New Era — Double So (Kabale 2004)

This is the fourth instalment of a weekly series that marks 20 years of Edirisa and 10 years of the Gorilla Highlands Initiative. Click here for Part I.

The year was 2004 and a completely new era was underway, not only in terms of Edirisa’s adventures but for me personally, for it became clear that the Logar family was gonna increase by one! Yep, I got pregnant that year … But I will tell you more about Maggie Preggie later in the story.

Our relationship with Omugurusi Karwemera (may his soul rest in peace) had grown deeper and he was eager to entrust us with managing and running his personally, passionately built Bakiga Museum. Within his business building in the middle of Kabale Town he had put up a traditional hut in which he kept different traditional items from the culture of his tribe. The man was born in a hut like that!

Taking on the museum meant that we would start to live in Kabale, allowing me to get back to some kind of civilisation, haha. At Lake Bunyonyi there was no mobile network (Miha would have to climb the mountains separating us from the town to make phone calls) and we often had to visit Kabale for supplies. In town, communication was easy and the Royal and Jamaly Asian supermakets of Kabale had everything you could imagine, so expanding to an urban area was an improvement for Edirisa too. More, we assumed being in the very tourism heart of Kabale would allow us to reach more people. The idea was to establish a one-stop point with a cultural museum, a tourist information center and a coffee shop with crafts — an exciting project wasn’t it?! Well, we weren’t completely right about all that, as you will soon see!

We took over some of the rooms at Akeehogo Kaba Karwemera na Baana Babo (akeehogo is a small private meeting place and the rest means “the Karwemeras and their kids”), a little complex that our entrepreneurial Karwemera had erected for business reasons. Remaking Akehoogo to become The Home of Edirisa was quite an experience by itself! I mean, our part of the building was remodeled big time, with demolition and rebuilding walls, adding a window for more light, and more …

Major efforts were contributed, day after day, by our local staff and volunteers, to whom I remain deeply grateful. Most interestingly, when we put posters around town asking for volunteer help, we did not expect that we would get three gifted young Kabale artists who impressively beautified the place!

As the total remake was taking place, our comfort and privacy was temporarily, but rather severely affected. Miha and I even slept a night in the museum itself, in the hut, with rats as our companions! But we survived the chaos and the dust, and were eventually proud to open a unique site, ideal to emphasise our strong connection with local culture.

Then more action followed! I opened my own little business within the premises, called Da Coast. We served coastal delicacies from the shores of the Indian Ocean, the Swahili Coast. We also had smoothies and juices and a few Slovenia specialties as well. This was, at times, too much of a project just for me, as Edirisa’s staff would not lift their fingers easily, ha ha. It’s all about motivation, I believe, as some of them would later become quite successful in the tourism industry, proving they could work if they wanted.

We were trying everything to maximise our use of the space available (it would take years for us to take over the whole building and add guest rooms), and the pinnacle of this was the “room” I shared with Miha. We added a wooden roof to a toilet that was part of the biggest room and created some privacy with a plywood wall. Each night we would climb up there using a ladder and sleep on a mattress! (It didn’t smell much, if you are wondering.)

This, imagine, was the setting for Maggie Preggie! Margaret is my mother’s name, and I started using it during my primary school years, while the Preggie part was supplied by Miha … Under the paper star constellations that were decorating the ceiling. That’s the romantic part — the practical reality is that it isn’t easy to climb up and down when you wake up in the middle of the night, needing to vomit! You know, the morning sickness and other issues that come with the pregnancy package. But hey, hadn’t I braved and survived the village in the years before?!

Strange things happen to the female brain when another being starts sharing your body, so my 2004 memories are honestly vague. A pregnant brain is not funny, trust me! Still, before and after those physical and emotional weaknesses overpowered me, there were exciting things happening at both The Home and The Heart.

The most unusual of them was the computer game we were making. Kanimba, a Batwa “Pygmy” leader from the other side of Lake Bunyonyi, was our consultant — and model! Headmaster Stanley’s son Comfort would draw Kanimba and then Miha would convert that into pixels, for Michal Dolecek to then move the animations around the screen. The guys created an actual map of Lake Bunyonyi as the setting of the game, every plant and animal would be authentic, and it was funny to watch white colonisers running away when the Pygmy archer would shoot an arrow into their behinds. Called Decoloniser’s Drum, it was based on the legend that a magical drum was hidden somewhere, one that would chase the enemies (the occupiers) away.

With our additional promotion and Karwemera’s weekly radio show on Voice of Kigezi, the museum would became surprisingly popular amongst the Kabaleans! International tourists started trickling in too, but far from what we expected. It totally surprised me how tough it was to convince overland trucks to give us a moment! These were converted big vehicles crossing Africa with tourists sitting high, where the trunk used to be. They would routinely stop in front of the Hot Loaf bakery, literally steps away from us — but there was no way in hell to convince the passengers to pay us a visit! Do you know the feeling of going somewhere with leaflets, only to be turned away again and again, politely or not? It isn’t nice, in short.

However, we got a different captive audience. Our activities at Lake Bunyonyi were going strong, led by Dunja Jezeršek. This girl possessed a different kind of energy, I tell you! She conducted all the swimming and other sports classes at Bufuka Primary School during the week, but that didn’t exhaust her batteries. She would trek with the pupils to Kabale on weekends, to show them the museum and the rest of the town!

She was helped by Irma Šinkovec, a lady that would become very important in the coming years. Irma was the engine of Edirisa in Slovenia, who started library and Batwa projects — and they even published a children’s book about Lake Bunyonyi, written by Marta Satler.

In the meantime, Enyanja Kanyunyuzi Logar was growing in my soon-to-be hippo-sized body. The baby who was thus born into the story will be the writer of our next week’s instalment …

Click here for Part V of the series or check all Edirisa/Gorilla Highlands history stories out.

Responses

  1. Hi guys,
    Really happy to read this article, which brought my memories back from the times when I spent beautiful three months in East Africa, most of it in the Edirisa camp at Laky Bunyonyi.
    Programming the game “The Decolonizer’s Drum” in 2004 was so much fun, and it was definitely the biggest and most sophisticated computer game that I have ever developed. It was an honour to cooperate with a great team of game advisers, graphics designers and sound creators. Although the game stopped working after a couple of years due to new generations of browsers with different versions of Java, I hope that it still entertained people visiting the website of Edirisa back in those times.
    I can’t believe that it is already more than 17 years since I was in Uganda, the time flies so quickly. I wish I could visit the place again and see how it changed till now. And would be nice to meet again the people that I spent time with, like Miha, Pam, Dunja, Irma and many others.
    Kind greetings from Czechia!
    Michal Doleček

    1. Thank you Michal! Reading through makes me feel like it happened yesterday! Yah time flies so fast! Shame that The Decoloniser’s Drum stopped working, was indeed a fun game that felt so real while in the game. My computer skills weren’t that fine then so I struggled with it 😄 would have loved to play it now and show those “colonisers behinds” touch🤩 Cheers

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