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Journey Home

sunny 28 °C

Friday, 18th June, 2010

By 5.00am we were on our way to the Masiera Gate of the Masai Mara National Park. Most of the journey was in the dark and once we reached the gate- about 45 minutes- to be met with huge confusion. There were 2 balloon companies ready to drive us to their balloon launching sites. Our tour operator from Nairobi had not given us their name and the Karen Blixen camp had assumed that the closer company would be the one. This was soon sorted out and in the dark with a driver from Adventures Aloft Balloon Company, we drove a further hour to a far away camp, Fig Tree Camp, where the balloon was already inflating. Within 5 minutes of arriving we and 8 other people including the pilot, an ex- Zimbabwean named Andrew, were off and up. The sun was just rising, and the whole Mara it seemed was still, quiet and so very peaceful. Up in the morning sky, the wide expanse of high- grassed savannah was flat and vast and it appeared like it went on forever. We flew at about 150 feet above the ground and covered about 15 kilometres. The balance of the passengers were Americans on a 'Vintage Africa' trip- we both felt sprightly and young. Andrew pointed out in the far distance-about 20kms away- that the wildebeest migration had begun. That's all David needed to hear – he would be asking Nester the driver to be heading there after the balloon ride, that's for sure! We spotted a lone walking cheetah, elephant, a huge herd of buffalo and lots of Topi and buck. The landing was very smooth and champagne breakfast was in the absolute middle of this wild African bush, was delicious and oh so civilised. By the time we returned to Fig Tree camp we were so excited- the wildebeest had also arrived and had travelled the 20 or so kms to exactly where we were. We wasted no time and were off into the Talek gate, but not before we stopped at a community souvenir shed to buy 2 'shukas' Masai blankets. They will now adorn my outside lounge couches as throws and be a permanent reminder of this magical holiday.

Nothing could have prepared us for the magnitude and size of the herd we were about to see. This was only the beginning of the arrival of one and a half million wildebeest and in a quick 'head' count, it appeared that there were about 100-200 thousand in front of us.

We had missed this sight in the Serengeti, and were so excited to see it now. The photos of this phenomenal sight tell it all. Despite not having seen a river crossing of these animals, this was enough!

What a great addition to our last safari day and what an advantage to the earlier confusion of the balloon company. We probably wouldn't have gone so far had we not taken the Balloon from Fig Tree Camp.

As we had been gone from the camp since 5.00am it was good to return after a picnic lunch, have some tea, catch up with Shira on a very erratic Skype and we returned to our tent to find the masseuse's bed on our porch- complimentary massages were warmly welcomed. Preparations for our departure early the following morning were made with packed breakfasts ordered. As we sat around the roaring camp fire on the veranda of the camp, we realised that our last night in this special spot in the world, in this spectacular National Park, was slowly fading away.

19th June, 2010

As dawn broke we were back on this 85km very corrugated and potholed dirt road, then onto the so called highway to Nairobi. This time a lot more prepared for what lay ahead- no signage, confusion of the direction, hordes of people, unannounced speed bumps as you approach small villages and generally the hustle and bustle of daily African rural life. The escarpment was quite magnificent, and we were able to enjoy the lookouts from a number of windy roads up the various mountains- this was after we took it slow as we drove at a snails pace behind truck after truck . As this is the main road for all of Kenya as well as Uganda to reach the coast, our fellow travellers were mostly long-haul trucks and matutas- Hi-Ace taxis- which form the backbone of the East African transportation system both in cities and towns and between them. Our trusted GPS kicked in as we neared Nairobi, and together with the mud map that Julius had drawn , we cruised into the Village Market Shopping precinct where our hotel for the night, The Tribe, was located.

The hotel was truly 'Modern African' at its best. Our last day in East Africa was luxuriously spent in this brand new oasis- I could have imported the setting, the furnishing, the artwork and the design, home to Perth. This is truly the feel of décor that sits best with me- the melding of the traditional African, its skins, fabrics, wood ,stone and metal work, with the best of technology, lighting and modern fittings. I was at home!

