Will be back in 2015…
It is the rainy season in Southwestern Uganda. Rain was falling gently, but steadily, on Monday. We had a plan to drive 50k to a settlement at Kitariro to inspect furniture made by the Batwa.
Even in the best of conditions, the roads in and around Bwindi are terrible. Rocky, pot-holes, loose footings. There are no gutters along the sides which sends water pouring across our path.
With the rain steadily increasing, I was watching Enos, our administrator, for signs that he might cancel the trip. No such luck.
We set out, three of us on a bench seat in a Toyota pickup. The first minutes were slightly downhill so there were no incidents.
Rounding a bend, the rain intensifying, we saw a large delivery truck, stalled in mud, trying to reach the summit of a small hill. There was room alongside, so Enos decided to press on and see if we could clear this mess.
Once we started the incline, the tires grabbed at the mud-soaked pavement, spinning uselessly at times. We neared the incapacitated truck but the mud suddenly became too much and we were stopped.
Voices clamored about us. Men appeared from nowhere, offering to push our truck for 10000 Uganda shillings, about $5. We declined. Wow. Talk about an epic fail!
Nowhere to go now but back down the hill and try again. Not easy in this quagmire of a road. Chaos. Shouting. Down we went. To the bottom. To try again. In an hour.
In the end, we motored up again, got some manual help when the engine whined and the tires spun to put us over the summit.
We finally got to the Batwa settlement, met some friendly people, saw their woodworking center, then turned for home to retrace our steps.
“In the rainy season, this is to be expected,” Enos told me. I never would have made this trip, thus missing an authentic African adventure.
Truth is revealed in many ways and sometimes from the unlikeliest sources.
One of my former bosses, a TV news director in Monterey, Calif., once bellowed a comment across the newsroom I’ve always remembered: “It’s all there, if you know where to look.” What he was referring to was the obvious. It’s right in front of you. Sometimes it blinds us. Open your eyes or your mind and you will find what you’re looking for. It’s right where it’s always been.
As I count down the days to my second African sojourn in 10 months, many incredible stories and and video opportunities await me near the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, and among the lives of the Batwa Pygmies.
Education and health care are of primary focus. The Batwa Development Program (BDP) provides education for Batwa children. Batwa women are trained to knit and tailor clothing.
The Batwa and their neighbors receive health care visits to their communities by the Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH) and BDP. They learn about the importance of pre-natal care, hygiene, clean water, sanitation and nutrition.
From our experience it will be like going back in time. Supporting the Kellermann Foundation through the BDP and BCH can improve the lives of the Batwa.
I will document and report the work that’s being done. I hope and pray that I know where to look because everything awaits me there.