(Sorry I didn't post this sooner - the wifi here is super spotty and not a good signal at all. I couldn't get it to upload!)
Jambo! from Nairobi, Kenya!
Ha, that's literally as far as I got today with the update. That was at 6 this morning. And it's now 10:30pm...
This always happens. I start out with every detail from the first couple of days, at some point I miss a day, and by the end I don't even write anything!
This might be short. But I feel like I say that a lot and it ends up being another novel...
Anyways, the flight was delayed last night. That's pretty much been the norm here. And on top of being delayed because the incoming plane was late, once we were all boarded (and I was already half asleep), the flight attendants were trying to kick a girl off the plane across the aisle from me. Apparently she didn't have the right paperwork or something to get a visa in Kenya. They are really sticklers at that airport (Joburg) about this I guess! She argued with multiple people for over 30 minutes and refused to get off. I would have done the same thing. I don't know if these airline workers know how easy it is to get a visa at the airport when you arrive? Ibe done it in both Kenya and Uganda and no one has ever questioned me. That's what you do. You get there and you get the visa! They finally let her stay - I don't know how or what happened because I was half conscious - but she won. Good for her that she got to go. Bad for me and everyone else that had a tight connection in Nairobi.
I slept on and off the whole flight. (Oh and I got all my bags on with no issue!) There wasn't anyone next to me and I had the window seat so I laid down and got comfy. I didn't even wake up when they came around and served food. Who wants to eat at 3am anyways??
Somehow we ended up making up the time in the air. I can't figure that one out because we were almost two hours late taking off. And still landed in Nairobi on time around 6:30am. I think the flight was only like 4 hours or so? So I was exhausted and felt half alive when we landed.... I've got to get some sleep at some point on this trip.
Had to go through TWO security check points just to get to my gate. Thought that was a bit overkill just for a transfer / connection?! And Nairobis airport was just as I remembered it: crappy. For being the "gateway to Africa" or whatever they call it, they sure have one awful airport.
I found an info desk and paid for an hour of wifi, bought a bottle of water, and went to my gate. For the THIRD security check to get in to the gate area. Jeez...
And when I went through, they pulled out the water bottle - still sealed - that I had JUST bought at the shop right next to the gate. They wouldn't let me bring it in!! Not happening. I'm fighting this one. I mean I was really nice about it because I e been feeling awful about how rude I was to the a-hole on the plane in Zimbabwe yesterday. I don't want to be like that. It was just the combination of everything that had just happened and he was so nasty. But either way I should have just apologized and let it go. Whatever. Moving on. They said it had to be sealed. I said it was. They said not like that - it had to be in a certain bag and blah blah blah. Fine. I left all my stuff on the conveyer belt, walked back out to the shop next door and said I needed that water bottle sealed. They had to go to another shop to put it in a clear bag and like shrink wrap it and mark it duty free. So absurd. But I took it and walked right back through with it and smiled politely as I held it up to them. Then ripped open the bag right in front of them and trashed it, haha. That's the dumbest rule I've ever heard of!
Once I got inside one of the Kenyan Airways workers saw my giant backpack (I think my shoulders are bruised already from that thing) and said this was a full flight and a small aircraft and the bag wouldn't fit. Ugh. I seriously was too exhausted to put up much of a fight. I pulled the "medical stuff for my foot" card but when I saw the airplane out the window knew it really wasn't going to fit. It was like one of those United Express airplanes. So I rearranged some stuff and took my food bag and malaria meds out, made her PROMISE me that there was no way the bag would be left behind, and let her have it.
I think I had all of two minutes to sit down before we started boarding for the hour and a half flight from Nairobi to Entebbe. We had to walk out on the runway to get on and I was so happy I saw the worker carrying my backpack right over to the plane. I know it will me it...but I don't know about Boma the hippo, who had to stay in. He's wrapped up in clothes so here's hoping.
