At the risk of evoking an “Enough about your trip to Africa, already” response, I promise this will be my last posting on the subject.
Thought I would share some random observations…
People work really hard in the countries we visited. Whether it’s building roads, collecting sticks to sell as firewood, or harvesting a crop, the work is very manual. They don’t have many of the mechanical tools/machines we have that would make the work easier.
Soft drinks are served in glass bottles (not plastic or cans)!
Deforestation is a huge problem, especially in Ethiopia and Uganda. A number of things have contributed to the problem including the use of wood for fuel and construction, prolonged droughts, and forest fires. Deforestation has significant environmental impacts. For example, warmer temperatures, which in some areas has contributed to the spread of diseases like malaria.
Women wear beautiful colourful wraps in so many creative ways…around their waist as a skirt, above the chest as a dress, as headwear, as shawls, and as baby carriers.
It seems when children are old enough to walk, they actually walk! I don’t remember seeing a stroller in any of the countries we visited!! The other thing I don’t recall seeing were diapers on babies!
We each had two pieces of checked luggage. When we left home, three of the bags had plastic luggage tags with the Canadian Flag on them. Our luggage arrived safely at the airport in Addis Ababa but the three luggage tags didn’t! Instead of being upset, we actually felt kind of flattered that someone thought our country’s flag was so beautiful they wanted it!
One night in Dibate, Ethiopia we got up during the night to visit the outhouse. On the way back to our room, we stopped and looked up at the stars. Without electricity in the area, there was no other light to detract from them. The stars were so brilliant they looked like diamonds sparkling on black velvet! It was phenomenal.
In Uganda we visited landmine survivors who have set up small businesses with CPAR Income Generating Activity (IGA) loans. When asked “What is the best thing” about their IGA, there were two common responses…that it helped them regain their dignity because they could support their families again and that their children would have the opportunity of an education.
One of the fastest ways to get around Kampala, Uganda is by motorcycle (referred to as Boda Boda). They dart in and out of traffic and it seems very dangerous! To curb injuries, the government passed a law requiring drivers & passengers to wear helmets. Our hosts told us that has prompted some creative attempts to comply. I’m not 100% certain but I believe I saw a fellow whiz by with a colander tied to his head!
We visited Amuru, one of the largest IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in Uganda where over 40,000 people live! At one point we stood on a road overlooking the camp and we could see row after row of mud/grass huts that seemed to go on forever. There are schools, health centres, and small businesses within the camp. As people become more confident that peace in the region will last, they’ll leave this and other IDP camps and return to their families’ villages, which were abandoned when rebels attacked. The conflict spanned 20 years though, so for many people these camps are the only homes they’ve known. That may slow the transition.
In the town of Gulu in Uganda, while having breakfast at the hotel on the balcony overlooking one of the main streets in town, I noticed a tall naked man walking around. People didn’t seem to be paying much attention to him. Later when I mentioned it to one of our CPAR hosts, she said “Oh him, he’s just the crazy guy who walks around naked.” Ha ha.
While on our way from Gulu to Murchison Falls in Uganda we stopped on the road to buy some bottled water and the truck was quickly surrounded by people selling all sorts of things. One fellow pressed a (live) chicken, he was holding by the feet, up against my window, which was just slightly (thank goodness) open. I smiled politely and told him I didn’t need a chicken. He laughed and persisted in pressing the poor bird against my window, I suppose in the hopes I may change my mind! Apparently lots of people, travelling on public buses will buy a chicken this way and then stuff it under their seat for the ride home. Poor little chickens!
Although they seem out of place, cell phones are widely used throughout the countries we visited, except in the most remote regions. However even in those areas, it is expected to come soon. Seems they skipped right over land lines to cell technology. Advertising of phone service providers is EVERYWHERE…outnumbering even Coke and Pepsi! While we were in Malawi, the largest of their two major service providers had a serious fire at their head office. This left tens of thousands of people scrambling to switch to the other provider who had some difficulty keeping up with the service demand. Don’t know if it is back to normal yet, but there was speculation it could take months to fully restore the service.
Malawi has one of the highest AIDS rates in Africa. We passed so many little shops with the sign ‘Coffin Makers’ outside them. Very sad. Our CPAR hosts mentioned there were so many funerals that there was almost always one underway during their weekly visits to programs. However, lately there seem to be fewer so perhaps the education and drug treatment work being done in the country is having a positive impact.
Peanuts are an important crop in Malawi…did you know they grow underground, kind of like carrots? I didn’t know that! I couldn’t get enough roasted ‘Malawi nuts’ when we were there. In fact, of the ones we brought home as souvenirs, only a few made it to the intended recipients. Sorry!
Over the course of our 8 hour layover at the airport in Amsterdam we heard this announcement a lot “(Passenger Name) flying to (Destination), YOU are delaying the flight. We will proceed to offload your luggage.” How embarassing would that be!
Okay, that’s it, that’s all. Hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip!