DAY 50 MONDAY 8th JANUARY 2017. KITALE, KENYA
Day 50 already. Well, tomorrow I hope to blag my way across into Uganda at the insignificant Suam border nearby. Today was spent tying up ends of business with the recent Florida job (opening February 15th), getting copies of my documents and preparing the Mosquito for the very rough journey into Uganda. It’s one of the roughest roads I used last year, but very beautiful and dramatic. I take it with some trepidation, but also a certain thrill!
Rico is in touch with Olerai Ltd down in Nairobi and I will keep in touch with him. The documents seem to be getting nearer. For now, then, I will continue into Uganda for a while, a country I enjoyed very much last safari… I look forward to being amongst Ugandans again, said by many to be Africa’s friendliest nation, a claim with which I cannot argue.
DAY 51 TUESDAY 9th JANUARY 2017. SIPI, UGANDA
A new country at the top of the page today. Back to uniquely friendly Uganda. What’s more, I appear to be here completely legally and above board with the East African Community Customs.
But, wow, this is a hard way to get to Uganda! The direct road from Kitale is one of the roughest imaginable, through Suam River border post, a remote, untravelled road. I was only the fourth non-local vehicle to pass the border, said one of the smiling Customs police. “What, only four today?” I asked, surprised. “No, this year!” For the Suam road is punishing, rugged, horribly tough – but stunning, scenically, and that’s a superlative I seldom use. It involves 60 miles of the roughest trail riding around the slopes of Mount Elgon, Africa’s fourth highest mountain. Often the ‘road’ is hacked from the mountainside, rock and dust, with the most impressive views down onto the huge plains of central Uganda, dotted with volcanic cones like vast pimples, seen between soaring slopes, heavily worked by subsistence farmers into small fields. It’s green and lovely much of the way, with high forests in places.
As I ride, excited children scream and wave. I am a celebrity to be cheered along and greeted everywhere. Everyone is less inhibited than in Kenya, and I could use a third arm for waving, but have to make do with big smiles and a nod, for both hands have to grip the handlebars as they buck and weave, wrench and pull. Fortunately, on my bike I need only six inches of space to twist and turn between rocks, shimmy through thick dust and bounce through the holes and mounds. I have good trail tyres on the Mosquito; they give good traction, and the lightness of the little bike (that I despised at the outset) is a big advantage. The wide seat that Rico brought through Customs all the way from Congo makes the ride SO much better too. It’s wide enough to grip fast between my knees when I stand and dance across the dirt and convolutions of rock and dust. Today I have used every muscle in my body on the six hour ride, including half an hour in crossing the border – even on occasion, I reckon, the sphincter muscles! Tonight, as I sit with my first Nile Special beer I am weary; my arms throb with exercise; my legs are fidgety with tiredness – and I have a glow of satisfaction that I achieved this ride once again. It’s hard work for an old geezer -sorry, delete that – a middle aged geezer!
Philip, the Customs chief at Suam on the Kenyan side, said, “Ha! You have been here before!” for it was he who gave me a long lecture in March on how I had broken the law through at least ten border crossings in the East African Community by not possessing the correct local documents. Today I threw myself respectfully on his sympathy and explained that the original log book was in Nairobi (well, hopefully it will be soon…) and I wanted to take my piki-piki into Uganda. Laboriously, he copied out the details of the Mosquito from my photocopy onto his computer and eventually produced an impressive document, that he insisted in enclosing in a smart ‘Kenya Revenue and Customs’ envelope. Now, apparently, I can cross any border in and out of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda without let or hinderance. It was all too easy.
I thanked him profusely, shaking hands many times, regaling him with big stories of riding from Cape Town to Lokichoggio (the top corner of Kenya), and twice across the great Sahara, as he worked. It always helps to impress, especially now I am considered FAR too old to be riding a motorbike anywhere beyond the very nearest horizon! It astonishes everyone and eases my way through countless potentially awkward situations, enlisting support for the old ‘daddy’, who probably should know better and be sitting with his feet up at home.
Maybe I SHOULD know better? But I’m damned if I’m hanging up those bike boots until I have to! I had SUCH fun today. I rode as if I was thirty again, when I used to trail ride with my friends. I know I’ve said it before, but trail riding in England was just never the same after the Sahara crossings and the countless miles I now do on African ‘roads’.
I’m not in the habit of taking ‘selfies’; I never understood the need to prove I was anywhere. I KNOW I’ve been there. However, I did take a selfie as an ironic joke on myself. I arrived in Sipi coated in the thickest red dust, my beard, eyebrows, helmet, jacket, and every exposed bit thick with red African dust. Doubtless, my lungs too… Tired, FILTHY and elated: not a bad way to be at the end of a day! “No point giving in,” Mother used to say. I’m glad I’m a chip off that block. Think young!
About five, thankfully, for I was now very tired and in danger of over judging things, I reached the tar road again at Kapchorwa, got Ugandan cash from an ATM where amiable guards grinned and laughed at my dishevelled state, and continued to Sipi ten miles on. I came here by chance on my last East African safari, finding the charming Alex and Precious running a simple guest house perched on the top of a cliff with a sunset view over what seems like half Uganda. They were such delightful hosts that we made friends and have now and again corresponded through the year. Alex wanted to be a doctor, but in Uganda, with its incredible ballooning population, he had no chance as one of nine siblings. He trained in hotel management instead and worked for a time, much appreciated by customers, but abused by management, in a fancy hotel in Kampala. Sick of exploitation, he resigned and returned to this simple guest house owned somewhere in his family. A few moments ago, as I sit here gazing west into the sun fast sinking into haze and as darkness quickly wraps itself around me, he brought me a plate of home made popcorn and groundnuts to accompany my beer. “Hey Alex, it’s like being in a five star hotel in Kampala!” I exclaimed, much to his gratified delight. The place may be simple as hell, but the little touches he and Precious add, and the absolute DELIGHT of their welcome, make it better than the most expensive, luxurious hotels in the world to me. I asked to sleep in the rather basic grass roofed wooden hut, for I know it will be peaceful and rustic. Alex has been attempting to get light in there, not that I mind candlelight, and has to bring a mattress for me.