I had another window seat and I was so tired, I must have instantly fallen asleep. It's not uncommon for me to fall asleep before we take off. It's something about the buzzing sound of the air I think. But I always wake up when we take off. This time, I randomly woke up as they were delivering the food. And I was so confused. Why were they delivering food when we hadn't even take off yet? I thought something had gone wrong. Until I looked out the window and we were thirty thousand feet in the air. Ha, can't believe I was so out of it! I quickly ate a croissant and the yogurt they gave me and went right back to sleep. Didn't wake up until the jolt of the wheels hitting the runway. Guess I was tired!
Random, but two things I've been very thankful for this trip: 1. My ability to sleep on planes. That has saved me. And 2. My crazy curly hair -- that I usually curse. It's done me well this trip. No wash, no style, just let it go. Doesn't even matter if it gets soaked swimming or from waterfall spray or from sweat. Still looks the same.
Moving on... :) Landed in Entebbe around 10am and you could tell it had been raining. I hobbled down the stairs off the plane and along the runway, and some presumable Canadian guy who sat in front of me and kept looking at me when we were getting off finally caught up and said, "Canadian?" No, American. Oh, but you have Lulu on (pointing to my Lulu Lemon headband. Umm,yeah, we have Lulu I'm the U.S. Haha. Then he wanted to ask me about my foot and did i do it skiing? Do I play soccer? He was really getting quite annoying and wasn't taking the hint that I was just trying to get all the forms filled out to get in to the country...
I swear, it's like signing your life away to get in to places these days. There were three forms to fill out here in Uganda. And they had the most extensive Ebola screening yet. I haven't said too much about the Ebola thing because I know it freaks people out and I'm tired of people telling me how stupid I am for coming to Africa right now. But there are more confirmed cases of Ebola in the U.S. than there are in any of the countries in southern and eastern Uganda that I'm visiting. Either way, there was a long questionnaire you had to fill out and then there were stations before you could really get very far in to the airport with nurses wearing surgical gloves and face masks. They asked me questions, looked me over, and took my temperature! I was pretty surprised it was so much, but better safe than sorry (or sick) I guess!
(In Zimbabwe yesterday they came on and sprayed down the entire airplane with some sort of disinfectant WHILE we were all sitting on it. And in Botswana they had some tray thing you had to step on to disinfect your shoes!)
I got my Visa with zero issues after that. Just like I told the airport worker I'm Joburg that I would! No questions. Just $50. :)
I was one of the first few through all the paperwork (even with the Canadian trying to distract me! ;) ) so I didn't have to wait in line at all. AND both my backpack and huge black suitcase - which was all wrapped up in plastic wrap) were just coming by on the luggage carousel when I walked up. Score! No waiting makes me happy - especially when I'm operating on not enough sleep. :)
Just as I was heading to the exit door...the power went off in the whole airport! No joke! Haha. That was a first. It came back on just a minute or two later, but people were definitely freaking out.
I had confirmed with a guy named Moses that he would pick me up outside this morning. He has driven Beth (director of ThinkHumanity) before and she said he was great. I actually confirmed everything with him three times. Just to be sure. But it was all via Facebook. So when I walked out the front doors and started scanning all the signs people were holding for my name and didn't see it...I wasn't pleased. I kept standing there, right in the middle just barely otiside the door. Refusing to go any further because I didn't want any of those guys yelling "yes miss, taxi?" To grab my bags and go. Then all of a sudden I saw a white piece of paper shoot up from the back of the group with TERRI scrawled on it in blue marker!! Moses!! I was so happy. He pushed his way up front to push the cart for me.
and then I remembered I was supposed to look for this other guy - an English guy that had been corresponding with Jim (Beth's husband) and needed a ride to Hoima too. I hadn't seen any white guys laying around at the luggage carousels. But it only took one quick look outside to spot the one other white person - a young guy with a backpack. His flight had landed at 3am and he had been waiting for me since!!
