Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last Words


Five days more left in Africa. Five days until I board a plane back to the United States.  Sadly this will be my last blog in Africa.  The time that I have spent here has been amazing.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m glad that I took, but all good things must come to an end (The Rolling Stones didn’t get the memo).  I have already taken all my final exams and finished all my papers.  School here is over for me; I am a free man.  Plus, I have only two more days with my family and my bags are already packed.  I am sad to be leaving.  I realized I was sad to leave when we went on our Safari.  There is just something about giraffes running through beautiful open fields that makes you not want to leave, but the time has come and I am happy to be leaving for home.  I have spent the last week thinking about what I am going to do when I get back to the United States and home.  I have already made a mental list of all the places where I am going to eat so hopefully I can start checking off that list as soon as I land.  It is going to be strange though, because the entire time I have been here the weather has been like summer with rain showers.  However, it is obviously super cold back in the U.S.  What a change that will be, but I like winter and it would be nice to be cold rather to be dripping sweat like a broken fire hydrant.  And, it is going to be Christmas!!!!  It is my favorite time of year pretty much. Also, I am pretty happy to be going home to my crazy family, my mother should be busy buying me presents (she is too kind), Lexy is probably singing her heart out with Andrea Bocelli (my sister is a super star!!!), and Lauren is probably kicking sheep (I love you Lauren you kick those sheep).  I am also excited for the next semester at Westmont.  I will beginning my new major in Art (with the intention of focusing on graphic design), and I got all of the classes that I wanted at all the times that I wanted.  It is going to be great.  Until then I shall be here, chilling in Uganda, eating matoke and making African burritos.  Hopefully you all have enjoyed my writings and even if you never go to Africa…at least I did.


           (My Mukono home-stay family)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Amazing African Safari

This past weekend I got to experience the majestic wonders and beauty of  African wildlife.  It was incredible!!!  I got to see so many crazy things!!!  Besides I always love the times when Africa reminds me of the Lion King (after all, for most Americans this movie has been their only source of knowledge about the appearance of Africa).  Sit back and enjoy the ride as I took you through my adventures (let’s be honest most of you reading this are now living vicariously through me…ah yes the world is as it should be):

Day 1


On Friday, we left early in the morning towards the Northern districts of Uganda and to our final destination at Murchison falls.  On the way there we stopped at this Rhino sanctuary which contains the majority of the rhinos in Uganda (there are eight in the sanctuary and only two in Uganda zoos which brings the number of rhino’s in Uganda to a grand total of 10 rhinos…yes they are endangered).  The rhinos were awesome but we caught them at a bad time because they were napping and they weren’t very lively.  This picture was taken during their few active moments (my camera zoom sucks so yes, we were extremely close like about 15 ft.).  Don’t worry though when they did stand up it was most certainly an experience (it scared the crap out of me).  It was funny Holly huddled behind our guides lol.  Chicken.  Anyway we arrived at the Murchison Falls wildlife park and set up camp (we stayed in these awesome tents).  It was pretty cool because we were exposed to wildlife before we even got into the park.  All around and throughout the camp were small herds of warthogs.  One even grabbed my friend Drew’s bag and tried to run off with it (Drew got it back though…hilarious).


Day 2


We woke up at 6:30am to go on a game drive through the park.  We had to get up this early so as to catch the ferry across the Nile where the game park is located.  The first thing we encountered as we stepped off the ferry (keep in mind that the safari hadn’t even begun) was a baboon that proceeded to steal this lady’s lunch.  Hilarious lol hehehe chuckle chuckle.


The baboons just liked to steal things basically as you will discover.  After laughing at the lady, we got into our safari vehicle which had a giant sunroof on it so we could stick our heads out as we drove along.  We then entered the park.  It was so beautiful.  There were so many endless fields of waving grass (it reminded me of Gladiator).  The first animals we saw were giraffes.  These are such majestic creatures; I just want to frolic with them in the sun all day long.  Oh and its hilarious when they run, just because…you wouldn’t understand.



The most exciting part of the day was when we got up close and personal with three lions.  We had been hoping we would see them because spotting them is difficult, but we got lucky.  We had spotted them early in the day but we weren’t able to get very close and by the time we did the lion had run off.  Well, as we were driving along our driver spotted a lion moving through some brush.  The van in front of us (which had our students in it; we were divided in two separate vehicles) went off the road towards the lion but turned around as soon as another vehicle came into view.  Our driver told us this was because their is a fine for being caught off of the roads, but he said, “I want you to get a good picture.”  As soon as the other vehicle was out of sight he took off towards where the lion was seen.  We all cheered him on because we wanted to see the lions up close, so we drive up and there is this male lion lying down chewing on this bone (he was like 15ft from our vehicle) and low and behold a lioness comes ups and sits down with him.  As, we were snapping away with our camera’s yet another lioness came out (pimp).  It was so cool.  There was just three lions chilling out.  After we took a few pictures we got out of there (all of this occurred within a matter of seconds).


