Posts tagged ‘Uganda’

June 11, 2019

Home Alone

When I arrived back in Kampala from my trip to Canada, Othy had already left to teach a few intensive courses at UCBC back in Beni. We had purchased the plane ticket to Canada so fast that we forgot that Othy had to bring the car back to the border on the 27th, while I would be returning on the 28th. So we juuust missed each other. I was glad to be back in the place we are temporarily calling home, but it was strange and lonely to be there without Othy. The first week was therefore very long as I lived at home and worked from home, the only outings being to walk to the nearby store every few nights to pick up things like milk or bananas.

Fortunately I had an opportunity for a reprieve from the stillness as my former E4C project manager was in Kampala for a conference and wanted to meet up on the Friday evening for drinks. She proposed we meet at the rooftop bar of the Skyz Hotel, which fortunately was not that far from our place. I got there at 6, Mariela at 6:30, and we caught up and watched the sun set over the city before other friends and previous E4C fellows arrived. It was nice to catch up with previous fellows Trevor and Peter, and meet Doreen who applied for the fellowship this year. Since she lives past my neighbourhood she was able to give me a ride home.

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The following week would have looked much the same except that I got a call from friends of ours, Abi and Drew who were wondering if I could help tutor Drew in ArcGIS for a course he’s taking over distance. Because they live quite far across the city, they offered to host me for two nights in one of the cottages they have at Adonai Gardens. I brought my laptop along and in the times between helping Drew I worked on my own stuff. I enjoyed meals with their family and got to interact a bit with their young son. On one of the mornings we had a smoothy bar where I introduced them to banana, avocado and orange smoothy and they introduced me to banana, avocado, cocoa, and peanut butter smoothy. Yum! On the final morning before leaving they gave me a tour of the house they are building on a nearby property. It is built primarily out of local materials and has a lot of character. Drew is in the forestry sector and knows about many kinds of trees and pointed out some of the ones he has planted including one in the photo below which is a teak tree.

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That Friday Doreen invited me to an event hosted by InterNations. I had seen some adds on Facebook about this and it is gatherings of people from around the world now living in Kampala to help people to get settled, make friends, and get familiar with a new city. The people that I met were from many different places and cultures and it was interesting to hear some of their stories. I find meeting and conversing with new people a great way to get out of ones own head! It reminded me a bit of some of the cultural exchange that I experienced when Couchsurfing.

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On Sunday it was Othy’s birthday. For the second year in a row we were spending our birthdays apart! Last year we were apart for his birthday because I was in Nairobi for the E4C kick-off session. We joked that we had better be together next year or else it could be said that we have made it a tradition lol! The best we could do to celebrate was to have a nice long conversation on Whatsapp. The following weekend was my birthday. I decided to have an open house on the Saturday and invite friends to stop by whenever they wanted. Élisée came for a bit and then shortly after he left Patrick and Lynette came by. Obady came by for dinner and I made homemade tortillas for the first time and served tacos. Sunday was super quiet. It rained all morning and so I didn’t go to church and instead had a lazy day at home. That evening I had a nice long chat with Othy and later with my mom.

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Because the weeks felt so long without seeing many people, I was motivated to see if I could find Swahili lessons that would give me an opportunity for some engagement. Taking Swahili classes had been on my mind for a long time already, but it was as if my solitude was the final kick-in-the-butt that I needed to move forward with it. I inquired at the Kampala Language Center and was able to convince the instructor to let me join a course that had already been running for three weeks already since I had already taught myself some Swahili out of a book. It is a small class with five students. It has helped a lot to make the weeks go by faster and give me more energy! I am happy to be learning Swahili again since I feel like I have lost so much time from being away from Beni for this long.

Finally after one month on my own, Othy returned for a two week visit in between his courses! It was so good to have him back, even for a short time! I pray that outside events don’t prevent Othy and I from living apart from each other for so long again.

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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

February 13, 2019

Lake Bunyonyi

On the last weekend in January Othy and I took a road trip to Goma for a wedding. Since it is a 13 hour drive but takes longer because of crossing two borders, we decided to make two days of it if we could find affordable accommodations. We decided that Kabale would be the best place to stay as it is near the Uganda – Rwanda border, and is high in a mountainous natural area. We left at 5am on Thursday morning and the drive was a smooth one. The evening before I prepared three mix-CDs to play during the drive that we enjoyed! It took about 8 hours to get to Kabale. I didn’t have any time to do any research in advance, and so once in Kabale we stopped in town and I started looking online to see what kind of accommodations I could find, preferably somewhere we could get a taste of the nature in the area. I discovered that there were several lodges on Lake Bunyonyi which is not far from Kabale. The first affordable place I found called Josh Backpackers was too inconvenient because it would take an hour by boat to get there. The next place I found is called Paradise Eco-Hub. It is also on an island, but we learned there is a way to get there by car and park on a nearby peninsula. This was the best option for us because we needed to leave very early the next morning to continue our journey. The drive was 17km and took 50 minutes. The dirt road got narrower as we went and much of it followed the side of the lake where we took in some beautiful views. Closer to the end of our drive we could see Paradise Eco-Hub from a distance. We parked, gave them a call, and they came with their boat to bring us over to the island.

