For the past 12 years, we have had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen. Each year, staff members from Aspen offices across the globe visit Adara’s projects on the ground to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. This year, we had the pleasure of hosting seven Aspen staff members at Kiwoko Hospital. As always, they left inspired by the incredible experience and invigorated by the knowledge that so much of this work has been made possible by Aspen’s support. They have been kind enough to share some of their stories and reflections with us.
By Bryna Stiefel
Lions and Tigers and Bears Elephants and Giraffes – Oh My!
Bryna from Brooklyn reporting in on Day 6. Today we left Kiwoko Hospital for Murchison Falls, and our “decompression safari.” It’s so hard to say good-bye to such a beautiful, warm, welcoming place. We woke at dawn at 5:30 am to head out, stopping at the Kiwoko gate for one last team photo on site. I think I speak for all of us when I say it was bittersweet to leave behind all our new friends as we reflected on all the memories we will take away. I thought about the doctors and nurses, the midwives, the students, the moms and kids, the “aunties” and “uncles”, the NICU babies, the footbal players, and the chickens. I do hope my new friend the gecko stayed behind but I suppose I will find out when I unpack. I will miss morning prayers with the children and Pastor Steven, walking around the hospital grounds with Doctor Peter, seeing Julius’ wide grin, laughing with nurse Hajara, discussing feminism with Justine, hanging with Doctor Becker and her adorable girls, and talking about my social life with head midwife Florence (who promises to find me a nice African man!)
We climbed into our 2 luggage packed vans, stocked with snacks, water and competing African playlists and we were off for the 4+ hour journey north. Driving through Uganda we got to see once again the surrounding neighborhoods and countryside, take in the culture, and this time – in some towns – noticed many people dressed in their Sunday best, walking to Church for what I learned was almost a full day of prayers. We made one stop along the way for the loo (and some souvenir shopping) and arrived at the gate to Murchison Falls National Park in the early afternoon.
We drove towards the Paraa Safari Lodge down a long, red dirt road, stopping only to let troops of baboons cross and take our first photos of what would be many animals during the day.
The road was previously “through the bush” but is now under construction by a Chinese Contracting company and is being made wider and more accessible, and much more dusty! We arrived at the Nile crossing spot to learn we had missed the planned ferry so would have to leave our belongings on the van, and take a smaller boat to get to the other side for lunch. Arriving at the Paraa Lodge was a welcome sight for all. We sat down on the beautiful porch for a filling lunch (with salad!) and spotted a family of warthogs on the property. Thinking this was a great siting we decided to turn in and call it a day. JUST KIDDING!
We quickly took off for the river and boarded the Wild Frontiers Nile River double decker Kabalega boat and departed on our excursion down the Nile – a 2 hour tour. The boat explored a peaceful stretch of the river, which begins at Murchison Falls where the Nile bursts through a gorge and flows down to the river whose banks are covered with wildlife. Right away we spotted a thunder of hippos, a bask of crocodiles, sounders of warthogs, gangs of water buffalo, and countless unusual beautiful birds (not typically with their flocks). The surrounding land is lush green and the water glistened in the hot African sun. The most amazing part was when a parade of elephants met us at the river bank, running towards us, drinking, playing, washing and the entire boat was silent in amazement. Nearing the waterfall, we noticed quite a bit of schmutz in the water (a formally defined term now, coined in New York and explained to the team, followed by schvitz – another common occurrence in Africa). Which we discovered was dirt from water rushing down the rocks – but that didn’t stop us from climbing onto a rock in Nile and take some epic shots.
When it was over, we arrived back at our vans to find the tops popped open and immediately drove into the park to begin our game drive that lasted til dusk. We quickly figured out we could stand in the vehicles now, pop our heads out and start looking out for animals. Not quite the Bronx Zoo… I have never seen animals like I saw today. Countless herds of running antelopes, tame impalas, flying eagles, buffalo bills, more elephants, and we even got up close and personal with towers of giraffes. Just as we were about to head out, we spotted some lions in the grass which truly made the day complete. Even our guides were excited to see them and sent videos to friends as the lions put on a playful show for us, hanging around for a while. As we drove out of the park one lone owl was stopped in our path and didn’t want us to leave either! Don’t worry, we eventually got around him. Under African skies and the setting sun we saw the most beautiful crescent moon and an epic starry sky.
Calling today “decompression safari” was the perfect term. Today was just what the doctor ordered after saying goodbye to Kiwoko Hospital. It was a perfect ten.