Uganda 2017 Day 14: The two Glorias

The premise for today was very simple. Yowasi would arrange for Gloria from P6 in Kafuro to travel down to Katunguru from where Mrs Green and I would pick her up and drive into Mweya. We would go to Tembo where Joshua, the head chef, would take her under his wing.  Gloria would show Joshua the pizza and bread roll recipes that we had used at Kafuro last week and everything would be wonderful.

The complications began last night. Yowasi messaged me to let me know that Gloria’s parents weren’t happy that she travel without a friend. This was fair enough! I told Yowasi that this was fine and he replied that Gloria would be bringing her friend…..Gloria! Well, at least there wouldn’t be any problem remembering names.

The next problem started at 7.30am this morning. Joshua rang me to tell me that he wouldn’t be at work today so to bring the girls tomorrow. I told him that I was unable to do this and it would have to be today. I would go down to Tembo and speak to Kim, Joshua’s assistant and Bibian, the restaurant manager. Joshua was happy with this, so Mrs Green and I left a message for Calum and went for breakfast at Tembo. Kim and Bibian could not have been any more accommodating. Everything was fine and the girls would be made more than welcome.

With this sorted out and having had a couple of slices of marmite on toast (the last of Mrs Green’s marmite supply) we went to see Ronald the tourism manager to see if we could get the girls on the Kazinga Channel cruise as a treat/reward. Ronald ummed and aaahed but agreed and said that Mrs Green could join them as their chaperone..Result!

We drove down to Katunguru anxious to be on time to pick up the girls at 9.30am. Just before we got to the park gate we ran into a herd of 40 elephants. It was spectacular to view them so closely and Mrs Green was snapping away with my camera, but it did constitute a ten minute delay. When we eventually got to Katunguru, we needn’t have worried because it was another ten minutes until the girls arrived. This gave us time to buy a couple of bags of flour.

Gloria and Gloria looked pleased to see us although they didn’t say very much. Gloria 2 was wearing her Conservation Cup winners medal even though it had been awarded nearly two weeks ago. It just goes to show how much Ugandans value things. I can’t help but think that in the UK where we get medals for doing just about anything, they become disposable.

We reached Tembo and the girls were straight into action cutting and chopping. We made the pizza dough and then the tomato sauce while Kim and his team watched. While the tomato sauce cooked down and Gloria 2 stirred, Mrs Green and Gloria made the dough for the bread rolls.

Both the pizza and the bread rolls took ages to cook in the Tembo oven, but they both tasted delicious. Yowasi had given the girls some Kafuro honey to put on the bread and it was amazing. Everyone in the Tembo kitchen loved it.

From there, we drove to the Kazinga Channel jetty. There are now three boats available as UWA took delivery of a new boat earlier this year. Mrs Green and the Glorias got on the first boat while Calum and I waited to say goodbye. We were then told that there was room on the third boat if we’d like to enjoy the cruise. Within a blink of an eye Calum and I were in our seats. It wasn’t all good news. We were sharing the boat with six American families all with young children who were determined to run around and make as much noise as possible while their parents sat and did nothing. In effect we’d become a mobile crèche. The good news (for Calum at least as Mrs Green had my camera and binoculars) was that we had unobstructed views of all of the animals and it was easy to take photos. We didn’t see any elephants (you can’t be too lucky) but there were plenty of hippos and water buffalo as well as variety of birds. Calum and I amused ourselves by picking out African fish eagles, who mate for life and control territory of about 1km. We had quite a scare at the end of the cruise when we hit some sleeping hippos who ran out of the water very quickly and the resulting swell rocked the boat.

When we reached land, we drove the two Glorias back to Katunguru where they were picked up by the boda – boda driver. They thanked all of us and said that they had a really nice day. We were back home at about 6.15pm.

The next two days are a bit up in the air at the moment, but it looks as if I will be picking up letters to take back to the UK tomorrow with a trip to Rwenzori Mountain ark on Saturday.

