SERVICES EVERY SUNDAY 2:45 pm to 3:45 pm --2017-2018 Schedule of Services-- December 2017 >>>Dec 3rd Mrs Jeanne MacMeekin>>>Dec 10th Mrs. Pauline Tiller>>> Dec 17th Rev.Heather Wilson. H.C.>>>Dec 24th Mrs.Geraldine Mann>>> Dec 31st Mr.Hugh Gough>>> January 2018>>> Jan 7th. Rev. Graham Warmington>>>Jan 14th Rev.Heather Wilson>>>Jan 21st Mrs .Gill Telling>>>Jan 6th Rev. Gary. Gotham H.C.>>>February 2018>>>Feb 4th Rev .Mike. Burrell>>>Feb 11th Mr. John Greenaway>>>Feb 18th Mr. Douglas >>>Feb 25th.Rev.Heather.Wilson. H.C.>>> Monks Chapel has now been certified as a place registered for the solemnisation of opposite sex marriages. So we can now accept inquiries for weddings.

Claire’s Uganda Trip

12th January to 19th January   

Chloe decided to relent and get the 9.00 am one instead.  We later heard that the 6.00am had crashed and the majority of people had died.

claireI have found an amazing new reason/excuse for being later for a meeting – my boda driver didn’t turn up, was late or got lost. Delete as applicable. A new take ‘on the dog ate my homework!’ I needed to go to the VSO office to discuss a situation with Lillian, the person I go to get advice. I won’t bore you with the details, but a couple of tricky situations occurred at the same time and I needed advice before they turned nasty and ugly which both had the potential to do. My boda driver was indeed late and when I asked where he was he said ‘I’m coming’ then he rang me and said he was on the’ Kyambogo University Campus under a mango tree’. How vague is that! Anyway, he eventually turned up and I got to my meeting about 10 minutes late which is quite good in Ugandan terms. Lillian, true to Ugandan form, was nowhere to be found and then about 15 minutes later I had a message saying that ’she is in a meeting with a new volunteer and could she possibly borrow three of my minutes’. It was more like 10 of my minutes, but who’s counting, and at least we met and hopefully things are on their way to being solved.

We are in the middle of an electric storm, I love it! It starts like a tiger stealthily stalking its way round the hills with a slow steady growl in its throat and as it prowls about, the growl intensifies until it pounces, strikes, and roars at its unsuspecting victim. Then it’s like the whole of nature succumbs to its threat and cries out for mercy. The tiger continues its threat and the crying continues until the tiger grumblingly relents and the crying quietens into sobbing, eventually dying away as the tiger wanders away into the distance waiting for its next opportunity to pounce. Sometimes though, through frustration the tiger, either feeling proud of its victory or finally admitting defeat, suddenly growls and lurches forward again for the final time, until silence! Nature quivering in its wake. So majestic and powerful; but how little are we in the scheme of things when there is so much natural energy? Exciting!  For company though the tiger brings with it horrid little storm flies and mosquitos which act like little dive bombers invading, nipping and gorging on any bits of uncovered flesh. This triggers in me a sort of weird irregular clapping routine as if accompanying some unseen musical tune or rhythm, suddenly shouting out ‘Got it!’ or ‘Missed it’ adding a type of chorus line.

I have been reading a book by Dr. Nick Wooding who took over as medical superintendent from Ian Clarke who built a medical centre in Mokono, which is a few miles away and is where Donald and Generous live. Ian also went on to build a hospital at Kiwoko in Luwero, which is about an hour and half away from Kampala. Ian is very well known in Kampala as he has done many things to try and improve health care and he is a local counsellor for the Muyenga district. In this book, by Nick Wooding, there are some rules of the road, of course not official ones, a spoof on the driving here, but they are so true!

Blind overtaking. If you are overtaking, make sure that it is on a blind corner or just below the brow of a hill.

The killer coach. Right of way belongs to the strongest. If it is a cross-country bus (the killer coach), vacate the road.

The sacred cattle priority. Cows are unversed in the Highway Code, knowing only how to use their horns. When roaming the highways and verges they have rights of way and rumination.

Save electricity. Do not switch your lights on when it is dark – this will waste the battery and give away your position to oncoming vehicles.

Use every special sense. If it is night time and a single light approaches, listen carefully for the sound of a truck with only one headlight working.

Blind your opponent. Put your main beam on when passing a vehicle. This enables the next oncoming coach to make a blind approach.

Never ask directions. Most people in rural areas cannot drive: if asked for directions they will send you down a narrow pathway (entirely scriptural) when there is a very large road close by.

Electric rule. If you are giving someone a lift, be careful when they say they are just going down the road- the ‘just’ can turn into 50 miles.

Take a picnic. Taxis are only licenced to carry 14 passengers in the first layer: luggage may include fish, DIY articles, hens and the odd cockerel. You will not go hungry or unsoiled.

It’s the vehicles fault. If something goes wrong, it is never the driver or the rider’s fault.

Don’t stop at accidents. If you hit someone, never stop to help or you will be lynched. Go to the nearest police station and ask for sanctuary.

I have experienced all these situations either as a boda rider or a car driver and referring to number 9 when I was in Fort Portal at Christmas I saw someone putting a goat in the very limited space behind the back seats. They sort of folded it up and put it on top of all the bags and suitcases, but this took a minute or two as it is tricky to fold up a goat sufficiently to go in a space about as big as a 70 litre suitcase. As soon as the driver folded up one pair of legs the previously fold pair would pop out again and so it took 3 men to get it in – two, one for each pair of legs and one to shut the door. Poor goat not only did it have to suffer this indignity and discomfort, but it was probably someones Christmas dinner!!!  

Chloe who lives in Ibanda in the Westen region, says the only time she prays is when she is on a ‘killer coach (number 2). I am hoping to go and visit Chloe some time.  I already constantly pray on bodas so wonder if ‘killer coaches’ will have the same effect. It was a miracle really a little while ago Chloe was going back to Ibanda from Kampala and she was going to get the 6.00 am coach and Brenda from VSO said to her ‘don’t get that one get a later one. You don’t want to have to get up that early’. Chloe said it was ok, but Brenda was adamant so Chloe decided to relent and get the 9.00 am one instead.  We later heard that the 6.00am had crashed and the majority of people had died. What a good thing Brenda was adamant and Chloe decided to change her mind.

villageMy role at the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) is to try and introduce, and in a way re-educate, NCDC staff, teachers and various officials to the notion that all children are entitled to an education through providing inclusive strategies and embedding these in practice. The secondary curriculum has been re-written and to some extent inclusive practice has been considered e.g. for the visually and hearing impaired only; However, there are a lot of amputees, people of all ages even the very young, as the access to antibiotics/penicillin etc is very limited and very expensive; other forms of physical and mental impairment/disability are also prevalent. There are special schools, but these are attended by many students with no impairments or disabilities as the fees are a lot cheaper. The new curriculum has to address the needs of all students from large inner city schools to small far flung rural schools who may not even have the luxury of a school building. Although this was taken after the war in the north of Uganda some schools are still not too dissimilar even now.

  The general consensus is that there are 5,501 secondary schools in Uganda and 1,919 of these are privately run, although this is not a confirmed figure as no-one really knows not even the Ministry!!  Eventually 2 teachers in each of these schools need to be trained in inclusive teaching practices. However, the training of NCDC staff and others has given me quite a lot of insight into their personal beliefs and traditions and I thought I would share some of what I have found out. I apologise if this is gloomy, like ‘Eeyore in his gloomy place’, but it is the reality of Ugandan life and what I and many other people are working with and are up against.

Ugandans in general, believe that mental illness is attributed to evil spirits and curses and that the cure requires either the services of a witch-doctor or powerful injections. Considering this is mainly a Christian country this seems amazing!

As all medical treatment has to be paid for, and there is no medical insurance, many people, even those living in the towns, still go to traditional healers a ‘basawo’. This is also the term used for a qualified doctor, health worker or any other medical professional. Anyone can set up a clinic and offer services as   there is no quality control and no training is required or competence needed. Many people have their jaws broken while having teeth extracted for example. They think the only cause of coma is Malaria and so give the patient Quinine injections which does not help if you are experiencing a diabetic coma for example and so many people die. If children have facial defects then tomatoes are tied onto their foreheads and the offending side of the face is caked in Earth. One mother burned all the way around her child’s head because the people in the village told her the child’s head was the wrong shape and that burning the head ‘all around’ would help!! Because many Ugandans believe that external forces control the physical world they are very sceptical about immunisations and so diseases like measles are rife.

80% of the population of Ugandans live in rural areas, hence number 7 above ‘Never ask directions’. The majority of these people even now do not go to school and have quite different beliefs. They believe that you mustn’t kill a snake because if you do lots of little ones will come out it to replace the dead one.

Uganda has the second highest fertility rate in the world, with an average of 7 children per mother. 70% of children are born at home and by the age of eighteen one in every two girls has had a baby. If the woman thinks the birth is going to be tricky or difficult, they delay seeking medical advice because of the cost, and instead take various herbs to try and soften the bones of the pelvis in order to ‘let the child out’. These beliefs are not just confined to the rural areas as one would expect as ‘educated’ people hold these beliefs too.

Giving blood is not a regular occurrence because of the risk of HIV and AIDS. In an unscreened donor the risk is 6% that the blood will be contaminated and even in screened donors the risk is 2% because there is a period when the virus is active, but antibody levels are too low to be recorded.

