AhhhhhhhhhhI spent this past long weekend up at the supremely relaxing Nile Safari Camp with my friend Emily and her boss Zahid, who are, rather conveniently for me, the general manager and owner of the lodge. My oh my, it was lovely. Lovely and relaxing. There's something about sitting up in bed and seeing the
Nile river (photo) just feet from your tent to make the day start off right. I even didn't mind being woken up by the sound of monkeys hurling tamarind nuts at the balcony. Charming, really. Although, I must admit, awfully confusing when you're half-asleep. The camp, which is actually more of a semi-luxury lodge, is absolutely beautiful itself, and is designed to blend in with the nature around it as much as possible, and to provide river views from almost anywhere in the camp you might be, such as in a lounge (photo), or at the pool (photo).
Probably the highlight of the weekend, though, was our visit to the nearby village of Mobako, a couple of kilometers from the Nile Safari Camp. Emily and Zahid are working on supporting 'sustainable tourism' around their lodges, and part of that is ensuring that local residents are able to sustain their livelihood. So meetings were held and discussions were had, ideas debated. While we were there, they started to prepare food for lunch, came in from collecting cotton from the fields (they get paid 800 shillings - about 40 cents U.S. - for every kilo of cotton they collect) and showed off their homes and their few prized possessions. Rather than describe it all, i've decided instead to simply post some photos from the day.
This little girl was so absolutely scared of us, as small kids often are of muzungus. It feels a little awful to know that your alien skin colour is terrorizing a toddler!
It's not very often that you see men having anything to do with babies, so this seemed especially sweet.
Every day I see probably hundreds of women carrying their babies like this - and the babies always look as peaceful and snuggly as this one.
Preparing greens and edible flowers to be cooked for lunch. Oh, and that little boy in the green shorts? I'm packing him in my suitcase and bringing him home - by far the cutest kid i've met - he has a smile that could light up a hut!
About to prepare lunch.
Bringing in cotton from the fields, in a jerry can.
Showing off a prized wrap. The woman in the grey (her name is Grace) is one of two village women who speaks fairly good english, and she is also my new penpal. Our letters will be sent back and forth on Nile Safari supply trucks, so that she doesn't need to pay postage
Seeing their picture on my camera's screen seemed like an absolute joy for these kids!
By the way, I feel it is rather relevant to note, that in this region, one of the poorest in Uganda, that 45% of the population (which includes the residents of this village)lives on less than 5000 Uganda Shillings ($2.50 U.S.) per month. That kid in the green shorts? There's no fabric in the back of what is likely his only clothes, just the waistband and a few scraps hanging down. The girl in ripped white dress? There's no way her mother has money for a needle and thread.
It will be nice when the sustainability project get up and running and some of the tourists paying up to $100 a day at the lodge are given the chance to have some of their money channeled towards the village. Village-made crafts, village tours, or fresh vegetables, anyone?
That being said, I am never greeted with more genuine warmth and friendliness than when I visit a Ugandan village.