Winston Churchill called it the Pearl of Africa. All we know is that the people of Uganda have been occupying our minds and hearts for months now, and we are beyond excited to live with them and serve them for 9 weeks this summer! If you want to be a part of what we're doing, you're in the right place.


The day that changed our lives.

White water rafting the Nile was the best day of our lives. It was SO FUN. Surprisingly enough, I was much more excited than nervous even though this was my first experience with rafting. Jessica was thrilled to continue on with her vast experience in rafting, which amounts to one trip to Yellowstone when she was eight. The rafting package included our transportation so the van picked us up and took us to the source of the Nile at Jinja, which is about an hour away from Mukono. There they fed us a delightful breakfast (full of so much chapatti, our obsession, and endless supplies of pineapple) and prepped us for the rafting. There were about 75 people total on this rafting excursion. They lined us all up and handed out the life jackets and our fancy helmets. They pulled our life jackets so tight that I was afraid a few people might pass out, including myself. Jessica and I looked so classy in our helmets. We weren’t deterred from the many stories of parasites and diseases that accompany any mention of the Nile, so we boarded the bus that took us to our entry point.  Our HELP team was divided between two rafts with seven of us in each. Our raft was the only all girls raft, which prompted much teasing from the other river guides. As we were boarding our raft, the man in charge of this extravaganza said that we were privileged to have Thabani as our rafting guide, who he claimed was the “strongest raft guide in Africa.” After six hours of rafting with him, we were convinced. Thabani was from Zimbabwe and entertained us with fascinating stories about encounters with hippos, lions, and other feisty jungle creatures. When we were getting onto the raft, Thabani asked for the two strongest to take the front of the raft. Interestingly enough, my raft voted fellow teammate Brooke Zollinger and myself. I was confused as to how I suddenly became a “strong one.” But Brooke and I obliged, and took the front as the pacesetters for the paddling. We loved the front! We hit everything first and probably swallowed the most Nile water, but it was such a blast. Jessica and I impressed everyone with our ability to jump back onto the raft at quick speeds while everyone else would still be hanging on to the side of the raft, drowning in the river. It was awesome. I knew that all those years of tubing at Lake Powell would come in handy one day. The river was beautiful! I feel like we have sued the word “green” so often while describing Uganda that it is starting to lose its meaning, but really, it was so green. Our rafting experience consisted of twelve rapids, many of them class five. It was the most thrilling experience. I remember the first time we went through some rapids, which we later found out were a measly class one, we all screamed (well, not Thabani, he just laughed at us).  By the end of the day, if we weren’t barreling down life-threatening waterfalls, we were supremely disappointed. We trusted Thabani with our lives. The approach to any rapid usually included a lengthy pep talk from Thabani where he would lay out our game plan. We would usually enter a rapid by paddling at full speed, but our favorite part was when he bellowed, “Get down!” and we all got to crouch down and cling to the our paddles and the side of the raft for dear life. At one particularly intense rapid, Thabani told us that to paddle as hard as we could until the very last possible moment when he would tell us to get down. We don’t hold it against her, but we had barely entered the rapid when Jessica yelled out, “WHEN DO WE GET DOWN?”even though she was had already pulled in her paddle and was curled up in a ball on the floor of the raft. Oh, how we love the rapids. Although the sights during the calm parts were quite nice. Well, most were nice, others were scarring. At one point, we passed a group of local spectators watching from the shore, and the following conversation took place:
Nicole: “Some people watch TV. Others watch the Nile.”
Jessica: “Some people wear pants. That man doesn’t.”
After that, we averted our gaze from the shore and concentrated on dominating the river.
 We enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to change our life plans and become a river guides and travel the world rafting. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Despite many close calls, we only flipped one time, and we kind of liked it. It reminded me of getting stuck in the waves at the beach when you just get pounded over and over again. It didn’t scare us, but some of our team members were a bit freaked out by the thrashing we experienced. Our teams other raft flipped twice, so we had all the bragging rights, naturally.   During our break for lunch, we were just floating along eating pineapple, and I looked around me, and thought, “I am sitting on a raft. Eating fresh pineapple. On the Nile.” It does not get much better than that. Somehow, none of us found it annoying to mention that we were “on the Nile” every five seconds. We got a disc full of the funniest pictures from the professional photographers that hung out in kayaks as we battled the rapids. We look like absolute savages. I will say no more, and let the million pictures below do the talking.

1 comment:

Kimber and Casey said...


100% jealous of nearly every post thus far!