My sister said something really wise in the comments yesterday:
I totally get the "don't want more luxury" - in some ways it might help you see Africa "from the inside" because you'll really notice what the other tourists you're with don't - they'll be the magnifier of what Africa isn't. It will also help with your own re-entry culture shock - which is always way worse in my experience the the other way around.
That really expresses what I'm feeling -- trying to find my way through the thicket of muzungu to something of the africa I know already, and find my place. I find myself telling guides I'm canadian but a little bit ugandan, that I have 51 ugandan kids. It's a way into the stories that are a little different than the typical tourist ones. I had a great conversation yesterday with a (ugandan) who works for a democracy advocacy group in kampala -- amazing young man -- and we will connect about our work. One thing I'm really realizing is that "educating" the kids isn't enough -- Uganda needs a sense of development and entrepreneurship, to build things that are not there, beyond "good jobs." One of the "aha's" that seemed a blinding flash of the obvious this trip.
Last night, eating the fanciest dinner I've seen in a while (this really is a beautiful lodge, perched on lake edward, across from the DRC, savannah and woodland and forest and riverland), a hippo came up and grazed 10 feet away from where I sat. They eat really loudly.
THis morning, I turned down the $200 hire car for the early morning game drive and paid a ranger $10 to take me for a walk instead. He came equipped with a gun and boots and a lot of knowledge. It was magic -- hyena tracks, many buffalo, waterbacks, hippos further down in the lake, warthogs, many many birds, elephant dung (7 kilos typically) that resembled my own production of my sick day. Many stories about the fishing villages in the park, the salt factory abandoned after Amin banned its german owners from coming back, and they'd never taught any locals to maintain the pipes. The corroded pipes started leaking salt into the lake and killing fish and birds.
I liked my guide Ben, a lot -- he's from the east, the same place our new director is from, and he's as straightforward. We talked a lot about what it's like to live in the bush as a ranger. Like so many ugandans, he's looking after someone else's children -- his brother's two kids. Toward the end of our walk, he told me the story of his other sister's son, who was kidnapped by the LRA (the Lord's Resistance Army, the rebels in the north) and made a soldier at 15. The boy = Alex -- escaped one night when they were raiding cassava from someone's garden. There were four of them who escaped, with two guns, and they hid in the bush and the LRA didn't find them, even though they stepped on his foot. They found women slashing the grass for thatch, and persuaded them to take them to the police. After two weeks in a rescue camp being interrogated by the Ugandan army, they were returned to their parents.
No one really understands what the LRA wants -- they are violence for violence's sake -- but there are peace talks going on, and the ICC is involved, and Uganda is, right now, more peaceful than it's been in many decades.
After that story, we went on, naturally, to what it takes to immigrate to Canada, and marrying a canadian as an option. I told him that in canada, men can marry men and women can marry women, and he asked me point blank if I'd been married to a man or a woman. This was the first time I'd been directly asked that question in Uganda, and I decided to leap in. "A woman," I said. He was nonplussed, very confused, and said many times "I wouldn't want to marry a man -- what about human urges?" We finished our magical walk through the woodland, high above the blue lakes, with him wondering how two men would get a child.
Then I came back and ate a fancy breakfast while yellow backed warblers danced on my table.