Uganda 2018 Day 13: New Blood

Today was our last full day on Mweya and we had arranged for the Ugandan teachers to have a cluster meeting. Stu was off to Rwenzori National Park for meetings all day while the others were going to help me with blogging training.


The day did not get off to a good start. I already knew that Ramathan could not attend as he had a sick relative in Kampala and he had to go there as he was a possible match as a kidney donor. Then I got a message from Yowasi telling me that he wasn’t coming. Eventually, a car turned up bringing Shakilah, the headteacher from Rihamu Junior and her School Director; Julius, the co-ordinator at Mahyoro; and Moses, the co-ordinator at Kyambura. It was a small focused group that worked on blogging throughout the morning, and by the end of the session each of the schools had created their own blog post and added photos. I was particularly impressed with how quickly Shakilah and her School director picked up the skills – I think they will be a valuable addition to QEPP.


West Meon had kindly donated four laptops and we had been able to recondition three of them, so each school was given a laptop to aid communication. I then received a phone call to tell me that James, the teacher from Nyakatonzi, had reached Mweya on a boda boda after missing the car that brought the others. As the meeting had just about finished, we arranged to meet him at Tembo. We had a final laptop that we were able to give James, but this would be delayed a day as we had to reset the password.


The meeting finished and the teachers waited at Tembo for their driver to turn up. While we were sitting at a table, a poisonous green snake dropped onto the table from the tree above. I was the last to notice it – by this time everyone else had jumped a mile in the air. When the snake decided to move, it did so at great speed – it was fascinating to watch. The teachers were eventually picked up and the rest of us sat at Tembo chatting and playing Uno. We walked back to Hippo House and then Mrs Green and I had to pack our belongings – our time on Mweya was already at an end.


Stu had arrived back after a good day at Rwenzori National Park and we went down to Tembo for the last time together. It is always sad to say goodbye to all of our friends and this year was no exception. Tomorrow, we have a ten and a half hour drive to Buwenge, half an hour north of Jinja to the east of Kampala.

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Uganda 2018 Day 12: Hot springs

It was another early start. We were up at 05.20 ready to leave at 06.00 for Semuliki National Park. The park is located about 75 minutes north east of Fort Portal, so we were expecting a drive of over 4 hours to get there. Stu and his family were going to accompany us as was Jackie. Jackie’s old boss at Tembo Canteen, Patrick, is now the warden in charge at Semuliki and she hadn’t seen him for a year. Because there were 7 of us travelling, we were using Stu’s vehicle, a Toyota Hiace, and his driver, a very nice man named Habib.


The first part of the drive was pretty boring to be honest other than the fact that we saw a hyena by the side of the road, our second sighting of this trip. I tried to catch up on some blogging, but kept drifting into sleep. We stopped at Fort Portal to pick up a bit of food and drink before taking the turning towards Semuliki. This was now territory that I hadn’t been into before, so I started to take far more notice of the environment around me. At first nothing changed, but then suddenly we found ourselves at the top of a valley with some incredible views. We stopped to take some photos and then drove down to Semuliki – this would take about another 45 minutes. It was all downhill on a very windy road. We had one taste of the unpleasant side of Uganda when we were stopped by a traffic cop. The traffic police are notorious in Uganda for fining people indiscriminately or taking bribes. This policeman pointed out to Habib that he didn’t have any rear reflectors. When Stu and I appeared, he told us to go away saying it was none of our business. I then pointed out that the reflectors could be clearly seen on the rear of the van and drew his attention to them. He replied to Habib that they were in the wrong place, but we were told that we were free to go!


The rest of the journey was uneventful and we reached Semuliki with the sun coming out and the temperature soaring. Patrick was very pleased to see us and organised a walk for us to the hot springs while ensuring that there would be lunch ready for us when we got back. Patrick looked as if had lost twenty years since I had last seen him – he appeared fit and well. He told me that working at Tembo involved eighteen hour days all the time, so Semuliki was nowhere near as challenging in terms of his time although there were always issues to deal with.


We took a walk to the hot springs that are located in the park – there is a male spring and a female spring. Apparently, local tribes carry(ied) out rituals at the springs, and cooking was only allowed at the female spring. Needless to say it was very hot and there was a whiff of sulphur in the air. At this point, I’m not going to say any more about the springs because I carried out an experiment which I am going to share with Year 6 in January. Once this has been completed, I will share the film on the blog.


One of the things both Stu and I noticed was that the surroundings could have come straight out of a Vietnam war movie. We half expected an apache to come flying over the horizon and strafe us with bullets. We returned from the walk and ate a nice meal of goat stew, rice and vegetables that Patrick had organised for us. After that it was full speed ahead to return to Mweya in time for Jackie’s birthday party.