As I rode the final dirt paths through small houses of stick, earth and zinc, banana trees and dense greenery, to his ‘Coffeeland Resort’, I ran into Alex himself, waving both arms from far off, thrilled beyond words to see me: a surprise as it happened, as he hadn’t got my email. “Go on, Precious is there!” he said. So I rode the last four hundred yards of the hard day into an absolute maelstrom of welcome from delightful Precious. I love the sincere, unselfconscious way that people in Africa express their joy. “Precious has been asking me every day, did you write to Jonat’an? Did Jonat’an reply? When do you think Jonat’an will come? Will Jonat’an come soon?” said Alex. Precious made the whole hard journey disappear in a heartfelt, exclamatory shower of welcomes, running at the sound of the Mosquito, dancing around me and smiling from ear to ear while ululating with joy. What a fine welcome. Why wouldn’t I travel through sixty miles and six hours of dust and filth for that?
I wonder why I have made such loyal friends with these two? Perhaps it is that, in a country where you expect to die by 63 and only 2% make it to 65 or above, I represent a father figure – OK, grandfather figure! With how many people of my age can they exchange ideas? Intelligent Alex loves to question about life in the West, and how it differs from the harsh life of Uganda. “Oh, the money you left us last year..! There was much hunger in Uganda last year; the rains were poor. With your money I planted Irish potatoes. We had food when all around us were suffering…” In March I left him a gift of just £35. So little makes the difference between food and hunger, sometimes life and death.
Stopping at one point on the ghastly ‘road’, I found something dripping copiously over my wheel and chain. There was a waterfall of apple juice from a carton in my bag. Fortunately, I had wrapped my papers and iPad, which travel in the top bag, in waterproof covers. How stupid to reckon a cardboard juice carton could survive this punishing road! I need to find an aluminium drink container. Now I have sticky luggage that needs washing. It will wait until tomorrow, unlike me, who needed a hasty, thorough wash down in a bucket of cold water in Alex’s zinc bathroom and privy below the ‘resort’. “Give me a brown towel!” I asked Precious. “I’ll never get all this dust off in one wash!”
So here I am back in Uganda; back in Coffeeland Resort with two delightful friends. It’s now pitch dark. The cliff edge has disappeared as I am blinded by the light of the iPad. From far below – the cliff must be 500 feet or so – I can hear the distant beat of music; there are a few scattered dim lights: probably fires and a few solar lights in village houses down below. Above, the sky is a dappled pattern of cloud and faint light. In the far distance, only visible when I close the iPad cover, glimmer a few specks of luminance: far distant towns that some day I may visit. There’s the slightest of breezes but not enough to go into my grass-roofed hut for a jersey. Alex, a terrific cook, is tinkering with pans in his basic kitchen hut and all is peaceful. I feel very relaxed and deeply satisfied that I have had the sort of day that keeps me travelling – when most of us old blokes ARE putting our feet up! There’s nothing better than this sort of glow of contentment at the end of a great day enjoyed to the absolute full; a weary body – and the anticipation of a probably delicious supper being cooked over sticks in Alex’s crude kitchen. My entire body has relaxed after its efforts, into a comfortable cane chair (that might be in a somewhat run down Kampala hotel) on the rocky lawn on the edge of the impressive Ugandan cliff and I feel very much at ease.
“I am embarrassed,” says Alex, fiddling with bare wires in the cobwebbed hut where I will sleep behind me, his phone in his mouth for light. “There is no electricity!”
The clouds have dispersed now. I sit in complete darkness; no light pollution anywhere and the moon hasn’t risen yet. “Don’t worry for me! This is all part of the magic!” I call – ignoring the inconvenience to him and revelling in the romance of an African night above this huge invisible view of Uganda, now just a few twinkling lights below. For now, says Alex, I am one of the family.
This is why I travel. This is why I love Africa: it’s all so immediate; so genuine; so warmly generous.
So entirely wonderful.
DAY 52 WEDNESDAY 10th JANUARY 2017. SIPI, UGANDA
Around four, I came out of my odd hut for a pee in the most silent of nights. By now the quarter moon was up, enough in this dark place to form shadows. Unknown stars, the equatorial sky, shone overhead and the valley below was almost entirely dark. I was too physically tired to sleep as soundly as I expected under my sheet and thin blanket, but the night was deeply calm, until a gentle breeze rose around dawn, rustling the leaves on the thatch of my roof and sending me into a deep sleep for the last couple of hours of the night.
Breakfast from generous Precious is always a challenge. Her assumption of my appetite is prodigious, while in fact it is modest. “Are you ready?” she asked, as I sat in the cane chair again, before the huge view to the west. She brought me a covered plate, lifted off the upper one to expose enough boiled potatoes (Irish, no doubt) with vegetables to feed a family of four, with fried meat enough for two. As I reeled at the responsibility to make a decent effort to show appreciation, she proceeded to bring me a fried chapati folded over an omelette. “Goodness, Precious, it’s TOO much!”
“When you are here I want you to eat!” And then she brought a saucer of homemade popcorn and a slice of bread with a huge flask of local coffee. I hate to waste food, especially in Africa where it is such a vital resource. I trust that Precious and Michael, the askari, ate what I left later.
Later, with Alex and Nicholas, his 16 year old brother, staying here in his family homeland before going back to school in Kampala in three weeks, we wandered the narrow dust paths between banana trees, that make every direction seem the same. Everywhere I went, children called and ran to greet. This, the ‘youngest’ country on earth by demographics, has 50% of its population under fifteen years old, so there’s never a shortage of calling children fascinated by a mzungu passing their homes. Alex is a sensitive guide to his community. Educated, caring and very bright, he is carving a niche as a leader, by example and by his innate intelligence. We visited his elderly aunt, who went down on her knees to respectfully greet her visitors, as is the old custom for Ugandan women, and then prepared local sweet, black tea for us, lighting up a fire of sticks in a deeply blackened, smokey kitchen hut, as usual without chimney.
Somehow the subject of Nic’s forthcoming circumcision came up. It’s a cultural rite still practiced on teenage boys. “Oh, you can’t sleep!” exclaimed Alex. “I went through it myself. There is singing for three days and nights. You may get two hours to rest each day. By the third day you are exhausted. I can’t forget..!” and he started to laugh. “They take a big knife and they CHOP!! EH! They pull and they CHOP!” My eyes were watering by now as he gesticulated to demonstrate. You begin to squirm and sit tighter somehow. “When it is over, you have to hold up your arms to show you are still alright.” He held up his arms in a sort of triumphant gesture that made me wince. “Then,” he said, shaking with laughter, “I had to ask, ‘Uncle, Uncle, is it still there?! I couldn’t look. I was afraid my whole private part was gone!”
“It’s something you can never forget..!”
