Posts tagged ‘friends’

March 30, 2019

Challenges and Joys This New Year

It is hard to believe that it is already mid March. Life has started to take on a familiar rhythm which I am grateful for. In January we moved to a new apartment in the neighbourhood of Kiwaatule in Kampala and it has become home and is serving us well. Othy and I are both working from home. I am working part-time remotely for the same architecture firm I worked for in Toronto along with some of my own projects. Othy has been developing an application that he has long been wanting to push forward. So although we are very tight financially and living month by month, we are thankful that we always seem to have enough and that this is the ideal time for Othy to pursue this work. We are still experiencing the odd feeling of being displaced but are finding that God has us in this place for a reason.

We are still closely following news from Congo. The elections were very controversial. The month of December gave hope to many Congolese as the presidential candidates ran their campaigns. The opposition leader Martin Fayulu had considerable popularity across the country and particularly in the East while Joseph Kabila’s choice for successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari  was clearly unpopular. But then one week before the elections were meant to take place on December 24th, there was a fire in one of the warehouses in Kinshasa where voting machines were said to be kept. There were many questions and little evidence surrounding the event, but the government used it as a reason to postpone the elections by one week. Then a few days later the government announced that elections would be postponed in the regions experiencing Ebola and insecurity which included Beni, Butembo, and a territory in the west called Yumbi. The result would be over a million votes that would not be included. It was very suspicious that the postponement in those regions happened after the election postponement. It shocked me how the democratic process was blatantly removed from these elections, but somehow kept the international community satisfied enough not to interfere. It seemed like a very strategic move for Kabila.

News from BBC about postponement of elections

December 30th was election day. There were some reports of violence and tampering, but overall the day went fairly smoothly considering the challenges. Although they were inherently told that they could not participate in their rights as citizens of their country, the people of Beni decided to host their own paper-ballot elections to show that there was no reason to postpone in their region. This made me very proud! To prevent the spread of ebola they set up handwash stations and took voters temperatures. I think that the process of making a vote, whether or not it would be heard or counted, gave people a feeling of closure.  People were still hopeful that Fayulu could still manage a victory. The announcement of the election results was supposed to be on January 5th but got pushed back to January 10th which was another suspicious postponement.

It came as a shock when opponent leader Felix Tshisekedi was proclaimed the winner. Most thought that Martin Fayulu would be the clear winner. Fayulu claimed that the elections had been rigged and that he believed that Tshisekedi had made a secret power-sharing deal with Kabila. The Catholic Church had sent 40,000 witnesses to polling stations across the country and said that their data did not align but showed another candidate as the clear winner (not specifying who). Fayulu appealed to the supreme court against the result asking for a manual recount, but the court decided to uphold the results despite the controversy. The Financial Times obtained a percentage of leaked data and ascertained that Fayulu was the clear winner. Most people in the east believe Fayulu was the real winner of the elections and do not recognize Tshisekedi as president. They think that when Kabila realized that his successor was unpopular, he decided to find a plan B to retain power. I don’t think Tshisekedi will ever be able to visit the cities of Beni or Butembo without mass riots breaking out unless he makes some significant moves to improve security in that region.

News from AP News about mock vote in Beni

News from The Guardian about the delay in the announcement of election results

News from CNN about surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi

Financial Times article

There was another shock this month when Kabila’s party won 2/3rds of the seats in the senate, meaning that Tshisekedi will be unable to act independently and that Kabila will still retain a large amount of power within the government. Several candidates reportedly withdrew from the running because of demands for large bribes. This entire election hints of corruption and sets a bad precedent for how presidents in Africa have succeeded to fake the democratic process. The Congolese and international community wanted Kabila out, but he is still there, a puppeteer manipulating government from behind the scenes. Sadly I wonder if much progress is going to be made in the next five years. I try to remember that with God anything is possible. He has the power to change hearts.

News from Africa News about Senate Elections

Few! Enough about politics! Onto another difficult topic… Ebola! The fight to contain Ebola in eastern Congo continues since the epidemic was first announced last August. The epicenter has now shifted from Beni to Butembo and numbers are still increasing by a small amount every day. The virus was almost contained in Beni and no new cases were reported for 21 days, but numbers have increased in Butembo. There has been significant community resistance to containment efforts because of a mistrust of health officials. Some people who have contracted the virus and start showing symptoms are not bringing themselves in for testing and treatment. Oftentimes cases are being discovered after a death in the community and when many people have already been in contact with that person while they were contagious. I try to remind myself how much progress has been made and how much worse things would be if not for the ongoing response efforts. There are many stories of hope in the midst of the many challenges. More effort needs to be made in how health workers engage with communities so that trust can be established.

