Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First day in Africa

Team of Six arrive in Entebbe!
There are truly no words for Africa. There are probably a million, bajillion words, and none of them actually would do. I've only been here for a few hours and already I feel very small, and very sheltered. We got off the plane and were greeted by Ben, who is the driver for Shanti Uganda. He picked us and all of our luggage up and toted us back through Entebbe and Kampala, to our guest house in Kasana.
So much to say - how will I say it all??

We stepped off the plane onto the tarmac and it was a wall of wet, warm air that greeted us. We walked into the terminal and all the worries about the people who would greet us being mean, or rude, or unnecessarily 'hassly', melted away. Giant, relaxed smiles on the faces of those who attended our group, issuing visas quickly and without any fuss about our myriad issues. Stamp, stamp, welcome to Uganda - with a warm smile. Delicious! We picked up our bags and I exchanged my money at the airport- which felt a little too convenient to be a good rate but it was handy so I did it. $130 = 274,000 shillings. Sounds impressive - water bottles cost me 4000 shillings. When you're dealing with currencies in the high thousands like that, it seems like it might all go away too quickly. I plan to just not spend money except on water, or the things I REALLY think need to come home. Unfortunately there won't be a buyer's day while we're at Shanti so we won't get to take advantage of that but we'll have a chance to shop a bit. I digress!

My bed with mosquito net
Everything (as far as I can see in the dark) is covered with the red haze from teh dirt that the cars kick up as they drive. Everything is dry, everything is dirty, and a lot of it is quite run down. There are so, so many people out at night- walking, hanging out around tables cooking hot food, burners lighting up the side of the road. The motorcycles go where they want (a little honey badger in those drivers, methinks) and that often means cutting around and in front of the taxis and buses as they quickly navigate down the street.

In the US, there are laws protecting pedestrians and requiring that motorized vehicles stop for pedestrians- and I highly doubt anything like that exists here. Pedestrians get out of the way, fast, because the drivers drive fast and do not slow down for anything on the road, whether it's a motorcycle, a person, a dog, whatever.

There are dogs *everywhere*, usually running in packs of 2 and 3 as far as I could see. They didn't seem to belong to anyone, and it makes me wonder about rabies.

We reached a point just before we arrived at the guest house where there were two men sitting near a giant stop sign, blocking us from going further down the road. Unlike in the US where there are flaggers to handle a one-lane-road, they sort of waved at us, we pulled over and turned off lights, and then we waited. The road was probably a mile long with the tallest speedbumps you've ever seen and finally it was our turn to go. It was just not at all how we'd do it- with emphasis on safety, on efficiency - we're on Ugandan time and it runs slower, and is more flexible, and doesn't have as many entitlements as American time does.

My luggage and room.
I don't want to forget about Napoleon- this very fancy flight attendant with a huge superiority complex. The flight from Brussells to Entebbe definitely was the most comfortable- the flight wasn't full so in a row of four seats, I was one of two passengers and we had the two open seats between us. The food was actually good (airline food, good? No way! But it was!) The flight attendants were quite uppity, and Napoleon got to show off his 'power' by being very testy with the passengers when no one claimed the green bag in the passenger bin. I know, you're thinking, he's just doing his job- and he totally was. BUT, the tone of voice he had was like a teacher with a naughty classroom full of students. A few minutes later a woman was on her phone as we were just preparing to taxi out of Rwanda, and he stood by her seat and said, "I'm in charge of this cabin, and I'm going to need you to turn your phone off. RIGHT NOW." He was really condescending, and it was hilarious because he just looked like he thought so much of himself- Jane and I got a few good laughs at his expense. Everything's funny 27 hours into your trans-continental adventure!

We arrived at the Guest House (the name escapes me, something about Pope John?) and I was greeted with my own room (which I have mixed feelings about- I'm in Africa, and I'm sleeping alone? NUTS!) It's sweaty and hot and the power is out so the fan doesn't work. I'm in the dark typing on the bed with my headlamp for light (thank you, Rachel!) and feeling grateful that I haven't seen any cockroaches. Not sure I could sleep if there were cockroaches.

The courtyard at night.
Our rooms all center a courtyard and my windows are open (and the window screen and curtains are sprayed within an inch of their lives with natural and chemical mosquito repellent, as is my mosquito net, and I am coated in it as well. I hope I don't accidentally suffocate myself.) I hear bugs and bats and the moon in the giant African sky is just as beautiful as it is back home.

Tomorrow we'll get up when we're ready and possibly ride motorcycles (I really, really don't want to do that!!!) to Shanti so that we can do our first session.

I can't wait to see what Uganda looks like in the light of day. I miss my husband, I miss my kids- it's Eidie's birthday and I'm across the world in a strange bed praying no creepy crawlies find me in the night. I can't call home until I get minutes for Jane's phone so I want to do that tomorrow. This will be an amazing adventure but will be just a little easier if I can stay connected with home.

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