Culture takes some strange forms. A year ago, when I visited, Alex was working, mainly voluntarily, as a ‘Male Champion’, working with the local health and reproductive centre to attempt to change the mindset, particularly amongst men, that the bigger your family, the more virile your reputation; that ‘carrying on your name’ is vital in Africa, and that more and more children are a blessing (unless they are all girls of course…). The Male Champions were community leaders doing good work to attempt to encourage planned families to begin the gigantic task of reducing Uganda’s appalling birth rate (over 7 children average per woman). They were a close knit group of young men; 24 of them, doing vital work, largely unrewarded but sustained by US Aid, mainly for management, office expenses and an occasional ‘celebration’ with a few bottles of soft drinks.
“Then Trump came… The funding was withdrawn, and now we have had to disband. We try to carry on the work as volunteers, because it’s important, but since Trump, no money…”
Later we visited the Sipi Health Centre, a well run, impressive set up with a couple of doctors, midwives and nurses. Health care in Uganda is provided by the government and is of a surprisingly high standard for Africa. Betty, a tall, elderly nursing sister, showed us round the whole place. An excellent English accent and a forceful, capable, characterful woman – who would have made a notorious ward sister in the old days – she took us from consulting room to delivery room, anti-natal clinic to the wards. There are an average of 21 births a month, according to a chart I spotted, and HIV is tested, diagnosed and prescribed for, while accidents and blood tests, domestic violence and disease bring them plenty of business. A young boy had horrible burns from scalding porridge across his buttock and thigh; women were waiting to go into labour and a woman had been attacked by a youth with a knife. She sat on the bed, bursting into tears at any sympathy. “Don’t cry, my dear, don’t cry. All will be well,” said Sister Betty, visibly distressed by the woman’s tears.
“We do what we can. But we lack resources. It’s difficult… And since Trump came, all our funding has stopped. Our government is doing what it can to make up, but we are struggling.”
“Trump is just the worst terrorist in the world!” exclaimed Alex angrily. “We used to respect people from USA, but not any more.”
Trump is seen as a figure of derision by all the Africans I have met, respect for the power and influence of the US washing away; and these are people used to extreme corruption and entirely cynical, unsympathetic despots. Here in Uganda almost everyone is angry at the president, forcing a change to the constitution that prevented a president serving past the age of 75. “Huh, he has the control of parliament; he buys support. Millions!” says Alex. One of the richest presidents on this corrupt continent, he will now be assured of a seventh term, taking his presidency to a stultifying 35 years, and who knows how much longer. Then the Zimbabwe Corruption Commission is investigating Grace Mugabe’s PhD, that she received in a record three or four months from the University of Zimbabwe. All PhD theses are published in Zimbabwe – except Grace Mugabe’s… But then, it’s no longer restricted to Africa: Putin is smug in Russia as he bans his opponents and stands, uncontested for yet another term; here in Uganda they have had unseemly fist fights and punches thrown in parliament in rejection of Museveni’s reelection; and then the bumbling Theresa May has made a pathetic reshuffle of her cabinet of unknowns, some of whom refused to leave their offices in a shambolic change described by the Guardian as like a ‘referee without a whistle’! Is there anyone in world politics who acts on the people’s behalf, not their own? However, the despicable ‘my-nuclear-button-is-bigger-than-your-nuclear-button’ Trump cutting aid that, amongst other good works for mankind, was working to reduce population growth in this hugely ballooning small African country probably takes the prize for sheer mean-spiritedness…
“Oh well,” I said, “Mugabe has gone. Miracles still happen!” Everyone has so much respect for the way Zimbabwe peacefully removed the old dictator.
Fortunately, the Netherlands have stepped into the breach to an extent, and Alex now works – still largely voluntarily – with a group trying to stamp out female genital mutilation – still practiced widely in this part of Uganda. Their remit is also in encouraging girls’ education, equality and reducing gender violence. Sexist, misogynist Trump wouldn’t care much about any of that anyway, and anyway, they’re all black…
Frank is a tall, quietly spoken social worker, who also works to prevent FGM. We chatted last night at Coffeeland. “It is hard. I have PASSION! I have passion to help others, to improve their lives, but as a graduate, it is difficult to get work. There’s no money to pay us, especially since Trump,” he said, offering me his own bottle of beer as I waited for mine to be brought – for beer is only bought when it’s needed in Alex’s simple economy, and there’s no fridge at Coffeeland anyway.
“It’s made more difficult because I am one of seven brothers and sisters, and my family suffered to send me to university to study social work. Now I have a responsibility to support them, but we can’t get work.” He feels morally obliged to help his extended family as one of the educated. In the eyes of his family, his education brings automatic reward. Sadly, in African reality it brings responsibilities but few opportunities or financial rewards.
I brought Precious and Alex a copy of my most recent photo book, published online. I brought them as gifts for William and Rico’s family too. I have seldom given a more excitably appreciated present to anyone, as this book to Precious and Alex. She danced and exclaimed to see herself in print, with Alex’s photo on the cover. When he returned from errands in town, she was still poring over the pages. Alex was thrilled and the book will become a family treasure: “Keep it carefully, Precious; put it in my box. I want this for my children – and grandchildren! When I have a real hotel, it will be on reception! It’s wonderful! And what you say about me, I thank you! Maybe we can use this photo for a new signboard at the roadside! Now I have been published three times!” For Alex proudly appeared twice on TV last year, interviewed about his voluntary work in the community.
It is so lovely, the way pleasure, gratitude and joy are expressed unreservedly in East Africa. I really have no reason to refute the belief that Ugandans are the friendliest people in Africa, in which case they must surely be some of the friendliest peoples on earth? With all their privations and problems they have the ability to smile, laugh and show the greatest warmth and open generosity.
I am completing writing in bed in my thatched house. A strong wind has risen, reminiscent of the first night I found Coffeeland Resort last year. It is rattling and beating a loose tin roof sheet on the other building, where Precious and her baby, Keira, and Alex’s sister, Gloria, also on a visit, have just thrown themselves onto the beds beneath the bashing zinc sheet. “Oh, I will sleep!. When I put the blanket over, I will sleep!” says Precious with her irrepressible giggle. We all sat on the beds to eat supper together a short while ago, easy as a family. Precious served MOUNDS of potatoes and rice with fish, of which I got by far the lion’s share as the guest. Helpings are prodigious and my small appetite a wonder. Young Nic, 16, ate twenty ‘Irish’, plus a pile of rice and scraps of fish. Precious ate about fifteen of the boiled potatoes. I managed five by struggling to appease her hospitality. Doubtless, by now they are all asleep under the crashing tin sheet. For me, in my cosy wood and thatch room, with the wind blowing through the gaps in the walls, it’s time to get my head down and put in the ear plugs. It’s a privilege to be here on this cliff edge in Uganda. I am completely safe and secure, generously welcomed, cared for and contented, and my company seems warmly welcome, much more than just my business.
