Monday, August 17, 2015

Omwani Training Cafe in Kyambura

The Omwani Training Café is on the outskirts of the mountain village Kyambura, next to Queen Elizabeth Park. Amanda and Matt had been there before, having heard of it because it was the site of a former Peace Corps volunteer. Omwani trains people on how to work at resorts and hotels. Since it’s so near the park and tourism in Uganda is doing pretty well, there are lots of hotels and resorts around.

It was such a treat for us to stay there because we were the only guests, and Peace Corps volunteers get a generous discount: 50% off everything! They have a big, beautiful compound filled with big trees, flowers, and lots of green grass.

We stayed in the house, but you can also camp if you have the gear. They have a compost toilet, solar hot water outdoor shower, basketball court, wood fire pizza oven, and the best coffee in Uganda. It was really great to sit outside in the shade drinking iced coffee (they have ice!) and chatting with friends, while a flock of tiny chicks peeped by with their mother. It’s a peaceful place. 

At dinner time, they brought out the pizza menus for us to choose our toppings. The pizza was delicious, and I was so happy to eat their homemade sun dried tomatoes—yum! The staff there is really great; they made everything special and comfortable for us. They have the perfect mix of giving you space and getting you what you need. After dinner, I took a hot shower under the stars. I didn’t even need the flashlight because the moon was nearly full. 

We could only stay a couple nights, but I would’ve been happy staying for a week, drinking coffee every morning and eating pizza every night, showering under the stars and falling asleep to the sounds of the crickets. It’s a simple, peaceful, and magical place. Looking back on it now, I’m so grateful we got to stay there. I wish we had something like Omwani close to us in Ethiopia. 

Boat Cruise in Queen Elizabeth Park

The journey to the boat cruise from lunch was FULL of elephants! I wanted to stop and take photos and to watch the elephants along the way for so long that the driver was getting worried we’d miss the boat.

Thankfully, we didn’t miss it and were on our way to seeing many animals. There were hippos, water buffalo, elephants, Nile crocodiles, a little, shy bush buck, a stoic pair of eagles, and many other birds. The tour guide was really knowledgeable and good natured, answering questions from even the smallest children on board. One little boy asked, “What’s male?” which I thought was great.

Enough chatter, let’s let the photos speak for themselves.

After the cruise was over, we met back up with our driver to take us back to Omwani. “Did you see elephants?” he asked me. “Yes! You were right!” I answered with a big, happy smile. 

Safari in Queen Elizabeth Park

We chose to do a safari in Queen Elizabeth Park because it was on our way from Fort Portal—and the epic Fourth of July BBQ—to the city where Amanda is living while serving in the Peace Corps.

We stayed at a lovely place in Kyambura, called the Omwani Training Café. A Peace Corps volunteer lived there in the past and it is set up as a place to help train people to work in resorts and hotels. I’ll make another post about it, because it’s a beautiful compound run by very kind people. Plus, they have excellent coffee, which is hard to find in Uganda.

The lady who runs the place set Spencer and me up with a driver to go on a game drive. He came by the night before to work out the details, and the next day we woke up before the sun to go see some wild animals in the bush. After paying the entrance fees at the park’s office, we were off on our safari. I recently learned that safari means “journey” in Swahili, which I think is lovely. Anytime we go somewhere, I want to call it a safari, just for fun.  

Right in the beginning, I spotted some lions overlooking the plain below. We were the first car there and had them all to ourselves. It was a group of females; I think we spotted 4 of them. They were incredible and almost seemed to glow in the early morning light. Soon other cars of early morning safari goers showed up to see them and we were off in search of other animals.

We saw male impalas battling with their horns, baby impala leaping through the grass after their mothers, and warthogs down on their front knees eating away. We saw massive water buffalo with their dopey looks and drooping horns. There was a short glimpse of a water buck as it disappeared in to the bush, and too many birds to count. I noticed some of the birds were the same or close cousins to, some we’d seen in Ethiopia.

The van we had hired for the day had a sun roof so we could stand up and see all the animals without having to look through windows. It was a beautiful morning, but we still hadn’t seen elephants and I really wanted to see elephants.

While at the office paying the park’s entrance fees, we bought tickets for a boat cruise that evening. All the people we’d talked to who had been to Queen Elizabeth Park had recommended it. The driver kept saying, don’t worry, you’ll see lots of elephants in the afternoon on the boat cruise. I was skeptical, but thought he probably knows best since he lives there, so he dropped us off at a resort for lunch where we had made plans to meet up with Amanda and Matt, her boyfriend.

The resort is called Kingfisher LODGE and it is so beautiful. They have sweeping views of the park, a pool, gorgeous landscaping, and the price to go with it! We definitely couldn’t afford to stay the night there, but lunch was doable. We had some food and hung out by the pool for an hour or so, before it was time to get back in the safari van to go to the boat cruise.

Next up from Uganda: the Queen Elizabeth Park boat cruise.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Fourth of July in Fort Portal

We started our Uganda trip in Fort Portal, a beautiful and clean city in the west. We got to help out with a world map project at a rural school, where Amanda’s friend, Jenna, lives and works. Amanda’s boyfriend Matt did most of the work, but we got to help a bit and celebrate the finish with the students from the school. The kids were so excited to see so many foreigners all at their school and were shy but sweet as they practiced their English with us. I kept having to hold myself back from speaking Amharic to them, which has become second nature, but would’ve been weird in Uganda! 

