Jp took this photo from his kayak just before our raft flipped on a class 5 rapid. And then proceeded to flip on a class 4 rapid and then another class 5 rapid and then a giant waterfall. To be clear, I don’t know what “class 5″ means any better than you do (unless you have some kind of general knowledge about how rapids are classified) and to me all the rapids on the Nile look the same anyway. Here is how I would describe them: terrifying.
We went rafting our first weekend in Jinja. Jack, Sadie, and I made sure we were in the “fun boat” with like-minded, adventurous people while Jp trailed behind us in a kayak as per his daily routine on an IDS with a company called Nile River Explorers.
Our full day of rafting was an absolute blast. Alex, our guide, was clearly a very experienced rafter and yet he was still quite fond of exclaiming “WE ARE GOING TO DIE” or if we had already fallen out “GET IN THE F***ING BOAT” on almost every rapid we encountered. Though I enjoyed rafting, I didn’t so much enjoy being stuck under the boat in the middle of a massive wave. By the time we reached our last rapid I simply jumped out of the raft (a bit prematurely, as it turned out) and floated down the Nile on my own until I met up with our boat again.
Sometimes I liked to watch the sun set over the Nile.
One day the four of us visited “The Source of the Nile”. It was a bit underwhelming, to be honest. I understand that the source is supposed to be the exact spot where the Nile meets Lake Victoria but really I couldn’t differentiate between the lake and the river at all. The most interesting part was the memorial to Ghandi, because apparently he requested that his ashes be scattered at the source of the Nile. So I’m fairly certain I visited the one place that Ghandi felt was most important on this Earth.
On a visit to Wairaka, the village where Kale currently runs its microfinance program, Mariette and I tried on these traditional Ugandan “gomesi”. I don’t know anything about the cultural heritage or the modern uses of gomesi but I did learn how to tie that cool looking knot!
We spent a few very fun evenings buying fresh vegetables from Jinja’s outdoor market and cooking at my guesthouse! Except for the time Jack overcooked the rice and we ended up eating applesauce for dinner! Which was actually delicious because it was cinnamon flavored!
I spent a few of my afternoons in Jinja visiting a local orphanage for babies with some of my friends from the guesthouse. Even though I don’t really think of myself as a baby person (because they tend to be boring and strange looking) I will admit that weirdly small children have grown on me over the past three weeks.
Here is one reason why: Last Wednesday afternoon a baby bird fell from a tree and seemed unable to fly. It was perched on a wire in the orphanage backyard and was looking longingly up at two larger birds, presumably its parents, in the tree. One by one, all the babies who are old enough to walk waddled over to stand under the wire and stare up at the bird. My friends thought the babies were interested in eating the bird, but I know the truth. And the truth is that even the smallest humans can empathize with the plight of another living creature. It was one of the most precious moments I’ve ever witnessed.
Then the bird fell onto the windshield of a car and the babies started to throw pieces of pineapple at it.
I didn’t want to go bungee jumping. Well, I did, but once I got to the top of the platform I really didn’t. In fact, the entire time that I was standing on the edge of that tiny wooden plank looking down (way down) at the Nile all I was thinking about was how I was going to descend such an enormous flight of stairs with my legs tied together. I didn’t even care about not getting a refund. All I cared about at that moment was distancing myself from this stupid and dangerous pursuit as quickly as I could. It is a serious testament to my obedient nature that, just as I was deeply immersed in plotting my escape, the bungee guide declared “3, 2, 1, Bungee!” … and at the end of the countdown I jumped.
It was awesome. And for the record, my form was superb.
Team building isn’t always fun and games! Except for when I’m planning the Life Skills workshops. Then it totally is. For more background on these photos you can read my guest blog at http://www.kaleuganda.org/kale-blog.html.
One thing I didn’t mention in my post about working with the kids at Jinja Connection is how incredible it was to hear their stories. Almost all of the kids in the program are now excelling in school after running away from home to live on the street. I was also inspired by how positive and energetic the kids were despite the reality that they would leave the safety of the Jinja Connection compound each evening to go sleep on a sidewalk or in a slum with a stranger. Perhaps the most powerful impression I am left with from my time at Jinja Connection was seeing some of the boys I played games with in the morning shouting and running up and down Jinja’s main street, high on some chemical I can’t remember the name of, that same evening. Jinja is such a peaceful town compared to other places I’ve visited in East Africa that I needed to be reminded of why community development matters.
On my last day in Jinja I skipped work, with permission from my supervisor of course, and took a day trip with two of my British friends (and our Ugandan taxi driver friend) to Sipi Falls, in Eastern Uganda. We hiked all around the area, through lush green forest and people’s backyards, to three different waterfalls all connected by the same river. The waterfalls were huge, the views were incredible, and the rainbows were magical. We even ventured into some man-made caves at the base of one of the falls and stopped for coffee grown in the region at Sipi Falls lodge.
On my last evening I arranged an “American campfire” in the backyard of my guesthouse for all my Jinja friends – who had been teasing me about being both American and a dedicated camp counselor for the past three weeks. I bought the only s’mores materials I could find in Jinja (disgusting colored marshmallows, dry tea biscuits, and cadbury chocolate) and all the Europeans took a ceremonial first bite of their s’more before throwing the rest into the fire when they thought I wasn’t looking. Then we played a few games before everyone gave up on America and headed back up to the bar. All in all, it was the perfect way to end my time in Jinja.
I know I say this about every component, but I swear my IDS was the best. I could definitely see myself returning to Jinja in the near future.
P.S. This is my mom. She wasn’t in Jinja with me but I love her very, very much. As my semester abroad is wrapping up and I’m beginning to reflect on my time here, I have to credit my mom for being such an adamant proponent, in both words and action, of adventure and open-mindedness for my whole upbringing. It is thanks to the lessons I’ve learned from my mother that I am leaving Africa absolutely certain that I have made the most of every day here. I feel so lucky to have such a smart, beautiful, and hip role model and I can’t wait to see you next week mama. Happy (American) mother’s day everyone!