Sit. Sip. Relax.
Except, not quite yet because I’m thirty minutes early to a local coffee shop (Anna’s Corner) in Entebbe, Uganda–about 40 km outside Kampala, Uganda’s largest city.
Like any young woman traveling alone should do, I went with my insticts.
Today, that was simple:
After all, it’s after 7:00am and my body is waiting for some java. I boarded a small bus this morning (at some ungodly hour; around like 6:00am) from Kampala after all my travel partners and friends exchanged their tickets for a seat on the big red Jaguar bus headed back home to Kigali. They’ll be turning in their Ugandan Shillings and getting back to the good ole Rwandan Franc.
I bid farewell while it was still dark, found a seat of my own, and coasted on into Entebbe. I’m here–not back in Rwanda–because I’m moving my travels up and out of Africa (my first journey outside the continent in say, 19 months) into London. I’m already practicing my accent. And, the roads in Uganda operate in the same confusing way as the UK (driving on the “wrong” side of the road) and so perhaps it will be slightly less trippy to experience after my few days of practice in Uganda.
It’s weird being alone after backpacking for the past week with five other people (Sarah, Ella, Justin, Demetrea, Lyla, and Mike).
Travel partners sure do help. They can give assistance when crossing congested city roads (I never was good at that) or shooing away pushy motorcycle drivers. Luckily, I have my “wolverine scars” (as I’ve been strangely calling them) from my motorcycle accident last week to repel drivers away. I simply lift both arms in unison and voila! Those guys apologetically motor on away to their next unsuspecting customer.
I had really great travel companions this trip and we did so much in such a short amount of time.
This last week, I went from being bruised and banged up, moaning from any movement in my bed in the village, to driving 10 hours to the country to the North, eating Thai, American, Chinese, and Indian food, drinking one too many Nile Specials (the local Ugandan beer), bungee jumping 44 meters, white water rafting the Nile River, perusing the chaotic streets of Kampala at night, and catching up on some much needed sleep. We met some really nice people along the way too. Many Ugandans speak English (and GOOD English to boot), are much more used to seeing foreigners (at least in the cities), and seem to be a bit more open than a lot of Rwandans I know. And no, this doesn’t mean Rwandans aren’t friendly, it’s just that Uganda operates under a very different set of cultural norms and the fact that Kinyarwanda isn’t a barrier for once, well, it does make things easier. As my group of nomads and I walked around, few people stared and really, few people cared. A welcome change, believe me.
I also (still) can’t believe we bungee jumped.
Originally, I was not going to do it. I was going to act simply as a source of moral support and comfort. That’s it, I told myself. However, as I photographed the jumps of my friends and cheered them on as they took the dive, more and more I just knew I had to do it. Sometimes you have to do uncomfortable things to get the most out of an experience, you know? And also, WHY NOT?
And so I did it, though you can imagine that it was quite the dramatic display. While some friends hopped up to the drop off point and went for it following the countdown of the guides (essentially making the entire process appear completely seamless), I stalled a bit more.
You sit in this throne-like chair before you go to jump (it’s here they put on all the safety equipment) and I was thinking I was a big shot.
“It ain’t nothin’ but a thing!”
“Yes I can!”
Only then, you have to walk a couple of feet to the edge, just so you can curl your toes over the metal and spread your arms to prepare to take the plunge. It was here I started screaming, feeling tears in my eyes, and shouting, “OH MY GOD!!!”
But I knew I was doing it–and I told the guides so–I just needed to go at my own pace. After around 20 seconds of heavy breathing, looking down, praying, and questioning my sanity, the guides counted down. 5…4…3…2…1………..and I leapt. It felt like nothing and everything at the same time. I was gliding but only for a second as the rope jolted me back up and down again. Physics at its finest. The Nile, trees, and nearby bar all faded into one and when I looked up at the clouds (and the point at which I jumped off) I couldn’t stop smiling. That wasn’t so bad, right?
Though I’ll probably never do it again, I’m glad I did it at least once. And, hey, it was on the Nile so I feel like that’s got to have some pretty cool Cleopatra vibe or something.
Like I said, today (and until tomorrow around 6:30pm) I’m a solo traveler with nothing but time. Once I get my much needed coffee, I’ll hopefully get internet access so I can check my email and get the name of the hotel I booked for myself. I did just get the menu to this coffee house and not only does it provide the legend and story behind ‘qahwah‘ (the Arabic term for coffee) but it also has a seemingly endless array of choices (case and point: iced coffees, regular coffee from all of the surronding coffee-rich countries, different flavors like maple, vanilla, hazelnut, or chocolate, liquor-infused coffees, coffee with ice cream…). I might be here awhile.
I need the hotel name because in classic Heather form I forgot the name after I made the reservation online a couple of days ago. I did book something nicer ($45 y’all, that’s big money in my little Peace Corps world) but I figured this would be best since I’ll be alone during my stay in Entebbe.
It seems that there is much coffee to be had and maybe even some scenic walks to take (I can see Lake Victoria!) and a first world journey to prepare for. Last week, when I left Rwanda, I was emotionally fragile, scared after the accident, and operating at pretty high stress levels. Already, I’m feeling better (and maybe even missing Rwanda a bit already? Really?). Maybe, after all, I just needed a break. Knowing I’ll have nearly two weeks in London with Michelle, I can just imagine that the girl descending back upon Rwanda after these adventures will be refreshed, ready, and renewed.