Women are often seen as commodities. The man owns everything and the dowry system helps to perpetrate this. A man and a woman can be very good relationship before the dowry is paid and then she becomes his possession, the women mostly become beaten because he believes he owns her. A woman’s children are also the man’s property and if he dies they, the children, are passed on to his family, together with his wife’s possessions. 

Weddings are very expansive lavish affairs costing millions of shillings, from 5 million upwards. I know this is not much in English money about £1,250, but when a teacher earns on average between 150,000 to 200,000 shillings a month (£37.50 to £50) should they be lucky enough to be paid at all, 5 million is a lot. Between 500 and 600 people at least will be invited and before the wedding takes place the local community meet to give pledges and contributions towards the cost, but this does not cover it at all. Many couples on return from their wedding cannot even buy a bag of sugar (which is seen as sort of yard stick as it is the most basic necessity of all food and everyone should be able to afford this if nothing else) and remain in debt for many years. Should the couple, sadly break up and go their separate ways, sometimes they can still be paying for the wedding for many years afterwards.

So you can see that the majority of Ugandans live a very hard and difficult life, not only physically, but are torn between wanting the conveniences and beliefs of modern day and world, but still wanting to hold onto their traditional beliefs which at least involve little or no cost. Therefore they are in the difficult situation of not being able to afford the material things or medical care, but still needing help and advice; and so turn to traditional ways – all the time watching the divide between the haves (Europeans) and the have-not’s (Uganda and Africa generally) getting bigger.

Therefore, you can see that my role regarding inclusion is no mean feat and understanding the culture and beliefs is just the first step. Since arriving in Uganda I have tried to understand and find out about the culture and the way life works, but it has taken longer than I thought to make any progress in my role; I am gradually gaining peoples trust through showing genuine interest in them as people, trying to learn ‘Luganda’ and working in the community being engaged in community projects. Through understanding, gentle sensitivity and regard for other ways, I have learnt a lot which has helped me find a balance; understanding how to help adapt and develop the curriculum in order to address the numerous needs without offending or running rough-shod over everything by imposing European ways.

I have started working for a community project called ‘Tomorrows Heroes’. It is a small charity run by a husband and wife and they help ‘street boys’. I help on a Sunday afternoon between 2.30 and 5.30. I was told there are usually about 50 to 60 boys who turn up at the Deliverance Church in Gadhafi Road, but last week there were about 120 in total, as about 50 or 60 boys from the near-by slum arrived as they wanted to ‘join in’. No-one is turned away and although they are not really ‘street’ children their needs are also great and so are being helped. I will keep you updated as to what I do and how things go. It is certainly very interesting, but so awfully, awfully sad that there are so many young boys/men in these situations, but so much hope and expectation at the same time. My question is what about ‘street and slum’ girls as they are very vulnerable and at risk!

Thank you for reading these notes again this week and for your continued prayers and support

With love and thanks as always

Claire      xxx

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4th January to 11th January

She said that if the police stop you and threaten to give you a fine then really they are wanting a bribe but cannot directly ask for it as it is illegal.

claireAlthough last year has only just ended and the New Year just begun new experiences have already been evident and with vengeance! Last year ended with me being stopped by the police while trying to get home after going out with Veronica, known as Ronnie, for the day. I was flagged down by the police at Nakawa (said Nac –cow –a) so I obediently pulled over where she asked to see my papers. I handed these over but then she wanted to know about the driving permit and so I tried to explain, but after ages I decided to give up as there was definitely a language barrier. I think, that so she did not have to lose face she said ‘I will give you paper’. After asking what I was meant have done wrong she told me I had gone through a red light. Neither Ronnie nor I had seen the traffic light and so asked where it was and she vaguely waved her hand down the road and said ‘Down there’. We were not in a place to argue about it so I said if I had done wrong and she needed to give me paper then that was fine.  She had a pad of paper on which she could write out the offense. She turned it over and said that it was 100//= fine for ‘being inconsiderate to other drivers’. Anyway this debt went on for what seemed a long time but was probably only about 15 minutes or so. Back and forth ‘Shall I give you paper? Do you want paper?’ In the end I got back in the car and waited until she had stopped arguing with herself. In the end, as it was New Year, she decided not to ‘Give me paper!’ and I was allowed to drive away. However, it did rattle me for a bit and was glad to get home where I felt safer.

The first day back at work I was waiting for my lift when I got a text from Donald to say that he could not pick me up, so I walked back home and decided to drive the car to work as I still have until the weekend. I was allowed to enter the main gate of the university as  the security guard waved me through but when I got to the piece of rope which goes across the road the two ‘security guards’ who guard this rope all day every day, stopped me. He looked all around the car and then asked if I had water. I said ‘yes’ and he said ‘Give me water’. I was feeling a bit niffed, as it was my daily supply of water and I knew I couldn’t get any more at work, but handed it over anyway.

When I got to work I was just explaining the situations to Generous and she burst out laughing. She said that if the police stop you and threaten to give you a fine then really they are wanting a bribe but cannot directly ask for it as it is illegal. That is apparently why it took so long and when she realised I did not understand then she had to let me go because there were no grounds for her giving me a fine. The police are corrupt and she was possibly worried II was going to report her so she gave in. So being genuinely naïve and stupid pays off sometimes.  Apparently when a security guard asks for water it is code for ‘Give me money’. Well I said if they ask for water, water is what they will get!

We had been warned by VSO, that bribery and corruption was rife, and had done training on it, but I had not personally encountered it before. This time of year apparently it’s worse because people have spent all their money at Christmas and New Year and are now broke so try to get more money by whatever means they can, but not from me apparently!!!

I don’t think I told you that the chicken I pass everyday on my walk to Tusky’s had 10 chicks just before Christmas. They were very tiny and very furry like little ‘fuzzy plums’ walking about and now they are much more independent and brave and the poor mother hen is having a job trying to keep them together. They look like feathery avocados now! Anyway, I had just reached the main road and had crossed to the middle and waiting politely in the middle of the road, trying not to get squished from behind,  waiting for 4 bodas to pass, when a ‘young’ man lightly touched my arm and said ‘come, come, come’. I have never been helped across the road before! Am I now officially a muzee muzungu?

I  have also realised on very important and necessary fact which will save me a lot of embarrassment, that men here are like rhinos; they only every turn their back on you if they are going to pee. I know this does not seem a very important thing or necessary to know, but it will make such a difference to my everyday life as still get quite embarrassed by this  act.

A new year’s resolution! At New Year while I still had the car I decided to go and get three large bottles of water and I decided to crack the secret code of how to buy it. I felt like I was on a secret mission, an uncover detective! This has been worrying me as I only seem to get it right if I take Donald with me and like the ‘fuzzy avocados’ I have to be independent and brave. The bottles with rings which go round following the circumference of the bottle are 6000//= each and are fillable and you have to return the empty bottle. The bottles which have lines which radiant out from the cap down to the edge of the bottle are 7,200//= and you do not have to take the empty bottle back as these are recyclable, not refillable and the bottles which have lines which radiant from the cap down to the edge of the bottle but swoop round in a curving sort of shape are 25,000//= a bottle and are not recyclable or refillable. Yes, got it at last!!! But why would anyone buy these??? Well, I suppose I did to be begin with once anyway!!!!!

My lovely vegetable lady has got a new business ploy.  Last year it was ‘I give you bonus?’ but this year is ‘I want you to give me Christmas, buy a soda!’ which of course I did. I wonder if this will turn into ‘Make my day, buy a …..’It will be interesting to see how this develops. Good business tactics though!

I have just had a rather nasty lunchtime surprise. As usual I was working through my lunch hour when I got up and reached for my sandwiches which were cream cheese with coarse black pepper and tomato, Um yummy!!! I had put them in a square plastic tub with a fitting lid this morning and so was not suspecting anything gross. Not concentrating I took a bite and out of the corner of my eye I saw a herd of looked like the bits of pepper, having had a conference and deciding to march out of my sandwich at the first opportunity. However on closer inspection, this herd was what I want to describe as microscopic animals, which of course they weren’t, otherwise I won’t have been able to see them! They were tiny, so tiny, about the third of the size of an ant or smaller and dark brown or black. They were everywhere, in the box, in the sandwich, and when I took the top of the box escaped all over my desk and are now having some sort of party running up and under my computer keys and up my arms to my neck. So gross!!  I tried squashing them in my sandwich so I could not see them, but it was the thought of them, still being there even though I had squashed them. Still I have crisps so I’ll eat them, but what are they?? My mission now is to find out if I bought them with me from home, as extra protein! Or whether they are here at work and got in during the morning when I wasn’t looking. I now have the psychological itches! After work I asked my friendly oracle, Donald, what these horrid little things were and he said they were ‘called obusiisi (said o see see) and they like sweet things and walk in straight lines’. He said ‘they would not disorganise my stomach or what’. ‘They like cheese and will surround it seriously, Ah!’ Apparently there are ‘other kinds, bigger ones that live on the road and cross it, cutting you. They are the size of ‘… ‘a cat’’ I ventured, ‘no’ … ‘a goat’, ‘no’. ‘I am looking in my head to find it but it is not coming’ so I as yet do not know what size the other sort are! Just as well I think! I like sharing but there is a limit!