DAY 53 THURSDAY 11th JANUARY 2017. SIPI, UGANDA
The older I get, still travelling, the more important it becomes to be with friends. Travelling is no longer just rushing along trying to see as much as I can; get to as many places as possible or experience everything, however briefly. Perhaps it’s a patience and calm that comes with age? I’m also sure that the older I get, the more I enjoy my travels. Perhaps that’s partly at least because I am able to trust my instincts so much more confidently?
It was instinct that attracted me to this delightful couple: Precious and Alex, 22 and 29 respectively. He’s a man of great integrity, intelligent and totally trustworthy. She is a much simpler person, warm-hearted, less educated but ‘what you see is absolutely what you get’. They made me welcome as soon as we met and we have developed a warmth that transcends cultures and languages. “I want Jonat’an at my wedding!” Precious told Alex as they prepared a complicated, delicious meal: barbecued beef with rice and vegetables, all cooked out of doors in a rising, cold gale, in the fire pit that is all that remains of last year’s kitchen hut, the rest destroyed by a storm.
“So you haven’t married, then?” I enquired.
“I have to pay the dowery!” said Alex despondently. “This is Africa. Precious’s father, he keeps wanting the marriage. And Precious keeps pressing me…” Life for a young man like Alex is very difficult. I often wonder just how people on this continent make ends meet. It’s a mystery, except that our Western ‘wants’ don’t become ‘needs’ here. Now I find that since we met last year, when finances were stretched and Alex was stressed (he was forced several times to ask me for some cash up front to buy my beer or foodstuffs), he has been forced to take a job in Kapchorwa, the local ‘big city’, ten miles back up the road. There he works in the Noah’s Ark Hotel (‘Only for the use of VIPs’). Jobs are scarce but he is popular with the customers and becoming indispensable to the owner for his hospitality skills. He earns £50 a month and is struggling hard to save money to invest back into renovating his Coffeeland Resort – which has deteriorated since last year.
Alex values my advice, opinions garnered from many travels in Africa. This place has so much potential, but it is so difficult for him to realise it, despite imagination, determination and a flair for the ‘hospitality’ business. The site alone is so wonderful, with its expansive sunset view from the cliff edge (the ideal place for a ‘sundowner’, they’d say elsewhere). My advice is to try for a another market and to think of Coffeeland differently: ‘Come to Coffeeland Resort, a cultural experience. Warm welcome, home cooked food, and the best sunset views in Sipi!’ Instead of constructing concrete chalets, build local thatched round houses, nicely fitted and decorated with local mats, using Precious’s flair for simple, inexpensive fabrics as he did in the room I rented last year, where cheap sheets were covered by zebra-striped blankets and the walls draped with colourful cloths to hide the zinc and boards. It was charming and I overlooked the lack of ensuite or ‘self contained’, the pit latrine and bucket shower, happily enjoying the warmth of my welcome and the attention to detail. Aim for customers who want a more ‘ethnic’ place, who send their photos to the inevitable Facebook of themselves having an ‘African experience’ with a beer in hand! I have promised to sponsor his first thatched room: I like this couple so much, they deserve a break of good fortune on which to build.
“The way you like smiles,” said Alex, “if you had been here in July, you wouldn’t have seen them. People were hungry! There was no money and prices went up for any food still available. The government even sent food, but only for widows and those without children. Precious and I, we bought one big bag of flour and we ate chapatis,” he shrugged. “I said to her, make one each in the morning and one at night. We ate only chapatis – but then we were saved by your Irish! Without the money you gave us…” his voice tailed away as he smiled at the memory of the potatoes he grew with the money I gave him as I was leaving Uganda. These are the realities of life with climate change in vastly crowded Uganda. “But already, people will have forgotten. The trouble with us Africans is that we never plan; we never think ahead or store food for tomorrow. When we are hungry we eat and forget that the rains may be bad again this year too!”
“There weren’t even matoke (bananas) left on the trees. The maize failed – I planted two plots, one at home here and one over there,” he pointed across the deep valley to the opposite cliff to the side of Coffeeland. “Then thieves came and broke into the room where you are sleeping. There were no guests at that time, so I put all the mattresses into that room. The only one they couldn’t take is the one you are using. It was too big to get out of the window.” So from someone who has so little capital, even that which he had – foam mattresses and cheap, cheerful blankets and sheets – was taken. Now he is grateful for £50 a month, a few tips and the little he can glean from occasional guests like me. He has so many dreams for his guest house and no means to achieve them.
One guest at the Noah’s Ark Hotel, where he now works, was so impressed by Alex’s service and friendliness that he wouldn’t leave until Alex was fetched the ten miles by boda-boda to receive a ten pound tip. Alex took four but unselfishly shared six amongst his colleagues.
For now, his Coffeeland is run on a shoestring but lovely to me for its human warmth and goodwill – more valuable than all the ensuite bathrooms, fluffy towels, sixteen pillows crowded on beds in the modern nonsense or fancy napery around my place setting – which is a wooden chair balanced on the rough ground before my broken down cane chair. It is silent and sleeping here is a luxury, so much so that getting up in the morning is a struggle!
Alex and I went on the Mosquito to Kapchorwa to roam about, visit his work hotel and meet his colleagues. Everywhere I go, I am greeted with cheer and happiness. Children follow me like the Pied Piper – and in a country of 50% children there are about seventeen million of them to follow me, calling “Mzungu, muzungu! How are yoooooo?” Alex explained the origin of the word: when white men first came to East Africa, they were seen to be always in a hurry, rushing hither and thither, busy. Mzungu, the customary description for white people, derives from the Swahili word to rush about!
There are few visitors at his work hotel today, so Alex has been able to spend some of his time with his own guest. Back at home, he began to cook our supper – for me and for his small family of Precious and baby Kiera (“We got the name from an American visitor.”) His tee shirt read: ‘Linking men and youth to prevent gender-based abuse and encourage equality for girls’: his new voluntary occupation (alongside hotel work and his resort). He has no kitchen left and cooks on charcoal: a small stove and the cement fire pit left from his wooden kitchen, chopping vegetables like a professional chef on the shaky rustic tables of the resort.
