The time is UTC + 1 and the city is Cherbourg. Last year I went to the beaches and U.S. Cemetery. This year even though it is Monday I am hoping a few things may be open. It wasn’t so when I was here in 2012. But then it was also 30th April sandwiched between a Sunday and May Day
Portland is along the Dorset Coast. Mostly south but perhaps a bit west as well. Not Plymouth as I was originally thinking. Or not thinking as the case may be. My only excuse is that I was watching the broadcast map which clearly had Plymouth marked on the coast. It stuck in my mind. They both start with “P” right?
and however you pronounce Irish towns in English. Up front, I have never, ever managed to figure out either Gaelic or Welsh pronunciation on anything. All I see is this long line of letters and my mind completely and totally blurs out. Not quite as badly as when I attempt Arabic but close to the same thing. Which is all to tell you that failure to comprehend anything of Gaelic is not a unique failure in my life but my reality of staring, thinking and being able to come up with a really intelligent “huh?” I would try to blame it all on dyslexia except that I think it is just me and the way my brain is wired.
Languages are not my thing beyond the basics of numbers, food, train station and that caffeine bearing elixir of life. In high school and college I really tried to learn French. Honestly – and it was in one ear and out the other. Often without a stop in the middle to leave even a smidgen of residue. After a while I just accepted that I didn’t have the ear to hear the nuances and letters were not shaped like numbers. Numbers are fine – they stand still and behave. No changing who they are from moment to moment or speaker to speaker. Now I just admit my limitations and move on – in today’s case after six outstanding days at sea which included five days of time zone shifts – to the shore in Ireland. The last time I was here I stayed in Cobh, walking around and seeing the town. This time I am off to join a group which is off to see Cork (and hopefully no wizard). I am not looking for yarn.
At the English Market inCork I procured a lovely local artisan cheese to go with my rye & linseed crackers. There were also dates and chocolate invited to the party. Cheré brought s huge scone and shared. After driving s bit more, which had followed meandering through bookstores in Cork, we stopped at Ft Charles before arriving in Kinsdale.
More book shops, wool stores and really cute sheep courtesy of www.tomjoe.com but on sale and in €.
Our return trip was via interesting roads, local hill tops and a cemetery or two. Since I have finally fallen off the ship’s net, pix will wait till I have WiFi other than my iPhone
We just made it back to the ship, I need to play with my ship puzzle and find a ‘cuppa before then ship sails.
Tomorrow it is Dorset where we land at the originalPlymouth.
It was a busy day – crossing the Atlantic, Awarding Russell as he sat in his Crow’s Nest his second transatalantic pin and the Semi-finals of the Sea Chef Competition. And the Pizza Party – can’t forget that either.
The Chef Competitions – the three remaining contenders –
And it is not that I have anything against Jacket Potato, or a full roasted chicken. In small quantities and in their place. Or endive or beet root or….
anyway – I still hit the scones later in the afternoon.
Besides the competitors, the executive chef, the cruise director and us judges there is also the dude running the sound system. Topi ( Finnish and the incoming cruise director) has chosen themes for each of the contestants plus entry music.
Of course, what else could you suggest for that moment when the disqualified contestant has to leave? Exactly. Hit the Road Jack which was sung by staff, judges and a good 1/2 of the audience.
Today, it was Angel, Food & Beverage Manager, who had to take off his pinny and jacket before making the walk of shame. Not that he didn’t prepare a nice sea food plate, it is just that he forgot to use one of the required ingredients. That, my friends, really blows your point score.
The Staff Captain had another fun story to go with his frankly pretty plain dish. And then there is the Head of Guest Services. She is French and just blew the competition out of Centrum.
The required items: Tiger shrimp, Alaskan crab leg, cilantro, cocktail sauce, Boston lettuce.
The three guys all made essentially a shrimp cocktail with decorations, crab stick and veggies. Korine made ceviche; totally awesome. It was so good that none of us were willing to give up our serving.
Off to have scones and dress up for dinner at the Captain’s table tonight (with the Finance Officer hosting).
I think I mentioned that Cheré & I had planned on using up some of the on-board-credit last cruise at the Chef’s Table. If you are not familiar with the execution – fancy meal with wine pairings with the chef coming out between courses and describing the execution of each dish in excruciating detail. Much of the actual entertainment comes from your dining companions.
Originally scheduled about half way into the cruise, I wound up with a conflict (can’t be at two dinners at the same time – something that never ever happens to be on shore. One dinner is all I usually manage and that is if I remember to eat. ) Wait – none of that has anything to do with the fact that we rescheduled for the last night of the cruise – not exactly the first choice for either of us.
