Leaving Kibale was very hard! Jeff and I realized shortly before going that we had lived together in our house there longer than we had lived together anywhere else. We loved our house and the forest and the community. It was so comfy and so beautiful and so friendly. So it was very hard to leave. And all we can do is think about how soon and how we are going to get back there.
I think we may have also had an impact on the people we were living around because many of them seemed very sad to see us go and our last few weeks were an ensemble of “goodbye” events. The first was a going away party for Jeff at
The teachers decorated the library with tons of streamers, fresh flowers, and decorations. They bought soda and food (even meat), which the cook made for the party. It was quite the event. They set up a generator and a stereo system and had music playing. And many people gave speeches about how much they appreciated Jeff and would miss him. They talked about the trips he took them on to see chimps, monkeys, the savannah, and other parts of the National Parks in
Next, we had the Team Krista Football Match! My field assistants noticed some time back that I actually employed enough people to make a football (soccer) team, including subs. So they suggested we make a team and challenge the local village team that has a very good record (Kanyawara). Well, I fired off some of their colleagues and that brought down the size of our team. Plus, two of my employees were women who weren’t going to play, so that also brought down the size of the team. So we gathered some recruits. They were logical recruits, though, really. Of course, we had Jeff (he has to be part of Team Krista). Then there was another Kasiisi Project volunteer working with Jeff who is taking a break before college and came here for a few months. He was apparently a star soccer player in the
The game was ROUGH! Seriously. At one point, someone tripped Jeff and Jeff’s body went flying up into the air and OVER the top of the other person. He landed on his side. He got up and walked right off the field. I’m telling you, I was IMPRESSED. He played for most of the first half with these really hard core guys! And he did well! Anyway, he was finished and his hip later became black, literally black. And the bruise was about the size of a paperback novel. A big rectangle on his hip. It has been about 3 weeks and the bruise is still there. Ouch!
Anyway, Team Krista Won the match! (I forgot to mention, my guys wanted red shirts, so we got bright red shirts with white letters that said Team Krista on the front and each persons name labeling their own shirt on the back. And we got matching shorts. These guys were looking smart.) We were so excited about winning! The guys played so well. There were three star players and we had promised Jeff’s shiny blue soccer ball to the MVP (we first had to explain what that was). Stod was the standout defence guy. Seezi did an awesome job on offense. But without a doubt, the quiet Mutebi Michael came out as the MVP. He was so intense working the ball down the field and scoring one of the three goals. It was great. He and Stod are from the same village, which is about 8 kms from Kanyawara and they play on their village team there, so they were both really thankful to get the ball. It was so classic
At the gate, we were greeted by an angry mob. That is right, an angry mob. The soar losers had decided to riot and refused to let my FAs pass. They were saying it was because of what Michael did to the goalkeeper, but it wasn’t. When we told them we offered to pay, they didn’t care. They just came up with other excuses. After some time arguing and hearing so many threats, like that they were going to beat Michael up if he tried to pass, I told Michael he could stay with us at the field station for the night. I also told him that he could throw it back in those guys’ faces because he would be staying in a fancy place, with electricity, and running water. I mean, that is luxury. Stod, who as I mentioned before is from the same village as Michael, also did not feel safe to pass, so he came back with us too. This is the first time we have ever really felt unsafe at Kibale. And it is just because of a couple of stupid jerks who can’t keep a job and suck at life, to be honest. It was sad. The next day, we were getting all sorts of messages from people saying that they hoped we knew it wasn’t the whole village that felt that way, it was just these few guys who were being bad. That everyone in the community was so upset and wanted us to know they supported us, and things like that. So that was nice.
As it happened, we found a car that was heading out of the field station and we got the field assistants home safely that night. They didn’t even have to stay an hour later. It doesn’t take much to fool a big, stupid mob, as it turns out. So there it is. The match, the victory, the mob.
This wasn't even the worst of it:
Next, we had our going away party at the field station. Alex, our chimp researcher friend who is a Bulgarian that goes to Harvard, and Emily, our Ugandan friend who manages the chimp project, planned a going away party for us at the field station. It was great! They planned for food and bought tons of food and sodas and hired cooks to make a great party for everyone. The field station provided the space and the sound system. Emily had given me a traditional Rotooro dress (the culture of where we live) for my birthday, so I wore that to the party. It was quite a production, as you will see from the pictures. But everyone was thrilled to see me in the dress. They all wanted to know if I would be wearing it in
The party was great. It was very classically Ugandan. It was supposed to start at 6 pm, so Jeff and I went over about 1.5 hours late and were early. How lame, being early to our own going away party. But once we got there, people started showing up all over the place and it was probably good for us to be there so we could talk to them each a little bit before everything started because we didn’t have time to talk to everyone during the party. There was a head table where we sat with Jerry, the director of the field station. We started with speeches… lots of speeches. Kato, one of the field station administrators was the MC. He had Emily go first. She gave a nice welcome speech and told everyone why she “hates Krista”. It was a great speech. She talked about how I basically kept turning up at Chimp House trying to befriend her and she kept trying to get rid of me thinking that I was going to be yet another researcher who has a short stay and never comes back. But then, as she went through her story, she talked about all the things that happened between us and how she realized I was different, I was so friendly, and how we became great friends. She talked about when I introduced her to Jeff when I came back for my full study and how he was just looking at every ant on the ground seeming totally overwhelmed by the place, but that he is now a pro at knowing which ants bite and which don’t and so on. She had Pani with her as she made her speech and said I was the Number 1 nanny for Pani because I would come down at night to help take care of her before she was able to hire a nanny. It was nice.