News from Reuters about involvement of Ebola survivors in patient care

The New Humanitarian: Story from a doctor on the ground about establishing trust

News from MPR News about infection control in health clinics

Despite all of these heavy thoughts hanging over our heads as we follow the news of what is affecting our communities in Beni and Butembo, life goes on and we find joy in the day to day. I thank God daily for Othy and for our second temporary home. I am thankful for time with friends and for everyone who has set foot in our home. A month or so ago our good friend Élisée was baptised and we took time to celebrate this new direction for his life. We hosted an alumni of UCBC who is starting to help Othy with his development work. We hosted another alumni who was in Kampala to take the TOEFL exam. Three men from Egypt and Saudi Arabia moved into the apartment next door and we quickly became friends. They were very hospitable and hosted us for dinner and introduced us to Arabian coffee and “carcade” which is hybiscus tea. We enjoyed learning about their cultures and now have places to visit if we ever travel to those countries. We have been going to a new church in the area called Mavuno. This past month we heard a good and challenging sermon series on prayer. It challenged me not to give up praying for the insecurity and the ebola even when I feel discouraged. God listens to us and answers prayer, but we need to trust His timing and purposes that are different than our own.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth”. – Job 19:25

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Like Christ reunion!

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Élisée’s baptism

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Our neighbours Atallah and Ayman

January 12, 2019

A Temporary Home

Since the first week of November Othy and I have been living in the home of friends of ours in Lubowa, south of Kampala. It has been good for us to have a bit of stability and a place where we don’t have to pay rent for a short time. It is also a well furnished place which has allowed us to be comfortable and able to host now and again. So although these walls are not ours, they have seen various people who are slowly becoming more apart of our lives. It is exciting to be starting to grow some friendships here in Uganda! Here are some photos from some of our gatherings! It’s a good thing that Othy likes to take photos or we wouldn’t have any!

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Jerry, Safi, and their daughter

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Noé, Bethany, and their kids

For the first few weeks that we stayed at this apartment, our friends Noé and Bethany and their kids were staying in the same complex in the apartment of another EMI couple. It was fun having them as neighbours. Their girls would sometimes be outside and see us from our back door and wave and yell hello. Other times we would see them on our way to going for a walk or bump into them at the store. The girls have so much energy and excitement that they treat you like you are the best person in the world. On American Thanksgiving, the day before they moved out of the apartment and left for Kenya, we shared a nice meal together. We were sad to see them leave!

Othy imported two cars to sell in Congo and one for us to use in Kampala. It greatly simplified getting around and my weak back was also thankful for it. It is a blue Mazda Verisa. To celebrate our one month being married and having a car we went out to see a movie in theatres. The cinema has particular meaning for us because we went to see the Hobbit in 3D while getting to know each other back in 2014. This time we went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The following week we went to the theatres again, this time to treat Salama and Wivine since Wivine would soon be returning to Congo. The traffic was so bad that we couldn’t pick them up and instead told them to get a boda and meet us at the mall. We missed the 7:45 show but decided to go to the 10pm show instead! So although we were out past midnight, it was much nicer to drive home on empty roads!

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Rodrigue, Guylaine and family

Othy’s mother was in town for a few weeks to receive diagnosis and treatment for back pain. It was good timing that Othy and I were here and that Othy could drive her to and from appointments and run errands in town. I joined them on some of the outings. It was nice to spend more time with her and I also practiced more Swahili than I had in a long time. We brought Othy’s mom and Salama to the bus station when it was time for them to head back. Two weeks later we did the same for Obady who was travelling home to Goma for Christmas and New Years.

Christmas was the quietest I have ever experienced. The only decoration that I did was to buy white string lights and wrap them around a coffee table made of tree branches. Othy and I spent Christmas eve on our own, but Christmas day we were invited by Maggie to join a group for lunch. In the afternoon we decided to take advantage of the pool that is on our compound and go swimming for the first time! So although it was quiet, this Christmas will be memorable in it’s own way because it will probably only get busier and louder from here! On Christmas day Othy and I had a nice call with my family while they were gathered eating breakfast. We even took a family photo with those near and far!

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The fam!

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Fiston

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Olivia

The person who visited us the most is our friend Elysée who is from our Like Christ group in Beni and has come to Kampala for post-secondary studies. During our time in Lubowa we often attended Kampala International Church (KIC) Lubowa where he also attends and is on the worship team. He would come home with us after church on several Sundays. Our last Sunday spent together with Elysee was on December 30th which was also election day. When Othy picked up the car he also brought his guitar which meant that we could enjoy playing and singing some songs together. On this particular day Othy and Elysée taught me a song called “Fanda Nayo”, or “Reign Forever” in Lingala. I realized that I had heard the song before at the UCBC graduation. We wanted to give God praise on election day because we know that no matter what happens, he is the ultimate ruler and holds us in his hands. 

