Winding Down

So, I have a lot to post about, I know.  My week-long hiatus has been a busy one and only periodically had decent internet, but I’ve accumulated a fair number of posts that need some pictures.  On my last day in Kigali I saw some pretty eye-opening things, Lake Bunyonyi was really pretty, and I got to celebrate the 4th with a lawnful of Americans.

All in all, it’s been good.  I got to meet a lot of people and see a lot of things.  I’ve spent over 500,000 Shillings – but I blame Rwanda and modes of transportation for that bit.  I’ve also spent about 32 hours on buses and 2 hours in an NGO vehicle (going to add a good 5 or so to that figure today).  I’ve spent four nights sleeping in hotels, two nights sleeping on buses, and one night sleeping in George’s bed.  I’ve been on too many bodas to remember, and a handful of matatus to boot.  But!  The Lira>Gulu>Kampala>Kigali>Nyamata>Kigali>Lake Bunyonyi>Kabale>Kampala>Lira sequence has almost run its course.

Hopefully I’ll toss up a few blog posts soon enough and you can look at pictures.  Happy Fourth of July to all you American readers out there! And happy 4-5/7/10 to everyone else.

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Rwanda: Take Two

So, today was my second try and doing things in Rwanda, and it turned out to fail just as much as yesterday did.

Yesterday, I was delayed several hours and planned poorly in regards to money.  Today, well I planned poorly in regards to today being National Day.

My plans for today included a post office, two hotels, a couple of matatu rides and two memorials.  I did almost none of these things.  After stopping off at Bourbon Coffee Shop for some internet and eggs, I headed to the post office.  First of all, the post office is no longer there even though my map is relatively new.  Second of all, the post office – had it been there – was closed for National Day.  So, giving up on mailing things, I walked down the street to see if a well-regarded bookstore, the Libaire Caritas, was where it should be.  It was, but it wasn’t open.

Not to be bested by a public holiday, I set out to… wander.  I was going through the sort of second-guessing bad-thoughts about what could’ve been had I left Gulu earlier or taken a different bus from Kampala, but after some moping I sucked it up and went to a tourism center to ask if the Kigali Genocide Memorial would be open on a public holiday.  The tourism guy told me it was definitely closed, but said if I wanted to try I could go and monetarily persuade them to let me in.  Tried, but never even got around to it before being told to come back tomorrow.  Bummed, I thought about the odds of the Nyamata or Natarama church memorials being open and instead decided to visit the Hotel des Mille Collines (of Hotel Rwanda and An Ordinary Man fame).  After sipping an expensive soda at a really fancy hotel, I talked to one of the clerks who told me the churches might be open since they were out of town.

So, I set off to check in at a hotel and drop some weight off before heading out to Nyamata.  I had originally been unsure about how many nights I’d be in Kigali, and when I decided on staying another night I thought I’d try the Hotel Kigali instead of the Auberge les Caverne (where I stayed last night) because it seemed just as nice but a lot cheaper.  Except it didn’t exist anywhere along the road it was supposed to be on.  Defeated, I headed back to Auberge…. which was full.  I ended up finding accommodations at the Hotel Garden City, which cost even more than Auberge – ironic. no?  After checking in I pretty much collapsed on my bed and fell asleep after about 5 hours of walking with two bags on my shoulders.  Woke up annoyed by my nap, but determined to make it to Nyamata.

I was determined and juzzed for the trip, and booked it to the bus park at Nyabugogo.  Arrived, tracked down the matatu I needed, and got in.  It was less than half-empty (see that pessimism there?).  So I waited and waited.  While waiting, I started playing out numbers in my head.  It was almost 5.  It takes 30 minutes or so to get to Nyamata.  I didn’t know how frequently buses went from Nyamata to Kigali.  I didn’t even know if the church was open.  After racking my brain of scenarios that included waiting for a matatu in an unfamiliar town where nobody speaks English after dark, I lost my mojo and bailed.  Went to a fancy restaurant run by a Belgian expat and then booked it over here to the coffee shop.

Tomorrow has been planned thus: Breakfast.  Bank.  Kigali Memorial.  Bus to Nyamata or Natarama.  See chosen church memorial.  Bus back to Kigali.  Lunch at New Cactus.  Bus to Uganda.  I sure hope it all works out.  At least I got to sip a coke at the Mille Collines today.