Sean is doing his masters in Post-Conflict resolution or re-integration or something like that and he got placed in Kyangwali camp for 8 weeks to do reserach. So he will be hanging with me until Jim arrieves and we get to the camp.
In the car, I literally was struggling to even talk I was so tired! I yawned between every other sentence. I felt bad, but just couldn't do it, haha. I need my sleep!
We quickly stopped at a little money exchagne place for me to geet some Ugandan schillings, I hopped in the shop next door to ask about a SIM card for my iPHone and they looked at me like I was crazy. Guess thats not happening! And then we set off or the equator! I found out just a couple of days ago that the equator runs through 13 countries...Uganda being one of them! And on th map it didn't look to far away from Kampala. So I sent Moses a facebook message and ased if he could take us there. It's completely in the opposite direction of where we needed to go, but with no real agenda for the day, he said he could take us.
So rainy season has just started here. Awesome. Didn't know that one. That means the roads are even worse than normal. And the mosquitos are everywhere. Anyways, Moses tried to miss the traffic of Kampala by taking a "shortcut" - which turned out to be a ridiculously washed out red dirt road...for like 45 minutes. Ugandan massage he called it.
All I wanted to do was sleep but the bumpiness was out of control. And I had to pee on top of that. Not sure why I didn't go at the airport, but I couldn't hold it anymore, so I asked Moses if he could stop for me. He said, "Oh yes, okay, will be some minutes." And I was like no, just pull over. Anywhere. I'll go in the bush. He was shocked, haha. But I actually prefer going out there than in a nasty bathroom, standing in urine and feces over a hole in the ground. No, thank you. I'll take a tree or some bushes any day. :)
We finally reached the highway to the equator - which meant I could finally sleep. About an hour later, we pulled off the road and there it was. The Ugandan equator - marked by a yellow painted line and a statue thing.
I've officially been in both the southern and northern hemispheres at the same time!
Okay this was shocking to me. Did you know that the water actually spins to the right in the southern hemisphere, to the left in the northern hemisphere, and goes straight down with no rotation on the equator!? I mean I was never any good at (or interested in) science and physics, but I thought that was a myth or something. But sure enough, they did it right there. Three buckets of water, one on each side of the line and one on it, and it worked. Pretty cool. And what I want to know is how in the world did they figure that out? How many times did they have to move that bucket to find out just exactly where the equator was? ;)
We decided we better grab some food while we had to option, because we had one heck of a drive ahead of us. When we looked around at the few restaurants there, of course we had to eat at the one with the equator line going right through it. And I sat in the chair with the line right under it, haha. I mean why not. How often do you get to eat lunch ON the equator? ;)
Sean and I ordered our food, and knew it was going to be awhile, so we said we were going to go walk around the shops and would be back soon. We were the only ones in there, and she said it would "be 5 minutes" - which I knew meant at least 20.
Of course I found something I wanted in every single shop. Pants and dresses and candle holders and wooden bowls and paintings. Ugh. It was har to walk away, haha. But I decided I would eat first and then whatever I still felt like I couldn't live without I would go back for.
We went back to the restaurant about 20 minutes later...and still no food, haha. I ordered pizza and Sean had some beef stew over rice. Mine was pretty good. Massive pizza, but good. Had a few pieces...and then went back to do my buying / bartering.
I really wanted a dress, but the lady would not budge on the price. I mean it was a nice dress and well made, but I didn't want to pay as much as she wanted. So I got a loose pair of pants and a really cool hand painted candle holder, and called it good. I was debating this hand carved wooden chair that actually came apart in two pieces and I could have made it back home with it. It was just beautiful and only around $50, which is a steal, but I just couldn't not fathom where I would put that thing or when I would use it. So I didn't get it. And I have so much African art work already, and bowls galore. I was okay with my two purchases. :)
Then we set off for our destination: Hoima. We were in the south eastern part of Uganda...and we needed to get to the northwestern part of Uganda. 6 hour drive, depending on traffic. Which was actually fine with me. All I wanted to do was sleep, and since it was all highway, that's just what I did. All covered up. No ac in the car and it was hot, so I had to have the window down, which meant I had to put a head wrap on to keep my hair from going nuts. And I had to have sunglasses because it was bright out. And lastly I had to have a scarf wrapped around my nose and mouth because since the window was down, the diesel exhaust fumes from all of the vehicles (no emissions control here) were enough to choke you to death. I looked like a mummy! But I slept.