I have had the plumber in twice this week already. This has been a new experience try to communicate with workmen. I know I had a table made but I was the one giving the instructions, but is totally out of my control and we have encountered several cultural differences. He seems to be a nice guy, but so very very thin.  He came to mend the shower Laura uses as very little water was coming out of the head. It would started like shower but then disintegrated into a miserable dribble of water. First of all arrived when I was in the middle of a two day power cut and he refused to be given the lantern. After leaning on the wall for about 10 minutes in the dark with an adjustable spanner in his hand he said I had to pay him. I then contacted the landlady, which he was not keen about, to find out why it was my responsibility, but it was just another example of trying to get money after Christmas. Trying to understand the situation, plumbing not being my forte at the best of times, he told me ‘don’t use hot only this one cold’. This was not what I wanted and said so, very nicely of course so he rang the landlady who said she would come but didn’t and so after about thirty minutes and 20 cups of tea with four spoonfuls of sugar in each mug he left. He then returned. That was Friday but he returned with the landlady, Rose, on Sunday night and they decided that they would change it for a shower stick (a shower on a pole rather than a hand held one). Last night Monday he returned again to fix the shower stick but again only a miserable cold dribble of water came out.  He was there for about three hours when Rose turned up who also was not satisfied with this dribble of cold water and went next door to check the water pressure in their shower, but had disconnected the heater as they couldn’t afford to heat the water. On her return she decided to put this shower stick in my bathroom. I was alarmed as I have water which can be hot and comes out fairly well under the circumstances, but thankfully it didn’t work there either, so they are coming back on Thursday to cut off a bit of the shower stick to make it shorter and replace with a bit of PVC pipe. If I have understood correctly the shower will be fixed to the wall between 3 and half and 4 feet from the floor. Even a munchkin would be too tall!!! It does mean that I am going to be too tall for something though which is good, but how useable will be shower be? When asking the landlady this she said ‘I don’t like to be defeated and if it works it doesn’t matter if it’s not useable’. Definitely a cultural difference here I think!! Actually this explains a lot and understand more about some of the strange things I have seen and had to use. I find it all quite funny really, because all seems so surreal, but that’s life here.

One amazing and good thing, but worrying and sad of how it came about, is that we now have a light bulb on the stairs which we have never had before. It was like walking into the belly of a whale when you returned home after dark, but now we have light, but it was only because Rose nearly fell down the stairs which was worrying and sad, but we have light. Hooray!!!

Well, I think nothing will surprise me ever again as my journey to Tuskys was fraught with things going on. Firstly, I was stopped by a lady who I had met once ages ago and she wanted me to put her in touch with a butterfly farm in the UK. She took my number because she wants me to go to tea, presumably to discuss butterflies! After the drainage ditch over which I have to jump or stretch, there is a small hut which I am not sure whether is a house or a shop, it may be both. It is about 2 metres by about 1 metre. There is one small window to the left of the door which displays various samosas in vearying states of decay.  On one of the short sides away from the road is a lean-to shelter under which the ‘grubby’ men and sometimes a less ‘grubby’ women sit and talk and cook their meals. The procedure goes like this, I start! ’Good Morning, How are you?’ ‘Hello, we’re fine. How are you? ‘I’m fine thank you’ but all takes place while I keep walking. That is the end of it, unless they are there later then the whole thing is repeated, but today… oh, dear! The conversation was had but… this new not grubby and quite good looking man said after the initial greeting ‘And how are you, hey’, in a sort of lilting sort of way and I should have ignored it, but stupidly I turned round. By now he was on his feet and wanting to shake hands. Being even more stupid I retraced my steps and shook hands with him. I felt like a princess who had been grabbed by a frog who was trying his last ditch attempt at being kissed. The more I tried to release my hand the more he held on, staring into my eyes. Uncomfortable or what! By this time I was stunned and a little shocked if I’m honest, and my mind was racing like a Formula One racing car in over drive, as to what I could do without making a scene. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the ‘grubby’ men looking at us which didn’t help matters and he had sort of glinting eyes!!! I decided the best tactic was to be very British and polite, but by now I had lost the plot of the conversation, I had been too busy hatching an escape plan, because when I came too so to speak, I heard him say’ How can I contact you?’ ‘Oh, you can’t I’m very busy.’ ‘Will I see you again’ and stupidly, because I always have to tell the truth which is a real down fall in situations like this, I said’ Oh, yes I often come this way’. Although my feet are small they were now well and truly wedged in my mouth!  ‘Oh, yes you are small and pretty and ……’ ‘Well,’ I said’ I must get along to work now or I will be late.’ Oh, we will meet again and then we can chew’. No knowing and being even less interested in any chewing I tried to forcibly remove my hand which he then grabbed back again and kissed. I was right he was a frog after all, but sadly for him will never be a prince!! I am now going to avoid the short cut and walk up the road for a while until he has either forgotten or has gone.

Despite everything I am happy and sort of feel at home here, but I have realised there are two sounds and one treat that makes life even better. The two sounds are the swooshing sound that ‘skpye’ makes as it connects to the outside world and the beautiful sound of deafening silence, when it rings in your ears, as Ntinda, in the part where I live, is very noisy several nights a week.  This is because I found out that I live very near one dance hall and not too far from another one and a brothel masquerading as a ‘women- only hotel’, but why this should be noisy I have no idea. The treat is listening to the Archers Omnibus on ‘itunes’ every week while I knit, without a rug over my knees, I might add. It’s funny what just adds a little something to life, isn’t it. When I was still in the UK it was the Alpacas which I named Enie, Meanie, Miny and Mo!

Love as always Claire


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16th December to 20th December


claireWell it’s nearly Christmas and Renske and I are going to go to Enfuzi Campsite, 18kms from Fort Portal in the West of Uganda, on Saturday. We are hiring a car from a friend and because I am a bit worried about driving, as it is so crazy here on the roads, I took it for a test drive on Sunday and yes it is scary so, yes please I could do with your thoughts. By the time we get to Fort Portal I will be an old hand and as confident as everyone else. I am looking forward to the holiday and apparently it is beautiful so will send some photos when I get back. I am going to take my computer with me so can stay in touch through skype and e-mail as  I know I am going to miss not being at home like crazy. Anyway on a more cheerful note…

I know now where all the old church kneelers (Hassocks) go when they die! They all come here and are fitted on to backs of push bikes so they can take a friend with them. A great idea. Two struts are fitted from the centre of the back wheel, one each side, and the struts are just long enough to reach over the mud guard at the back. The two struts are then fixed together with a couple more struts and then a kneeler placed and tied on top of this. Ingenious! The person sitting on the kneeler then dangles his legs either side of the back wheel and the one on the saddle does all the work! It really works well!

The other day it wasn’t raining so I took myself off for a walk at lunchtime and went off the beaten track which we have been advised not to do so, but there were loads of people about so thought it was o.k. It was amazing, I found quite a little village with loads of shops selling all sorts of things, it was fascinating as the range of things was so diverse from used car tyres to washing up liquid, Christmas decorations and bags of shredded cabbage, which I bought for 300//=. Great for stir-fry’s!  It was all so tucked away that you won’t know this thriving busy retail centre was there at all.

While I was mooching about a small boy came up to me offering me a small plastic bag, like a sandwich bag, full of what looked like urine. (We were told in our training that people sell anything so be careful!) So when he said ‘You buy?’ my immediate response was ‘No, thank you!’ but this was not a smart move and it back fired on me. Lesson one never make assumptions! Anyway, he followed me for a bit and then gave up which made me feel really bad. By now it was quite hot and I had forgotten my water so was just thinking about finding a drink when I met a couple of girls who were indeed drinking this same liquid from a similar bag. Apparently you insert a small plastic straw into one of the corners of the bag and drink it, its orange squash! So I retraced my steps in order to track down the small boy but alas I could not find him and so I went back to work, it was time anyway, but also so I could get my water. Since then I have found that they also freeze these bags of squash and sell them as ice pop type lollies. Another really good idea, and I was amazed at myself because I have always been up for anything since I have been here so why did I make that choice, very strange!  I hope I am not getting sceptical!

On my way to work this week I saw three lovely little birds. They are about the size of a wren and are brown on the top and brilliant blue at the bottom, so using my lovely bird book found out that they were female ‘red-eared cordon bleu’ birds. They differ from the males because they do not have ‘red-ears’, sort of patches on the sides of their head, like the males. I also saw a lovely butterfly. It had a blue and red stripy body and what looked like lacy wings, with some filled in bits of lacy, but after closer inspection, found them to be black with white spot patches. The body was about 2 cms long. So delicate and pretty. I have attached a couple of pictures from the internet to show the birds and butterfly, at the end of these notes as I did not have my camera with me.  I also saw a lovely caterpillar about 2 inches long and black and bright green stripes. On the black stripes it had small bright green circles and on the green stripes small black circles, and he did not hump along it sort of pulled itself along as if it was being pulled by a thread from the other side of the road, but every now and again it would wriggle like a fish on a hook. Picture is from the internet.