Here are a few more of the animals we saw on that game drive:




After heading back and eating lunch (amazing I had a tropical burger, this means they just put pineapple on the side) we went on this boat tour to see the aquatic mammals and wildlife.  We saw hippos…


They spend like 17 hours in day in the water.  They have sensitive like Holly.  We saw a family of elephants by the waterside…


And distant/submerged forms of crocodiles…


We then hiked up to this incredible waterfall that feeds into the Nile…





Day 3

On the final day we had one more game drive before heading back to Mukono.  We saw many of the same animals as we did the first day but we did get to chase around a lion until it ran in front of our vehicle…


and then we ran into a herd of elephants…


Basically this was an amazing time and it was a nice break from school.  Only seven more days until I go home!! Here are a few more pictures that I liked enjoy:






Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving in Africa/Ultimate Frisbee


(Photo by Brian Longmore)

Good Morning folks (Its Morning over here and for you, you are just getting in bed and if you’re my mother than you’re already asleep).  This past week has been quite eventful.  Not only did I have my first ever Thanksgiving in Africa, but on Sunday I also played in an Ultimate Frisbee tournament.  First things first, Thanksgiving.  Well on Thursday Holly, my friend Brian, and I headed up to one of the staff members houses to make cookies.  We did this because, while all the food was being provided for that evening, all of the USP kids had to provide the dessert and oh did we provide it.  We made cookies that turned out to be square-shaped when we took them out of the oven (strange things happen in Africa).  It was fun.  Later on all of us got together on the soccer field and had a good ol’ game of football!!! (We felt very American).  It was an awesome game and in the spirit of Thanksgiving the score was a tie.  Afterwards up we went to Mark and Abbie’s house (our leaders) to pig out on some mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, real vegetables, and African grilled Turkey!!!!  It was funny because all of the edible African fowls (chicken, turkey, duck, dodo, etc.) are all ‘free’ range.  This means that they are super tough and getting meat to come off takes a lot of jaw power.  Fortunately, I got really good pieces.  Holly wasn’t so lucky lol.  The dessert table afterwards was awesome!!! (Pumpkin Pie…mmmhhhhmmm).  Then to finish off the evening we watched Charlie Brown’s Christmas or something like that.


Now to Sunday.  I skipped church.  Why?  Because I decided to worship and be in fellowship with my Ultimate Frisbee teammates as we launched frisbee’s across an epic battlefield as our opponents charged into our ranks.  Yeah lol.  The tournament was pretty amazing we played against six really good teams of intense players.  One team consisted of members of the Peace Corps while others simply consisted of big burly black bodybuilders turned Ultimate Frisbee players.  We had a pretty good record at the end of the tournament.  We lost three and we won three, but we only lost by one point to some of the best teams there (one of which had most of the big burly black bodybuilders).  Some of the highlights included several amazing catches, slides, scores, and plenty of awe inspiring plays from Davis Rideout (domination).  Oh and I tackled some guy in midair.  Not only was it extremely fun but we got shirts and bagels!!  What more do you need?  Anyway I was extremely exhausted afterwards and I’m still sore at this moment.

Its officially December (over here anyway) and that means there are 15 more days between me and the United States.  I’m pretty excited.  I’m ready to go home and see my family…and eat American food…but mostly to see my family and friends.  Yesterday I found myself planning which restaurants I would visit when I got back lol.  Anyway 15 more days and two more essays and I’ll be home!!!!!  

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rakai Weekend

100_3994 This weekend we set out on one of our many adventures to the town of Rakai, Uganda which is right on the border with Tanzania.  It was a really awesome trip not because we did a lot of things, but because we didn’t do too many things.  Usually when we go on our little weekend trips we are expected to have discussions with missionaries (and other such people) for hours.  We get to hear and meet a lot of interesting people but it is very draining most of the time.  This weekend, however, we got to chillax with each other.  We stayed at the Kibaale Community Centre which is an organization that provides schooling for the community in the area.  We did get to meet the missionaries who were working there (they were all Canadian) but our time wasn’t monopolized by them.  Some of the fun things we did were just playing games like ERS (Egyptian Rat Screw) and Signs.  What was really cool was that we got to make our own breakfast and lunch (I know it doesn’t sound very cool but when you have been in Africa for 4 months eating breakfast consisting of biscuits and tea only then will then you understand how excited we were).  We cooked pancakes and french toast and eggs and all sorts of goodies hehe :)  sorry i just like food.  Anyway, I did learn something new this weekend:

