By Titus Kakembo
I was at the Birding Expo recently when I met a lovely American girl at Mabamba Swamp. As we boarded the wooden boat, I managed to break the ice with ease.
“So which part of America do you come from?” I asked.
This was after our conversation had touched on several subjects ranging from the number of birds I have seen, and how tortuous winters can be.
Quickly, Anna Bushchet told me she was travelling with her American husband, Erik Ostrander and they had two children. She had guessed I was with the media given my camera and inquisitiveness.
Her eyes twinkled when she smiled. I suspect this is what stole Bushchet’s heart when he first clapped his eyes on her.
“Why do Americans like giving people tips?” I asked.
Anna’s face revealed surprise and she sucked in a deep breath like she had been hit in the belly unexpectedly.
“Oh I am sorry,” she cooed like Queen Elizabeth when she was here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007. “Tipping to American is like sunrise to Uganda – do you feel offended?”
I told her it was alright.
“All American birders I have met are always making comparisons to their home and they call God ‘gad’,” I said. “But I know under the loud, brash exterior is an ebullient American friendliness. They engage me in conversation, they exchange Facebook info, and they do not scurry off as though I am trying to rob them when I approach them to take a photo.”
Later, we saw Kingfishers of different types, a black weaverbird and a Grey African parrot spotting its grey and visually squealing red feathers. Then came the long-awaited Shoebill.
“Oh my God there it is!” screamed Catherine Hamilton from Los Angeles. “I have been looking for this bird since I was six. And here it is – all mine.”
The bird flapped its wings as if it was flying away. It then turned and looked at the boat. For a split second, I thought I saw it wink and smile for the photo opportunity.
Our acquaintance took a break as the American birders travelled to Lake Mburo National Park, had a boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth National Park and tracked gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. We met again at the Uganda Museum during a business forum.
“In Uganda, we have different tribe groups that can be identified by how they dance,” revealed Private Sector Foundation CEO Steven Asiimwe. “The Bantu dance by spinning their waists like they have rubbery pelvic girdles. The Luo nod their heads. And the three Rs stamp their feet hard on the ground.”
He said there are still gaps that need filling to make Uganda the most preferred destination.
“You could drop in at the Uganda Investment Authority for tips on opportunities in place,” said Asiimwe. “But recovery from the abhorred virus is in full gear. People are vaccinating as if it were the fashion.”