We made it back to Mweya by 19.45 and had an hour to freshen up for the bash at Tembo. When we got there, it had been decorated and tables set out for the party. Embarrassingly, we all had to sit at the top table with Jackie who looked resplendent in a red gown that could double up as a prom dress. The food was ace – barbecued goat and chicken with a selection of vegetables including IRISH potatoes. Next, there were a series of speeches as befits an event in Uganda. I had to make a speech, but Stu had warned me in advance that this was happening so I was reasonably well prepared. I actually thought that I gave a very good speech and I got a big round of applause, but the MC – one of the Tembo staff called Oratio (who was hilarious all night) got a big laugh when he said he hadn’t the faintest idea what I was going on about.


After Jackie had made her speech, the dancing started and we all joined in – there’s really no choice in Uganda. Even Stu took part, which is a first as every time that I’ve been with him in Uganda, he’s always conveniently disappeared once the dancing began. The dancing was still going when we left at 01.45 and apparently continued until after 03.00


Tomorrow is a cluster meeting for the Ugandan teachers at Hippo House.


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Uganda 2018 Day 11: Never empty, never full

We were up early this morning to say ‘goodbye’ to the CM Sports group. They were due to leave at 08.00 for the long drive back to Entebbe, so we all went down to Tembo for breakfast together – Stu joined us as well. It was sad saying farewell to them all as they’ve worked incredibly hard and achieved a great deal in a short space of time. Everywhere they have been they have made a positive impression. Inevitably, coming to Uganda makes you access what is important in your life and I get the very strong impression that the trip has affected them all to some degree. I know from speaking to Nick and Ash that they were not ready to go home and I would not be in the least surprised to see them back in Uganda at some stage in the future.


The rest of the morning was spent organising Hippo House to be ready for the McIntoshs to move in. I managed to track down Robinah, the cleaner, and arrange for bedding to be changed in rooms while Mrs Green got on with some washing. When Stu and his family moved in, we went to see Jackie. Jackie – as many readers of the blog will know – has been our friend for years and used to work at Tembo. We were organising a bash for her birthday and we needed to set a budget.


At 12.30 Mrs Green and I headed off to Kigoma near Ishaka which is where Stephen Biru lived. It took us the best part of a couple of hours to get there, but it was worth it. When Stephen is not managing education in the Rubirizi District he is a farmer and has a particular affinity for cows. He told us on a previous visit that he had a variety of Friesian cows which came from Yorkshire originally. Mrs Green likes to play on her distant Yorkshire heritage, so they have bonded over this. Stephen’s house is at the top of a small hill and he owns acres of land all around it. We saw pigs, chickens, cows (of course), pumpkins, chillis, avocados, bananas and many more types of produce as he showed us around his farm.


Next, we sat down for lunch. We were joined by five of Stephen’s children including Stedia who I had met before and had come back from university in Kampala for the weekend. Wine in this part of Uganda is fairly rare, but Stephen had got out a bottle of South African red which he had been holding on to for the previous four years. We felt incredibly humbled and privileged. Apparently the toast in Uganda is ‘Never full, never empty’, so we got used to saying that over the course of the afternoon.


Lunch – put quite simply – was massive. We started off with a big fruit salad and then a big bowl of really nice vegetable soup. Next came the biggest tilapia that both of us had ever seen. We just about managed to eat this and to nibble at a few IRISH potatoes before even more food arrived: beef then chicken, then salad, then fried bananas and, last of all, some traditional smoked tilapia that Stephen wanted us to taste. I managed to eat some of just about everything, but I was so full that I could burst. Stephen’s four sons didn’t seem to have the same problem as us – they were devouring everything that was put in front of them.


With lunch finished, we sat down outside the house in Stephen’s garden where we were introduced to Stephen’s wife. We sat out for a while and chatted while more wine was brought out and, finally, some Ugandan tea made with milk from Stephen’s cows. Ugandan tea is basically warm milk with tealeaves added. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a hot drink person at all, so I just took a polite sip while Mrs Green drank a little bit more.


We were due to meet Stu and his family that evening so we had to make our apologies and leave. Stephen and his family had treated us like royalty; it was just another example of the incredible hospitality you receive in Uganda. We said fond farewells and headed back to Katunguru where Stu and his family had been spending the day with Ramathan – the deputy head from Katunguru. We made a brief stop at Ramathan’s house before heading back to Mweya. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t eat at Tembo because we were still stuffed from lunchtime.


