Some of my experiences in Uganda are still to this day hard to describe. But simply put, it was an incredible adventure and one that left me wanting more. Uganda is extremely beautiful and the people and culture are truly inspiring. Moments like having a Nile Special on the Nile, enjoying freshly picked bananas and learning from the amazing people make up a few of the fond recollections I have.
But, beyond the beauty of the land, the incredible sound of children’s laughter and the many other great experiences, there were quite a few moments in Uganda I would rather forget. Or, in this case look back and laugh at. Oh well, lessons learned. Here are a few ‘funnies’ to share with you and proof as my husband would say that I have worked hard to earn the nickname “Spazzy McGoo”.
Lesson 1. If you have a squirrel sized bladder and are travelling the bumpy roads of rural northern Uganda for days on end don’t drink too much or learn to hold it!
I blame it on the heat. I was parched from the moment I landed in Africa until the moment I left and as a result, drank likely two times the water I would drink at home (which by the way felt very wrong as many Ugandans will never know what it is like to have a safe and reliable water source). Therefore, it wasn’t really a surprise when I pretty much peed my way through most of northern Uganda. However, this meant I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting a large number of village bathrooms. I won’t go into great detail regarding these glorified holes in the ground, rather I will share that I ended up preferring to take the chance of being mauled by a wild animal in order to use a “bush toilet”. I will never take for granted how amazing our sanitation system is in North America!
Really, once the flies cleared out, it was totally fine.
As far as village bathrooms go, this was one of the more decent ones.
Lesson 2. When visiting a bee farm as a bee phobic, stay away from the bees. And for shit’s sake, try not to be so spastic. The locals will laugh at you.
Since a good part of my mission in Uganda included farm visits, many of which were home to bee hives, (a popular income generator for women farmers) it was only a matter of time before an incident occurred. Day one on the field, incident logged.
Trying to get in close enough but to stay a respectful distance from the bees, I leaned in to get these photographs.
Where the hoards of buzzing bastards, I mean bees, lived.
Suddenly my hair started to buzz, and wouldn’t you know it as soon James, a Bomido farmer started to explain the workings of the hive, I was bolting it out of the bee cove, arms flailing, trying to hold in the squeal inside me with a mad bunch of bees ensuring I got the hell out of their space by chasing me 30 yards or so. I didn’t end up getting stung which is nothing short of a miracle as one of my colleagues who also dashed out took two to the head.
In this instance our local hosts were very concerned as someone actually got stung, but many other times, the locals laughed outright at my spastic jump response to the bees.
See normally I can handle bees, it’s really wasps I can’t stand but in this instance I was on high spaz alert. It seemed like with each farm visit, the situations set me up for a battle I couldn’t possibly win. I was surely being tested. For example, one interview location was directly across from an office that had been overtaken by bees. Let’s just say that I may have been a bit jumpy from time to time during what seemed to be the longest three hours of my life. Soooo many beeeeees!
Lesson 3. Avoid fashion faux pas like wearing a long linen skirt to walk through a farmer’s field or a white shirt on an off road safari trip.
During another farm visit, I went a little bit out of the way to avoid the path of the bees and ended up drifting through what seemed to be harmless and overgrown weeds. WRONG. I had found myself smack dab in the middle of burr and spiky plant hell and worse yet was being followed by an village elder. Then the bees came anyway. They must have smelled my fear and knew my plan to escape! The elder told me to quickly lift my long linen skirt up to my knees to avoid the burrs as we tried to make our way out of the field. With the bees buzzing above my head and the outside and now inside of my linen skirt now covered in spikes and burrs I started to get a wee bit frantic. Of course this was the perfect time to note that my knees were burning, I had also run into stinging nettle.
Next, the elder logically urged me to put down my skirt. Of course silly girl! She then took the lead and got me the hell out of there. Then she insisted on removing the hundreds of lodged in spikes from the inside and outside of my skirt. I now want you to imagine that this took place in front of all of my colleagues, and the farmer whose land we were on AND a few of the lovely Ugandans we had interviewed. Oh yes there were also burrs on my undies and the elder had no issue getting those taken care of either. Mortifying. So yeah, avoid linen.
And if you can also avoid wearing a white shirt anytime you are in Uganda, it is probably a good idea. That red dirt has a way of getting onto/into everything and when you are zipping along back roads in a safari vehicle count on white apparel to be ruined – quickly!
Lastly, I am outing one of my colleagues here for their choice of shoe apparel (without revealing their name – you know who you are (my lovely friend), and you also knew this photo would be posted someday!).
Lesson 4. Looking to live blog when abroad? Ensure your computer is SIM compatible before you go as you cannot count on WiFi availability.
An obvious for the smart or technically savvy both of which I thought I was before leaving. Sure I was equipped with a smart phone, an iPad, two cameras, extra memory cards and handfuls of other techie gadgets necessary to write, blog and photograph my way through Uganda. But, little did I know my iPad wasn’t SIM compatible. Now, I did check ahead of time but had mistakenly identified what I thought was a SIM slot .
I moaned over this very large error and lived in regret for too many days. Lucky for me, I had colleagues who didn’t make the same mistake and were kind enough to share with me and found a WiFi connection a few times throughout the trip. Of course this isn’t the end of the world if this happens, although at the time I was super down about it. My advice is to take it as a blessing and spend the time soaking in the experience rather than feeling sorry for yourself (like I miserably did).
Lesson 5. Beware early risers, there may or may not be dive bombing bats raring to say good morning.
Both mornings I woke up at Paraa Lodge in the the beautiful Murchison Falls park were amazing but they also had in common a funny start. You see, at 6 a.m. in December it’s still a tad dark in Uganda, and as a result nocturnal beings are still found to be fluttering about. Cute little bats waited outside of my room in order to provide some early morning excitement. Now you think that with my fear of stinging insects, bats would surely send me into cardiac arrest. Not so. I quite like bats but really wasn’t wanting to have one entangled in my hair.
What ensued those mornings was a mad dash and duck which I am sure resembled a action packed game of Frogger. Oh to be a bystander watching, it must have looked hilarious.
5. You never know. Sometimes being a bit crazy and a bit spazzy can pay off. After crossing over to the Congo (with help from a plain dressed Ugandan officer), I made threw out to the team a ballsy proposal. I really wanted a pic with me and both officers. No one thought it would happen but they both said yes! So, perhaps I also brought a dash of charm to the table ….