On the bus ride over to Rakai I was startled to learn this strange and interesting piece of information.  Apparently when a bunch of women are around each in close quarters for a good duration of time, there emerges amongst the group a dominant female!!!!!! This dominant female strangely enough has the power by the sheer will of her own body (hormones) to force the other girls into submission thus making them all conform to her monthly…well you know conform to her (.)  Anyway, this just proves once again that males know as much about women as they do about about the inner workings of a T-Rex…actually we probably know more about the T-Rex.  Not only is the female anatomy as complicated as a car engine (you pretty much need a schematic to understand it) but their hormonal qualities are reminiscent of blue-tooth technology!  Strange.  This excerpt is for all my male readers who wonder why girls always know within the hour who has broken up with who and things of that nature…they just all communicate via their hormonal hotline.




Awesome plants.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Epic Rafting Pictures!!!!

As I promised in a previous blog, I have amazing rafting pictures to show you!!! Enjoy (click on them for larger versions):










Friday, November 6, 2009

Circumcision and Drumming


So yesterday we had quite an interesting African Literature class.  First of all, I tried to skip class because we usually don’t do anything but Holly made me go :(  I’m glad I went though otherwise I would have missed out on an very interesting discussion.  After a seemingly pointless first half of the class our teacher surprised us by revealing that a visitor was coming.  He was very excited to share this news and he kept looking out the door to see if the visitor was coming.  He finally arrived.  Well it turns out that our visitor came to talk about circumcision.  A lot of tribes in Africa engage in this practice and he had undergone the ceremony himself so he was eager to talk about it.  It was hilarious because he pretended to be embarrassed but I think that was for our benefit.  He did not shy away from every detail.  He even drew a diagram on the board and used phrases like “as long as the room…” (if you don’t understand what I’m talking about then...good).  Anyway, I learned a lot.  The African circumcision ceremony is very different from the Jewish customs.  For Africans, circumcision takes place when a boy is between 14-18.  A lot of dancing takes place before and gifts are given to the boys who are about to undergo “the knife.”  The operation, traditionally, is done with usually no pain-killing medicine and it is considered shameful to flinch (and from what I hear it is pretty painful).  It usually is about a 30sec procedure, but if you try to chicken out at the last minute they hold you down and then it takes like 20 minutes.  If you chicken out you are treated like a coward and are shunned.  Harsh.  There are a lot of other details I left out but its just awkward (chuckle).  It was funny though, the presenter said that he would have even showed us pictures or taken us to a circumcision ceremony but time wouldn’t allow it.   


For one of my classes here we are required to have 30 hours of what is known as “Community engagement.”  This is to get us to become involved in the community around us.  People do different things like learning how to make things with local artisans or volunteering at a school or something.  For my project I decided to take my djembe that I bought and go drum in a local market.  The first time I went I was so nervous.  I was not sure how people would react to this white kid (yeah they call me white here which is funny…because I’m Mexican) just playing his drum in the middle of a busy market place.  I wasn’t sure if people would get angry or tell me to stop making noise, but I went anyway.  It actually turned out better than I expected.  Of course I got starred at a lot by everyone walking by but most people were very nice.  People would walk by and say “Good Job!”  A few people were surprised that I was there and would say “Muzungu what’s wrong?” (Muzungu=white person).  Others would ask if i was selling my drum (it’s a market after all).  I had to explain that I was just there to drum.  There were a few people who seemed angry but they never bothered me.  One lady came up and just watched me for awhile.  I said hi and asked her if she liked drumming.  She then took my drum from me and did this crazy beat on it.  I was like “cool can you teach me?”  She laughed and walked away (funny lady).  The next time I went was even better.  When I got there this big truck was blocking where I had sat the first time, so I went and sat on the edge of this stone bridge.  I was playing for a few minutes while people starred when this man came up to me.  I recognized him from last time and he gestured for me to follow him.  He said in a friendly manner, “you do not sit there, you sit here.”  He then took me to where I had been the first time.  I felt good because I now had a place and I had been accepted.  Today I went again (after missing a week for rural home stays) and it was amazing.  When I got there the people were happy to see me and said they missed me.  It was great.  I started drumming and a lot of people crowded around me to watch.  The lady I had seen before brought her kids and I met them.  Then what was really cool was that the lady who had played that really amazing beat the first time I went came out with shakers and started playing along with me.  It was a really great time and I even got this kid to teach me an African drum beat.  It was really complex so I told him he had to teach me more the next time I went back.  Hopefully the next time will be just as good.       

