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Day 2 in Kampala

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All I can say is that anyone in the US that complains about traffic has never been to Kampala during rush hour! We started our day nicely at the Monyunyo Hotel on Lake Victoria and saw some amazing birds, especially this stork. There was a field at the hotel filled with these birds that remind me of an old grandpa!

After leaving the hotel we had some fun with Turkish Airlines. We arrived at their offices hoping to get some resolution to getting our bags back in our hands and get some funding to replace some of our clothing. It was an interesting dialog not worth getting into, but in the end they provided us with $300 for our inconvenience. In addition, I will need to go to the airport tomorrow morning at 4:30 AM to pick up our luggage since they won’t promise it to us until late afternoon.

We are planning to leave at 9 AM tomorrow morning so that won’t really work. I mentioned in a previous post that I never want to take that ride to the airport in the dark again, but it is going to happen tomorrow. At least it will just be me and not the whole family.

Once done with the airline fun we headed to another mall to get some clothing and some lunch. We were accompanied for the day by Amin Mohamed again and he was very helpful. He will be the one taking me to pick up the luggage in the morning.

We met with Deb in the afternoon and we were able to meet Oloya Patrick for the first time. I have been communicating with Patrick for months now via Skype and it was nice to meet him in person. When we picked him up our next project was to go to the local market to purchase 13 pairs of soccer cleats for the U-TOUCH team in Gulu. Well, that was an experience!

I have been to many flea markets in my life, but this shanty market was amazing! It was booth after booth of everything you can imagine, with a floor of mud. We went to buy clothes at the mall, we should have gone to this market, this is where all the locals shop. We purchased the cleats slightly used and paid about $115 (285,000 Shillings) for all of them. That is less than $10 per cleat. Not sure where they all came from but not asking 🙂

Tomorrow I head to the airport early and when we return we will be off to Jinja, the source of the Nile. From there we will travel to Mbale, the home of the Abayudaya Jewish community. Not sure I will be able to blog during our stay there so I won’t be back online until Sunday or Monday.

‘Til then …..

Safe Arrival Minus Baggage

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Well, we spent over 19 hours on planes from JFK airport in NYC and made it to our destination, Uganda, safely. The only challenge is that Turkish Airlines forgot to put our luggage on the plane with us. Not a big issue if they have multiple flights a day, but that flight only comes in once every two days! So, no luggage until Thursday.

We did something intelligent before leaving, we packed a carry-on with enough clothes for a day or so. That allowed us to get through today without any hiccups, but tomorrow is a different story.

The trip from the airport to Kampala at 5 AM was one I will soon not forget. For those that know me well, I am not a good passenger. Add that fact to being in a strange country where they drive on the wrong side of the road with an aggressive driver on a two lane road with no median and you have discomfort! To say the ride was a bit stressful is an understatement. There were motor scooter and bike riders out at 5 AM and I could only imagine hitting one of them. Going back to the airport in 2 weeks will be during the day time, which is very good news!

We are staying with a friend, Joshua Kyallo pictured with Ilise and the kids. Joshua has been extremely generous allowing us to stay at his home just outside of Kampala. Joshua has a young man named Alex who watches the house and will do some laundry for us, but shopping might be on the agenda tomorrow for some new clothes!

Our day in Kampala was very simple today, with lunch at the Serena Hotel in the center of town. We were able to secure a local cell phone for communications and exchange some currency. Joshua hired a driver, named Amir Mohamed, to drive us around town. He took us to a mall to get some additional clothing and then to a local market by the National Theater.

Our kids love shopping at the local markets, but I must say that these markets seem like they could have been anywhere in Africa. I am looking forward to seeing the rural portions of the country and what those artists are able to create.

Tomorrow, Deb Plotkin will be coming down to join us and tour Kampala. We will be spending some time at the Turkish Airlines office trying to rectify the situation with our baggage, should be fun! If we get our bags on Thursday morning we will be leaving for Jinja (the source of the Nile River) and then off to Mbale, the home of the Abayudaya Jews before the end of the day. I will look to add some posts before we leave Kampala and head to the east and then northern parts of the country.

Heading to the Airport

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Well, we are waiting in Queens for our taxi to take us to JFK for our flight. It was a great day starting with breakfast with an old friend, Miles Rose. I haven’t seen Miles in close to 15 years and it was nice to see him. He was extremely generous with his connections, as always, and hopefully something will come of his efforts to support our mission in Uganda.

Our first leg of the trip is about 10 hours from NYC to Istanbul where we will try to get some sleep, but not too much sleep. We will be arriving in Uganda at 3 AM local time and will need to adjust to the time zone differences. We will see how everyone fares on that front. We will be spending our first two nights at the home of Joshua Kyallo, someone very close to U-TOUCH and someone who has become a personal friend. I look forward to seeing Joshua, seeing his home and spending some time touring Kampala.

Next post will be from somewhere outside of the US!

‘Til then….

Let the Games Begin!

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Peaceful morning on Swan Lake from the kayak

Well, if our summer stopped right now and we went back to our life in San Diego I could easily say it was an amazing summer. Kids had a great time at camp, the weather was wonderful, we got to see lots of friends and family, but I believe the real amazing part is just about to begin!

I am in NYC at my mother-in-laws apartment with Ilise and the kids and they are still asleep as I write this post. Later today we will head to Queens for a good-bye dinner with Hope and Marty (my mother-in-law and her boyfriend) and then off to JFK for the beginning of our journey, a midnight flight to Istanbul. Once in Istanbul we take a flight to Kigali in Rawanda and then a short puddle jumper to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. I believe we will be picked up by a taxi, since it will be 3 AM local time, OUCH! Some time adjustment will be needed by most upon our arrival in Kampala.

