After breakfast, Bonnie and I decided to walk around town, determined not to have an agenda. It was amazing to see so many different bird species, including eagles and ibises.
Some things are definitely didn’t from America. Walking down the street, many people would cross to the other side of the street to pass us. They drive on the left side of the road, so of course we had to be carefulabout which way we looked when crossing the street. Most people either walk, ride motor bikes or drive vans. Someone might have hit us if it wasn’t for their routine use of the car horn to tell us they were behind us. No sidewalks and not a lot of roadside.
We first explored the west side of town, stopping to watch a soccer game. We passed a flock of turkeys, lots of tethered goats and numerous large termite mounds. We found a very nice park right on the lake and we’re enjoying the birds when Bonnie asked a young man if he knew what species of birds was in the tree. He tells us he is a police officer and shows us a card that says Uganda Police on it. He tells us it is illegal to take photos of the birds and wants to see our ID and take us to the police station. Thank goodness I had world traveller Bonnie with me. If I didn’t, I know I would have suspected a scam/extortion, but I’m not the most assertive person when dealing with people that make me uncomfortable. We walked away from him, while he followed us insisting he was a police officer. He finally decided to stop following us when we got to a more populated area. Police officers in Uganda wear camo uniforms and carry big guns, and people esponsible for security wear uniforms with lots of big numbers and letters. I feel a little more secure.
We changed direction and headed toward the east side of Entebbe. We passed the botanical gardens, which was really a big park, with cars parked on the grass for picnics. We were passed by a constant stream of buses, which turned out to be headed forward the zoo. Hundreds of school children were on a field trip. There were children from 3 years old to junior high age, with the majority looking to be around 8-10. Every group had a different style of uniform, including one uniform of pink gingham. There is definitely not an obsession about hair here, at least not with children. A few little girls, had complicated and beautiful braiding, but most had theirs shaved of like the boys.
The zoo itself was surprisingly nice – large natural habitats with none of the stress behaviors you sometimes see at American zoos (pacing). Garbage cans weren’t as abundant as you’d see in the U.S. and we’re not used very frequently. Bottles and bags were on the ground everywhere, as well as in the exhibits. The mission statement of the zoo is to educate children about the animals and conservation, as well as participate in captive breeding programs. There were signs everywhere asking visitors to not hit the animals with stocks or throw stones at them. In our country, it’s “don’t tap on the glass”!
We’d smile and wave at some of the children, who often looked at us out of the corner of their eye of wave at us. That usually stimulated a furry of hellos, waves and goodbyes from other children. At one point, we’d spotted to rest (and for me to clean after getting slimed by an elephant who wanted to explore me with its trunk. A group of children around 5-7 came up to us and Bonnie “high fives” one of them. All of a sudden there were 30 or more kids swarming us, wanting to high five, shake hands or hug us. A cute little girl sat down between us and picture-taking started. Lots of pictures, with teachers, groups of kids…We became an exhibit much more interesting than any of the animals there. It was an amazing experience!
On our way out of the zoo, buses continued to arrive. Bonnie said that if ever there was a, fine to ask, “if I got hit by a bus today and killed, would I go to Heaven?”, this was it. Yup, I’ve never been so scared of being hit by a bus.
On the way back to the hotel, we found a veterinary clinic, which we stopped at to get a, for and meet the doctor – very different from most (but not all) American hospitals, but much better than some Bonnie has seen.
Tomorrow we look forward to getting to the location of our gorilla trek. The next day we’ll be in the jungle looking for them.