Thursday, August 9, 2007

Uganda: hippos in the moonlight

Uganda is all about bananas, bananas, animals, and bananas. That, and the amazing things that women can carry on their heads (potato sacks, water jugs, umbrellas,'s incredible!) Equally impressive is what what people carry on their bikes (loads and loads of bananas, charcoal, firewood, their entire family, etc.). All the children run after you yelling 'muzungu!' They are heart-breakingly darling. And sometimes they follow it up with demands for money, sweets, pens or water. You can hardly blame them, when you see how little people survive on.

We've had an amazing time exploring the National Parks of Uganda. What a jawdroppingly beautiful country. With such friendly and warm and gregarious people. We would love to return. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, we saw tree-climbing lions, elephants (they weren't climbing trees), buffaloes, and chimpanzees (who really do jump up and down and hoot and holler---just like in cartoons!). Our favorites, however, were the hungry hungry hippos. They look so fat and friendly and cute, even though they kill more people in Africa than any other animal. Kule told us that sometimes locals are stumbling home drunk and walk into them, and that's why the death count is fairly high. Man! We had one right outside our hotel room one night during a thunder storm: every time the sky was illuminated by a crack of lightning, we could see the hippo munching grass on the hotel lawn. Classic. Luckily we weren't drunk, and we stayed put behind our window.

A few beers did, however, help Eric hold his own in pool games across Uganda. Eric and Kule made a formidable duo and swept many a table.....which are found in the oddest of outdoor roadside places. Kathleen played it safe by playing the dutiful and supportive wife. We feared that they would have had to burn the table if a lady muzungu wanted to enter. No need to cause an international incident just yet. Plus, Kathleen's really really bad at pool, beer or no.

Animal factoid: warthogs are cuter than cute, and they walk with a real swagger to their step.

Cultural factoid: pay phones in Uganda consist of a regular push-button phone on a stand with someone there ready to dial for you. They list the rates for all the various cell phone companies and local and international calls. It's pretty cool to see business folks standing talking on them.

Kathleen read The Last King of Scotland while traveling through Uganda, which put a surreal spin on the experience. It's hard to believe the Idi Amin years were so recent. And even more incredible to see how open and trusting Ugandans are despite the horrors that have wracked their country. We had hoped to be able to pick up a few words of the local language, but as there are over 50 local languages, this proved to be a tad outside our reach. Ugandans by and large don't speak Swahili---particularly since Amin had wanted to make Swahili the official unifying language and anything Amin wanted is now considered an incredibly bad idea. So we were spoiled by using English all the time. But this seems to be the norm for Ugandans traveling in their own country as well.

We were sorry to leave Kule, as we liked him so much, so we asked someone to take our picture together. It appears that digital cameras were new to him, but it just might be our favorite shot to date!

1 comment:

nathan said...

when -- as a kid -- i first found out that hippos will bite a person in half for fun, i was CRUSHED! i knew they were hungry hungry, but damn... i am only recently coming out of the associated fog of denial.