So I was the guest of honor, which I protested saying that Jeff and I should both be the guest of honor, too, but that was knocked down. That was actually really nice, to be honest. After so many times of having Jeff getting more respect than me for being a man here, it was kind of nice that they made a point to have me be the guest of honor. That might sound a bit selfish, but it was ok. Plus, it made for great fun as everyone talked about the guest of honor and her husband. They also started calling him the handsomest man at the party. So that was nice. They also eventually just decided we were one and so they would talk about the One, or one half or the other half. People got really into that – calling us One. Kind of cute! They tried to keep the speeches balanced to reflect Jeff, then me, Jeff, then me, and so on. So they had
We feasted on so much food. There was beef, there was cabbage, there was matooke (starchy banana), rice, irish potatoes, peas, g-nuts (roasted peanuts), and popcorn. I also made punch out of mix sent to us in a care package. There were crates of soda and the canteen was serving up other drinks. Once everyone was completely full, we started dancing. It was very fun. At first, they had Jeff and I open the dance. We danced a bit and then had others join in with us. People were being a bit slow about joining in on the dancing, so they had the Mzees, the old men of the field station, do a dance. The old director and the new director got out on the floor and started dancing to a really funny song (no idea what it was). They were doing some awesome moves and then the station manager, Charles Ddumba, who was dj’ing joined them. Very fun. Slowly, people started dancing until we had a full floor. It was quite a feat dancing with that huge dress on, but I did it. Well, that is until I dropped the wrap on the bathroom floor and had to go home and change. People slowly dwindled down until there were about a dozen of us left dancing until after 2 am. It was very fun. I had made a few cds for the party and there were a few
A few days after the party, I had all the field assistants come to the house for their last pay, to go over a few remaining questions, and to get lots of presents from us. I asked everyone to bring a cup and spoon since I knew we would be packing ours. And we served Tea, Coffee, and Snacks. Everyone enjoyed eating all the yummy American snacks that were sent to me for Christmas and showed up 5 months later at the end of April. At one point, they asked what some of the Kashi cookies were that they were eating. I said they were cookies and then everyone was repeating it trying to say it “cooookie”, “cokie”, “cookie”. It was sooo cute! And they asked if I baked them. That made me laugh out loud. You know me and that propaned powered burner can work miracles. I wish I could bake cookies on the stove top!
We then unloaded on them all the things from our house, which they were PUMPED about. Then we went back to the lab where I continued to give them all things. They all got at least one pair of shoes and one pair of boots, which they were pretty pumped about. I just kind of held things up and whoever was the first to raise their hands got it. Stod got a pair of Jeff’s shoes that are kind of these low, stylish, slip-on sneakers that he had bought in
Of course, the goodbyes didn’t end there. Everywhere we went, everything we did, people were saying goodbye to us. It often takes a long time to walk anywhere or do anything in
Somehow, we still managed to get a few things done in the mist of all of this. We packed up our whole house and lab and gave away every spare thing we had. (We are talking about a whole room full of gifts to give away – we had so many things to give away of our own and then people who visit always leave things to give, and even some people send things to give away.) But everyone loved their gifts. Those who we did continue to see wore their new clothes proudly. That is something I have always enjoyed about Ugandans – when you give them a gift, they like to show it off to you by wearing it. Even things as simple as socks, I have had people point to them and say, “do you remember these?” My response is always “not really, but I’m assuming I gave them to you since you are showing me.”
Saying bye to all sorts of people on our village walk and baby showing off the dress that my mom snuck away from Baba to give away in Uganda. I hope they both think it was worth it because it looks so cute!
Jeff and I also went out into the forest to say goodbye to it. This was crucial for me. The forest was a huge part of my life while in
On our last morning in Kibale, we tried to make it so that we wouldn’t be seeing many people, but we still had many visitors stop by to see us off. My cook, Abwooli, and her best friend and the KEP cook, Alice Akiiki, hung out in the kitchen helping us to finalize things and taking out the piles of goods that we were leaving for Abwooli. Akiiki was saying her goodbyes to me and started to cry, then Abwooli started to cry, then I started to cry. There was so much to do that morning and I had just been rushing around for the past week and it was continuing that morning. And it was probably good because the only down time I had, when I was hanging out in the kitchen talking to Akiiki and Abwooli, I ended up sobbing. I think that would have been me the whole time, if there wasn’t so much to get done and worry about. Jeff also had his moments and it was just so sad to think about leaving. It still is! Pulling away from the field station for the last time, Jeff lowered his head and cried.
But finally, we were packed in the car and off. We drove past the waving field assistants, the waving school kids, past the gate that says “tell others that Kibale is wonderful!”, past the big sloping meadows full of cows, past the fields of veggies, and the swamp. We drove through the tea and onto