Entebbe or not Entebbe

Entebbe or not Entebbe. That is the question. For me it was a no brainer. My wife, Nancy, thought otherwise. That is why I found myself tagging along like the tail on a comet, headed for Uganda’s Murchison Falls, Kibale Forest, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and ultimately, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to track gorillas.

Frankly, I was nervous. I mistrusted Uganda. This was the home of Idi Amin less than 28 years ago. A little more than a month ago Alice Lakwena, the warrior priestess who convinced her followers that she could protect them from bullets by anointing them with oil, died in a Kenyan refugee camp. But her spirit lives on in her cousin, Joseph Kony, head of the Lord's Rebellion Army. The LRA is still active in Northern Uganda where it has so far been responsible for the displacement of close to two million people, the deaths of tens of thousands and the abduction of 20,000 children, fodder, no doubt, for his army. In an interview Kony said that he was fighting for the Ten Commandments. One of those says, Thou shalt not kill.

The airport at Entebbe is different from most other airports. This is where the Israelis performed their daring raid on February 27, 1974 and freed 289 hostages, killing six hostage takers and 49 of Idi Amin's soldiers in the process. Of course, the raid did not take place in the new and bustling building that I walked through after my arrival on 21 February 2007. As I drove out of the airport I could see an old, decrepit building with an overgrown landing strip, much shorter than the one my plane had just landed on. This was the site of the raid on Entebbe, made into two Hollywood movies and an Israeli one. Across the road, on the left, was one of the two airplanes used in the raid. This one had the fake markings of the Ugandan air force painted on by the Israelis. The plane is a memorial that can't quite decide if it really wants to be. If I hadn't asked, we would have passed right by it. There isn't so much as a placard marking the spot. What would it be a memorial to? Maybe that's the problem.

Curtains of lake flies hung over the road. A flight stewardess had warned us about the hordes of mosquitoes hovering everywhere. Had these really been mosquitoes, Entebbe would have been a perfect surrogate for one of Dante's circles of hell. The flies were certainly the size of mosquitoes. They even looked a bit like mosquitoes. But they were harmful to no one, churning away in the air looking for nothing other than a mate. They struck me as a sad lot, rising from the lake's environs, frantically shifting in the air like miniature schools of fish, mating and then dying, all in the course of one day. Does it seem longer to them? Are they exhausted after all that seeking and rutting? Are they just as glad the end is near? And what is the point of nature's joke: packing a lifetime into a single sunrise and sunset?

The Earth is a peculiar place.

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