Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Camping in Uganda

7 people piled into a car.  I wonder how many of my posts start like that?

For Easter weekend, we went camping in Lake Mburo—a National Park in Uganda.  Lisa’s boyfriend, Sam, drove us through the mountains for 4 hours and we jammed out to Rihanna.  We knew we were close to the campsite when the birds started getting crazy big and colorful.  The Ugandan bird is a Grey Crane and we had the fortune of seeing a few over the weekend.

The campsite was surrounded by Mburo Lake.  It’s more than gorgeous—it’s terrifying.  The lake is infested with giant crocodiles and hippos—the most dangerous animal in the world.  The hippos, lay waiting for nightfall to rise up from the lake, eyes first, and walk onto dry land.  They look like a big roly poly bundle of goodness, but they can run 30km per hour and crunch a body in half.

We built a campfire to ward off the camp’s many predators: hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, lions, leopards, and wild buffalo.   Also because camp fires are the best things ever.  I brought a pot and fried up some bacon and beans.  Those of us who had boyfriends cuddled with them.  Those of us who did not, cuddled with the wild boars.  (Just kidding.)  The stars shattered the night with their light.  We sat in a circle and drank whiskey, and stared giddily at the circle of forest and water just beyond our firelight.  When we were tipsy enough to take off fear’s edge, we went to sleep.  We awoke when the hippos came out.

The Hippos sounded like the Devil’s laughter.  They surrounded our tents.  I thought we would die.  Something was chewing something else by my ear all night.  If I reached out I could touch it.  I hoped it was a lion.

In the morning, I went out of the tent and could see all the animals’ footprints from the night before.  It looked like it was a Lion King party.  Footprints revealed that the animal by my head all night was a gigantic, dangerous, wild buffalo.  Oi.

It rained on and off all day so we spent it in the car trying to spot cool animals.  We saw zebras, impalas, waterbuck, wild boar, wild buffalo, and the Easter bunny.  We played cards by the lake.  

Suddenly scores of baboons swarmed our camp, and before we could get back to our tents, they had unraveled all of our tinfoil which they gnawed on, threw all of our bottles until they shattered and overturned all of our garbage.  Baboons are the assholes of Africa.

At night, 4 of us got in the car with a ranger who stood in the sunroof and directed a huge spotlight for a night drive.  This was the way to see the big scary animals.  It was very muddy so the car kept almost stalling.  Which was the most terrifying thing every because, if the car got stuck in the middle of the lionsleopardshipposohmy, we may as well have been the goat lowered into the T-Rex cage in Jurassic Park.  The car never did stall.  And we saw a zeal (that’s the right word—look it up) of zebras, morosely marching in a single file line and thinking “Crap it’s night again, please don’t eat me, please don’t eat me.”  AND I SAW A POD (that’s the right word—look it up) OF HIPPOS!  Wildest craziest beautifulest sight.  No hyenas, lions or leopards, but there is always next time.

The second night I slept like a baby because I am a pro.

Impalas against the Sunset

Part of the Crew

Monkey on the Prado


Me and my boo

Thursday, April 3, 2014


We need 37 tablets for our study.   I visit 3 stores, it will be $829 more to buy here than in the US.  What if we shipped it to the Boston office and then DHL?  DHL cost $4000.  Who’s coming to the US?  Coleen is.  What if we shipped them to Coleen and then she brought them to Uganda.  But she’s not going to Uganda, she’s going to Tanzania.  Maybe she could pass them off to Laura in Tanzania who can then bring it back to Uganda.  Oh but Laura is going to the DRC first, and that would mean 3 countries worth of customs charges.  Ok what if she stopped over in Uganda, and before switching plane to Tanzania, she dropped the bag with a hired clearing agent who finished the process?  Ok.  But Amazon only lets you order 3 tablets per account.  Ok so let me get all my friends and family to order tablets from Amazon to send to her address.  We only have 24 hours for it to make it to her on time.  Oh my god, it’s not 3 per account, it’s 3 per account per credit card!  All of my orders have been cancelled.  Maybe Coleen can go to Best Buy directly.  Ok she has the tablets.  Tablets are going to cost $800 in custom charges $200 in clearing charges, $400 for the clearing agent, and 2 days for the clearing.  But Coleen’s flight was cancelled until next week.  OK pushing study back by a week.  Ok need Best Buy to email invoice before tax and discount.  1 hour on phone later, then will get it to me in 48 hours.  They do not get it to me in 48 hours.  OK will call again.  How will Coleen meet the clearing agent?  How will she get her suitcase?  OK she’ll buy a new suitcase so it can stay with customs.  Flight delayed again.

Coleen gets off the plane, passing customs, passes clearance, and never once was stopped.  She didn't have to pay one cent.  We saved over $1000.  

We have the tablets.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Weekend Adventures

The dark rain clouds rush in so fast with such teeth chattering loud thunder it’s positively Armageddon.  I love the storms.  They’re sudden and adrenaline inducing and the perfect metaphor for my experience so far in Uganda.

On Friday night I stayed late at the office for a goodbye party for a coworker.  I had never been to a Ugandan party!  And I’m a bit of a culture hoarder so I couldn’t wait to soak this up.  A beautiful spread was laid on the table set on the grassy area just under the big tree.  And I thoroughly enjoyed the KFC, Pizza, and my heated discussion about the NY Knicks.

Saturday was a bit more out of my comfort zone.  Myself and 5 other girls (we had to count our duckling heads to make sure no one was lost) waded into the muddy, tarped market Owino.  Owino is a used clothes market so dense and expansive we needed to hold hands.  What made this market different than the markets I’ve been in India, Thailand, Bangladesh was the touching.  My arm and shirt was grabbed by every vendor promising to have my size. 
“Oh my beautiful future wife, come see these pants.” 
I could probably find a husband by sticking my hand out and hailing one like a taxi.
I did find some fun Italian leather shoes from Italy for $8 and a pair of Ban Rays sunglasses. 

With my feet caked in mud, I went to the dvd store and stocked up on every season of every television series ever.  For 50 cents.
I went to a friend’s art show and supported her charity to empower women suffering from domestic violence by buying some art.
Then I went to a house party where Ugandan boys jumped off the roof into a pool.  I was a nervous wreck.

The moral of the story?  KFC is good in any country but the Knicks are not, I can find a husband at the store, House of Cards is the best show ever, and I hope I never have a boy.