Sunday, July 3, 2011

East Africa Day 48 (Thurs June 30): The Environmentalist is given a reason to Swear Off her Water Purification System

I took a quick shower before breakfast. I couldn’t figure out how to turn the hot water on, nor could I figure out how to turn the shower head on. So I took a semi-bucket shower with cold water, which was quite fun! However breakfast this AM was fantastic! I thought I was quick, but not as quick as the family of Vervet Monkeys that were hanging around my breakfast table! Even though Ben kept a close watch on the monkeys, one monkey stole a piece of bread from right off of my plate, and ate it in the tree next to me! Several other monkeys jockeyed for the best position to steal my two coveted bananas out from under my arm, where I had them tucked for safekeeping. I recorded video – will have to post some other time.

After breakfast I took Ben’s Nature Walk, to view the three crater lakes and to see the countryside from the Top of the World.

The Top of the World is a very tall hill, where you can see the lakes, the countryside, and even Elizabeth National Park off in the distance to the south, closer to the Rwanda border. The trail that we walked is also frequented by local villagers who collect water from the lakes and area streams, but parts weren’t well traveled. It was a different environment, but in some ways more fun than the previous day of Chimp Tracking. We saw several species of birds, Ben explained some of the local crops, and I got to see a water pump that he installed for the local community, as well as the site in the muddy stream where the villagers currently get their water from.

We hiked the circumference of the three crater lakes – once craters, now filled in with water – and had amazing views.

It was a hot day. When we reached the second lake, I took a drink of water from my nalgene. Yes, even though I’d been warned to drink bottled water in East Africa, I decided to bring a water purification system that utilizes a UV ray to kill parasites and junk in your nalgene bottle of water, because I so dislike plastic and bottled water. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, Daraja collects and boils rainwater for the campus community to drink. So there was no need for me to filter water from May 14 – June 15. Since leaving Daraja’s campus on June 15, I have been using my filter to purify tap water. Yes, it doesn’t actually REMOVE the objects in question from the water – the UV ray just rips their bodies apart – but I haven’t gotten sick so I figured I was fine. But this time, after I drank from the nalgene I happened to glance inside of the bottle, and saw that the water was full of small, quickly swimming things.

However, all is well that ends well. Ben looked up the bugs that cause malaria, typhoid and yellow fever when we got back to CVK, and those bugs weren’t the ones in my water bottle. However I packed up my stuff and headed back to Kampala that afternoon, so that I could visit the pharmacist and/or clinic that Ben had referred me to. I went right from the bus stop to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist took two looks at the contents of my nalgene, and declared that I had consumed baby fish or frogs. He told me that I could feed them, and see what they grow into, but also filled a prescription on the spot for an anti-parasite drug, just in case. I never showed any symptoms but I took the meds, just to be safe. Elaine and I decided that the tadpoles/fish should have a chance to grow up, but I didn’t get to find them a home before I left Kampala. I had to leave them in a plastic bottle on her kitchen counter. We won’t think about the fates of the ones that I already consumed. Sigh. From now on, it’s bottled water until I get back to the USA next month. Ben told me that people can trust anything in East Africa – but NOT THE WATER. Sigh. I hate bottled water, but there’s a bottle next to me as I type this.

On another bright note, I met a really nice university student named Dennis, on the bus ride from Fort Portal back to Kampala. He was home visiting his mom and some family members. We had a great talk about higher education access in Uganda – I learned a lot. He was so nice – pointed out the sights as we pulled into Kampala, advised me that it was safe to go to the pharmacy at that hour, that it would still be open, and once we got off of the bus he set me up with a boda driver, to take me to the pharmacy. I cannot stop saying how NICE Ugandans are – I have had so many great experiences, here! I know that I’ll be sad to leave this country within the next two weeks.

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