Hello all. It's been a while since my last post and I wanted to let you all know about my most eventful week. Actually I think it's been more like two weeks now. I've been trying to post this for a while, but the power and internet have had other plans.
Anyway, it all began the Thursday before last, shortly after I returned from my trip to Tanzania. As I may have mentioned, I have begun working with the Travels (cultural tourism) program at Edirisa, where I am guiding canoe treks on Lake Bunyonyi where I live. That Thursday, I went trekking with a group of teenagers from an international high school in Kampala. It was an interesting canoe trek, with a much more high school type atmosphere. Plus many of them came from rich families and were more... lets say sheltered than the other people I had met there. There were definately some interesting people though, inlcuding a half Canadian girl who had grown up in Kenya and a kid from Sudan who had not seen his family in nine years. There was about ten of them, including two teachers, and they had two guards with them, one of whom was armed and the other in plain clothes. I wish I could show you pictures because those last two men looked like they meant business. At the time, I assumed that they were there to guard the students, but it turned out that one of them was the king of a kingdom in Uganda called Batwara. He had been the prince, but recently his father was assasinated and now he is the king. The guards were for him. I didn't find this out until a few days after and I absolutely couldn't believe it. He was such a normal kid. I would never have guessed... I still can't believe it. The worst thing is that the plain clothed guy, who said he was a friend of this kid's father, asked for my number so I could come and visit them in Kampala. I assumed he was hitting on me so I didn't give it to him, but in retrospect that would have been quite a neat connection.
The Sudanese kid who hadn't been home for nine years turned out to be the son of the former President of Sudan who is now dead. I am not going to mention any names, because they are both clearly in hiding. It still feels strange thought that I spent two days with these kids, talked to them, played football with them, and I didn't even know who they were. Maybe it's better that way, though. Otherwise I might not have treated them normally.
Back at Edirisa that Friday, it rained so we didn't get a chance to go into town for our usual Friday festivities. On Saturday, however, me, fellow volunteer Hannah, two student doctors who are operating a temporary clinic at the lake, and Dennis, the first black Mzungu, paddled out to Bushara Island where I had lately discovered a gigantic rope swing. Again, you will have to see the pictures. There is a platform there and the rope is tied high in a tree so that you have to swing out over some land, the reeds and out over the water where you let go and fall into the lake. It was amazing fun.
That night, a pregnant mother turned up at our dock in a canoe with a newly born baby. She was semi conscious and bleeding profusely. The student doctors ran down from dinner and hooked her up to an IV drip, and wrapped her in blankets to protect her from the cold. The placenta had not come out and they tried to help her, but were worried about tearing an artery, in which case she would have bled to death. The called the only ambulance in Kabale to come out to the lake and pick her up. The slope from the lake up ot the road is very steep with make-shift dirt steps that make you out of breath at the best of times. In order to get her up to the road, we had to use a door that the guys had found somewhere. We all helped to carry it up the crazy slope, those who could not reach part of the door pushing the people who were carrying it. We were exhausted when we finally got up there. After some time, the ambulance, an old white van with the Red Cross symbol on the side, zoomed around the corner. In a hurry to turn around, it drove off the road and down the slope. Had it managed to stop a foot later, it would have tumbled all the way down to the lake and probably been destroyed. We all stood there frozen in shock as some of the local guys attempted to push the ambulance back up to the road. It lurched a few times and threatened to run them over. Then finally it was back up. After it turned slowly and carefully, we loaded the woman in and her friend with the baby and they left at top speed to Kabale Hospital. We gathered all the blood-soaked blankets and burned them and Caroline, one of the volunteers, bleached the door and the dock. Blood contact is not a good idea in Africa.I am happy to say that the midwife at the hospital was able to get the placenta out of the woman with little difficulty. She stayed at the hospital for a few days to recover and then went home with her baby. It was definately an intese evening.
On a happier note, on Sunday after church, we started up a Mzungus vs Muchigas football (soccer) game. The pitch at Bufuka is totally uneven, with half of it at a 45 degree upward slant, and all of it uneven with holes and patches of grass. It was really fun though. We played for hours, and of course the Muchigas ran circles around us. We managed one goal, scored by Tomaz, one of the student doctors, and even when we recruited Dennis and Comfort, both of whom are honourary mzungus, we were unable to get ahead. The game ended, with all of us stiff and exhausted, when Comfort took a ball to the face and ended up with a bloody nose. It occurs to me how lucky we are to have doctors around.
Last week around Wednesday, a group of about ten new volunteers arrived and about six left this weekend. The changeover has been fun. And sad, cause some of the people I have become friends with are now gone and chances are that I will never see them again. In honour of the week, we had an open mic night at the lake. We had some people read poetry, tell jokes and stories, sing, dance, etc. It was a very high energy and fun atmosphere and we all had a really good time. I took a bunch of footage with someone's camera and I plan to get a DVD of it to bring home. I won't try to capture it here cause there is no way it will be the same. A couple of highlights were a Kabale rap done by the volunteers from Teach Inn, the mzungus from the lake trying to do a traditional Bachiga dance, and Comfort dressing up in drag and doing a strip tease with Caroline. After that, we had a camp fire where we danced to the locals' drums and music and sat around talking for ages. I had a great talk with a new volunteer, Linette, who is from South Africa. There are a lot of interesting people who end up at Edirisa. Sometime after midnight, a bunch of people decided to go skinny dipping. I opted out cause I was just getting over an ear infection (once again someone got well thanks to the doctors) and I didn't want to push my luck. In any case, it was a late night for everyone.
On Saturday night, in honour of many people's departure, we went out to the local bar, Match and Mix, where we drank Waragi (gin made from bananas which tastes beyond aweful) and danced to popular local and American music. Then we slept on the floor of the Edirisa hostel cause there were no beds left. In the morning, I left on another canoe trek with 8 of the new volunteers and 2 Canadians who were along for the trip. We had a really fun time, although a few of us were quite tired (and possibly a little hung over). I am well versed enough with the trek now that I feel like an actual guide, which was enjoyable. I even got paid a little money for this one (40 000 shillings which is a bit less than $30. 'mrich!)
I also got to know the new folks a little better as we talked and sang in the canoes, trekked up a mountain and visited several villages and communities around the lake. Every time people leave, I think the next people are never going to be as fun as the previous people were. But they always are. I can't wait for the next couple of weeks.
I know that was a lot of info, and if you guys got through all of it, congratulations. The internet has been tempermental lately, but I will do my best to update you again soon. As always, there is more to say. I hope you are all enjoying your summers back home. I can't wait to see you all in six weeks when I get there.