Don’t Sell Water to the White Lady

Today’s eighty-kilometre ride was for Nansubuga Brenda and Nankabirwa Vanessa. We are almost running out of kids to ride for so we must be nearing the end!! As we mentioned before, the various areas always highlight a natural resource. Today’s was palms. There were palm trees for the last 30 kms where workers were harvesting the fruit, of it can be called that, and loading it into trucks to be taken away to make palm oil. I didn’t like the smell, but John didn’t notice it.

I woke up irritable and feeling, for the first time, that I’m done with all this and want to go home. The young people in the shops didn’t help my mood. We needed water before we left the city and it was like a game of “let’s not sell water to the white lady.” They tried overcharging me so I said no and then they acted like they didn’t have any when I saw it sitting right there. Even though it was embarrassing for me, I hope they didn’t see the irritation on my face as I walked out to ask the next guy.

This interaction set the stage for my mood the entire morning. We left on a very narrow, extremely busy section of Masaka and trying to follow John closely while watching behind me for traffic, ahead of me for potholes and both sides of the road for signs signalling our turn all at the same time was too much for my irritable self. I didn’t want to see anyone, say hi to anyone and thought if I heard the word ‘muzungu’ one more time I was going to punch someone. Thankfully, a little bit of downhill and lack of people helped to melt away my morning mood and I felt normal by the time we reached the ferry gate at 11:00. We had pushed hard to get there before the next ferry was scheduled to depart at 11:30.

The police checked our passports and the bags on John’s bike (the lady looked at my bike and said he didn’t need to check mine because I wasn’t carrying anything with what I thought was a scoff, but it could have been the remnants of my sour mood) and after they asked about all the curious gadgets, we were good to go. We never did see them check anyone else, but they had been friendly at least. We waited in the hot sun until the ferry finally came around 1:00, drinking a couple of pops and talking to boda drivers as they waited with us and musing at the “No Smocking” sign. Once people find out we’ve raised money for someone, they sure want a piece of the pie. I showed one guy the cut out photos of the Get Schooled kids that I carry with me and he thanked me for working hard for Uganda’s children. He’s been the first one to do that instead of saying he ‘also knows a lot of orphans who need school fees and can I help them too.’ I was grateful.

The ferry ride was not nearly as chaotic as I had heard it might be, although getting down the ramp was like riding on the roads. I was glad I didn’t bail right in front of everyone bumping over the lip that was lifted above the concrete and then pedalling hard up to steep ramp. As soon as the gate opened, the cars, trucks, bodas and us on our bikes all lurched forward and raced on, passing each other on all sides of the single lane that lasted 300 feet. And then suddenly, we were all on board and there was plenty of room for everyone as we sailed away from the dock.

Of course, we were the only non-local people on the entire ferry and that is getting tiring, I have to be honest. We can tell others are talking about us because we hear the word ‘muzungu’ and it’s always accompanied with laughter, so we just surmise they must be making fun of us somehow. They might not be, but it sure feels like it a lot of the time. I wish I knew enough Luganda to turn around and say, “You know I understand everything you’re saying,” in their language just to make them stop. There was a young mom sitting directly across from us trying to placate her two babies who kept hitting each other in the face, whining, drinking precariously out of a pop bottle and just fidgeting in general, nearly falling off the seat multiple times. The man she was with looked almost old enough to be her dad and I assumed he was the father by the way the woman was talking exclusively to him. He was totally oblivious to her situation and didn’t lift a finger to try and help her. The older baby squirmed partially out of her lap so I grabbed his feet and I distracted him by playing with his feet. Before I knew what was happening, the young mom had thrust the baby into my arms and there he stayed for the remainder of the ride. I didn’t mind helping her at all, but the baby’s diaper was wet and soaked through my already sweaty shorts. But at least the baby didn’t look at me like I was weird or cry, which is what babies usually do when I hold them.

The biking itself was not too bad today, but it still felt difficult. I’m not sure how I managed the really hard days we’ve done previously as now I’m pretty much done after about 80 kilometres, let alone 100. After today’s ride, I sat on the cold tile floor shoving spoonfuls of orange Nutella into my face with a plastic spoon. We definitely didn’t eat enough today.

As badly as the day started, it ended well in equal measure. We found a reasonably-priced place to stay on the shores of Lake Victoria. The sand is beautiful and the water looks so inviting. There is no way we are swimming in it though as it, like all other lakes in Uganda except Bunyonyi, has Bilharzia, a parasite that penetrates human skin to enter the bloodstream and migrate to the liver, intestines and other organs. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It doesn’t even need a hole in your body to enter – it just penetrates the skin. Yeah, no thanks. Despite what lurks in the seemingly-clear water, it does look lovely and is filling a hole in my heart being away from our lake this month. Plus the bird species are ridiculous in number and the monkeys are amusing. In our post- ride calorie-gorge of pizza (of course) and chicken (also of course) that replaced both breakfast and lunch, I felt so content to just be feeding my face and I just kept saying, “I’m so happy right now.” John added his own musings with, “This has got to be one of smell free-est countries I’ve ever been to.” Our room is nice, the shower is hot and we have a couple of tv channels. We are going to use these next days to gain our strength to push through these last days of riding, visiting some of the kids’ schools, seeing Vincent’s farm, talking to the media, and of course, the party. I’m feeling grateful to be here in Uganda and here in this space, but also grateful that we get to head home soon and see our friends and family. We miss and love you all.