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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

36 Hours in Rwanda

In Africa, Rwanda on January 21, 2017 at 9:29 pm

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View of Kigali at night from The Mirror Hotel.

I was supposed to spend at least 3 full days in Rwanda but family stuff took precedence and I opted for more time in Mbarara.  The plan was to head by myself to Kigali on the bus Wednesday morning and spend an evening and one full day there before catching my flight home.  Then Mum took exception to me traveling alone (she actually spent some time crying about it) and it was decided by the family (and without me) that Lil Bro would be my travel companion, or chaperone in my opinion.  So Dad drove us to a gas station at 5:00am to catch the Kampala/Kigali bus and sent us on our way, me with a big hug and Lil Bro with a manly handshake.  A lot of people drive or hire private cars to take them across the border.  I’m told that version of the commute takes around 3 hours.  It takes twice as long by bus.  Around 5:30am we were finally on our way, turns out the bus wasn’t late but we were super early.  Read the rest of this entry »

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A Day at the County Fair

In Africa, Uganda on January 17, 2017 at 11:25 pm

My goat, Kenneth

This was the part of the trip where I sort of got to relax, hanging with the family, leisurely mornings waking up and enjoying the day outside the city, going for drives, swims, sightseeing.  All that stuff you want to take the time to do and are grateful when it actually happens.  Then there is that one day that makes the whole trip. Read the rest of this entry »

Road Tripping

In Africa, Uganda on January 13, 2017 at 10:26 pm

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After two well-spent weeks in Kampala it was time to leave the city and head to Mbarara in the south, but rather than taking the highway directly there we decided to do a road trip to see more of the country.  We left early-ish on Wednesday morning in a minivan owned by a friend who also gave us the driver, young Sam, who would provide a bit more of an adventure than anticipated as he drove like a bat out of hell.  We definitely got where we were going quickly but acquired some bruises along the way.  Read the rest of this entry »

Oot and Aboot in Kampala

In Africa, Uganda on January 11, 2017 at 8:02 pm

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Monkeys on Lake Victoria, Entebbe

In between the road trips to the north and a few free moments of chilling out in the apartment, I also saw a lot of Kampala and neighbouring Entebbe.  Too much to write here so the following is just a snapshot of time well spent in a fantastic city.

Everything is congested, the city teems with people, vehicles, and dust.  There are usually 12 things heading for the same spot at any given time – cars, bikes, motorbikes, pedestrians; the victor comes out on top in a battle of the wills, but everyone gets to where they’re going eventually.  You walk through the covered second-hand market where shoes pile from floor to rafter and people sit in the limited free space they can find.  Riding public transit means first finding your taxi among the mass of vehicles then squishing yourself between them to get into the packed one you want. Read the rest of this entry »

Jinja

In Africa, Uganda on January 5, 2017 at 4:25 pm

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Self-explanatory

A little to the north-east of Kampala is the town of Jinja where the source of the White Nile is located.  The plan was to head out early in the morning and spend the day there before heading back to the city.  Two of my friends from the Murchison Falls trip organized the expedition and picked me up around 8am.  After stopping for breakfast we were on Jinja Road which is packed with cars due to all the factories off the highway; it’s also the main road to the Kenyan border.  All this combined with the potholes means the 81km journey takes closer to 2-3 hours if you’re able to avoid traffic and it seemed as though we might be lucky this day. Read the rest of this entry »

Murchison Falls

In Africa, Uganda on January 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm

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The White Nile flowing into Lake Albert, Uganda

The third day into the trip was December 31 so for New Years we headed north to Murchison Falls to enjoy a game park and the stunning falls where the White Nile gets compressed into 7m before tumbling down towards Lake Albert.  Up early but starting late as per African time, 10 of us took off in 2 vehicles.  We left the city and headed towards Masindi, the last town before the cut off to the park. Read the rest of this entry »

