Nomads in Uganda

I have now been in Uganda for five weeks. The team of international staff came here for what we thought would only be a short time, but our stay was extended as insecurity in Beni region persisted with additional attacks against vulnerable civilians and increased tension in the population. What we thought was a single cluster of events has turned out to have a much deeper political underpinning. The reason for the attacks and who exactly is behind them are still very much a mystery. The attacks have mostly been attributed to the ADF NALU rebel group, but a string of other theories proliferate. There are rumours of political parties financing unrest to suit their purposes, since there has been alleged involvement of army personnel in the attacks and a string of arrests of prominent business leaders in Beni. My stay here sort of feels like a strange dream. It has been a challenge to continue with my work, but I am trying as best I can to keep moving along with the research. Last weekend I made the very difficult decision that the rest of my time would be better spent in Uganda rather than trying to go back to Beni. I realized that even if I did go back, the city would be in no state to support the research, and also that it would be more productive for a few researchers to come to me for training in Kampala where there is a certainty of electricity and internet. The decision was a hard one and I am sad that my time was cut short. A few days later the leadership of Congo Initiative and UCBC both in Beni  and the US advised that the international staff not consider returning until the new year, when hopefully the situation will become more clear. I’m frustrated that my three months was cut to one month, but I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for the full-time staff who call Beni home and have left a close-knit community behind.

Even though it has been a period of discouragement, I couldn’t have spent my time as a nomad with a better group of people. The rest of this post is devoted to remembering some of the moments spent here in Uganda this past month. To summarize our time in Uganda, the team arrived on October 22nd and spent two and a half weeks in Fort Portal in Western Uganda. For a week of that time we stayed at a guest house called Rwenzori View and then for the rest of the time moved into a more affordable guesthouse called Golf Course View.

Memories from Fort Portal:

  • We went to a hotel called Mountains of the Moon to have our own little sunday worship time. We ordered tea and orange juice only to discover afterwards that the juice costed 15000 shillings per glass which is often the price of a whole meal. From that point on all things expensive were compared to “the glass of juice”. Fun fact: “Mountains of the Moon” is actually the meaning of “Rwenzori”.
  • Lauren and Jessica and I went exploring in Fort Portal one day and happened across an adorable little bakery called Sweet Aromas. We were surprised to see a “mzungu” american come from behind the curtain. She started the business as a bakery at ugandan prices and plans to pass it on once it is established. The baked goods were delicious!
  • On halloween we bought a bunch of candy, made our own costumes and decorations, and had the boys go door to door in the guesthouse to go trick-or-treating. To add more doors to trick-or-treat from, I occupied the washroom.
  • I have good memories eating at a restaurant called Dutchess. The price was right and the food was delicious. Their pizza was particularly good and they had a few dutch delicacies, my favourite being bitterballen! I also tried a croc burger there!
  • We have enjoyed many fantastic game nights including Bang, Speed Scrabble, and Dutch Blitz! I got the ladies into watching Broadchurch.
  • At dinner time we made the habit of speaking french just for practice. The meals at Golf Course View were delicious. Breakfast always included a spread of fruit, toast, pancakes, and omelettes. This felt strange after my tea with bread and butter in DRC!
Stopping to pose by some cute art while exploring the town

Stopping to pose by some cute art while exploring the town

In-house trick-or-treating at the bathroom door

In-house trick-or-treating at the bathroom door

Team shot on the day we left golf course view. L-R (front) Jessica and I (back) Lauren, guesthouse staff Charles and Charles, Jonathan with Graham, Kate, guesthouse manager Paul with Elliot, Mary

Team shot on the day we left golf course view. L-R (front) Jessica and I (back) Lauren, guesthouse staff Charles and Charles, Jonathan with Graham, Kate, guesthouse manager Paul with Elliot, Mary

When we learned that we would be staying in Uganda longer, we decided to move to Kampala where we found a more affordable housing rental option on AirB&B that had a kitchen so that we could cook for ourselves. What has been a blessing about being in Kampala is that I have been able to visit eMi on occasion and even use their office as a place to work a couple days in the week. Although it’s a much crazier place than Fort Portal, there are many people and places to see. On different afternoons we have brought our work with us to different cafes in the city. Almost all of us have friends and contacts in Kampala who we have been able to reconnect with.

Memories so far from Kampala:

  • A bat got into Jon and Kate’s little guesthouse and it took a fully mounted expedition to get it out. My role was watching from the sidelines and providing moral support…
  • One Sunday we went out for breakfast with the Greenes and then went to Entebbe to visit some friends of the Shaws who they know from Congo. They treated us to a lovely lunch and then took us to the Entebbe Wildlife Park.
  • We went to Entebbe again a few days later, this time to visit David and Kaswera who are leaders of Congo Initiative and UCBC and are just returning home to Congo after their year long sabbatical. It was wonderful to share a meal and receive encouragement and wisdom from them.
  • We were all stuck in rush hour traffic on the way back from Entebbe on the day that Jon and Kate had planned a dinner out and we had offered to babysit the boys. Solution: Lauren and I each took a kid home on a boda, Jon and Kate left for dinner on bodas, and poor (but amazing) Mary drove the two hours it took get home (normally a fifteen minute journey).
  • Just this evening I shared american thanksgiving with the team. We cooked up a delicious array of food! I feel so blessed to have had the support and fellowship of such a great group, even only knowing them a short time.
Posing in front of our new home in Kampala

Posing in front of our new home in Kampala

A really awesome tree that was at the Entebbe Wildlife Park

A really awesome tree that was at the Entebbe Wildlife Park

A wonderful visit with David and Kaswera Kasali

A wonderful visit with David and Kaswera Kasali

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