I am more than half way through my PULSE assignment and I was allowed and encouraged to take time off. Federica (the PULSE volunteer from Italy) and I decided to travel around Uganda. We were so blessed to find a kind, Christian tour guide named Alex, Great Hills Tours and Travel LTD http://greathillstoursandtravel.com/ and see places such as:
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary http://www.rhinofund.org/
Murchison Falls National Park http://www.murchisonfallsnationalpark.com/
Kidepo Valley National Park (since the Kidepo Valley borders South Sudan, we were advised to fly in, but we traveled into Kidepo via Gulu to Kitgum and then from Kitgum to Kidepo. The other road was the eastern road and we used the northern circuit. We did not go through the Karamoja region due to the high travel risks) http://www.ugandawildlife.org/explore-our-parks/parks-by-name-a-z/kidepo-valley-national-park
Mount Elgon National Park http://ugandawildlife.org/explore-our-parks/parks-by-name-a-z/mount-elgon-national-park
Grade 5 Full Day Extreme White water rafting down the Nile River http://whitenilerafting.com/
As we traveled around, our accommodations were not exactly as I expected. When I think of vacation and “touristy” places, I think about hotels like I am accustomed to in the USA. Not expensive hotels, but 3 to 4 star hotels. Well, this trip was not like that at all. Some accommodations were better than others, but I found all of them to be challenging at first. I will not and do not apologize for my thoughts and feelings. Simply, it was not what I am used to. For example, sometimes we had running water, sometimes not, sometimes we had hot water, sometimes not, sometimes we had solar power, sometimes no power at all and sometimes we had internet and cellular phone service and sometimes not. Then there was the toilet situation. Some rooms had a self contained bathroom, but not all. We sometimes had to go outside of our room to use an outdoor toilet and shower with a bucket of water. While here in Uganda, I have used a variety of toilets and showers. There are of course the obvious outhouse style toilets where you go into a small shed, squat and it is a hole in the ground. There are also toilets in the ground that will flush, but you don’t sit- you squat. I have taken a few showers by using a cup and a bucket of water. However, I will say that these challenges made me look for the good in each place. Otherwise, I would have stayed frustrated. First of all, since I haven’t experienced safaris and staying in national parks, I did not know what to expect or what not to expect, but I learned a lot. Federica had done some of these excursions before so she explained to me as we moved from place to place, that it was quite normal and that most alternatives were extremely expensive. And come to find out, she was right. With her plain candor, I accepted it all as it was. And after a few days, I finally reached a place emotionally where I wasn’t so bothered about the things that had bothered me at first. I began to accept things as they were. Also, as far as I could tell, every place we stayed was clean- and that goes a very long way. Each place seemed to give us the best that they could and so I was grateful. I am sharing my honest thoughts and feelings in this post. I am truly thankful that I got to see the things that I saw in the parks, the hiking and the people in the villages that we had a chance to meet as we moved around the country. We got a flat tire as we moved through one village on our way to Budadili and the people were so excited to see westerners. They wanted us to take pictures with them and invited us into their homes and gave us each a bunch of bananas to enjoy. It honored them so much that we visited with them and I was so honored that they wanted us to see their homes, take photographs and share their food. Ugandans give their very best and go without (truly) to make their visitors happy. I have experienced this the whole time I have been here so far.
On another note, jobs are so few here and education is taken very seriously. Schools are in session 6 days per week and start around 730 in the morning and go until 5 pm. But even college graduates are working the most minimal paying jobs IF they are fortunate enough to have a job. You really cannot know how bleak it is here unless you are here. I am posting some pictures to do my story as much justice as possible. Thanks for reading and allowing me to share. I was told over and over from previous PULSE volunteers who had worked in Rwanda and Uganda how much I would realize the good fortune I have to live in the USA. I cannot express how true that is. I already knew it, but now I really see the opportunities that we have that so many others don’t. Be happy and “want” what you already have. “He who is contented is rich”, Lao Tzu.