Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Since we had no internet access to speak of while in Uganda, here are the posts I kept.  I will add photos as we go along but wanted to get some text here ASAP!
Friday, June 15, 2012:  Molymotea!  Hello!

We arrived at JFK yesterday for our flight to Entebbe via London along with our 15 pieces of luggage.  Aside from the one personal piece we each had, we brought suitcases filled with medical supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, underwear, small toys, pencils, and candy to be given to the children in Mbiriizi.  All tolled, we were bringing almost 500 lbs. of supplies to the school.

For entertainment purposes, I followed the flight movement map to track our route and so I wouldn’t forget the spelling of some of the places we passed over.  It's always interesting to see names of unfamiliar, along with familiar, places and I thought I would share.    Here is a list of some of the places we flew over: Cork, Blois, Istanbul, Newquay, Ajdabiya,  Mwanza, Khartoum, Ionian Sea, Sahara and Libyan Desert, Bahir Dar, Dar Es Salaam, Nile River, Lake Victoria, Jeddah, and Bujumbura, Addis Adaba, Jeddah... notice some people were able to get more comfortable than others!  :)

I learned and confirmed a few things on our flights today: 
 1. 7 and 8 hour flights are simply too long for babies and for many self-serving adults.
 2. Tolerance and patience are necessary companions in all circumstances.
 3. It is always…ALWAYS…better to fly first class.

But, we’re here!  We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda before 8:00 AM today, Zulu time.  Of course, the process of retrieving luggage is always an exercise in hope but when you are looking for the timely arrival of 15 pieces of luggage, you have entered into international challenge territory.  We only managed to retrieve 12 of them… and Michelle’s luggage is still in London for the weekend...hopefully just the weekend.   However, she did manage to find an enviable print over tie-dye dress to compensate for her inconvenience!  It would have been Nicole’s had I bought it when I saw it!  :)  More opportunities will present themselves!

Some history of the Entebbe Airport:  36 years ago, on July 4, 1976,  elite Israeli Special Forces rescued 105 Jewish and Israeli hostages from the hands of the Arab Palestinian terrorists from the airport here in Entebbe, Uganda.  Leaving the airport, we saw huge white United Nations helicopters on the grounds.  These helicopters were used to deliver aid to the Ugandans and the UN still has a strong  presence here.  The United Nations has it's largest African facility here in Entebbe.  

The first thing that caught my attention when we arrived was the ominous presence of armed guards…and they are everywhere.  Uniformed, gun-toting, unsmiling individuals ranging in age from (looking like) 12 to @40 cradling menacing-looking weapons.  I was to find out that this is not only in the city but in small out of the way places, too.  I asked Ronnie, our driver, about them and he told me that, "Yes", we would find them all over Uganda, more of a leftover from tougher times than a necessary presence today and that you will never hear any shots fired.  The gun was just for intimidation.  They have bullets and are authorized to shoot.  Ok.  Goal achieved.
We managed to exchange our money at the airport and found that exchanging $100 bills carries less of an exchange rate than do $50's and, their least favorite, $20's.  The money is interesting and colorful, so much more so than our beloved USD's!
We found a busload of children in the parking lot on a field trip to the airport making them our first new "friends" in Uganda.  So beautiful and full of smiles!

Our ride to the hotel qualified Ronnie as a veteran Nascar driver.  Due to the people of all ages walking on the side of the road, bicycles and boda-bodas (motorbikes), narrow and inconsistent roadways, an apparent complete absence of driving regulations and other drivers hell-bent on playing chicken with every other car in sight, he easily and calmly delivered us safely to our home for the next week and a half - the very practical Golf Lane Hotel….more about that later.

We passed countless stalls displaying their wares: handmade cooking pots and tools, plastic products, toys, neatly stacked and arranged piles of fruits and vegetables, clothing - used and new, beautiful, colorful fabric, and much more that was unknown to me!  There were also a few live chickens among our sightings.  Upholstered furniture and wooden bed frames could be found everywhere, as well as, doors…metal doors and gates.  We would find them to be the door of choice (or availability) on most homes that had doors. 

Background noises were aplenty, including music, megaphone announcements, animals, horn beeping and the voices of people…everywhere there were people of all generations.   Frustration was rampant as I was sitting in the middle in the back seat and unable to take photos!  Of course, the roads are so bumpy and Ronnie did have to make quite a few swerving detours to save us from certain death that any photos taken would have been lucky to have been clear and steady.  After much consternation about this injustice, I was assured that the opportunity would re-present itself on our market visits tomorrow.
We stopped at the equator and had a lunch of  chapati and avocado spread and fruit smoothies - all delicious - and did a little shopping before we were on the road again headed for our hotel.  Lots of baskets, items made from cow horns, clothing, cloth bags, art work, soapstone bowls and boxes, wire and bead sculptures, and clothing made from traditional fabric are among the available purchases.  And...that armed guard was there protecting the midpoint of the earth.

6 weary travelers arrived at the hotel and had a delicious and delightful dinner giving us all an opportunity to get to know each other a bit better and I can say with solid confidence that this is going to be a  remarkable and unique experience. One note about the menu:  although Sylvia said we would be ordering off the menu she also informed us of what was actually but all good.  We made our decisions accordingly.
We finally got to bed (under necessary mosquito netting…another first for me) after @40 hours of traveling….a welcome and much needed rest.  Looking forward to seeing and learning more about Uganda.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…………………..

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