A frantic last day and reflections

Our last night’s sleep in Uganda was interrupted by non-stop drumming through the night, but we all woke up in reasonable spirits. The British Council had confirmed a 13.00 meeting with us and I also had to get the land cruiser cleaned and refueled as Ronnie needed it back at lunchtime (another client needed it the next day and it needed to be serviced). We decided to forego breakfast in order to take a quick walk around the zoo as Henry wanted to see the chimps.

Having checked out of our banda at 09.30, we filled up the car in Entebbe and then had it cleaned down by Lake Victoria. After that we began the drive to Kampala knowing that it would be absolutely manic and that we might be sitting in traffic for some time. The drive to the centre of Kampala was quite reasonable and we began to think that we might be early for our appointment. At this point the sat nav on my phone began to play up and we couldn’t get an accurate position on the location of the British Council’s headquarters. We had a rough idea after last year (when the sat nav worked properly) and after a lot of driving around and Mrs Green’s skills, we eventually made it at 13.00 on the dot.

Getting in to the British Council is a hassle as the security is like Fort Knox, but once we were there we met Maxwell and Harriet, who were both hugely impressed by the work that we have carried out with Kafuro over the last year and who wanted to create a report on it for the regional office. Part of my time next week is going to be gathering together that information. Our meeting lasted just over an hour and was very positive; it’s nice to know how highly the British Council value us.

We left the meeting and met Ronnie who gave us a Toyota Wish to drive for the rest of the day. We then had to get back to Entebbe. The sat nav refused to behave again, so we took a route that involved close inspection of just about every back street in Kampala, but eventually we got to Entebbe for about 17.00. We had intended to go to the cinema, but we had missed our film, so we walked around Lake Victoria for a bit before we headed to Gorettis restaurant to wait for Ronnie. Gorettis is right on the shores of Lake Victoria and ithe waves would lap right up to your feet. However, there has been so much rain recently that the water level has risen and we were met by a wall of sandbags instead. After a few beers, Ronnie turned up and we had a lovely final meal together. He dropped us at Entebbe Airport just after 23.00 and we watched the Olympic Games on a television waiting for our flight to depart.

We arrived back in the UK at 15.40 on Friday afternoon and were home by about 19.00. Thanks to Joe Williams’ dad, Martin, for picking us up.

Each year I try and sum up the main themes of the trip to Uganda. Over the last four years it has been (in order) the vibrancy and colour, the landscape, the joy of teaching and hard work. This year it has most definitely been about seeing Uganda through Henry’s eyes. The impact of Uganda on a fourteen year old is massive and it was fascinating to see his reactions to new situations and rewarding to see how much he has grown from the experience.

In terms of our partnership with Kafuro, it is as strong as ever and I can’t wait for what we have planned for next year. I love working with the children at Kafuro; I love the fact that we are making positive difference to their lives and that our children can learn so much for them too. With Yowasi driving things from a Ugandan perspective, the future can only be bright.

The Twinning Project continues to have an enormous impact on children in the area and the Tag Rugby tournament was an enormous success which seems to have engendered a great deal of goodwill.

The meeting we had with Community Conservation Rangers and teachers may hopefully be something which has a massive long term impact and leads to greater co-operation between the two.

Many thanks to my travelling companions for being such fun. A blog only captures some of the moments from a trip, so there’s so much banter, evening card games and laughter that I haven’t told you about.

And finally, many thanks to all the Ugandan people who have been so welcoming throughout our stay this year. We all can’t wait to visit again.

And finally, finally the answers to Mrs Frost’s last questions. The strangest question we were asked was by a pupil at Katunguru who asked us if white people died. This pupil also asked the funniest when he asked Henry if had a girlfriend. When Henry replied that he was single at the moment, the pupil asked him if he wanted some help in getting one! There was then a show of hands around the girls in the classroom as to who wanted to marry a muzungu. Just about every hand went up!

 

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Uganda 2016 Day Fourteen – Back to Entebbe

Having done the majority of our packing last night, we were up at 05.55 and on the road at 06.35. It is always sad to say goodbye to Mweya, but there was a spectacular sunrise to compensate. We made excellent progress and arrived at Fort Portal at 09.00 for breakfast. When we had finished, Mrs Green and Henry did a bit of shopping while I went to meet Norah, a ranger based at Fort Portal, who is very interested in the work of the Twinning Project in QENP. We had a delightful chat for thirty minutes and I hope that I was able to give Norah some useful information. I have had so many invitations to visit other national parks in Uganda, so next year I need to start taking up a few offers.

We continued to move rapidly across the country and (other than a five-minute stop for drinks at Mudebende) made it to the outskirts of Kampala at 14.00. The traffic in Kampala was busy as usual, but not quite as mad as it normally is. We made it to Entebbe by 15.30.