To bring on the new year we decided to have one last time hosting people in our temporary home. We invited several of Othy’s friends from his time at Ugandan Christian University (UCU) and Elysée came again. They are such a great group of people and I look forward to spending more time with them. As we waited for the new year we shared about the challenges faced this past year but also how God was working through them and how he has blessed us. For me 2018 was a year full of both. At midnight we counted down and shared a toast and were surprised to find that we could see some fireworks that were being set off in Kajjansi. We kept talking past midnight and so by the time we dropped everyone off at their homes and then came back it was almost 4am!

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What a year it has been indeed! Like the year before it has been another season of waiting. I was in a long-distance relationship with Othy and waiting to be reunited. I was working in architecture waiting to have enough hours to obtain licensure. I thought that once Othy and I were married the waiting would finally be over, but it looks like God has put us into another season of waiting, now as a couple. We are waiting for ebola to be contained, for stability to return to Beni region, and for elections to take place in Congo. But just like my time of waiting in Toronto, this time of waiting is not wasted. We are growing as a couple, finding ways to grow spiritually, and meeting incredible people along the way whose lives we have the opportunity to impact. The Christmas season reminded me that the Israelites were also in a time of waiting for the promised Messiah to come to redeem the world, and that now we are all waiting for Christ’s return.

The first week of January Othy and I spent time searching for an apartment. On January 6th we moved into a new place that we will have for at least three months. We are moving to a completely different neighbourhood that is on the opposite side of town than Lubowa. I will miss the calmness of the area and am sad that we are leaving a place when I felt like we were just beginning to grow some friendships there. I will miss the walks Othy and I would often go on exploring the area but hopefully we will continue the tradition in this new place. The new apartment is a good fit for us and hopefully we will find some community here too. Already after only two months we are ending a season and starting another.

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Creative Christmas decor

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Exploring the neighbourhoods around Lubowa

Fanda Nayo (Sung in Lingala)

Kiti ya bokonzi na yo Yesu ee éléki makasi
(The throne of your Glory so Jesus, is Powerful,)
Nani ako longolayo, po tovota yo té
(None can dethrone You, because we did not vote you)
Ba mpaka mikolo, ba mama, bilenge, decidé
(Wise men, children, mothers, young people all decided)
Ya ko tombola kiti oyo ya bokonzi, ya yaya Yesué
(To raise Jesus’ throne) (Repeat)

Refrain:
Yaya fanda nayo (Father Reign Forever)
Fanda nayo (Reign Forever)
Wumela seko na seko (May Your kingdom live forever)  (Repeat)

To vota kutu té (No one voted for You)
To pona kutu té (No one chose You)
Wumela séko na séko (May Your Kingdom live forever) (Repeat)

Ba polos kutu té (You did not need to give out Polos (bribes) )
Ba chapeaux kutu té (No need for hats (politician bribes))
Wumela séko na séko (May Your Kingdom last forever) (Repeat)

(Refrain)

 

December 4, 2018

Around Bukavu

While most of our friends left Bukavu the day after the wedding, Othy and I decided to take one more day to explore the city since neither of us had been there before. Mark and Karen surprised us with a delicious Sunday morning pancake breakfast, complete with locally grown strawberries and close to real tasting maple syrup that they make with maple extract (this is a Canadian saying this). While we enjoyed breakfast they gave us some tips on places to visit. Othy asked me what I wanted to visit first, and I chose ITFM (Institut Technique Fundi Maendeleo) because we weren’t sure what the weather was going to be like and the school offers one of the best views of Bukavu. We hired motos and began the winding journey up the hill. At a certain point the paved road ended and the dirt road was extremely muddy. My driver in particular was having trouble getting through it (Othy told me later it was because he was short) and I wondered if we would fall. Thankfully we did not, though the drivers wanted to charge us more because of it! The motos in Bukavu actually put tarps on the back of their bikes to prevent mud from flinging up and hitting their passengers. We walked through the ITFM campus and were shown around by the guy we met at the gate. Then we exited by the gate that faced the edge of the hill, and found the view that we had heard about. It was beautiful! Bukavu has such a unique landscape with the changes in elevation, the lake with islands in the distance, and several peninsulas, one of them taking the iconic shape of a boot. But with the change in elevation and rains are dangers of erosion and mudslides. Just across the road from the campus, the earth was a large eroded area that in only a few more years might actually reach the edge of the campus and the buildings there! Kids were playing there and standing on the edge of it and even climbing up it!