I kicked off my shoes and boot (the smell -- oh my goodness...) and woke up a couple of hours later - somewhere past Kampala - just sweating to death. I mean soaked in sweat. It is so damn hot here!! And stickiness like you can't believe from the rain. Yuck. Sean was asleep in the back seat, and Moses was on his phone, so I decided to just change clothe right there in the front seat next to him. I was dying. Didnt care, haha. So I peeled off my tight skinny jeans - glued to me with sweat - and reached for my new comfy pants I had just bought. And of course thats when Moses got off the phone. He looked over at me, looked down and my naked legs, and asked if I was okay, hahaha! Yeah, sorry, just hot, needed a breather! Moses just kind of shook his head and went back to driving. :)
I was so much more comfortable in my new pants and dozed on and off for the next few hours. There ar speed bumps in every little village we went through that you have to slow down for. I think that's why its so slow going. And along the way in one of the villages, we saw the bus that I took the last time I was here. Man, the car is SOOOO much better. That bus was brutally long - stopping every 10 minutes to let people off or or, and getting swarmed by people shoing meat on a stick in your face through the window. No thank you. I'll pay 20 times the price for private car any day.
It sprinkled on us on and off, and we made it to Hoima around 6pm. Moses took us to our hotel, The Kijungu Hotel. When we were checking in, they told us it would be 180,000 schillings for each room, so I asked if we could have one room with two beds in it instead. I'm cheap, and so is Sean. But they wouldn't let us. Of course they said they were all full...and I knew they weren't. I pushed it several times, asking him to check again. There are only like 20 rooms here and no people, but he wouldn't budge. Whatever, it's not that much money, but half as much is even better.
Emmanual and Joshua were there waiting on us. I remember Emmanual from last time, but Joshua is new. He replaced Jonas, who I loved. But they're both great and it was so nice of them to come greet us.
They took us to our rooms - we're on opposite sides of the little courtyard. The rooms are fine. Maybe a 1 star in the US. Maybe. Haha. Hey, there's a bed with clean sheets, 4 pillows, a mosquito net, electricity, and a bathtub with a hot water heater. That' a HUGE step up from staying at the hostel like last time, so I'll take it!
Emmanual had been traveling today, too, so he went home, but I told Joshua I needed to take a shower and then really wanted to go to the hostel to see the girls. I've been waiting to see them for two years now. I had to go. Tonight. He agreed and said he would be back in an hour to get me. (Yea, right.)
So I went to my room and kind of unpacked (Boma the hippo made it in one piece!) and took a quick cold-ish bath... didn't mind it one bit. You are just eternally sticky here. The humidity and heat - there's just no point in even trying to shower, haha. I couldn't even really get dried off properly! (Oh and it was a total downpour outside by that point...) But I through some clothes on anyways, and sat outside and waited. No boot tonight. It's too hot and sticky, and that thing smells like you wouldn't believe. Plus it's red mud galore. I don't need that thing covered in that already.
Joshua was an hour late, haha. Shocking. I actuallly went to the front desk and gave them his cell hpone number and asked them to call him for me. He said he was "on his way" - and showed up about 20 minutes later... This africa time takes some getting used to for me. I don't like to be late and am not alwasy the most patient person...but I'm working on it. :)
Sean decided to come along tonight, too, so we sat in thr courtyard and googled places to eat in Hoima while we waited. The first things that popped up were two articles on food poisoning! Ha, awesome. One guy died from it and there was another article about 4 people hospitalied with it! Hoima is not very big and we really could only find one hotel that had a few decent reviews abaout the food, so that's where we decided to go later.