‘First’ Time in Africa

In Africa, Uganda on December 30, 2016 at 9:38 pm

It’s been a long time coming but I finally set off for my ‘first’ trip to Africa to visit Uganda and Rwanda. (Yes, I’ve been to Morocco before but more on that later.) After my flight got cancelled due to the plane having 2 flat tires (no, planes don’t carry spares and oddly airports don’t really either), I finally touched down 14 hours later than planned in Entebbe, a town about 35km south of Kampala. So this is how it goes with Ugandans – you become friends with one of them somewhere else in the world. They tell their friends and family back home about you, and all of a sudden you have all these new friends and family to call your own. When I touched down in Entebbe, I didn’t ‘know’ the people who were picking me up; I knew about them and had communicated with one a few times by email, but had no idea what they looked like or even all their names. And yet, when I came out of the baggage claim after midnight, there they were with flowers and hugs and warm greetings. That’s how it started and that’s how it continued right up to the end, minus the flowers. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Men Say What They Say

In Africa, Morocco on September 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm

It was a quick trip all around but I’m glad I did it.  The last two days in Marrakech were spent walking through different parts of the city in the blazing sun.  As with all  hot cities however, you can always find at least one oasis of calm and cool, the Majorelle Gardens being such a place.  Walkways of tree bough arches, fountains, goldfish ponds, and natural breezes turned the day into a tropical paradise before heading back into the twisting streets of the old city in search of the Saadian Tombs.  A pleasant 30 minutes there and then off again in search of more excitement.