Come that last day, we sort of had finished our packing and were ready to move to a new cabin as a reward for our organizational skills. The seas were mildly rough, but neither of us thought anything about it. We arrive promptly and talk to Bento – seriously excellent waiter from Portugal. And we wait. He goes out, comes back. A couple has cancelled because of the rough seas.
Now we are six.
But not really since no one else has shown up. He gets a second phone call – the guy is sick, according to his wife, and they aren’t coming.
Now we are four at a table that will hold up to 16.
Waiting a bit longer, Bento tries to reach the last couple but they are not answering their phone. End result is that we rescheduled to this cruise where we had a full table this evening. Really full – as in all 16 chairs filled.
The dinner was lovely, most of the other guests were lovely people. In fact they all were great until the wine started influencing a couple of the gentlemen who became a bit louder and stupider than anyone really appreciated. Honest fact that drunks are normally funny to themselves and other drunks – but not the rest of us. But then I don’t think that just because there is wine in your glass requires that you drink it.
Why am I not talking about today’s Master Sea Chef Competition?
The dish of the day was steak tartar complete with raw egg.
Need I say anymore?
Now it was a bit of a challenge today – was this entry supposed to be a starter or a main? The required ingredients were: smoked turkey, caviar, hard boiled eggs, cranberry sauce and blue cheese.
To add a bit to the fun – the top contestant from yesterday was able to chose an additional ingredient and add it to the list of another contestant of his choice. (No foreshadowing here -it rebounded on him big time).
Lucky me, as well as not appreciating being on stage, I wound up with the camera down at my end. Just what I want – everyone on the ship watching me handle knife/fork and eat in public. Comment? At least I managed without spilling all over myself or sounding too much like an idiot.
How do I know? I got to watch it on TV this evening.
for those of you who have ever sailed on a Royal Caribbean Ship – there is usually, 1000 in the morning on a sea day, a cake decorating contest. Mostly the Master of the vessel vs the Cruise Director/Hotel Director; the goal is to put together and serve a Blackforest cake. Dark chocolate layers, cream frosting, cherries, some shaved chocolate. Did I mention the Kirschwasser? At least one of the cakes will be swimming in so much alcohol that it almost floats off the plate.
Carly (one each Welsh Cruise Director) came up with a new spin. A la Iron Chef, they are having a cook off in the Centrum, 1100 each day. The contestants, all staff officers, were dressed in traditional chefs jackets and aprons. Presented with a surprise box of ingredients, today’s task was to create a salad in 15 minutes or less. The tables for the contestaants were in the centrum. The bar counter behind them had a full range of garnishes, condiments and dishes. The judges platform was on the steps facing the action.
Describing the action shouldn’t be difficult since I had a “ringside” seat. Surprised? As I normally will do just about anything to stay out of the spotlight I still don’t understand why I agreed to be part of this insanity. No. I am not cooking. Most know better than to suggest that. Married over 36 years to a wonderful guy who still honours the agreement: I don’t do kitchens or bathrooms.
Nope, I am one of the three idiots sitting on the judges platform with the opportunity to taste the offerings and render judgement. Not quite the “fit/not fit for human consumption” comedy routine that one of the vets and I pulled off in Kuwait for the command BBQ but still…. Based on the points awarded collectively by the three of us, one contestant a day will have to “Hit the Road Jack” Today it was Paul, the Refridgeration Engineer. It was a case of ooppps. Forgetting an ingredient doesn’t do much for your score.
I will try and have pix in the morning. Meanwhile, this is turning out to be a lot more fun than drunken cake!
For those of you who don’t remember from the last two springs – 25 April is ANZAC day – standing for Australian-New Zealand Army Corps.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in WWI. The casualties on both sides were horrendous. What was supposed to be a preemptive strike turned into 8 months of hard fighting with little to no progress.
The significance of today (25 April) hit me a few days ago which should not be surprising considering that I was on the Mariner two years ago when there was standing room only in the upper lounge for the memorial service complete with New Zealander bugler from the crew. Last year was the Legend. With a bit of nudging from Val, Ian and a few others the CD managed to get together what turned out to be an impressive service with ANZAC biscuits at the end.
This year I asked the Cruise Director about a service and mentioned that I still had the documents and audio clips I had pulled last year. We also have a larger Australian contingent on the ship one of whom came equipped with flag, readings and the audio for the Last Call.
So there we were, a small group of 15 this morning at 0600. On the pool deck with the wind blasting and the temperatures barely over freezing. There is the Aussie who has the readings, the Padre (Catholic, USAF (ret)), passengers, cruise director and two Yanks (Cheré and I, and she is from Oklahoma).
