Final days and reflections

Uganda Day 14: 2019 

After a comfortable sleep in a room on my own in the motel, woken only by a cockerel at one point in the night, I woke up feeling fresh. We all slept in for a while before breakfast which was where we were staying. 

Then we went to a market in Fort Portal. It was extremely colourful, with a variety of fruits and vegetables being sold. One particular thing I spotted was the way tomatoes were displayed. They were balanced on top of one another like when people balance rocks in a stack on the beach which was very clever. 

For the afternoon we went to Mountains of the moon to use the pool for the day and relax. I finished my book and just relaxed for the afternoon, occasionally dipping in the pool to cool off. We stayed for dinner and I tried the beef fajitas which were delicious, then it was back to the hotel for another good nights sleep.  

Uganda Day 15: 2019

Paul, Luke, Meg and I went for breakfast whilst Andy and Nick got some extra sleep this morning. We were almost ready for our final part of the journey back to Entebbe. The bus journey wasn’t too long, only 4 and a half hours but time flew by playing games with Nick, Paul and Luke. 

We shortly arrived at UWEC zoo and were reunited with our huts we stayed in on our first night in Uganda so it felt a bit like returning to our second homes. As we arrived late last time and didn’t see many animals, we went for a wonder around the zoo (along with hundreds of school children on trips!) We saw lions which we hadn’t managed to see properly in the wild, more zebras, and monkeys playing on the paths. The boys were tired so we headed back to our huts but Megan and I didn’t want to rest so we went to explore more of the park as we hadn’t seen the giraffes properly. We found an elder tree, baboons and the giraffe viewing platform and had time to chat and reminisce about the trip.

Joffrey picked us up at 5pm to go shopping. We went to the craft market which was really colourful, full of paintings and souvenirs to buy but it was just nice to have a look around.

Finally, it was time to revisit the beautiful restaurant on the beach from our first night. We sat back at our table and as it was still light, we could enjoy the breathtaking view of Lake Victoria. Before dinner arrived, we had time to reflect on our time here. We did our top 3 moments for the whole trip and everyone had such different moments which was brilliant. Then we remembered funny moments of the trip and things we will miss. It got a bit emotional before leaving as we prepare to go home tomorrow. Overall, this trip has been an incredible, life changing experience and one I am thankful to have had. 


Before taking this trip, I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bundle of nerves, anxiety and excitement at a fresh opportunity to see more of the world and different cultures. Having now been able to experience the Pearl of Africa, I can see why it deserves that name. It’s not just the animals, which are incredible to see in their natural habitats, and the landscape, which goes on as far as the eye can see and changes with every turn, it is the people. I have never been anywhere more welcoming and protective of visitors to their country. Just by meeting someone, you are already their brother, sister or friend. You are treated like family without hesitation just by being happy and polite. The people of Uganda’s happiness has been unfaltering in every town and city we have visited. With those who have little, they are happy. With those who have plenty, they are happy. This joy beams out of them primarily through dance and music which spreads to anyone around as it is infectious. 

My biggest thank you for this trip is to the people at Kafuro Primary School, particularly Stephen Thembo, who made me feel welcome as soon as I entered his school and began speaking to him. I felt like I had known him longer than a few days by the end of my time in his school. I would also like to thank the teachers at Kafuro Primary School for giving me free reign of their classes (and sometimes translating), allowing me to experience different styles of teaching in a different culture and try to show them some of my style. 

I am going back to England with a renewed appreciation for things we take for granted, such as getting water from a tap instantly and without thinking. Having listened Mr Stanley talk so positively about Uganda for the last couple of years, I hope I can harness some of his passion for the twinning project and continue to ensure that the children of Liss understand how lucky they are to be twinned with such a fantastic school and to remember that they have family, the school children of Kafuro, in Uganda.

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Day 14: Reflections on Uganda

We’re sat in Fort Portal, nearing the end of our Ugandan adventure.  This is an opportunity to pause for breath, drink a Nile and take stock of what has been a real life-changing experience.

There is obvious impact from the Changing Classrooms Project and we’re only half way through it.  The Headteachers from Rihamu and Kafuro will visit Hambledon and Liss in March 2020. The learning has been mutual and we will take things from the experience that will benefit pupils at all schools.  A detailed exchange of thoughts about managing school improvement has already taken place and I look forward to implementing some of the ideas that I take away from this trip.

I am excited by the potential to make an enormous difference to the lives of children in Uganda for the long term.  It won’t be too tricky either.  By western standards the money and resources required to make significant improvements to the schools here is relatively small. A little will go a long way.  We have already started this with our projects to improve sanitation and the building classroom infrastructure.  I hope we can continue this to ensure that pupils don’t waste valuable learning time performing tasks that take them out of the classroom, such as fetching water.  When they’re in class, we can ensure that they can learn without being exposed to the elements.  I am hoping that our School Council can rise to this challenge next year.

The purpose of this project is to benefit both English and Ugandan schools and there is much that Rihamu can contribute to Hambledon. As well as a window to different cultures and beliefs, our children continue to strengthen their ties with their pen-pals.  We also have plans to create video links and exchange voice messages with our friends at Rihamu.  We’re getting good at recording podcasts at Hambledon and these are a great way of promoting communication between our children.

