Trek in Time.

Well it is finally time to share the story of the Batwa Pygmies’ Island.

On the far side of Lake Bunyonyi, at the crest of one of the larger islands is a settlement of Batwa pygmies.This group of indiginous people dwelt for generations with the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the southwest corner of Uganda. But in 1992, Bwindi became a national park, a refuge for the endangered gorilla, and the Batwa were evicted from their homeland. With no place to go, many died but some settled on the top of this remote island on Lake Bunyonyi. As hunters and gatherers, this new home was a drastic contrast to the home they had known. In many ways, this group has been frozen in time. We met a man carrying a hand-made bow returning from a hunt for small animals.

On the beautiful afternoon of our stay on Itambira Island we were offered a boat ride. Our guide asked if we wanted to go to Pygmy Island. With no idea what we were about to head to, we readily agreed! In some ways, a HUGE mistake, in other ways a most remarkable experience. After many minutes peacefully coasting on the glass water we arrived at a wobbly dock and disembarked. That should have been my first clue.

Moses - the dock

Our greeters as we began the trek to see the Batwa Pygmies.

Here is where Moses comes into the story. Arriving with his rod – he was ready to lead me to the promised land. Now, Moses is not a Batwa, as you may recall he lives just around the bend. We began our trek – straight up!! My son would have been so proud of me, except for the whining, likely reminiscent of those following Moses of the Old Testament. A good thirty minutes of laughing, whining, stop and go, and yes, even a brief stop in which I emphatically exclaimed, “I can’t go one step farther.” Patiently, Moses took my arm, steadying me and perhaps even dragging me, proclaiming over and over that we were almost there, not bad for 11. At times I did feel 100 (see previous blog). But what we saw at the crest of the hill was absolutely worth the effort. A land frozen in time. Sadly though, they were used to those journeying to their resettled home and quickly brought out their cloth bags with bracelets and other hand-crafted souvenirs.

Pygmy4

The children and the souvenirs.

As we walked around the little plot of land, the lack was apparent; clothes, shoes, doors, beds, shade, food, many of what we call the basic needs.

Pygmy1

Little Ones.

Pygmy3

Home.

They performed a dance to entertain us before settling beside their handmade goods for sale. We had brought very few Uganda shillings along but gave what we could.

Pygmy5

The Batwa Pygmy Dance Troupe.

We were not there long and as I began the long trek back down I began to reflect. We take for granted so many of the basic needs. Even when we whine and complain that we don’t have enough, we really do have it easy.

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The trek back down. It really is much steeper than it looks….

If that had been the place I was destined to live my life, could I? Could you? Would I? Would you?

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Meet My Moses.

Well I am back from my amazing travel to the western side of Uganda and I have so much to share over the next few days!

Today I want you to meet my Moses! Why he is MY Moses will be part of the story of the visit to the pygmies but you will need to be patient – that story comes later….

Raise your hand if you ever had to ride the bus to school! Now keep it up if you hated it like I did! Thankfully, it was for a short time and my big sister kept me safe in the dark while we waited at the bottom of the hill. We could take for granted, rain or snow, warm or cold, that big yellow bus would come to a grinding halt and we would climb on board. My kids were lucky, they lived close enough to walk and would find a ride on those miserable Midwest winter days.MY Moses

But this is not my story – it is Moses’s day. Here is Moses. I met him yesterday at Lake Bunyonyi, the most amazing,untouched place on earth! More on that later too. This is Moses’ story. Moses is 11. I asked him. He asked me how old I am, not realizing it is really not that polite of a question. I laughed when he asked and he said “100”? I just laughed again. He has two sisters and four brothers. Moses

Moses Village

Moses’ Village

is in Primary Five (5th grade).  This is the village where Moses lives. It is on the banks of one of the many islands on one of the deepest lakes in the world. Yes, an island. Moses has never left the group of islands. There is a small town, Kabale, just eight kilometers away but he has not been there. That means he has never driven in a car on a paved street. Each day he climbs barefoot into his school boat. The children go to the few 

School boat.

School boat

schools scattered across the islands by boat. The sun takes its time rising above the hilly islands so the boats begin heading across the glassy water about 8:30 in the morning. They head back to the little clusters of homes dotted on the hills of the islands about five in the evening. What amazed me, and in fact brought me to tears, was his school. I will tell more about it in the pygmies’ story but let me show you using a couple of pictures. Clay walls, one chalk board, handmade bencheMoses' Schools. Now, this is the Primary One classroom but Moses’ was very similar. Where were the shiny desks, white boards, TV and DVD player and projection system, the maps, the games, the BOOKS??? I told him I lived in the United States and asked him if he had seen it on a map. He has never seen a woMoses' School2rld map. just one of Uganda. Moses is incredibly intelligent, speaks English quite well and has big dreams. I asked someone about teachers for this remote part of the world and was told that often teachers that are not strong academically end up in the remote areas. From what I read on the chalkboard, the Primary One teaching is doing his or her very best! Moses melted my heart. I asked him what he wanted to do one day. His response was “a doctor”. That means someone needs to be there for him all the way through secondary school and his parents will not ask him to stop so he can tend the garden. He will need to pass the tests for university. How will he learn biology and chemistry? He will have to compete against the students from the city schools and private schools for a government scholarship to university. He wants to become a doctor and come back to take care of the people of his village. I know full well the odds are not in his favor and I wish he could take for granted the opportunities most of the young people I know can but he is strong and smart and I wish him the very best and pray that God gives him the desire of his heart!! More on MY Moses later……

Clouds.Thunder.Rain.