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The facilities are nice and they offer different types of rooms depending on price range. We took the cheapest (15 USD) which is a small room with a separate shared bathroom block, but they also gave us a tour of their nicer options which include cottages and “nests” built from reeds overlooking the lake. There are also steps that go down to a dock and swimming area, and an open-air, two-level restaurant. The construction is rough but still well done and clear that it is done locally without the use of large power tools. Othy napped while I worked a little bit. I couldn’t work long because their current solar system only supports the charging of phones. It didn’t bother me because I appreciated the silence after several months in bustling Kampala. I enjoyed taking photos of the surroundings and watching the many birds that were around. At 6pm I woke Othy up and we had dinner while watching the sun set. Right before the sun was ready to dip down past the horizon we walked down to the dock. This was the last thing we’d see since we would be leaving at 4:30 the following morning to get a good start on our journey to Goma. There was only about 5 hours left of driving but the borders take time, especially when bringing a car through. I’m glad that we stopped in Kabale and found this little treasure!

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January 20, 2019

Recipe List for Uganda

I enjoy cooking and in Toronto I had a list of favourite online recipes that I would often revisit. Unfortunately most of them don’t work for Uganda because I can’t find certain ingredients. I enjoy getting fresh produce at the market and so try to get inspired by the foods that I can find. So now I am developing a repertoire of new recipes that work well in Uganda. Here are some recipes that I have tried so far that have worked well and I may revisit (they don’t make this list unless I have made them more than twice). I will probably be adding to this list as I continue to find more that I like.

 

Carb dishes:

Patacones Con Hogao (Columbian-style Fried Plantains with Tomato-onion Sauce) by seriouseats.com (This recipe gave me a new appreciation for plantains!)

The BEST mashed potatoes by spendwithpennies.com

Loaded mashed potato cakes by spendwithpennies.com

 

Vegetable dishes:

Ginger Broccoli by geniuskitchen.com

Green Beans & Carrots W Tomato, Garlic & Ginger by justapinch.com

Okra with Tomatoes by foodnetwork.com

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatos by allrecipes.com

 

Meat dishes:

Chicken in Peanut-Tomato Sauce by congocookbook.com

Garlic herb butter roast chicken by cafedelites.com

Skillet Garlic and Rosemary Chicken Thighs by diethood.com

A Great Pork Chop Marinade by recipetineats.com

Ultimate Garlic Pork Loin Roast by dinnerthendessert.com

Crispy Breaded Tilapia by finecooking.com

Easy Lemon Garlic Baked Tilapia by thestayathomechef.com

 

All in one:

Cauliflower, Potato, and Pea Curry by foodandwine.com. I can find cilantro on the occasions when I get to the main downtown market.

One dish chicken bake recipe by diethood.com

Chicken Pad Thai by dinnerthendessert.com. I replace rice vinegar with apple cider vinegar and can’t find bean sprouts, but the dish still tastes great!

Sausages, Onions, Potatoes, Peppers and Green Beans by panningtheglobe.com

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew by freshoffthegrid.com. This recipe calls for chicken stock that I have been occasionally making from scratch following a recipe from simplyrecipes.com

 

Breads:

Homemade Drop Biscuits by fundingzest.com. This recipe is something different but still quick for a special breakfast.

Homemade Flour Tortillas by thecafesucrefarine.com. I used this recipe to eat as tacos and then froze the leftovers for future quick pizzas, wraps, and chips! Yum!

Easy Thin Crust Pizza by thesaltymarshmellow.com. I have tried 7 or 8 different online pizza recipes since coming to Uganda and this one takes the cake. I also recommend their Easy Pizza Sauce.

 

Dessert:

Chocolate banana avocado pudding or ice-cream by kitchennostalgia.com

Orange banana avocado smoothie by texanerin.com This is one of my favourite smoothy combinations. It tastes like dessert but is healthy and so I usually enjoy it for breakfast!

 

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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)

 

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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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!

November 15, 2018

Week Before the Wedding

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My family crammed into a photobooth while at the mall buying last items for the trip

On October 12th Othy and his friend helped me move my things into an Airbnb that I found for my family in Namulundu, Bwebajja and to go shopping to get some food basics. Then later that evening we went to the airport to meet my family who were finally arriving! It felt somewhat like a dream or a collision of worlds. There was my family in the flesh. In Uganda! We brought them back to the Airbnb and got settled before turning in. The next day we slept in considerably, went to the Forex and grocery store in Lubowa to exchange money and buy more groceries, and then went to the market in Kajjansi for fresh fruit and vegetables. It was fun to see things anew through my family’s eyes. That evening we cooked a bean stew with rice and played a game of Wizard that took fooorever because we kept being sidetracked by conversation!

