A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WANDERLUST

It’s the journey more than the destination

Holiday Series: #1 Off To Kenya

January 10, 2021

I took the plunge; I traveled out of Uganda to finally take my leave and have fun in Kenya!

Funny how talking to someone dear to me changed my mind about traveling. Well, he didn’t exactly change my mind about it but convinced me enough to re-think about joining my friends in Mombasa. Which, by the way, I should have done two weeks before, but I didn’t.

So here I am, in our castle #QueensChateau along Galu Beach.

Dhidhak photos (Mombasa, Kenya 2021)

But what brought me here was not without a hitch, which almost made me want to turn back, if I am that superstitious, which I am not.

Midnight run

Uganda still has a curfew at 9 PM. To make the trip to the airport after that time, I decided to go the official way, hire our organization go to taxi services. Good, I did that because to reach the airport, I was stopped five times – yes! 5 times!

The first checkpoint was not far from #TheSummit, and it was the one that asked many questions before we were let go. The rest is mere routine, but still best to be driven by someone allowed to be on the road after curfew.

Because of the curfew too that I almost had an accident pfffttt! πŸ™„

As we moved from our second check-point, getting out to the #LugogoBypass, turning to the right, one car was speeding in our direction — good thing my driver was alert and managed to avoid a head-on collision and the vehicle swerved but didn’t slow their speed. I suspected that those party-goers (it being a Friday) were intoxicated and were avoiding a check-point.

The sudden bright light in front of us woke me up while the driver slammed the breaks. When they passed us, they were still laughing as if nothing happened. I was shaken a bit after not being out at night for over ten months, and I was not expecting it.

Checking In

I will only be away for a couple of weeks, but I felt like I am not coming back for a month — I have 19 kilos of luggage and a back-pack. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I just want to make sure I have everything I need since it is my first time in Mombasa.

It’s an early morning flight. I was expecting the airport will be quiet or at least not swarming with people – I was wrong. There are long queues, big suitcases. Four flights are flying at the same time as me, so you know what I mean.

The organization at the airport was right – I’ve sent off people, so I know that they were following SOP. All my documents were in order

negative covid-19 test – βœ”
within the time limit – βœ”,
passport with a valid visa – βœ”,

and when I reached my airline counter, additional documents were validated —

registration and passenger are tracing QR code available – βœ”βœ” again!

One thing that irritates me, though, is that people, despite plenty of reminders around the airport to keep distance and stickers on the floor where to stand when lining up — they come to close and breathe over my neck (not literally because they have their masks on tho). I kept looking back and giving them the eye, and if it doesn’t work, I asked them to move! Snobbish right? Well, I am still a bit paranoid, traveling, or being in crowded places, knowing that I am the only one following the rules.

It was a precedent to my karma that morning — it’s already Saturday when I checked in! When it was my turn, I put my heavy bag to be checked using my non-dominant arm and twisted my wrist – bummer! I knew I sprained my wrist and without ice, it will hurt and slow me down. The pain was immediate, and I had no access to ice; I asked the cafeteria, but they don’t have any, even the water was not cold enough to offer relief.

My flights are short, and I know that by noon I will be in Mombasa, and I can buy something to get it set until it recovers. Good thing I carried my hot/cold pack, which I can use until it heals completely.

I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in karma — it just keeps happening to me to ignore.

I tried to make less movement as I could, but I made the mistake of putting my backpack overhead. When I took it out in Nairobi, the pain increased, and I regretted my lack of anticipation. The next flight was much better.

Off to the castle

#QueensChateau is waiting for me. It took an hour and a half and one free ride to get to Diani.

Arriving very early in Nairobi, I didn’t have a chance to go to a pharmacy to get a bandage and cold spray, so the first order of business to my driver in Mombasa is to the bank and pharmacy and get this wrist strain controlled.

The first half of the trip, the amount of complaint I had with the heat will make you think I don’t live in a tropical country. Only when we turned to Ukunda that I started to feel I am on the coast. The breeze turned fresh and cool, with very low humidity even during the middle of the day.

When I arrived at our lodging for the first week of my holiday, I was happy to be home!

I started writing this couple of hours before the calendar changes to 2021 in Uganda while getting ready to welcome the new year on my balcony with my wine, anticipating the sporadic fireworks displays even though I know it is not allowed. Unfortunately, barely 30 minutes before ushering in the new year, the skies cracked …

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Christmas In Our Hearts

December 17, 2020


In all my travels and time spent living overseas, I can count in one hand the number of times I didn’t spend Christmas at home. I always make it a point to be home in time for the big day because I can. It was one perk I bragged to friends when we compared notes and the benefits of our work.

