Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pine Trees and Apple Seeds

It has been a pleasant couple weeks. I am loving Uganda. Of course at the moment I am sitting at a really posh resort bar, overlooking the Nile River, so its hard to be miserable. This is by far the nicest place I have been in the country. It is a stark contrast to everywhere else I have been. I'm in Jinja, a tourist spot, the source of the Nile which flows from Lake Victoria. The staff here is kind. Bored perhaps, with only 6 guests.

My friend Becky will be returning to the UK next week, and I will be returning to work in Gulu -a hot, dry, dust bowl. So I am resting up and she is celebrating the end of her volunteer job. This is a nice switch from the poorly kept hostels with nasty latrines we've been staying in the past few days! Even though I can't afford to stay here, an afternoon by the pool is an amazing luxury.

I spent the last week with my host family in the Western part of the country. In an mountainous area near the Congo, known for is gorillas. Although we went hiking with armed guards, we didn't see any of the few remaining gorillas. Most of the forest has been cut and made into banana or tea plantations.

Our days there were filled with family meetings and tours of the family's land, to decide what to do with the land. They'd ask my opinion on the matter. They'd ask if I know someone who can give them pine trees to plant. I'm a mazungu. I came here to help. So even if I have no idea who to talk to about free trees, I will figure it out. That's what is expected of me, and it is the least I can do for a family who has shown me such hospitality. Weeks after knowing me, they still insist I eat the goat liver. They best part.

I spent New Years dancing to the local music, which just a few weeks ago I found so loud and annoying. I am starting to enjoy it now. The big supermarket in Kampala where I can get peanut butter and jelly and other expat prizes, closed down the parking lot so we could dance outside beneath the stars and the fireworks. It was really a wonderful time.

The last few days Becky and I stayed at the base of Mt. Elgon a less expensive alternative to Mt. Kilimanjaro, where a young man showed us several waterfalls. As I was about to throw my apple core out, he asked if he could please have the seeds. He hoped to start an apple orchard, so people would buy apples from him... his favorite fruit. He had no idea how to sprout the seeds, or that it would take 10 years for those seeds to bear fruit. I have added him to my list of people I wish to help, eventually, maybe I can connect him to a agriculture project. He had to drop out of high school when his father died because he couldn't pay the fees himself. He works as a guide in hopes to one day finish school. He's 26 now. Hangs out at the backpacker camps to pick up tourists, to show the waterfalls. He works all day, and makes about $6. Much better than most people, but obviously the work is infrequent, and pays little. I am blessed with finding many ways to help, and many good people around to help me.


  1. Jess,
    You are the coolest person I know! I'm so proud to call you a friend. I wish I could join you and I will start thinking of someway that I can help from here. Keep up the posts and the good job! I love hearing about your adventure.
    Take care of yourself! Love, Clara

  2. Jess~
    You will never run out of people to assist in Uganda. (A cultural tip I just thought of: "to help" in Africa means, "I will do it for you." to "assist" means "I will do it with you." You may have already learned this, but an important difference when working with people!

    Did you go to Sipi Falls at Mt. Elgon?! And there's a great coffee shop (hope it's still there) in Jinja called "the Source"-- great coffee & breakfast! It's exciting remember my adventure there as I read about yours! :)

    Keep up the good work!! ;)

  3. Oh Jessica!! I love your blog! Keep posting and get me some PHOTOS GIRL!!!