Hippos and Potholes

 Posted by Sarah & Brian at 9:14 pm  Rwanda
Nov 052012

One interesting thing about this experience is that you meet people of all ages (though we are always the oldest),with different backgrounds and from other countries. As volunteers, you live together, eat together, share bedrooms and bathrooms, work together or swap tales of the day each evening. There is a great deal of volunteer loyalty, making sure new arrivals know where to go for a beer and how to manage the local transport and planning joint weekend trips. On our last weekend in Kigali, we went on a game drive in Akegira National Park with Molly the American physio who worked with disabled children in the orphanage in Gisenyi and Larissa, a young Australian who has come to Rwanda really against her parents’ wishes, for her first experience of the wode world. We exclaimed together at the sight of baboons, antelopes, crocodiles, giraffes, buffalo and lots of birds. The bird life here is wonderful- there are so many species, of all sizes and in brilliant colours.

And we were chased by a hippo. Well that’s the story. The guide advised us that we could stand on the bank to watch a family of hippos, black and pink faces just showing above the water, some large and some small. The ‘Daddy’, the bull hippo, rose out of the water to display his massive back. Then he turned and headed straight for where we were standing. The guide said run. We ran. I went through a thorn bush in my haste and Molly tried to shove Larissa into the car head first. In fact, if he had come for us being in the car would have been no protection at all. He could easily have pushed it over. But he was just threatening us to stay further away from his family and all was peaceful again.

After a farewell meal with the volunteers in Kigali and a goodbye swapping of email addresses, Brian and I were ready to set off for Uganda the next day. We arrived in Kampala after a long and very bumpy bus ride. Kampala is a chaotic and noisy city, a shock after peaceful and orderly Rwanda. Our first and continuing impressions of Uganda, after some days in the city and trips out to other places and to Western Uganda, is that this is a country suffering neglect. Kampala has crowded roads but almost no traffic management-there are only two sets of traffic lights in the whole place. It has shiny shopping centres for the well off (and the Mmuzungus, the white people)but the pavements are broken and full of potholes and open drains, even in smarter areas. The banks advertise on huge bill boards with slogans like ‘Wealth is waiting for you’ while people scratch a living selling a few lemons or second hand shoes at the roadside. There are hospitals all over the country with no medicines and the only intensive care unit in Uganda closed last week for lack of saline solution and equipment failure. The directly related death toll is five in the first week. There is no confidence in the state school system and teachers are often not paid on time. The newspapers are full of stories of corruption and fraud. As more than one Ugandan has said to us, ‘the Government has the money but it spends it on fighter jets’. And
also ‘the government here does not care for its people’.


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