As I think back on what I experienced I am glowing with admiration for what Shakilah and her team achieve with meagre resources.  In Uganda it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear or what car you drive.  Everyone is together and they look out for each other, nobody is judging.  It is inspiring.  School children concentrate well, listen carefully and show high levels of respect to each other and to the adults that teach them.  Living standards are lower and the pace of life is slower, but levels of appreciation are high and I will take these precious memories back to the UK.

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Uganda Day 13: 2019

Hippo House has truly lived up to its name today! Last night I was woken up at about half past 4 to a hippo grazing right outside my window – a bit of a shock when I opened the curtains and it was that close! Sadly, it was our last day staying in the park and we begin our travels back towards Entebbe today, with a few stop offs over the next few days. After waking up at 4.30 to the hippo, I couldn’t get back to sleep so I knew it was going to be a long day. 

We made our final visit to Tembo for breakfast to bring our time in the national park to a complete full circle. 

The car journey was long and pretty boring, so to pass time, Luke, Paul and I played a game called Mexican handbag in which you choose a country and an item and make up a meaning which became quite entertaining and has seemingly created a new language for us!

We arrived in Fort Portal, new word meanings in tow, and found our hotel for the night. It is very different to Hippo House, mainly because it has hot water! We dropped off our bags quickly and headed off to Semuliki National Park to visit the hot springs. The scenery on the journey was magnificent, the road we took weaved between tremendous hills and felt similar to the Amalfi coast mixed with the views of mountains that you may find in Austria but twice the size. 

Once we arrived at the springs, we visited the female spring first. There is a male and female spring at the park, named so due to a couple who went out into the forest and never returned but it is believed their spirits can still be found there. The female springs were so hot we were able to cook eggs in them. I was allowed to put them in the water but they had to go into a shallower area first which wasn’t so hot so that they didn’t crack. We looked around the rest of the spring while they cooked for 10 minutes, including looking at the fountain part which was like a sauna if you stood too close – hopefully I should have glowing skin now! When the eggs were cooked, we peeled them quickly as they were extremely hot, and ate them. I had two and they were really tasty, although it felt odd they had been cooked in the water we were standing near. Then we moved onto the male spring. This was a short drive and walk across a long jetty of wooden planks through breathtaking scenery which felt like we were in a scene in Moana. When we arrived it was much bigger than the first spring. It was wider and there wasn’t a fountain as the source of the spring was under the middle of the water. We didn’t cook anything here but were able to use some planks of wood to get very close to it to see the remains of sacrifices of money and bones from animals, as the local people believe that the lake has healing and wish granting properties.  

We left the springs and returned through the beautiful scenery again. When we got to the hotel we had some time to relax in our rooms before finding a hotel (recommended by Isaac at the lodge) for dinner which was lush. I had fajitas which I had been craving! Whilst the boys watched football, Meg and I went to explore and found a swimming pool and pool table! Joffrey played Andy and almost beat him one handed! Meg and I played a game too and I lost by only one ball. 

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Uganda Day 12: 2019

This morning I woke up to see off Steve, Karen, Jan and Ashlea as they set off super early. I managed to go back to bed and have a super relaxing morning. We ambled to breakfast late and tried the hostel which was nice. Andy and Paul were brave and tried the Rolex (omlette in chipati) which I think they liked! It was a relaxing day today as we spent it at the lodge, swimming and (for me mainly) reading, so there is not much else to report!

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Uganda Day 11: 2019

Unlike the CM sports gang, Paul and I had a later than normal start. We headed to the Conservation Cup tournament which kicked off just as we got there – perfect timing! Whilst supporting Kafuro during their football and rugby games from the sidelines, I had time to chat to Ashley who leaves tomorrow! I can’t wait to catch up with her when we are both back in the UK. I also chatted to some children on the side of the pitches who had lots of intriguing questions about England. 

A few games completed, it was time for lunch. Children were served first and then the adults ate in a classroom which felt like being back at school during wet play! 

I was also able to meet lots of people whilst I was there. I met Stephen’s wife who was very kind, and Stephen Biru who is Director of Education and Conservation. 

The finals took place in the afternoon and it went very quickly. Kafuro didn’t win either of the tournaments but they showed fantastic sportsmanship and team work. I’m sure they will come back stronger next year! The winning teams were awarded the prizes and all teams were given a football from the kit used for training. Once all teams had been celebrated, it was time to say some sad farewells. It was hard to get away from the school as no one wanted to leave. As we were driving away, we passed Stephen who had very kindly been to buy me a present – a lovely wall hanging in the shape of Uganda! A wonderful reminder of my fantastic time in Africa. 

Driving home we passed some small shops selling souvenirs. I purchased an elephant carving, a keyring with the uganda flag and a small drum to show the children at school for music lessons. 

At Tembo in the evening, we had our usual meals, followed by more farewells. This time we had to say bye to Steve, Karen, Jan and Ashley. I’m sure I will be making visits to QECP when I am home for a catch up!  

When we went to the Lodge in the evening, a huge storm came over, which we’ve had a few of whilst being here. The lightning here is brighter than England, it completely lights up the sky for longer than usual. Strangely there is no thunder to accompany it and it is still unusually warm during the storms. Joffrey explained that this storm was a farewell to Steve and his group, just as the rain on our first day had been a greeting. If this is the case, England must be saying hello and goodbye to lots of people all the time!  

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