The word on Mbale

We've spent a very pleasant few days in Mbale. As I think is becoming clear, Lira is a nice little town, but with a very strong emphasis on "little." Not that it doesn't have its charm, because it does. But as a small town in what was until recently basically a war zone, there are a number of challenges to life in Lira. At least as far as I'm concerned. I'm hopeful that with the start of the rainy season, things will pick up a bit in terms of the surrounding environs and the food available at the markets and such, but at the end of the day, Lira is a small town in a tough location. Tough ecologically (dry), tough socially (TINY), tough economically (still recovering from the rebels).

So with that in mind, Mbale is markedly bigger, more stable and just generally more pleasant. It's located in Eastern Uganda, at the base of Mount Elgon, a massive sprawl of a mountain that erupts out of the plains pretty unexpectedly. From town you can see the mountain just sort of looming over everything, and when the clouds around the mountain clear, you can even see a few waterfalls. Being country folk from the mountains forested hills of Oregon, just having that mountain out there makes us feel a whole lot better. I can't really explain it.

But even beyond that, Mbale just feels like a city with a pulse, a life of its own. We wandered around a sweet market for a few hours, and picked up a Lakers jersey for Luke and a sweet Obama watch that is probably the size of a bread plate. I almost got my long-long guitar, but I couldn't get the guy down to a reasonable price. Alas. I'll keep trying.

And then today. Secret Agent Mission Codename Hijack the Disco. Mbale Resort Hotel, we had heard from a few people, is the place for relaxing. There's even a pool. Now, we weren't about to pay to stay in such an upscale joint, but we figured we could just sneak in. ha

Now the secret to such things is not to slink around like some shady dude, but to walk right in like you own the place. So we did. Nodded at the guards, who opened the gate right up. Sauntered past the reception desk with a friendly hello, like we'd done it a million times. Cruised up to the pool, dropped off our things and got changed. Cool like a cucumber.

Then one of the guys walks up and asks us if we'd like towels. Of course we do. Hot, mon. Sure, no problem, just head up to the window and grab them. At this point, I couldn't believe how smooth we were. At the window, the nice lady hands us two towels. And the book, to sign in. And then, just as cool, charges us. 5,000 shillings each. Like she'd done it a million times.

Damn. Luckily that only set us back about $5. Money well spent. I guess that we sorta stand out around here after all.


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