A second service was held at 1100, up in the Vortex Lounge. Much better attended.
Meanwhile, it is first formal night and we have already started the time jumps ahead. So need to change clothes, wander to dinner and then go back to reading #NewHugoAwards and #NewHugoCategories…
|Fri||May||1||Cork (Cobh), Ireland||9:00am||5:00pm|
|Sun||May||3||Paris (Le Havre), France||7:00am||11:00pm|
Admittedly the map is a bit weird. From what I know, Amsterdam is on the Atlantic Side…
Any way – Cheré and I are on our way across the ocean in a fancy cabin, no less.
When I met him last fall, he was quietly perched in his blue easy chair. Surveying his kingdom and content to observe. He had been there for a while, none of the bridge officers knew exactly how long. I gave him a transatlantic pin for his efforts and more or less forgot about him.
Well, apparently one must be cool to cruise the Caribbean and that means sunglasses. Add to that a home port of New Orleans and you start to see the problem. No longer content to sit quietly, both his and others feathers are ruffled and he has to have his beads. Both in addition to his pin.
Do you think giving him a pin on the upcoming crossing might restore some order?
and stayed in Phillipsburg. Didn’t go to the airport and get pummeled by planes. Didn’t go snorkeling (although I probably should have since the camera battery is recharged), but I didn’t want a lot more sun exposure till I recover from Bonaire.
Forget my sunblock? Who me?
Anyway, it is Sunday in St Maarten. The stores that are going to open do so at about 1000. The streets are not blocked off and the merchants seem a bit desperate. There is only one ship in port today not the five to six which has been my usual experience here. Additionally, according to multiple shop keepers – there has been more looking this year and less buying.
The good thing about all of this for me is that the streets are not so swamped with people that I can’t walk. So I visited my favorite camera store and picked up the last thing I am going to need/want for a long time. Then we hiked back toward the ship and made a stop at the Leathergoods store. Over the years I have purchased belts and the occasional jacket here. I love leather jackets and have no guilt in wearing them, so I always go looking. The manager recognized me and, among other suggestions, pointed me to the really bargain rack.
That was nothing compared to Cheré greeting him in Turkish and receiving the red carpet treatment. It was fun to watch.
We hiked back to the ship with bags, not all that much poorer. The Art Box (jewelry store) wasn’t open so the credit cards were spared.
and too much OBC.
Not a problem one often has. Most cruises anymore don’t provide a lot of On Board Credit. Further, many have limitations on how you can spend it. For some reason, I wound up with a bunch on this cruise. In an effort to avoid dealing with the main dining room, Cheré and I both prepaid the gratuities leaving us with monopoly money to spend. Since almost all of it is non-cash, it vanishes into the coffers of RCCL without a trace if we don’t spend it. And as far as the shops on board – forget it! The last thing I need is either junk or more t-shirts.
What my kids will appreciate even more is that I am not even buying magnets this go round. No postcards either because they already have them from these ports.
Not sure either of those have anything to do with OBC but I get distracted quite easily.
OBC – one can eat in specialty restaurants. Cheré and I hit Giovanni’s the first night. It was excellent. We went there for lunch once. We tried the sushi – it was ok but not fabulous and certainly not worth a trip back.
Will have to figure it out, but meanwhile, knitting proceeds
The location is Bonaire, the snorkeling trip put on by Woodwind Tours. If you are ever here, book with them – fabulous people, extremely knowledgeable, excellent equipment for everyone from beginner to experienced. They are more than reasonably priced (book the five hours, drinks, 3 snorkeling locations and food!)
The water is crystal clear. You can’t touch anything, feed anything or walk on the coral. Some areas are really shallow and you have to be extremely careful as well as along the drop off where you can’t see the bottom, just reflections off fish as they come and go from the depths. The photos were taken with my CanonD20. I don’t have names for most of these critters – so if you know any, please leave me a comment and I will fix the caption!
And then there are sponges…. and coral
At least I think it is take two. I was here in Jan 2014 certainly (which I figured out simply by doing a search on the blog).
We waited till the first of the crush made it off the ship before stepping out into the heat and humidity. It isn’t a far walk to either the Archeological Museum or the Fort (which is now a local history museum). The first is free, the second a whopping $5/US.
The Archeological Museum is signed in both the local language (which reads like a combination of original amerindian, dutch and spanish smashed up together) and English. At one time a private residence; grants enabled the board to convert, update and maintain. It is open, bright and easy to navigate with steps, ramps, elevators so that anyone can get around. The descriptions are no more than a sixth grade reading level and many are pointedly directed toward school age children. The story is told of the original inhabitants (probably ~1000 CE), various European exploring groups and subsequent conquerors. Although not really stressed, it seems obvious that the closest mainland links are Venezuela. There was information on local archeology, pottery, house construction and use of shells. Domestic animals, long a part of the European household did not appear until the Spanish in the 1500s.