On our first night in Nairobi as we started our journey, we had met a few very hospitable Nairobi natives, 3 Indian couples members of YPO/WPO. We were now off to tour the chemical factory of one of these men. We were now seasoned travellers and made the 45 minute journey to the industrial area of Nairobi without any hitches.

This 22 acre factory was an eye-opener, and with the chemical engineer giving us a tour, we marvelled at this company started 30 years ago and which is a detergent and bleach manufacturer. The company produces many of the base materials for their products, as well as manufacturing and printing the packaging, bags and bottles- it is the whole process from start to finish. It is hoped that something in the importation or exportation to and from our West Australian company will happen.

We entered the Village Market Shopping precinct, a western style centre, with large open areas, as the World cup soccer match between Australia and Ghana was being played and screened. Its amazing as we have travelled through our journey, how the World Cup has united people – no matter the language, nationality and race, people have united to watch , enjoy and shout for their favourite team- usually over a beer. The Africans we saw were of course shouting for every African nation and we did not ,in this case, volunteer our team of allegiance, and as the Socceroos were not performing at their best, perhaps this was for the better. Even the simplest, uneducated market stall holder had an opinion about the teams and were following the outcomes of each and every game.

We enjoyed a great dinner in the hotel restaurant and reminisced and discussed the highlights of the wonderful 3 weeks we had just enjoyed together.

20th June, 2010

Jambo – Hello

Flying Air Kenya back to Oliver Tambo Airport, Johannesburg we can only feel absolute joy at the time we have experienced. This began as the celebration trip for our 30 years of marriage which we celebrated on the 18th May this year. And what a celebration journey this has been!

This magical holiday has not been about the destinations, but about the journeys.

The journeys were all about the people, the taxis and motorbikes, the roads, the guides, the bumps and potholes in the roads, shocking and disgusting toilets, the dusty red dirt of the African soil, the high grasses of the savannah's, the surreal sunrises and sunsets.

The destinations have been loaded with fun, laughter, tears of joy, exhilaration, fascination, surprise and bewilderment. Early mornings, comfy and not-so- comfy places to spend the nights, malaria tablets, subdued lazy lions and their prides, humongous 'cuddly' looking gorillas in the thick of a forest, cheetahs gorging over their kill, herds of elephant, buffalo and wildebeest, the sounds and smells of the hippo pools with sunning crocodiles on the river banks, magnificent birds of stunning colours, the elegant sprinting of the impala, the regal long- necked giraffe,white water rapids, balloon baskets,the strength and power of the army green Land Cruisers- this car can go anywhere- the 'African back massage' as we jolted along the road, the quick dry safari look we were both sporting, smiling black children shouting “Give me sweets”,the thousands of churches and schools all with such English sounding names, the sound of 'Mazunga- white man' following us , the pitch black, thin Masai man alongside his stick , herding his Brahman cattle,scrawny sheep and goats bleating.....and the memories go on and on....

Alongside the man of my life, my husband David, this has been a journey of a lifetime, on the continent of our births. This is the ground where it all began for us and the very land that makes our souls alive and sing. I feel truly blessed to have celebrated our 30 years of marriage with these 21 incredible never to be forgotten days. Asanti Sana- Thank you- We made it- Le Chaim Babe!

Posted by melsch 23:40 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Masai Mara

overcast 24 °C

Thursday 17th June, 2010

Maasai Mara-Karen Blixen Camp

Since our arrival here yesterday evening, my wish list boxes are being ticked over and over.

In his posting of the blog this morning, David described the long, dusty and at times quite harrowing road trip we took from the Lake Victoria town of Kisumu to the Masai Mara National Park. I have usually not been someone who has enjoyed long road trips, but somehow, the ones we have taken in East Africa, have flown by with so much to see and look at along the way. Countryside life has been so fascinating to observe and document, and we have both so enjoyed the chance and opportunity to glimpse these very friendly people's lives- to smell and taste and feel the life of the real East African.

We arrived, EVENTUALLY?(!!!!!), to be welcomed by the manager, Raymond, a half Canadian, half Kenyan man who has been running this camp for 6 years after having studied in Sydney for 2 years. He had warm towels and papaya juice for us and we we immediately drawn to the resident hippo grunting noise- about 60 hippo- and the loud bubbling water noise, all right here past the dining/lounge tent and just under the patio. We have continued to hear these hippos all day and night. After a short briefing , we were shown to our tent, where I was so looking forward to a hot bath.