Tomorrow we are off to Semuliki National Park to visit the hot springs there – something I’m very excited about.


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Uganda 2018 Day 10: BBC Africa

Larry the leopard writes……

Unbelievable! Just unbelievable! Today, Mr Stanley managed to plunge new depths of idiocy. Let me tell you how things unfolded.


The day started badly. Jasmine and I have been locked away in Mrs Green’s rucksack since Wednesday – I blame Mr Stanley for this as Mrs Green would never do something like that deliberately. However, Mr Stanley fails to recognise that leopards and rabbits have excellent hearing and know what he’s getting up to. He muttered something about CM Sports having the day off and then he and Mrs Green went off to get some breakfast. They didn’t offer us any – rude!


Mrs Green and Mr Stanley drove down to Katunguru where Mrs Green was interviewing somebody for her research. Mr Stanley didn’t do anything as far as I could see. He said something about catching up with blogging as he was already behind. My views on this are quiet clear: if he spent more time writing, and less time drinking beer and offending the locals with his pathetic attempts at their language, then he would be up to speed.


Anyway, the humans had soon finished at Katunguru and then drove up to New Life where exactly the same thing happened. Mrs Green worked hard and Mr Stanley tapped a few keys on a keyboard.

Next, they got in the car and went to see the District Education Officer, a man called Stephen Biru. The meeting didn’t last very long and (fortunately) Mr Stanley didn’t speak very much at all. It was Mrs Green and Stephen Biru talking about universities. At this point, Mr Stanley hadn’t managed to get himself into trouble, but this was about to change! All the humans got into the car and drove down the road to a sportsground where there was a big tournament going on – it turns out it was the Rubirizi Primary School Championships. Mrs Green and Mr Stanley got out of the car with Stephen Biru and started wandering down the touchline. Suddenly, Robert, the sports officer who Mr Stanley and Mrs Green had met at the first day of the Conservation Cup, appeared and beckoned them all to the VIP area under a gazebo. There were commentators who announced that the district education officer and his muzungu friends had arrived. Mr Stanley looked very smug while Mrs Green just looked confused.


It got worse! It was the U14 final of the football competition and there was a presentation party brought out to meet the teams, shake their hands and to stand for the national anthem. To my utter disbelief Mr Stanley and Mrs Green were part of it. I can understand Mrs Green being invited – she is a class act after all, but Mr Stanley? I looked over to Jasmine – she was speechless!


The game started between the two schools, Good Hope and Kyambura. Readers of this blog with good memories will remember this was the game in which a bad injury occurred in the Conservation Cup, but the children were younger and only the Good Hope team had boots on, so understandably the Kyambura children weren’t flying into tackles.


There were two Ugandans commentating over a PA system with background crowd noise being played in the background. They both seemed to be very animated and making a lot of gestures, but they were getting the crowd going. Then Mr Stanley had to go and ruin it all! He appeared out of nowhere, took the microphone off one of the Ugandans and began commentating himself. This was perhaps the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen Mr Stanley do in all the time I’ve known him and there’s a pretty long list of things to choose from! The other commentator looked totally bemused which is mild to how Jasmine and I felt – She was speechless!


While Mr Stanley prattled on about anything and everything, the other commentator tried to get in on the act. First of all, he described Mr Stanley as Japanese. I fell about laughing! Mr Stanley was forced to deny this. Next, he said that Mr Stanley was Polish. There was more substance to this claim as at least Mr Stanley was blond before he went grey! Mr Stanley told the other commentator that he was British, and from that point forwards the other commentator kept calling him BBC Africa, which would be hilarious if only Mr Stanley had a millionth of the standards that the BBC requires. I won’t tell you about his attempts to dance when Good Hope scored a goal. Poor Mrs Green could only sit in the gazebo looking embarrassed!


When the game was over, Mr Stanley and Mrs Green got back in the car and drove back to Mweya, quite quickly as it happens. I raised a paw in salute to the Ugandan workmen filling the potholes in the road down to Katunguru while Mr Stanley open the car window and shouted out some patronising words of encouragement. By now I was seriously considering completely disowning Mr Stanley, but Jasmine and I decided to get back in our rucksack. Beware readers, I’m handing you back to Mr Stanley…


We were back om Mweya for by 6.30pm for the first time all week, but we didn’t head straight home. I had to arrange a meeting with Safari Ben, the ranger who drives the boats on the Kazinga Channel cruise. Ben is also a member of the management committee of the children’s nursery on Mweya, which QEPP have supported in the past. Ben wasn’t on the boat, but I managed to get his phone number and arrange a meeting at Tembo at 8.00pm. We drove back to Hippo House where we arrived just before Nick, Ash and Katie F. Katie didn’t look very well while Nick and Ash resembled lobsters. Apparently, they had spent most of the day around the pool at the Safari Lodge as they had a day off before they travelled back to Entebbe.