Lastly there was a lovely exhibit of local art.
Back out in the heat and trekking along looking for shade Cheré and I avoided all the high end name stores on our way to the old Fort. Not large, most but not all of the wall has been maintained. In case you have any difficulty in finding it – tall square clock tower and two canons out in front (pretty broad hint). Inside, it is a local history museum with friendly staff, a lot of rusted shop and farm implements and a building focusing on “then and now.” So showcased are furniture, old household implements, music making and musical instruments and dolls (one looks definitely like E II).
Most interesting was an oral history project involving young people on the island.
Their instructions were to find the oldest possession in their family and track down its history through relatives, written documents. Posters gave the information and a video ran with each one of the 20 telling their story in turn. The objects ranged from a gold watch to a cactus soup recipe to cookie iron.
Outdoors we noted birds and iguanas…while confirming that there were a lot of shops with the purpose of separating the tourists from their money. Assume the presence of everyone of the awful cruise ship jewelry shops, most brand name stores, and a lot of bars. When you leave the ships (We and the Adventure of the Seas were in port today) if you turn left and walk down the main street you will find stores more attuned to the local populations (groceries) which is where I imagine most of the crew went.
Other things to do – the troll ride looks to be short but might be fun. Water sports are certainly an option. Lots of food and drink.
It was a nice time, warm. We found no tacky Santa shirts, bought no magnets. At 1000 this morning which was well before we docked the Serenade had held its “Milestone Recognition” so I have my crystal paperweight. Don’t need to add anything else to the suitcase…
(photos to follow)
I did mention that there are almost no children on the ship, right? In fact there are only two, teens both, who do not belong to the crew. Lovely young Canadians, met them on shore in Grand Cayman.
Apparently the water slide still is open, even when there are no takers.
I went sliding this afternoon. The sun was bright, the humidity up and even with the wind blowing it seemed like the thing to do. I was their first customer this cruise. Day 5, third sea day. Only person sliding.
I even took my underwater Canon and made a couple of videos. From this I can assure you that it is a long walk for a very short (15 seconds) slide.
Georgetown is a tender port which occasionally makes the choice of what to do for the day quite easy.
Do I want to shop (no, not me). Do I want to see the local museum (exhibits haven’t changed since I went through it in 2013 – I asked the guide), do I want to play with Stingrays. The last is a big time actively for a lot of people. Did the brush and bump with stingrays in Papeete so that left me the wander around option.
It was possible to walk around on the sidewalks without pushing and shoving since the only other ship at anchor today is the Carnival Freedom. The last time I was here it 4-5 ships which is more shoppers than I want to see. Wandering around, it was easy to guess who was off which ship: the Serenade passengers were a bit older, a bit better dressed and sober. The Carnival passengers were living up to the stereotype.
The Pirate is still defending the rum –
The Creature locally is the “blue dragon” which looks somewhere between an iguana and a komodo dragon.
I don’t remember the fountain –
But there are still numbers and variety
It is now the second sea day. Yesterday was tied up in many of the first day activities mostly related to Cruise Critic and making sure that I actually can find everything on the ship (and teaching myself the correct turning direction from the stairway. Walking to the back of the ship and starboard instead of port is not my brightest move).
Anyway, Chere and I wound up hanging out that first afternoon near the 5th Deck coffee shop with needles in our hands. We found a few other crafters and had a great conversation with the cruise director who offered to place a note in the Cruise Compass.
This morning we wandered down to Deck 5 and commandeered the couches. Over the morning we were joined by a number of really nice people. A crocheter from Australia (Brisbane), and friend from a previous cruise (from Duluth), a guy stitching incredibly beautiful & intricate Christmas ornaments, five other knitters and a woman hand appliquéing flowers on quilt squares.
The time passed briskly. I wandered back in the afternoon after lunch (fancy reception – excellent food and a large number of the staff who I remember from last fall).
Part of the group wandered back.
I finished a bias knit scarf that has been on hold for so long that I don’t remember when I started it. I will not mention my poor planning, the previous snarled yarn or failing to estimate when I has used the first half of the yarn. It is asymmetrical and I am just going to call it a design element.
one skein of 100% merino sock yarn on 4mm needles…
at some point last night I realised that it was awfully quiet. The engines were making little noise, the fog horn was no longer blowing and I didn’t sense any forward motion. Obviously I decided it wasn’t my problem and went back to sleep. It was just after 0600 when Cheré and I looked out the balcony and verified that we were going nowhere in a great hurry. Ok. We are sitting still, why? It obviously wasn’t an emergency or we would have heard.
