it. They also have an unusual way of using their blinkers. It appears to me they turn them on at random times and sometimes when not even changing lanes. They also don’t consistently use the correct light for the direction they are going. After three hours in this, I had a very sore bum and tingly feet.

Type B: the second version is the stop-and-go. These minibuses have a specific route they follow but will pick up or drop off anyone anywhere. You wave at them from the side of the road and the driver pulls over. These are usually overstuffed and it takes a very long time to go a short distance.

The Bus

This was my first taste of transportation and I must say, I wasn’t pleased. A typical tourist bus is jammed with people and must be at least twice its capacity. There are 3 people in every two seat section and one sitting on the armrest. People are packed in between the aisles standing, sitting around the driver, and again standing down the stairs. You cannot move an inch in any direction. In case you are wondering, no this is not legal. However, when you stop at the checkpoint with an officer, simply bribing them with your cash will get the driver on his way. These will also do catered drop offs and pick ups, but barely slow down enough for the people to get on and off. At every stop locals run to the bus carrying armloads of goods they hope passengers will buy. Again, standing for three hours on this “people-mover” was not the most pleasant experience but we arrived safely in Kampala.

Others

There is always the option of walking but for long destinations it is unreasonable. We traveled to Kampala which was 170 km (117 miles) away. You can also get a car. This costs $90 a day to rent and does not include any gas.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hbari!

Well nothing to really report. Tomorrow I give some snake presentations and then David and I are headed to Kampala for the weekend. Shopping and finalizing trip plans (more on that later). I am alive and well. Thanks to everyone for messages. I love them and they help me feel connected to home. Miss you all!

A Different Culture

Disclaimer: Not for the Weak Stomach

Typically when a dark cloud of insects descends upon a community, all the doors are closed and windows locked. The main goal being to keep the flying critters out! Here in Africa there are flying ants. Basically, the look like overgrown ants with dragonfly wings. Recently, a small swarm came to camp. They are attracted to light, so I put the lantern outside as Yvonne had suggested. She then told me not worry when people come to my door. The bugs die as soon as they get to close to the light. Once the swarm has moved through with its survivors the natives come over to the places where they have died. It is here they collect the bugs in order to remove the wings and eat them. (The wings not the bugs). This experience drove home the point I'm not in the States anymore!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Another Day

Tuesday July 25, 2006

This week I am working on the Snake Sensitization Program. It is a compilation of the snakes likely to occur on the sanctuary; how to identify them, are they poisonous, where to go for help, and basic first aid. It is supposed to take me 5 days to complete. I have already had the first draft looked over, so just a few changes and it should be ready. Now I know I am out here as a volunteer and need to be flexible. I don’t know a lot about snakes, but I have learned and even brought books with me I thought would be useful. So my resources were my books, a book on South African snakes (?!?), and the internet. I put together the best thing I could with this information. But David says it lacks fieldwork. Since most of the herdsmen and rangers speak Swahili, I can only talk to them with an interpreter (David). So they went through and picked out some snakes they have seen. This was helpful because it added some to the list, but I was a little wary because some the species picked out were not found on this continent (they were eliminated). The only other solution would be to go out looking for snakes. This is where I have some problems. I do not want to go looking for these things. I just put this thing together telling people how to avoid them, why would I want to go searching for them? Some of them are quite dangerous. We are at a bit of an impasse on this but whatever. I think this is the time where I pay my dues. We work in a little office barely big enough for one person and I don’t get to see much this week except for my walks.

Next week I will start on a project working with the local women to make crafts to sell at the craft store on the grounds. Naturally there will be others there to help translate but meeting them will be pretty interesting. I have a lot of down time, so when I’m not walking, I read. So far I have finished three books! I only brought four so I guess I need to ration my reading a little bit. Alright, I guess its back to work. Love and miss you all!