We reconvened at Tembo (apart from Katie F) and were also joined by Stu McIntosh and his family, who were moving on to Mweya and were going to move into Hippo House when the others left. I met with Safari Ben and passed on some resources to him while Mrs Green needed to ask him some questions about how the nursery was running. Katie M had also made some teaching resources for the nursery which were very gratefully received. I had always assumed that Safari Ben was a nickname, but it turns out that Ben was due to be born in a hospital, but the car taking his mother there didn’t make it in time. Therefore, he was born on the roadside. The man who delivered him told his mother that he should be named Journey (safari is Swahili for journey) because he was born on a journey. Therefore, his name is Benedict Safari!


It turned out to be a late night at Tembo as it was the first night of the Premier League. Nick and Ash wanted to watch the Man Utd vs Leicester game; many Ugandans had turned up to watch the game also.


Tomorrow, the others return to Entebbe while Mrs Green and I are going to lunch with Stephen Biru.

Finally some answers to questions:

Mrs Prior, football is the most popular game played by children inside and outside of school, but we have also seen children playing with a hoop and a stick. Most of the children are too busy helping their parents to be playing games in the house. 

Mr Burford, this year was the first year that I have seen posters for Ugandan films. There is a small but thriving film industry. Please see the link below….

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Uganda 2018 Day 9: Painting the Forth Bridge

It was a relative lay in for me today, but for the CM Sports group it was an early start. They were up for a 7.00am start with Mongoose trekking followed by a walk in the Rwenzoris and then a visit to Rihamu Junior School.

Mrs Green and I were afforded the luxury of a leisurely breakfast at Tembo before we set off for New Life Junior School. The school was founded by Yowasi and is located behind the family home. Mrs Green was going to be doing some teaching about co-ordination and fine motor control. There wasn’t anything really arranged for me, so I spent most of the morning sitting around trying to support Mrs Green where I could. Bea McIntosh had joined us once again and was working with Mrs Green – they have formed a very close bond. Bea has just returned from a year of teaching in Cambodia. Between them, they had the children in the palm of their hands, and the pupils were soon patting their heads while rubbing their tummies, bursting bubbles and swapping hands between nodes and ears. There was one boy who didn’t have the use of both arms and I think was autistic. When Bea started a game where she threw each pupils a ball and they had to give a word related to a letter in the alphabet, one of the teachers said that he wasn’t capable of doing it. Bea immediately threw the ball to the pupils who caught it in his good hand and gave a fantastic answer. I was so pleased for him.

Yowasi’s wife, Ruth, made us a nice lunch and then we headed down to Katunguru where Mrs Green and Bea were going to give another talk about sanitation. I was (once again) at a loose end so I asked Ramathan if there was anything he wanted me to do. He asked me to help P7’S with their English revision which was basically SP&Good and based around sentence construction. This was not my idea of fun, so I spent some of the time taking the mickey out of the pupils who were all in P2 when I first visited Katunguru six years ago. I also pulled the exam paper apart as the examination board had made many mistakes. Sweet potatoes was spelled ‘sweat potatoes! ‘

At the end of the two hours I was really pleased with what the children had achieved and I had marked all their work saving Ramathan a job. Mrs Green was carrying out some research so I caught up with Ramathan for a little while before we dropped Bea home.

Now to the title of this blog post. Regular readers of my Uganda blog will know that I regard the Katunguru – Kyambura Road as the worst in Uganda. However, this year there has been a bit of a change. There has been a team of workmen filling the holes on a daily basis and they have covered a distance of about 5km during the time I have been in Uganda – these guys work really hard. I have made a point of sticking my head out of the window every time I pass them and encouraging them. The unfortunate thing is that as soon as they finish, they will have to start again as the repairs they have carried out will last a matter of months. Hence the similarity to painting the Forth Bridge, as soon as they finish, they will have to start again!

When we returned to Tembo we found the others who’d had another good day. The visit to Rihamu had inspired all of them while also making them all think about how lucky they were. The headteacher, Shakily, had taken them to see where they allowed 25 orphans to sleep. Katie F was adamant that she could make a real difference to the school and I think the visit had little a real fire under her.

Tomorrow, The CM Sports group have a day off while Mrs Green and I go back to New Life and then have a meeting with Stephen Both, the District Education Officer.

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