Tag Archives: Africa

Uganda! Part 3, Rwanda!


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The second half of the traveling week we went to Rwanda.  Rwanda was kind of a rough trip for me. It was one of the hardest parts of my time in Uganda, but also one of my favorites.  I learned a lot while I was there and I think it was one of the most valuable things we did.

We left for Rwanda early in the morning.  It was supposed to be a 12 hour bus ride, but ended up taking close to 19 hours!  I get incredibly motion sick, so I had a pretty hard time on the bus.  The roads were in really bad condition and I think there was a good portion of the trip where we didn’t get above 20-30mph. It was a nightmare!  Our drivers were awesome though!  One guy drove most of the trip, and it was a difficult drive!

After a couple of hours, we made it to the Equator! We got to get out and walk around for a little while.  We watched an experiment about how water flushes.  On one side of the equator, water spins to the left and on the other side it spins to the right.  Right on the equator it doesn’t spin.

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We stopped for lunch at a hotel.  We had a big group of about 35, so whenever we all needed to eat at the same time, it took forever.  We were at that hotel for about 2 hours.  We got to the border around 8pm and it took us a couple hours to get through. After we exited Uganda we had to walk in the dark to get to the Rwanda side.  It took about an hour to get the whole group through and then we had to wait for our buses to get come. That took almost another hour.  Then the border men made us unload all of our luggage from the buses and went through each suitcase one by one.  It took an eternity.  We had to show our passports again to get on the bus.  My professor said it has never been that difficult to get through and never usually takes that long. So, we were really late getting to our hotel room.

We got up thursday morning and went to do some genocide memorial stuff.  It was all really sad and a little overwhelming.  We went to the memorial that had a museum attached.  The memorial had mass graves holding over 250,000 bodies.  It’s crazy to me that they are still finding bodies of victims and have a couple mass graves that are empty that they expect to eventually fill.  It was really sad and I didn’t really feel like taking pictures of a lot of the things I saw. One room was filled with skeletons of victims and another was filled with thousands of photos of people who were killed that were donated by family members.  That afternoon we visited a genocide site.  It was a church where I think between 5 and 6,000 people were killed. Inside the church they had thousands of skulls and bones of the victims that they had collected.  There were also coffins that the guide said held about 100 skeletons each.  It was a very said and overwhelming day.  One of our guides was 2 when the genocides took place.  Both of her parents were killed and she was raised by her 5 year old brother who had to keep them in hiding for a while.  Another guide that was with us lost his entire family.  He was the only survivor and was 16.  He had to hide in the woods for 2 months just living off of whatever he could find.  What I think is amazing is that the people I’ve met have been able to move on.  They are generally happy people. I could not imagine living through that and being able to move and on and have a happy life. I am so amazed by people I met there.  They have suffered more than I could ever imagine and have been able to have happy and successful lives.  They have so much faith and are just really inspiring. Rwanda is beautiful too. It’s a lot hillier and greener than what I saw in Kampala. The difference between Kampala and Kigali is pretty amazing.  The streets are actually well paved and there are lane lines and street lights and traffic signals.  I liked having smoother rides for a couple of days!

Thursday night we ate at the hotel Mille Collines.  This is where Hotel Rwanda took place.  It was nice to end the night where there was a positive ending.  The hotel manager turned the hotel into a refugee camp and saved at least 1,000 lives.  We watched the movie a few nights ago and it was cool to eat dinner where that took place.  They had awesome food and a really great live band and I had a really good time.

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Thursday we got up early and went to a place called Azizi Life.  You can learn more about it here! They arranged for us to spend a day in a village with a family. We were split in to small groups and sent to different villages with a translator.  It was a really great experience!  They gave us skirts to wear and wrapped our head in scarves. I loved getting to talk with and understand these people a little better. We were with two women who were so kind and so happy!  We started out the day cultivating. It was hard work and I didn’t really enjoy it. I can’t believe these women do it everyday.  They are so strong. We then cut grass to feed the cow.  While we were cutting grass, I met a little girl.  I think she was about 4 or 5 years old and was absolutely adorable! She really liked me and was by my side for the rest of the day. I just loved her!  It was really awesome to see that even though we didn’t speak the same language and have completely different lives, we were still able to communicate and become friends!

My Friend

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We also went and fetched water.  The village was on the side of the hill and the water was in the valley, so we had to walk down the hill to get the water, then walk back up.  It was hard.  The water was heavy and some of the pathways we had to take were steep and narrow, and the women we were with do it multiple times a day.

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After this we had lunch.  We ate avocados, cassava and beans.  I really dislike avocados, but I didn’t feel like I could turn them down. I’m very proud with myself that I ate the whole thing, but it didn’t sit well with me, so I felt a little off the rest of the day.  lunch

I also met a little girl who knits. She had two tiny little sticks as her knitting needles and was a hundred times better than me.  I tried to get her to show me her work, but she was so focused on knitting she didn’t have time for my pictures.

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After lunch, some of the other groups and their hosts came to our village and we were taught to weave.  It was actually just braiding, but the materials were really cool. They use sisal plants to get the string and it was really cool to watch them get it and dye it.  The colors were so bright! I got to make two bracelets.

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While we were waiting to start weaving, some of the kids and women started jumping rope, and were having a great time!

This lady is 50 years old and was having a blast!  I love the joy they have in their life.  They talk about how incredibly blessed they are but they have so little by our standards.  I just feel like I need to learn to be as grateful for what I have as they are for what they have. After weaving, all of the women started singing and dancing.  It was really fun to watch and the little kids were so cute when they joined in.