The following day my parents went with Othy and I to the Baptist Central Church of Africa (BCCA) which is a sister church to Othy’s church in Beni and is primarily made up of Congolese people. We went to the Swahili service because Othy’s family was going to be there. It turned out to be a special children’s sunday. It was fun to see the kids direct the service, but unfortunately it went very long and was not over until 3pm! I was impatient because we were late for a meeting with the wedding planner and photographer at the wedding location. We finally made it there by early evening and didn’t leave until after the sun set! It was a long day!

Monday was the day of the traditional wedding when Othy’s family came by and met my family and presented the symbolic dowry which is an important part of Congolese culture. My family were real troopers because they spent all morning preparing a meal while Othy and I went to the Congolese embassy for a pre-marital consultation (it turned out to be a waste of time because we were supposed to bring our witnesses with us). My family prepared a tasty beef stew along with an appetizer of homemade tortilla chips with mango salsa and guacamoli. Yum! Othy’s family arrived at around 4pm. They came with about ten people who represented the wider family: Othy’s mom and uncle, his oldest brother and sister, an aunt, a cousin, and two friends. With a few people translating we had some conversation about the things we each do for a living and some aspects of Canadian and Congolese culture. Then they presented the symbolic dowry in the form of several gifts that included two goats, two woven baskets, a carved foldable wood table, two carved wood plaques, and some money for the value of 8 more goats (because in Nande culture ten goats are usually given). My family had also prepared some small gifts for Othy’s parents, siblings, and aunts and uncles. After eating we took some photos in the garden and then had some tea and chocolate before they headed out. Over all it was a positive experience and I was proud of my family for the openness in engaging in such a different tradition. They were not too pleased however about the goats because they didn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully Reuben, the caretaker at the Airbnb, was able to help feed them and bring them in and out everyday. Later on in the week Al jokingly asked dad what we should name the goats. Dad said, “Well one is black and one is white, so why not Othy and Lise?” I’m glad that we at least got a few good laughs from the experience. Eventually Reuben and Dad were able to find buyers for them.

On Tuesday we slept in again and I took my family to visit the craft market and a cafe near downtown while I went to a meeting with the wedding planner in Kololo. We took a matatu to the downtown and from there we took bodas to Watoto church which is near the Buganda market. We should have walked instead because the traffic was so bad that the ride was stop and go and not enjoyable at all, especially for my family’s first ever boda ride in Kampala! We lost each other in the traffic and I was thankful that we found each other again. I pointed the fam in the direction of the craft market and cafe, and an hour or so later came and found them. From there we took an Uber to the seamstress to try on the outfits that had been started and to give her some new outfits to make. Finally after the third try, my wedding dress was good to go and the bridesmaid dresses were looking good too. Mom also liked the dress that I had made for her that was a mix of Congolese and my own design ideas.

On Wednesday Al and Dad left early to go white water rafting on the nile near Jinja. The joke was that they were going to go down the Nile in a basket like baby Moses! While they were away I proposed to bring Mom and Jen to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens to explore for two hours while Othy and I had a meeting with Rev. Dr. David Kasali who would be officiating our wedding. I wish that I could have been in two places at once! After we picked them up again, I learned of some of the cool things that they saw like leaves that feel like sandpaper, tree roots that grow above ground, and some other majestic trees and plants. That evening Othy and I went to pick up Vikkie and Jeff from the airport. It was wonderful to be joined by these two good friends!

The following day I took everyone on a visit to EMI for lunch. To get there we took bodas from the main road and it was a much more enjoyable experience this time because it is a more rural area! Afterwards we went to the grocery store and market again, and then later in the evening we went to the Kasali’s place in Lubowa for a potluck dinner with other Congo Initiative staff who are in Kampala. In the evening I had planned to go and meet Ron and Ingrid at the airport, but Mom and Al offered to go instead because they could see how tired I was!

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The day before the wedding was a mix of emotions (as were other moments this week). I had done a lot of the planning for the wedding, and last minute changes kept coming which were out of my control and difficult for me to handle because I am a designer and perfectionist. One big change was that the religious wedding was moved to the BCCA church. The reason for this was because the church does not perform marriages outside of their building but informed us of this very last minute. My family took the morning slow and me and my sisters had some snuggle time. Later on we brought out the table cards that Jen had designed and mostly finished that just needed to be assembled together. They looked so beautiful! Othy and I then went back to the Congolese embassy for our second attempt at a pre-marital consultation and this time we brought our witnesses who were two of Othy’s friends and Vikkie and Jeff. We then discovered that our witnesses were supposed to be couples, but fortunately they let us put their names down and promise to have them there the next day! We also learned that the civil wedding would start an hour later. This brought me to tears because there was so much to fit in one day and it meant we would be lucky to arrive at Bwerenga just a bit before sunset. It was time to let the little details go and to focus on the fact that I was soon going to marry my best friend and mpenzi wangu (beloved). The day was finally here after A LOT of waiting! Vikkie treated Mom, Jen and I to a facial and then I went to bed early in an attempt at some beauty sleep after an emotional day!

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