My Lakeshore Covid Life: A Farewell Story (For Now)

Hey you all, this is Brenda! As I am leaving Edirisa on Lake Bunyonyi — the place where Gorilla Highlands Experts originated from — after a couple of years of dedicated work, I want to tell you a little bit more about myself, reflect on my time here and leave you with a sincere see-you-later (I don’t want to call it goodbye). 

From Village to City to Village

I was born in the Bulisa district in northwestern Uganda, in a small village called Wanseko Town. I am the first born out of four daughters. Living on the shores of Lake Albert, the only thing we knew how to do was swim and collect fish, and the only thing we ate was also fish and cassava posho. Some call it kalo … I never really liked it, up until now, and still I found myself living on the lake side again … 

My sisters and I went to the same school in the village. When our parents separated, unfortunately we had to part our ways too… As for me, one of our aunties brought me to Kampala when I was 12 years old, and that’s where I continued with my studies. The studies of life, you could say. I became a nanny at the age of 14 and Iearned everything from a family I stayed with in Kampala. That’s where I also slowly started to learn how to cook. 

After 14 years of nannying it was a small miracle that I could transition into a career at Edirisa, a simple lodge on beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. I joined Edirisa in August 2018, stayed there in Bufuka, a village in the Kabale district in Uganda, for five months. After that I moved to Rwanda with my boss, where I worked as a nanny to his adorable son Lan — when I say adorable, I literally mean it.

Covid Spoiled It All For Me

I worked in Rwanda for ten months, then came back to Edirisa again in November 2019. This time my efforts where rewarded with a managerial position and that scared me, mostly because I felt like I wouldn’t be able to cook anymore. Luckily I discovered the art of multitasking, so that’s how I managed. It was challenging but also interesting.

But then Covid happened… At first travel shut down, and everybody became isolated. Well, almost everyone. I still saw some people moving around in motorboats and canoes, for these are the means of transportation on Lake Bunyonyi, but not nearly as many as there used to be. There was just no work to do, and this was supposed to be a big year for me… 

I missed cooking so much, I missed the clients, and missed my family too. Since my biological family is really far from where I stay and work, I never get the time to go visit them. My boss and his wife and kids became my close family, the family that I have right here, right now in the Gorilla Highlands region — but unfortunately I couldn’t even visit them in Musanze because Rwanda’s borders were closed.

I miss Lan even more (the little one) and I can’t wait for all this ‘Corona Thing’ to go away so that I can see them. Ohhhh did I mention I’m in love with children? Lan is so grown now and even talks. I do get pictures of him from time to time but my heart needs one of his big hugs.

Because we were not allowed to move for a long time, I decided to engage myself in making pillows and other stuff. I was also trying to plant vegetables and flowers around the grounds. Sometimes I would go swimming or hike around, and also read my Bible.

This is what my days used to look like: I woke up in the morning, showered (note: the bathrooms are 5-10 meters outside of the manager’s semi-permanent house — it’s an ‘open air enclosed shower’ beside the stairs, under the moon, stars, trees and the magnificent blue skies). Afterwards I dressed up, went down (this area is hilly) to the canteen and kitchen which are just some meters away from the lake and where I literally did everything. 

The kitchen was one of my favorite places. Last year, I painted it with almost all of the the colours I could think of. It’s very colourful and I liked it that way. I rarely ate breakfast. I normally began by doing my report, that is if I had any reports to do that particular day.

Then I started making pillows by tearing the stuffing from the mattresses. It was really hard because I used my hands to do all that. It got a little bit painful but it was fun since it kept me occupied. At least I had something to do every morning. All in all I made 30 pillows, both big and small. That’s really how my days went by. 

Sometimes I would go to the market. Even when we couldn’t visit Kabale Town to shop, we still had our Rutinda nearby here, a trading center on the lake. You will find almost every basic thing that you ever need there, with bars, shops, salons, clinics, bank agents, etc.

The market time on Mondays and Fridays is when most of the local people would get together, sell stuff and engage in drinking obushera. That is our local brew. It is meant to be shared, so you will find 5 to 10 people drinking from one giant cup. We are now thankfully back to that kind of life, but for months there was pretty much NOTHING. Everybody was at home; no friends to hang out with, and I was stuck with my two coworkers. Sometimes it got really boring. In the second half of 2020 some customers came, but not for long. And that meant that I didn’t have that much to do. 

The most “exciting” thing that happened to me in 2020, was one night when one of my coworker’s girlfriend showed up and said she was pregnant and wouldn’t go home until he married her…. hahahahhaha… marriage! Our man got so disoriented! I wasn’t entirely sure how I could help him, so I asked him to take the girl to his home and also tell his parents about what was happening. Little did I know that he had already made plans with the girl and had met her parents, so he brought her to Edirisa to spend time!

2021 … A Year of New Opportunities 

But I remained optimistic and ready to embrace 2021 — that’s when we were expecting the interns to be coming in. To be honest, I was anxious about them coming at first. And my boss had warned me that working with volunteers was never easy; my stomach turned hearing that! 

But eventually they ended up being very nice people and I told myself “this is going to be alright”. Their arrival really changed a lot of things. I was no longer bored, as I had people to talk to. Especially me and Mari got along very well, and we would go out and do fun things, like going to the market, cooking together or go dancing. We have grown to be really close to each other and I can now say one of my best friends is a Belgian (although I often say she’s actually a Ugandan in a white skin, ha-ha). 

In the meanwhile, my coworker and his girlfriend have married, and they even had a little baby girl! She is so cute that I had to spoil her with gifts, me and Mari went to the market in Kampala and bought her all pink and soft baby clothes!

This brings me to a job opportunity that was offered to me when we were on the way back from the capital. I’m excited, anxious and sad at the same time. Sad that I am going to leave the place that I have grown to love and care about, anxious about the new job at an Airbnb on Entebbe Road, but excited for the new possibilities that are coming my way. But I have learned to be optimistic and eventually things always work out.

And I’m sure one day I’ll be back at the shores of this lake.

featured photo by Mari Goossen

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  1. Oh how memory can be selective, ha ha. What about the fact, Brenda, that you just couldn’t make one of the interns fit in and that he left rather abruptly? These arrangements are always a hit and miss … Anyways, this is just my cheeky way to wish you a happy birthday. 😉