I am back at site after about a month of being away and finally have a minute and a computer to write this. I and the rest of my training group spent ten days in Nairobi for our last phase of training. We stayed at a conference center in dorm-like rooms and ate in a dining hall and had sessions all day, so it was kind of a flashback to college. It was a little strange to be back around so many Americans after living at site, but we all managed it pretty well! Our second night together some of us gave a cooking demonstration in the conference center’s kitchen and managed to start a grease fire that required a fire extinguisher to stop. The food we made was great though! Most of us took every opportunity we could get to eat as much non-Kenyan food —pizza, ice cream, burgers, and sushi—as possible. On Sunday, our one day off, we went to an elephant orphanage nearby to watch the staff feed the elephants. It was super cute and we saw a baby rhino as well. By the last day we were all ready to be done sitting through sessions and sharing rooms.
Another volunteer (Krystle) and I had planned a trip to Uganda following the training, so at 5am we were up and checking out so we could get downtown to our bus. We spent the entire day—7am to 8pm—traveling to the capital of Uganda, Kampala. The roads were much better than I expected and I was exhausted from the busy past weeks, so I slept most of the way. We stayed overnight at a great hostel and then were up bright and early to go rafting on the Nile. Rafting was absolutely amazing and much more terrifying than I expected. We went through eight rapids from class 3 to class 5. Our boat flipped in two of them and I managed to wind up in the water in two more. Krystle was less thrilled than I was about rafting, but she hung in there. The other two guys in our boat were students from Union College who had just completed fellowships in Uganda and Malawi and were a lot of fun. The rafting company owns a campsite overlooking the rapids and we went back there for the night to eat a BBQ and relax. The next day we went back to the hostel in Kampala to meet up with some other PC Kenya volunteers who were also on vacation. We compared notes on our trips so far and traded rafting stories and spent the next day hanging out with them. Then the other group headed back to Nairobi and Krystle and I went to Mbale to visit a family I know there. The next day we went to Sipi Falls, which is a gorgeous set of three waterfalls near Mbale. We had to hike down into a valley and then back up out of it to see the falls. We were pretty unprepared for the hiking, but the views were totally worth it! Between the falls and the awesome hospitality of the family we visited, we had a great time. The next day we returned to Nairobi.
The thing about traveling in East Africa is that the travel itself is half the adventure. It doesn’t sound like we did much in the six days we were in Uganda, but all that time riding in buses and matatus was part of the experience. Especially getting back to Kenya. We made arrangements with a bus company in Kampala to meet our bus at the border rather than do the extra trip back to Kampala. We paid full fare for our tickets and got to the border, only to find out that our bus had taken a different route. After I threw a small temper tantrum in the bus office, we decided to get on a matatu to the next major town in Kenya and go from there. After a ton of hassle and stress, we eventually made it back to Nairobi. I didn’t think I’d ever be so happy to see that crazy city as I was then. Next I got a message from PC asking me to stay in Nairobi for a few more days, so Krystle went back to the coast and I checked into a hotel. There were several other volunteers also around, so we got a little extended vacation hanging out with them and eating more American food. As an extra bonus, I was there on my birthday and even go t to see a movie! I got back to my site last night (after paying 150 extra shillings because it’s back to school week and all the fares are hiked) and am back at work today.
It looks like it rained a lot while I was gone, because everything is green and lush. It’s also gotten a lot cooler here. I may have to buy warmer clothes if it stays like this. Other than that, everything looks pretty much the same. One of the cool things about being in Uganda was comparing it to here. Even though the countries are neighbors, there are a lot of differences. I think overall Uganda feels a lot more laid-back than Kenya. It has plenty of food and water, unlike Kenya, so I guess that makes sense. Between being there and in Nairobi, which is definitely like a different country than the rest of Kenya, it’s going to take some time to readjust to being back at site. Stay tuned…