A Travellerspoint blog

November 2009

In kampala

(blog site was down)

I’m wakeful and hallucinatorily asleep at the same time.

Last year my flight to Entebbe felt like an adventure in itself — this year, it felt like a plane ride. Partly the slight familiarity of it, and partly that the crowded, overheated BA flights and a rapidfire turnaround at heathrow didn’t have the same air of cool other-wordliness of boarding the more serene, shinier KLM planes. Traveling with Blair also made it more like something I was doing routinely — chatted about life in general, his day in london, work pressures, my lovelife, rather than the more rarefied conversations about What are You going to Africa about. Last year my conversation with the african american prof from syracuse who was going to africa for the first time was an awe-ful stage in the journey itself.

My air of familiarity was reinforced by this being Blair's first trip to africa, although he was the one who figured out which passport line we should be in. $50, fancy stamp, not even a question about why we're in Uganda. Shameful amounts of luggage poured off the belt (the kili trip is a trek in an of itself, complete with camping gear and winter garb).

Gabriel picked us up, and even if I wouldn't have recognized him without his little sign, it felt good to get out of the airport to be greeted by someone we know. The drive into kampala felt interminable, but again, lacking the plunge-impact of last year -- darkness pocked by bars or restaurants, the acrid smell of cooking fires and exhaust, barefoot people walking by the side of the road, erratic swerving of lorries and boda bodas.

Finally at the City Royal hotel, dead on our feet, I had my first sense-memory of what’s different here. My accelerated pace is so visible here, so clear in relation to the soft slow drawls of uganda action. I was reading a text about The Other, and having a conversation about otherness with my online group... and I realized that “Other” for me is partly about race, privilege, etc, but here, it manifests in pace, and having to reframe my initial impatience at “absurdly slow service in hotel” to “people welcoming me by showing me the best they have.” The welcome is the bone, and where I am reminded to fix my gaze. Not on the huge bottle of KILLIT bug spray prominently displayed in my room in case it’s needed.

Posted by CateinTO 19:39 Comments (3)

So en route

At pearson airport, after an intense, overloaded week,quesadilla consumed and glass of shiraz half drunk... finally relaxed after running, it seems, in my sleep.

The intensity of the past week made me realize that I am simply doing too much, and I have to trim (maybe hack) at some things, things I love doing with people I care about. Too many nodes to do any of them really well. That's the sub-current of this trip -- to get some clarity on what those things are while flying, driving, walking -- if I can think clearly through the haze of malaria drugs, altitude drugs, dust, nausea and motion sickness tablets.

And, on this brink, suddenly overwhelmed with giddiness at being with the kids less than 48 hours from now. I had a little exchange with a little girl on the streetcar today, about her hat and my hat (purchased rapidly at the last minute, after everyone I know who's done Kili told me that they were unbelievably cold on the last day). And realized that my girls and boys in this one pocket of the earth are truly real.

I was surrounded this week by people who helped me and encouraged me and scaffolded me into getting to this moment in the airport -- special kudos to sonya for shouldering so much of The Project on her own, Danny for stickhandling so much, and Renee, Lee, Modo and Bennett for bolstering me up. ANd to B for her stellar packing and airport-dropping off skills. No thanks to the teeth-grittingly irritating move of my property manager for changing the locks on my apt while I'm gone, but things are in motion, and I'll deal with that when I get back. Love you all.

And off I go.

Posted by CateinTO 16:53 Comments (0)

Update on the boy

I left the entry from a couple of weeks ago hanging a bit, I realized. The basics are that the boy who is in Canada doesn't have a permanent solution to stay here -- so we're going to need to bring him back. But for a lot of reasons, the woman for whom guardianship in Canada has fallen to and I decided that it didn't make sense to bring him back with us this week -- we feel his re-entry should be an occasion of its own, with the right supports, not crammed into already-overcrumpled logistics.

And I think, more than that, we're hoping that some better solution will turn up for him, someone whose life will be enhanced by having him around, can support his formal education and learning how how to be in a family.

So R turned up a foster family who support older kids, often from other countries, and they've taken him on for a couple of months. We'll keep looking for a more permanent solution for him until his extended visa can't be extended anymore, in February. And meanwhile, while we're in UG, we'll work on a re-entry plan, educational support, etc.

There's nothing here but a lung-bruising sigh, really.

Posted by CateinTO 15:27 Comments (0)

Is the hokey pokey a mission?

