Thursday, October 27, 2011

Birthday at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

One of the best birthday presents here is a getaway for some rest and relaxation in one of the beautiful parks of Uganda.  On Tuesday Karl and I drove up to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (about 2 hours north of Kampala … 4 hours in all from Timothy Centre) and spent a couple of nights there enjoying a great site, animal viewings, and superb food!
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Ziwa was established by the Rhino Fund (Uganda) and presently has 10 white rhinos—the only wild rhinos in Uganda.  Rhinos used to be very plentiful in Uganda, but were poached to extinction during the period of civil unrest inthe 1970s.  The last  rhino was seen in Uganda in 1983.  RFU began reintroducing white rhinos into Uganda in 2001 (to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe).  Ziwa sanctuary was completed in 2004 and in 2005 the first 4 while rhinos were brought in from Kenya.  Four baby rhinos have been born at Ziwa and there is one mother ready to give birth any time now.  She was due on my (Arleen) birthday, actually, but had not delivered by the time we left this morning.  They want to film the birth, if they can find the mother hiding in the bush, and this would be the first time a white rhino birth has been witnessed.
We were able to go rhino tracking on foot with rangers and see the expectant mother in the distance, as well as three of the other rhinos very close up.
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We stayed at a newly opened lodge called Amuka Lodge and enjoyed the rustic feel.  There was only one unit fully completed so we were the only guests….the other units will be completed later next year.
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The food at the lodge was absolutely amazing—gourmet cooking like we have never tasted in Uganda.  And the really interesting thing is that the chef is a Kenyan fellow named Joel who grew up in a little village very close to where I lived when I taught school in rural Kenya back in the late 1980s!  He told us that he would have been about 10 years old at that time.
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One of Joel’s fabulous desserts
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Joel (centre) and two other staff members
Early Wednesday morning we went on an excursion to a wetland on the border of the 72 square kilometre park property to look for the rare and elusive shoebill, a giant stork-like bird with a massive fat hooked bill.  The shoebill is about 4 feet tall and hunts for prey in secluded permanent swamps.  We we really fortunate to see one after some slogging through the swamp in gum boots, but even though we got a good view with our binoculars, it was too difficult to get a photo.  You will just have to believe us!
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At the park headquarters, we also saw some bushbuck feasting on the grass near the guesthouses.  Bushbuck are normally very shy and skittish, hiding in the forest.  These ones had obviously become accustomed to people, and perhaps were tamer in general as a result of living in a park without natural predators (other than the odd leopard).
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Deaf Awareness Week

Our students and teachers in the Kibaale Community Schools Special Unit (classes for hearing impaired students) had an exciting field trip to Ibanda District recently to attend the Deaf Awareness Week activities.  Rosebell, the teacher in charge of the Special Unit, has wanted to take the children to this annual event in the past, but budget did not allow this.  This year, a generous donation from the Grade 5 classes at Pacific Academy, Canada made the trip possible.

The class was thrilled to be able to go, and enjoyed meeting other hearing impaired students and adults from all over Uganda.  Most of our students were not able to communicate with others at all until they began studying in Kibaale, learning sign language and English literacy.  It is amazing to see the transformation of these children who were previously shunned by the community.  

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Our students with their teachers at the march for Deaf Awareness

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Our Special Unit students in class

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Welcome (and unwelcome) Visitors

We were very happy to have Ken and Nicky, friends from the U.K., visit us again at Timothy Centre for a few days this past week.  Ken and Nicky (and the church they pastor) have been great supporters of the clinic work in Kibaale for many years.  They are now also involved in pastors’ training courses in Uganda, so make yearly trips here.  After spending some time relaxing in our guest house and preparing for their courses, they traveled up to Soroti in eastern Uganda for 2 weeks of teaching.  They are an inspiration and encouragement to us “younger folk”…we hope to have the energy and passion for the work of God that they have in 20 years!

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Ken will celebrate his birthday next week, so we made an “early birthday” cake and celebrated together.  (Not too much chance of a birthday cake in Soroti!)

Ken helped to kill a cobra that was hanging around in the rock garden near our guest house guard house one night while they were here, so he has a good story to tell once he gets back home!

Then, today, I had an unwelcome visitor at the administration building where I have my office – another snake!  Actually this one was very small (pencil size) and looked like it was an eastern green mamba.  It was a very pretty green colour and almost looked like it was plastic until it started moving and disappeared quickly into a hole as I approached.

Oct. 19, 2011 035 You can see how small it was in comparison to our dog’s nose!

One of the landscaping workers coaxed it out of the hole with a machete and finished it off (just to be safe) and cemented in the hole in case there are some others around. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Even though we are far away from Canada, we still remember the Canadian traditions and holidays…and this past weekend we had a Thanksgiving celebration with all the Canadians on site at the Timothy Centre.  Turkeys are available here (the live and running kind!) but they tend to be extremely tough so we opted for some “jumbo chickens” that we bought in a grocery store in Kampala.  Carina, Sue, Kristen, Alisha and I spent much of Saturday evening and Sunday cooking up a storm and we all enjoyed the result!