If I could have ordered an 'Out of Africa' experience, this was it.
Wooden floored curtained and oh so luxurious tent with a divided section at the back for the bathroom, and yes no bath awaited, instead an outside shower surrounded by reeds.(Does this sound familiar Gabi?) The lanterns and lamps are electric and there is 24 hour electricity. The plush crisp white linen bed and bed-box chest as the mini-bar, all contributed to the truly authentic, luxury camp scenario.

Before dinner we met the other guests of the camp around the roaring fire pit on the patio.(one of wish list boxes) An English couple, Jill and Peter, in their sixties, with their adult children living in Australia. He is an academic in the Dentistry department of his local university and according to his wife he doesn't like patients .He has been a keen photographer since he was 16 and on the morning game drive today he was told by his wife after photographing the lion, to sit down and breathe- he was that excited.

The other guests with whom we had a really lovely chat were a mother and daughter also from the U.K The daughter, Rose, is a travel agent living in Nairobi and specialising in travel within East Africa. She is about to begin working on horse safaris- something our daughter Shira would absolutely love. Her mother Camilla was visiting and it sounds like she has enjoyed these parts for years .

Dinner was delicious and we returned to our tent to find the beds turned down with hot water bottles tucked away inside them. My Earl Grey tea- my choice of drink anywhere, any time,- was soon delivered, we had the great Jazz sounds of Diana Krall playing on my iphone, the hippos grunting in the background- these night sounds of the African bush are so superb- I was reading a novel, A Durable Fire-about 3 English friends set in Kenya in the 60's-what a wonderful indulgence it is to read and be so enriched by the journey- I was in this truly beautiful location , travelling to unknown and never before visited places and my special, wonderful and magical husband beside me- For me it just doesn't get any better than this!

A wake up call by the local Masai guard at 6.00 began this great day. Nester, the Masai guide/driver was so knowledgeable and informative. Having grown up close by , he was again able to shed some light on the traditions and culture of his people. Currently single, he intends marrying 2 women, and was quite emphatic that no man can really manage without 2- for practical reasons he added. His chief has 18 wives and over 40 children!!! Discussions about children, succession, earning a living – he's ready to immigrate to Australia when he heard about the minimum wage as he earns only $200.00 a month- and female and male circumcision were the talk throughout the later all day game drive. The sun was rising and we shortly encountered the giraffe creche- a giraffe mum with some babies whom she cares for whilst the other mums are out feeding for the day. The young were about 2 months old, and only seen against the size of the adult , were we able to understand how new born they really were.

A pride of lion, excluding the males, were our next spotting. About 4 lionesses ,a couple of teenage boys and then about 8 cubs, we were about 10 meters from them, and it was wonderful to witness. We also saw many Topi, an antelope endemic to the Mara, which has leg markings on it resembling blue jeans and yellow socks.

Back in camp for breakfast and to warm up after a chilly morning, to put on the walking shoes, take the binoculars and head out for a game walk. I was glad of the mundaneness of it as this wasn't too far from the spotting of the lion earlier. When we encountered a lone male buffalo, our guide and his spear-carrying Masai man- a skolly as he was called- led us in another direction. This male animal is not to be messed with.

Nester collected us half way to the Mara National Park and once through the unfenced park we travelled about 1 hour before driving into a massive herd of elephants. There were about 40 of all ages and he commented that the extremely large tusks were evidence of the superb ranging services throughout the reserve. Poachers were a thing of the past and he told us that the Masai were offered double the amount of cows that were taken by lion- this was to prevent them from killing the lion themselves.

