4th of July things, Quincy – California

My visit to Quincy, California got me to experience the American cultural I had not experienced before. I met Amy (our host) in Kampala while she was visiting Uganda and participated in lecturing at a training conducted by African Graduate Entrepreneurs. I connected with her LinkedIn with plan of contacting her in case I needed further clarity on the topic she discussed – which for some reason I do not recall but I suspect it had something to do with business plan writing.

We left for Quincy from Reno on 3rdJuly with a plan to spend weekend so we learn from Amy about grant writing and take a much-needed break from Reno. This was coincidentally the famous 4thJuly weekend, which is a ‘big deal’ in America as I later learned. Our first stopover was at Graeagle, which opened the Independence Day celebrations – a big part of the American culture. The activities there were family friendly with children and some adults swimming in the pond, camp fires and people roasting mash mellows (too sweet for my taste buds). With several cars parked, I noticed that a lot of them were campers/caravans something common in America.

Since this was 3rd July, everyone waited in anticipation for fireworks as it got closer to mid night. The excitement reminded me of the New Year celebration excitement back home. The fireworks and ululations from the ground were a sign that the people present were grateful for their country and in a way honoring the fore fathers who were involved in setting it up. We had conversations around the country and several questions about our own countries.

The next day in the evening after a day trying to work on our proposals with almost no success, together with our host we visited another home where they had a barbecue. After the barbecue with different people, we visited the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy. This festival seemed to be a highlight for the residents who get to host people making an extra buck from the music festival attendees and also ‘spices’ up their social life. The show gave me a perspective of America than I had not experienced before. It had mostly young people and some surprisingly older people that chose to explore and relieve the days of their youth.

I must say what an experience it was, a real immersion into a different face of the American culture. I watched in awe numerous hippies that I had only heard about from reference in some news articles. This was a good spice up of the otherwise seemingly quiet Quincy. That marked the end of our Quincy weekend with amazing hosts and great countryside with spiced up exposure of some of the American culture.

A ‘COME BACK’ AFTER ALMOST A YEAR

It is almost a year since I last posted a blog on this site. The reasons are numerous but they all ultimately come down to work, work and more work. There has been a lot of on goings since my last blog post – In June last year (2015) I spent six weeks at the Universtiy of Reno Nevada as part of the Mandela Washington fellowship of Young African Leaders. This is an initiative by President Obama to equip and expose young Africans in the areas of Business and entrepreneurship, Civic engagement and public management with US best practices and provide linkages for growth. This was a roller coaster of events, lectures, and above all networking. I lived and interacted with 24 other young African leaders from 16 other African countries and several American families and individuals. I will try to unpack some of the experiences even though this is 8 months ago (O, how time flies). I wrote about 2 articles while away, I am now interested in adding about 3 articles about my impressions of the places I visited and lessons learned from  while on the fellowship.

After the time on the fellowship, I returned to Kampala where I found lots of work on my desk demanding my attention. It was the first time I was being away from my work for such extended time with opposite time zones. On appositive note, it offered time to think about growth and the process of detaching myself from the business. It was as if the work was punishing me for being a way and demanding its ‘rightful’ attention from me. I quickly got absorbed in trying to put accomplish pending assignments and building new content for the website. It needed more time than I had predicated. After a long while,  I am beginning to have ‘breathing space’ a lot of the work is now in a good place and therefore I can take on more work. I need to more inspiration to catch up with my writing and eventually grow this skill.

In addition to the travel to the USA for the Mandela Washington fellowship, I have traveled in many places and so there is a lot of backtracking on the articles. The six weeks in the US lead me to several town in Nevada, California, and Washington DC. More travels have included Brazil, Kenya, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Tanzania, Rwanda and several locations in Uganda. There is so much content to catch up on the writing via my travels that my fingers are itching. My hope is that I will put together my experiences traveling in these destinations even if the blogs are short with only a few paragraphs.

I am challenging myself to get back into blogging and I invite you to take this journey with me as I share some my impressions, experiences, and lessons picked along the way over time. I will work towards having more frequent blog entries and appreciate your feedback.

Reno Rodeo – Cowboy Style

After more than a week in US – the land of the free, I am slowing finding my place. It has been mostly hectic especially with class, networking events and dinners with amazing people. I am truly thankful for the contacts who are willing to share their business experiences but also be ‘guides’ as I attemp to navigate this country.

On our first weekend, we attended a cultural festival known as the Reno Rodeo. This is such a cowboy/Cow girl typical event. Horses and more horses and attempts at wrestling young bulls. The whole time I was thinking about the animal rights activists I have often watched on TV; surprisingly I did not see any protesting outside the Rodeo. Maybe they gave up having realized the commitment the folks towards this yearly event. Below are some pictures of the experience.

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'Cow girl'
‘Cow girl’

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

My journey to Reno – Nevada for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders began on 18th June 2015 when I left home at 6pm for the Airport. Or it probably began much earlier when I applied for the fellowship last year in October/November.

Javas - Victoria Mall.
Javas – Victoria Mall.

My friend offered to drop me at the airport to which I was super thankful. The usually jammed roads gave way for me – it was surprising that there was much less traffic than usual. We arrived in Entebbe about 8 pm. After a quick bite at Javas – Victoria mall we proceeded to the airport. The check in was not dramatic except that the handle of one of my suitcases gave way. I then joined the other Ugandan fellows heading out to different Universities in the US for a last ‘catch up’.

Entebbe Airport with other Ugandan Fellows
Entebbe Airport with other Ugandan Fellows

The entire trip was about 27 hours and that took a toll on me. By the last connection flight I was so worn out and getting irritable. The first flight was 8hrs 30min to Amsterdam, Netherlands and next was 10hr 15min to Salt Lake City, USA and lastly 1hr 15min to Tahoe International Airport, Reno-Nevada. I am thankful for journey mercies and looking forward to such a rich experience as I interact with business leaders and fellows from across Africa.

Arrival at Reno Tahoe International Airport
Arrival at Reno Tahoe International Airport

My 10 Best activities to include on your visit to Uganda

Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. The features and activities of interest are numerous. If you only have one time to visit this country, choose to at least one of these activities depending on your interests. They are not in any particular order.

  1. Gorilla tracking – Mountain_Gorilla-44Mountain gorillas found only in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo in the whole world. They are endangered species, which have received protection from several conservation agencies. Uganda hosts half of the entire world population. Tracking the gorillas will lead you into the dense Bwindi Impenetrable forest where you will have an opportunity to watch a gorilla family go about the daily life as they feed and groom each other.
  1. Wildlife Safaris
Tree Climbing Lion on
Tree Climbing Lion on

Uganda is home to 10 national parks and numerous game and forest reserves. The national parks are mountainous, forested, and savannah. Four national parks are savannah therefore providing opportunities of game drives – Kidepo Valley, Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, and Lake Mburo National Park. A game drive allows you watch the animals in a comfortable open roof vehicle in their natural habitat – such a breathtaking experience. This provides numerous opportunities of water sports and other activities. It is only in Uganda where you enjoy a safari on the boat. Cruise along the Kazinga Channel, River Nile and Lake Mburo and enjoy the beautiful scenery, animals on the banks and the in water plus numerous bird life.

  1. River Nile IMG_8931                                         Take a visit to the source of longest river in the world, river Nile on Lake Victoria – Jinja, Uganda. There are various activities that take place on this river which include; boat ride to the source, white water rafting, bungee jump and kiss the Nile, kayaking, jet boating
  2. Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi - Southwestern Uganda.
Lake Bunyonyi – Southwestern Uganda.

This beautiful lake is nestled in the southwestern corner of Uganda. It has a rich history and traditions of the Bakiga people. The breathtaking scenery of the interlocking hills and 29 islands scattered on the lake is unmatched. Visit the Batwa people are believed to be the original inhabitants of the forested areas in this region.

  1. Kampala City tour

DSCF1718Kampala is the capital city of Uganda and a cultural melting pot. All the national and international cultures meet in this tropical city with an all year perfect weather. It is also home to one of the remaining Kingdoms, Buganda Kingdom – visit the Palace and Parliament of the Kingdom. Enjoy the various cuisine and night life of Kampala – the city that never goes to sleep.

  1. Take a ferry to Ssese Islands

IMG_8977Ssese Islands located on Lake Victoria will invoke your best memories with their virgin romantic space. The boat ride on Africa’s largest lake is a memorable one. While on Ssese the activities include; forest hikes, biking, squad bikes, fishing, kayaking and beach sports.

  1. Ngamba Island
chimp Feeding time @Ngamba Island
chimp Feeding time @Ngamba Island

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is located 23km offshore from Entebbe, in Lake Victoria Uganda. It is nearly 100 acres in size and hosts over 50 different types of vegetation that chimps use: the chimps are free to roam at their will, exploring their environment and foraging for food. On arrival, you will receive an orientation talk from a staff of the sanctuary. Thereafter you move to the viewing platform to observe the Chimps during their supplementary feeding times. After the feeding program, you are free to explore the visitor’s area and enjoy the facilities.

  1. Sipi Falls
Sipi Falls
Sipi Falls

These were named as the most romantic waterfalls by Lonely planet. Nestled in Eastern Uganda on the slopes of Mt Elgon, Sipi falls offer the ultimate hiking and scenery experience. In addition, you will an experience of the Sebei culture and a coffee tour.

9. Birding

Malachite_Kingfisher-1Uganda is home to over 1050 bird species, which is 50% of the bird species found in Africa. You are able to find the central African species not found anywhere else in East African. It is host to many migrant birds from Africa and Europe. The small size of the country implies that one can have a record of over 700 bird sightings when they take a trip of 2-3 weeks across the country.

  1. Engage with local community and Cuisine
Buganda traditional Dance
Buganda traditional Dance

A visit to Uganda is not complete without time with the locals. Ugandans are the friendliest people on earth. Uganda has the freshest and most organic foods and fruits that are available all year round; this is due to fertile soils and tropical weather. Because the different regions have rains at different times it ensures that, there is food supply all year round.

For diversity and great scenery – Uganda will serve you a balanced diet. Welcome to Uganda where the East African savannah meets the West African juggle offering the best of both worlds.

Bird watching at Mabamba Wetland Bay – Lake Victoria Uganda

Mabamba wetland is located on Lake Victoria in Uganda. It is accessed by road from both Entebbe and Kampala. This site is the nearest to Kampala that has 90% chance of seeing the famous and endangered shoebill – the number one sought after bird in Uganda. The bird has suffered from habitat loss due to wetland encroachment but with advocacy and conservation efforts, the communities are spearheading its restoration.

A lot of birding happens along the way to Mabamba Wetland where numerous birds are sighted in agricultural/cultivated lands and forests.
On arrival at Mabamba, we were welcomed by the ‘in charge’. After paying a birding fee we were offered a guide and canoe which we embarked on for the exhilarating birding trip. Our main interest was the shoebill – found in South Sudan, Zambia, and Uganda with Uganda having the best chances of sighting. As we search the sky and papyrus, we do not miss opportunities of other water and papyrus birds that make this area their home.

Birding Mabamba Bay - Lake Victoria Uganda
Birding Mabamba Bay – Lake Victoria Uganda

The trip on the waters takes between two to three hours – it took us three hours. The traditional canoes are attached with an engine making them faster to traverse the lake. This provides an income to the communities who offer this transport hence directly benefitting from conserving the shoebill.

On our birding trip we sighted the following birds; Shoebill, Swamp flycatcher, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Black headed Heron, Black Kite, African Open billed Stork, African Jacana, Lesser jacana, Winding Cisticola, African Marsh Harrier. More birds; Common sandpiper, wood sandpiper, Common Moorhen, Long tailed Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Black Crake, Grey backed Camaroptera, Yellow throated Long claw, Great Blue Turaco, Common waxbill, Veillots black weaver, Grosbeak weaver, black headed weaver, Olive Sunbird, Crowned Hornbill, Black-and-white Hornbill, African Pied Hornbill,

The Beautiful Kisiizi Water Falls in Uganda

Kisiizi Water Falls in southwestern Uganda.
Kisiizi Water Falls in southwestern Uganda.

These beautiful Falls lie on Kyabamba River a few meters from Kisiizi Hospital in Rukungiri district which borders with Kabale – the Switzerland of Uganda. The falls are about 30metres high droping water into a gorge. Whoever chooses to visit these falls will be met by mist at least 100 meters away, welcoming you to falls that have a strong cultural attachment.

These falls are believed to have contributed to the good morals of the Bakiga girls – according to the older people living in this area. When a girl got pregnant out of wedlock, the father and brother would escort her to the top of these falls and release her to fall off down the cliff where she would meet her death. This they believed kept other girls from engaging in the same ensuring girls stay virgins before marriage.

Of course the woman in me asks – where were the men who made these women pregnant? Well, I guess that is a question that was never considered. It is alleged that what brought this practice to an end was an incidence where a lady brought to the cliff at the top of the falls after being pushed to fall over pulled her father and brother and they all fell to their death. This is what opened the eyes of the elders to see how terrible the practice was.

Activities in this area include; bird watching, forest walks and photography