I often pass a lot of wildlife along the dirt track I walk along every morning to Tuskys, chickens and their newly hatched broods of some times up to 10 chicks, goats normally three like the three billy goats gruff, one big, one medium and one small, but what I have noticed is the increase in wild dogs. Now, before I came here I made a determined effort to try and get to like big dogs and not to cry every time I saw one. So far I have not cried and have walked straight past them not looking at them just ignoring them and it has been fine, but… today there was a lady walking in front of me and I had passed one dog and she stepped to the side of the road, so thinking that a car or boda was coming I too stepped aside.  I then caught up with her and found there was a large dog standing and staring in our direction.  After throwing a stone at it, it ran away and hid round the corner at the top of someones drive. She and I got talking and she said she was frightened of dogs as there are now many wild ones as people cannot afford to keep them and throw their puppies out and then they ‘eat and eat until they grow and then there are more dogs!’ ‘They live in the maize but now they cut the maize the dogs come out and they don’t go ‘who, who, who’, before they bite, they just go paf! And then they bite and you sometimes you don’t know!’  I hope I would know if I was bitten by a wild dog!  So Mary and I walked together in the hope that there were no more wild dogs to contend with which there weren’t …today!  I am still going to be brave as it has taken a lot of nerve to get this far with big dogs and I  can’t turn up for work tear-stained every morning can I?

One  funny things I have noticed is  that the majority of eggs here have very pale yolks, so pale that when you whisk them up the yolk just disappears into white and the whole thing looks white, but you can buy eggs which say  ‘Yellow yolks’. I found out that the difference is the pale yolks are wild chickens which wander about eating vegetation while the yellow yolked ones are ‘manufactured’ or’disturbed by people’’, so they eat different things obviously affecting  the yolks. Another mystery solved!

A funny thing happened this week to Renske. She was doing toast in the toaster and there was a horrible smell and when she tipped the toaster upside down to get the taost out she found a toasted geeko.  It must have have crept in there perhas to keep warm! Poor thing! Talking of smells there has been a really bad smell in our stairway this week and I have looked and looked for the source, but could not find it so asked Bosco to look. I asked him if he managed to find anything and he said ‘All good, it was dropsy from cat’! So all is well again now. It is like walking through a zoo getting to the front door what with rabbits, chickens and now cats, but I am glad this kitten has the strength to climb the stairs because it is so ill.

I seem to have a new hobby or it might be an obsession, but every time I see a small cardboard box I have the urge to cover it in Christmas paper. I bought some lovely foil Christmas wrapping paper, all Christmas wrapping paper is foil, and I deliberate over which design will suit that particular box and then try it, and taking my time, cover it. I have covered three so far. Two have electrical wires and chargers in and one has stationery. Is this sad? I am not sure if it is in response to want to be extra tidy because Laura is so incredibly untidy, or because it’s Christmas I have the need to wrap things up or because I have no work to do during the day and so am bored so have the need to play when I’m at home or is it indeed a new hobby? Anyway, I have three nicely covered boxes for keeping things in. Very satisfying!

Over  the last couple of weeks  I have felt  that there has been something missing and I could not put my finger on it, so I thought and thought and realised that there were two things lacking: one was that world radio had gone off my radio and one was the need for a bowl of custard. I could easily rectify the custard dilemma, buy buying custard powder, which I did, um lovely!!! And then to my utter joy realised I was trying to find world radio on 103.3 instead of 101.3 and yes there it was indeed, back again. Joy of joys! And so the cure for a ‘something lacking feeling’ is a bowl of custard and world radio even if they do talk endlessly about sport!!

Last Sunday I went to Lubaga or Rubaga, to see the Roman Catholic Cathedral with Barbara. Apparently, the early missionaries, had problems pronouncing the word Lubaga so pronounced it with an “r” as in Rubaga so L and R are not really interchangeable, it is just a  history thing. Anyway, there was some beautiful singing coming from the church and in the hope that it was a Mass we went in. We slipped down to nearly the front, as that is where Barbara wanted to be, and she whispered quietly to me that she thought they were half way through.  It was all in Lugandan or Kiswahili and I had no idea so was reading the ‘’Holy Mass’ leaflet which we bought for  300//=, I was just about to show Barbara that it was a concert given St. Cecelia’s choir when they started to sing ‘The 12 days of Christmas’ so were now sure that it was not a Mass! (Doesn’t bode well for me learning Lugadan!) We did check to see if there was a Mass later but there wasn’t. I felt sorry for Barbara because she so wanted to attend another Mass before she left for England, but it was a lovely concert all the same. It said it started at 2.00 so probably started at 3.00 and was still going strong at 6.30 when we left! It is a lovely Cathedral with lovely stained glass windows and beautiful doomed roof and very peaceful and restful atmosphere.  The stone is very pale and although it looks quite new it is quite old as it was built by the White Fathers in 1914 and completed in 1925. They then built a hospital and school on the same hill. St. Marys Cathedral is the seat of the headquarters of the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Kampala. It is worth visiting if you are ever near-by!

I have been trying to learn the Ugandan National Anthem. I have learnt one verse and have two more to go. Donald does not know the third verse and so set him some homework to learn it by Friday so we can sing it together on the way home on the last working day before Christmas. But poor Donald he is so grieving, he  has certainly lost his ‘bubble’ and I am not sure how to be because he is so sad. He showed me the article in the newspaper about his  brother. He was a first year student at university studying statistics and structural engineering. He was 20  and had gone out for  the night with  friends, like most students do, but had a bit too much to drink, fell over, hit his head on the floor and died of internal bleeding an hour later in hospital. The paper was urging all young people to drink in moderation generally, but particulalry over the Christmas period. Poor Donald!

I had a bit of a shock yesterday as Mathias said that as from January Donald will not be giving me a lift to work any more. I felt like I have just been hit with a shovel! What will I do? who will I talk too and ask questions of? How will I learn things? It really was quite a blow and I worried about it all last night. It is not just because I will miss his company, laughter and frienship but my main concern was that I will now need to get bodas which will be costly everyday and difficult when it rains as they don’t work. Mathias said ‘just get here late’. I told Donald and he was surprised and saddened too. He said  ‘There is always a solution to a problem’ which I thought was nice. It also means I might need to move so I am nearer to work so I can walk. It’s all a bit unsettling especially at this time of year. I wonder if things wil be any more settled next year or whether Uganda really is a place of constant change. At least I can never be bored!!!!

Just as well I have been keeping a list of boda drivers then! Since I have been here if I have a ‘nice safe’ boda driver I ask him for his number, so in my phone I have several boda men numbers. I have them in different areas so I try and get one I have had before. However, what amuses me are the brief conversations held with boda drivers in the street. I get asked ‘You come?’ ‘We go?’ ‘Your house? Where’? Also some of them only work in the day and some only at night and if I ring a daytime one too early in the morning his repsonse is ’I am not around’ and if I ring one of the ones who works at night too early in the evening, I obviously get no response but then later on I get a text saying ’Geofrey is available’ or ‘John is waiting’ and when they arrive to ‘pick me’ they either say ’I’m the one’ or ‘I’m the one for you’. It makes me laugh everytime. It sounds as if I am trying to run some sort of boda man agency!

Anyway life here continues to be good with more ups than downs. I hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Year and I’ll send more notes when I return from Fort Portal. God Bless.

Lots of love as ever from Claire   xxxxxx

butterflies caterpillar blue bird

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One day I was a bit late for work and went and explained to Mathias why and he leaned back in his chair laughed, held out his hand to shake mine and said ‘Welcome to Africa!’

9th December to 15th December.

claireWork life here seems to be slowing down somewhat and this week has been like working on the Marie Celeste! Most peoples leave has been cancelled over the last year because things have been so busy here, what with the writing and rewriting of the new reformed curriculum in conjunction with all the consultants from the UK, and so people are taking it now. Although they have had a whole year without leave it makes sense to take it now as we ‘break up’ on Friday 20th December, as they don’t come back until the 2nd January so they will have a nice long break.

They need it though, I think it has been a really tough year for them. It has been a funny week because I have run out of work. This has never happened to me before, here or at the UWE or in school, and I have not been sure what to do. Sometime this week I am assuming there will the training on Inclusion which was cancelled from last week, but  no-one is here, and I have planned next week’s training and so now it’s tricky, what does one do other than skype ones friends???  As I am not used to it I feel sort of awkward. The last time a lot of people went on holiday was in October and we couldn’t get into the kitchens because they were locked and this time the ones of us who are here can’t get into the toilets. I have since found out that when most people are on holiday they turn off the water to the toilets and so, Oh dear!!! This could be a very long week one way or another!

Still I have my notes to write so here goes! I have spoken a bit about Health and Safety but I have seen a certain incident twice now. It involves a small boy, a big car and large pair of iron gates.  The boy is about 3 years old and quite slight in build as are most 3 year olds. The first time I saw him he was sitting on the bonnet of a big white car eating a sweet corn cob (maize). This was amazing to me as the car was being driven along the dirt track which leads to my flat. No vehicle can go fast down this track as it is pot-holed and bumpy but the car was moving at a good walking pace and he was not holding on! Amazing, how far was he going to be driven like this? And what was even more amazing was that he was sitting directly in front of the driver so not sure how they could see anyway but this was obviously not a problem for either the small boy or driver. I thought that perhaps the car was full of people and so sat him there so they could keep an eye on him. This is not such a crazy notion as people get crammed into and hang off matatu’s and several people share one boda and so sitting still on the bonnet of a car is probably just another way  of taking a lot of people from one place to another. However, the car was not full, it had the driver and another small child. The other day I saw just how it takes place and I think it might be an ‘after school treat’ like being allowed to buy sweets on a Friday after school or having chocolate finger biscuits from the baker who called or having a bottle of Corona from the Corona man! The other day this same small boy was confidently walking down the dirt track and I wondered what he was doing out on his own, but he didn’t seem to mind. Then this big white car drove up slowed down and stopped and the small boy climbed up onto the bumper and sat directly in front of the driver again!  A sweet corn cob was passed out of the driver’s window, which he gratefully took. I stood to one side to let the car pass and they continued down the bumpy pot-holed track. When they came to some large heavy metal gates the car stopped, he climbed off the bonnet, with maize in hand, and opened the gates, the car drove in and he shut them shouting ‘Bye Muzungu’. The distance travelled was a good 200m.