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Uganda 2017 Day 13: Chimp Heaven

After a tiring day yesterday, it was hard to drag ourselves out of bed, but we had promised Ramathan that we would visit the children at Katunguru Primary School. We stopped off at Tembo for breakfast. Most of this trip, I have just had toast for breakfast, but today I was really hungry so I had a rolex. The journey down to Katunguru was fine and we arrived at 9.30am to be greeted by Ramathan and Levi, the headteacher.

Our first task was to have a question and answer session with the older children. Mrs Green had P5, Calum had P6 and I had P7. I was fully expecting to be asked about Manchester United or the weather in England, but here is a selection of the questions I had to answer:

What is the European Union and how does it work?

Why did the UK treat Nelson Mandela like a terrorist?

Why was Osama Bin-Laden killed?

Why did the USA invade Iraq?

Why do other counties not like Russia?

I like to think that I’m up to date with current affairs and history, but I had to work very hard to explain my answers thoroughly and I made full use of the chalkboard. I’m currently reading a book called The Rift by a man called Alex Perry, which is all about sub – Saharan Africa. What the book makes clear is how ignorant we are of Africa’s history and how we have imposed our views and ideas upon Africans whether they want them or not. It was therefore really interesting to talk to some very intelligent children whose views were not necessarily the same as my own.

After breaktime, during which Mrs Green and I played netball with some of the girls, we went to visit Katunguru’s new library, which was donated by a US Peace Corps worker called Robert who worked at the school for a year. The building was fabulous and it was well stocked with books. Some of the titles may be a little strange to English audiences – my personal favourite was Akiira and the cannibals.

Finally, we moved on to classes P4 – P1 to say hello to all the children. In each class we were given a very warm welcome, but my absolute favourite was P1. They are taught by Robyna, who has been at Katunguru for as long as I have been visiting Uganda. Robyna always has her class immaculately drilled. When we reached the class Robyna was conducting tests with individual children outside the classroom and some of the children had already been sent home, but those who remained in class were brilliant. They sung us a welcome song, so we replied in kind with Row, row, row the boat. The children hit back with Heads, shoulders, knees and toes. They then totally floored us with a local song which involved a lot of jumping around. We felt that we had no choice but to join in.

We left Katunguru at 1.00pm and headed up to Kyambura Gorge where we were going chimp trekking with a ranger we know as English Robert. I had seen Robert at World Ranger Day and he had made me promise to come and visit him at the gorge, not that I needed any encouragement as he is such a nice man.

We had a bit of a wait when we got to the gorge as Robert had been shopping. We talked to a German couple from Aachen while we waited. When Robert arrived he was very pleased to see us and got ready immediately. The six of us had a short drive before we arrived at our entry point into the gorge. In two previous visits to the gorge, the closest I had got to the chimps was seeing them about half a mile away in distant trees with a pair of binoculars. However, Robert had been out with a group that morning and was confident that a) he knew where they were currently feeding and b) that we could get close to them. Within one minute, Robert had spotted a leopard in a tree, who disappeared so quickly that none of the rest of us saw it. However, Robert could show us its tracks as well as that of a hyena. Ten minutes later we heard the screeching of the chimps and another immediately after we got our first sighting.

There was a group of about 24 chimpanzees crossing the river. We got some photos, but none of them were really clear. However, Robert told us he had a good idea of their route and he would take us to a place where we could get a clear photo. This involved retracing our steps and then twenty minutes of lung-bursting climbs up some slippy slopes. At one point, we heard the chimps screeching and I thought that they were a long way away, but Robert explained that the gorge can make sounds that are near seem a distance away. As usual he was absolutely right. Suddenly, we saw a lone chimp standing guard and then we saw the dominant male up in the canopy. Robert showed us a good route so we could get some clear photos – we snapped away happily. Soon more of the chimps arrived and we got even more shots. Robert told us that he had named one of the chimps, Mweya, and he was so used to humans that you could easily take a selfie with Mweya in the background. On this day he didn’t stop for long enough but he walked within four feet of us as he passed.

We were back at our car fifteen minutes later. It had been an absolute privilege to spend time with Robert, who is a master of his craft, and to get near such magnificent animals. We all thought it had been a very special afternoon.

For the first time in what seemed an eternity, we got back home and it was still light. We all had jobs to do –in my case, blogging – but we were all really hungry so went early for dinner to Tembo. I had their club pizza which was stacked really high and smothered with cheese. It was lovely, but very filling. Mrs Green was delighted with her spaghetti neapolitana.