The Land of a Thousand Hills

So, after sitting on a still bus for about 2 hours and then riding from Gulu to Kampala in 5 and then sitting at the Jaguar bus station for 4, I made my way to Kigali!  I signed up for the 1am bus and there was also a 3am bus, and I ended up leaving at 2 so I don’t know if mine was late or if it didn’t exist and I took the 3 early?  Whatever.

The bus rolled out of Kampala and I fell asleep soon after.  I woke up around 4.30 in the morning to a really cold wind.  Apparently my window had a chunk missing from it, and wind was whipping in at me.  After freezing for a while, I grabbed both of my bags and my second shirt and tried to keep myself as warm as possible.  Starting then I had a very on-and-off sleep schedule until we got to the border.

The border crossing went like this: everyone got off and went to check out of Uganda. Then everyone walked a ways to the Rwandan immigration office to get stamped. The bus arrived after getting checked, then unloaded everything to get inspected. Then we all got back on, bus reloaded, and we were on our way.  I continued to sleep on-and-off, until I realized that the bus had broken down. We were at some obscure intersection in northern Rwanda for at least an hour I think, and then suddenly we started moving without any announcement so I don’t know.  When we finally arrived at the bus park one of the staff apologized to me for it being late.

From there I embarked on a trip oddly reminiscent of that Monday in Kampala.  Apparently, even the main branch of the Banque de Kigali doesn’t take traveler’s checks.  I was hoping to finish mine off on this trip, so I didn’t bring as much cash as I had planned on having.  In the end I withdrew some from my debit card which was kinda lame, but now I have some Rwandan franks to run around with for a couple of days.  Rounded out the evening getting a bite to eat and some internet from Bourbon’s Coffee Shop at the Union Trade Center.  From there I booked a room at the Auberge le Caverne, a hotel tucked away on a major road.  The room’s okay – has good points (two beds and a table, with a 3-channel TV, and breakfast is included!) and some bad (smelly bathroom and some more bugs than I’d like).

Tomorrow I’m going to do as much as I can and then I’m trying to decide if I’ll hurry back to Uganda then or spend another night in town here.  The to-do list isn’t that long, but I really want to see the genocide memorial in Kigali and maybe try to see the ones in Nyamata or Natarama.  Other than that there are some little things to do but I’m not sure if it’s enough to warrant another day or not, plus I don’t know when the buses leave for Kabale or Kisoro.  Things to look into, for sure!

North to South

So, the passed day or so since my last post has gone more or less as planned, though with some delay.  Last night, almost immediately after I updated this blog, I met JACOB.  That’s right, I met Jacob.  For those of you not as intrinsically hopped up on Invisible Children, Jacob was one of the four boys that the IC crew met on their very first trip.  He had escaped Kony’s ranks and was in hiding in Gulu with his brother.  His story and his resilience are a huge inspiration, and meeting him was really exciting.  I didn’t want to be one of those starstruck types (like I was in San Diego in 2007) so I quickly went back to my own thing at the cafe.  But when I got ready to leave, Jacob offered to walk with me to the office the next morning!

Spent the night in a small but decent room.  Woke up really early to get things ready and headed out to Kope Cafe to meet up with Jacob.  We walked for a while before Richard rode by us on a bike!  Richard is an IC mentor and, specifically, Tony’s mentor.  Tony (another boy from the first film) and Richard came to Arizona this passed spring as a part of the Legacy Tour.  After we made it to the office, I met up with Jessica, my contact, and we had a long sit-down talking about the different programs and going into some of the specifics about the way they work.  After talking for a while, I had a look at the local IC store and nabbed myself a messenger bag! Totally awesome. I also got one of the famed yellow bracelets which you can only get at the office here.  Awesome.

From there, I went and checked out of JoJo’s before heading back to Kope Cafe for a bit.  I made a little bit of progress uploading pictures, but was ultimately foiled in updating anything.  But!  As I was getting ready to pack up and thinking about finding the bus park, Alison texted me that she’d be in Gulu.  Happy to join a friend, I agreed to head to her favorite Ethiopian restaurant in the country.  Said goodbye to Jacob and walked with Alison to Abyssinia and had Ethiopian food for the first time (that I can remember).  It was actually pretty good!  The injera takes some getting used to, but all in all it was pretty good and I’ll have to make it a point to visit the one by ASU when I get home.