Last years homecoming … embracing all that is shiny and bright

I started my sojourn around Asia, then I moved further, but I always get to go home for one of the most festive seasons we have back in the Philippines. Why would you miss the holidays that literally starts when the “ber” months start. Songs and food begin to permeate your daily life, and some even begin to deck the halls and go full blast after the “Halloween” decorations are down.

πŸ§‘πŸ»β€πŸŽ„πŸŽ…πŸ»

When I first joined the Uganda team in 2018, I knew I would spend my Christmas in the country, arriving only four weeks before there’s no way my organization will send me back home, and my salary won’t allow me yet to travel that far and that long.

Instead, I talked to my friend and asked if I can spend time with his young family. Sil was my flatmate for a year when I was in Palestine, and he’s Ugandan. When he learned I am coming here; he introduced me to his family. The family I only knew from pictures back then are now my neighbors. My first visitor when I arrived was his wife Martha and the last born Michael – the little man was born the same time as my dad, so he’s a kindred soul. So we sealed the deal, and Martha was so gracious to accommodate me.

Martha and Michael welcomed me on my second day of arrival in Kampala

The celebration here is never comparable to the one we have back home. There no deck the halls nor blasting Christmas music everywhere. But what I experienced was a toned-down celebration, preparation of self for the arrival of Jesus Christ. I cherished the two weeks I was with the boys — since I was in their room, we got to hang out. I’ve grown attached to them that I allowed them to call me “auntie Josephine” while I refused others to call me that, let alone auntie 😁

Back then they are two … now they are three

Celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at the Opus Dei chapel

Me with the whole Kasozi family and relatives

The leader of the band … VJ and Mathy

Those little smiles – Christmas day out with the Kasozi kids

πŸ§‘πŸ»β€πŸŽ„πŸŽ…πŸ»

But the best Christmas experience I had away from home was in 2016 when I had the profound experience of following Christ’s birth to where he was born – in Bethlehem. Oh yeah! It was surreal to think that I was in the place where it all happened, like being transported by Gizmo in Superbook.

Although I’ve been in Israel for a while before Christmas and visited the holy sites many times, when I was there during the season, I can’t help but feel to be the luckiest person alive. I was not a tourist; I was a pilgrim. I immerse myself in the whole experience, the entire nativity, according to the bible, to how we were taught in school. It was the best celebration ever!

Day parade … with friend Vincent at the Bethlehem grounds

Night festivities … lights, people, food, and music

Now, for a covid-19 reason, I am not going home. The pandemic had dampened my desire to be home, even though I missed my dad and my family. My sister and I – who’s in Rome, agreed that we would not risk ours and dad’s health by spending Christmas back home. He understood because he has quarantined himself too, only allowed to be in his garden.

Back home, people are still attending “simbang gabi,” a novena, nine days before Jesus Christ is born and social distancing they tried so hard.

There will be “puto bumbong” – Christmas dessert made of steamed rice, colored in purple, coated in muscovado and coconut shaving, at the church gates. A must-try if ever you find yourself in my country during the Christmas holiday season. There’s also the steamed rice cake “bibingka” topped with salted eggs, cheese, and more coconut shavings. Two of the many Christmas food I crave when home.

Despite the distance, our family is never far from us and the images of the season are always fresh in my head.

New Year 2020 (Philippines/2020)

Our last family new year photo in yellow theme

πŸ§‘πŸ»β€πŸŽ„πŸŽ…πŸ»

I learned a long time ago that I would need to make sacrifices, one of which is being away from people I love. Thanks to digital technology, we feel closer to each other. Though it is different, it’s the best we have, especially now that a virus cripples the world. Nobody knows where it’s from and when it will go away.

Here now, I am trying to channel the holiday spirit and feel a little festive. Although if you see around me, my house included, it’s hard to tell if it is indeed Christmas season. I celebrate the friends I have and the reason I am here.

Back then and now, Kampala never gave that festive vibe, You can feel it in malls, but that’s all you can get. I haven’t been to church for a long time, and I have not heard live choirs and seen happy faces in places of worship. Regardless of where I spend the holidays, the spirit will always be there.

Saying that I am still in that “should I stay or should I go” indecisiveness. Although since yesterday, sixty percent of the people I talked to encouraged me to visit Kenya, others tell me to go to Zanzibar – which I missed last time I am in Tanzania. As I said, I still have the weekend to think things through, and before you know it, I might be sipping coconut juice out of its natural container somewhere in the region.

What is important is that we never forget the reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ, and all that follows are the fruit of him being born into this world.

Happy weekend everyone!