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The same moto drivers waited for us and we asked them to take us to the boot that I described above. On the way down the hill we passed houses that were built rather precariously on the hillside. We passed by the main roundabout Place de l’Independence. We also passed another roundabout with one of the traffic lights invented by Congolese female engineer Thérèse Izay and manufactured by Women’s Technology, although this one is not in the shape of a humanoid like the one I saw in Kinshasa and Goma. Once at the boot the drivers stopped at a parcel with a large tent. We asked the person at the gate if we could see the place, and upon entering we discovered it was an event space. They were in the middle of preparing for an event, and Othy ran into an old acquaintance! The tent faces the water and offers a beautiful view back to the city.

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Our third destination of the morning was to visit a hotel called Orchids that is supposed to be another beautiful spot in Bukavu. We first went to the restaurant and took tea, and then went for a walk to explore the gardens. It was an absolutely stunning combination of gardens, architecture, and another amazing view of the lake and Bukavu. The path meandered its way down to the water and there was something beautiful to see around every corner. The gardens were well landscaped and included many different species of orchid. I loved the simplicity of the clean white-walled buildings with rich wood windows and doors. There were a few larger buildings and then some smaller private cottages. Finally we reached the water where there was a swimming area and sitting area. I noticed that this was the place that Jess and Matt had gone to take their wedding photos because of one photo that they had posted standing on a pier by the lake.

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This time we decided to walk back to the apartment since it was only a few kilometers away. We rested for a short time and then went out again, this time to visit another school called ISP Bukavu (Institut Supérieur Pédagogique). The university has been around for a long time and is where some of the leadership at UCBC attended. Upon approaching the gate we discovered that we couldn’t go and see the campus for the sole reason that I was wearing pants! From the gate we could get a glimpse of the building blocks which have an interesting form. We walked for a bit from there, thinking that we might find a place to get some lunch, when Blaise called and we arranged to meet him at a restaurant called Le Gourmet. He didn’t make it in the end, but a friend of Othy’s called Beni joined us and we had a nice time hanging out. It was coming towards late afternoon and we had talked about the idea of going to Mark and Karen’s church called Le Phare (the Lighthouse) that starts at 4:30. Surprisingly Beni also attends this church and offered to take us there since it was only a short walk away. At this point it was only raining lightly and so we went for it. The service was on the top floor of a newly constructed building and so had a very raw atmosphere. I felt refreshed and challenged by the worship and the message.

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After the service I had made arrangements for us to visit Dachiku, a friend from UCBC and sister to another friend Butoto (we had seen him last in Kinshasa and now he is in Europe). Beni offered to come with us since it was dark and the road to Dachiku’s place is very muddy. Dachiku came and met us at the Eglise Ararati and from there walked to her house. We had to use the flashlights on our phones because the power was off across the city. What a strange feeling to be in such a big city and yet so dark. We went down some narrow steps that opened to what in the the daytime would be a view over the city. Their house was built into the side of the hill. It was so good to see Dachiku again as I was just getting to know her better during my time in Beni before the Ebola outbreak began. I think their family was also happy to meet members from the UCBC community where two of their siblings/children had gone to study. Dachiku and her siblings offered us some whole milk and bread (the milk was like yogurt). As we chatted, more of their family arrived until her parents and all of her siblings were there to greet us (they have a big family)! Othy sent Bututo a picture on Whatsapp and he was so pleasantly surprised! It was getting later and so we soon had to go. The family generously arranged for a driver to take us back since transit at night in Bukavu is difficult. What a full and interesting day it had been!

December 3, 2018

Bukavu Wedding

Our friend Blaise who came to pick us up at the harbour brought us to the place we would be staying during our time Bukavu. We were being generously hosted by Mark and Karen who are friends of Matt’s family. It was nice not to have to spend money on accommodations for this part of our trip! We dropped off our things and then took a short walk to a nearby guesthouse where several other friends of ours were staying. We saw Adelphine, Lauren, Mary, and Noe, Bethany and the kids. Othy went to get a haircut with Blaise and Regis and then later in the evening we had dinner with Mark and Karen and got to know them better.

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We took the following morning slow because the wedding was not until the afternoon. We then walked back to the guesthouse where we came upon Matt, Benjamin and Regis, members of Like Christ reunited! We worshiped together for a bit and then Regis and Matt started getting ready. Othy and I went back to our place to get ready and then went to the church which was only a short distance away. We met Noe and Bethany and took Lydia to look after her during the service since they were Jess and Matt’s “Perrain” (mentors) and were therefore part of the ceremony. The service was beautiful! Jessica and Matt both looked radiant. Reverend Dr. Kasali gave a thoughtful meditation on marriage that looked at the example of Mary and Joseph and how God called them, and calls us, out of our respective places and cultures, and at times brings a two people together to serve in ministry together. I also enjoyed hearing Matt and Jess’s vows that they had both prepared in English and Swahili. After the service we joined a procession of vehicles around the block and then went home to rest a bit before the reception.