Tomorrow, we are Mweya based as we are giving Gloria (from P6 in Kafuro) the opportunity to show off her cooking skills at Tembo.

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Uganda 2017 Day 12: Driving, driving, driving!

In order to allow ourselves a bit more free time later in the week, I had scheduled a number of appointments for today. Subject to confirmation from Yowasi, we were due to meet the District Education Offiver for Rubirizi, Stephen Birru, a man we have got to now well; the District Scout Commissioner; visit Kyambura Primary School; and, finally, drive out to Mahyoro to drop off letters from their twinned school – West Meon.

We had intended to leave at 9.00am, but confirmation of our itinerary didn’t come through until after 10.00am, so we were late in leaving. We were going to pick up Yowasi from New Life Junior School and then get Muhudi (our scouting expert) from his school near to the offices at Rubirizi.

The drive up to New Life was terrible. I was now totally fed up with th euseless road surface and the prospect of driving up and down it several times today did not fill me with any joy. An indication of how bad the road surface was duly appeared at Kyambura when we came upon a jack-knifed lorry carrying salt and the drivers and his friends looking dazed at the side of the road. The lorry was still there nearly twelve hours later.

We arrived at New Life to meet Yowasi. When he saw us, he asked us why we hadn’t picked up Muhudi. We discovered that he was at home at Kyambura as he had managed to walk on a nail and had gashed his foot.

After doing some quick filming at New Life, we had to drive back to Kyambura (past the jack – knifed lorry)  to pick up Muhudi and then all the way back up to Rubirizi to meet Stephen Birru.

Stephen was in good form and very pleased to see us. He had given Mrs Green the connection with Kyambogo University and was very pleased to hear about her meeting.  He was also very interested in the work we had done at Kafuro and was very keen that the school use every means possible to become self-sustainable. He was strongly in favour of introducing a mobile phone chargng service to the school. He even recommended to Yowasi that he install satellite tv at the school and charge local residents to watch Premier League football. Somehow, I can’t see Mrs Myers doing this at Liss!

We had brought a mountain of neckties (neckers) and badges from scout groups all over the UK thanks to the very hard work of Mrs Prior at Liss. The District Scout Commissioner was overwhelmed and could not believe how much equipment she had received. Unfortunately, we had missed a big scout meeting the week before, but the commissioner was going to make sure the equipment was fairly distributed and send photos.

After this really successful meeting, we headed back towards Kyambura to visit the Primary School, which is twiined with Sheet Primary School. On the way, we had to make a couple of stops. The first stop was the Doreen Hotel, whcih is where Yowasi decided we should have lunch. Mrs Green and I had goar Muchomos. The bill for four of us was £5!

Our next stop was to visit Yowasi’s dad. I have met his mum several times before, but never his dad. Yowasi’s dad is in his 70s (ancient by Ugandan standards) and suffering the aftre effects of a stroke. However, he was very pleased to see us and spoke excellent English. He had heard all about us and wanted to find out about our families.

We got to Kyambura Primary School about 4.00pm where I met briefly with Hope, the headteacher and Moses, the Twinning Project Co-ordinator. This was a very frustrating meeting as both their laptop and their tablet have reached the end of their natural lives, but they didn’t bother to inform Yowasi so we could’ve brought out a replacement. I gave them some money for data and they are going to use Hope’s smartphone to communicate. I felt very sorry for Mrs Newton, the coordiantor at Sheet, who has done a brilliant job in communicating regularly. Hope did promise me that she would have letters ready to take back to Sheet.

It was 4.50pm when we left Kyambura and we had an hour’s drive to Mahyoro. This is usually one of my favourite drives because the scenery is stunning, but a) we were running very late and b) it was very cloudy and the light was beginning to close in. We finally made it to Mahyoro at 5.50pm where we were met by the co-ordinator, Julius – the children had gone home an hour ago. I handed over the letters from West Meon while Mrs Green took aphotos and gave Julius money for internet data. He was very pleased to see us and gave his best wishes to the children and staff of West Meon Primary School.

