Posts tagged ‘Uganda’

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

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

A Great Pork Chop Marinade by recipetineats.com

Crispy Breaded Tilapia by finecooking.com

 

All in one:

One dish chicken bake recipe by diethood.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)

 

Dessert:

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

Orange banana avocado smoothie by texanerin.com 

 

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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 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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October 14, 2018

Wedding Venue Tourism

In mid September I spent several days searching for a wedding venue around Kampala. To make it more fun I treated myself like a tourist who was going around to discover beautiful places around Kampala. I found some really nice spots! On a Wednesday on the way to the grocery store I visited Lindsay Cottage in Lubowa. The place felt a bit tired, but the garden and pool held potential with the right decor and lighting. I liked that it was private and snug.

The following Saturday I made a day out of visiting as many places as I could. In the morning I met a contact of someone who works at EMI who took me to a property on lake Victoria that is owned by a landscape design firm. It was beautiful though the place was remote, unfinished, and had no experience hosting big events.

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I took a matatu to the bypass and hired a boda to take me to a place called Speke Resort. This place is a wedding venue machine hosting around 200 weddings each year! It has several lawns to choose from and a few lake-front wedding areas. It was fun to be there on a Saturday because several weddings were getting set up as I was walking around. The generic lawns didn’t really interest me very much and unfortunately the lake front areas were already booked up. There was however one lake front garden that was rarely used because it was too far away from the washrooms and therefore required portable toilets for events. I thought it was beautiful and also liked that it was a bit out of the way and so felt less commercial.

Next I took a matatu to downtown and a boda to Emerald Hotel. It is a three star hotel with one interior banquet hall and two gardens. This was the most affordable venue I had seen yet but unlike the other places does not offer complete escape from the hustle and bustle of Kampala.

Last of the day I went up to Makerere University to visit St. Francis Chapel. I tried calling ahead to see if I could meet with someone to talk about venue availability and prices, but nobody answered. I still wanted to see the campus and so decided to walk around on my own. St. Francis Chapel is a beautiful church though would feel too big for a wedding of only 100 people. I thought that the lawn beside the church held a lot of potential because it was nicely framed by the church and another nice building and offered a view over the city. A wedding had just finished at the church and I noticed that the party was headed to a nearby student centre. It is a round building with a lot of windows. I managed to get a peak at the reception inside and it was a nice space! I also enjoyed seeing a few other nicely designed buildings on campus. I came across a beautiful courtyard that I thought could be a nice spot for wedding photos. I met a student on campus called Papa Tom who offered to help me inquire after the venue. He let me know later that the place was all booked up.

Although I had more places on my list to visit, they were too far away and the day was almost over. The search could really be endless and so it would be better to make a decision from the few venues that I had seen. There was one more venue that I had arranged to see the following Monday. It was a lead I had received from a girl who I met on Saturday morning while stopping in to visit Jess and the interns before heading out to the lake-front property. Ironically this venue was another lakefront property but the difference was that the venue incorporated the services of a wedding planner. The venue is called Estate E’Bwerenga and is a beautiful and peaceful property on Lake Victoria with a nicely designed four-bedroom house. Although it was the most expensive option, I liked that it had areas that would serve well for the religious ceremony and the reception, and that it was a package deal where the planner is familiar with the site and can bring together all of the necessary vendors.

In the end we chose to go with the last venue. Even though it was a lot of traveling around and inquiring, I enjoyed the process of seeing some beautiful destinations in and around Kampala.

September 8, 2018

Nomad in Uganda 2.0 – Kajjansi

After two weeks in Kinshasa Othy and I returned to Uganda. We parted ways immediately after arriving because I had plans to visit EMI before joining the other CI international staff, and Othy had plans to return to Beni to take up his work responsibilities. It is frustrating that he could go back and I couldn’t, that I somehow got released from a level of my work obligations (I am doing what I can remotely), but he is not. This time in Uganda feels like a bit of ironic deja vu despite the fact that it is a completely different experience this time around. I was a nomad in Uganda for two months in 2014 when Othy and I were just getting to know each other, and now here we are, less than two months away from getting married, and once again I am a nomad in Uganda. I am thankful for this country. It is a place I have gotten quite comfortable and familiar with from my travels through and extended visits over the years. I have been to Uganda every two years since my internship with EMI in 2012. This time I feel more like a “nomad” rather than in a group of “nomads” because this time I am on my own instead of in a big family of international staff. Because we arrived quite late, I stayed the first night at a hostel called ViaVia that had been recommended by a friend. It is a nice spot. I arrived in the dark but the reception was a warm space and burning lanterns along the path guided me from my dorm to an open air restaurant with a nice atmosphere. I ordered ugali and beans and then caught up on some work before turning in.