We have many things to be thankful to God for here this year:

  • a great team of Canadians and Ugandans working together both in Kibaale and at the Timothy Centre to share God’s love and provision with needy children and families
  • good health (other than the odd colds that attack) – no malaria!
  • encouraging fruit in the lives of so many students in Kibaale and at Timothy Girls’ High School, particularly those students who are thriving in university now and showing strong Christian leadership


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  • strong support from friends, family, churches and the Pacific Academy community in Canada (teams, financial provision, prayer)


  • Beautiful green, lush surroundings and sunny weather (and plenty of rain needed for our water tanks and gardens!)

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  • The fellowship of other believers in the churches we attend in Masaka and the strength and encouragement we receive from God’s Word
  • The network of Ugandan Christians we have come to know and appreciate, and through them, the many doors God has opened for ministry in education, agricultural training, etc.
  • God’s amazing love and grace to us all!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Football Fever!

While we were in the city on Wednesday we noticed the build up to the big football (soccer) game between the Uganda Cranes and the Harambee Stars of Kenya.  Football is a BIG deal here!  People were beginning to decorate their vehicles with Uganda Cranes paraphernalia handed out at the shopping mall and excitement was building for the Saturday evening game.

When I returned to Kampala on Friday with the other ladies from the Timothy Centre for a shopping and errand trip, excitement was even higher … and by Saturday morning it was at a fever pitch!


The boda boda drivers (motorcyle taxis) are always looking for a good excuse to make a lot of noise and have fun roaring through the streets, so they took full advantage of the event to decorate their motorbikes and escort vuvuzela and whistle blowing passengers through the main parts of town.  As long as the mood was happy, things were fine, but we did wonder how the mood might change if the game did not go our way.  We tried to finish our business and head back to Masaka well before game time.  As it turned out, the game ended in a tie, which unfortunately means that Uganda is now out of the running. 

017 A boda boda driver in the shopping mall parking lot showing the security guards the art of blowing a vuvuzela

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You never know what a day might hold….

We woke up at 5:30 a.m. yesterday to prepare for an early morning trip to Mukono, 13 km on the other side of Kampala.  Karl, Ken and I had a long list of meetings and errands for the day and so needed an early start to accomplish everything and get back home before dark.  Traffic was light on the way, so it turned out to be less than a 3 hour trip to reach this town where Uganda Christian University is located.
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It is a beautiful campus with many outdoor seating areas for students to gather and study together.
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Ken and I had two very good meetings at the university with the Vice-chancellor and the Dean of Education about ways that Timothy Centre and UCU could help each other in Christian teacher training while Karl drove back to Kampala to get started on the list if errands to be done there. 
When we were done at UCU, Ken and I hopped on boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) that took us to the taxi park and then traveled by taxi into Kampala, stopping to submit his application for his Ugandan driver’s license along the way (about an hour long procedure of waiting in lines at three different wickets).  We rendezvoused with Karl in Kampala and found that he had finally succeeded to collect the custom made mosquito nets for the Timothy Girls High School dorms (after several months of waiting, returning nets sewn incorrectly, more waiting)!  So far, so good!  We ordered kitchen cabinets for our headmistress’ house, bought a fridge for the bakery in Kibaaale,   picked up new signs that had been ordered for the school and the centre, had lunch and did some grocery shopping.  With everything done, feeling quite pleased with the day, we headed out of the city with time to make it home before dark….or so we thought!  About 5 km out of Kampala the traffic came to a standstill.  It was still daylight, but as we sat…and sat…and sat and watched taxis and trucks hem us in on both sides as they tried unsuccessfully to squeeze past, the twilight faded….
UCU and traffic jam 045 …and faded…
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…and we began debating whether we should even consider carrying on if the jam ever cleared.  It would mean traveling over 100 km in the pitch dark on a road with hundreds of crazy taxi and truck drivers jostling for position on less than ideal roads.  (Uganda has the highest per capita road accident rate in the world.) We prayed there wasn’t a terrible accident ahead (as often there is at such times) and called the guest house we regularly stay at in Kampala to see if they had room in case we could find some way to actually turn around. 
Darkness fell and we all still sat there, as many truck drivers and taxi drivers wandered around trying to find out what the problem was.  The jam was so long that it was impossible to find out the cause of the problem without  a handy radio “road report” like we have back in Canada. The roadside vendors who carry baskets of bananas, peanuts and other snacks on their heads looking for hungry customers were doing a great business by this time!
UCU and traffic jam 048 Also, by this time there were five lanes of traffic heading in our direction (on a two lane highway) and a few vehicles somehow managing to sneak back into the city in the opposite direction (actually driving in the ditch mostly).  We saw our chance when a taxi in front of us squeezed between two trucks and pulled a U turn … and with a considerable amount of manoeuvring and the kindness of a couple of truck drivers who waved us through, we managed to turn back in the direction of Kampala and arrived at the guest house 5 hours after leaving the city!  We stopped at a shop to buy toothbrushes, drinking water and underwear along the way and crawled into bed for a good rest.  We found out today that some trucks had got hopelessly stuck in a spot where road construction was underway and as other vehicles tried to skirt around them the mud was worse…and you can imagine the rest.  Thankfully this morning as we made another attempt at the trip home, things were clear and we sailed right through.  Home, sweet, home!