From there, Alison and I walked to the bus park where she met up with her ILF crew and I found a bus to Kampala.  A very empty bus.  Buses usually don’t leave until they’re full, and I ended up waiting for almost two hours for the bus to get moving.  Part of this time I passed reading, and part of this time I spent outside (I saw the ILF truck pull over nearby so I went to chat with Alison and her co-workers [both of whom had tried teaching me to dance at the ILF party] after getting some biscuits).  Then!  We moved!  And five hours later we arrived in Kampala and I had no idea where I was.  I made it to the Jaguar bus station and now I’m waiting for the 1:00am bus to Kigali.  I should make it to Rwanda around 6 or 7 I think, and arrive in Kigali at 9.  But that’s if I believe them.  I’ve heard it usually takes at least a couple of hours longer than that, so we’ll see.

Acholiland

So, adventure week has begun.  It’s off to a rough start but it’s on.  This morning I packed up and headed to ACF (where Erik works) and met up with his coworker Maxwell.  There was a huge mix-up with cars and we ended up having to wait a lot longer than I would have liked.  Originally we were supposed to take the Lira car to Gulu while the Gulu car went to Kampala, but for some fun reason the Lira car went to Kampala so the Gulu car had to drive over and pick us up and then turn right ’round and head back.

Needless to say, we got to Gulu a bit late.  Invisible Children had just closed, so I talked to my contact there and I’ll be going to the office in the morning.  I wandered a little before making my way to a hotel that I found in my travel book and got the last room.  It’s not bad, except I’m sharing a bathroom, but that’s not a problem for a $12 room.  From there, I headed to a cafe I had heard about and that’s where I’m hunkered down for now.

Tomorrow morning after visiting the IC office, I’ll probably head out soon after.  I figure Gulu is an easy trip for a weekend in the future, so I want to move forwards (i.e. south or southeast) as soon as possible.  Since I’ll be en route home next weekend, I’m also debating visiting the U.S. embassy for the 4th of July!  I’ll keep you updated.

P.S. – I have quite a few posts in the queue to be posted, but I want to add pictures and my internet connection just isn’t letting that happen.  Hopefully I’ll get those up for you to read and see soon enough.  Sorry!

AdventureWeek

So, tomorrow Stephen and I are going into the field with Jeoffrey to oversee a program in one of Lira’s sub-counties.  It’ll probably be an all-day affair and it’ll be nice to get involved in the community doing…. anything.  However, immediately afterwards I will be faced with a huge decision.  Hope told me that there will be nothing to do next week and that, if I had other things to do, I should.  So I’m looking into how many hours I want to try to clock in at Nadja’s orphanage and I’m looking into just how many kilometers I can cover in seeing Uganda.

For the last week and a a half I’ve been thinking about going to Gulu with Alison (and recently going to Murchison Falls with Alison). Things got a little shuffled around and she’s going to Murchison tomorrow while I’ll be in the field.  Kind of a bummer, but I think I’ll be alright.  For the passed month I’ve come up with a fairly comprehensive list of what I’d like to see if I had the means and the time.  This week I will be trying to cross a few things off the proverbial Ugandan bucket list.

Now, even some of those who know me might not realize how dependent I am on other people.  I’m not very good at being alone, and I’ve been struggling with this idea of being the only one in my group doing what I’m doing.  I kinda clung to the Penn girls while I was in Kampala (I was going to try to go rafting with them, if you recall) and after Monica and Nadja left I veered right at Alison for company.  I’m not uncomfortable traveling alone, as marked by my hours of walking around Lira alone immediately after arriving, but there’s something undeniably nice about being with someone who is at least a teeny, tiny bit like you.  I knew going into this that I’d be going solo a lot.  Heidi reassured me that going on a trip by myself would be empowering (and I believe it).

So the point of this post is this: I’ll be moving around next week.  I’m trying to arrange some time to go the Invisible Children office.  Part of me wishes I could have gone sooner, due to that desire to be with others and the fact that the S4S winners and some staff were in town (I’m hoping there are some stragglers still in Gulu).  But last night I also came across a realization via Erik and Alison: I could do more than go to Gulu.  I could go to the southwest.  I could go to Rwanda.

If I had to decide right now, I’d probably go to Gulu, then to Kigali by way of Kampala, then back through Kisoro and Lake Bunyonyi and find my way on up.  But I have some thinking to do.  There’s also an Eastern Uganda trip with Sipi Falls staring me in the face. Or I could cut Rwanda out and spend more time at Lake Bunyonyi. And a nice trip would take me northwest to Arua and Hoima and maybe to the Rwenzori Mountains. Lots of thinking.