Thanksgiving is obviously my favorite holiday because it is a day devoted to eating. I also like that it’s a day to be with family, but you don’t have the stress of buying presents for everyone. I think missing Thanksgiving is one of the harder parts of being away for two years. However, I still managed to keep the tradition of eating myself sick on this fine holiday.
Ryan, Caroline and I got together with Laurie and Abby for Thanksgiving this year. For those that don’t remember, we went to Laurie’s last year for Thanksgiving too. Laurie and Abby are Americans that run Cornerstone Orphanage in Budaka, and we go over there from time to time to eat good food and play games. They also have an oven and a fridge, which makes Thanksgiving cooking a little easier. For one whole day, we all got to eat good food and pretend that we weren’t in Uganda. Minus the fact that we still had to use a latrine and wash dishes without a sink, it actually felt like we were in America. We had hummus and veggies for an appetizer, and for the main course, we had turkey (20 lbs!), mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, homemade rolls and cranberry sauce. For dessert we had pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Power was out, so we had to mash the potatoes by hand and we had to hand whip the cream. Also, our cranberry sauce was from a can – thank you Ocean Spray! Nevertheless, the meal was still amazing. Now it was no Brenda Marsh meal, but that is impossible to beat, and our décor was a little more rustic than crystal wine glasses. However, we had cloth napkins (i.e. handkerchiefs) and sodas from glass bottles - swanky! We all overate and could hardly move afterward – Ryan ate 8 rolls and he did not look so good after the meal.
Caroline and I justified our overeating because we had signed up for the Kampala Half Marathon on Sunday. This was sort of a last minute decision even though we had been talking about running it with other volunteers for a while. However, everyone else bailed out of running, and we did not know how we were going to register since you have to do it from Kampala. Lucky for us, though, Laurie and Abby happened to be in Kampala the Monday before Thanksgiving, and they were able to register us. We felt kind of bad asking them, but we felt even worse after they told us about the hassle of signing up.
Laurie and Abby went to the MTN Arena and were instructed to wait in a line with 20 chairs. They could not just sit in their chair and wait for their turn, but they had to move up to the next one as the line moved forward. After they got to the front, they gave our names and then had to go wait in a new line of 20 chairs – except this time it was set up in two lines of 10. Laurie said at this point she crossed her arms, stood up and refused to play musical chairs (hilarious!). Laurie and Abby finally reached the front and waited while the guy (slowly) registered us in the computer. Afterward, they had to wait in another line to pick up our swag bags full of MTN swag (yellow jersey that we had to wear when we ran, visor, water bottle and sweatband). So even though there were only a few people there to register – the whole process took about 30 minutes. Laurie and Abby are the greatest for doing that for us!
You are all probably thinking that whole process seems a bit ridiculous. Never in the US would we have to continuously move down a line of chairs. Well, in Uganda, such a process is needed. Ugandans do not wait in lines like we do in North America. For example, at the grocery store, the line to checkout is usually a mob of people. Everyone cuts in front of each other, so you have to be aggressive and stick out your elbows – otherwise, you are going to be there all day. In cases where lines do form, like the ATM, there is no such thing as personal space. The guy behind you will be up close and personal like white on rice. As he breathes down your neck, he will slowly push you closer and closer to the guy in front of you so you are crushed like a sardine. It is best to avoid the bank at all costs on the first of the month because that is payday. Everyone goes to the ATM to withdraw all of their money, so you will be in line with 100 people (not exaggerating!) that have no regard for that personal bubble of yours.
The half marathon was actually pretty fun, and I am glad we did it. It went a little better than last year because I actually trained (sort of) for this one. We went to the start of the race at 6am at the Kololo Airstrip, which has been redone since last year. The latrines have been replaced by real bathrooms, which was good because last year the pit latrines were full – almost to the point of overflowing. Yuck! However, the women’s bathroom was locked, so we all had to use the men’s - four stalls for 20,000 people. We heard one of the guards ask, “Where are the portable toilets?” Caroline and I were shocked that there was such a thing in Uganda and we asked, “There are supposed to be portable toilets?” He said, “Supposed to be. But they are not there.” Not surprising.
