Out of Africa ?

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02/10/2016

I read her books when I was still a child – not all of them but quite a few and then in 1985 That film and everyone knew about her.

The question for me is why the interest – her house and history was preserved locally quite a while before the film was made and draws thousands of visitors annually.

In a nutshell, wealthy Danes came to make a fortune for themselves off Kenyan land first with cattle and then decided to switch to coffee – in both instances without research. This was not coffee ‘land’ and the going was tough. Husband left and continued hunting; new man arrived and things improved till it ended.

I’m talking of course about Karen Blixen (Dinesen) – Out of Africa – who declared bankruptcy and returned to Denmark to write her books.

Out of the nutshell, so to speak, there is clearly a mystique about her life that has Kenyans and the rest of the world enthralled.

I visited her home today ( no photos allowed inside – watch the film if you want to see inside) – it is exactly as it was, but the gardens are lovely.

One can no longer see the Ngong hills
And the home is in the middle of suburbia (called Karen) but 6 acres is a national monument

02/10/2026

 

Secure

I failed to mention security/crime/safety.

Every place you enter, be it shop, restaurant, museum, gallery, hotel or air port you are searched as is the car.

Police and military work together and are highly visible almost on every street corner – relaxed, friendly, armed and visible. Which is why I could happily walk in the dark alone in an African city and feel completely safe – no one jostled me, hassled me or made me feel nervous
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Pride

A Nation’s pride

Rwanda acquired, last week, their first Airbus 330-200

It sits on top of the hill at the airport for all to see and was shown to me with such pride

On its arrival in Rwanda it flew over the city for everyone to see and admire

Definitely a people looking to the future

Genocides

Kigali Genocide Memorial

is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

It honours the memory of the more than one million Rwandans killed in 1994 through education and peace-building.

I wasn’t sure about visiting this centre – I have read quite a bit about this particular genocide and remember it well – would this be a ‘token gesture kind of place’ or so harrowing I would need space – lots of it to find equilibrium again.

It was neither – it was a remarkable place which honours those so brutally murdered and does so much more – it puts it into a context.

It does an excellent job about educating – about how incremental mind changes, subtle gossip and creation of envy can change neighbours into enemies.

“It is a crime against humanity to be
accused of being born ”

It looks at genocides throughout recent times :

– The Armenian 75% of those in Ottoman Empire murdered
– The Hereros 80% of population murdered
– The Pol Pot in Cambodia 25% of its population killed
– The Holocaust killed 6 million Jews (about 2/3 of Jewish population in Europe) and 5 million non Jews
– The Muslim killings in Bosnia Herzegovina has disputed figures but it is believed 200,000 people were killed, 12,000 of them children, up to 50,000 women were raped, and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes.
– and the rest

And doubtless as our present becomes history more will be added – Syria? Iraq?
Who knows

The word genocide is a fairly recent addition to our language:
Geno=Greek race/tribe Cide=Latin killing
But the act can be traced back to the Old Testament.

The centre has lovely gardens where contemplation is possible and while I spent three hours there I noted a large school group ; not just on a school excursion as we know them – a day out of school and a bit of fun . Rather an intense visit which included a long session in the Peace Room of interactive discussion. There were guides talking to them through each area and conversation appeared two way and deep.

2 mill dead in two months and it is believed that the number of foreign troops used to evacuate foreign workers could have stopped the attacks which they knew were planned. Communal guilt?

Gacaca (grass) courts were set up throughout the country post the killings – these were not ‘kangaroo’ courts but serious attempts to seek the truth and sentences ranged from prison to community work – those who found it possible to confess and asked forgiveness of relevant victims were generally given community work as ‘punishment’ 12000 courts in 10 years did much to bring some kind of resolution and these courts have been called the finest post conflict justice courts in the world – I wonder how many of us had heard of them?

Rwandans may be defined by their history in others minds but they are working through education to ensure it never happens again – (as can be seen by the two posters I copied.).
They also seem to know that without forgiveness moving forward is not possible

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The gardens – the elephant with the mobile phone to keep communication open
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This statement for me is hope
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The posters referred to – actually a different site

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10 Belgium soldiers murdered here during this time
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Beautiful memorial to them

Be

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The explanation
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Let us…..

Rwanda

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Rwanda

Where to start?
Perhaps with Uganda if you’ve been following my observations ….
You will have noted I was impressed with Uganda

Now up the ante and you get Rwanda

City of a thousand hills and the envy of surrounding countries
Everywhere you travel you are on the side of a hill looking down into a green valley and across to more of the city on the opposite hill – I could not tell which hill I was on at any time – quite confusing 😀. But the streets aren’t named, they are numbered, which I should imagine, must be a big help.

The smallest country in Africa I am told (although I have not checked that), landlocked between Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Zaire.

12mill people – very soft spoken- I had to lean in to hear my guide much of the time.