Life at Ziwa

Monday July 24, 2006

Since I have some spare time at the moment I thought I would give everyone a little glimpse to exactly what life is like on the sanctuary. Ziwa is actually an area of land owned by a cattle rancher. When the project was looking for space to breed the rhinos he was contacted and generously donated use of some of the land for free for the next 30 years or so.
Henceforth, there are over 2500 head of cattle on the ranch. My house is in very close proximity to all three of the overnight paddocks. During the day (6:00am-5:00pm) the cows roam the area. Throughout the night they often talk to each other. There are goats, horses, and donkeys on the ranch. So should I be out for a walk, I’m likely too encounter many of these critters.
I share the house with the Education Officer David. My room is about the size of dorm room, but it does have a light. I have a bed that my single size sheets are too big for. It has a huge mosquito net over it and a pillow that is smaller than a cat bed. But it works and typically I just sleep in there any way. We are awakened every morning around 6:15 because a giant gong behind the house is rung several times to wake up the herdsmen.
We have a bathroom with a working toilet, sink, and half of a shower. (Half of a shower means it has “tiled” walls, a concrete floor and a big faucet one-third of the way up the wall). Usually there is hot water. There are four of us that share the hot water from a giant tub in the back that is solar heated. The power is solar as well, but it is only used between 6:30am – 9:00pm. Otherwise you are in darkness. The lack of power doesn’t really matter except it denies you Internet access and charging the laptops. There are no electric appliances. (Scott you would be out of a job, though I’m sure they could use some help since the wires for lighting are just glued/painted to the walls). So that means no oven, no washer of any kind, no refrigerator, and no t.v. (which was expected, but I’m having Law & Order withdrawals). We have a kerosene stove to cook on and kerosene lanterns at night. Later today I even plan to take my clothes to the laundry. Which is a big tub in the back by the horse paddock.
But the scenery is beautiful and after it rains, the sun comes out and brings the flowers to life and the butterflies are like nothing I have every seen. There always are birds singing and chatting. Occasionally the vervet monkeys even chime in. Wild duiker and oribi run through camp every now and then, and the skies are beautiful. The clouds move so quickly and the sun shines through to create enormous rays that look like arms of the angels reaching down to earth. The color of the sunsets covers the spectrum. Every shade of blue, yellow, orange, red, pink, and violet appears. There is no shortage of trails to take a quick walk and always a companion to join you (be it human or animal). The people are friendly and quick with a greeting whenever you pass by. What it lacks in technology, it very much makes for up in the setting. Miss and love you all!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Today I Met Joe

My morning started off rather typical. I got up, made some Ugandan tea (which I am addicted to)and settled in to read my book. Newfie (a dog here) came in around 9:15, so we went for a walk around the backside of headquarters. I am trying to get a walk in every morning and evening and so far so good. (I may have overdone it yesterday though because I walked to Lugogo swamp in search of hippos. I didnt realize until I returned it had been a 4 mile hike in scrubland). I washed my boots, made some lunch and again picked up my book. I am working on a snake identification project so I went to ask Yvonne (the director) for a print out of instructions. It was then I discovered the owner of the ranch we are on was here. He comes about once a year and stays for two days or so. His name is Joe. He came over to visit me and see how I was. We chatted for awhile and he gave some wonderful words of encouragement and suggestions for keeping myself sane. It gave me a completely different outlook on being here. I cant help but think some greater force (be it fate or God or what) that brought him here on this particular weekend. As we talked some more I discovered he had spent many years in the States and three of them in Seattle at Boeing. How coincidental?! He took a liking to me and invited me to go with him and Yvonne on his private viewing of the rhinos. I was so excited I slipped in my muddy sandals running to get the camera. (No worries, no injuries to report!) It was a crazy drive in 4WD mode, but we made it. We had to hike another 15 minutes or so, but then saw them in a clearing munching happily on grasses. They were four white rhinos and I got teary when I saw them. It all became so real. I snapped a lot of photos, and this one isnt the best, but it was in .jpeg so it could be loaded easiest. My outlook on this trip is definetely turning up. Love you all!

The Rhinos

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Picture from the Boma



This is aggrivating. More pics to come...

My Stay at the Boma

FYI this blog is out of order and should be before the Mzungu one. Sorry!

