Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh Yeah, You Blend

I have just returned from a three weeks of Pan-African travel -- jarring, unpaved roads, hellaciously vivid dreams from my anti-malaria pills, more than a dozen planes, some new cuisine and some old favorites in surprising places.

It began with a jaunt up to Uganda, known to some as "The Pearl of Africa" -- a former British colony, landlocked in a collar-tugging position -- South of Sudan, East of the D.R.C. and North of Rwanda. Eeeeyikes! My travel buddy and I had not planned second one of our trip since purchasing our plane tickets a week prior. We figured English was the national language (gotta give the British Empire some credit on that one) and how hard could it be to find some mountain gorillas without a travel book, map, game plan, or a gorilla of our own, who by virtue of its ability to converse in both sign language and gorillaspeak could bridge the interspecies gap.

A few things became clear very quickly. We needed bug spray something awful; the Chinese food in Kampala is amazing; and the distance from Entebbe (where we landed) to The Bwindi Impenetrable Forrest (where the gorillas and their concomitant mist reside) gets a lot longer once you find out that the term "roads" required much exaggerated quote fingers.

No regrets, cause the endless expanse of lushly verdant hills and (hidden) valleys out our windows made up for the ass pains from the bumpy ride. I have no pictures, but the landscape made me wish that I could go back in time (Bill and Ted style) round up Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, et al., and set them up with an all expenses paid trip to sunny Uganda and all the Absinthe they can drink on me.

Driving through the many farming villages that line these "roads" was like being trapped inside a moving zoo. I guess I take for granted the fact that I'm white. I mean, my Mom and Dad are white, my sisters and brothers are white. Come to think of it, my whole family is white. See, I didn't even think of it til now. But staring out my window with increasing mortification I watched jaws drop, women and children stopping dead in their tracks, conversations halted in mid-sentence, the sounds of juke boxes scratching off, all because they don't see too many (dragons or) white people around.

On a side note to this, the often invoked notion that white people think all black people look alike, well I know what people mean now. We were the only two white people that we saw the whole time, blending in like My Cousin Vinny. We would go some place for a bite to eat, laugh and drink with the waiter for hours, and then come in the next day as total strangers to this man.

US: Hey, Johnny. How's it going?
John Bosco: Ahhhhhhhhh?

Because of our poor planning, we were unable to go gorilla tracking, but you can't win 'em all, as they (gorillas) say (in sign language).