On information from a passing vehicle from another camp, we were directed to 3 cheetah brothers who were lying 2 meters from our vehicle, resting having just killed a teenage wildebeest. The cheetah were quite magnificent and we stopped and watched them for over an hour , whilst they pulled and tugged at the carcass of their prey. This is the way of the African bush- kill and survive. The vultures were beginning to arrive and we were told that once these cheetah had had their fill of up to 15 kgs of meat, they would leave the carcass to the hyenas and vultures.
We then drove about 10 kms away stooped for a late picnic lunch, which was quite civilised at a table and chairs. Back at camp, after a rest and shower which despite the chilly outside was boiling hot and very pleasant, and another delicious dinner, we are about to get some sleep before a 4.30am start for the Balloon Safari in the morning. Hope we will see the rhino , to complete the viewing of the 'big 5' on this trip.

Posted by melsch 11:46 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Dangers of driving in Africa

storm 28 °C

Dangers of driving in Africa

After a gruelling 6 and half hour drive ,we arrived at Karen Blixen camp in the Masai Mara which is about 280 km from Kisimu where we spent the night.

As a wise man once told me the best and the quickest way to replace adrenalin is with a whiskey. So I am going to the bar to order a triple on the rocks and will make sure the barman has the next one ready.

You need nerves of steel, a Toyota Landcruser, 6 pairs of eyes and a strong body to manage this trip. We were told the trip would take us 7 hours and me in my sarcastic way told them I could get there quicker even on my bicycle. How wrong I was.

The map showed most of the road as tar. But that does mean a thing. We could go faster on the dirt road than the tar roads. In parts the tar roads have pot holes larger than swimming pools. It is hard to describe how bad the road is. The fact that we were averaging only 20 kph in parts and at that speed cars were getting stuck in the holes. Thank goodness we had a four wheel drive.
The scary times are when you get a new good patch of road, build up speed to 80 kph you suddenly find a pot hole half a meter deep. The vehicle I am driving is a modified Landcruser it has a heavy reinforced roof which can be removed for game drives. This makes it top heavy and has been extended to accommodate three rows of seats. It is not very stable on the road when you need to avoid these pot holes at high speed.

Most roads that we have experienced here in Africa have a wide shoulder for the pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes. This road had no shoulder. So an adrenalin draining event would be to see a motor bike in some cases with four passengers on board on the left side of the road, a 75 year cyclist, on the right and a taxi approaching at 120 kph from the opposite direction, both vehicles honk their horns and you hope somebody is going to chicken out and move out of the way. You learn quickly it will not be the taxi. The other close encounter we had was when I blew the hooter to a cycle he got such a fright he nearly fell off. Some of the things you see being transported on the road add to the dangers and challenges on the road. Yesterday we overtook a motorbike with a coffin strapped to the back being steadied and watched by the pillion passenger who was facing us.

We were travelling along what appeared to be a reasonable stretch of road when we encountered a local roller blade skater on the middle of the road. When I hooted at him to move over he polity showed me that I should overtake him. We subsequently passed another two skaters on the road. Where in the world do you find a speed skater skating along the main highway – only in Africa

If the pot holes weren't enough of a challenge you also need to contend with a new sign language from your fellow drivers. It is a sign language I cannot understand. If the car in front puts on his right hand indicator it can meat two things either he intends to turn right or it is a sign that's ok to overtake. How dangerous is that. When an on coming car flashes lights can mean police ahead or ok to overtake now. There are police, traffic police and revenue police that you come across every 5 to 10 km. The taxis give a thumbs up or down depending who is ahead. They then stop 500 meters from the check point and off load the excess passengers.

These taxis are dangerous they can have anything from the 14 passengers they are allowed to carry, up 20 plus luggage. They will overtake you ant any opportunity regardless of oncoming traffic and normally have a conductor hanging out of the passengers door calling out the direction he is going in. we had one such taxi overtake up with three men hanging out the door. When Melanie started taking pictures they clearly indicated they were not happy. ( I have attached some photos ) As dangerous as what they are, we followed their tracks as they knew the best way arround the pot holes.

You quickly realise there are no sign post either for directions, for traffic rules or warning signs. When I asked why they had none I was told that as quickly as they put them up they are stolen. So what do you do – this is Africa

As you approach every small town there area series of speed humps. These humps have no markings on them, no signs to warn you to slow down, so as you drive along you find yourself being held in the seat by the safety belt as the car becomes airborne. I am a slow learner so it took three of these airborne events to realise you have to slow down to a crawl as you approach each town. You have to be going at 5 kph to negotiate some of them. Some are so high the cars have to go over them sideways.