It was an hour’s drive to Yowasi’s house to drop him off before we finally headed home past the jack-knifed lorry and along the worst road in Uganda. We were so late coming back we had to use the main gate into Mweya (rather than Katunguru) which added 15 minutes to our journey. Add to this rubbish headlamps on our car, clouds of dust, a pitch black night and full beam headlights in my face from other vehicles, and I’m sure that you can understand that I wasn’t very happy by the time we got home at 8.15pm – over two hours later than planned.

The day had a successful conclusion. Joshua, the chef at Tembo, had given us a chicken for visting his school and it was beautifully cooked alongside rice, salad and …wait for it…Irish potatoes. It was a nice end to an exhausting day.

Tomorrow we’re going to visit Katunguru Primary School in the morning and go chimp trekking at Kyambura Gorge in the afternoon.

 

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Uganda 2017 Day 11: A meeting….and strimmers

We were up at 7.15am which constitutes a lie in for both of us. Before we checked out of Banana Village we had breakfast, and very nice it was too – sausages, Spanish omelette, toast and passion fruit juice. We checked out and left at 9.00am and headed for Kyambogo University for Mrs Green’s meeting. We had been warned that the 35km drive might take two hours, but the traffic was kind to us at first. I’ve now driven enough in Kampala to feel a bit more confident and we managed to get through the city centre without any problems – I beeped my horn merrily at any vehicle that came close to me.

As we drove through the Katwe area of Kampala I noticed lots of hardware stores selling strimmers. This was the first time I had ever seen them in Uganda. When it comes to cutting grass, most people use slashers (long sharpened metal sticks) which looks like back breaking work.

We arrived at Kyambogo University at 10.30 and, after we had composed ourselves, wnet to meet Dr Stackus. He couldn’t have been nicer and made us very welcome. We went to a conference room where we met three other lecturers from the SEN department. Three of the four of them had at one time or another studied in the UK, so their English was very good and they had some knowledge of English systems. As I don’t work in higher education, some of the conversations went over my head, but Mrs Green presented brilliantly and the Ugandans appeared very keen to work with Chichester University, so the meeting can be considered a success.

After the meeting ended at 12.10pm (obligatory photos included) we began the long drive back to Mweya. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of people who were using strimmers either by the roadside or in their gardens. Proof of the changes in Uganda! Progress was steady and we reached Kasese at 6.00pm. At this point, we were on target to be home at just after seven. However while we were in Kasese getting petrol at the garage the following happened:

  1. There was a car crash right outside the garage and crowds of people gathered around the damaged vehicle (the other vehicle seemed to be fine and drove away) all making a fuss.
  2. We discovered a lead hanging out from under the engine. We couldn’t find an obvious place it had come from.
  3. We discovered that one of the front headlamps on the car wasn’t working so assumed that this might be due to the disconnected lead. Cue a visit to the garage down the road where it was checked out and discovered that a lightbulb was loose. The lead was taped up!

We eventually left Kasese at 6.40pm and got home in an hour. It was nice to see Calum again and we were given a very warm welcome at Tembo with everyone keen to hear about our adventures. After dinner and a couple of beers, we began to make plans for Tuesday, which would involve a lot of visits. More news tomorrow.

 

Finally some answers to questions posted by Liss children namely Chloe and Jessica East.

Most children live within 5km of the school so journey times vary between a couple of minutes to just over and hour.

Most of the towns have markets selling clothes which are easily available.

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Uganda 2017 Day 10: Rest and Relaxation

Not a great deal to report today. It was the first lie in of our trip, so we didn’t make it to breakfast until 9.00am. There was a selection of cereals, toast, omelettes and pancakes so we were well fed. The highlight of breakfast was Mrs Green pouring syrup all over an omelette thinking it was a pancake and still finding it very tasty. The grounds of the eco village are beautiful with a number of statues dotted around and a huge jackfruit tree in the middle. We spent the morning out on our veranda catching up with emails and blogs before making the most of the swimming pool available to residents.

This evening we had tilapia and chips, the best I have ever tasted. Tomorrow, Mrs Green has a meeting at Kyambogo University in Kampala before we cross the country again to head back to Mweya.

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