The rest of the afternoon was spent buying competition prizes and presents. I had fun negotiating to buy the children’s competition prize and a couple of t-shirts for myself. We finally checked in to Entebbe Zoo (UWEC) at 17.00 and watched some of the animals before heading for dinner at the restaurant. The tilapia here are much bigger than those from Mweya, so I felt as if I’d eaten my own body weight.

Tomorrow, we should hopefully have a meeting with the british Council in Kampala before a potential visit to the cinema (Ugandan style). Our flight bak to the UK leaves in the early hours of Friday morning. There will be a final blog post over the weekend summing up the trip and including our favourite memories and I will upload some of the best photos over the next couple of weeks.

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Uganda 2016 Day Thirteen – Finishing Off

This morning we had a slightly longer lay in – 06.45! After the usual ritual of showering, dressing and loading up the land cruiser, we went down to Tembo where I had a special treat for breakfast: a bacon sandwich! It was very nice.

Our journey to Kafuro took a bit longer than usual this morning as we came across a herd of elephants feeding by the roadside as we left Mweya. As usual, I stopped at a safe distance. Most of the elephants weren’t at all bothered by our presence and moved off quickly all except for the matriarch, who stared at me for what seemed like hours before finally turning away. We quickly moved off again!

When we reached Kafuro, we quickly went down to the cob oven. Muhudi had used a panga (machete) to cut an opening and the children had cleared out the sand. Some of P7 had already cut firewood ready to put into the oven so it could be burnt to harden the clay off. Within a couple of minutes, we had a fire going and the clay soon began to heat up. With this going well, we gave out letters from Liss Junior School and organised class photos. This was a straightforward process and the children were lovely as usual. Henry had an interesting moment when some of the children saw a snake with a rat in its body and reacted instantly. They took sticks and drove the snake away. Poor Henry was scared stiff!

Before we left the school, there was a goodbye assembly where the children sang farewell songs and there were some moving speeches. Henry’s was particularly impressive. For a teenager who hates public speaking, he has come a long way in a fortnight. We left the school with Yowasi and Muhudi, who were both going to show us the developments with their bees. Since last year the children have planted lots of fast growing shrubs that have provided shade for the hives and, as a result, the bee population is growing fast. There was lots of activity from what I could see. Kafuro are now aiming to expand their colonies from two to six, so that they are using all of their hives.

As we left the village, Yowasi showed us the plot of land he has bought in order to build his new school. It cost him just over £800 and the views were unbelievable. I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t admit to imagining my own house (built to western standards) overlooking the savannah with me on the veranda sipping a cold Nile. We said sad goodbyes and drove out of Kafuro for the last time this year.

Next we headed for Katunguru Primary School via brief stops at the escarpment overlooking Kyambura Gorge and a bar in Katunguru to buy some sodas. We received another warm welcome at the school. While Mrs Green & Henry talked to Levi, the headteacher, I met Robert (a USA Peace Corps volunteer) and then gave Ramathan some blogging training.

Following this, we all went to P7 to run a question and answer session. Henry got the most attention, but the children at Katunguru were very direct in their questions to the adults. They are certainly not shy.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed back to Hippo House and, as I write, we are preparing to pack in preparation for the long journey back to Entebbe tomorrow. As always we have loved our time at Mweya and we are sad to be leaving it again, but we look forward to returning again very soon.

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Uganda 2016 Day Twelve – Interesting New Experiences

Before I start talking about today, last night had a fine end. We came back from Tembo in the Land Cruiser and found three hippos in our garden. They soon moved on when they recognised that we were there, but it was a nice end to a good day.

We were up at 06.30 today as we had the long drive down to Bukorwe. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Bukorwe is one of my least favourite drives: the marron road surface (although much improved) judders and throws your car about and the scenery is pretty much unchanging for most of the drive. We left the Mweya peninsula and had a real laugh with Jackie as she kept commenting on why Steve Peach talks so much, we dropped her off at Katunguru as she was going back to Kasese with Baby Joe. We then drove up to UWA headquarters and turned right on to the road down to Bukorwe. Although we encountered less than twenty vehicles over the course of our journey, it only takes one to injure or kill you and that nearly happened today.

I’m an experienced enough driver in Ugandan conditions to know when it is safe to put my foot down and when it isn’t and the road to Bukorwe is one of those roads where there is an optimum speed where you have control of your vehicle. If you drive too slow it’s like sitting on top of a pneumatic drill, if you drive too fast it’s like ice skating. To add to the fun, the road is very narrow in places with an extremely steep camber. About an hour into the drive I saw a vehicle haring towards me from the opposite direction. I immediately hit my breaks and slowed down to about 15 mph while moving as much as I could to the side of the roads. He obviously thought he could pass me at full tilt and at the last moment realised he couldn’t, slammed on his own breaks and slid across the road with no control. He must have missed me by millimetres! To say that I was angry was an understatement, but there was nothing I could do about it, the other driver had regained control of his car and sped off into the distance in a cloud of dust. The rest of our journey was uneventful!