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The reception was in a large hall that was nicely decorated with white, green, and gold, and had tables surrounding a large square open area in front of the stage where the couple and perrain sat. There were strings of white lights over the open space as well. It was a cool way to set up the space since everyone could see the couple well and the MC called in the bridal party in one by one and they had space to walk around and take time to face and greet each side of the room. Matt and Jess then surprised us all with a dance to the song “A Thousand Years” for which it was obvious they had done some practicing! It was so fun to watch them! The next thing on the program was the gift ceremony. Matt and Jess, the perrain, and the parents lined up, and groups and individuals took turns bringing up their gifts and greeting the couple. Othy and I joined the Congo Initiative group that went up together. Gifts took quite a long time because there were so many different groups who wanted to appreciate the couple and the mother of the groom! Unfortunately Mary wasn’t feeling well and so I took Lydia again for a time until the ceremonial part of things was complete. Finally the tables started going up to the buffet line to get dinner. Near the end of the evening the MC called up married couples to dance in a circle. At first I didn’t want to because I was feeling tired, but Othy convinced me and I’m glad he did because it turned out to be fun! Eventually the bride and groom came into the middle of the circle and the rest of the bridal party and as people started filtering out it was a chance to greet Matt and Jess and her family. It was a memorable day!

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The Texans Lawson and Dawson!

 

November 21, 2018

Safari with Family

Finally the day of the much-awaited safari arrived! Othy and I were up really early because we had plans to go to town to say goodbye to several of Othy’s family members before coming back to meet the drivers and pick everyone up. We had to leave Bwerenga so early that we discovered we were locked in and had to find away to break ourselves out (and fortunately there was a way)! We met the drivers in Bwebajja at 9am and then drove with one van to pick up Ron and Ingred at Nyange resort, pick up Othy and my things from Bwerenga, back to Bwebajja to pick up my family with Vikkie and Jeff, and finally we were off in both vehicles into Kampala to pick up Serges, Hortense, and Wivine. We did not get out of Kampala until after noon! The drive was long but smooth. We took the route through the park to get to the lodge because it is shorter and then we could take a small detour to see Murchison Falls. The roads were bad though and so our time estimates were off and we didn’t have time. We finally arrived at the ferry crossing at 6:30 and waited for thirty minutes to take the last ferry across at 7pm. We got to see the sun set over the nile as we waited. Once across it took another hour to get to the lodge. I had made arrangements for us to stay at Heritage Safari Lodge. I did quite a bit of research early on to find a mid-level priced lodging that could host so many people and have ensuite bathrooms (because another lower-cost option is to stay in safari tents!). We all found our rooms, and then came back to a nice open-air dining area for dinner. We were all pretty tired and so turned in right after dinner. We also had plans to get up very early the next morning for a game drive.

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Van 1!

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Van 2!

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By 6:30 we were all ready to go on our morning game drive. It was beautiful seeing the sun rise as we drove. One of the first animals we were surprised by was an elephant that was close beside the road. Unfortunately it mostly wanted to show us its rear end. Our second major sighting was of a leopard. We would not have seen it if not for our main driver Frank who stopped the van, pulled out his binoculars, and then pointed it out to us. It was very far away but with a zoom lens it was possible to see it quite clearly. I was amazed that Frank had noticed the leopard while driving! Vikkie managed to capture the image of it below! It probably sensed our presence because after a few moments it got up and moved down from the tree out of sight. I have gone on two other safaris, one at Queen Elizabeth, and one here at Murchison, and this was the first time I had seen a leopard. We continued driving and began to get all excited as we saw giraffes from a distance, but soon that became old news as we saw several close up. I think that these will forever be one of my favourite animals! Othy and Jeff took a selfie with one, joking that it did not want to smile for the photo. We also saw many beautiful birds along the way. I particularly liked the white ones that sit on the back of the herds of buffalo, but also small red ones that we saw now and then. We approached an area on Lake Albert that serves as a rest stop for groups on game drives. There were a lot of animals there as well including a wild hog and a grey crowned crane, the national bird of Uganda. We could also hear more hippos in the distance. We headed back to the ferry crossing at 11am. A group of men were playing some traditional music on stringed instruments. The next item on our itinerary was to go see Murchison Falls that the park is named after.

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Photo by Vikkie Chen

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Photo by Vikkie Chen

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The ride to the falls took an hour because the road wasn’t great. It was worth it though to see the powerful falls. At this point all of the water of the Nile is squeezed though a narrow opening. We learned from Frank that the block of concrete was an attempt at building a footbridge that lasted only a few months before it was washed out. There was a path were you could walk and see the falls from different vantage points. In some areas it was practically raining! We couldn’t stay too long at the falls because we had plans to take a nile boat cruise that leaves at 2pm. So we drove back to the ferry landing where the boat tours also embark from.