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The following morning I took a boda with my biiig bag to Entebbe road, took a matatu (taxi bus) to Kajjansi (I paid for two seats because my bag was so big), and then another moto to the EMI office. Every time I visit EMI there are fewer and fewer people that I know from my internship in 2012, and yet I easily become acquainted with the new people because the office has such an open and welcoming culture. They allowed me to move around and work at the desks of people who were temporarily away from the office for the coming days. I stayed for the next week in Kijjansi at the EMI intern house while I started asking around about a longer term affordable place to stay. The interns are a very fun bunch and I enjoyed getting to know them. We had nice evenings of conversation (often over lemon grass tea), and on the Friday we attempted to make banana bread and then watched a movie. Our original plan was to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, but then because of my upcoming wedding we got on the topic of cross-cultural relationships and then Benji said he had a movie called “Qu’est-ce on a fait au Bon Dieu?”. It was a cute french comedy about a traditional french couple who’s three daughters all marry men from different cultures. On Saturday we made pancakes and then a few of us went for a nice run/walk to the nearby quarry. On the Sunday I went with the interns to their church called KIC Lubowa (Kampala International Church). The church meets at a place called Mildmay that has a beautiful view of the surrounding area. On the Sunday night, Larry, one of the staff from EMI, picked me up from the intern compound and helped me move into the home of an EMI couple who were away on home leave and willing to let me live in their apartment. Their generosity astounds me and I was glad to know that I could stay in the same place for the next three weeks until they returned!

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The EMI office is such a beautiful place to work. This is the view from one of the offices I worked at when I took the “boss’s” desk for a few days!

 

The EMI intern compound had a pair of adorable baby goats! The photos on the right are from when I went with the interns to KIC at Mildmay.

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November 24, 2016

Past Halfway

The next day we headed back to Uganda and were thankful for a smooth journey. When we were at the border we had to take bodas to get the other side because our driver did not have a permit to bring us across (it’s actually where the name “boda” comes from: “boda-boda” or “border border”). When we approached the Uganda side two guys started running up beside the boda and tried to get a hold of the bag I was carrying. I shouted at them and kept an iron grip! The boda driver slowed down and I got off. They were saying “But I am a nice guy!” We later discovered that they were Uganda boda drivers who just wanted us to choose them to bring us the rest of the way. We did go with them in the end, but when the guy said “See? I am a nice guy.”, I responded with, “How am I supposed to know if you are a nice guy if you run up beside me and try to take my bag without asking?” After passing through the Uganda checkpoints we hired a driver to take us to Kampala. We stopped to pick up some grilled meat kabobs and chipatis to eat for dinner during the ride. We didn’t arrive in Kampala until late and so we directed the driver to Bushpigs Backpackers where I was planning to stay for the next two nights. Othy left me at the gate and headed back to his friend’s place. Bushpigs was a cheap and clean international hostel. I went straight to bed but woke up in the early morning by the sound of pounding rain. Because it wouldn’t stop raining, I ended up hanging around for most of the morning in a small little lounge at the hostel. I met an american and a dutch guy and girl and we shared about our various travels. Finally the rain stopped and I headed out to meet Othy. We hung around again for most of the day and I met Sudi who is a friend of Othy’s.