As I have said before things here are not necessarily certain especially in the way of amenities e.g. electricity, water, internet signal, radio waves, mobile signals etc. I am not sure what it depends on but when it is thundering or threatening to rain then everything seems to stop. Last week I got up thinking I’d have a lovely shower, but when I turned on the tap it just dribbled. I turned it on more and the dribble stopped so I closed the tap a bit, sometimes the water doesn’t come out if the tap is fully open; but by this time the dribble was no more. I went into the kitchen, but alas the same. I realised that we had no electricity either so great ….no water or electricity! My hunter- gatherer nature then kicked in. On my way out I saw Bosco cleaning the stairs, with water…. Where did he get that?!!! And asked him to help me. ‘I’ll go see tank’ which he did climbing up this straight up ladder to look at our tank on a sort of tower outside. He said ’no water in tank’. Trying to find out why would have needed an interpreter so I said I’d phone the landlady. He said ‘Me too’. Anyway the upshot of this was that she sent a plumber and by the time got home there was water. Quickly I had a shower, great, but then the water went for three days. I now had a choice wet wipes or the issuing of pegs, wet wipes won the day! Over these three days we had very intermittent electricity and so for three long dark and dirty days the order of the day was candles, a paraffin lamp and wet wipes, similar to camping really! But we survived, what else is there to do? Other people had water but we were in the same boat for electricity. One day I was a bit late for work and went and explained to Mathias why and he leaned back in his chair laughed, held out his hand to shake mine and said ‘Welcome to Africa!’

This got me thinking about mobile phones, and their signals so asked and the reason why they all have loads of mobiles is one for each network as the signal ‘keeps going down’ but if you can’t afford a separate phone then you keeping swapping Sim cards using the one that is working at the time, well that explains that then! Another mystery solved from a couple of weeks ago! I think everyone should have MTN as I have never known it cut out and so must have been really lucky. The Ugandans also have a great trick; they ring you and say ‘Hello Clayer’ and then ring off so you have to phone them, sometimes they don’t speak, but whichever way you pay for the call. Clever A!

One thing I have learnt here is not to be subtle. Barbara and I met last week for coffee and she said ‘Do you think there is a toilet?’ I said ‘Just ask’, so she said to the waitress ‘Is there anywhere I can wash my hands?’ ‘Yes’ was the reply ‘I‘ll bring warm cloth’. These warm damp cloths are lovely but not what is required when you need the loo!

Another occasion which could have done with a bit of subtlety was when my landlady’s sister-in-law brought me round a plastic carrier bag full of clothes. The material was lovely, but not what I would wear, it had really big brightly coloured patterns. Apparently it is Ghanaian material which does not fade! I Anyway at home just for fun I tried on a dress and got stuck and Laura had to rescue me by pulling it up over my head. My hips were obviously too big!!!! The next week I took the clothes back to her and she asked if I wanted any of them and I made gentle excuses. ’But’ she said ‘they are lovely, why you not want them’ I tried to wriggle out of it and she  then said’ But I wanted you to have nice one, and I want your money.’ Subtlety is not a strength! Which made my resolve not to buy one even more strong. I possess only one equality out of their idea of rich and white!

Talking about being white is it wrong to have a sort of ‘Ah’ feeling? I was getting on a boda when another boda man said something to my boda guy and he said quite loudly ‘She’s my muzungu’. ‘Ah’ that was nice! Last week Laura had a minor boda accident, she is ok but after having fallen off was very shaken up. I said last week that they are getting greedy and taking a few risks and on my boda on Sunday I thought I was going to be in an accident. This car just drove out straight in front of us and how the guy stopped I have no idea. I just held my breath, but we all survived and the boda man turned around and shouted at the car driver ‘I have a muzungu!’ I am glad we all survived but would it have been different if I had not been a Muzungu? I hope not, but life is cheap as I have said before.

Conversations are changing they are not so every day, as the people I mostly talk to realise I am interested in their culture and want to learn. One conversation was a bit surreal really. It was threatening to rain and thunder was rolling around and I just quickly wanted to go and get some vegetables from my lady, but I was too late!, the rain came! My lady owns a shop about 2.5 metres square. Her shop is in about half of this and she has a toilet and very small room at the back. She sells basic vegetables and the first time I went to her she said ‘You come back, I give you bonus’ and she was right I did go back, but not because of the bonus, although it was a good business ploy, but because she is lovely.  I had bought what I wanted when the rains came really heavily and she gave me her stool and told me to sit and wait, which I did for a bit. In the corner were a few coals and this evil looking brew in a small pot, although it did not smell. I asked her what she was cooking as I thought it might have been her tea. Through very broken English, she explained that it was medicine and to cut a long story short they take this evil brew after menstruating as it ‘clears you all out’. I did not like to explain that the digestive and reproductive systems are different, and if it works for her then great, but an unfamiliar idea and concept for me!!

I went to a carols by candlelight service on Sunday at the Cathedral which was lovely, but you had to buy a hymn sheet for 2,000//= (50p) and in the back under ‘Special thanks’ was to ‘Shoe Heel Centre,’ The Almight God (no ‘y’) who has enabled us in achieving everything’ and another entry to ‘The daughters of the King for the decoration and ushering the service!’ A range of special thanks I thought! To my knowledge I have never been ushered by a Kings daughters before, and what with feeling like the Queen the other day, I think I must be living the high life!!!!

I have been trying to take a photo of a wasp as there are a lot about at the moment. They are nearly as big as dragonflies and have a defined head and one pair of defined tissue-like wings. Their body is just a very thin line that you can hardly see and then they have a much defined back end. They have two antennae, two long dangly legs and four small crawling legs, (sounds like the  12 days of Chrsitmas song) One defined head, two lacey wings, three….., but I would have to  have ‘four, instead of five crawling legs’!! Anyway they drift through the air and hover about, and in a funny sort of way quite lovely, but apparently they sting badly. I’ll try and photograph one, but I have not seen one land yet. Oh, yes I forgot to say, but a couple of weeks ago I was bitten by a big grasshopper just after I had eaten a smaller version of one, perhaps it knew! It ‘bit me on the ‘little’ finger so’ of my left hand, not my right! And yes I did let it go! They have quite a sharp bony little bite and it surprised me so when I had to remove an equally big beetle, not a cockroach, from the Kitchen I picked it up in a tea towel!

I forgot to say that last week I bought a hand blender. I decided this because the fruit is really cheap and huge and I can’t always eat it all as fruit so thought smoothies and vegetable soup, with the vegetables of course, would be a change. The man tested the blender to make sure it worked and luckily I realised just in time that it only had a two pin plug which is really weird as all the sockets are three pin, so I said to the shop man ‘Do you have an adaptor?’ his reply was ‘No, you only need a pen lid.’ I thought it was me not making myself clear again, but he seemed to think nothing of it and took it to the till for me. It was meant to be 48,000//= (£12) but at the till it was 60,000//= (£15). When I enquired why they said ‘this one has a box’ so I said I’d have no box, but after a bit they gave me one in a box for the original price. Hooray another success over the Muzungu tax! You have to be so careful! Anyway, when I got home, and this is where you must not try this at home children!! I found a pen lid. I was not sure what to do, so after thinking about it, realised that what you do is get a biro lid and wiggle it into the top hole of the three pin socket, the Earth, making sure the switch is off, pushing down or up the little switch thing inside which allows you to insert the two pin plug in the lower two holes of the socket. It was scary to do the first time and now I just go jamming lids into sockets Willy Nilly! No problem! But it still seems to go against all my grains to stick things like biro lids into plugs sockets, but it works. I now have a plug in the kitchen with a blue biro top sticking out of it! Ah, the beauty of it!!!  Perhaps I should be an interior designer instead! Think of all the other things that could be done! Ah, the world is my oyster or perhaps a nice bit of cheese!!

I have a new boda guy called Kiwe (Kiwi) as Katumba seems not to be around much at the moment,  and when I told Donald he said ‘Kiwe?’ and I said’ Yes, as in the fruit. ‘The fruit‘? Yes’. ‘U’ was the reply. ‘Is he black’? I said’ What sort of question is that, but yes of course’ (has he ever heard of or seen a white boda guy?) ‘He would have to be, it’s what we polish our shoes with, that’s Kiwe and that’s black!’ It was like playing some sort of weird word association game!

Anyway, I had better stop writing now, but I’ll write again next week. Happy Advent.  Claire xxxx

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Christmas is coming and boda men are getting greedy!

3rdDecember to 8th December.

claireChristmas has arrived in Uganda!! It came last week.  The shops are playing hymns like ‘Thine be the Glory’, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ and ‘Peace is flowing like a river’.  I am sure the music will get more Christmassy as time goes on. You can buy artificial Christmas trees and lights and baubles and bigger room decorations, like dangling stars and things. There are swags of artificial greenery with baubles and lights draped along the edges in shopping malls and big Christmas trees adorn centre areas. You can buy kettles with green ribbons around them and washing machines with rosettes on. It is all very festive but outwardly, in the street though, you would never know, it’s all behind closed doors so to speak!

