23 October 2014

Pearl of Africa...

Came back last night from a layover in Uganda. First time in that country, one short day spent there and I can't wait to go back. Why the pearl of Africa? Uganda was referred like it by Winston Churchill because of its magnificence and so the name stayed. :)   

Was trying to get on Entebbe flight with only one wish, to visit one of the orphanages (one of many) and meet those kids my Miss A was telling me about. She's been there a few months ago, and met a boy named Adrian. Since then she wanted to go back and visit him, promised to buy him some toys and sunglasses. He is the oldest kid in that home, 9 years old... So when I swapped my Birmingham for Entebbe she went and bought a scooter and the sunglasses. I packed my suitcase and went on a 5 hours flight to find and meet Adrian.

Republic of Uganda is one of 48 landlocked countries in the world, which means it's entirely enclosed by land. It's located in east Africa and bordered by Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. Substantial portion of Lake Victoria included in the southern part of the country situates Uganda in the African Great Lakes region. Uganda also lies within the Nile basin.
Uganda gained independence from Britain on 9 October 1962 so it doesn't surprise that the official language is English, with Luganda, a central language, widely spoken across the country.

Something interesting I have read about Uganda, and not a positive thing what so ever is this... - "In 2009, the Ugandan parliament considered an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would have broadened the criminalisation of homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, or are HIV-positive, and engage in same-sex sexual acts. The bill also included provisions for Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, asserting that they may be extradited back to Uganda for punishment. The death penalty was dropped in the final legislation and replaced by life imprisonment. As of January 2014, homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and carries a minimum sentence of two years in prison and a maximum of life."

Lots of interesting facts about this country can be found on line, like the fact that Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, with almost 38% of the population living on less than 1,25$ a day. Child labour is common in this part of the world. With more than 300 Mountain Gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has approximately half of the world's population of Mountain Gorillas.
Have you ever heard of lions climbing trees??? Me neither. But there are some, Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to the tree climbing lions. Lions do not normally climb trees, except when chased by another lion group or wild buffalo. However the tree climbing lions found in this National Park intentionally climb trees and rest on them in the afternoon, when the sun is high. This is a truly unique phenomenon. There have only been rare similar sightings of this in Lake Manyara National Park of Tanzania.

There is also a rule about cutting trees - if you cut one you'll have to plant 3, and this rule is really present in Uganda. In Uganda you can even get a wine made of bananas! And the local beer is called Nile Special.
It is the biggest alcohol consuming country in the world, as well the world's youngest country with its 50% of the population being under 14 years old!
If a Ugandan person tells you he or she needs to make 'a short call' it usually means they need to use the toilet :)

Learning that we came to Uganda's resort on the Lake Victoria, must say, one of the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. But seeing the poverty on the streets on our way from the airport just felt so unfair, it makes you feel guilty...?

And as I said the plan was different, I didn't come to enjoy the pool but I came cause I wanted to go to the orphanage and help those kids and women taking care of them in a small way I could and knew how to - by buying the food and toiletries they need, bringing some toys and chocolates, and the most important thing spending time with them.
Unfortunately we couldn't stay long cause it was close to their bath/dinner/bed time but that one hour, 5 of us who came together enjoyed the company of almost 20 little ones. Adrian wasn't there, was really sad I couldn't meet him, but hearing he is in school and he'll be back for Christmas break (and that's when he'll get his present from Miss A I brought for him) made me hopeful that maybe, somehow, after all, some of these kids will have some kind of a future one day.

One of the ladies who's taking care of them told me that most of them are brought to that place by the police who find them out on the streets, left alone. The smallest one was found in the garbage dump in the 'last minute' and she spent months in the hospital fighting for her little life. Now she is a strong baby but very very tiny...
The other one, little Jo - age unknown, they can only guess but no one knows for sure. They have electricity problems, they don't have enough money of course, or the rest of the things they need for the kids...and the story goes on... 
But despite all of that all these kids are smiling, laughing, playing... They were so happy when they saw us!

You can't imagine how warm and gentle they are, how much they need love and affection and how much love they can show you in that one hour! You just want to give them all, everything you can, but the only thing you can is just promise them you will be back one day again...
When you feel their small arms hugging you so strongly, like they never want to let you go it just breaks your heart when you have to leave them. And go back to that beautiful resort of ours?! Feels so wrong... :(
That orphanage is one of many in Uganda, and all of them are struggling, all of them are doing their best, all of them have volunteers working as nurses, and all of those children are beyond happy and grateful if you come to visit them and play with them for a little while.

So if you have that chance, not just in Uganda, but anywhere in the world, to go and visit an orphanage, buy some food and soap, baby nappies, bring some old clothes or toys no one plays with any more it will mean so much to them! So much! You will do a good deed, you will feel better just being there with them, seeing them smile with those beautiful white teeth, looking at you with their huge puppy eyes, showing you around where they sleep and where they play, hugging you, showing you so much affection it just fills your heart up!

On the way back to the airport we stopped by the road to buy some delicious fruits and veggies, fresh and cheap... Imagine, more than a kilo of avocados for only 1US$?! ONE! :)) So we left the rest of the money to the kids who were around. People seem so warm and nice, not for a second I felt scared or anything. No ebola in Uganda...
You just have to book a ticket and pack your bags :))