I put on a sweater this afternoon! It has been four weeks since my arrival to Uganda and the first time I needed a sweater.

Catchment Tanks

Catchment Tanks

Why? Four weeks later it has finally rained! The clouds started to build in the usually cloudless sky, the thunder began to roar and then it rained! It is as if a catchment tank in the sky had been filling up for weeks and this afternoon the bottom fell out!

Rain 2Rain is precious here. In a land where more than 90% of the country relies on agriculture, rain matters. We take for granted our four distinct season but here at the equator the seasons are two – rainy and dry. The farmers say the patterns are changing and they can no longer take for granted when the rains will come and this is of great concern. Also, it seems as if each time I have been here when it rains, it pours. Not the gentle rains of Midwest summers that nourish the crops – the rain today as most days came in a torrent and ended much too soon. It is rain that stops traffic and causes everyone to dash for cover.Rain 1

So for now, as the we head into late afternoon it is surprisingly cool. The dust has settled for a while and the catchment tanks have filled back up a bit. It has been a nice change….

Refreshed.Renewed.Ready.

Cup of Tea and Computer

A cup of tea and my computer – life is good.

I really had every intention of writing my blog this morning over my morning cup of tea but time escaped from me and here it is, though late in my day, perhaps still time for morning tea for you. Night falls quickly here just as the morning sun seems to rise so quickly so I will try to write before it gets too dark here on my patio (my favorite place). The first few days it was instant coffee but now the days begin with a cup of African tea (tea, tea masala and milk). If you want to try it when I get home let me know. I will have the tea masala.

It is election eve but for today, business as usual. Carly and I worked until mid-afternoon as we usually do, then went with Timba for a delicious late afternoon lunch at a restaurant I had not been to before. We capped the afternoon with some indulgence at Sparkles Saloon. Now, lest you think we were drinking mid-afternoon, in the states we would call it Salon. I find it funny how they add the extra letter. Carly and I each had a mani-pedi while Timba had a cut and shave. Then we ended with a brief stop at Nakumatt to prepare for potential hibernation the next few days before heading home.

I thought today I would answer the Most Frequently Asked Questions. Now that may mean just one or two people have asked as I don’t have that many readers but still let me indulge.

  1. Why Uganda for sabbatical? Iowa winters…. enough said. Okay, maybe a bit more of an explanation. You see, I go nonstop. Ask my daughter, sisters, colleagues or friends. They can take for granted that I will be busy, probably too busy. I LOVE all the incredible roles I get to play from teacher, to center director, to board member but they result in packed days. I needed to rest! Here is how Webster describes sabbatical. “A period of time during which someone does not work at his or her regular job and is able to rest, travel, do research”. That is what I am doing. I want to come back refreshed, renewed and ready to pick up where I left off. Besides, I LOVE Uganda. The country, the people and my friends here have a special place in my heart.
  2. Who are Carly and Timba that you always refer to? Excellent question. Carly is a former student that lives and works here in Uganda. She came to Uganda three times with me while a student at Drake and fell in love with the country. Okay, and perhaps a wonderful young man named Timba. Timba is a fitness trainer. Let me describe each of them… Carly is adventurous, generous-hearted, intelligent and absolutely a sweetheart! Timba is brave, intelligent, handsome and absolutely a gentleman! They are treating me with such kindness!

Keep sending your questions!

The sun has set, the lights of the far hills of the city are glimmering. Time to go in before the mosquitoes decide I am  late-evening dinner.

Coffee.Coolness.Contemplation.

Good morning.

Last night the internet was not working. I wish I could take for granted that when I open my tablet it will be functioning. I have paid good money for a hot spot so shouldn’t it? The internet coverage has greatly improved over the past three or four years here but at peak demand times it still can be iffy.

Anyway, if you want to know a bit more about where I am staying let me begin with describing this morning. In our second floor apartment we have a small balcony with an amazing view. I love getting up early when the city is quiet except for the sound of birds chirping and the occasional rooster crowing in the distance. That quiet will soon evaporate  as the city comes to life. My favorite chair at the patio table faces east and I love to watch the sun rise over the trees and hills of Kampala. I am still amazed at a world where the sun shines for exactly twelve hours, 365 days every year. A cup of coffee, my devotional, a cool morning breeze and the sunrise – what more could I ask for? IMG_20160210_071957

Let me conclude with a quote from my devotional reading this morning, “Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go.”

May you find a time of solitude today! Blessings.The sun has now risen and is hiding in the clouds. Back to my coffee….