Christmas is coming and boda men are getting greedy!  They are also getting into the Christmas spirit by demanding more money at the end of every journey, and one or two occasions I have had to ‘escape’ because of their aggressive attitude. I always agree a price before starting a journey, but lately when you reach your destination they demand more money and don’t not like it much when you refuse to cough up! On one occasion I arrived home quite late and the boda guy said it was ‘far and uphill’, as if that made a difference the bike has an engine, mostly no lights, but an engine anyway! and he demanded more money and I had to bang on our metal gate and call for Bosco, our security guard,  who in true Ugandan style eventually arrived and opened  the gate so I could get in to safety. On another occasion I was getting off at Tuskys and the boda man said it was ‘far’, everywhere is ‘far’ to a boda man, I said it wasn’t and that that was the price we had agreed, so turned to walk away and he followed me on his bike saying ‘you are making me feel like a bad man, just give me one more thousand’. I felt like saying you are a bad man for wanting more money but I kept on walking and he followed so had to go into Tuskys and hide there until he gave up and went away! Anya and I shared a boda and the guy had been drinking so we got off paid him and had to get another one. I was not sure whether the boda guy the other day was just angry and shouted at everything and everybody spasmodically or whether he had Tourette’s syndrome, which I hope he didn’t for his sake, but it was scary all the same. There are Three hundred and ninety nine thousand boda drivers in Kampala alone and so I have a lot to choose from. Haven’t used them all yet!

When I moved into the flat I bought a gas hob with two burners but, in a very unlike me fashion, as I  go everywhere with a tape measure in the UK, bought one without measuring the space it was going to go. To the left of the sink is a sort of square-ish piece of kitchen work top and it was going to go there, but because it was too long two legs had to be over the edge meaning it was on a slope towards to the floor or two legs were over the sink which meant it sloped towards the sink. Either way it was on a slope and it was also too high so I couldn’t see into the saucepans and had to stand on tip toe. I have never felt as short as I have since living here – I spend my life standing on tiptop or jumping up and down! So I decided to get a table made for it. Underneath our office is a technical workshop where they seem to make anything out of wood or metal for schools e.g. tables and chairs, shelves, science test tube holders and racks for drying things in Art etc. I went down after lunch thinking this was a good time to go. I don’t think they were expecting a woman and not a muzungu women, so wrong on two accounts, so they hurriedly continued to climb into their overalls some  getting  in a tangle ‘cos they were trying to be so quick. It did not seem to make a difference that I had occupied myself with looking at the things they had already made, as I was too far away from the door to escape. Never mind!  Anyway when they were ready about 4 or 5 different guys came over to try and help me and between the lot of us we managed to understand that I wanted a table made out of wood. One guy asked me ‘how big?’ so I said 90 cms tall, 75 cms long and 40 cms wide. He wrote this down. ‘Shelf’ was the next question asked ‘no, I want to be able to keep the gas canister underneath it‘, I must remember to keep it brief but just ‘no’ seems so rude! This was received by blank looks and the guy who had written the measurements said something and a guy stepped forward. I thought he was going to try and help translate. He was eyed up and down and then another came forward. I had no idea what was going on (so what’s new!) and a word was written on the piece of paper with measurements. I asked ‘How much?’ keeping it nice and brief, and they all made the ‘u’ sound they make when not sure. I was bit embarrassed by now so said they could let me know BEFORE they made it. The next day at lunchtime one of the workers came and said 99,900 shillings (not quite £25) so I said ‘ok, thanks’, but confirming ‘no shelf’ and nothing underneath! A few days later a man arrived in our office and said to Generous ‘ten’ is not enough, it transpired they had made the table and he was the driver demanding money for transport costs to take it home for me. Generous explained and I took it home with Donald in the minibus for free.

Anyway, before I took it home I went down to see the table and to pay, but a little while after lunch this time, so they had time for overall climbing! There were 5 or 6 men sitting outside in the sunshine and they all said something and one man came forward looking quite worried and sheepish. He slouched his way across the workshop with me in toe being followed by the others. I felt as if I was in the queue for helping to pull up the ‘enormous turnip!’ We rounded the corner past some small tables and chairs and thought ok I can cook on my knees, that’s fine, when I saw this lovely table, but….. it was tall- 90 cms, in what world of measurement???? I looked at it and they looked at this guy and they said’ he is to blame, it’s his length’. I said ‘thank you it’s a lovely table,’ thinking more tip toe cooking! They charged me 90, 900 shillings (about £22).  I later learnt that they do not use tape measures but do it by the length of someone and so the first man who came forward earlier was obviously not the right size but this man was considered to be. I think it is a case of rebuilding the Ark using cubits, spans and other bodily measurements – he was a tall guy; I didn’t like to mention that they had not put a shelf, true, but they had put a bar across so I still can’t store the gas canister underneath, but I have my table, the tall guy was pleased that I was pleased and although it’s a little on the high side, everything worked out well and the hob is flat!

On the walls of many houses is written ‘This plot is not for sale’ on one occasion it said ’This plot is not for sale. If you try I will sue.’ This all seems a bit odd so have been trying to understand the house buying and selling system it is really complicated,  not that I want to buy a plot or anything, honest! Although for about 100 million shillings (about £250,000) you can buy a mansion like palace in the country with loads of rooms and where it’s quiet, with about 20 or more acres. Still not interested, not even tempted! Anyway, I asked Donald, who else, and he said ‘when you die, or you live in another place, your relatives come and sell your house.  Your children ‘u’ (throaty sound) have nowhere. You come back, find your house has gone, ‘u’, they have forged the papers and all things and ‘u’ ‘u’ that’s it. I suggested that it was probably  a good idea, in that case, not to fall out with your relatives if they can sell your house while you are away or when you die. ‘Yes, it is. The relatives ‘u’ ‘u’…. I asked if it was worrying and he said (Starting to beat his chest) ‘That’s why you tie things up to Lawyers (This is a funny picture in my mind of people hanging documents off Lawyers. I’ll try it out with my solicitor when I get back. Will she appreciate being adorned with all my documents, I wonder?!!!) But they are ‘u’ ‘u’ bad, so bad. They sell your house if they know you are dead, using your numbers and ‘u’ (shakes his head)…. ‘That is why we live by God’s will.’ This was obviously a really difficult subject and makes sense why there was an essay written on a hording around a building being constructed. ‘This plot is not for sale. It belongs to a family. They have children. If you buy this plot they will starve and die.’

Much of the land here is not fenced off and looks to all intents and purposes and (to those living in houses!) that it is waste land. People then start to plant a few crops. They tend the crops and then move their chickens in and then perhaps a pig or two, and then they build what amounts to a shed which they live in and then they can lay claims to the land. Since I have working at NCDC this has been happening to the land owned by Kyambogo University and so they are having to spend the university fees on fencing off the land and so can’t pay the lecturers and so both the lecturers and students have been striking and rioting – lecturers ‘cos they are not being paid and students because they are not being taught. (I am against striking, but if the UWE spent my salary on fencing I might riot and strike!)

Talking about things written on walls: when I was in the Post Office, the other day collecting some jeans, which arrived here on October 10th and I was informed on 20th November!!!! On the wall in a frame was written this: The Postal System alone can do. The need to communicate mail across National Frontiers despite the march of time and advent of telecommunications – has remained constant to this very day. The expansion of the world’s Postal system represented by 170 nations of the UPU staggers the imagination. For ever our latest technology and instant delivery services cannot do what the postal system alone can do. Get the mail through. Anywhere on Earth to any recipient at very little cost.  (Well, what can you say? I think you need to understand it first! But just having postmen would be a good place to start!)

The concert was amazing, not due to the playing or singing but the organisational practices. We were meant to have a dress rehearsal on Thursday but there was a big funeral for Rosebuds husband (not sure who she  is but obviously a well-known couple) which started at 3.00 and was still going strong at 7.00 showing no evidence of nearing its end so we practiced at the music school. Four of us were late because we did not the message the venue had changed. Still, never mind! During the rehearsal more music was given out which we had not seen and was the rest of the music for the concert on Saturday. Talk about cutting it fine!!!! On Saturday we arrived at the Cathedral to find there were about 6 weddings one after the other. All the wedding  parties waiting in groups outside the church waiting to go in. Each wedding has about 500 people and so it was like Trafalgar Square on New Year’s Eve, but posher, much posher! So we were in a hall. We practiced from 4.30 to 7.15 without a break then we had to get changed for a 7.30 kick off!!! Tired or what!! Anyway, because we hadn’t had the opportunity of standing in place we tried to do in the hall. Alice a tall lady standing in front of me was asked to swap places with me. This went down like a lead balloon as she said ‘I am tall. I sing up and out.’ You can’t argue with that so she stood in front of me. No worries. During the first half we wore red or blue scarves which went alternatively – red, blue, red, blue. Not a difficult concept but……..and during the second half we wore a leso (lesso) it is like a thin blanket and this one had stripes down one side and the sopranos wore then over their right shoulders with the stripes facing out and the altos wore them on their left shoulders with the stripes facing out and then they were pinned with a safety pin at hip height. How many people don’t know their right from their left?