Kololo Airstrip is both the start and finish of the race, and it was nuts. There was a huge stage set up with two big screens and speakers. They were blaring music – Rihanna, LMFAO, Flo Rida and Carly Rae’s “Call Me Maybe.” A lot of the Ugandans were stretching in rhythm to the music, while some others were just having a full on dance party by themselves. It was awesome. The half marathon itself was pretty good – there were water stations that passed out bottled water and wet sponges to cool off. The route was the same as last year, and once again, the signs marking the distance were wrong. Nevertheless, I still fell for them. I passed a sign that said 15km, and I was feeling great. I could finish the last 6 km no problem. At the point where the half and full marathon courses met up, the sign said 37.5 km, so I only had 4.5 km to go because the half and full ended at the same place. After about 1 km, there was a sign that said, “Only 7 km to go!” I was pissed. I should have known the signs were wrong, but I still psyched myself out. That sign, however, was correct and that last 7km was brutal, especially since there was a long, steep hill at the end.
I also should have remembered to hold my water bottle from the last water station because there is no water at the end of the race. All the fast people and those that ran the 10k take it all (mean!). I finished the race, and I was dying of thirst. I had to wait for Caroline to finish, so I went on a hunt for water. There were tons of corporate tents set up and there were people selling meat on a stick and soda, but no water for sale. Finally, some Ugandan guy took a water bottle out of his pocket and said I could have it. He kept saying, “Don’t worry, it’s safe.” To be honest, I did not really care – I was so thirsty, I would have drunk from the Nile River.
Running in Africa is great because you get to see the real runners. The lead male marathon runner passed me at the “7km to go” sign, which just added insult to injury. He was not running, he was full on sprinting – I couldn’t run that fast even if I tried. He didn’t even look tired, so I’m not sure why he didn’t offer to give me a piggyback ride. I think about 10 of the marathoners passed me by the end, each one a big hit to my ego. Also, there were some Ugandans that were running the half marathon in jeans. There were also some in flip-fops, while others ran with backpacks on. Yes, of some these people beat me too.
While I waited for Caroline, I got to see the lead female marathoner win the race (at least I beat her!). She finished in 2 hours and 50 minutes, and I do not think she was even sweating. She apparently works for the Ugandan Police Force, so everyone was going nuts and cheering – pretty cool to see her win. Caroline finished and she was smart because she saved her water from the last water station. We walked out of the Kololo Airstrip and tried to find a private hire to take us back to our hostel, but there were none. There were only boda bodas (first time I have truly hated the PC no boda policy). So we walked about a block and came upon the Protea Hotel, where we stopped inside to buy overpriced water. We collapsed on the couches in the lobby and sat in the air-conditioning for 30 minutes. Finally, we worked up the energy to walk to Garden City to get lunch. We spent the rest of the day lying in bed, trying not to fall asleep, but we ended up passing out at 8:30pm.
Next week I will be working at National Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). Liz will be keeping a blog with photos/stories – so feel free to check it out! Thanks again to all those that donated; I’m looking forward to being a part of the camp this year.
|Appetizers - hummus made by yours truly|
|Carving the turkey. Laurie asked if I knew how to do it - ha!|
|Bet our turkey was the freshest! Killed and grilled that day :)|
|Abby with the rolls|
|I'm like a dog...|
|Thanksgiving: Uganda Style|
|Plate #1 of 3|
|This is why Ryan felt sick after dinner|
|This face says it all - whipping cream by hand|
|Pretend you're enjoying yourself, Caroline|
|Mmm...Pie. I feel strongly about whipped cream|
|Awkward mirror photo. I look like I'm ripped - must be from carrying all those jerry cans. That or it's the angle of the photo...|