After spending a couple of days in the urban jungle of Kampala, it was time to head for the bush of Kisebere. Early in the morning, we started our trip to the small village near Bwera, located in Eastern Uganda just besides the Congolese border. The Kasese district, which contains multiple smaller cities such as Bwera, has a population of around one million people. Most of them are christians, only some are muslims.
From dust to greenery
In Kampala, we met up with our drivers and travel companions Jimmy and Eduard. The drive ahead was about to give us an incredible cross section of the Ugandan landscape. After the dusty, red surfaces of Kampala’s suburbs with its endless strips of traders, we got to know the beautiful green hills of Uganda surrounding the A109 that brings travellers all the way to Bwera. Approaching Fort Portal, we feasted our eyes on the aesthetically pleasing tea plantations.
In Fort Portal, we met up with Guma Brian Emmanuel, the team leader of the Albert Water Management Zone. This fruitful conversation resulted in another partner in this journey, this time governmental. After the, at times, excruciating roads of the A109 up to Fort Portal, the rest of the drive was surprisingly comfortable. This is probably due to the higher level of tourism in this region. During the drive, we also learned our first word in the local Lhokonzu: Mua’chire!, which roughly translates to Goodmorning everyone!. A final piece of advice: try the roadside mangos!
Father Tom, the Bishop
A short passage through Kasese (capital of the Kasese district) later, we finally arrived at the Hard Rock Hotel in Bwera. Bishop Tom (whom we mostly refer to as Father Tom), our local project partner, awaited us at the hotel, so we could finally meet in person. Father Tom is the Bishop of Kasese, of the orthodox christian church. He is an incredibly charismatic and jovial person. Hearing his stories and seeing the results of his actions, it has become clear how noble of a person he is.
Although he has had multiple opportunities to move to wealthier countries, he has always felt that his success should be used for the good of his own, original community. This feeling stems from his own experiences growing up in the bush, without many opportunities to improve his life. Only the seminary allowed him to climb up the ladder, eventually led to a PHD, and later even allowed him to earn the title of Bishop. The school we are going to work on is, among others, a project with which Father Tom tries to evolve his community.
The Bishop’s welcome
The next day, Father Tom welcomed us with some touching words in the small church in Kisebere, together with some community members and some children. Afterwards, Father Tom showed us around on the grounds neighbouring the church, including the Mama Sabina health center, which is another of Father Tom’s initiatives. We later explored the school grounds and enjoyed an African dinner at Father Tom’s house.
There, we also met Father Tom’s sweet wife, Rina, and his children. This was also the first time that we truly experienced the African hospitality: as a visitor you are part of the family. The locals don’t see visitors as a burden, but instead as a blessing of God.
Sunday is God’s day
We followed the sunday mass at the Kisebere church, and experienced an African, orthodox mass for the first time. It was a happy celebration with a lot of singing and dancing. The Bishop also used this occasion to introduce us to the community. We even received African names! These names are based on whether the child is a boy or a girl, and the position of the child in the sequence of siblings. And thus, Mumbere Yaro, Kapumbere Pieter, Baluku Ryan and Masika Eveline were born.
The next blog will detail our first week of work, and the first full weekend in Kisebere.