Michael, the watchman with a wonderfully smile-creased face arrived, with his wife Rose and one of their five children, Joseph, nine. Rose has one of the most expressive faces I have seen in all my African travels, and those who know my collection of portraits will understand that that is quite an accolade. Perhaps because she is deaf and dumb, she has found another way to communicate – with her astonishing, attractive, equally smile-creased face. They look like an ideal and happy couple. Deciding to stay another day, I have promised to clamber down the cliff to visit their shamba far below.
“I’m afraid there’s been no progress…” said Rico from the other side of Mount Elgon. “We got the password and PIN number, and Adelight went again to the Post Office, but it seems they were the same password and number they tried before, that don’t work!” Looking back through these pages, I see we tried them before on January 2nd. “We may have more news later, ring me again.” I’ll give it until tomorrow lunchtime, for wheels to turn – or not. I’ll leave Sipi on Saturday and ride back to Kitale and see if I can get to Ethiopia using the photocopy logbook and transfer of ownership document. I’ll ride to Nairobi for the visa and see what advice I can get. It was, after all, simple to get across the Suam border the other day. Perhaps I am unnecessarily concerned.
By evening the east wind rose again. Alex climbed to the roof and pulled a heavy door over the flapping zinc sheets. But the wind became cool. Recent weather has been strangely unseasonal: heavy clouds every afternoon threatening rain that never falls. As Alex cooked, Precious was wrapped in jumpers and my waterproof jacket huddled by the cooking fire and my nose ran with cold. Any climate change deniers should come to Africa, where the pointed end of our greed is most evident. Listen to the stories from this continent and you will understand that the climate is changing – rapidly.
But then, you come to understand a lot of things as you come to know Africa.
DAY 54 FRIDAY 12th JANUARY 2017. SIPI, UGANDA
The trouble with clambering, almost vertically, down three or four hundred feet of steep mountainside is that you must inevitably come up again. At one point in our lovely hike – which my companions were certain would kill me: mzungu are expected to expire at the first hurdle of exertion, let alone ‘old’ ones – we descended a home-built ladderway of boards and trunks. We were climbing down into the horseshoe of deep valley that runs round behind Coffeeland’s great view to the west. Coffeeland sits on the point of the cliff, with the edge of the valley delineated in a huge hoop a mile or so wide. Waterfalls spin and sparkle over its rim into the heavily forested and cultivated slopes below, into a scattered area of shambas called Chemukase. Far down from that runs a curling red dust road that you can follow by eye from our eyrie. The bowl below is filled with banana trees, coffee bushes and thick greenery, people scratching fields wherever they can; patches of tomato plants trapped between huge boulders that tumbled from the cliffs aeons ago.
We were climbing down: I was with young Nic, and Michael the watchman, to visit the latter’s home and shamba that we can see somewhat plan-like far below and to visit his family.
Rose, Michael’s deaf and dumb wife, needs no language to express her joy! She came running up the dusty path waving her arms and exclaiming in her own way – and tackled me like a winning rugby player. She was so excited that it was overwhelming. Without language, her innate Ugandan sense of joy and welcome is exaggerated. She clutched me, almost lifting me from the floor in an ecstatic frenzy of pride and rejoicing. It was a while before she let me go and allowed me to slither the last part of the climb to her home.
We sat in the tidily swept yard of her zinc-roofed stick and mud home, finely painted with brown and pinkish decorations, natural colours made with clay and cow dung, and she made big mugs of very sweet tea. It’s no good asking for unsweetened tea here: no one would understand the concept. She brought filling greasy chapatis while fine chickens and pretty white rabbits scavenged around us. Shady banana trees, cotton and coffee bushes obscured the view, except upward where the red cliff swept around in a wooded curve. Children came and watched through the plants of the thin bright hedge. This is the activity I enjoy above all others in Africa: sitting companionably in rudimentary compounds, apparently bringing honour to the the owners by accepting their generous but simple hospitality.
We scrambled on for a dutiful look at one of the waterfalls that fall and spray into dewy dells below the red cliff. It is the Sipi falls that attract a trickle of tourists to the area, but for me it’s just water falling over a cliff and the interest lies in the walk and the people I meet, not the destination. Somewhere we picked tiny sweet blackberries, wild in the undergrowth. It’s unsettling to get fresh blackberries in January; to see extravagant hot house pot plants – in Europe – growing as abundant bushes, or to find white jasmine, the very one that grows in my Rock Cottage ‘shamba’, as I joke with people, flowering and fragrant in Kessup in January.
Rico tells me the managing director of Olerai has confirmed that the Mosquito is still in their name and that it can now be transferred to Adelight. That’s progress of sorts (after a year!) but I made a small change of plan and will stay another day in Sipi, ride home to Kitale on Sunday and perhaps pick up the document myself when I get to Nairobi.
Why another change of plan, such as I HAVE any plans? Just because I enjoy the companionship of these charming people so much and it’s such an enriching part of my journey. “But I haven’t moved about with you!” complained Precious as we ate a late supper, huddled on the beds in their small room out of the cool breeze. “You have walked about with Alex, and with Michael and with Nicholas, but not with ME!” So it’s no hardship to comply – and to indulge in another deep, deep sleep of the sort you remember years later!
Alex, working hard the whole day, was late back, so by the time we had taken a walk to look at his and Precious’s own house, on a plot ten minutes’ walk back up the banana fringed paths, it was late to start cooking on the charcoal fires in the dark night above the view of Uganda. We ate late and then sat for an hour discussing more ideas and plans for his Coffeeland Resort. He deserves success, this diligent young man and he’s using my experience – and my design skills – as inspiration. Tonight we designed new signboards for the roadside and discussed ideas for new structures from local materials, that independent travellers like me would find a memorable experience, rather than the luxury safari chalets he cannot afford to provide.
As a consequence of our late night and lack of power once again – which for me just adds to the magic in the starlight – I am completing writing over my breakfast. Precious is easy with me now and just enjoyed a great joke: bringing me a plate piled high with ten matoke (steamed savoury bananas that are Uganda’s staple). Staring down at my keyboard, it was a moment before the plate registered. How she laughed. How we both laughed. Anyone around me could eat this plateful at a sitting and it’s impossible to persuade them that I really, really AM more comfortable with just a chapati fried with a couple of eggs inside! I’ve long had a theory that with their every task undertaken laboriously and energetically by hand and our Western food being much more nutritious in smaller quantities, I just can’t take the bulk. Insistent, she has now brought me a large cake-like tough bun and a plate of onion and tomato salad. She is convinced I will fade away. As for me, I hate overeating as much as I hate waste! What to do with a generous young woman who can eat fifteen ‘Irish’ or ten matoke at a sitting?