On my way back to the hostel from the tombs one of the shopkeepers coerced me into his shop.  Really, I tried to avoid this guy as long as possible, I had absolutely no interest in what he had to say or sell for that matter.  But he was so insistent I finally gave in as I thought I’d get a good story out of it, which of course I did.  Apparently he’d seen me the day before and knew he just had to talk to me.  “It may seem strange,” he said, “but when I saw you, I felt… I felt… it’s just so weird, but… I really thought I’d met you before.”  “Mm hmm,” I responded.  Please understand, I know beggars can’t be choosers, but these guys are just too much sometimes.  “So when you walked by just now, I knew it was meant to be.”  Big sigh, this is going to take awhile.  I entered his shop which thankfully had air-conditioning.  I looked at some of the dresses he had for sale and they were quite pretty.  He asked if he could get me some tea and then ran to the kitchen to prepare it.  When he came back he set down the tea tray, clasped his hands, and stared at me.  “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of your eyes.  They leave me speechless.”  I could tell this was going to take longer than initially thought so I put my sunglasses back on and asked him if that stopped the blindness.  He responded yes and thank you before sitting down and pouring me a glass.  “I feel I must give you a gift,” he went on, to which I responded, “Please no.  I have nothing, and I mean NOTHING to give you.”  “No, no, it’s a gift, it’s my shop, and I’ll give gifts to whom I like.  Please, choose a dress you like.”  Well now, this is the best offer to date…  so I went for a hot pink thing with silver glitter on it.  I pulled it over my head, fully clothed already of course, and noticed it was quite loose.  I asked him if there was a belt or something to pull it in and the cheeky devil smiled one of those wolf smiles at me before coming over and sticking his hands in through the sleeves to grab the ties behind my back.  Really?  15 minutes and you’re in my shirt?  Yes, yes, don’t be worried, I removed his hands and told him enough, besides, the ties were too short for my German frame.  I pulled the dress back up over my head, prepared to make a dash for the door, but he’d already beat me to it, grabbing the dress and running into the street to yell at a lady across the way with a sewing machine.  Within two minutes she tossed the dress back at him with newly stitched in ties that would now accommodate my oh-so-curvy figure.  But there would be no trying it on this time, I assured him it would be fine.  Then he had the nerve, THE NERVE, to tell me, and I kid you not, that he had seen me in a dream.  “You were wearing a white dress in a field, and I was on a horse.  I came and rescued you.”  !!!!!  WTF?  I swear I am not making this up.  I’d had enough and asked him why he would say such a cheesy thing, if we were back in Canada I’d have to drop him for such crap talk.  “Why?  Why?  Why? do you say this stuff?  What are you trying to get out of it?  North American men do not talk like this so why do you?”  To his credit he stepped back and thought for a moment before answering: “Maybe North American men are scared.”  Wow!  He was on to something.  Up until this point I’d thought most of the men I’d met on this side of the world were without standards or discernment, they’d hit on anything that moved and had breasts.  But wait, what if they are simply unafraid?  What if rejection to them means to just keep on trying?  For every 9 that say no, one might say yes, so isn’t that worth going for?  Poor Soufian, he’d finally said something that made sense and wasn’t offensive so I said farewell and ran out the door back to the hostel, but not before he told me I meant more to him than Shakira.  I was on a mission, I had to ask every guy that said something flattering to me from that point on why he said it, what he thought he’d get out of it.  I dumped my new dress (yes, I kept it, why not?) on my bed and headed back to the square for dinner and interrogation.  I ended up at a pop-up restaurant where the boys promised they’d get me a shwarma even though it wasn’t on their menu.  The head guy kept coming over for hugs and chit chat so of course I asked him what he got out of it besides a paying customer.  He said he likes saying nice things to nice people.  By the way, why was I alone?  Was I a lesbian?  Cuz he was ok with that, most single girls he meets are lesbians.  Big sigh again.  Then number two in command decided he’d pay me extra special attention as well and fortunately he had a pleasantly interesting story.  An only child whose father was out of the picture, he promised his mother he’d train at boxing and aim for the Olympics.  His goal is 2020, good luck I say.  He also talks to pretty girls because it makes him happy.  This was not going as I had a planned, no one was giving me what I thought was a truthful answer.  So even though Mouhsine asked me to stay, or at least come back at midnight so he could show me Marrakech by motorbike (and yes, I was extremely tempted by the bike part at least), I declined and made my way back to the hostel where young Ahmed was sitting outside enjoying some quiet away from the guests he was serving.  I sat down beside him for the last interview of the evening.  He attempted to teach me some Berber while I corrected his English, and then he asked me to please not go to bed because “I need you.”  Ding dong.  “Why do you say things like that, Ahmed,” I asked?  “Because I like to say nice things to nice people,” he responded.  I asked, “Would you say mean things to ugly people?”  “No!!!  That would not be nice,” he exclaimed.  Hmm, let’s test this out.  “How old do you think I am, Ahmed?”  “Maybe 25, 26?” he responded.  Ah, perhaps I should have stayed out there all evening, then again, he was smoking a joint which has been known to alter reality.

At any rate, that was my last night in Morocco and I can say with all confidence I enjoyed it immensely.  Thank you to all the young men who made sense of North American men for me, who gave me a lot to laugh at, and who in the end, really did show me a lovely time in their romantic city.  You are all truly charming.

African Waterfalls

In Africa, Morocco on September 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Ourika Valley Waterfalls

Setti Fatma Waterfalls, Ourika Valley, Morocco

Off for an excursion to escape the city for a day.  I decided on the waterfalls in the Ourika Valley – if 38 degrees in the city was becoming difficult I couldn’t imagine a 3 hour trip to the desert to be roasted in even hotter temperatures.

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My birthday suit

In Africa, Morocco on September 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm

This morning started with Moroccan pancakes and strong coffee.  As I waited for my teacher to show up for my cooking class, Ali, the hostel manager took me to a hammam for a clean up.  The best part? Hopping on the back of his motorbike for a rip through the narrow streets without breaking speed to accommodate the pedestrians, donkeys and other bikes.  It was only half a kilometre and honestly, I would have skipped the hammam to keep going just to find out if we’d ever crash but he deposited me safely at the spa door.

The hammam was glorious but it is not for the faint of heart…

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