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rural Home-stay


For the past week I have been in the Kapchorwa district of Uganda at my rural homestay.  For seven days I was virtually cut off from the rest of the world (I had no phone, no internet, and hardly any interaction with my pale skinned buddies I like to call white people, and Manni) while I immersed myself in the culture and lifestyle of the rural Ugandan.

On Friday the 23rd of October we set out on the five hour journey to eastern Uganda.  As we drew near our destination, the landscape suddenly changed from extremely flat to vastly mountainous as we climbed the slopes of Mt. Elgon. 



Soon we entered a land of grass thatched and mud walled huts.  More and more we saw people tending herds of goats, cows, and the occasional pig.  More shocking than the lifestyle of its inhabitants was the land itself.  It was perhaps one of the prettiest places on earth.





Anyway so we finally arrived in the area, and we began dropping people off.  I was second one to get dropped off.  I grabbed my bags and went to meet my family.


My family was great!  They were so friendly and loving.  I really felt like part of the family, well a pampered member of the family anyway but I didn’t mind.  Here they are!


That is my mom Doreen to my left, my father Lt. Fred (he is in the army), and the other two guys Fred and Robert worked for my family and they showed me around all the time.  The smallest one is the young girl who helped look after Doreen’s kids.  In addition to these folks, had a young baby brother…


Jonathan was a freakin cute baby who never wore pants which is why I never held him (I didn’t want to be peed on).  I also had a younger sister…


Charity was almost three, and she was also cute.  However, she was a spoiled brat (that is look she usually had on her face; it says “Get the heck away from me fool! I’m eating”) and she was super shy of me but I made friends with her so we cool.

I wish I could write everything that occurred during these seven days but I’m only going to include a few instances; if i wrote everything it would take forever.  These instances include working on a coffee plantation and attending a crazy funeral.

Everyone in the area owned coffee, and my family was no exception.  My family actually owned a lot of land and almost every plot had coffee trees.


While I was there I got to pick the coffee…



Then we took basins full of picked coffee…


And then I got to use this machine to kind of shuck the coffee…


We skipped a few step in between; usually you have to wash the coffee beans and then thresh multiple times to remove the bad ones but I skipped right to drying the coffee beans…


Of course throughout this entire process I was carefully watched…


…just to make sure I didn’t mess up lol.

I was kind of sad though because I didn’t get to make a cup of coffee but I went over to my friend Davis’ (another student) and had a cup that he made (it was actually kind of good…way better than McDonald’s…someone needs to send me a Big Mac).



So I promised to talk about the crazy funeral I went to so buckle up for my crazy story…

Anyway, the second day of my rural home-stay I went to this funeral (a distant relative of my family had died).  It started out as a normal funeral, well beside the wailing women.  There was this one old woman who was yelling and hitting herself in the stomach and she just went on and on (she stopped for a smoking break).  That was odd but interesting, but it soon got very interesting.  A man gave a eulogy in which there was no attempt to cover up the deceased’s drinking problem.  In fact, it was pretty much the theme of the eulogy.  Afterwards, the wife of the deceased was called forward to shed light on the details of his death (apparently they weren’t sure how he died…even though he died after coming home drunk the day before).  She spoke in the vernacular so I couldn’t understand but she didn’t sound sad at all.  She sounded really angry and at the end of her speech she kind of stormed off.  Then a man came forward and started talking about how if a man and wife slept in separate bedrooms something was wrong.  His words were pretty harsh and he seemed to be accusing the widow of neglect… or worse.  Next a woman who was a friend of the widow came up and spoke, but one of the first things she said was, “when a man dies they always blame the wife.”  Strange.  The next man to speak topped them all.  He was loud and said that it is usually women who kill their husbands.  What????  He went on to say that men need to stop women from killing their men!  What is going on?! (this is what I thought to myself)  Yeah so he was accusing her of murder.  I was getting kind of nervous and expecting things to turn ugly, but apparently this kind of thing is common.  Shortly after this we left.

The time I spent with my amazing family was awesome.  I have to say that rural life is way better than city life.  People are just nicer.  Sadly, my stay did end but before heading back to Mukono we got to spend a few days at this really cool resort.  We got to go hike to all these beautiful waterfalls.  It was pretty cool.






Well that’s about all for this adventure but here are a few more pics that I really like: