Uganda 08 diary - Day 15: from Ibanda back to Kisubi

After a week of meetings in France (see previous blog post) it's time to get back to our Uganda trip...


So we said goodbye to Ibanda and set off on the 4-5 hour journey back to Kisubi in 2 Toyota Hiace vans...

... driving through a relatively small nature reserve where we stopped to take in the scenery beside a lake.

Although the following story describes an event that took place on the equivalent journey to Ibanda a week earlier, I cannot complete this series of articles without telling it.

We were in the 2 Hiace vans and needed to fill up with petrol. So we stopped at a Shell garage on the central street in the middle of a large, bustling town. Bro. Michel, our French group member, hopped out to go over to the bank just opposite the garage (so I thought) to change some of the group's dollars into Ugandan shillings. I decided to try and do the same, having been warned, however, that banks would be unlikely to accept most of my dollars as their date of printing was earlier than 2001 (don't ask me why the banks there have this policy, but they do).

Anyway, after having told a few people what I was going to do I hopped out and over to the aforementioned bank. No sign of Bro. Michel when I got in there, but undeterred I obediently queued up at a counter and waited my turn. About 15 mins. later I came out, triumphantly having managed to off load a fair bit of our dollars, though some of the older notes I had to accept a lower exchange rate for. The pockets of my cargo pants I realised were bulging rather obviously with dollars on one side and Ugandan shillings on the other. This immediately worried me as I noticed that the 2 Hiace vans were no longer parked in the garage opposite the bank. Oops... where were they? I glanced up and down the street, trying to remain cool and calm and not look like the frightened, self-conscious "mazungo" (white man - the only one I could see up and down this crowded street) that I so obviously felt like. I decided not to venture too far from the bank, considering this a relative safe haven and thinking that the group knew where I was so it was up to them to come and get me rather than me to find them.

My reaction was one of someone who felt vulnerable and the odd one out in a hostile, foreign environment. Much of this was probably just in my mind, but it served as a real education for me into how immigrants must feel when the first come to our country.

Anyway, the mintues went by and still no minibuses. And then someone tapped me on the shoulder...!! My heart rate suddenly jumped into overdrive, but again I tried to project a cool dude aura (I'd even put my sunglasses on to hide those rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights eyes). It was the bank's security guard with what looked like some kind of semi-automatic machine gun by his side, asking me what I was doing standing outside the bank. I explained my situation. He seemed satisfied and walked back to the door of the bank. I was kind of reassured by his presence behind me... though that was a rather tasty gun he had.

After 15 mins. I decided to phone our Provincial in Kisubi as I knew he had the number of our driver. A few mins. later our driver phoned me to tell me they were at the bank. "But I'm at the bank!!!" It turned out they were at a bank 50 yards around the next corner out of my line of sight. Unbeknownst to me, Bro. Michel had decided to look for another bank and in fact hadn't gone into to the nearest one where I was standing. I strode over to the minibuses fumin' with righteous indignation, fuelled all the more by the indiference of all in the buses when I arrived. They couldn't understand why I was so upset, thinking that I had also gone into this second bank. And I was so upset that I couldn't articulate why I was upset, which made me all the more upset!!! Arrrrrggggghhhhh!!! :-) An experience I will not forget.

Back to the 15th day journey... we stopped for lunch at the Brothers' community and school at Fort Portal. Another impressively organised and well looked after boarding school (see below).

The school dining room.
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