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We took a boat tour offered by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. It was a relaxing ride though next time I would choose either a pontoon boat or a private tour on a small motor boat because our boat was often too big to get close to shore to see wildlife. We passed a heard of elephants that we could barely see with the naked eye but unfortunately couldn’t get any closer. I still got a pretty good photo with my zoom lens though! I also used my camera like binoculars! On the way there were some beautiful sandy cliffs with hundreds of holes where birds had dug nests. From downstream the falls look like a delicate white hourglass and don’t reveal much of its power that we saw hours before. The boat anchored for a short time to a rock and they allowed some passengers to climb on the rock and take photos with the falls in the background. Al took one of her epic jump shots after which the boat crew said no more jumping allowed! I think my family was glad they came on the cruise, even if it meant not having time for a proper lunch. We made it back to the ferry landing where our drivers were waiting for us. It was 5pm and we were going to do one last game drive before going back to the lodge. Frank said that Murchison Falls is a very forgiving park in that if you don’t see certain wildlife in the morning, you will likely get to see it on the evening game drive. Before departing we decided to gather to take a group photo. It took a while to get everyone in one place and while we were waiting, a baboon climbed into one of the vans and later into the other one! Our drivers quickly chased it away and we had to laugh!

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The White Nile

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The bold culprit!

We switched vans this time so that the other group could benefit from Frank’s knowledge. It wasn’t very comfortable, but we decided to sit on the rack behind the pop-up roof to enjoy the view. We saw more animals as the sun started to set. Frank’s prediction of seeing what we had not yet seen came true. We saw another group of elephants in the distance, and at dusk we arrived where there were several other vans viewing a group of two female lions and three cubs. It was amazing to see! Another beautiful sight was a line of giraffes, all walking in the same direction with the sun setting behind them. Because we had gone on a detour to see the lions we were running a bit late getting out of the park and had to speed up. There were several vans in front of us heading out as well and one of them broke down on the narrow road and we all got stuck waiting behind them! Fortunately they fixed it somehow and we managed to continue on our way. We stopped two other times on the way for two other surprises. The first was a group of elephants that crossed the road in front of us, just before all light was gone. They were so incredibly close and large! Vikkie tried to get a photo, but only managed to capture a blurry face with glowing eyes! We joked that she should put the photo on Facebook and have people guess what they thought it was! The next time we stopped was for a male lion that crossed the road, but unfortunately only the group in the first van saw it. What an amazing day it had been! It felt like three days packed into one! We arrived at the lodge closer to 9pm this time and dinner was ready for us.

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Hartebeest that Frank called the stupidest antelope because it can forget that it is being chased by a predator

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Photo by Vikkie Chen

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The following morning we hit the road at 8:30am and this time took the route around the park. It was nice to leave a little later so that we could see what Heritage Safari Lodge looks like in the daylight. The lodge is composed of a cluster of self-contained cottages that are built using traditional methods. In fact, on the journey back we passed by several villages that were constructed in a similar way. We had several stops to make on the way back. We first dropped off Serges, Hortense, and Wivine, then went to the cafe across from Mikindye Country Club to pick up the rest of the garments from the seamstress. After that we split ways and Othy went with one driver to pick up my everyone’s things that we had stored at his brother’s place, while we went directly to a restaurant in Entebbe called Anna’s Corner. It was nice to be able to eat together and do some rearranging of luggage before taking everyone to the airport. It was bittersweet to say goodbye. On one hand I was sad they were leaving and on the other hand was glad that all the planning and responsibility was over and that Othy and I could enjoy being with just the two of us for the rest of our honeymoon.

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Heritage Safari Lodge – Photo by Vikkie Chen

 

November 19, 2018

Wedding Day! – Reception

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We arrived at Bwerenga Estate close to 5pm. Vikkie quickly adjusted my hair in the house and then we went out for photos. It was an interesting sequence of getting some personal photos as well as photos with all of the guests which is a Congolese tradition. Somehow it worked out and we had a good mix of both. When they weren’t in photos our guests were socializing and enjoying some snacks and the beautiful lake view. At dusk everyone was directed to their seats while Othy and I took a few last photos together. We walked up to the reception area and the MC announced our arrival and everyone stood and clapped as we walked to find our seats. The MC introduced the different groups of people who had come and invited them to stand one at a time. Then Othy and I stood together as people came and presented gifts to us. In Congo it is tradition for people to come up with their gifts and at the same time wave and greet the couple. Following the gifts Othy and I led the procession to get food. There were a variety of dishes and the food was delicious. Just when we had started getting food, swarms of small moths showed up. They were attracted to the lights and falling all over the place. They got in the food, down my dress, and I even accidentally sat on some getting bug guts on the back of my dress (after which a few people came to me discretely and informed me about). Fortunately the moths were short lived and started thinning out as the evening progressed. I was thankful that they were harmless however annoying. While people were eating Othy and I went table to table to visit and personally greet our guests. For dessert there was a beautiful table of fruit that was cut and presented in a creative way and even included our names! The time also arrived for Othy and I to cut the cake. The evening’s program ended with speeches by our parents. There was a beautiful bon fire near the reception area and my family set up a station for people to roast marshmallows and make smores. While some people headed out, others danced and socialized a little bit. The evenings festivities ended just after 9 because many people had taken a bus to get there and had to take it back to town. It was probably for the better because I was running purely on adrenaline by that point! Othy and I said farewell to people as they left, and finally we were just a few. Lauren and Ben stayed and prayed with us over the gifts that we had received, and finally we were alone! What an wonderful and full day this had been! Below is the speech that my parents gave. I am so thankful that they and my sisters and friends could be there to celebrate the start of this next season of life.