How she enjoyed her matoke joke, though! A pleasure to share the laughter… Alex claims, phoning to find out if I am happy, that she ate 23 matoke last night, a slight exaggeration, I trust!!!
DAY 55 SATURDAY 13th JANUARY 2017. SIPI, UGANDA
Accident! Only a few flesh wounds, but unfortunately mainly to poor Precious’s lower leg, some lost skin and abrasions. She was wearing the usual East African riding dress of a skirt and sandals. Protective clothing anyone? Huh. For me, a few more scratches and scuffs, but anyone who rides motorbikes about Africa is used to dings and bruises! But of course, I felt worse about hers, for I was responsible. We were on a notorious (it turns out) short steep hill that is so thick of churned up dust from the cabbage and vegetable lorries, that when I walked across it after we tumbled, I fell right over again – twice. With her on the back, I was sitting forward and unable to lock my arms as I would usually do, descending such an obstacle. Under the snowdrift dust must have been a stone, and down we went.
A boda-boda rider helped pull the bike off us, and after a pause carried Precious down to a private clinic in town, where a doctor of some sort, looked her over and pronounced abrasions, did not wash or clean the grazes, but prescribed a pain killer injection (would you trust an injection given by a bloke in an anorak?) and – almost inevitably I fear, a course of antibiotics… The life of the 20th century wonder drug, that has so transformed our lives, will be short indeed: in Africa if you get a cold, you ask for antibiotics and resistant strains of disease are increasing fast, in what one expert recently called a ‘medical time bomb’. What we needed was some clean warm water and antiseptic ointment. Later, back home, when I gave Precious some antiseptic to spread on her grazes, she exclaimed, “We didn’t need this doctor! You had medicine better than his! It feels good already.” The clinic’s bill was only £3, including the drugs, probably not much more than the tube of Savlon cost me in Boots.
All’s well that ends well, and by the time we had eaten, Alex, Precious, the baby and I lounging in their small bedroom comfortably, the laughter and conversation was flowing again. I’d had a trying ride home the ten miles from Kapchorwa in increasing dark, the potholes invisible and oncoming lights – like my own, pointing every which way – dazzling me further. Alex and Precious followed together. I’d left them money to find a car, but none being available, they ended up together on a boda-boda. More motorbiking for poor Precious to end her dramatic day.
What a shame our fun day ended thus. I stayed on so that Precious could take me out for the day too…
In five weeks I have been invited to view three dead Africans in their coffins! “Have you ever been to a Ugandan burial?” asked Precious. No, but I’ve been to a Ghanaian one and a Kenyan one in the very recent past.
The mother in law of one of Alex’s cousins, Tom, died three days ago in a village, seven miles ride high above Kapchorwa, the town ten miles up the road. “No point going by boda-boda when we have our own,” I said, unaware of the bad dirt road to get to the distant village on the slopes of Mount Elgon. Later I wished I hadn’t. Boda-boda boys know their roads and have a very low centre of gravity on their small Chinese flea-bikes. Oh well, we went on the Mosquito.
The funeral ground wasn’t up to speed when we arrived so we walked to discover the area, for Precious, originating from western Uganda, hasn’t seen much of the outlying parts around here. We were in a fertile region where large fields, unlike the scattered shambas of so much of the region, spread across hillsides, filled with cabbages, potatoes, onions and tomatoes in small commercial quantities. Backing it all was forest, for we are high here, and water tumbled down a glissade of rocks, and would later fall over the cliff edges in Sipi. We admired some fine local houses, just the sort I am suggesting Alex constructs at Coffeeland: round earth houses with neat conical thatched roofs.
We made our way back to the funeral place. People were gathering beneath a temporary shade of sheets of tin and plastic over poles. Wooden benches had been set in lines, one leg dug in to accommodate the slope of the hill, an uncomfortably low seat for the next two or three hours. The coffin was carried out and put across a couple of low tables. It was a locally made affair of eucalyptus boards, painted an ugly mustard yellow and scribed with wavy black paint lines. An old woman danced a traditional dance beside the coffin, and another wailed and cried rather unconvincingly, dabbing her eyes with her cloth awhile. African pop music played over a rickety PA system run by a humming generator fifty yards away, connected by the usual Ugandan knotted, exposed ended, 240 volt cables.
“Will you open and view?” asked Tom, who kindly translated some of the proceedings for us both. I didn’t understand until I saw that the coffin had a lift up lid at one end, fitted with the customary glass panel and a cheap chrome handle. “It’s heavy. Pull!” And there inside lay the corpse, my third in five weeks. It’s obviously the custom to make sure the right corpse is in there!
We sat on a bench in the middle of the gathering crowd. I wonder what people make of the appearance of a mzungu here? I’ll never really know.
The proceedings began. Intolerably long speeches were made and to my shock the whole event seemed to be hijacked by local politicians to harangue the gathering. They obviously fancied themselves as great orators, but weren’t, to judge by the wandering attention all around me. As they lectured, a crowd of women prepared food behind an old lorry tarpaulin hung between the tin roofed, mud walled house and a round thatched house. Suddenly, mid-monologue of one of the tedious councillors, a crowd of outlying listeners, mainly young people, rushed to the cooking place, where plastic plates were filled with food and handed, hand over hand along a hilarious (to me) human chain to the mourners. Occasionally the chain would change direction to deliver plates to other areas. The MC approached to ask if I would take food. I thanked him; we mzungu aren’t expected to take local food or drink unbottled water. To the gathering’s surprise, I was served – a broken-edged blue plastic plate of posho (pretty much the same as ughali in Kenya, pap in South Africa and all the variations of ground up maize or grains made into heavy stodge throughout Africa), beans, soup and a piece of boiled beef complete with shreds of white bone to which it hung. “They are bringing you fork,” said Tom. But in this situation, much though I dislike grease on my fingers, I insist on eating with my hand like everyone else.
