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long time no see

The two years we lived in Nairobi, we made annual trips to nearby Kampala to play in the Seven Hills Classic Ultimate Frisbee tournament and see a bit of Uganda on the side. With our car still bouncing along somewhere on the high seas en route to East Africa, the tournament seemed like the perfect pretext to get out of Kigali and do a bit of traveling, which we had yet to do in our almost two months in country.

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The best part of returning to this region has been seeing a lot of familiar faces. There were only a handful of people we recognized on the Nairobi Ultimate team, but there were plenty of Ugandans who greeted us with open arms and big smiles as if we had been wandering around lost these last few years and had at last made it back home where we belong. Just as importantly, there were also a lot of fresh, new faces and new teams, which speaks to Ultimate’s rising popularity in the region.

Unlike the first two times – when we played on a competitive Nairobi team that made the finals both years and won the tournament once – this time D harbored no great illusions about winning. The last time we had gone to practice – two weeks before the tournament – it looked like Kigali wouldn’t even send a team to Seven Hills, and D was prepared to join a random group of Canadians as a pickup player. He was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find that enough Rwandans made the long trek by bus to Kampala to field a team.

Considering how little they had prepared for the tournament, the Kigali team did better than D had reason to hope. After losing two close-fought games 6-7 and 6-8, Kigali ended the first day of group play with a convincing 11-3 win and started the second day with an equally steady 7-3 victory over Nairobi – the only team D had really cared about beating. Unfortunately, the last round-robin game ended quite a lot worse for D than the one before it. Three points into the game, D positioned himself for a jump disc; his opponent went up early and, after missing the disc, landed with his cleats squarely on D’s ankle. Worse than the pain, which was immediate and considerable, D had to watch the rest of the game from the sideline as his team again came up just short, losing 4-5.

Despite the 2-3 record, Kigali’s performance gives D plenty of hope. The close losses and solid victories are indicative of a team that has the athleticism and potential to do really well, but is held back by lack of training and discipline on the field. Those are both things that can be improved on, and D plans on working on them as soon as he stops limping. It had been our intention all along to leave after the round robin games, and with D’s injury there really was no point in remaining at the fields.

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The first time we came to play in the Seven Hills Classic, we only spent half an extra day in Uganda – barely enough time to take a boat trip out on Lake Victoria to visit the chimpanzee sanctuary on Ngamba Island. The following year, we ventured a little further afield, travelling to Jinja to go rafting on the Nile. This year, we took advantage of the Monday Eid holiday, tacked on a couple of extra days of leave, and went on safari to Murchison Falls National Park.

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