Well, I’m back, but I’ve been slow in posting because so much happened on vacation that I was overwhelmed by the idea of writing about it. Now that a little time has passed, though, I feel more comfortable skipping a lot of the details, so it’s a bit easier. So here we go!
The vacation started with a trip through Nairobi to the Kakamega Rain Forest:
A flower in the forest just after the rain. “Good morning, morning glory!” as some would say.
Playing cards after our hike (and drying clothes by the fireplace):
From Kakamega we headed across the border to Uganda, which is basically like Kenya except with more BBQ’d meat, to the town of Jinja where we slept along the Nile River. Here’s a view of the sunset as seen from where I was eating a pizza.
Of course we didn’t go to the Nile just to eat pizza… a bunch of us went rafting the next day, and a few of us even stayed along the river and continued rafting for the day after that as well! Here’s a clip from the DVD we bought of our adventure. It looks like a generic promotional video, but I am in fact in quite a few of the clips. In my raft I sat in the front row… try to find me!
From Jinja we headed to the capital of Uganda, Kampala:
And from there we went to small lake where we stayed a couple nights on a picturesque island. I hiked to the other side of it and took this picture looking back at the hostel:
From there we headed to Rwanda and the capital city of Kigali. Rwanda is quite different from the other countries on the trip because it was not a British colony; it was Belgian. As a result, the language is French, the food is better, and the vibe is just generally different. Kigali’s downtown is in the background here, and in the foreground is the entrance to the Kigali Genocide museum:
Outside of Rwanda, most people know little of the country other than its genocide. I was no exception, and in addition to the Kigali Genocide museum, we also headed out of town to the site of a church where, during the genocide, 10,000 people stood in cramped quarters hoping that the church or the priest would help them. The priest ratted them out and they were all killed over the course of a few days, and although a site has been set up behind the church for the bodies, the curators have left all the clothes in the church itself, and they also left behind everything else like the shrapnel holes in the roof and the blood on the altar.
In the back they have graves for the bodies what could be identified, but for everyone else they just had the bones on shelves:
Something like this is difficult to write about, and I think I’ll favor brevity here on my blog. I think the hard part is that, as a student of the West, I thought my understanding of the Holocaust would help me grasp a situation like Rwanda’s, but I had a hard time applying what I knew about human psychology to this tragedy. About 10% of the country’s population was killed in a short span of time, but it wasn’t the case that brainwashed military goons were given orders after they’ve already been in the army for a while; rather, a small militia was able with some pathetic propaganda to mobilize much of the general public to not just rat out their neighbors, but to outright kill them with machetes. It’s hard to come to terms with such a thing, and it hung heavily on my mind as I enjoyed this otherwise pleasant country.
Well, in any case, our group of four travelers split up while we were in Rwanda. Two people flew back to Kenya, but I and one other continued on. We headed to Tanzania and crossed over this waterfall at the border:
The main thing we did in Tanzania was to take the biggest remaining ferry that is still running across Lake Victoria. It’s an overnight from the town of Bukoba to the bigger city of Mwanza. Getting to Bukoba from the Rusumo Falls was a hassle, mostly because we were at the whim of people to help us figure out transportation, and those people were liars and cheats. We made it, though.
From Mwanza we decided we were done with Tanzania, so we headed up to Kenya, specifically toward Mfangano Island, where supposedly they have some ancient cave paintings. From the small motor boat that goes to Mfangano I took this picture of the neighboring boat, “The Unbwogable,” which was the inspiration for the title of this blog post.
On the island we were discovered by a gang of small children who followed us everywhere. I would pick them up by the arms and swing them around a bit as we’d walk, which was good fun, until one of them slipped, fell, and cried ceaselessly, making me worried that the islanders were going to think I was trying to kill all their children. My friend (pictured below) ended up getting sick on the island (which had a ton of Tsetse Flies, although that’s not what made him sick), and that combined with the general hostility I encountered was enough motivation for us to head back to the mainland the next morning.
From the mainland we hitched a ride on the Zain-marketing-mobile to a small ferry that crossed the lake (yet again) where we met a bus that took us to Kisumu, which is the third-largest city in Kenya behind Mombasa, my home here. In Kisumu my friend stayed in the hospital while I stayed in a nearby hotel. Here’s a view from my room with Lake Victoria in the background. Not so glamorous:
The next day I enjoyed a premium lunch at the nearby sailing club, where I overheard an Indian lady complain about the number of non-members (which was a reference to me I think,but hey, I paid the daily membership rate, so buzz off!):
After lunch I walked over to an animal park of some sort. It was pleasant, although not generally noteworthy other than this beautiful lakeside walk along some old railroad tracks:
One of the animals in the park was this bee:
From Kisumu I took the train back to Nairobi. Here by the Kisumu train station waiting room is the kind of sign that reminds me that I’m not in America:
The train is much like the Mombasa-Nairobi train. I think there were fewer passenger cars, and fewer options in the dining car, but otherwise it’s pretty similar. The train even goes through similar-looking slums just outside Nairobi.
In Nairobi, I found Dr. Pepper in stock at the health food store (“Doctor” – remember?) so I bought one and brought it to a nearby sushi restaurant, where they refrigerated it and served it with my sushi boat. Talk about a hard life!
I then had a few days of official Peace Corps business in Nairobi, and then I took the bus back to Mombasa. Whew!