Africa

Akwaaba! Welcome to West Africa

Akwaaba! Welcome to West Africa

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gh_george.jpgOnce again, to be met at the airport! To know that someone has been waiting for you! To see the happy and relieved look on their faces when you arrive! So it is when George, a driver from Planned Parenthood Ghana (PPAG), and Aseye, our in-country AJWS representative, pick us up at Ghana’s Kotoka International and take us to our home for the next two months.

Witnessing the front lines of the AIDS battle in Uganda

Witnessing the front lines of the AIDS battle in Uganda

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ug2_LINDA.jpgThe AIDS situation in Uganda is one of the better in sub-Saharan Africa, with an infection rate of 7 percent, a far cry from the rates of 20, 30, or even 40 percent found in some areas of southern Africa. The Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, with whom Tay’s Aunt Linda has been for four years, is on the cutting edge of preventing mother-baby HIV/AIDS transmission in Uganda and 17 other countries. But there are numerous fronts to this battle and Elisabeth Glaser is only one of many games in town. On Friday morning, an opportunity arises to see one of these other organizations in action, and we take it.

Entering Uganda: Across the Equator

Entering Uganda: Across the Equator

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ug1_corn.jpgTwenty-four continuous hours of travel—by overnight ferry across Lake Victoria followed by a series of minivan “dala-dalas”—takes us from Mwanza, Tanzania to the Ugandan capital. Our midday border crossing at Mutukula is easier than expected. As our vehicle slows, touts surround us with their roasted corn, goat-liver-on-a-stick, warm bottles of Fanta, and baggies of shiny-fried beetle grubs; they are relatively calm and curious, and they briefly scatter when I take out my camera, but immediately regroup with smiles, relentless with their wares.

Our Man in Mwanza: Smiling Softly

Our Man in Mwanza: Smiling Softly

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Back on our own, no more luxury lodges or guides or vehicle, we must cross Africa’s largest lake to get to Uganda (via Bukoba), where we will meet up with Tay’s long-lost Great Aunt Linda, granddaughter of the esteemed Dr. Stewart, development worker with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and one of Tay’s inspirations for continued work abroad, even though they have only met once.

Tanzania Safari, Part 3: Serengeti to Mwanza

Tanzania Safari, Part 3: Serengeti to Mwanza

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saf3_tree.jpgThe morning drive along Ngorongoro southwest crater rim is nothing less than a trip through Rohan, the wide, rolling grasslands of Middle Earth. Rolling across the zebra and giraffe-studded hills, among Masai huts and herds, trying to take it all in: what we have seen, what we will see, and what is outside the open windows right now.

Tanzania Safari, Part 2: Tarangire to Ngorongoro

Tanzania Safari, Part 2: Tarangire to Ngorongoro

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saf2_bao.jpgDay 2 begins with a stunning sunrise game drive, fiery clouds behind silhouetted baobabs and acacias, a short and plump rainbow above Mount Tangire. Back at the lodge, we eat our five-star breakfast alone, refill coffee mugs, then set out on another long drive, twisting and winding our way toward the park’s entrance, with plenty of animals and the weather constantly shifting between sunny, drizzly, and fantastic shows of light in between; box lunch is eaten at an overlook above the river, lightly raining as we watch some of the park’s 3,500 elephants graze below.

Tanzania Safari, Part One: Moshi to Tarangire

Tanzania Safari, Part One: Moshi to Tarangire

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saf1_car.jpgThe safari is Tay’s idea. Her childhood dream of seeing the plains and animals of East Africa was not realized during her two-and-a-half years living and traveling in West Africa and this is her chance. Me, I’ve never considered it, don’t really know what “safari” even is, except a used and abused Swahili word for “journey.” I’ve mostly associated it with dweeby hats and vests, rich people in luxury camps, and some vague, Hemingway-esque romanticism that probably doesn’t even exist. I also dislike safari’s non-strenuous nature; i.e. you are not allowed to leave your vehicle in most National Parks (because of dangerous cats and other animals), and I envision being trapped in a metal box all week, sealed-off from so much Africa around me.