Thursday, April 29, 2004

Emnail from Uganda Apr 04

Hi to all!
Well we have been working and traveling in Uganda for the last few weeks and we will now give you the latest update on our adventures.
Two weekends ago we went to Lake Mburro to see the zebra population. They were many and lovely. The lake is about a 4 hour drive from Kampala and then we stayed in a very basic banda (cottage). The day we arrived we went for a boat ride with 6 other people and a ranger/guide. When we were only about 15 minutes out the ranger said he thought it was going to rain so he would take us to a shelter and then after the rain stopped, he thought it would last for about 10 minutes, we could resume our ride.
As we arrived at the shelter the heavens opened up and it rained, rained and rained. The wind blew and the sky remained dark. The rain kept up for two hours. Then the ranger said, "I will take the boat back and come to pick you up with the car". He then left. After approximately half an hour two cars came roaring in to the shelter. It was still raining. Everyone at the lodge was very worried about us, especially our driver who could only think about what he would tell his boss if he had to go back to Kampala without us. Luckily, we returned safe and sound. We did see many zebra and they are delightful.
Last weekend we flew to a national park in the northest corner of the country right on the Sudan border. It was gorgeous, open savannah with a great deal of wildlife. We saw lions, elephant, buffalo, wart hogs, giraffe, many different kinds of antelope, jackels, and a great number of interesting birds. We flew in a 16 passenger twin engine plane and before take off the pilot announced that he might have to circle the runway at the park before we could land because there were usually wildlife on the runway. Sure enough, when we got there we saw animals on the runway. We circled around scared them away and landed. Just like in the movies. We unloaded the plane and a big 2 and a half ton truck arrived. In the bed of the truck were 15 armchairs tied to the sides. We all clamored aboard, loaded the luggage and food and took off for the lodge.
We arrived at a lovely lodge with several cabins on either side. The cabins were on the edge of the savannah with small porches where we could sit and look over the savannah. The lodge had a great veranda and a large living room and kitchen. Food was served buffet style and we ate on the veranda. There was a water trough at the edge of the veranda and after we filled it up many animals showed up to drink, elephant, zebra, water buck, etc. What a thrill to be so close to these wild animals. In the morning we woke early and went for a game drive, we saw lots of elephants, zebra, giraffee, water buck, buffalo. Came back for a nice big breakfast and shower. The hot water was made by lighting a wood fire under the tank that the water was stored in so when you took a shower you could smell the fire in the water but it was hot and it did feel good. Relaxing and another game drive filled up the rest of the day. Then dinner on the verandah. It was great. The next day was the same with game drives and relaxing.
On Monday morning, the day we were to leave, we went on what we thought was our last game drive, the ranger/guide that was with us got a radio message the a tribal group called the Karamajong. Had raided some cattle the night before and anyone in their way would be shot. We quickly began to head for the lodge. As we were driving we spotted an elephant which we were all looking at when we also noticed a long line of people walking on the savannah. The driver saw them, he made a sharp fast uturn and got the hell out of there. We headed back to a ranger outpost we had passed earlier and waited for about two hours until the Karamajong had passed. It turns out that the Karamajong believe that all cattle belong to them and when they want some they just go and take some from anywhere and anyone they want. They also are a warring tribe who are very dangerous. They used to have only bows and arrows but now they have guns and so they are really dangerous. We later found out, that night the park rangers arrested 36 of them, killed 4 and rounded up all the cattle. We were all relieved but by then the weather had turned bad. There was a sandstorm in the Sahara and it was blowing thin particles of sand in our direction. Due to this the plane could not land to take us home. We heard it overhead Monday afternoon but the pilot could not see below 8000 feet so he could not land. We all unpacked our bags and prepared to stay another night. Thinking we would surely leave the next day. Guess what, the weather stayed bad and we ended up staying until Wednesday afternoon.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Email from Uganda Apr 12 04

April 12, 2004

Hello Everyone,

This will be our last letter to all of you from Uganda. We will be going home in a week and hopefully will talk to you from there.

We have had a wonderful time here in Uganda. Our work at Reach Out has been very rewarding and we think we have helped a few people live better lives. Our adventures on safari and little vacations has been great. Each trip was different and exciting. Uganda is a very exciting country but has many problems.

This past weekend we took our last mini vacation and headed east to the Mt. Elgon region of Uganda. It is beautiful country with many farms on hillsides and many coffee and banana fields. The mountain is not very high but very wide and is an inactive volcano. We even stayed at a rest camp called “Volcanos”. There is a beautiful waterfall called Sipi Falls which we could see from the rest camp and as it is the rainy season, each day the falls got a little more water in it. We took a hike in the forest and although it was not very far, the altitude was about 7000 ft. and because of the rain it was very slippery, it seemed like a long way. The scenery was really beautiful.

On the way home we stopped to visit with the Abayudaya, this is a group of about 650 Ugandan people who became Jews about 85 years ago and live a very poor but religious existence near the town of Mbale, not far from Mt. Elgon. We visited their school, which consists of several small buildings that are not well furnished and a small administrative office. They have 5 synagogues and we visited with the rabbi and his class of Talmudic students on Sunday morning. He was very enthusiastic about our visit and we sat in on part of his class.

We have learned many things while here in Uganda but most of all we have learned that we are very lucky to live in a country like America and to have the advantages people here cannot even imagine. We think of our grandchildren who will grow up wearing new clothes, new shoes and have every opportunity to pursue their dreams. Here, no one ever wears new clothes or shoes, everything is second hand. And talk about threadbare, clothing is worn until it falls off.

Women and children are certainly second class citizens and work extremely hard. Many people here think I look like I am in my 40’s. I thought, at first, that was a real compliment but now I realize that women age very quickly because they have such a hard life. They marry at a very young age and have one baby after another (birth control is not used very much) by the time they are 50 they look like 70 or 80 and many do not live past 50. The children, especially in rural areas also have a very hard life. They are expected to carry water starting when they are about 6 and certainly they are expected to help with all chores as soon as possible with the girls being expected to take care of younger siblings by the time they are 8 or 9. Many never go to school, even though school is free, they cannot afford the uniform or books needed.

As we told you in a previous email we bought soccer balls for two of the Reach Out patients. Two young boys, Ivan and Herbert, each around 12 years old. They have Aids and are now taking ARV’s to keep them alive. We also now are sponsoring them in school for a year (with the help of our family). They are so thankful that each week they now come for their doctor appointment and bring us little treats (crackers). It is wonderful to think that these kids who have nothing and are sick still have big enough hearts to think of us.

We will end now before we all start balling. Take care and we will see you and talk to you from home next week.

Love to all, Hinda and Peter