It was 0700 when the Captain came on the speakers to say that there was a ship broken down in the river ahead of us. Until the tugs stablized it and moved it out of the channel, we were going to be remaining where we were. Looking out over water, Quonset huts, a few houses and land so flat that you could imagine it vanishing under a one meter wave. Several cups of coffee, the discovery that my access code to the internet worked on both my laptop and iPad at the same time and it was time to find knitters.
Next announcement – bulk hauler still blocking the channel. Bit of research turned up the information that both the Carnival Dream and NCL Dawn had made it up river last night. I have to admire the pragmatism of the Coast Guard and pilots: ship outbound can wait; two that are headed in with passenger loads disembarking this morning were given priority.
Final announcement: ship is stabilized and we will be starting out. It is now lunch time and over 12 hours since we stopped. At least we managed to get turned back around and are now headed downstream. We creep the China Star being held in place by six tugs. Even so you can see the wake and its effect. Chere reports seeing crew members on deck with small grills. The ship had a major engine failure. No power. No lights, no refrigeration and obviously no internal means of cooking.
I don’t know what they are hauling, but I just hope it is not flammable….
After all this time – you would think I would plan these posts ahead of time. Which mostly I do so that I can grab the nice table of the itinerary. Seems like the last remaining cabins might be for sale on the RCCL site, but VTG doesn’t have them any more.
Any way – it sort of goes –
Ship Name: Serenade Of The Seas
Departure Port: New Orleans, Louisiana
Ports of Call: New Orleans, Louisiana; (2 days at sea) George Town, Grand Cayman; (day at sea) Oranjestad, Aruba; Kralendijk, Bonaire; (Day at Sea) Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; (3 Days at sea) Boston, Massachusetts
It is Cheré Harper and I this time around. Around the Caribbean and across the ocean. I have snorkling planned for Aruba and Bonaire and visiting one of the docs from the Uganda course while in St Maarten.
of course but this note is coming to you from the Frankfurt Airport, Senator Lounge in Terminal Z. With a flight after 1200 I had more than my usual amount of time this morning. Being already packed I could do useful things like take out garbage and lock up the house prior to taking the train to the airport.
Never mind about the train – I took the 0750 train connection in Mannheim which arrived before the 0737 (running more than 30 minutes late). Since it didn’t matter to me whether the end destination was Dusseldorf or Hamburg I grabbed a seat in the first available car.
Checking in turned into a small challenge. Since my first flight is Lufthansa, I had to check in through Lufthansa. My connector is United. Lufthansa couldn’t check me through and United kept sending me back to Lufthansa for check in. Given that I have five hours between flights I am not too worried. Even if it takes hours to get through security I should still be able to get some help from the United Service counter before attempting to drop off my suitcase.
1600 – update. Lovely flight with a great purser who entertained me with stories of his grandparents house near Bonn. And his mother used to knit for him; he would really, really appreciate socks (more than a hat or scarf). I am thinking about it. The main draw back? He has size 47 feet…..
Cleared immigration, picked up my bag. Went to the service counter where absolutely no one was waiting and received a new luggage tag. This one has the actual flight number on it, rather than the code share. I am hoping it means that my bag will arrive on the same flight as me.
Now hanging out in the over crowded and under served United Club. At least they have coffee and wifi….
miles or km for prescription refills. It really doesn’t make any difference which it is really since it means time, distance and diesel burned round trip. If mail order pharmacy was a reality I might just indulge, but Germany is not exactly friendly on drug imports and I would have to get an APO box again. Instead, I get to drive to LRMC. I could take the train – minimum of 90 minutes each way followed by 20-30 minutes up hill from the train station.
That is right – put the hospital on top of the highest mountain in the area just to make sure that it is totally and completely off the beaten track. Add in paranoia on the part of the military which resulted in what used to be the front gate being redesigned into heavy metal most closely resembling a river lock followed by closing it to vehicular traffic. Why? I can speculate but it does keep incoming traffic away from the ER. Never mind patient transfer time from the Ramstein Flight Line has significantly increased….. There is a pedestrian gate which I know to be open at shift change and is usually but not always open at other random times.
I thought about the train for about five minutes. That is about how long it took me to decide that half a day spent collecting refills was enough. If the pedestrian gate is not open then it is back down the hill, 5 km around the mountain and back up to the nearest gate which is as far away from the pharmacy as you can get and still be on post. I drove the 115 km according to Google maps from my house to find that Gate 3 was closed. Gate 4 was now the entrance and Gate 2 the exit. None of this makes any difference to you unless you know the place.