The concert was o.k. though there were a few small hitches like missed entries etc. On Sunday afternoon we met again in the Cathedral for a rehearsal at 2.30 and practices until 5.15 for a 5.30 concert. People were in the church waiting! Not very professional.  One of the hitches was that the soprano’s scarves did not go red, blue, red, blue and we had not had time to sort this out before ‘cos the practice was so long and in the 15 min gap we had to get changed again. So while the orchestral interlude was being played Harriet, a really frightening English women who thinks she is in charge, sitting in the choir stalls opposite me, motioned that I had to swap my scarf because I was now standing next to an alto with a red scarf so I had to be blue. So I changed my scarf to blue, just lucky I had both colours in my bag! But then had to persuade Alice to blue instead of red. Remember this all in silence and Alice is sitting in the pew behind me. I silently gave Alice a blue scarf so when Christine arrived she could have Alice’s red scarf. Christine had not reappeared after the break and sauntered in later just in time to sing and putting  on a scarf! I explained what was happening to Christine silently because the orchestra was still playing. So she turned round to Alice to ask for her red scarf only to find to my horror that she had taken off her blue scarf and replaced it with red as this colour suits her better!!!!! And would only give Christine the blue scarf. So now Christine and I were both blue. The alto Muzungus were all wetting themselves laughing ‘cos it must have looked like some sort of cheap pantomime or silent movie! Christine said it didn’t matter because she was going to stand in a different place for ‘song 2’ as she needed to stand by the soloist in case she needed to sing her part in case she failed!!! Why would she??? So the scarves would be wrong anyway. I had lost the will to live and was beginning to get the giggles as it was like trying to herd cats in silence. The best I can say is that we started singing in a scarf at all, the colour being immaterial.

I am sorry this as gone over my usual three pages, I just wanted to tell you about the concert but it was an experience never had before and perhaps hopefully at Easter not repeated  in the same way, but I am sure they will have something in store to amaze and astound, they usually do!

With all my love and thanks for your prayers and continued support.



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‘come and see the grasshoppers’

18th November to 24th November, 2013

claireI have been wondering what to write about this week, but again I have so much. You will recall that I was worried about my glasses but I have also been worried about my hearing and did not want to say in case I was sounding like a hypochondriac. I saw Manjit last Friday and asked him if I could be losing my hearing as a side effect of having had labyrinthitis shortly I arrived. He said it was possible and to have my hearing checked. As I’m not sure how to do this I decided that I would try really hard to listen and see if I could hear properly. The reason why I was worried was that I could hear but I couldn’t understand the words even though they were speaking English. I was finding it particularly difficult when talking to people on the phone. Face to face I seem to be fine but on the phone I have no idea, and so all week I have concentrated really hard when talking to people and using the phone.  This has resulted in me having many attacks of the giggles, sometimes finding it difficult not to laugh out loud. I used to get the giggles at school and was always being sent out, but I felt I was too old for that now so had to control myself but it has been difficult on occasions.

This week has been my busiest yet having been asked to do a 20 minute input in a training session with  specialist Special Needs teachers which took about one hour and 45 minutes because the 5 minute activity took about 50 minutes and then after you have finished whatever you were doing they all feel duty bound to thank you for doing the presentation/training etc and to make personal comments on the same. Then they all ask questions and once one has they all feel they should and when there are 20 or so in the group this can be quite time consuming and intense as you have to answer the questions and justify your approach, addressing  each point in a personal fashion to the one who asked it.

So, my analysis of the situation is that vowels are interchangeable and that they can be used differently in different words. For example ‘a’ can be ‘e’ and ‘i’ and ‘u’. Generous opened the meeting and Mathias then explained what we were all there for. All good so far until he started to talk about a fact sheet but when the ‘a’ is a ‘u’ it is not so good. I was a little shocked and my head took a minute to sort out the real meaning.  Generous also told me that she did not want any of my English pace (said pass, ‘a’ as in apple) but when the ‘a’ is an ‘i’ it also does not sound nice. When I went to the choir rehearsal in Namerembe (said with bay on the end not be) Cathedral I found myself singing loola, loola, loola and wondering what these words were until ‘by’ was put on the end so lullaby is loolaby.  One of the items we are singing is the Hymn of Praise by Mendelssohn and I again was singing, but this time differently from the others.  They were singing ‘guide on your armour’ and I was singing gird on your armour’ so now I sing guide.

Every meeting opens with a prayer and you get picked on to do it which is ok for some and not for others but you don’t seem to be allowed to say no. (That is because there is no word for no in the Ugandan language which is really interesting and that is why they book 4 things to do at the same time in different places on the same day. They cannot say no and so yes is the only option. I also find this word difficult but before I left was trying to practice using it although not succeeding very well so I have been told – so I should fit in well here!!!)  Every cup of coffee is blessed and all meals, that’s fine, but …….. I felt really sorry for Sarah as she was picked on to say the lunch time prayer at the workshop on one of the days and she said thank you for the food and asked for the blessing of it, but then she said ‘there are those who have the appetite and no food and there are those who have food and no appetite but thank God we have both so let’s eat’. Amen. Everybody laughed and I was really surprised and I was embarrassed for her. I just hope I am never picked on as I am bound to say something like that too.

The workshop is 5 days long and it started on Wednesday so we are having to work on Saturday and Sunday -8.00 until 4.00.I asked Generous why it could not start next Monday and run until Friday but she said she had only rung the people on Tuesday and as many will have travelled 6 or 7 hours to reach Kampala then it had to start tomorrow. I didn’t see the logic but agreed anyway! Another example of where people cannot say no! At the beginning of the workshop I said ‘Hello, my name is Claire’ to the ladies next to me and one said ‘Hello, I’m Immaculate, init’. I was a bit surprised as I thought she was describing herself because she was indeed immaculate. I was pondering over why she said ‘init’ when she pointed to the other lady and said’ This one is Init’. Another problem solved!!

We have been working in teams and looking at the different Learning Areas looking to see how we can make it more inclusive. I was in the Maths and Science team, of course where else would I be? Maths was ok and I found I could understand most of what was said because I had a copy of the proposed curriculum in front of me. However, science was a different matter. I again had the curriculum but they were reading words I did not have. They kept talking about Calishium or Calishiam and lid and lid ba (short sound not bee but b) and groth. Asking was not going to help me so tried to find the page they were on and to follow what they were saying and found it was calcium, lead bar and growth. The vowels are very short and I am sure I will get it sorted out so I can understand more especially when on the phone now that I understand the code!

We were looking at the learning outcomes for the students and the apparatus list and making sure that all learners can do the activities whatever their ability or disability (I must write about this one day but I know it will make me cry while I write about it, because disability here is so much more prevalent and the peoples situations are so sad) and then adding to the list of apparatus. We were looking at knowing the difference between asexual and sexual reproduction and Sarah said ‘Ah! This is where we need a male goat!’ I had to go to the toilet because the giggles got hold of me! When I returned they had indeed added ‘male goat’ to the list and everyone was satisfied. How this helps students who are visually or hearing impaired, or have no limbs or are wheel chair bound or dyslexic, have dyspraxia or are autistic etc etc I am not sure. I can just imagine schools all over Uganda taking into school male goats when required. This is a giggle trigger!

Other letters are also interchangeable like L and R. In school the topic was transport and the teacher was talking about lorries and wrote on the board lorry and lorries and then said repeat after me ‘rorry’ and ‘rorries’, so then the 70 children in the class at break time were yelling, as far as a Ugandan ever yells which is barely above normal speaking volume, rorry! rorry! R is also L and so fried is flied.

I also found out that my boda man is not called Matumba but Katumba and all his friends have been laughing at him because of me – Mama Muzungu as I am known! I will have to apologise to him but he also gets a lot of money from me every week, but it is still not nice to get someones name wrong. I know this because they cannot say my name, I am known as Clayer. It’s beginning to grow on me though. When I phone him I say ‘Hello, it’s Claire’ and he says ‘I’m coming, I’m coming’. Not that he knows where to necessarily. I ask him how long and he says ‘I’m coming, I’m coming’. So the other day when he was taking me to choir I asked him if he could pick me up afterwards and what time did he finish work?  He said ‘2’ and I asked ‘which 2, the 2 when you should be asleep or the 2 after lunch?’ and he said the ‘other 2, other 2,’ so I said I didn’t know another 2, then he said ‘Ah 4, the other 2,’ then I said ‘but it is 6 now, so how can you stop at 4’ and he said ‘Ah!  I mean 8’. So we established that he couldn’t pick me up as choir finishes at 9.

With all this going on I have decided to learn Lugandan. I am really rubbish at languages but I’m going to try and I am sure they find it just as difficult to understand me. So far I have learnt and  these are the right spellings: Ensenene (the ‘e’ is an ‘a’ as is apple) = grasshopper, Enswa ( the ‘a’ is ‘a’ in apple) = flying ant , I hope I don’t have to add them to my shopping list next week! These are as they sound so: Ollyotear (tear as in crying) = Hello, how are you, the response is Bulungi (correct spelling said Boo lun gee) = fine. If you are not fine you add an s so s bulungi = not fine. Sourmaker = How long? This is going to be invaluable for Katumba as long as he replies in English! Also Weberlay (said as it is written but not correctly spelt) = thank you and Weberlay Nyo = thank you very much. I don’t know how to say Nyo as we don’t have a sound like it – you have to say nnnnnnn with your tongue in the roof of your mouth as if you are humming and then say (y as in Yacht and o as in octopus – put the sounds together) and then sort of swallow the sound – nyo!

We have a mid-morning snack at the workshop which is very nice and we have had hard boiled eggs, beef samosas and bananas all together on the same plate, tea or coffee, but today we had daddies. These are made of flour and water and sugar and it looks as if the dough, although I’m not sure this is what it is, is made into long thin strips and then twisted into a twisty shape and then squeezed together at the end to stop them coming apart and then flied (fried.) They are about 2 inches long and is a bit like eating a stick of chalk, quite hard and sort of dry and crumbly at the same time. They’re good!

