Congratulations! You have come full circle, and look at the chaos that has surrounded us as we trekked around Uganda. It’s easy to ignore the outside world from here. Trekking through Uganda is an escape to a world that is, in many ways, simpler. Planting, growing, harvesting…it’s a back-to-basics mentality that reminds us to reconnect with what is most essential. Global Village Connect brings us into partnership with communities that are working to keep their children and families nourished and educated. Your contribution is carefully distributed through our partners in these villages who ensure that the most vulnerable are cared for. Our role is to act as a conduit between our two communities; to share their deep gratitude for your interest and your assistance, and to let you know that you are always welcome in The Pearl of Africa.
I hope you will be able to take a real trek with Global Village Connect some day. Much like this journey, it is a combination of service and adventure that leaves you with a sense of connection to others. You know you have made a difference, but you end up receiving far more than you ever could have imagined.
On behalf of our partner communities and the Board of GVC, thank you for taking this journey, and congratulations on moving through this turbulent time with us. Please stay in touch and continue to follow Global Village Connect as we endeavor to sustain our friendships and widen our circle of concern. You are now part of our circle, so thank you, be safe and explore with wonder.
Here we are, on the equator. That should mean we find a sense of balance, right? This journey has been a sweet distraction from the discord that has shaken our country from its roots, but it is also a bit of a guide, as well. There is a kind of equanimity that greets you when you visit Uganda. “You are welcome” is announced every time you arrive somewhere new, and it is heartfelt. You are welcome : it sort of sums up what we are struggling with here in our land of abundance. If Uganda has taught me anything, it is acceptance. There is a hope for something better, of course, but there is also an awareness of the beauty of the landscape, the people, the natural way of life that sustains them. They want you to experience the wonders of their country, and they want you to always feel welcomed and appreciated.
I hope the turbulence we are experiencing now leads to a world that is more in balance. So, as you move along the equator today, may you find a sense of balance and equanimity that brings you peace, and revel in the Joy of Togetherness with global dance ambassador, Karina Palma and Masaka Kids Africana. Happy trails!
Challenge for the day:
Does water in a sink going down a drain swirl in opposite directions on the northern side of the equator as opposed to the southern side of the equator? Is it true that water in the Northern hemisphere moves clockwise and in the Southern hemisphere, it moves counter clockwise? HMMM
Your first trip to Uganda can be overwhelming; there is so much to take in and process – the sights and sounds and smells and people and places put your sensory receptors on overdrive. Returning to these places allows you to connect on another level, but there is always something new and unexpected. For this stop, we’re going to Lake Mburu National Park and it's a beautiful place to observe nature and then relax in luxury. If you’ve stuck with us this long, you have earned your spot in this lodge. If you’ve done your miles for the day, cool off with this tourist in the endless pool overlooking the savannah. Oh, Africa!
There are places we encounter that elicit awe, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is, without a doubt, one of those precious places on the planet. To be in the presence of the Eastern Mountain Gorillas is deeply humbling. I often tell my students, “There are more people in this building than there are mountain gorillas remaining in the wild.” They understand the concept of endangered species better when they grasp that figure.
The Top 10 facts about this species:
A trip to Uganda is often planned around your Gorilla trek. Bwindi is in the high mountain region of the country. It’s lush and green, and on your way there, you pass acres of tea plantations that remind you that Uganda was colonized by the British. The sunsets in Africa are dramatic, but when you’re high up, the view is even more impressive.
When you arrive for your trek, you are divided into groups of 8 people. You’re advised to pull your socks over your pant-bottoms to prevent fire ants from crawling up your legs. Your guide leads you into the forest and you begin the steep climb over a floor of woven vines. When you break the skin of these vines, the ground is slippery and a bit perilous. You hike uphill until you meet up with a second guide who has located the gorilla pod you will visit. You drop any daypacks at this meeting point, and you follow the second guide deeper into the forest where the family of gorillas are eating, playing, being. The sight of these creatures takes your breath away. They are so…human! It’s remarkable how similar they are to us, and the sense of being part of the animal kingdom is overwhelming. The gorillas are accustomed to being watched and they stare back at you in what appears to be an oh-look-there’s-those-animals-who-like-to-watch-us-eat expression. They play with their babies and nosh on leaves and twigs while we stare at them in amazement. After about 1 hour, we are escorted back down the mountain and issued a certificate of achievement.
We’d love to offer you an award for hanging with us on this journey. By volunteering to learn more about Uganda, you expand our connection to a part of the world that is easily ignore. What you find over and over again when you visit communities in Sub-Saharan Africa is a sense of gratitude that you have come so far to see their beautiful land and learn about their culture. My role is to be a conduit for the genuine gratitude that was expressed; to let you know that your interest in their lives means more than you can imagine. So, on behalf of Global Village Connect, all of the beautiful places and the precious lives we have encountered along the way, thank YOU for hanging with us and sharing this journey. Keep on trekking!
Enjoying a sundowner with a view
Unfortunately , the recent killing of the 25-year-old male, Rafiki, from the Nkuringo group in Uganda, follows a rise in illegal activities as tourism dries up in Uganda. We hope that once the global pandemic is no longer prohibiting travel, you will visit (or revisit) this beautiful country. Your tourism dollars make a huge difference to Ugandans.
One of the many famous tree climbing lions at Queen Elizabeth National Park
OK, you’ve made it this far…we’ve worked alongside our partner communities to make sure students have an education and nutrition. We've bought land, built some farms, clean water wells and latrines, given some goats, pads for girls, uniforms, scholarships and emergency food relief.