The next day Othy and I took a taxi to downtown and then caught another one to Jinja. I had promised Othy a long time ago that I would take him to Jinja because I had so many fond memories from there and he had never been. It was fun to fulfill my promise and introduce him to a few of my favourite places! We walked down the main street and looked into some of the craft shops. I took him to a restaurant called Ozzie’s where four years ago I had eaten the best burger in my life! The burger wasn’t as good as I remembered (it was missing cilantro which I am convinced was the secret ingredient that made the first one so good!). Still the food was delicious and we had a good time! Then we hired a driver to take us to an island up the river called The Hairy Lemon. This was another place that I went to my first time in Uganda and loved it. It is way off the beaten track and I had to chuckle as we went down another dirt road that became narrower and narrower. A staff opened the gate for us and Othy gawked as we got into the big canoe that would take us through some fast moving water to get us to the island! Othy was pretty excited by this point! When we arrived we discovered that there was only one other person staying on the Island! We would have the place almost to ourselves! We had tea while we waited for the rain to stop, and then went to go and explore the island. After walking around the perimeter of the Island, admiring their method of pumping water (a big wheel that rotates through the water to create pressure), we chilled for the rest of the evening in a wonderful gazebo full of pillows listening to the sound of rushing water and monkeys jumping around in the trees. The next day we visited the farm that is on the mainland, and on the way there and back one of the staff taught Othy how to pilot the canoe! The rest of the morning we waded in the water, played badminton, and another one of the staff offered to take us to a place called The Jacuzzi (I think we really benefited from the place being so quiet). We found out that you actually have to walk through a small tributary of the river to get to this place. At first we tried to go in the kayak with the staff pulling us, but it was too tippy and so we decided to get our shoes wet and walk (it was impossible in bare feet because of the rocks). We trudged to this area of rocks where the water falls into it and stirs around in a spot before falling out again. We climbed in and and hung out there for a bit. Our guide said that if I swam swiftly I could go to the other side, but I underestimated the power of the water and it started to pull me away! I managed to grab a rock and climb out but was tired out after that! We headed back to the beach and Othy tried out the kayak close to shore. Even though our stay at the Hairy Lemon was short, I was thankful that it felt long because of how peaceful it was and how many activities we did. There is also no power outlet or cell reception which can be a good thing now and then!

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We left the island right after lunch and the trip back to Kampala was loooong. We didn’t arrive until almost 7pm because of crazy traffic. I had plans to have dinner that night with my friends Matt and Ashley who live in Ggaba, so as soon as we arrived in the city Othy arranged for one of his boda driver friends to come and meet us to take me there. I had some crazy instructions to follow to get there and it got dark which made it hard to look out for signs, but after turning around a few times we made it! I know Matt from Grace Toronto church and he grew up in the church my cousins go to. He did the EMI internship a year or so after me and then became a long term volunteer at EMI. He got involved in the Doors Ministry where he met Ashley. It is so awesome sometimes how are all connected! I enjoyed catching up with them and met the two boys who recently began living with them. After dinner Matt drove me to Mallory’s place where I would spend my last two nights in Uganda. It was wonderful to see Mallory again and I was introduced to her three housemates. It was already late and so we chatted for a bit and then turned in. The next morning I walked with Mallory to visit Monica, a good friend from my time as an intern at EMI. She used to work at EMI, but similar to Matt became involved in the community of Doors and now works for them as a farm manager. I met Othy in town at around noon and we went spent the day running errands until the early evening when we went together to Doors for their worship night. Once again I got an unusual set of instructions and my phone was out of battery. We got lost on the way because I didn’t know where the turnoff was to a specific resort (after which we were supposed to look out for three palm trees… typical Kampala instructions!). Othy let me charge my phone a bit with his computer and we figured it out in the end (and I don’t think I will forget again)! The Doors school was as packed full with people as I had ever seen it. It is amazing how God has grown this ministry over the years! To see how they are bringing God’s kingdom to Kampala, check out their ministry website and blog.

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Finally came the day for me to leave! Othy and I went to Watoto church, and then hired a driver in the early afternoon to take us to the airport in Entebbe. We had some time to spare and so I took Othy to Anna’s Corner, the place Jon and Lauren took me to before flying out on my last visit. We learned that Sunday nights are salsa nights when a couple turned on some music and began dancing nearby! Othy’s brother who studies in Entebbe later came to join us. Then it was time for me to go and catch my flight! My time in Uganda and Congo had felt so long and short at the same time. When people asked me after returning home how the trip went, my most common response was that the trip was wonderfully full of good people and experiences. I don’t think I had ever packed in so much before! I am thankful to God for directing my path and keeping me safe. Next stop…. the Netherlands!