Sunday, January 30, 2011

Life is a Raging River

Probably the most exciting thing to happen recently was when most of our training group headed to Jinja for white water rafting on the Nile! The night before was the booze cruise at the source of the Nile (where Lake Victoria flows into the Nile), where we had beautiful sunset views of the area. We stayed in a campsite/hostel run by the rafting company, and were all overwhelmed by the number of attractive muzungus there – we hadn’t seen that many Westerners (besides each other) for months. I remembered why I love backpacker places so much – in an hour or two, I met people from Scotland, Canada, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Denmark. Makes me excited to backpack again after Peace Corps and before I get strapped down with vet school loans.

Drinking a Nile on the Nile

Our training class on the Nile booze cruise

The rafting itself was soooo much fun (although a few people were feeling the effects of the booze cruise the night before – the guy who organized our trip almost literally missed the boat because he overslept). Not only were the rapids crazy (it’s really like a water rollercoaster), but because we knew almost everyone else on the river, we really had a blast. I was in a raft with some of my favorite people and we were cracking jokes the whole time. Our mantra was “Stay in the f***ing boat”, and we only flipped once and nobody drowned, so the mantra seemed to work for us. Between rapids, we would jump out of the raft in the calm stretches of water and just drift down the Nile, thinking about how we were on our way to Egypt. At one point, we were on a Class V rapid and were told there were two routes – one to the left, which was some ‘normal’ Class V rapids, and one to the right, which went over a waterfall. We ended up on the right, but got stuck on a rock at the top, allowing us to tremble in fear as we looked over the edge of the 8-10 foot drop. We were the last raft over, so everyone else was waiting at the bottom, watching us – and it was actually fun! We didn’t jackknife and flip over like I thought we would, and now I can say I went over a waterfall while rafting on the Nile. That night, we all watched the video as a group back at the campsite and laughed hysterically at the ridiculous flips, the facial expressions, and the crazy antics of our whole group.

Going over the waterfall!

The one time we did not "stay in the f***ing boat"

However, while being a tourist around Jinja, I was acutely aware of the impoverished people we were passing and felt very uncomfortable, despite the fact that I’m not strictly a tourist and I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer trying to help Ugandans. I don’t remember feeling this bad about my tourist excursions in Africa in 2008, and I’m actually glad I have more than just a twinge of guilt now. But what am I to do? I want to do the touristy things when I have the money saved up, and I am pretty much completely against hand-outs to local people. Still, it feels awful to be driving by in a big truck on the way to rafting, or waving to people in a dugout canoe while I’m on a booze cruise having a great time, trying to be friendly but also feeling like I’m sticking my tongue out at them by waving.

Between Christmas, New Years, and the workshops in Kampala, I’ve been away from my site entirely too much lately, so now I have no plans to travel for at least a month. We had almost two weeks of workshops on language, project design and management, and teaching life skills in Kampala before rafting (staying in a nice hotel with hot showers, TVs, delicious buffet meals, and a swimming pool along with my 44 friends from training was amazing), so I’m working to implement new skills at site. I’m trying to move away from my previous duties as “pill counter” in the clinic (with some resistance from my organization, but full backing from Peace Corps) and am now working on lesson plans in Runyankore-Rukiga for health education at our clinic and the primary schools, hopefully starting life skills classes for adolescent girls, still working to start a dairy cooperative, plans for demonstrating compost piles and SODIS – solar water disinfection using only regular water bottles, continuing my hand washing/tippy-tap ‘campaign’, and preparing for the arrival of a donated microscope from the U.S.! Thank you to Mom and her neighbors for finding one – now we’ll be able to do malaria testing at our health center. My head is still swirling with ideas for projects to work on but putting ideas into action isn’t always easy here (and it probably shouldn’t be if I’m doing it right and getting full community involvement with the activities).

Thank you to everyone who sent a Christmas package, and Kibo thanks everyone who sent dog treats (there were several! We are now fully stocked with Pupperoni, Milk Bones, and Beggin’ Strips). Kibo is now 4 ½ months old and is definitely in an awkward teenage stage. My counterpart’s two dogs now come by on a daily basis, or she sometimes goes to visit them at their house up the hill – really adorable. It's like watching 6-year-olds go over to each other's houses to play - "I'll be back for supper, Mom!" They’re always really happy to see each other, and I’m glad my dog has friends. :)

Random thoughts:
I recently splurged on the expensive, imported American peanut butter and have eaten almost the entire jar by the spoonful in 5 days – I’m essentially vegetarian while at site so I need my protein somehow!

I continue to have random people, usually kids but sometimes adults, show up at my door and just stare in my doorway, and don’t seem to get the problem when I ask, “Nooyenda ki?” (“what do you want?”) and they just shrug and continue to stare.

There are a ton of bats living in my ceiling, and I have no idea what to do about it.

It’s been really hot here lately and we haven’t had rain in weeks – I can’t wait for the wet season to roll around. It’s supposed to be raining at this time of year but global warming has altered the timing of the wet and dry seasons, causing lots of problems for farmers (and everyone is a farmer here).


Jordan said...

I went with that exact same company. Glad you got to run the rapids with those guys. Isn't their campsite awesome? We had many Nile Specials there.

kevin blumer said...

is it true about the nile that you cant drownd in it someone told me that or is that the red see becuase there is so much salt in it