This Monday I found myself engaging in yet another altercation along the lines of “What’s the big deal with this eclipse thing?” and emerged intellectually unscathed and egotistically intact.
It’s a statement I’ve had thrown by people who either missed the bus or had no clue the road trip was going to be such fun.
When it started, for me, months ago with Amos Wekesa’s Facebook post about the opportunity that the solar eclipse presented to Uganda as a country, I was both excited and dismayed because whereas this was GREAT news for us tourism-wise, it was overshadowed by the Minister of Ethics and Integrity pushing a different agenda.
But besides the obvious national benefit, I could see that this was the type of thing that I wanted my children to experience first hand from many angles, because how better to learn science than to live it?
Then, icing on the cake, we were going to be able to view the eclipse in Masindi, my home town, so I could do a long-awaited home run in the process!
Plus, as argued elsewhere, the eclipse weekend meant we could all do a lot more than just glance up into the sky during the couple of minutes the moon was covering the sun.
Surely, there was some divine hand involved in aligning things this way?
To begin with, there was the science projects – at home the kids and I set about creating eclipse sunglasses using manila paper, cellotape and my old negatives:
We later abandoned that because we were told the negatives needed to be black and white, and unprocessed, but not before we tried them out:
So I whipped out a couple of boxes of old floppy disks that I’ve never been able to discard because of how neatly I’d kept them, and eventually found that they were a much better alternative:
But not with manila paper – and rather than buy sunglasses in Kampala, I drove all the way to Masindi to buy my raw materials.
Along the way, we stopped at this most favourite of spots along that road – where Jesus stands. If you’ve never gone up Masindi-Gulu Road, please drive the 90kilometres to this statue just to be awed at the dedication within the carpenters that made this:
Whenever I’m on this road driving up to Masindi, I draw a quick breath when this hillock comes into view, and it reminds me of how some other countries have so few beauties of this nature that they would call this a Mountain:
Then there are these sunsets that we enjoy every day without the eclipse, that your co-driver and wife can capture using a camera phone without you slowing down on Masindi Road:
As some fellow tweeted this weekend, we shouldn’t need the eclipse to remind us of how beautiful our country is – but thank God we had it as an excuse this weekend!
Over breakfast eclipse morning, I was overjoyed to spot these two little birds and wistfully thought about the time in future when I will take up active bird-spotting as a hobby, since Uganda reportedly has the largest number of bird-species per square kilometre in the world:
Then, after breakfast we took a walk round Masindi town to buy up the sunglasses and get into the local economy a little bit.
And I found myself before a fellow at the Masindi Taxi Park who said he had sold 500 pairs that week alone:
And I bought a few more from him:
Then back home we fashioned our eclipse glasses out of floppy disk films and the Ushs2,500-a-pop Chinese made sunglasses:
The kids were ecstatic, even though theirs had an additional layer of black kaveera to protect them even more – on the recommendation of the medical specialists quoted in all the Ugandan media last week:
Eventually we got to the viewing point, whose very existence is another story altogether, and joined with scores of other people we didn’t know to enjoy a natural phenomenon in the general bonhomie that Uganda always serves up to make tourists feel so at home here!
And the rest of the evening was bright yellow, green, orange and fun as we ran through all the ways one could view an eclipse without going blind.
The factory-manufactured-sold-in-dollars eclipse glasses:
The welding glasses:
The pinhole cameras:
And the floppy-disk-film-sunglasses-with-some-kaveera:
And eventually came up with the most fantastic photographs, taken by Laura Mulenga Walusimbi using a filter improvised from a floppy disk and the very willing hands and supportive efforts of her husband:
The eclipse WAS a big deal, and it was more than just the seconds during which the moon was over the Sun: it was the months of anticipation, the people coming to Uganda, the money spent upcountry, the family time spent setting up and enjoying it, and the fact that out of SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, we got to stand under the Sun as it was eclipsed by the moon.