The nice tech at the pharmacy pulled my refills and filled my new script on one counter trip which I really appreciated. Yes, I understand my refills – coming up on 20 years now. Yes, I am fine with Doxycycline – no I don’t need Primaquin, this will do me just fine. Since I hadn’t had quite enough pain for the day I stopped at the immunization clinic. One needle (Zostavax) in the left arm, updated shot record and I was on the road to home.
It is after dark and there are some lights shining out between the Cassia Lodge and Lake Victoria. It means that Shabbat has arrived. For that matter – it means that the first night of Passover has arrived as well.
We had finished by noon today, both with lectures and a session in Mengo Hospital Lab. I will not readily admit how many years it has been since I personally prepared thick&thin slides for malaria diagnosis. Since the flight times for our group varied from 1830 onwards we had a couple members leave from the lab directly to the airport. The remaining four of us came back to the hotel for the afternoon. Given that there were a number of hours, Silke, Sarah and I split a room so that we could rest, lounge and shower before getting stuck in the lobby for the last couple of hours.
Did I mention that I am returning home on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul?
Well, anyway that is the plan. Lufthansa doesn’t fly directly from here. Nor does Austrian or Swiss Air. So my choice was Ethiopian or Turkish. Having flown on the latter, it was excellent plus I would rather change planes in Istanbul.
But I have not been able to check in on line. As it turns out, they have only the one flight per day coming through on a loop – Istanbul-Kigali-Entebbe-Istanbul which means that the counter might not be open for a while. I will update you….
(Right about midnight – give or take)
We left the hotel about 2030 and hit an insane amount of traffic immediately. So instead of taking 50-55 minutes it turned into almost 100 minutes. It was about when we were at the airport that the trip organizer mentioned about he was glad KLM didn’t leave till midnight. No, the time has been changed to 2330. Ooops. We get to the terminal to hit screening (everything through a huge x-ray that I am not sure had anyone watching the screen. The two on the KLM flight dashed for the counter which was about to close. Counter->Gate->boarding.
It was about then I found that Turkish Airlines doesn’t open their counters till around midnight…
But I managed to get checked in as soon as they opened, through immigration and to the “one lounge for everyone.” And everything to eat, other than fruit and chips is either on bread, wrapped in dough or is bakery products. Fruit is good, and chips are a vegetable, right?
We went for a walk today with one of the district health workers. He was following up on the use of bednets which were provided to all the households for free. Well, all the households that were registered and to those members of the household who were known. Numbers are a guestimate at absolute best and a SWAG at worst. About every four months on top of every other method they have (social media, church, village elders) one of the workers tries to do a follow up.
We were lead by the Village Elder. Originally in wellies and tattered pants, he vanished for a few minutes only to return in flip-flops and nice pants which apparently constitutes visiting clothes in these parts.
We headed past the houses lining the road and up the hill on a one person wide beaten down dirt path. I don’ think any of us really had recognized just how many people are living back off the roads connected to schools and neighbors only by foot paths. What it is also means that every single bit of building materials or personal possessions is carried in by hand. This is probably not as complicated as it seems since there are no wells, no running water, no plumbing and certainly neither power lines or generators at even the wealthiest house in this village.
If you have money, you build of brick often making your own. If you don’t – well then it is wood with filling (cement, dirt and cow dung mixture)). Windows are an uncommon luxury and the floors are dirt. There is only natural light, what little makes it through either windows covered with cloth or through cracks in the joins. The house is really for sleeping and storage of the minimal clothing the family might have. Cooking is down outside. I did not see a candle, but in any case, each of the tiny rooms inside the houses only had a bed and cords for hanging possessions. The chickens went where ever they want – the goats not as much simply because most of them were staked out.
Obviously bed nets are critical to keeping especially the young children free of mosquitos and thus malaria. The nets were there (some are white, some are blue) unfortunately, less than 1 in 4 are actually being used properly in this village which is still better than it used to be.
I will just leave you with the photos – from the most expensive (brick) to least (dab & wattle) house and a couple of outside cooking areas. Then compare it to your life. There is nothing nobel about living like this; people are not happier than westerners. What they are is exhausted from the effort it takes, literally sunup to sundown just to care for children, house, animals, fields. The children who walk km to school as well as those who don’t go because they can’t afford the uniform. Time spent every day hauling water in. And it is not living in harmony with nature. It is wresting a living from the land, slash and burn clearing because it is the easiest. It is dumbing trash because there is no where to take it.
