72 Hours Back in Buja

Three layovers, four flight meals and some twenty hours later, I arrived to Bujagali Falls in the dead of the night. Three heavy roller bags and myself were dropped off at Mama Ali’s door step. I excitedly waited as Ali, Araphat and Mama Ali emerged from the house. Hugs from my family was just the welcome I wanted. The smell of corn and smoke filled my nostrils; memories of the last six months flooded my mind, but only for an instant. The journey was long and my sunken in foam bed was calling my name.

I awoke with the sunrise and soon Mama Ali brought fresh cut papaya and avocado to the table. I felt like I had never left. It was Friday so there was still one more day in the work week. I made the pleasant five minute walk to the SOUL Shack meanwhile greeting familiar faces along the way. It’s a nice feeling to come back to community that feels like home.

After giving extra long hugs to each of the SOUL staff, we resumed the day like any other. We didn’t skip a beat. I was excited to hear that Brooke and I were heading to Kalimentina’s, the midwife, as her home/birthing clinic has the most amazing energy.

We went there to check up on the veranda and other construction that was going on. I was most excited to check out the showers and new bathrooms, a project that was started before I left. Kalimentina was happy to show it off, jumping in the shower immediately. No one in the village has running water, none the less a running water shower complete with shower head. It’s totally unheard of, but very necessary for the cleanliness of her patients. She was happy as could be, constantly getting down on her knees and thanking us. But this is just her nature. She would thank us equally if we had given her some baby clothes, a dress or a pineapple.

Kalimentina dancing in her new shower
Kalimentina dancing in her new shower


On Saturday, I went to the market to gather some sheets and curtains for my new house. All in one shop I found multi-colored and polka dot towels, retro-style blankets and sheets that remind me of my mom. I also found the perfect piece of floral fabric for curtains. Lucky for me, there is a handful of SOUL tailoring graduates who would be perfect to fix the curtains. For this job, I had Mama Issac in mind.

Living with Mama Ali and her family was amazing, but for round two I thought it appropriate to find my own place, testing my independence of living on my own in the village.

My house is quite the find. I put it out to universe that I wanted a place of my own in the village. It was offered to me right before I left last time. The house belongs to Naafa Jennifer, the Grandmother of Kaliphan, a SOUL sponsored university student. She was one of the first elders I met last fall and I remember feeling an instant connection to her. She is pint size and doesn’t speak any English. She’s a gem.

The house has three bedrooms, so lots of room for visitors :). It is a few minute walk from the Nile and my fav yoga spot. There is a huge front yard with great grass and room in the back for a garden. It is very peaceful and during the afternoon hours, it has the most serene light. I have admired this “block” of the village during my runs and now it seems crazy to be living here.

It’s also the best rental agreement I’ve ever had. It comes almost completely furnished and before I left, I was able to paint the walls citrus green and a warm grey color. While I was gone the house was sprayed for bugs and cleaned. And what I’m paying for rent is unreal, the same amount as a casual dinner out in the states.

There is even hope for getting electricity and a shower. If this happens I will feel completely spoiled. I can’t even imagine it…I may never leave. But even more, is my opportunity to nest. As much as I love to travel and revel in living from a backpack, I yearn to create a space for myself. A place that is mine, a sanctuary.


Sunday was a very much needed relaxation day. I got more settled in and Muganda help me hang my mosquito net over my bed. This was the only real priority since I have chosen not to take anti-malarial pills this time. Just throwing that in there so it’s not a total shock if I write a blog entry about getting malaria…

I’m not boycotting anti-malarial medicine to test fate but rather because I don’t feel like staying on the medication for 13 months is good for me. Most deaths from malaria are either pregnant women or infants. Signs of contraction are impossible not to notice and I can administer an at home test if I feel like I may have it. If so, there is a four pack of medication I can take immediately from the health center in the village. It is a risk, but I have given it a lot of thought. I have know many people who have contracted Malaria even while on medication.


After unpacking and some afternoon yoga, I stopped by a burial. It was for an infant, only six months old who had died from Malaria after not being able to get blood. His father had stopped at several hospital locations but they had nothing to offer. This happens all the time and is completely preventable. Sitting at a burial made me feel like I was in Uganda again. A sad thing to experience within just a few days of being back, but very real. Yet it always reminds of the amazing community I have become a part of.


I ended my weekend watching the sunset over the Nile. 🙂

But before that, I went to a nearby hostel and took a hot shower. Considering I had not done that once in the last six months, only taking 10 running water showers in total, in some ways it jump started round two in Uganda. It’s not going to look or feel just like the last time, and I don’t believe it should.

In suit with this being a new chapter, I have decided to buy a bike. Tonight I tested my eyes by riding back to my house in the dark. The ride is only ten minutes or less, but the roads are uneven and it’s nearly impossible to see if anyone is coming your way unless they are Mzungu as well. On a bike with nearly no brakes, it was the scariest thing I’ve done in a while.


As I write beneath the safety of the mosquito net, in my new home, it does feel a lot like a dream. I’m still shaking off jet lag and riding a wave of bliss from everything five weeks of home offered.  It just never ceases to amaze me that we are able to get on a plane, leave all that we know and travel ‘x’ amount of hours to a completely different world. Meanwhile, life where you left it stays in motion. There are an infinite amount of experiences occurring at once and you’re able to change what yours looks like just by boarding a plane.

Tomorrow being Monday, and the beginning of a crazy week, I’m sure things will feel less dreamlike soon. But I’ve come back from the most amazing five weeks feeling refreshed and ready to get to work. There is a lot of things to be done and I’m ready for the challenge (again).

Dream well…



Chilling by the Nile with Shamushade, my Dad's student! :)
Chilling by the Nile with Shamushade, my Dad’s student! 🙂

5 thoughts on “72 Hours Back in Buja

  1. So happy your back home with your Ugandan family. You were missed so much. Wishing you the most amazing experiences. I know things will move along so well with you back. Keep in contact and most of all enjoy every moment knowing how much good we are doing for a entire community. Missing you eno eno

  2. Steph:

    Another great write up ! Here’s a couple ideas re malaria.. Louise and I recently visited So. Africa and Swaziland and we were in areas that were rife with malaria carrying mosquitos.. although we really saw few.. to almost none.. We used “Off” on our skin.. and deet laced stuff on pants cuffs and around our necks and on hats etc…. Also and I think most important.. we purchased a couple shirts from a company called Ex Officio on the net that are treated to repel mosquitos for up to 70 washings. The shirts are nice looking , comfortable, long sleeved, but can be rolled up,, cool.. and look good after many wearings with no maintenance… We saw mosquitos come close, look at the shirt and leave !… They should be sold on the street where you are ! However they cost about $60 online… In bulk I suspect someone could do quite a bit better… Check Ex-Officio online.. These things work.. also read reviews.. all are positive. DJ

  3. Steph, I so enjoy your writing! Can “feel” your adventures. What a wonderful courageous woman you are! Hugs! Louise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s