Writing about an emerging nation cannot be condensed into a few hundred words, so I’ll highlight a few important details.
Uganda is the size of Oregon but contains more than 32 million residents. The old gag about flattening West Virginia to make it as big as Texas applies in this instance, too. There is a lot of vertical land because of the volcanism that rippled the Earth’s crust and, coincidentally, laid down very fertile soils that lavishly feed both wild and domestic plants and crops.
The country is about 95 percent agrarian, with most families living by subsistence farming. Tourism is the country’s largest industry, and it is doing a fine job of it, as far as I’m concerned. I have traveled to other African countries, Europe and South America, but I can say Uganda utilizes its natural and human resources most effectively to ensure visitors see as much as possible at a minimum of inconvenience to Western lifestyles. The theme of doing the most with what they have pervaded my observations for my entire two weeks in Uganda.
We toured the entire periphery of the country beginning with the spectacular Murchison Falls (National Park) that begins the Nile River. Game drives and boat tours in this and the other national parks presented us with all the exotic wildlife and plant life we expected. The only major animal we didn’t see was the leopard.
Certainly, the two major highlights involved trekking into the forests to view chimpanzees and gorillas in their natural habitat, though it is shrinking from human incursions. Yes, we’ve seen these magnificent primates in zoos since we were children, but seeing them on their turf is a whole different ball game. When a 400-pound male gorilla brushes your leg as it passes by to reach better food, you’ll understand what I mean. In retrospect, the one-hour viewing allotment was too brief. The three-hour climb up the 7,500-foot mountain in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was very taxing and difficult, as was the trek down. Rubber thighs were the reward at the bottom of the mountain, and it was well worth the trouble.
The gorillas even had a sense of theater as they stopped their group grooming at just about one hour into our visit and trooped off into the deep bush, thus bringing the show to a close. Mentally, one was almost inclined to applaud.
The Ugandan people we met were unfailingly delightful, pleasant, polite, helpful and friendly while putting on no phony airs just because we were tourists. This wasn’t my first rodeo traveling, so I knew they were professional and doing the best job they could. What a treat! I was struck by the dignity of the people, their hard work and their grace; this applied to those I observed along the way without meeting as well as those whom we worked with and met across the country.
We Americans could take more than a few lessons from Ugandans in human relations.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company. "The Voter’s Guide to National Salvation" is a newly published e-book from Turner. You can find it at www.barnesandnoble.com/ebooks. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.