The Crops: (along with the more prosaic sweet potatoes, peppers, potatoes, cassava, maize, etc
The Houses – outsides:
It is a land of poverty, natural beauty and people doing their best.
I shudder to think where Uganda is going to be in 20 years. The population pressure is enormous. The rainforest is being rapidly encroached by people who need those trees to build their houses.
Never mind it is April Fool’s Day. What happens if you are a German traveling and fall in love with Uganda? You work hard, buy 72 acres of land near Fort Port and set up a guest farm. You employ people, you accommodate visitors. You can even provide German style salads with the meals (although better because everything is locally grown). Kluge’s Guest Farm is more fun to think about that River Blindness so I am not going there for the moment. Rather, if I could get any of the black and white col0bus to hold still for a photo I would be really happy. Otherwise it is like seeing a plumy tail striped like a skunk go flashing by in the canopy. I have hope…
Our program today ran well in spite of the two people with onchocerciasis thinking that there could not be a group of white doctors coming especially to see them. After all, it is the first of April. Once we had that sorted out, the day went well.
But let me just leave it with: you do not want River Blindness. You do not want worm filaria traveling around your body, accumulating under the skin and seeking a home which they may well decide to find in your eyeballs. More cases every year than Ebola (but same with measles, malaria and a number of other miserable diseases). But then there are those who have taken the mosquito netting and turned it into fish-netting to feed their families. The Health District is trying to get them to stop. My thought is it might be better to find an organization to get them fish netting so they have an ability to use bed nets for their intended purpose.
The rest of the day we spent on medical and herbal botany. I have been entertaining you with animals and birds. Now on to plants, flowers and strange looking seeds…
on to the plants!
The Tooro Botanical Gardens grow plants and herbs representative of that which is found in the Albertine Rift. They dry, process and sell herbs to supplement their income and run a nursery of plants for sale. Our guide today specialized in these plants and explained the use of all. Some of it makes sense, some it pretty far fetched. It just makes me wish that pharmaceutical companies spent a bit more time looking at the army of botanical compounds and a bit less time running panels of chemicals “almost but not quite identical” to known drugs. That is not how you discover something new…
We are still fairly near the DRC border along the Western of Uganda which means we are right near the mountains. Not small hills although there are plenty of foothills, real mountains with the largest topping 5000 meters which is a significant height. Unlike other area of the world that are well known with good base sites and guides the area here is a bit more wild which means there is a real opportunity for western climbers to be stupid and get themselves killed. Hiking and climbing during the rainy season are not advised. In fact a couple of climbers died just a few weeks before we arrived in country not that it made the news anywhere. The population allegedly is around 55K,
The hills are green, the roads are red and packed reddish dirt and clay. When it rains they are extremely slippery; those parts which are not ruts deep enough to lose a bicycle or small child walking to schol of which the roads are littered with in the morning.
Remember the joke about “walks to school 6 miles each way barefoot uphill in the snow?” Well, these kids are walking 1-7 km in the mud each way in their bare feet for the most part. Since sunrise is about 0700 this close to the border it means that schools don’t start till closer to 0900 or a bit after in order to give the children a chance to walk when it is light.
Across the countryside the land is lush and fertile. The people are fertile but not lush. I am starting to believe much like we can predict who has diabetes in the west and far east based on BMI (body mass index) you can make a good guess at HIV status by the skeleton appearance of many of the patients.
It is like Baron Samedi of Voodoo fame strides through the countryside with his cane and polished skull head harvesting souls. The ancient patient smaller than a 40kg shadow curled in bed suffering from malaria turns out to be barely 50 and newly diagnoses. Malaria, coccidiomycosis, TB, are the major weapons he wields to bring his subjects low. ART (anti-retroviral treatment is provided by the government free of charge. Women get diagnosed in pregnancy if they get prenatal care. Men only when they show up with secondary infections. So where we see people for years on ARTs, here there are all too many who are first diagnosed when they have already progressed to AIDS. It feels like the 1980s all over again.
Like all other regions, there is a government hospital here. Fort Portal is big and bustling. There is a copper mine in the area. There are banana plantations and tea plantations. For that matter, there is as much of a population explosion here as anywhere else. You can buy health insurance: it will cover injuries, maternity, the occasional chronic illness. It doesn’t cover family planning, ART, anything even remotely resembling a voluntary pregnancy termination (to include complications), or dental, or eye care or immunizations or……. In fact, other than maternity it really doesn’t cover much of anything….
We made rounds at the hospital, talked to several patients in depth and the doctors on staff. The nurses seem to operate at a dead run. The head nurse stopped to talk for a few minutes. White dress, traditional nurses cap.
