I (Rachel) “accidently” let it slip that it was Mandie’s birthday today….she wasn’t happy with me. She was lavished with unwanted attention and got to spend her 24th birthday on the Nile River. We spent two long hours in the car up to Murchison Falls swatting at Tsetse flies (which are very resilient) and sweating with the heat. It was worth it to see the Nile River pounding through a narrow 20 foot wide canyon. The amount of energy coming through was unbelievable. We walked around the top of the falls and enjoyed the spray misting up from the pounding water. The hotel had once again packed us a marvelous lunch and we ate in a little thatched open hut with the sound of the water behind us. From there we spent another hour or so in the car going down to a lower point in the river where we took a 2-hour boat cruise up to the bottom of the Falls. I was so tired that after only a few minutes of being on the boat, I crawled under one of the benches and fell asleep for about an hour. It was a beautiful day on the river and we saw hippos, crocodiles, water buffalo, elephants, warthogs, cranes, baboons and a plethora of birds. We traveled up to the bottom of the Falls and took a team picture on a rock. From there, it was only about an hour downriver back to where we had started.
I’m 24! I rather knew that with Heather and Rachel on this trip it was not likely that I could escape birthday attention. They set me up for an impromptu counseling session with our team psychologist, Rachel Darrow, over breakfast and she reminded me that birthdays are a time to let other people celebrate the fact that I was born. I liked that definition and actually enjoyed the several times that Son initiated a round of “Happy Birthday” or the many team members who reminded me it was my birthday throughout the day. It really was a perfect birthday: slept in a bit, had a delicious breakfast, a fun bus ride to Murchison Falls (with lots of baboons along the road!), the breathtaking Falls and Nile River, good conversation on the 3.5 hour boat ride, a long and crazy drive back (with 2 hours of group singing from our rather extroverted bus group – Richard, Amy, Erin, Derek, Ansley, Roxanna, Christian, Brian, Rachel, myself, and our poor driver, Steven), an amazing dinner of shish-kabobs, and cake to go along with the “life story” sharing at the end of the evening. Son (for the team) bought me a beautiful handmade Ugandan bead necklace and a paper bead coin purse at Merchison Falls and presented them to be at dinner, in his sweet humble way, “on behalf of the team”. Then the Masindi Hotel staff gave me another beautiful necklace and trinket box.
The day was a perfect end to our time in Uganda. It was sweet to spend time with the amazing people on this team. After a whole week of being thrown together (and working well together) at busy clinics, we were able to sit with each other and have more conversations, enjoy the relaxing boat ride, and SLEEP!!
Tomorrow we head back to Kampala to catch our flight to Ethiopia, then Italy, then DC, then Charleston. Pictures will be posted as soon as we’re back!
Love to all!