We started off the week by beginning our mural in Peter’s community center, and with all of our various artistic opinions, we were initially wary of the end result. Monday and Tuesday were spent hard at work, painting the mural and accidentally dyeing our bodies (especially Sedona, who still, a week later, looks as if her flesh is being consumed by a tropical rainbow disease). By Tuesday night, the hard work we had put in had clearly paid off, and our artistic collaboration was honestly magnificent. Our joy at our finished work of art was only magnified when we showed it to our host men, Peter #1 and Peter #2. Peter #2 could not contain his joy when he saw what we had done. He began jumping up and down like a toddler who had just been rewarded with an entire freezer of chocolate fudge ice cream, and his exuberant behavior continued for at least 10 minutes. Witnessing his reaction made our long days of work more than worth it.
The next day, we had an early morning and then experienced the first difficult goodbye of our trip. We had to leave our hosts in Masaka behind, and it was incredibly saddening to have to have to part with the family we had formed such a unique relationship with. For almost two weeks, we had shared a roof with them, spending hours everyday doing monotonous chores that were brightened up by their laughter, and exchanging stories of our polar-opposite lives. We drove back to Kampala and went to the Garden City mall where we ate Western food and saw more mzungus than we had seen in weeks. We met up with our Ugandan friend Sam and went to a craft market where Casey, Kristin, and Sedona bought matching skirts and Sunshine managed to bargain her earrings down to less than 50 cents! We ran all around Kampala, dodging lunatic drivers, in an attempt to find a music store to purchase a much-needed guitar. When we finally located a guitar store we were relieved, until they decided to charge us $80 for a pink, broken child’s guitar. Luckily, after a few more near-death experiences with crazed, adrenaline-seeking Kampala drivers, we managed to find another music store. For the same price as the dilapidated bubble-gum musical piece of crap we had been shown earlier, we found a brand new, gleaming Yamaha. We all chipped in 30,000 shillings out of our ever-draining allowances and proudly strode down the busy city streets with our new purchase. While on our way to find some crowded mode of transportation to bring us back to Luswata road, our resident queen of smiles, Sunshine, managed to find a gorgeous pair of new Puma running sneakers for $20. It was a day of bargains for Liz!
Exhausted from our busy day, and the overwhelming transition from a slow, rural landscape to a crazed, bustling city, we finally began the long journey home. We first piled into a ‘taxi’, which was a slightly different experience than riding in a yellow taxi-cab back at home. We squeezed ourselves into the 14-seater, and all 18 of us passengers had a nice spoon session for the duration of the ride. After a long hour of forced cuddling we were finally back to Peter’s house, the sun had already set and the dark, royal blue sky was illuminated with thousands of stars that were shining bright above us. The figures of schoolchildren returning home and women carrying enormous baskets of vegetables on their heads flashed by us as we sped down the road, the outline of roadside fires dancing against the darkness on either side. After arriving back at the well-guarded gates of Peter’s compound, and engaging in a slight tiff with our drivers over whether to pay 60 cents or $1 for our ride, we settled back into the house and ate our typical dinner of rice and beans. We then put our new guitar to good use, with both Kristin and Timmy revealing their gorgeous voices and various other incredible musical abilities.
We spent the next day relaxing and we were all incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to unwind after such a busy and eventful week. We took full advantage of the compounds running water, and most of us took much-needed showers for the first time in ages. Somehow Sedona and Casey had managed to explode the contents of their bags across multiple rooms in one night, so they had a wonderful time packing up for the second time in twenty four hours. It was incredibly difficult to say goodbye to Peter, who had been our first Ugandan friend and East African host. We also had a tearful goodbye with Kristin, our awesome volunteer friend who was staying behind with Peter. After a questionably cramped taxi ride with our obscene amount of luggage, we finally arrived at Red Chili campsite and finally were about to see Snowflake. We were met with a few surprises, including the sight of our new bus Moonshine who would be replacing Snowflake, and an extra member of our overland team. Delighted to find that the compartments on Moonshine easily fit all of our bags, we quickly bonded with our zebra-print decorated bus and chilled out while listening to Timmy Jones’ super obscure music. What a sly dog to the max! Other highlights of the evening included us each scarfing down an entire pizza in approximately 120 seconds each, and Acacia accidently eating her first bite of meat in almost 3 years. After an interesting night’s sleep that was interrupted an incomprehensible number of times by obnoxious, drunk South African girls, we had an insane grocery shopping activity in the morning, spending millions of shillings on camp-food staples. The night was spent cooking for our group for the first time, monitored by our chief cook of the week, Sitty Downa. We threw together a supes delish fried rice dish, using every single drop of the soy sauce we had bought for the next three months. Content in our individual food comas, and slightly overwhelmed by our 7 month old food babies, we prepared for our subsequent day of travel (while Acacia and Sitty Downa spent numerous hours vigorously scrubbing a pot they had accidently destroyed).
After a Nutella and peanut butter filled drive on Saturday, we finally arrived at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary! We were ecstatic to see the manicured, deep green lawns that surrounded our compound, and to be greeted by the enthusiastic songs of the hundreds of vibrant yellow birds that danced above our bus. Our delighted group was also made to feel truly at home by the kind men and women who work at the sanctuary, who welcomed us with open arms and gleaming white smiles. We spent our first day tracking the resident rhinos, spending hours trekking through the ominous mud and even more hours watching our rhinos. It was absolutely insane and truly breathtaking to find ourselves so close to these massive and magnificent creatures, and our nervousness at being so close to them quickly dissipated as we relaxed, reading and hammocking a safe distance away from the rhinos and gorging ourselves on the delicious, Sour-Patch Kids tasting fruit we had found in the trees above us. Our afternoon was spent preparing for an educational puppet show we will be putting on in the days to come, and we got to spend hours with Peace, our resident mom and ridiculous comedienne.
This week is sure to bring many exciting adventures and we are looking forward to sharing more of our stories soon! Hope everyone at home is well!