This trip is something I have been looking forward to since I met my wife, Ilise, and probably even earlier. When we first met she was planning an African safari with her sister. We met in June of 1997 and in September she left for South Africa. On her trip she would fax me notes about her travels and what a great time she was having. Today email seems a lot more efficient! I had always dreamed of going on a safari and now it is upon us. All of the nature photography I have taken over the years has been so enjoyable, and how much better can nature get than Africa? I will let you know upon our return 🙂

We have some amazing volunteer work to do in Uganda before we get to our safari. The work with U-TOUCH is something I believe will be life changing for me and Ilise, and especially our kids. There are so many lessons to learn in life, but appreciating what you have is high on my list. Time to do our little part to make the world a better place.

‘Til next time.

Rain!

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Well, we have been in NY for exactly a month and today is the first real day of rain since we arrived. I must admit, even though a few days have been a bit hot, we have had some great weather during our NY stay. I was hoping to take the kayak on one last trip to see the eagles this morning, but I will have to wake up early tomorrow to do that.

We are planning to leave the Catskills on Saturday morning to head to a family party in NJ and then back into NYC until Sunday afternoon when we prepare to head to the airport. This trip has been in the planning for close to 9 months and it is actually here. There are a number of things that I want to accomplish personally, but the overriding objective for this adventure is to provide Drew and Noah with some perspective on life. Growing up in NYC and San Diego is a gift that not many people get, and some have to live in extreme poverty, which I am certain we will witness in Uganda and Kenya.

As for my objectives, I will be visiting a number of U-TOUCH facilities and will be meeting leaders from many other NGOs in Uganda. I want to understand the impact of the centers and try to figure out the best way to present the story. To date the U-TOUCH team has done an amazing job to establish the need for their project, now it needs to be packaged and sold to some foundations so it can develop. The organization needs some new leadership with technology and non-profit experience and some full time staff to help it reach its potential. We have an amazing mission and the work being accomplished has been awesome, when I get back it will be time to go get some money.

When we return we are going to schedule some house parties where Drew, our 12 year old daughter, will present her view of this experience. We are planning to develop a powerpoint presentation that outlines her life compared to a 12 year old girl in Uganda. I can only imagine how powerful this will be coming from a 12 year old’s point of view.

More Eagle Pictures

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Now, I have been taking pictures of this family of eagles for a long time and this set of photos tops the list!

I was traveling out to the nest and turned the corner of the lake to see both bald eagles on some stumps at the edge of the lake. One of the birds was feeding on something but they were both just sitting on the stump.

As I got closer one of the eagles started to fly away and I started snapping photos. I must have taken 25-30 pictures and here are two of the best. If you can zoom in you will see a small bundle in the eagles talons that is a duck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the first eagle flew away I was able to focus on the second eagle who was still on the stump. I was able to get some great shots of him on the stump as well as ones of him (or her) flying off to the other side of the lake. This was an amazing experience, almost like these birds were putting on a show just for me. What an amazing day!

Eagle Catches a Fish

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Well, when I arrived at Swan Lake this summer I told Ilise that there was one picture I have still not taken of the eagle. That is of them swooping down and catching a fish from the lake. Now, I have been following this family of eagles for 5 years and each year I improve my camera, find out more about the eagle and how they live while compiling a library of pictures that I will treasure for a life-time. Well, this past Sunday I was kayaking on the lake early in the morning and spotted one of the bald eagles swooping across the lake. I was about 100 yards away and just started taking pictures as fast as I could. The camera was on auto focus so I wasn’t certain what the camera was focusing on, but away I went.

The eagle hit the water and then took off to the other side of the lake. Again, I have been following this bird for 5 years and have never seen him land on the ground or a stump, only in a tree. Well, on this day he landed on a stump on the far side of the lake. So, I started taking some more pictures, not sue what was going on. I continued on my kayak for the next 90 minutes and didn’t realize what I had taken pictures of until I got back and loaded them on my camera. Below are three pictures that I took from at least 100 yards away and was able to crop the images so you can see what happened. I finally caught the eagle catching a fish!

The first two pictures are of the eagle catching the fish with its claws and the third picture is after he landed on the far side of the lake and the eagle transferred the fish to its mouth. What an amazing honor it was to take these pictures of this amazing creature.

I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I did taking them!

More Amazing Pictures on Swan Lake

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20120706-192314.jpg Took this picture from the kayak earlier today. One of the better pictures I have taken on Swan Lake.

I took this one yesterday walking through the woods looking for the eagles nest with Ilise. It was amazing to see them from the ground, but I still prefer looking at them from the lake.

Another Amazing Day on Swan Lake

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Been here three days and three visits with the eagle. Got a few good shots today as well as a beautiful picture of some flower pots on someone’s lake front as well. Heading to MN for a peer group meeting tomorrow and back in the Catskills through July 8th on Wednesday night. Looking forward to a fun holiday week.

Eagle Pictures

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The picture on the left is one of the best pictures I have taken of the eagle on Swan Lake. I was in the kayak and was watching it hanging out in a tree and it started to fly. I leaned back in the kayak and just snapped a picture and when I got back to load the pictures onto the computer I saw this picture. From that day on I have been addicted to taking pictures of this family of eagles.

Last summer there was a youngling (pictured below), which was full size but didn’t know how to fly. It was amazing going back day after day and watching the young eagle stuck on a small mound of dirt just off the shore. We believe it was trying to fly and landed on this little mount of dirt rather than on shore. We learned that a normal baby eagle will land on shore and then climb a tree to learn how to fly. So, since it landed in the middle of the lake with no tree to climb it could do anything. I spent the next 3 weeks watching it learn to fly. The adult eagles would bring their baby fish to eat and he just hung out until he was able to fly to shore. It was very cool to watch.

Looking forward to many more pictures this summer!