This afternoon we joined a couple of local public health workers conducting surveillance at one of the schools. Schistosomiasis affected 57% of the children at this school not that long ago. With a control program and treatment it is now down to 11%. I skipped the slide down to the crater lake on the snail catching expedition in the rain.
pictures to follow.
The Wiki reference in case you hadn’t looked it up… Out on a small boat – the nine of us and a Danish couple also staying at the lodge. You have seen most of these birds and animals before but still…. and we got off the water before the rain really hit.
There is Lake Edward, and then there is Lake George. Since I am currently in Queen Elizabeth Park, I really don’t think that the names need any further explanation. We are staying at Mwenga Lodge
More from 28 March –
There were lions last night as well as other animals
Rest of the critters
This morning we left the lodge at 0630. It was starting to lighten up, but the sun had not cleared the horizon when we passed the crater lake.
The lions were not at the previous location. Instead they were making a pile ‘o beasts. Sleeping but occasionally rolling over or batting at each other.
Otherwise – we saw a nice collection of everyone else as well. River tomorrow….
There was a second pride on the road to the salt lake.
The one male stalked off. One of the females was sitting at the side of the road. It was almost like she had shrugged her shoulders and decided that this pride was a pain to deal with and the guy had gone off in a huff.
Wiki here as I wasn’t able to find any local site/reference. The Park is located 375 km westerly from Kampala as the Jeep travels. It is noted for serious numbers of mammalian species and lots of birds.
I’m holding out for a leopard…..
As you drive along the roads in Uganda in those rare areas where there are no houses you could be almost anywhere in the world. Anywhere that British driving rules apply. For the most part the roads are two lanes with a yellow painted line down the middle to suggest that keeping to your side might just be a good idea. There are ditches on both sides, green grass, occasional wire fences, trees and bushes. It is raining this morning leading to fogged windshields, huge puddles and a significant decrease in traffic.
The cars, trucks and buses are still on the roads. What is missing is the rest. The Bodas are not on the roads nor are the taxis. It is raining, no one wants to stand out looking for a ride; no one certainly wants to ride exposed on the back of a motorbike. I keep mentioning them – the Bodas. If you haven’t wiki’d them – here is the information. A number of years ago at one on the inter-African borders you cleared one side then faced a significant distance of no-mans to get to the other country’s border. People got a ride to one side and had someone waiting on the other. To get between, you had to walk. Carrying packages, suitcases, small children that .5-2km could be a difficult challenge in the mid-day sun. Enter the bicycle owners. For a small fee, they would toke your “stuff’ or you from “border to border.” This became shortened to border-border and then to boda-boda. Just let the accent roll in your head. Spreading beyond the border, personal transportation is a major business. From bicycles to motor bikes to motorcycles, over the years the Bodas have become integral in a country with dense traffic.
There are a few long distance bus routes between the major cities, but city routes are non-existent . A Boda does point to point service, even door to door just for you. Share with a friend and it will cost you a bit less than going by yourself. Unlike the Taxis which run along the main roads, the Bodas seem to go just about everywhere. Some routes are individually negotiated; others have fixed prices. The 70,000 registered Bodas also contribute heavily to the goods transportation equation. Want to carry your pig to market or have it transported? Pack several dozen kilos of green bananas on your head or have someone with a bicycle move them for your?
It is extremely expensive to have a car or truck. Most families will never have that kind of money in a country where the annual family income is 1350$/US. Even with oil assets, the fuels are refined in Kenya and trucked back in order the road. At more than the = of 1$/E a liter, it is not as expensive as all of us assume but well more than most can afford. Remember, this is a country where most everyone does laundry by hand and hangs it out on the roof/a fence/a line/trees.
Where was I? Oh yes, riding shotgun in a bus along the Mbarara-Kasese Road in the rain.
The rain effectively stopped as we headed deeper into the mountains. This is a volcanic area studied with crater lakes (well stocked often with both hippos and schistosomiasis) and heavily agriculture plantings of banana and tea. There are huge tea plantations covering extensive tracts and the mountain sides with terraced plantings much where I would expect to see vineyards at home.
Winding through the mountains we stopped and looked down
The main road runs through park of Queen Elizabeth Park – we entered at the Katunguru Gate. Along the drive to the Mweya Safari Lodge some of the usual suspects presented themselves: Hippo, Elephant & Striped Mongoose to be specific.
I didn’t take any pictures of Fisheagles since I have seen more than a few of those before. We are going to do a drive late this afternoon which should prove to be interested. The roads are fairly decent; rules are that you stay on the road so why not go in your comfortable bus where everyone is at a decent height and can take photos out the window?