Melanie and I both wanted to wee For me it was not a problem to stop anywhere. Melanie wanted to find a bush where there were no pedestrians 100 meters in both directions we joked as it took us 20km to find such a spot, there are people everywhere. Where they come from or where they are going I do not know.

We have a GPS with us which has been fantastic so long as you stick to the main roads. As we said before you can ask anybody for directions to any where and there will be somebody to help. What we have found it does not matter where you are going they want a lift to that place (mostly we have refused ) but what we have found strange it what was he going to do if we did not come by. We have now worked it out always ask for directions from people walking in the opposite direction to where you are going.

Posted by melsch 00:05 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

Farewell Abuyudaya and Uganda- Jambo to Kenya

Uganda

sunny 31 °C

Farewell Abuyudaya and Uganda- Jambo to Kenya

15th June, 2010

A very restless night , saw us dodging mosquitoes, feeling most uncomfortable, hot and sitting up wide awake by 2.00am. Staying in the guest house was really stretching it , and perhaps we should have visited like we did in the afternoon and found some other place to sleep for the night. However the appreciation of our hosts for our overnight stay, seemed to make it all worthwhile.

David had a meeting with The Chairman, first up, and Elia a quietly spoken young man gave us the run down on some proposed business ventures of the community. David shared his ideas with him and together with Yitchak- the guest house manager, a lively discussion ensued . I am sure things will happen for them, and that we will try from our end to secure them with some form of income . Support within their community is challenge number one and they believe the sale of spare car or motorbike parts, plumbing parts, second hand clothing and shoes as well as computers and T.V'S could make the world of difference to their families. A quick very simple breakfast served by Rachel, the cook/cleaner was served. She proceeded to share her story with us- she is not Jewish, and when her Muslim husband died 11 years ago he left her with 5 children, his other 2 wives each having 6 and 7 children. She had a piece of land he had left her which was close to this Jewish community we were in. They took her and her children in, she as a worker in the guest house. She cannot praise the Rabbi and his community highly enough- they saved her. Here kids are doing well and the eldest is in university , whilst her second son spends each morning 'shaving hair' in a saloon, and afternoons are spent in school. Tzipporah, the Rabbi's wife popped in to welcome us and to apologise that her husband was away, and would only be home tomorrow.

We left with Elia and Yitchak taking us to the town of Mbale to view the clinic. We travelled on the worst dirt road I have ever been on and after about a kilometre, the wheels of the 4x4 were hanging and turning over a huge rock. We had a number of helpers within minutes and after a few tries, the car was dislodged and we were on our way again- so happy that Joseph was driving as this was true 4x4 off road driving requiring skill and ability.

The Tobin clinic is quite simple , staffed by 3 ununiformed nurses- no funds for the uniforms yet, and once operational will I have no doubt be a good source of income for the community. They have a small ,poorly equipped ward, with all the beds having come from the States. The building is brand new- and much like India, and all buildings here, it looks 20 years old. Its just the simple lack of attention to detail, and general mess. The clinic has a second floor which has retail offices and will also ,once tenanted, be a further source of income.

The road to Busia was about 100kms, with much the same scenery we have driven through before. Only 2 new aspects- the beautiful Mt. Elgon which overshadows all in its vicinity- a smaller version of Table Mountain in Cape Town, was a lovely change to the otherwise flat landscape.

We also saw a number of billboards with the words ' Educate a girl and you educate a nation'. What great words, certainly a philosophy that Judaism holds close. Here in the African bush too, the role of the women is paramount in the education of the future generations what with the health and economic challenges that these counties face.

