As told by Irene Nangoma January 28, 2013 A long time ago there was an old lady who liked digging (farming) in a very hot place. One day a small boy came to her. He explained that his master had sent him to find the old woman and to ask for time. So she wrapped the time in some paper and gave it to the boy. The boy started his long walk home. He crossed an ocean and traveled many miles. As he was walking he met a lion. The boy sang to the lion as he passed. Then the lion began to sing to the boy, urging him to watch him dance. As the boy kept walking the animal kept singing, the boy finally looked back to see the lion dancing and singing. As the boy continued his walk he found that he had lost the small package. When he returned to his master he explained the journey, the lion, and that he had lost the package containing time. The master decided to send another person. This person again traveled a long distance before reaching the woman. When he reached her, she again gave him time wrapped in paper and sent him home. This boy crossed the ocean and also traveled many miles. As he traveled he met the same lion. The lion sang and danced and tried to get the boy to turn and look. This time the boy didn’t turn back, instead he went yelling for the villagers. The villagers came to him and asked why he looked so scared. As he explained the dancing lion, the villagers were also scared, so they went out to hunt the animal. The boy continued home to his master. When he arrived, he gave the master the package. As the master unwrapped the package, day and night were created, and time began. * A common saying here is that ” God gave westerners watches, but gave Ugandan’s time.”
Today was my last day as a tourist for the next three weeks. It has been great being guided around Kampala and now the savannah. I have seen so many things. At Queen Elizabeth Park, 10 hours drive from Kampala, we spotted many elephants, hippos, zebras, boks (a gazelle), water buffalo and one lion. We were the only ones to catch a sighting of a lioness as she shaded herself under a bush. A good day is just one sighting of a lion. How interesting to gauge the luck of a day by just one animal.
My first animals was the Zebra as we passed another game park. The Zebras were intermingling with a herd of cows, so the cow herder let me walk with him towards the zebras. I was just 20 feet away from the Zebra’s as they chewed grass with their cattle cousins. My first big animal was a herd of elephants, including a “tiny” elephant about 1 week old. I was so excited, especially as it was pouring rain and pounding wind just a few minutes before we spotted them. They were maybe 20 feet from the car. I realized in that moment just how much we take for granted the wildness of these animals if we only ever see them in the zoo. However, it wasn’t until I saw the lion, not 15 min drive on a slow road from my hostel, did I realize how dangerous the savannah really is for people, though really its more dangerous for the animals then for me. Then today I stepped in the muddy footprint of an Elephant and I was again reminded of just how insignificant I am in this landscape.
Tomorrow we drive to Buhoma, which is near Bwindi (the most south western part of Uganda). There I will stay for the next 20 days working with the pygme tribe called the Batwa. It will be very mountainous and “cold” though I think it will likely not get below 70. I will be glad to get out of the bubble and join the rhythm of a community. Part of me was grateful for the tourist bubble I was isolated in, as the bombardement of new sights, sounds, and life has been a constant.
Today as we took a rest, from the 110 km drive on a dirt road with potholes big enough to hide that baby elephant, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) border was pointed out to me. As we sat by the Ishasha river, a campsite for tourists visiting the park, the DRC border was just on the other bank. I guess I expected more armed guards and people on alert, versus the serene river and the playing hippos. We did spot the soldiers compound just a few minutes away from the camp site. With the DRC and Rwanda so close, the reality of human vulnerability is hard to push away, and for that matter the vulnerability of our humanity.
As I left the Church of Uganda’s Bishop’s office in Kampala, I prayed, ” Please God let me hear and see what you called me here to see. May I tell the stories that you wish me to tell.” I prayed for strength and vision.