Pamela asked me what our mission on this trip is. Strangely hard to answer for me -- of course, to see the kids, to make sure things on the ground are what they are supposed to be. I got some good advice from an Ethiopian cab driver yesterday about not getting the wool pulled over my White do-gooder eyes. (He was a lot nicer than that ;-)). He told me about a kids' home he knows about in Addis that was rife with corruption, etc.

So yes, at the most pragmatic level, it's about checking in, making plans for the next year, connecting with our partners in country. And of course, it's about the kids -- the kids that really do live inside me, both avatars of some higher purpose and hope, and individuals that I want to hold close to me, let them touch my arms and crazy weird hair.

One thing I realize I haven't done in prep is to come up with some good games and songs -- I realized last year that I don't know ANY (duck duck goose, barely; hokey pokey -- and was reminded that the boxes-on-the-head lady previously written about was STELLAR at leading songs and games). [BTW, I really really love it when people comment on this blog -- so if you have a chance to make suggestions for songs and games before I go, I'd be most grateful!]

Really, the songs and games are about a way to be with the kids in some concerted way, where everyone gets to be part of it. Fun at some level, and just simple connection in another. So that's the kids... and then for me, there's a big adventure portion.

Every possible kind of adventure, really -- connection with the kids for just over week, then a day in a nearby game park (the same place I saw elephants from the road last year), then a trip to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. (Could there be a better name?) I'm reading a book about some gorilla folks who followed Dian Fossey's work, and it turns out that Bwindi was separated from the bigger park that borders Rwanda/DRC/Uganda about 120 years ago by homesteads, and the population of mountain gorillas in Bwindi now a kind of island, and about half the total number of all of the mountain gorillas in the world.

Here's what wikipedia says about it: The park has about 340 individual mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. A 2006 census of the mountain gorilla population in the park showed that its numbers had increased from 320 individuals in 2002 to 340 individuals in 2006.[20] Disease and habitat loss are the greatest threat to the gorillas. Poaching is also a threat. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species, with an estimated total population of about 650 individuals. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity. In the 1960s and 1970s, mountain gorillas were captured in order to begin a population of them in captive facilities. No baby gorillas survived in captivity, and no mountain gorillas are known of that are currently in captivity.

Bwindi is also apparently a stunning example of biodiversity -- and at the end of an arduous road journey. <adding lots of gravol to my travel pack> My guide seems to be named Silver, and my lodge Silver Back, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to forego Lee's request to nibble the ear of a little gorilla for her.

After the gorillas, back to Kampala, then more tedious travel (Kenya airlines, even) to Kilmanjaro... when I embark on the least thought-out physical trek of my life. I just swallowed the nauseating Dukoral (anti-cholera and travellers' diarrhea vaccine), but I fully expect some kind of bacterial onslaught, bedbugs, cold feet and altitude issues. And if I can channel the fierceness inside, a summit to match the one my sister and BIL made on NY's day 2003. Then, a long flight back to BC, and a quiet grey Canadian Christmas/New Year's.

My actual dates are:
Nov 28: Leave Canada
Nov 30 - Dec 8: Kasese, with the kids
Dec 10: Gorilla tracking!
Dec 13 - 19: Kilimanjaro
Dec 20: Back to BC

Somewhere in there is some kind of more complex mission, about the fusing of Adventurous Cate and Humanitarian Cate and Hopeful Cate and leap-and-the-net-appears, Cate.

Posted by CateinTO 15:22 Archived in Uganda Tagged volunteer Comments (3)


I dreamed last night that I was in Kampala and there was a Taliban-like religious coup. I was trapped in a hotel room, hiding behind the curtains, taken completely by surprise, while they herded citizens onto my balcony to Make a Moral Point. One of my colleagues had left to rent a car and drive someplace by herself; the coup-leaders dressed me up like a prostitute (though I was wearing my favourite Danish winter boots) and let me go outside, where I went, with great fear, to someplace where they were rounding up children. It turned out that they were lining up the kids to give them a chance to run through a doorway and possibly win prizes. My nieces appeared, and I woke up.
Clearly, the prep, hope and anxiety is pouring itself through my cells. Emails flying like a calendar-flip time-passing trope about logistics, fulsome panegyrics to our general Goodness and generosity, pleas for more money and laptops, disciplinarian edicts about those Bad Boys who need to go back to their village early for the holidays because they are refusing to slash the compound and will not even practice their songs for the Canadians.
Sprouts of where I’ll be a week from today.

Posted by CateinTO 18:58 Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 6) Page [1] 2 » Next