The border town of Busia was busy and dusty with many huge trucks and loads of people. A Uganda is a land-locked country her access to a port is through this border into Kenya and onto Mombassa on its coast. We cleared customs and passport control, bade farewell to Joseph and re-met Julius from Nairobi with our old friend, the Land Cruiser. We had 2 hours to the Lake Victoria town of Kisimu, which will then allow us a 6 hour drive tomorrow to the Masai Mara National Park where we will spend 3 nights at the Karen Blixen Camp. The tarred roads were horrendous, with the smoother option being to drive on the sandy shoulder of the road. There are plans under way to repair these roads. We noticed heaps of small kids along these very busy, truck-filled dangerous roads, and almost witnessed the killing of one such child. Not sure who was more shook up the child, the driver of the ute in front of us or David who also slammed on his breaks. We agreed to give Julius a lift to Kisumu to save him the trouble of catching a bus, and to also save him additional discomfort- he was then taking a 6 hour drive onto Nairobi. He quite enjoyed sitting in the back seat, whilst 'we' drove him.

Kisimu is quite a boring , dirty town and a quick walk into a close by market, saw us leave post haste. The Hotel Imperial, is a definite improvement over last nights accommodation, probably a 2 star, country hotel. We went to the Lake for sunset and enjoyed talking to a pleasure-boat operator who described himself as a boatman, fisherman and conversationalist- a real character. Dinner was in a local supermarket centre and we have enjoyed having internet and being able to reconnect again.

Tomorrow will be a challenge with the driving- both the roads for David and the directions for me. Looking so forward to being amongst the wildlife again.

Posted by melsch 19:39 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Ugandan Jews Of Mbale

Uganda

rain 28 °C

Ugandan Jewry of Mbale

14th June, 2010

We meet a young Australian female Lawyer working for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra and over breakfast hear about the International War Crimes 4000 strong conference she has just attended in Kampala. We invite her to join us to visit a local weaving workshop -also owned by 2 Australian women. It was so interesting to see the weavers in action and to talk to the designer. Didn't have a tablecloth to suit our tables so left empty handed. We dropped her off at the hotel and proceeded on the 2 ½ hour journey to Mbale, and to the Abuyudaya, a Bantu Jewish community living in the remote hills outside the city of Mbale.

We laughed with Joseph as David demonstrated his GPS to him. He was astounded at its function and accuracy and commented that the USD$150 to purchase this 'talking clever map' would be equivalent to 2 months salary for him.

We really did not know what to expect from this shlepp, but David was willing to indulge my curiosity and go with the real unknown. My email contact with the headmaster of the Hadassah school and the Rabbi of the community had been erratic and slow in response, and I perceived that this would be reflective of the entire visit we were to make here. Getting there with no directions was also part of the challenge, and here again , I was so relieved that Joseph was with us to ask and to search and to negotiate the very busy main tarred road and the extreme 4x4 country road winding up a dirt mountain to the gates of the community.

Rural Africa has a remarkably consistent look and feel. Whether in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania or Rwanda or now Uganda, one can see the same mud huts, the same barefoot children, the identical dusty haze, scrawny chickens , churches , MTN network stalls and woman and children carrying water on their backs or heads. We have been lulled into a sense of sameness as we have journeyed through these African lands. That was until today .In the shadow of Mt Elgon, in Eastern Uganda was a shul, a Jewish school and kippot -wearing adults, with biblical and Hebrew names. We have found the villages of the Abayudaya (literally meaning 'the Jews' in the local tongue of Luganda) Here amidst this 1200 strong community, Judaism flourishes , and this tight knit group of people practice a set of traditions and laws once observed thousands of years ago by the followers of Moses in North Africa. In a sense the Abayudaya have reconnected Judaism with its African roots. We stepped out the car and within minutes a smiling young woman, called out “Shalom” and introduced herself as Shoshana- a 21 year old Jewess, wife and mother of Emmunah- and another woman, Yael, who turned out to be her mother-in-law, warmly welcomed us and thanked us for coming here. We were shown to the guest house, which has a basic communal room and gift shop scattered with Hebrew and prayer books, and then a few bedrooms ,sparsely furnished, but looking relatively clean -probably not even a one star rating!. This will certainly be a change from the Sheraton We also asked about our driver, and they without hesitation said they would accommodate him along the passage. He ,we think, cannot believe us, and we are sure is hugely puzzled by this entire trip he has driven us on. They rushed to make the beds whilst we spoke to Alex from Ghana, who is a Yeshiva bocher(student) doing his time for the third time, here in Uganda. He returns to his own Ghanian Jewish community- of about 86- in December , bringing with him the knowledge he gained here. He also commented that a few people from his home would we coming here in the week to sit before the Beth Din- the rabbinical court- for their conversions. The Sabbath, Shabbat , Jewish festivals and holidays are all observed with passion and commitment and there is a very definite sense of continuity here- everyone we spoke to would only consider marrying a Jewish spouse.

