Editor’s note: This is the second of Turner’s three-part series on his visit to Uganda.
Our lodgings during our trip to Uganda were absolutely wonderful with site locations on bluffs overlooking the Nile River, rims of extinct volcanoes that provided vistas of water-filled calderas and the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains — the famous “Mountains of the Moon."
Another lodge overlooked Lake Albert, one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, while the last place we stayed was built on a kopje, or large rock pile. The view was of a massive valley with a water hole just below. Eland, impala, wart hogs and zebra plied this spot to the delight of photographers hidden in blinds.
Without fail, our lodge hosts were engaging and willing to talk and share their knowledge about the area and their lives. One lodge operator was of Indian descent, another of Scottish ancestry and still another, English in origin. All were Ugandan citizens. Meals were wonderfully prepared using local groceries wherever possible.
Everywhere we went, we ate too much, but the village lunch was the most interesting meal of all.
We had to take off our shoes before entering the open-sided hut. The food was served on a rug in the center. Our host, the village leader and elder, served each of us while telling stories about each dish and how it related to typical village life.
Across the country I witnessed the intensity of survival by the Ugandan people. Every village had strings of shops and franchises. The larger towns and cities showed an endless energy of entrepreneurship. In rural areas, people used all sorts of transport to get their surplus to market. We saw bicycles and motorbikes piled high with great stalks of green bananas while the owner laboriously pushed them up the hill to sell at market. Women were cultivating their home vegetable plots using a hoe. There were no tractors. Farming was primarily done by hand.
I saw no piles of junk. Everything was used somehow. I saw no raggedy people. Everyone wore clean, well-kept clothes even while doing heavy work. There were no emaciated people. Everyone looked as if they were getting at least adequate nutrition. Every village had at least one school and often more than one. The signs of personal industry were everywhere, from the welding of bedsteads to shaping furniture, weaving baskets and to the organization of markets. The rest stops we made at petrol stations had clean restrooms. The convenience stores (yes, they have them, too) were clean and well-stocked with the usual goods.
Even as I write this, I close my eyes and see the whirl of color, industry, peace and poverty from the visit. The difference between the United States and Uganda, in this sense, is no one has told the Ugandans they are poor. They might not have as much stuff as we do, but they are most definitely not poor. They are rich in beauty, work and imagination.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.