A Travellerspoint blog

Liminal space

In the kampala sheraton still, noticing how unfettered access to western style wifi plunges me right back into Canada-Cate mode, answering emails with a fierce quickness and submerging in the minutaie of relationship talk with friends. Then the context is whacked back at me by a military style band across the street and down a block, vivaciously serenading someone, in full regalia, but no crowds or dignitaries are visible. So much that is impenetrable.

Off to Kili.

Posted by CateinTO 23:31 Comments (0)


I'm not sure when I'll have internet access again -- I head to Tanzania at noon tomorrow. I'm sure there will be internet in Marangu on Sunday, but then I'll be on Kili for 5 days. Feeling some trepidation at the thought of the mountain, mostly worry about how I'll do having to hike in tandem with an unknown group through the unknown forces of altitude. I'm not sure that I'll be able to do all of the things that I'm told I need to do to acclimatize -- go slowly, climb high and sleep low, etc. And I hear that sheer will isn't all that effective in this particular case. So I'll go off, critical climbing gear on the plane with me, hoping to be in the experience and summit if at all possible.

So much in my head leaving Uganda. Feeling like there is a small groove that fits me here. Genuine connection to people I genuinely admire. Liking who I am here, mostly resourceful and fluid, and wondering how this fits the at-home Cate. Swirling ideas about what makes a person someone not content to be in one place, and how that fits a calm-ish life.

In bed at night, when I'm tired of reading by headlamp, I've been listening to stored up podcasts. This week, it was mostly Tapestry, beginning first with the flurry of Dawkins/Hitchens/Terry Eagleton atheism/religion/evolution conversation. Last night I heard an interview with writer/psychologist Mary Pipher, where she talked about a bit of a quiet and polite crackup she'd had after over-pacing herself doing doing doing. She told a story about having chronic trouble sleeping, while her husband slept easy and deep. As he was falling asleep, she asked him "what are you thinking about?" "Right now," he said, "I was thinking about pie. How much I like pie and how good it is. What are you thinking about?" "The holocaust," she answered.

Alone in the electricity-empty darkness, I laughed out loud. That's me.

Mary Hines asked if she ever thought the holocaust people could become pie people. "No," Mary Pipher laughed. But I think maybe we can learn to sleep better.

Somehow, I'm hoping, I can bring a little bit of the pie-side of uganda home with me.

Posted by CateinTO 12:36 Comments (3)


Many ugandan women wear brightly printed outfits made of awful shiny synthetic fabric, and consisting of a longish skirt and a top with sharply puffed sleeves. Slightly more revealing cousins to the clothing worn by fundamentalist mormon polygamist women.

The doctor we saw had a tendency to deworm every child, just for good measure. I'm wondering if deworming would perk me up.

Minibuses have little mottoes across their top. Psalm 1107. Thank u our jesus. Alleluia. God is Able. I heart Samora. (A brand of petroleum jelly -- Africans use a lot of petroleum jelly to keep skin from drying).

There is a lot of crossover between Rs and Ls. The Cool Bleeze pub.

Resourcefulness. Boys push scooters made entirely of wood. Kids play with old tires and a stick, like victorian hoop and stick games that I had completely forgotten about. A child pulls a toy made of a milk bottle with little wooden wheel stuck on. People on motorcycles wear light jackets turned backward, for the wind break. A woman carries a bundle of sticks for firewood on her head, a hoe over her shoulder, a jerrycan for water balanced on the hoe. Another child carries a jerrycan of water with a green banana stuck in the hole as a stopper. People sit on top of the steers they have herded into a truck to carry to slaughter. 20 people stuffed into the back of a tiny truck, hanging off the sides. "Mode of transport," says Silver, pulling up behind so I can take a picture. I obediently do, and it prompts a man to shout at me. Silver laughs.

Cocky roosters wander everywhere. A girl casually holds one around the neck as she heads for the community hospital.

Uganda has the 3rd highest birthrate in the world, after Niger and Mali. 47.84 births per 1000 people. Canada is 191st, with 10.28. I think that means there are 4 Ugandan babies for every one Canadian. "What's the birthrate," I ask Elinah. "A dozen!" she snorts.

In Uganda, life expectancy is 53. I am dangerously close to being a crone.

Ugandans think shops that sell clothes for dogs might be the silliest thing they ever heard.

Goats are everywhere, sometimes tied, sometimes wandering, sometimes wandering with ties dragging. A goat stands in the crook of a tree.

Coffee trees are as luscious looking as I imagine. I can't tell the difference between a banana tree and a plantain tree, but I'd like to lie in the shade of either of them.

Uganda cows are pointy -- pointy horns, pointy spines, pointy knobby little legs. They're mostly brown and don't look anything like fat North American cows.

Tea plants are pruned to look like bushes. Left on their own, they're trees. Tea tree oil. Huh.

I keep forgetting to flip the switch that enables a power socket, so nothing ever charges.

In the rural areas, women are always working. Many men are working, but many are also just sitting in bandas, scowling at the day.

Derick's final letter to me: "Hello aunt cate. It's quiet absurd that you gonna leave me alone. I wish you would remain and stay together. Thank you very much for the good things you have done for me. I have had a great moment with you. I would like also to wish you a safe journey back home to Canada. May the almighty God bless you forever. I wish you a merry xmas and prosperous new year. Remember to send my greetings to other people in Canada. Lovely letter from Derick."

Here are Derick's greetings and gratitude, along with those of all the other kids, on my final evening in Uganda.

Posted by CateinTO 12:00 Comments (5)

One thing

My biggest culture shock is getting used to not being Auntie here -- white single middle aged female tourist, where the entire room doesn't rise up and run to hug me when I arrive. It's quite the blow to the ego ;-).

Posted by CateinTO 22:29 Comments (1)

Coming out

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.

Posted by CateinTO 22:14 Comments (1)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 41) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 9 »