We then went on a tour of the Synagogue, the Beit Midrash- learning centre- and High school with about 350 kids- not all Jewish as it caters for the local children as well. They are the only paying students, whilst the Jewish children in both primary and high school don't pay and are funded by outside donors-there didn't seem to be any evidence of sponsorships or donations. Yaakov met us in the shul, which had a few siddurim- prayer books- and a few Torahs and he too is studying to become a Rabbi. I couldn't help but feel like I was in another world, and when the kids names of Rachel, Natan and Aaron were said, it just added to this crazy feeling. Shoshana spent the afternoon with us. She was born into this community and knows no other way, other than being Jewish and proud of it. She is married to a Jewish man and they are both students in Kampala. They are back home for a while and assist in the community. They will return for the next Semester, taking 18 month old Emmunah with them. We ended in the Hadassah Primary school, sitting in the only administrative office, with the Principal , Aaron Kinti. What a lovely humble man with so many challenges and difficulties to deal with. We had a great discussion with him about his school, the teachers and kids- 293 kids, most of whom are boarders. The classrooms are as basic as can be, and with extremely limited resources he and his staff educate these kids. About 60 kids average to a class , with few books , no electricity, 1 computer (which is in his office) no recreational space, just muddy sandy courtyards, and grossly underpaid teachers earning USD$60.00 per month, this school manages to be the “number one school in the district” How, is difficult to imagine, and we discussed his priorities for making this a better place for these children to learn. A hall, library ,books and a girls dormitory were some of his wish list(we didn't see the living place for the 130 kids who board there), as well as the development of their small egg business and feed for the chickens. Things we take so for granted in our world, are such rarities in his. An unexpected huge rainstorm- creating a mud bath around the school- had us 'locked' in his office and the discussions of Pesach- Passover- and matzah- which they occasionally receive from USA or they make their own from metoka cooked and dried bananas-, wine making- I promised to share my recipe and tips if they should ever get the vines established- and grape growing- something he doesn't believe is possible here. We also offered to try and improve their website, which is 'out of order' and PR so as to encourage interest, visitors, volunteers and funding into his school. I also agreed to try and assist them to link up with our community school in Perth and I will make every effort to get them some student and teacher resources. He was so delighted with our chat and so excited at the possibility of some help. I also asked him about living here as a Jew under the Amin regime. He told us of the difficulties that they endured to practice as Jews and that indeed services were held in private and secret ,in a local cave. His father had also been arrested for being Jewish and he was called a pagan at school. There is very definite evidence of their steadfast beliefs and their desire to maintain their religious identities as Jews at all costs. The Rabbi is unfortunately not here at the moment and will be back later in the week which is when they are also planning to reopen a public clinic in Mbale- free for Jewish patients- which has been sponsored by an American Jew. We hope to visit the clinic on our way to the border town of Busia in the morning. It had been a really interesting afternoon.

I am currently in our simple room writing this blog, and David in the last 20 minutes has killed about 15 mosquitoes. We will definitely be using the net above our bed tonight. We asked about dinner- quite sheepishly- and were even offered a choice, which has landed up being sweet potato, fish -Tilapia from the Nile- and beans. Not sure what we are in for, but a unique experience we are assured of. David has just left to sit in the dining room/lounge

Dinner was served by Yitzchak, who attended Hotel School for 2 years and was delicious , fish in a tomato sauce, rice, sweet potato and beans served with avo slices and a bottle of water. Our driver Joseph also ate with us. We have purchased a few kippot- skullcaps- which are knitted locally as well as 2 CD's, also locally produced,of some Synagogue melodies. Its raining again and hopefully we will meet the chairman of this community early in the morning before we leave.

Posted by melsch 19:30 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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