Today is the release day for my holiday novella, The Kampala Peppermint Twist.I know, I know. It's a strange name for a Christmas story.
|A road in Uganda. Jack Stimpson, cc-by-2.0.|
Crazy, right?But Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, in East Africa, is where I grew up. And this is the first time I've written about it.
Homes in Kampala. Yes, people live like this.
Brian Wolfe, cc-by- 2.0.
Sometimes, we need a certain distance before we can write about a place. Ernest Hemingway supposedly said he had to leave Paris to be able to write about Paris. Whether he really said that or not, maybe there's a certain truth to it. Perhaps distance gives us perspective.
It's been a while since I've been back and I really miss it. My sister and I were recently hanging out and all we could talk about was Uganda. Until finally we just looked at each other and said at the same time, "We should just go together."
Thus plans are in the works. (Although my sister, who writes almost exclusively about Africa, is, in fact, heading there before me — for Christmas.)So I thought I'd take this post to fill in a bit about the setting of my book.
Most people seem never to have heard of Uganda. But its nickname is "The Pearl of Africa." It is on the equator, on the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa (and second-largest freshwater lake after Lake Superior). It's where the Nile River is born.
Jinja, the source of the Nile River.
Of course, my characters had to take a trip on one of these boats. Niels Js, cc-by-2.0.
It's the most ethnically diverse country in the world. And the climate is just — perfect.
Parasol and rain gear and you're set for Uganda!
My sister and I in Kampala, so many years ago I'm not dating this pic.
I could wax poetic about the lush vegetation, the fertile soil, the vibrantly colored flowers and birds. Birdwatchers, this is your kind of paradise.
Crested cranes, Uganda's national bird.
Luz Montera Espuelo, cc-by-sa-2.0.
And people are so friendly and courteous; it's like coming home every time.
R to L, my grandmother, sister and I on the back deck (a few years ago ;) .
The elephants are a lot rarer these days.
I could also bemoan the fact that the large herds of elephants of my childhood have been decimated by poachers.
Or that it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. And I mean poor beyond your worst nightmares.
I actually went to a school like this, only ours was wealthier:
We had slates and a piece of chalk to take notes. Also, the teacher had a chair.
I could also say that this is where I've known some of the most remarkable, courageous, giving people ever — and you'll meet composites of some of them in my story.But the first thing I think of when someone mentions Uganda is joy. The very word makes me smile. Because what Uganda taught me is that no matter how bad things get — and they can get plenty bad — that's no reason not to be happy. No one laughs and smiles and rejoices and, yup, parties, like in Uganda. There's an infectious joie de vivre that still carries me through when I'm not there.
|Lake Victoria. JJ, cc-by-2.0.|
So if you've ever felt the urge to visit Africa, put Uganda on your list. You won't regret it.
Milou Koenings is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with a happy ending bring more joy into the world and so make it a better place.