The cheapest medical insurance in the world at $5 per person ( think monthly)
The highest is $10. Compulsory

Education to year 10 is free and subsidised thereafter.

Very attractive sub economic housing is being built for the last of the poor – they will be given the homes with 50 years to purchase them at subsidised costs.

Scooters everywhere again with one exception ; no beds, coffins, sweet potatoes or entire families loaded on them 😂. Only one passenger allowed and both driver and pillion must wear helmets 🏍

Steering wheel ( and driver😜) on left hand side and they drive on the right hand side – it all feels very wrong and makes for a nervous passenger ( me)
Having said that though, while a casual glance gives the impression of chaos, when you take notice it is clear everyone knows what’s going on – no one needs to push in, they are allowed in, and no one seems to be rushing so it all works in a quiet way.

AND best invention ever!!!! The lights ( robots to some😜) are not just red or green lights🚦 but rather offer a red or green second count down : so you know exactly how long you will have to wait for or how soon you will not be able to go- surely an excellent stress reducer in the traffic – no wondering when on earth this blessed light is going to change 😂😂😂

And again the green, lush, fertile and productive earth is visible everywhere.

Everyone I have spoken to and I have asked everyone I have met what they make of their president Kagame, (whom some outside journalists imply is too dictatorial for the modern world).
Without hesitation each has applauded him as having all Rwandans interest at heart – his approach to the healing of this country has a familiar ring to it for us South Africans and perhaps because of the smaller population and groups, his legacy will last longer.

On the last Saturday if every month the country has ‘Community day’ when Everyone, children men women adult elderly parliamentarians, president, butcher etc etc meet in the various communities and work side by side – gardening, painting, whatever that community needs and ‘talk’ and hear what the local issues of concern are and plan into the future

As I say an interesting country. Defined by their recent horrific experience, but not limited by it – rather actively using it to propel the people towards a brighter future

“The future of any society depends on its ability to understand and reconcile with its past
Throughout Rwanda youth are engaged in peace education programmes and unity clubs”

Hotel Milles de Collines

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Well made it to Kigali – and while for a few moments when I arrived I had visions of ‘a Powrie fiasco ‘ again, all’s well that ends well. People are very kinda nd after I had stood looking around for a while for my ‘connections’ a gentleman approached and offered to call and sort it all out while I had a coffee on the house – and he did!!!

More about Rwanda later, but the Now

Eating dinner alone (miss my mates 😩 Karen and Neville ) surrounded by tables of people speaking almost every language : Swedish to my right, French behind me ( French widely spoken here) German to my left, Italian in front and I could go on and on and the woman are all good looking and well dressed 😥- lucky I got out of my bush gear

It is a very large if somewhat old hotel (tv unhappy cause of the rain) bath water tepid which I’m told is hot and people as always considerate

This patio is so as one would expect from readings about Africa in a bygone time : a band playing and singing ( in the rain as they are uncovered)
tables spread out all round a large pool ( although again we confined under cover so tables very close) –
alcohol flowing – even I’m drinking

And the lighting adds to the visual beauty of the view

Hotel of a thousand hills in the city of a thousand hills – the view is spectacular

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Me – Faint Hearted? You

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28/09/2016

You could use many words to describe me – clumsy, forceful, argumentative, lazy, but faint hearted wouldn’t be one that jumps to mind. And as to fitness, well I walk the dog regularly 6-10km, go to gym, even use a personal trainer occasionally thanks to my girls – so when I read the brochure that said :

“This is not for the faint hearted, you have to be physically fit to climb the
this mountain. Your hike to the Ik people will be one of the highlights of your visit to Uganda – not to be forgotten soon. It requires some planning and organisation and a fair degree of fitness or it will be torture”.
I was apprehensive but confident.

What I didn’t have was their benchmark for fitness and fainthearted 😂😂 and I had been declared fit by ‘my trainer’

This was a long SLOG – no other word adequately does it. A day that began in the dark and ended in the dark. We drove to our starting point with a translator on board and started a strenuous walk which had me puffing from the first few steps to the point beyond which we could not travel without an armed escort. ( this area is on the Sudanese border)

Frustratingly but not surprisingly, they were not there and we waited for almost two hours before they lumbered up the hill to us. In the meantime we were the entertainment for the year – no one has walked this trail this year – surrounded as we were by hordes of children and adults discussing us and clearly finding us very amusing. I had in my clumsy way tripped over a stump and ripped a hole in my leg which they were intrigued by – red blood on white skin is far for impressive I think than on dark skin 😂. We amused them by showing them the videos of the lions roaring and then a video of themselves which delighted everyone
With guards, translators, porters and hangers on our little party finally started again – and our bodies had to get warmed all over.

