November 3, 2014 – Travel to Entebbe, Uganda
We got up and finished rearranging our luggage so that we have our clothes combined in both suitcases. That way, if one suitcase gets lost, we’ll both still have what we need for the rest of the trip. We’re also carrying our must-have items stuffed in jacket pockets and our camera bag, in case both our bags get lost. We have to fly to Nairobi, Kenya before we fly on to Entebbe, Uganda. We start the day with breakfast and ask if it’s safe to walk to the Maasai Market (this market burned completely 11/17/14), down the road. We are told that it is okay, but to be mindful of our surroundings. We made sure we were dressed down and didn’t carry valuables with us. As we walk out through the gate, we have men offering to escort us to the market. We insist that we are okay, and we hurry on our way. We walked passed some very fragrant trees with purple flowers called jacaranda. We also see hibiscus trees. We make it to the market and start walking down the narrow path with stalls on both sides. Everyone was beckoning us to come inside their stall. Most stalls have the same crafts. The vendors all say they are giving the first of the day, the morning discount. There is a lot of desperation to get a sale. We were also looking for an ebony balancing bird sculpture. We saw one for $25 at the hotel. I sketched it on a piece of paper and we showed it to the vendors who recognized it, but didn’t have one for sale. They offered to make one for us, but we knew we didn’t have time. One man called it a mizani. I don’t know what that means in Swahili, but when I show my drawing to the vendors and call it a mizani, they seem to understand what I’m looking for. Later, I look mizani up and discover that it means balance…of course, this makes perfect sense. Drawing on the piece of paper came in handy. The vendors didn’t hound us to buy from them, as they knew that we were looking for something in particular that they didn’t have. It gave us the opportunity to look around and move on. I think we should employ this tactic on future vacations!
We were still looking for giraffes for Chelsea and decided that we could get some for Levi and Megan too. The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania. We found two giraffes, 10” tall, circling each other on a base. We chose two pairs but she didn’t have a third pair that we liked, so we opted to buy two singles that were nice. We were able to get them all for $40. When we had seen them at the craft store near the crater, the asking price was $60 for one pair and she was only willing to drop the price to $30. Finally, we had something to take home to the kids. We made our way back to the hotel and bought the balancing mizani bird from the gift shop. The curved piece of wood is ebony. Hopefully, we’ll get it home without breaking it. We pack up and wait for Michael. I read the local paper. There is an article about motorcycle bandits and another about a man selling his 12 year old daughter to an older woman for marriage…huh? The article was about a man who sold his daughter into marriage with the older woman and then he threw out her mother on the street when she complained. He had previously sold their 8 year old daughter into marriage with another woman. I research and discover that this is part of the culture that exists among the Kurya tribe in the country’s North Western region of Mara bordering Kenya. In this tribe an elderly woman without children will pay a bride price to the parents of a girl in order for a “marriage” to take place between them. Under this kind of “marriage” arrangement, the girl is then said to be a daughter-in-law, of the childless woman. After a marriage has taken place, the elder woman allocates a man, usually from her clan, to the “bride” and children born of this relationship will belong to her. The children are referred to as the grandchildren of the elderly women and it is believed that the marriage brings social security to the elderly women. Apparently, women have few rights. Fortunately, it’s now against the law to force female circumcision, but it still takes place. It’s another reminder of how good we have it here in the US.
Michael picked us up and took us to see a friend of his from church, who owns a hotel, but also has a tanzanite mine. He has said that, as a favor to Michael, he will give us a very good price. Considering, we aren’t in the market for any tanzanite, we are just trying to be polite. Tanzanite is only found at Kilimanjaro, so it is rare and expensive. He took us into his office, but the lighting was dim and we are certain that he is showing us flawed stones. We tell him that they are nice but we aren’t interested. Michael asks him to give us a gem for a gift and he gave me a nice, but small triangular shaped tanzanite. We say thank you and it’s time to get to the airport. It’s a nice souvenir, and maybe someday I’ll get it set into a necklace. We said our goodbyes to Michael. What a good guide. We’re so glad we were paired up with him.
We made it through security, but Mark’s bag and my jacket got searched. We had a short flight it to the Entebbe airport and arrived at 7:45 PM in darkness. We were met by Abdul who handed us over to our driver, Ivan. As we walked to the van, we noticed people kneeling down, bowing, and kissing the ground. Perhaps, it’s a Muslim custom? The area we’re driving through is bustling with people and lots of shops. We pass by a brightly lit area with large metal sheets positioned almost vertically. Ivan said they were catching grasshoppers. They are fried with seasonings and called nsenene. Ivan said they are crunchy and sweet. When we told him we were from the US, he said that Obama wanted to take the woman away from their man and men would have to marry men. (Well, alrighty, then.) He tried to teach us some Luganda. It’s the language of central Kampala. The traffic was very heavy and took longer than expected to get to our hotel. Mark realized that we would be coming back on this road to catch our plane on our way home. He came to the realization that we could not chance taking our whitewater raft trip (at the headwaters of the Nile, in Jinga) on our last day as it could possibly make us too late to catch our flight. What a disappointment. We’ll have to figure out what to do with the change of plans. We made it to the Fairway Hotel. They had to try three different rooms to find one that the key would open, huh? Once we got in, the room looked fine, but when I looked closer, there were unsightly plumbing connections by the toilet and a crumbling wall. It didn’t concern us as we weren’t going to be there long. We unpacked our suitcases and repacked exactly 12 kilograms into two duffels, as that was all we were allowed to take on the small plane. This meant tough decisions. We had brought a scale. Most of our clothes were quick-dry, so that we could hand-wash and dry on the clothesline we brought. The Fairway Inn has agreed to hold the rest of our luggage until we return. I able packed a short-sleeve t-shirt, 2 long-sleeve t-shirts, 2 light weight turtlenecks, 2 pairs of zip-off pants, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks, and 2 pairs of long-underwear pants. The packing was done. Off to sleep. ~ Mary & Mark