We left and went back to the hotel.  It was our first night of down time and it was good to not have anything to do.  We were able to relax and hang out for the evening.  I got sick that night, so I was able to fly back to Kampala the next morning.  It was just a 45 minute flight, so a lot better than a long, bumpy bus ride.

I had a great experience in Rwanda.  It was harder for me than I expected, but I learned so much and had so many great experiences!  I need to find a way to go back!

Uganda! Part 2, Safari!

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My third week in Uganda was my favorite!  We spent the beginning of the week on safari and then spent a couple days in Rwanda.

I had the best time on the safari!  It was a long couple of days, but I loved it!  We left monday morning at 5:30am.  It was about a 5 hr ride to Murchison Falls where we were able to get out for about 15 minutes and look at the Falls before hurrying to catch a ferry to cross the Nile.

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My friend Jessica and me!

Right at the ferry was a really nice resort where we had lunch.  It was right along the Nile and we could see elephants drinking from the river while we ate.  We had about 45 minutes after lunch to hang out at the pool at the resort.  It was so beautiful!  Right outside the entrance we saw and elephant and some baboons!

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After lunch we went on a boat ride on the Nile.  We saw a lot of hippos and warthogs and a few crocodiles.  The tour lasted about 3 hours and we went to the bottom of the falls that we visited earlier that day.  It was so beautiful!  Pictures do not do it justice.

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Me Nile

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After the boat ride we went on a game drive.   We rode in big vans with pop up roofs so we could stand and look out the top or climb out and sit on the roof!   There were also railings around the top so we could climb out and sit.  By the end of the day, I had a layer of orange dust on everything! We didn’t see a whole lot of animals that night.  We saw a couple elephants and a lot of antelope and warthogs.  We were expecting to see a lot of giraffe, but we didn’t see one until the second day.

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The resort was a lot further away than we expected. Our driver, Jeffrey, was in a hurry to get to the hotel, especially after the sun went down. Jeffrey was a crazy driver and we hit a python, porcupine and bunnies while we were driving.  The resort we were going to was supposed to be a 5 star resort, but the road we were on looked like we were probably the second car to ever use it. It turns out they took the back way to the resort so we could have a longer game drive.  All of a sudden we made a turn and the hotel was right in front of us! Our hotel was AWESOME! We had a really great dinner and sat on the balcony to eat. The hotel was right along the Nile and we could see a few huge hippos along the side.  Later that night we were leaving our room and there was a hippo literally right outside our door.  It was massive and kind of scary.  We were on the second floor so we watched for a little while and waited for him to move a little away to take a picture. The guard said he’s seen them charge people and was chased himself, so we definitely kept our distance.

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Apparently this resort was Kony’s hideout.  He and his men would come and take over the resort to hide out. That made it kind of creepy to me, but it was still beautiful.  It shut down for a while, but was recently reopened and renovated by a Japanese businessman.  I guess the beds in Asia are super hard, so he put those kind of mattresses in the rooms.  It was like sleeping on the hard floor, but I was so tired I feel right asleep and I don’t think I even moved all night.

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The next morning we left the hotel at about 7:15.  We went on another game drive on the way out of the park which was a bit more successful.  I finally saw a giraffe, so I was really happy!  It took about 3 more hours to get out of the park and we saw a few more animals.  We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant and made it back to Kampala that evening.  We were leaving for Rwanda early the next morning, so I spent that night packing and getting some rest.

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Uganda! Part 1

Uganda

I thought I’d spend a few days and recap my summer in Uganda.  I went with the political science department at BYU for about 2 months to work on research.  My whole experience was so crazy! Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I even went.

I traveled to and from Uganda with my friend Jessica.  We had a long layover in London and got to leave the airport for a few hours! We visited Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square before eating lunch in a little underground restaurant.

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We arrived in Uganda at about 8:00am. Our friend Alfred picked us up and drove us to our apartment in Kampala.  We lived in an area of Kampala called Ntinda. We lived in a little walled in complex with a guard. He had a loaded gun, but only one bullet.  If he shot that bullet, he had to pay for the next one, so it was incentive not to shoot unless he had to.

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We spent the first couple of weeks exploring Kampala and working on my professor’s research. One of my first nights there, we visited the Muslim Mosque.  This Mosque is the second largest in Africa and was built by Gaddafi as a gift to Uganda.  We also climbed the three hundred and four stairs to the top of the minaret to see the city and the beautiful sunset.

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We also visited Idi Amin’s torture chambers at the Mengo Palace of the Bugandan Kingdom.  It was kind of a creepy place, especially when you think of all of the horrible things that happened there.  Hundreds were crammed in to each room and the bottom was filled with electrocuted water.  Many died of asphyxiation, while others chose the electrocuted water or were killed by Idi Amin’s soldiers.

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One of my favorite nights was when we went to the culture center right down the road to watch dances.  The show lasted about 3 hours, but I loved every minute of it! They went through the different regions and cultures in Uganda and performed dances from each.  The dances were amazing!  I was so impressed by the performers and their stamina!

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We also got to spend some time at a local deaf school.  My professor’s son was planting a garden there for his Eagle Project.  I went one evening to help pass out cookies and glow sticks to the students.  It was a great experience!  The kids loved the glow sticks and were so friendly!

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I can’t believe I got back from Uganda 5 months ago! It still doesn’t feel like I really went! Part two and three will recap the safari and Rwanda trip and will be up in the next couple of weeks!