So Joshua finally showed up, with Zaiko, and we walked out to the road to get a "boda" - motorbike - to take us to the hostel. It's like their version of a taxi. This is just what you use to get around. We got two bikes. I got on the bac of one, and Joshua got behind me. Three deep on a tiny bike...on bumpy washed out dirt roads. Interesting. Sean and Zaiko got on the back of the other, and off we went. Only had a couple of close calls, but we made it to the hostel. :)
I was literally giddy with excitement a we walked up. All the girls were in the study room taking an exam, but Joshua said we could interrupt them. When I walked through the door they all gasped and giggled. Of course I was scanning the room for my Immaculate, but I didn't see her right away. 30 girls with th same haircut was hard. But all of a sudden I had two arm wrapped around me and a head buried in my chest...screaming. Haha. It was the coolest thing ever. She eventyually let go and looked up and grabbed my face and smiled the biggest, most gorgeous smile I've ever seen, and then went in for another tight hug. :) I might have had tears in my eyes.
Several other girls came up to hug me, and then they all sat down and Joshua led me up front to talk to them. I asked how many remembered me, and of course they all shot their hands up in the air and screamed yes. Sean said I was like a celebrity, haha. I talked to them for a little bit, told them how happy I was to be back there, how proud I was of them for working hard and doing well in school, etc. It's just sureal to be standing in front of a group of 30 refugees who think you're the coolest thing ever. ;) And then I asked them to sing for me. They have voices like angels, I swear. Might have teared up again during the song...maybe.
It was pretty cool to finally see them - or most of them - sitting at tables! The last time I was here they had NO furniture. They all sat on the cement ground, hovered over their books or food or whateer. Which was just unacceptble to me. So I sent the money for 3 big tables and six benches. And they look great! I thought 5 would fit on each bench and that would be enough. But it's not. It's more like 3 on each bench. So I definitely will be sending more money for two more tables and 4 more benches. I mean, come on, you can't sit on the hard floor to eat and study! That's not okay...
Before I left, I showed them my facebook cover photo for the last two years. It's a pic of me with them. And I told them I needed an update. So they all lined up for another picture. I didn't bring my big camera with me, so it's only iPhone quality, but I'll take it. Love love love these girls. :)
From there, Sean and I took our own boda to the hotel we had googled, and ate the buffet.
Motoke (cooked banana - not good), goat stew, rice, carrots, chicken... It was all pretty good. Really hoping for no food poisoning, haha.
When we were ready to leave, I asked our waitor if we would be able to get a boda on the road out front. He asked us where we were staying...and neither on of us could rememer! Ha. Not good. Thankfully Sean pulled out his room key and it had the name on it. Kijungi Hotel - I knew that! Anyways, the waitor said he would come with us to get us one. So nice of him. And thankfully he did come because when the people saw two white kids they wouldn't stop for us! We finally got a guy who said he would take us for 2,000 Schillings - which isn't bad at all. Less than a dollar.
Back at the hotel, we sat in the courtyard and chatted. Shared lots of travel stories -- Sean has some good ones. He and some friends got a van in Morocoo and drove the entire western coast of Africa in six months - when he was 19!! (He's 23 now and still a travelling fool)
I don't even know how this picture happened, but it's a pretty good representation of the night. We both have some pretty good stories and had each other cracking up the whole time.
I walked down to the bar at our little hotel to grab some waters...and as I walked in, all 8 heads turned and followed me from the door to the bar, haha. Apparently it is a male dominated bar. They were all drinking and watching soccer...and it got very quiet when I walked in. #awkward
Finally went to bed around 11:30 and was out cold. Fast
Plan tomorrow is to get picked up at 9:00 -- which means 10:30 ;) -- do a well dedication ceremony for Beth at a newer well that is a ways away - that she doesn't necessarily want to go to. And then do some art projects with the kids at Asaba Primary School - one that I visited last time. Should be a pretty cool day!