Now, we get to the part of the journey that most people envision when you tell them you’re going to Africa-we’re going on safari! This is a long haul from Sipi Falls, and many hours in the van, across red-dirt roads, past numerous small towns and villages until we reach Queen Elizabeth National Park. We approach the park from above, and you immediately conjure the opening of The Lion King in your mind. There is a vast expanse of grassland pulsing with wildlife. But first, we are welcomed into the lodge where we have a beautifully prepared dinner with wine and Nile beer before settling into our banda on the perimeter of the savannah. You can hear the animals signaling one another, and you feel a bit vulnerable, because it’s dark. Like, no-city-lights- anywhere-nearby dark, so the stars are breathtaking.
Kyaninga Lodge on the outskirts of Queen Eizabeth
Our guide has instructed us to wake extra early to have the best view of the wildlife in the park, especially if we want to see any lions.
Elephants and Ugandan kob at Queen Elizabeth National Park
Our guide is waiting for us when we get to the dining room for coffee and breakfast, and then our safari begins. The first elephant pod sighting takes your breath away, then the giraffes gracefully meander by and you’re amazed. There are warthogs and Ugandan kob, African water buffalo, and majestic lions. At 3:00, we take a boat ride down the Kazinga Channel. Many of the animals wander to the waterfront in the evening, and there is a smattering of small fishing villages along the shore. We see hippos bathing and elephants playfully spraying water, as well as crocodiles yawning lazily. There are monkeys and multitudes of exotic birds, and all the while, you’re feeling beyond blessed to get to witness this part of the world.
Hippo and water buffalo at Kazinga Channel
Ugandans take great pride in the natural beauty of their country, and the essence of the tagline “The Pearl of Africa” is abundantly clear. As the sun begins to set, we stop for a sundowner and let the soothing tone of Samite’s voice sink into your soul. Safe travels.
Get ready for a challenging trek. Along the way we'll pass friendly locals who offer their assistance as we navigate some steep climbs to the magnificent Sipi Falls. We’re getting into a more mountainous region now, and the climate is ideal for growing coffee. After the hike, we will visit a coffee farm where we will sift and sing, roast the beans over an open fire, sift and sing some more, then grind the coffee beans and enjoy a much-needed cup of the freshest coffee you’ve ever had in your life.
Planting a (coffee) tree in Uganda
De-husking the coffee beans
Roasting the coffee
Our accommodations have a great view and dinner is in an open-air dining area with a lovely bar and big comfy chairs looking out over the mountainside with a view of the falls. Watching the sun set from here is the crown on this jewel of a day…so make sure you take some time out to just relax and appreciate all the beauty around you with a cold Nile beer.
Before collapsing into your bed, our friends from Hope Troupe will arrive and entertain us around a campfire. These talented performers are mostly orphans who use their talent to overcome their circumstances. They have created a family unit by dancing, singing and farming together. The support from Global Village Connect has helped this ensemble remain a viable troupe who share their culture and passion with the people who pass through their beautiful country. Shake along with Hope Troupe and keep trekking!
Heather's new friend in Sipi Falls
Mulembe: Mbale meets New York
We are halfway through our journey. Today we stop in Mbale town, the original home of the Abayudaya Jewish Community. The Jewish community of Uganda was established over 100 years ago; it's a fascinating story, and truly amazing to participate in a Shabbat service where the ancient Hebrew prayers and songs are chanted with an African twist. The Abayudaya are known for blending traditional Jewish music with African harmonies, mixing Hebrew and several local languages. In 2005 they were nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Traditional World Album. Stretch out while you listen to this beautiful song.
Mbale Clock Tower
Keep moving forward…and helping to repair the world with Global Village Connect. As always, thank you for moving forward with us!
Nabagoye Hill Soccer Field
Artist, Ali Dachis, and students painting a world map mural.
Today we stop in Namutumba, home of the Tikkun Olam Primary School and school farm. This is a Jewish school that serves Jewish, Muslim and Christian students in peace and harmony. There are 450 students, ranked 3rd in the district.
Students above helping harvest the ground nuts.
Global Village Connect has initiated a 5-acre farm that provides lunch for the students. They are growing beans, maize, eggplant, tomatoes, and potatoes for the daily lunches, as well as growing a surplus of onions and ground nuts to sell. The funds generated by the surplus are used to maintain the farm to make the operation self-sustaining. We also funded and built a school kitchen.
Students being served food at the lunch window of the new kitchen.
Before you exercise today, see if you can shake your hips along with the Tikkun Olam students. Warning: this is exhausting! It looks easy, but shaking your hips like this is no easy task. If you can keep up with these kids, add a mile to your trek today!
Rehearsing for a performance.
Alright, trekkers. Time to get your hands dirty. We’re going into the bush to the Iganga District, site of Buyanga Primary School where Global Village Connect and Radnor Middle School and all kinds of other generous folks have helped provide opportunities to learn and grow by installing a school farm and by initiating a Give-a-Goat program.
At this moment, school is closed because of COVID-19 restrictions. This is really why we’re on this Virtual Trek, since we know that some of the children in the communities where we are partnered rely on the school lunch for their main meal each day. Without this daily meal, Global Village Connect has been providing emergency food relief for the most vulnerable families. The schools help us identify who is most in need, and GVC connects with some of our partners on the ground to ensure that our relief supplies are appropriately distributed. It literally takes a global village. YOU are part of this chain, so let’s put some positive energy into the universe by moving our bodies with love and intention. The world desperately needs some healing right now, and I’m so grateful that YOU are on this journey with us.