Well, I just flew in to Johannesburg from Entebbe, Uganda and am now sitting at an internet cafe, where I have about 4 hours before my flight leaves for Sydney, and the next continent on my journey. Unfortunately, that really isn't enough time to really get out of the airport and do anything, so I am stuck here paying about $1/10 minutes of internet. At least it is kind of fast, (althought I can't upload pictures here) and I am getting to check some emails, pay some bills, and attempt to catch up with the first world pace again.
Uganda was absolutely amazing. Chris' friend and colleague, Charles, had told Chris that if I had only been to Morocco, Egypt and South Africa, then I had not truly been to Africa. He was right. I feel like in the last week and half I saw so much that will take quite some time for me to fully process. I can say, I would love the opportunity to go back. Uganda is full of potential and lovely people. I grabbed a book off of Chris' shelf while I was there (and almost finished it, but sadly had to leave it so he could actually read it), called The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs. It takes an economic perspective on the challenges of the world's poverty and extreme poverty and the realities of moving steps closer to actually eliminating extreme poverty in the world. Great read. I recommend it (and clearly I am hoping to find a copy somewhere to finish the last 75 pages!)
We spent some of our time in Kampala (the capital city) which I thought was a bit overwhelming, like I think of most major cities. We spent a day in Jinja, the source of the Nile and went white water rafting (in class 5 rapids!) It was excellent and the water was really warm, so as we got dumped out of the raft and into the churning water we were at least not freezing. Most of all, I really enjoyed the town where he works, Soroti. Chris and one other fellow, Julia, live in a house/office compound where they work as well. The compound is set on a dirt road (most all of the roads are dirt) right next to the local huts which are made of mostly mud walls with thatched roofs. No electricity for most of the villagers, they pump water from local bore holes, and the kids run around waving and calling hello to us "mzungus". (white people) I bought some balloons to give to some of the local kids and it was really funny showing them how to blow them up and then watching them play with them. Another great thing that people would say, oftentimes as a greeting, is "Obama". It is universal for hello for some folks. Talk about feeling good finally about being a traveler! There are also Obama restaurants and stores, etc. He is truly loved, and so are Americans now by association.
So the last night in Soroti, Julia, Chris and I cooked dinner for their co-workers and the folks who live/work at the compound. Julia and I rode into town with Simon who helped us pick out two good chickens. (We eventually went back and got two more, just to have enough. Chickens sure look a lot smaller when they are a)alive and b)still covered in feathers. Who knew?)
We then had to ride back on botas (a main form of transportation) which are bicycles with an extra seat in the back for a passenger, carryign the chickens. We stopped to watch part of a local championship football game, chickens under our arms like pets, and the only two white people in the stadium. Then we headed back to the house for the slaughter. I thought I could do it, but let's face it. I'm weak. Simon showed us how to slaughter the first chicken, and Julia, the champ that she is, slaughtered the second one. If you are a vegetarian, STOP READING HERE. Really. Do NOT keep reading this blog entry.
But if you are reading this, you either cannot follow directions, or you are not a vegetarian. So I will continue. You see, I have heard the phrase "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off", but I never realized how literal that was. Woah. New world for me. Simon literally had to hold down the body of the chicken for like 2-3 minutes after being decapitated. Crazy. Julia slaughtered the chicken, and then ran away from it, leaving Simon laughing hysterically at us (and he continued to laugh about it everytime we saw him for the next day. I am sure he is still laughing at us.)
So like I said, I "chickened" out (yes, very, VERY bad pun intended) on the slaughter, but was able to defeather the chicken, which is also bizzare. They pour hot water over the bird so that the feathers can be plucked out easier. You clean the whole thing, then cut it up and cook however you want. It made me wonder about how this is all done in the US. Are there professional chicken de-featherers? Or is there somehow a machine or streamlined process? Things I just never thought about before.
The cutest part was the local kids peeking through the fence at the mzungus, and giggling at us.
So from start to finish I can say that I took part in the process of buying and cooking dinner. Everyone else got a kick out of how this process is so strange to us and how we could have lived so long and never have had to slaughter a chicken (or any other animal for that matter).
So, that is just a highlight of my time in Uganda. I have so many other stories to share and hopefully I will be able to, if not now, then when I get back. Hope you all are well, and really, REALLY appreciate how easy you have it the next time you pick up boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a multi-pack at Safeway or Lucky. :)