 

“On May 19, 1988 two of our beautiful daughters were born. The words that were on my heart the first time I held them were “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works your hands have made.” Those words bring to mind the Psalm of David that speaks about how we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so Elisabeth came into our family.

One anecdote we’d like to share about her is that she took her time learning to walk. She was very content to stay put wherever we set her down. When we would check on her she would be sitting in the same place surrounded by her toys and look up at us with a big smile.

As many of you know, staying in one place is not what she has done – Elisabeth became somewhat of a world traveler – France, Alberta & Quebec in Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Uganda and the DRC here in Africa.

And so here we are. We have witnessed today the joining of two hearts and lives. We are glad to be with all of you in celebration of Othy and Elisabeth’s wedding. We have met some wonderful welcoming people and thank them for their hospitality during our time here. To all of you gathered here. Thank you for celebrating with us.

Othy, we welcome you into our family and pray that the love you have for our daughter will grow deep and that together you will experience much joy and laughter, serve one another, respect one another, and keep communicating well with each other.

When we were married just over 35 years ago my grandparents were unable to attend our wedding. They did however send a letter that ended with a blessing that we would like to say over you. Othy and Elisabeth The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace, Amen.”

November 17, 2018

Wedding Day! – Religious Ceremony

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The veil is on!

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When our car arrived at the church, the place was already fairly full of people and the choir was singing. Vikkie helped me to put the veil on, and then we got out to arrange ourselves for the procession. We went down the aisle Congolese-style with Othy and his parents coming down the left aisle followed by Ben, and me and my parents coming down the right aisle followed by Lauren and my bridesmaids. Othy and I took a seat in chairs in the centre that faced the pastor. The Like Christ Kampala choir came up and sang Great Is Thy Faithfulness and The Joy of the Lord, then Light Choir performed, and then we heard a message by one of the pastors of BCCA. At this point I still had the veil on and was overheating! Rev. Dr. David Kasali was then called up to begin the marriage ceremony. He invited up both sets of parents and asked them for their blessing and support of our marriage along with the congregation, then gave Othy permission to remove my veil, and then had my parents take my hand, put it into his, and then together place it into Othy’s hands. He gave Othy and I an opportunity to say our own vows to each other, and then we exchanged rings. We signed the church’s wedding document along with our mentors (perrain), Lauren and Ben, our parents, and Rev. Kasali. The pastors and our immediate family and close friends came up and congratulated us. After that some music started an a group of women from the church came dancing down the aisle carrying blue fabric. They presented Othy and I with gifts of the fabric, a large wooden spoon, salt, matches, and an egg. The wooden spoon represented hospitality since it is used in Congolese cuisine to make fufu, the salt and matches represented flavour and light in our home, and the egg represented the gentle care that Othy should have for me his wife. The fabric was a good fit for us because it had an image of the world with several bible verses. Rev. Kasali also presented us with a bible and with money taken by the church in the collection. Light Choir came back up and started singing and dancing, and Othy and I stood up and joined in! It was a lot of fun and my parents and others joined in too! That marked the end of the ceremony and Othy and I led the procession out of the church. From there we went straight to Bwerenga Estate for the reception.

November 17, 2018

Wedding Day! – Civil Ceremony

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Matching dads

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Let’s do this thing!