To backtrack a little to the most interesting part of the proceedings: to the more personal addresses before the unimpressive politicians… Disrespectfully, it seemed to me, quite a lot of this part of the event was given over to raising grudges and blame. One man ranted about the cow he was owed from the dead woman’s dowery and another was a man with a sour face, who claimed to have been arrested because of the dead woman, protesting his innocence. I didn’t understand the allusion until it appeared that most people gathered believed the woman, mother of five, and 54 (just about spot on for life expectancy) had been killed by spells and curses. Her youngest daughter described her mother’s last days: she had died over a few weeks, with the poor woman carried about between the hospital, the ‘church’ and the witch doctor. She had died, it was claimed, of evil spirits and demons in her stomach, set by anonymous foes.
“She probably died of sclerosis of the liver!” exclaimed educated Alex later. Alex, I think, is agnostic at best. When I fell into a discussion with a self-proclaimed ‘pastor’ the other day, he feigned sleep to avoid the conversation, laughing so much afterwards. Quite wisely in a small community, he keeps his powder dry on such topics. “Sclerosis is SO common nowadays. It’s the wirigi, the local spirit. They say if you take it for eleven years you are certain to die of the liver. Less than that and there’s hope…” The African problem with alcohol again.
When the first pastor began their part of the bizarre ceremony, by which time the coffin and its contents appeared completely forgotten and irrelevant, he began by repeating the accusations of witchcraft and evil spirits. At the top of his voice (in an appallingly ill-fitting suit and a floral kipper tie) he berated the people, “Why did you not pray for this woman. If she was bewitched, PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!” Then began lots of nonsense shouting about Adam and Eve, fruits of evil and Original Sin, and lots of “ALLELUIAS”. Thankfully, by now chilly and increasingly bored herself, Precious whispered that perhaps it was time to go. I agreed, but could see no way to extract ourselves tactfully. Then I thought, what the hell? I can’t hide anyway, so I may as well just get up and go. As we left I heard some rant about “…these people leaving us…” in a critical tone from the ‘preacher’. I am certain he would be shouting and ranting thus for the next tedious hour, and no way did I want to engage with that dreadful road – that was soon to be our undoing – in failing light.
Back at the bike, parked on the grass above the funeral field, the engine just wouldn’t start. I kicked and kicked to no avail. In the end, it took a push and a bump start to get going – on our disastrous ride home. Later, Precious said, laughing, “Perhaps the bike was bewitched!”
“Maybe it was those fake ‘pastors’! They didn’t like us leaving!”
“Yes, and when we left, others followed!” It seems our exit caused something of an exodus. It seemed a strategic mistake to serve the food before the burial service. Africans will always stick around when there’s food to be had!
Only at the funeral did it register that Precious understands little more of the Kalenjin language than I do. “So what language do you and Alex speak together? I know there’s a lot of English..?”
“Oh, he speaks a thousand languages! We speak English or Rukiga together. I don’t know his language, Kalenjin. I speak a language from the west of the country, Rukiga. We have many languages in Uganda. Luganda is our common language. But when I speak with neighbours I usually use English.” As with Kiswahili and English in Kenya, Luganda or English are the languages common to many who travel from their tribal lands. “I wonder what this girl will speak?” Precious jiggles fat Kiera on her lap. “Maybe I won’t understand her!”
Well, an unfortunate event to remember, but a cheerful day with delightful Precious, and a congenial day’s end with both my two lovely Ugandan friends before a luxurious sleep in the grass-roofed hut and the silence, the deep, deep silence, of this cam, relaxing place on top of a cliff somewhere beneath Africa’s fourth highest mountain, with all Uganda sleeping to the west.
DAY 56 SUNDAY 14th JANUARY 2017. SIPI, UGANDA
Lazy Sunday in Sipi, another day spent for the company of my congenial friends and the very odd fact that I so look forward to sleep here! Going to bed is an anticipatory pleasure. I tend to sleep well in Africa generally (no stress, warm weather, often fairly energetic days) but nowhere better than in Sipi.
Precious sat with her feet up, resting her grazed leg; Alex managed to take a day off from his hotel work and I just sat about, read and enjoyed the calm, the warmth and the quiet friendship. They both spent much of the day finding anything of my dusty luggage they could wash for me: my waterproof jacket, my shoes, my boots, my camera bag – even my motorbike. Alex cooked potatoes in a tasty sauce for lunch (still eating ‘Jonat’an’s ‘Irish’) and baby Kiera, terrified of the mzungu, played and cried. She has big lungs that one, when she is upset.
In the afternoon I spotted a group of children sitting outside the wire gate of the Coffeeland compound. It was obvious that they were hoping to see the mzungu. I went to greet them. “We want photo!” said Anisha, the eldest. So I went for my camera: that’s the wonder of digital photography: I can take 50 pictures and not worry about the cost, unlike the old colour slide days, when every picture cost about 50 pence. The children decided amongst themselves to entertain the mzungu. The next half hour was very charming.
Four of the boys disappeared for a few minutes, reappearing with their faces streaked with grey ash, waving fronds of greenery, and proceeded to dance round the huts for me in some sort of traditional dance. Then they enacted what for me would seem a very painful event that I’d try to hide from: traditional circumcision! These boys have several years before they have to – as I would see it – ‘suffer’ the rites, but they are already anticipating their entry to manhood. They mimed the chopping with a stick, holding the flies of one another’s trousers and throwing up their arms in the triumphant gesture that shows they have survived the ordeal. As each was ‘chopped’, they sat on a rock, exchanging a piece of bedsheet to signify the success of the whole unsavoury operation… These boys were actually looking forward to their day in the spotlight of their communities! Ouch!
Earlier in the day, a sound of drumming rose from somewhere in the great bowl of the valley beneath us. “Hey, they are going for circumcision! WHY!? It is January. They do it in December!” said Precious in surprise.
“No,” says knowledgeable Alex, from this culture, “the neighbouring tribe…” (and we are talking of people within earshot across the valley), “they do it any time.”
God, culture and tradition take some strange paths…
“That woman,” said Precious from the old cane settee, where she was reclining, a blanket over her grazes, despite my advice to keep them moving or the skin tightens up, “that woman who died… The one who was buried yesterday. She was circumcised, they said, what year, Jonat’aan’?”
“Oh, I think they said 1983,” I answered, remembering the bizarre fact, told with a certain pride as a milestone in her life, from Tom’s translation of her biography.
“No, not possible,” corrects Alex, grounded in the local ways. “It must have been 1984. They only circumcise women in even years. Genital mutilation: we have to stop it.” Hopefully, his voluntary efforts with his new project (funded by the Netherlands now the US has withdrawn its funding), will slowly have results. But tradition changes so very slowly. Especially in Africa.