When we arrived at Bukorwe Primary School, we were given a very warm welcome by Vicent, the twinning project co-ordinator and Posniano, the headteacher. Like Kafuro, they have recently received solar panels so they were keen to show them off to us. We also met the local priest who had come to the school to prepare the children for next Monday’s feast of the assumption, hear confessions, perform a couple of baptisms and then hold a mass for the whole school. Busy day then!

The children at Bukorwe are not as shy as those at Kafuro or as streetwise as their peers at Katunguru. They are, however, very curious about white people. All three of us had legions of children wanting to hold our hands and touch our skin. Many of the children wanted to play with Mrs Green’s hair. There was nothing untoward about this, they were just curious.

We passed on a package from Mrs Buckle at Clanfield and met with Albert, the community ranger, who is a very impressive young man. After taking more photos, we jumped in the car again and headed north as we had a second task we wanted to complete today.

Our second job was to visit the Tourist Information Centre at Katwe and pass on some information from Amy Peach about Geomission Uganda: a big project with the aim of boosting geological tourism in this part of Uganda at its heart. Steve had told us the approximate location of the tourist information Centre, but when we arrived at the village we immediately saw a sign to a tourist centre pointing us up the hill. Uncertain what to do, we decided to take this option and we soon ran into a group of school children who waved and shouted. What followed next was truly bizarre:

Me: Good afternoon, how are you?

Children: We are fine!

Me: Can you tell me the way to the tourist information centre?

Children: We go to school!

Me: (starting to get frustrated) Yes, well done! (pointing ahead) Is it this way?

Children: Yes!

Me: (Getting even more frustrated as Mrs Green and Henry are cracking up with laughter in the car. Pointing behind me) Is it this way?

Children: (with even bigger smiles on their faces) Yes! (Cue delirium in the car as Henry and Mrs Green fall about laughing)

Our route to the Tourist Information Centre included an encounter with a prisoner chain gang, a Ugandan Wildlife Institute Centre student who claimed to be from the Tourist Information Centre and finally a man who told us to ignore the student and told us the correct way. When we finally arrived, we were met by Ouma Robinson and we passed on the relevant messages from Steve and Amy Peach. Ouma offered us a free guided tour of the salt pans and a crater lake which is populated by pink flamingos.

The salt pans were absolutely fascinating and, although I’m no chemist, it was interesting to learn about the processes that take place to enable salt to be made commercially for sale. The salt is exported all over Africa and the workers can make fairly good money although there are some associated health risks. Close contact with salt means that wounds can be very difficult to heal and there can also be pregnancy problems. The Germans did actually build a salt processing factory, but used the wrong materials so it corroded. It now stands an empty useless shell. So much for German efficiency.

The flamingos were fascinating to see as they stood in a big group in the middle of the lake. They fly between Kenya and Uganda according to what food is available, but today they were just standing around (some on one leg) to conserve energy.

After the tour was over, we thanked Ouma and headed back to Mweya. As we had a couple of hours to spare and we hadn’t had lunch, we walked down to Tembo and bought a plate of chips to eat while we watched the animals in the Kazinga Channel below.

Tomorrow is our final day at Kafuro where we hope to have the cob oven finished as well as hand out letters and take class photos. We might also get a chance to see how the Kafuro bees are doing. From there we will move on to Katunguru Primary School for a visit before heading back to Mweya to pack. Although our trip isn’t over the Mweya leg is close to completion.

 

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Further thoughts from Henry

Kafuro Day 3

We went to Kafuro again today. It was extremely interesting because as we were going along the stretch of road to Katunguru (nearby town), we encountered the same herd of Elephants having their breakfast in the same spot as yesterday, which I found very exciting. As we arrived at Kafuro, we quickly got to work on the cob oven. The pupils again today, were extremely passionate to work on it and they did lots of jobs like preparing clay, sorting sand etc.

Then it came to lunch and we had pork with rice, chips and watermelon freshly prepared by the school chef. After we had finished our lunch, we got invited to meet the Women’s Collective group in Kafuro. They seemed very pleased that we were here. When we got back we were invited play football. It was really good fun and there was a big crowd and all the children cheered. After that we continued the efforts with the bottle greenhouse. And managed to get the frame up. All in all, it was a very fun and successful day.

 

Kafuro Day 4

Today was very eventful. We started the day by waking up to what had been a thunder storm over the night. We then got in the Land Cruiser and headed out of Hippo House (where we were staying in Uganda). In Uganda they do have roads but just not very good ones. So you could imagine driving on a wet and muddy road with no tarmac. We finally got to Kafuro forty minutes later than yesterday, but ready to get working. We started by doing some baking with P6 (10-12 year olds). We made scones in the school kitchen. Then we tasted them. All the children seemed to really like them. This was my final day at Kafuro. We could learn an awful lot from the children of Kafuro and the people who make the community great.

 

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