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It was an early start to the day because we had to leave by 8:30am to head to the Congolese embassy. Vikkie did my hair for me and I did my own makeup. The dress I was wearing for the civil ceremony is one that my Mom found in Canada and now it will have special meaning when I wear it again. I also wore earrings from my Grandma who passed away three years ago. Othy and his parents arrived at our Airbnb, chauffeured by friends, and after some quick photos I headed out with him while the others waited a bit longer before departing. It took a little over an hour to get to the embassy and when we arrived there were already a few people there waiting and socializing outside. It was the start to a beautiful sunny day and I enjoyed being outside and welcoming family and friends as they arrived and taking some photos together. Close to 11am we were shown to the reception area where everyone was already seated and a space was waiting for us. Although it wasn’t planned we had the perfect number of people attend this part of the day as the setting was intimate. The ceremony was led by a civil representative who brought us through the parts of the Congolese family act. Then he called us up to say our vows and exchange rings. For the rings he had us hold each others wrist in an interesting way! We went on to sign the documents along with our two sets of witnesses. Othy and I then stood in front of the representative as he gave us some wise council and presented us with our certificates. We started and ended the ceremony by standing and singing the Congolese national anthem. We took a few photos in the doorway of the reception with family and friends, but kept it short since it was already 1pm and so everything would be pushed an hour later. My mom, the bridesmaids and I were provided a room where we could quickly change into our outfits for the religious ceremony, and then we left for the church!

September 6, 2018

Lola ya Bonobo

On the last Sunday and last full day in Kinshasa, we went with a group of friends to a large Catholic church, and then afterwards drove out of town to visit Lola ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for orphaned Bonobos, one of the few great ape species. The drive was quite nice and offered a perspective of the outskirts of the city. The joke of the drive was that Othy asked at one point whether he had to go left or right (though it was more like left or straight), and his friend responded with “On continue” or “We continue” in English. From then on we kept joking around with the phrase. The last few kilometers to the sanctuary were on dirt roads. We stopped at a roadside market near our destination where we bought some tasty fruit called Mangosteen (this is the English term). It was so deliciously sweet and juicy!

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Once at the sanctuary we got our tickets for $5 each inside a little gift shop. I’m not sure if I got a break because we explained that Othy and I are engaged or if the clerk was just pulling our strings that there was an international and a local price. We sat down in the welcome pavilion and got a very quick introduction about the Bonobo before proceeding on the tour. Bonobos are a great ape species in the genus “Pan” that are closely related to the Chimpanzee and are the closest relative to human beings. They are only found in the DRC. The differences between Chimpanzees and Bonobos are that Chimpanzees are larger and more aggressive and male-dominated, while Bonobos are slightly smaller, more peaceful, and female-dominated. They live in small communities that are slightly matriarchal. Females only give birth about once every 5 years because they spend 4 years nursing their infants. They are endangered due to the destruction of their habitats and poaching for bushmeat.The Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary is 75 acres and has 60 bonobos. They save orphaned infant bonobos often found in markets, nurse and rehabilitate them into the protected Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary, and then sometimes release them into another site in the wild called Ekolo ya Bonobo.

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We were taken on a walking tour around the sanctuary with a group of 20-30 people to see the bonobos from various vantage points. It was very cool to see the bonobos up close, though it was unfortunate to have a substantial fence in between. Although bonobos are peaceable among themselves, I imagine that the large groups of visitors that come through can be overwhelming and likely stimulates some aggression. At one of the viewing areas there were two bonobos dragging tree branches. One of them threw dirt at us and I got some in my eye (that will forever be a first)! I was glad that I wore good shows because the walk was 3km and there were some areas where we had to climb and descend some hills. I enjoyed being in nature and having an opportunity to do some walking since most of my movements within Kinshasa were in a car.

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The last stop on our tour was to see the nursery for infant bonobos. It was in an inclosed area with a playground for the bonobos and a few small trampolines behind a glass viewing area. Our tour-guide explained to us that each baby bonobo is assigned to a human Mama who interacts with them and feeds them by bottle for five years until they are introduced into the protected bonobo community. What a strange and interesting job that would be! Three bonobos have been born in the “wild”, which shows that the project to rehabilitate the orphaned bonobos is succeeding.

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At the end of the walk there was a river with a small waterfall that leads to a beach picnic area. There was a little island in the river with bamboo table and chairs and a bamboo bridge accessing it. It was a beautiful spot surrounded by palms, grasses, and bamboo shoots. We stayed there for a bit and took some photos together. I loved seeing things built from local materials. After leaving the sanctuary we had lunch at a restaurant that had a beach and picnic pavilions on the other side of the river. Unfortunately because of poor communication we ordered two very overpriced meals of tilapia and fries that were definitely not worth the money! I advise anyone else visiting here to bring a picnic lunch instead! Overall it was an enjoyable day in great company! I was glad to have the chance to visit Kinshasa and meet some of Othy’s friends and colleagues who welcomed me so warmly.

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September 5, 2018

The Congo River

On our first Sunday in Kinshasa we travelled to a spot just outside of the city where we could see the Congo River. This part of the river has large dark boulders that were shaped over time by water that was once higher. I am curious whether the dams in the river have contributed to the reduction of water or whether it is just the time of year. We walked for a bit to get closer to the rocks and then started climbing across them. It was like a big playground! We arrived quite late in the afternoon and so we explored and took photos for an hour until the sun set. It was beautiful!

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