My crazy holiday plans

22 12 2009

In my master plan to avoid Christmas in whatever way possible, I thought Uganda at Christmas time would be a nice escape. Unfortunately, not so much. Uganda is a very Christian country and essentially shuts down for the two to four weeks around Christmas. Many Ugandans travel home to their villages for the holiday. Many ex-pats use this time to either travel home (a surprising number do this) or to go on long in-continent adventures. My roommates have fled for a beach getaway in Tanzania and Zanzibar so it has been quite quiet and lonely around here as of late.

My original idea was to use this time to travel to South Africa. While I haven’t given up on a trip to South Africa during my stay here, it just was not possible to pull together in such a short time frame. Still, I have managed to arrange other Christmas/New Year’s plans which I’m quite excited about and because they are so sort of off the wall I thought it may make a nice blog post.

Christmas Eve I will be spending with a couple (a guy from Texas and an Irish woman) — two of the four white ex-pats I spin with. I know, crazy to have found spinning in Uganda but somehow I lucked out. Three quarters of the bikes don’t work and electricity often goes out killing the music in the middle of class but minus the nasty sunburn I got this past weekend, it is fun and a good workout.

Then on Christmas Day I’m going to travel to the bus station and board a bus to Mbale. Mbale is in Eastern Uganda, near the Kenya border. Here I will be spending Shabbat with the lone tribe of Ugandan Jews. I met the rabbi in the states, we became Facebook friends and the rest is history. On Sunday, I’m meeting up with a Ugandan I’ve met and we are traveling about an hour away to visit Sipi Falls and Mount Elgon – a waterfall and extinct volcano. While some may think I’m brave for going to Africa, my true courage will come in going to a volcano. For whatever reason, I seem to have determined that volcanoes are the natural disaster I most fear so this adventure is will be a true test of my strength!

On Monday I will take a bus back to Kampala. Traveling anywhere in this country is a challenge. You don’t buy tickets in advance and the buses and shared taxis don’t operate on a set schedule or at least I have yet to be able to find one. Instead, they leave when they are full. There is no air conditioning, your seat mate may be a chicken and the roads are their own version of a bumpy roller coaster ride. This is all hearsay at this point but it definitely sounds like it could be all true and quite the adventure. I guess it is Uganda’s version of its own snowstorm to make holiday travel as unpleasant as possible (sorry to all those who are affected by the snow!)

Ridiculously early on Tuesday I will be meeting up with a bus of other internationals for a five day trip to Rwanda. I have yet to meet the organizer of the trip but as it happens in Kampala – he knows three of my friends so therefore I think he is legit. He is a Ugandan who went to the UK for education and returned to Uganda to run his father’s bus company. He apparently knows every ex-pat in Uganda and fancies hanging out with us as much as possible.

We will spend all day traveling and will arrive in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda in the early evening. The next morning we will explore the city. I’ve heard there is an impressive genocide museum there which I’m planning to check out. Rwanda is known to be safe now – that is as safe as East Africa – and is actually developing at a quicker rate than Uganda. Fear is part of everyday life here – something I’ll definitely have to post on in the future. We will travel to Lake Kivu for lunch and sunset and return to Kigali for the evening. On New Year’s Eve we will leave Kigali early and spend the day mountain biking and hiking. We’ll bring in the new year with a party at Lake Bunyonyi. New Year’s Day we will wake up early and head to Lake Mburo for a boat trip and safari. January 2nd we will make the drive back to Kampala with a stop at the sign marking the equator in Uganda. All of the hyperlinks should work so feel free to click above to learn more about any of those places.

I never in my wildest imagination thought a near Kenya Christmas experience with Ugandan Jews (who will serve the Chinese food and what movie are we going to be able to watch?) and New Year’s festivities in Rwanda (do they have a ball drop with Dick Clark as the host too?) would be part of my story but it just proves life itself is an adventure.

To all those celebrating the season, happy holidays! (screw what Garrison Keillor says – I still will always choose the more inclusive Christmas/New Year’s greeting :))




11 responses

23 12 2009

Can’t believe you still spin in Africa, shouldn’t it be all about the wild? Like spin in open air or something….

23 12 2009
Alan Frailich

Your blog is so interesting and your adventure seeking is admired. Good thing mom gave that portion of your personality. Well…maybe not.

I also know you really want to go to South Africa and you may never have the chance to go again so DO IT. If you need extra $$ to go, let me know. Do you want me to call Nelson and set up an appointment for lunch? Actually, you know someone else pretty well who just might have the clout to do just that if you have the guts to just ask. Go for it. See what happens.

Love your blog and love you even more.

23 12 2009

Sounds like you have some exciting things planned! I am excited to hear about your trip to Rwanda, though the bus trips to travel anywhere sound quite challenging.

Have a great holiday and I can’t wait to see more pictures 🙂

23 12 2009
Geri Goldman

Wow! I had no idea you were doing all these crazy, brave things across the world! What an amazing experience you must be having. I will look for more updates. Hope all goes well over the holidays, and I hope you don’t have to ride next to a chicken:)

24 12 2009
David Erickson


24 12 2009
David Erickson

I meant Grasshoppers, not GrassHOPErs. I don’t know what GrassHOPErs are. I do know that GrassHOPPERS are not delicious, though.

24 12 2009

This sounds amazing. Take lots of pictures. I actually read a book about the genocide that took place in Rwanda. The book was very interesting. It was told by a girl who survived so of course I have images in my head and would love to see what it truly looks like.

Safe travels.

28 12 2009
Joel Held

Hi Alison, sounds like things are going well and I an=m just amazed at all you are doing and seeing. I am glad we chatted with you and your Grandmother before you left. Take care, continue having a great time!

29 12 2009

allison –

just to let you know, i’m keeping tabs on you every few days still in disbelief that you are there and seeing and doing all of this. while i don’t regret my quiet holiday time in NYC, yours sounds amazing. are you publishing pictures on the blog or flikr or something?


30 12 2009
Nancy Vitoff

Hi Allison just got back from two weeks in AZ. Went ATVing with your Dad and Grant. We had a blast! Played golf, hiked Camelback and a couple of other nice trails.

I hope you have a very happy and safe new year. Wow, spinning in Uganda, how cool is that. I will try and channel your spin during my classes at LFT. Nancy

31 12 2009
Penny Ziessman

The Ziessman family all says hello and sends its love! Scot, Julie and the kids are out here in Scottsdale for the week between X’mas and New Year’s. We’re having fun adventures, sure, but yours take the cake! I’m anxious to hear about your visit with the Ugandan Jews…..and I’m sure you have a ton of photos to share with us. So, till then, keep plugging and keep spinning!

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