Better Globe Forestry's test farm, located in Kenya
Winston Churchill once called Uganda “the pearl of Africa,” a vast and glorious land with its own magic. It is a country that exudes charm at every rocky corner, every tree-covered hill, every smiling face living within its cities. It is a country that is alive and breathing, with its own hopes and aspirations. It serves its inhabitants gracefully, and it gives its visitors the sights of a lifetime.
I had the pleasure of experiencing the wonders of Uganda with my own eyes, and still I took only a glimpse of the beauty that exists in East Africa. The countries of Kenya and Uganda are nothing short of phenomenal; yet they could not be more different. In one country, I felt rugged and connected to the Earth. In another, I felt liberated and at touch with its people.
The earth that exists in Kenya is red and stuck to my clothes and skin. I constantly found myself cloaked in a thin layer of dust. On some days, it seemed the only thing in my line of sight was the dry countryside, with trees scattered along the way. On other days, trees that were carefully planted towered above me, stretched toward the sky. I wondered how the Earth could have contorted in such a way that created Kenya and all its overwhelming rifts and valleys. It was almost as though in those moments, all the world’s energy existed in Kenya and nowhere else.
The Kenyan people are a quiet kind. They walk barefoot along the same red dirt I stepped through as a tourist. Their lives exist in the dry land. Water isn’t accessible through a tap, or a well. Water is a chore. It is a necessity that usually exists in a naturally occurring hole, and can only be carried in large yellow jugs that weigh more than I can handle. Every night I returned to my hotel room and praised indoor plumbing, but also cursed it for only being available to me and not those who really needed it.
In Kenya, the trees grew strong and tall. To say working on the plantations requires skill and patience is an understatement. It requires strength, diligence, and a passion for others to do what those workers do. And it takes strength for Kenya’s women to participate in these programs, to engage their opportunities for themselves and their families.
From the beautiful drylands of Kenya, we made the journey to the pearl of Africa. Uganda’s rolling hills welcomed us like wide-stretched arms. They ambled past as we rode our bus through the winding mountains that grace the countryside. We reached to the highest parts until we could no longer climb. I still think about those children who must trek the hills every day simply for school. To them, education is a cornerstone of success. To them, it is everything.
But by far the most influential sights of our trip were the wide smiles and gentle faces of Uganda’s children. They carried melodies and dances and welcomed us as though they had been waiting for our visit for years. I had never seen so many reasons to smile in my lifetime. I had never heard such powerful music from such small humans. Their words echoed in my head, and melted my heart.
I will perhaps never see another sight that will compare to what I saw in Africa. I will never see a child’s face the same. I am grateful for the company we received, forever in awe at the lush scenery, forever changed by the miracles right in front of me.
If Uganda is a pearl, then East Africa is the treasure.