Spencer’s 30th birthday was the week before, so we celebrated with a yummy chocolate cake at a wonderful little bakery called Sweet Aromas. It’s run by American expats and has coffee that is not Nescafe (rare to find in Uganda) and really delicious treats. I had a couple different kinds of scones, a cheesecake bite (YUM), a few little cookies, and of course a piece of the birthday cake. There was also wifi, which is highly valued by a traveler and/or PCV! 

We planned our trip to be able to celebrate the Fourth of July in Uganda, where there was a big BBQ planned. We stayed at the YES Hostel on the outskirts of town. It is such a beautiful place, with sweeping views of the countryside and clean and comfortable dorm rooms. The “Fourth Portal” BBQ was held at the hostel and they arranged for the hostel staff to make us lunch.

The day started with Amanda teaching yoga out on the lawn. It was my first time taking one of her classes and I have to say (even though I might be biased because she’s my best friend) that her class was amazing. I especially loved when we did dancer pose in pairs. Spencer took some photos and I think everyone looks so lovely and balanced with hands meeting in the middle.

In the afternoon, everyone got their best red, white, and blue on and the party began! We played drinking games, lounged in the shade, talked to so many PCVs about what life and Peace Corps is like in Ethiopia, ate delicious BBQ food, and had a really great time. The Rachels, two besties both named Rachel, planned the whole thing and they really did an amazing job. From making sure everyone had a place to sleep to negotiating the price of the BBQ per person, everything was taken care of. Those two ladies are queens. Thanks Rachel and Rachel!

The next day we left for our next Ugandan adventure: a safari in Queen Elizabeth Park.   

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Durame Leadership Camp Invites!

We’ve had a great response from our students concerning the Durame Leadership Camp. I think some of them don’t really know what camp is, but they still want to come and learn from us, which is so heartening!

Together Spencer and I got over 100 applications to fill just 32 spots.  I chose 16 of my students (8 girls and 8 boys) and Spencer chose 16 of his students (also 8 girls and 8 boys). Spencer’s students are finishing up grade 11 and my students are finishing grade 9, so we are planning to give each student a mentor/mentee to help ensure everyone understands the material and can complete the tasks during camp.

I made the invitations you see in all the pictures to give to each camper. Since this week is finals week and we won’t see the students again until camp (over a month away), we wanted to give them something tangible and special to remember to come to camp. We also got their phone numbers so we can remind them the week before.

We still have a lot to work out, but things are coming together nicely! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Hawassa, The Capital of the South

Hawassa is where we go to escape our tiny town, to buy things, to drink alcohol in public, and to eat foreign food. It’s the capital of the southern region of Ethiopia (the region we live in), SNNPR or Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region.

The city is built on a large lake, Hawassa Lake, and there are boats you can rent to go out to see hippos lounging in the water. There’s a small wooden walkway along the lake with small restaurants selling deep fried whole fish, beers, sodas, and coffee. The lake also supports a large population of massive birds with wrinkly reddish/black/flesh colored necks. They are quite large and frightfully ugly, but harmless. They hang out at the end of the boardwalk in a sort of park and also in tall trees near the water.

There are a few nice restaurants we like to go to when visiting. In our town we can only get Ethiopian food out at restaurants, but in Hawassa there are two Italian restaurants (both owned by Italian men), a burger joint, an ice cream parlor, and many of the hotels have great restaurants, as well.

Honestly, the food and atmosphere of a restaurant in Hawassa, just makes me so happy. Anytime I go to Hawassa (or Addis), my number one thought is, “Where are we going to eat first?!” It’s nice to be able to go out, eat with silverware, and eat pizza, fish goulash, Spanish omelets, chicken shwarma, ravioli, burgers with pineapple, and wash it all down with two scoops of ice cream. It’s like heaven.
Another big item on the Hawassa to-do list, is shopping. We can buy a lot more things in Hawassa than in Durame. We usually go to the supermarkets and buy olive oil, bottles of wine, cocoa powder, brown sugar, jars of olives, condiments (mustard, hot sauce, ketchup), Nutella, and anything else they have that we want. Things can be random according to what their supplier can get their hands on. Last time we went, we got whole wheat pasta, pretzels, and name brand Nutella, three things I hadn’t seen before. (I had been really craving pretzels, so I was stoked!)

Hawassa is about 3 hours away from Durame by bus, but it feels like a whole other level of living. We stay at a hotel, usually with a hot water shower (hot water shower!!)and wifi. We eat out at yummy restaurants, and we get to just relax, drinking cold beer (cold being the key word here). It’s glorious and it helps keep me sane in this crazy Peace Corps life.   

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Little, New Things Around

Rainy season is here, and with it, a few new things have arrived at the High household in Durame.

Two chill dudes to steep tea with...

Our compound family got two new cats, and one of them is positively teeeeny! 

Colorful and fun new clothes pins came in a care package from my mom. 

She also sent us some colorful, solar powered twinkle lights, which make power outages way more fun.