Well I have finally made it. The plane ride was exhausting, but luckily completely uneventful! By the way Aunt Barbara, they speak French in Belgium. I walked through customs with two backpacks on, pulling two rolling suitcases and found a gentleman with a sign that read KIMO ADOTH. Close enough I guess. He threw my things into his Jeep and began to drive. Even though I have never been in a New York City taxi, I think they drive more under control than this guy. He was not afraid to let you know you were going to slow, and you weren’t too close unless you hit.
So far its been a little rough and I didn’t expect it to be. But I’m sure (I hope I’m sure) once I get to the reserve things will be better. Its hard to stay stable minded when you are alone in a country and have no idea what time it is, but you are waiting for 9 am. Since my flight didn’t land until 10:10 pm local time (IT WAS 71*) and the Sanctuary is a three to four hour drive away, it was arranged for me to stay in a “hotel.” This place is not what I thought. It’s a cute little place, but there is no phone (I had to pay my driver to use his cell to call Mom & Chris to let them know I made it), and I am currently writing by the light of a lantern because electricity tends to go out. There are dogs barking outside my window and I just can’t get used to sleeping under this big net (no canopy beds in my future). Well that’s enough feeling sorry for myself, I’m going to try to get some sleep. Here’s to an exciting tomorrow.

Written July 20 4:23am

The Mzungu Has Arrived

Hello everyone! There has been a power problem the last few days so I have been unable to use the Internet. I am going to be adding here a couple of times a week. I have reached the Ziwa Sanctuary. I got here on the 20th via another car ride that was quite scary. It happens to be a Market Weekend so everyone Fri - Sun off. This has made it a little odd since no one is assigned anything. I did manage to bring some of the NW with me. It hadn't rained here in almost 6 weeks. A few hours after my arrival it was a downpour. It rained the next day as well! I am working on getting some pictures uploaded and will hopefully have some to show soon. I will also be checking my comcast email account if you want to send a message there. I am adjusting much better and am looking forward to my stay here, though it is much more primitive than I imagined. Nothing super exciting to report yet. No animals sighted (aside from the plethora of birds around). I hadnt realized the compound shares its space with a cattle ranch so that has been interesting as well. The rhinos that were landing here around the same time as me have had their journey postponed due to illness and plane problems. We are all hoping they arrive before I leave. Miss you all! Stay updated!

PS Mzungu is Swahili for white person.. of which there are 2

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Beginning

I'm sitting in the airport in Portland waiting to board my first flight to get this thing started. I will fly from Portland to Chicago, Chicago to Brussels, Brussels to Kenya, Kenya to Entebbe. All together it will take about 26 hours to get there, so I will land in Entebbe around 11:30am Wednesday PST. (Uganda is 11 hours ahead) Until I arrive at the Sanctuary I will not know for sure the extent of my Internet access. It should a few times a week, so have no worries if you don't see a post for a couple of days. Ok, my plane has arrived and the Flight Attendants are making their announcements. Wish me luck! I am taking everyone's warm wishes and kind words with me on my voyage.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Few More Days

Well it is the morning of July 14th (1:50 am to be exact) and I am sitting at the computer. I leave for Entebbe on Tuesday and land there late Wednesday night. If you do not know, I am headed to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Nakitoma, Uganda. I will be there for about a month as I return on August the 17th. I am going to be helping re-establish Black & White rhinos back into the wild. I plan to update the blog a few times a week so every can keep track of me.

Despite the overwhelming relief of having my house finally put together (thanks again Michelle & Bec), I still can not sleep. Constantly running through my mind are thoughts of what I may encounter in Uganda and the experciences I will have to share. I have everything I'll need to for the trip (physically if not mentally) but still feel like I am forgetting something. I recieved an e-mail a few days ago from the director informing me I will "be landing with my bum in the butter!" (It's an expression in Holland I'm told). Basically some rhinos previously in captivity are arriving at the Sanctuary from Disneyworld around the same time I am. These will be the guys I get to help usher into their new surroundings. So for now I will head back to bed, but watch for updates and please feel free to leave comments! Love you all