Monday, November 16, 2009

“When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much do they?” – Virginia Woolf

I have truly never seen a sky so articulately filled with stars than I did when I stayed in Jinja, Uganda at The Haven. The Haven is an eco-lodge. It sits right on the Nile and is very close to the “source of the Nile”. This is where the Nile starts: Lake Victoria feeds into it and the Nile eventually drains into the Mediterranean Sea.

The Haven was perfect. The views and sounds and, even the smells, were so calming and stunning. It served as an antidote to the experience getting here.

The driver, Moses (the irony of our journey eastward and crossing the Nile to get to Jinja was not lost on me but felt a little "on the nose" for this blog!), who picked me up from Kampala to take me to Jinja said the drive would take 30 minutes. (It took 2 hours.) It was interesting to see and kind of experience a typical Saturday with all of the bustle of the Ugandan communities we drove through. There were tons of shops and homes and factories right on the main road that we were driving on (we were on the same road the entire route – I would call it a “highway” but it was really just a road and sometimes a dirt road.) There was so much activity and so many children, likely because it was a Saturday. I was struck that I had not really seen so many children during the day just sort of milling about and hanging around. The communities were poor and struggling but there was an energy and purpose that was really fascinating to watch.

When we got to Jinja and turned down the one lane dirt road to get to The Haven, we started to drive through a very poor village. It was the first time I saw a very young boy (a toddler at most) whose stomach was bloated from hunger. I remember seeing those commercials for “Save the Children” or whatever (“for the price of a cup of coffee a day…”) when I was growing up in Wisconsin and being so confused thinking that the babies bellies seemed so big and full. Then it was explained to me that that was a clear indication of starvation.

After about a mile or so of driving down this bumpy and winding dirt road, we arrived at (the aptly named) The Haven.

So there I was at truly one of the most stunning places I had been to in Africa. The views and bungalows and atmosphere were so warm and cozy. They immediately served me a delicious lunch and a cold Tusker on the outdoor terrace of the main lodge and I settled in comfortably.

And, while I really enjoyed it and felt very fortunate for so many obvious reasons, I was definitely not numb to the journey that got me there.

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