“This woman who died; you told me an uncle is still demanding a cow he is owed from the dowery. The woman is DEAD! It’s no more than a tax on the orphans! We Africans, we love money. Why should I have to BUY my wife? She should not be my property, she is my wife, a partner.” Alex is a modern, extremely bright young man. “This dowery, it’s tradition we should stop. But Precious’s father, he wants cows…”
“At least ten!” Interjects Precious, laughing.
“If she is my property, I can beat her and abuse her like my donkey, is that it? It is better I take that money for our own children, our future. I can invest it better. Her father is established, what does he want with this payment..?”
Life’s difficult for an intelligent young Ugandan: a young man who, in his spare time, tries to change attitudes to FGM, female abuse, girls’ education and equality. ‘Tradition’ is always the African excuse for delaying change, especially when the status quo favours men – as it usually does.
I’m writing as the sun sets on a relaxing, cordial, amiable day. The temperature is dropping quickly and I’m already looking forward to another deep, satisfying sleep. I came here partly as a promise to Alex and Precious, for maybe three nights, and have stayed six, very contentedly, and promised to return before I head for home. These really are two of the most charming people I have met in all my African travels. They have become warm, instinctive friends. How wonderful to be able to have friends of 22 and 29! My idea of hell has always been to be marooned in a ‘community’ of ‘seniors’. Actually, I can refine that: my idea of absolute hell would be to have to live in a gated ‘community’ of senior citizens in Florida, the strongest argument for euthanasia I can imagine!
There’s something African tradition HAS got right: care of its elderly; well, here in Uganda, the two percent that make it past 65…
DAY 57 MONDAY 15th JANUARY 2017. KITALE, KENYA
And so back to Kitale to begin the next part of my safari.
I returned via Saum River border again, greeted like a returning friend by the officials. I suppose, with me being only the fourth non-local vehicle six days ago, I am something memorable for them. I came that way because, despite its tough, rough quality the road is extremely beautiful and rewarding to ride. But, goodness, it’s an energetic ride! I bounce and twist, dance and leap – from rut to hole, rock to bump, amid dust and dirt. All the items so generously washed yesterday look just the way they did before: completely filthy.
The middle part of the ride is wonderful, and worth all the physical effort of the whole. The dirt trail begins just a kilometre past Kapchorwa town and doesn’t end until Endebess, in Kenya, 102 kilometres later. The high middle part runs through many small straggling villages and for a while through magnificent forests of tall trees. The road is often rocky and it’s difficult to imagine that trucks and even a few saloon cars can come this way, but they do. How they make it up and down the various steep rocky hills, more like staircases than a road, is astonishing, but this is rural Africa and transport is still required in these remote areas. Lorries grind along, people clinging to the tops, raising voluminous clouds of dust that settles in my beard and turns my face and clothes, bike and luggage red. Everywhere as I ride, I can hear the excited screams of children, even through my ear plugs; but I can’t give them much attention, for my eyes need to be constantly on the trail ahead: a moment’s loss of concentration can be disastrous! I must avoid some of the holes if possible, be vigilant for thick, slippery dust, pick a route through the battered track ahead, watch for donkeys, goats and boda-bodas sharing my way – and, when I can, enjoy the spectacular views of mountains; extinct volcanic peaks like giant pimples; haze-filled vistas of a great plain far below to the left; the grass- and zinc-roofed villages of dust-covered twisted shacks filled with curious, unoccupied observers waving; the shambas, houses, signboards, scenery and still the ‘road’ ahead. It’s tiring, but I love it!
I don’t ride fast, although sometimes I could. I am very, very aware that what I am doing has dangers and I am in no hurry. It would take only a moment to ruin my entire trip on such a road: a small injury could wreck everything, this far from home. So I am fairly timid in my riding: it’s not a race. “Oh, I can make it to Bukwo in two hours from Kapchorwa!” an acquaintance of Alex’s told me dismissively a day or two ago. I doubt it, actually, on his 125cc machine, but so be it: it took me a bit over three strenuous hours; the whole journey from Sipi to Kitale, about five and a half hours. It’s about 90 miles, including the delay of crossing the border.
Immigration at Uganda, as I exited again, was like a disco. The young woman officer (no uniforms anywhere) had a large screen TV blaring music videos in her outer office as she sat with her feet on a chair. There aren’t many customers at this remote post. She struggled to make the computer talk to her passport scanner as I struggled not to put my fingers in my ears: I have often commented that almost all Africans seem to have a greater tolerance for volume than I do. For some bizarre formal bureaucratic reason I had to have my fingerprints scanned and then a photograph. “No one will ever recognise me!” I laughed. “My beard should be white! look at it!” But then, no one will ever look at it anyway.
Back through the rickety pedestrian gate over the insignificant international brook to Kenya. More papers that no one will ever look at and the information that I can travel to Ethiopia with the same document I have now, but that my multiple entry visa will expire when I leave Kenya and I will have to purchase another one (US $100) to get back in. Huh! And then the slightly better graded dust road to Endebess, and the tar road, with increasing traffic and speed humps, back to Kitale, a welcome from Rico, a much needed shower (“Mum said I should give you a new towel,” said Rose. “Wait until AFTER I shower! I will never get all this dust off in one go!” And I didn’t…), and beer on the porch, also much anticipated.
Today I am half way through my time out of Britain. It’s been a journey defined by spending much of the time amongst friends, rather than randomly exploring new places, but from here I shall be back on the road to the unknown for a few weeks. It’s great to know, however, that I have good welcoming friends to return to at the end of the journey.
Alex phoned to check that I had arrived safely. People are so loyal and concerned for my wellbeing on this largely dismissed continent. The appalling, despicable Trump has just set Africa ablaze by calling it full of ‘shithole countries’. It’d be humorous if it wasn’t so tragic – and so WRONG. Sadly, many of his arrogant, totally ignorant supporters would, of course, agree. They know nothing except the imagined superiority of their shallow, materialist lives. I’d FAR rather be here than anywhere near the pollution of Trumpistan just now… The reality is that so much of Africa is generous and friendly on personal levels beyond their understanding. But you have to be open to a wider view to see how much the human values of mutual support, care for your fellows, and generosity of spirit outweigh the narrowness of judging by what you OWN rather than what you ARE. Few of us have the privilege of becoming familiar with this forgotten continent, but it’s enriched my life beyond measure.
Precious said, “I will run to my room! I don’ want you to see me cry when you leave..!”