This was by far the toughest hike I have ever done – forget the stunning views : it was all I could do to get my breathe – at times I was dizzy from the effort. Even the appeasements to the mountain we were required to make, guided by the village elder who accompanied us, did little to ease the way , three times we had to put a rock, a piece of wood and then again a rock on a different pile of each along the way.  ( I noticed they were all very small piles, indicative of very few visitors😜)

We reached the top some 6 hours later and as anyone who has climbed knows, the top is never actually the top- there is always more and this was no different – the village was on the other hill 😪
We were dutifully welcomed with a dance and speeches;  exchanges of money were made and we began our descent. Equally strenuous and in the rain which cooled us but made the rocks treacherous and with the delay we found ourself coming down in the dark – not a happy experience.

Finally we made it to the vehicle (surprisingly I arrived a few minutes before the other two) and I was immediately completely surrounded by bodies, very close, talking to me in a language I could not understand in the darkness; and for a few moments I could see neither Neville nor Karen or in fact any face I recognised, which was to say the least, quite disconcerting.

But alls well that ends well and we are here to tell the tale – still upright and smiling

I think though that I will now add fainthearted and unfit to my self descriptions. – but the brochure is correct in that we will not forget the adventure

The ‘Ik”

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Photos (and captions) thanks to Neville Jones

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Our communication with the Ik was through a double interpretation. From English to Kuramajong then Karamojong to Ik and back again. So I still don’t really know what she was muttering as I took her photo. She wasn’t displeased but I got the impression that she thought my camera and I were a bit silly.

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Ik children contribute to the tribe from an early age. They take care of their younger cousins, brothers and sisters and fetch water daily in 10l and 20l

28/10/2016

Ik means ‘head of migration’.
The Ik people were the first people to migrate to north west Uganda, with origins in Ethiopia and being a minority group (10 000 Ik people) – they retreated into the mountains (Morungule 2750m) in the north west where they eek out an existence. And eek is the only accurate description I can think of

There has been much written about these people and their social structure going back to when there was a famine and they evolved a harsh ‘survival of the fittest ‘ social structure. This did not match what we saw on our brief visit.

Nonetheless their huts were tightly surrounded by wooden fence type structures which prevented access except through a tight tight squeeze between branches. I did not attempt to enter a hut, Neville did – on his hands and knees almost crawling to get into a spartan hut with only a small fire for cooking.
Clearly a memory of persecution lingers in the way they guard their huts.

The harshest environment to live in – water is carried by hand up at least 8km up the mountain; fuel is trees chopped below and carried up and their crop farmed miraculously on the sides of the mountains is maize.

All in all a remarkable experience, exhausting emotionally and physically

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The two bosses of the village. The government “encourages” them to wear western clothes but as subsistence farmers they have no income to spend on such purchases. Their donated clothes are well used.
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The teenagers watch us whites and the welcome dance put on for us with equal bemusement. —
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Karamojong children are fascinated by Karen’s#iPhone6 . Whilst they have very likely seen an#iPhone before, they may not have seen a video of a Lion roaring, such as the one Karen recorded a couple of days earlier in the Kidepo National Park.

 

Our welcome

 

Kidepo National Park

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A 13 hour road trip took us from Entebbe in the south west to Kidepo National Park in the north west.

To an Out of Africa resort – game walks, game drives, swims in a pool made as if for The Garden of Eden and these are self explanatory

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Grand Katurum Lodge – built under orders of Idi Amin and never completed.  One of the best vantage points in Kidepo it stands like silent, somewhat ominous ghost
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Uganda’s National Bird

Uganda

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Ankole cattle
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Crossing the Nile
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Roadside food – Rolex – delicious

24/09/2016

Uganda- 40 mill landlocked people with Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania as neighbours.

Entebbe, on the shore of lake Victoria – the largest freshwater lake in the world and the source of the Nile river – is a bustling thriving city with a pulsing energy that you can’t ignore – colour, noise, apparent chaos – and yet not

Burra burras, cars and pedestrians all use the road as if it’s theirs – but there is, if one observes carefully, a respect of each other and a gracious courtesy that is quite different from the gritted teeth courtesy I’ve seen in other places.

Travelling as I am with two serious photographers my trusty iPhone has stayed well tucked away – I shall hopefully tag us in to great photos shortly

Back to Uganda – depends what eyes you use: ‘western eyes ‘ may see chaos, danger, poverty, deprivation, hard labour, hopeless…
The Ugandan sees opportunity, community, dignity, pride.

Schooling accessible to everyone and they are all taught their recent unhappy history
Medical services are available throughout the country
I’m told extreme poverty is almost non existent ,
AIDS treatment Gov sponsored so numbers decreasing rapidly :
Serious crime very low – rape minimum. sentence is life; death sentence is common
Illegal Possession of a gun is also a life sentence – so no one will touch them even if they find one in the street 😀

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Subsistence farming

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“We have peace in our hearts” is how one Ugandan “friend” described it to me

So if I haven’t bored you yet I’ll post about our 13 hour road trip

A stunning country – come and visit 😜

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[photographs by Neville Jones, me (video on my iphone!) & Karen Weskob]