I thought that mobile phones ruled the roost in England but here everyone has about three and they spend all day charging them, swapping batteries and sim cards from one to the other and back again. Someone dropped theirs on the floor and someone asked, in a genuinely very concerned voice, ‘Will it live again!?’ A deathly hush pursued over the meeting until it proved that it would indeed live again and everyone clapped!!!!! Well, what can you say???

The one thing I did not think about before I came here was to replace my watch battery and it has died. I thought of everything else in the world but not that. So I asked someone where I could buy one and their response was ‘Do you want it to work?’ I felt like saying that was the general idea but just said yes please (like a polite Muzungu). If I did not want it to work I could pay 2,000//= in Owino Market or 36,000//= in Garden City. I guess I am off to Garden City then!

This week I received a text from Laura saying she would pick up bread and milk, another text saying and eggs and another text saying and Grasshoppers. I then text back saying I would have the cheese in the fridge instead and she could have the Grasshoppers, but alas! when I got home she was so excited she said ‘come and see the grasshoppers’ which I did and then she said, exactly what I been worrying about ‘you have to have one’. No I don’t I thought and said so, but she so wanted me to have one that I did, I ate one!!!!! It was actually quite good. Nice and sweet really, they fry them in sugar so they are sort of caramelised. I just had to pretend I couldn’t see the eye through the glaze!!!!

It is the breeding season for grasshoppers for the next two weeks or so  and fly about in great clumps, so everyone is out trying to catch then in their hands. They are a delicacy and you can get lots of money for them. The people are so cleaver and accurate they catch loads and then sell them. Donald said that my boda guy Katumba was a boda man because he did not go to school when young because he spent too much time up mango tress picking mangoes.  ‘That is what happens if you pick mangoes!!!’ It is probably true but even so someone has to pick the mangoes!

On Thursday I lead a 2 hour workshop with the NCDC staff introducing them to Inclusion as they don’t understand what the difference is between Special Needs and Inclusion. Anyway, I did a problem-solving activity involving a Farmer, a goose, a fox and a bag of beans and a boat and they had to work out how to take them all across the river when only the farmer and one other item could cross in the boat at any one time and all the items had to be alive and intact at the end so the fox couldn’t be left with the goose, or the goose with the beans etc. One man said this is no challenge look and showed me how it could be done. He leaned back in his chair folded his arms and said ‘No challenge’! We then discussed foxes, because that was what seemed to be causing the problem, and I found out that their foxes do not behave in such a greedy fashion as English foxes and so the fox, on his suggestion, become a baboon!!!! This was apparently more of a challenge and he sat back in his chair folded his arms and said ’It can’t be done now with a Baboon!’ I can’t win!!!

On the way to work last Monday Donald and I were talking about our weekends and I said I had made a large cow, it’s half the size of an ordinary cow. He thought I said bought a cow and said ’so now you have large cow in your house’. I tried to reassure him that it was not real but made out of wire and paper. ‘Why you want this cow in your house?’  I tried to explain that it was going to be a money box at a Scottish Ceilidh dance evening so people could put money in it for the Mildmay – HIV/aids charity, but he just kept saying ‘Oh Clayer’, Oh Clayer, I have to see this cow’ you give me headache!’. So after work he came in and saw the cow. He now understands, but I think he thinks I’m mad! He’s not quite sure what to expect sometimes!! But then he is not the only one especially after this week!!!

So you can see life here continues to be fun and different, interspersed with me having a fit of the giggles at inappropriate times, and I keep telling myself to just take the next step and to stop being British!!! because it really doesn’t work here. I only seem to take small steps because I think I have understood something only to find I really don’t have a clue, but I think I also confuse them a lot too with my funny Muzungu ways, but I’ll tell you more about that next week. I hope everyone is well, and I send you all my love as always.



Claire’s trip week 12

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That was a new experience as I have never washed my feet in a public loo before!

10th November to 1th November, 2013.

claireLast week I explained something of the culture and how it is a two way process – me learning their ways and the Ugandans learning U.K ways. It seems that I have so much more to learn because I am living it day-to-day whereas they do not have to apply what I tell them. However, there are very often some funny misunderstandings and language differences as you will see. It has been cold, dull and rainy here for a few days and so I said to Donald, the driver, it was like being in England except that there it now got dark at about 4.30pm and not 7.00 like here, since the clocks went back. He wanted to know where the clocks went back to and so I tried to explain our funny rules about time in the spring.  He laughed as he thought it was daylight for most of the day and night. I wish! I would love it to be daylight most of the time although I do like to sit cuddled up in front of a fire on a wintery afternoon with a cup of nice hot chocolate.

To continue my learning of the culture I asked Donald why there are no lady boda boda drivers and he was quite taken aback and I think was quite surprised I should ask such a question. He said that it was not dignified for a lady to sit like this, indicating with his arms, and not saying ‘with their legs apart’. He said it was wrong and that he was not in favour of the new ways, ‘it would have no good come to the people!’

I asked him whether women had to be taught to carry things of their heads or whether it was a natural skill, although I have seen lots of men carry great loads on their heads too, and he said that they have to be taught from a young age. I asked him if he was teaching his young daughter (she is 3 I think) and he said ‘of course how will I know if she is old enough to marry?’ I was not sure of the connection and so he explained that you teach young girls to carry water pots on their heads and then ‘when one day they come back all wet then you know they are old enough to marry because the boys have been throwing stones at her water pot which then breaks and then you know that the boys have been disturbing her.’ This is sometime between the ages of 14 and 18 and leads to much rejoicing and celebration. It must be awful not to have your water pot broken, so public!!!

I have also learned this week how roads are made and it makes so much sense as some roads are in such weird places. Like I said it has been very rainy here for a few days and things really are getting a bit more than squelchy under foot, (more about this later).  A big articulated lorry, which they call a trailer, got stuck across the entrance to work and so we had to go another way. We normally just go through the university campus, but we turned off and went through the Secondary school into an access road which leads to the technical workshops underneath our building. I thought Donald was going to ask me to get out and walk  which would have been fine as I just had to go into the workshops and up the stairs, no problem, but no! he sighed, revved up the engine, went up over the kerb, across the grass and into the car park where he wanted to be and where we normally arrived. Over the next couple of days lots of other cars and vehicles followed suit and now there is a road across the grass joining the access road to the car park. I will be interested to see if continues to be used now it has stopped raining and the trailer has gone. Poor grass!

Today is the first day of sunshine for about 5 days and this morning was lovely, it was misty and beautiful just like an UK autumnal morning and now it is sunny and like proper Africa again. However, due to the rain and  the walk from my house down very muddy dirt tracks to ‘Tuskeys’ the supermarket where I meet Donald in the NCDC mini bus, my shoes get incredibly muddy. Last night, one my way to get a boda to choir practice, I stepped off what is recognised as a path to let a lady pass, the place looked solid because it looked crusty but the mud was so deep  it went over and into my shoes turning me brown and making me slip about in my shoes. The shoes I was wearing I bought here, no not the ones from the fridge but from Batas a proper shop: the shoes are blue plastic look a bit like a ballet pump but also like the jelly bean shoes you buy children to wear on the beach; anyway they are covered in millions of little holes about the diameter of a small sequin.  These make the shoes look sort of pretty until you are sliding into mud which results in being ankle deep, and then as you sink into the mud it squelches through the holes turning itself into little worms which side around your feet and between your toes. I then had to negotiate my way back on the ‘path’ later finding somewhere to stand so I could use my precious water and tissues to wipe my feet  which I had to wash in the sink in the loo when I reached the Kampala Music School.

That was a new experience as I have never washed my feet in a public loo before, and as I put my first muddy foot into the basin under a running cold tap, as there are no plugs as you will remember, I nearly pulled the basin off the wall. I was then jumping about on my right leg trying not to put any pressure on the basin while trying to wash my foot. I then repeated the ‘dance’ for my other foot I was, however, successful you will be glad to hear! I frequently do jumping for one reason or another and so you would think I would lose weight, but no! I blame it on the carbohydrates!

The ‘muzungu tax’ this week really got out of hand but I was strong and walked away having said thank you first. I bought a gas hob which is too big to really fit by the sink and so two little button feet have to be unsupported or two have to be over the edge of the sink still unsupported, so I have been trying to find a thin table or piece of furniture to put it on. I plucked up courage to go to a second hand furniture ‘shop’ on the way home and there was the most hideous three pieces of joined wood you ever saw, but as I seem to be getting through money at a rate of knots, as it is cheaper to eat out than cook for yourself at home! Weird I know! I thought I would buy it.  Anyway, I asked the men who sit around in scowling groups, how much it was. Well, he said 110,000 shillings (£27.50) I was astounded and asked what his ‘final’ price was. He said 110,000 shillings so I asked for a ‘final final’ price and he said the same so I thanked him and walked away, so we still cook on a slant but one day this muzungu will find a thin afford table which won’t take 5 hours to buy!!!!!

Talking of cooking if anyone has any recipes that only uses a toaster, a kettle and a two ring gas hob please can you let me know. I am not the most inventive or interested cook in the world but it would be good. My repertoire so far consists of scrambled eggs, omelettes, and eggy bread, cheese on toast which is cheese in mayonnaise as I don’t have a grill, stew, rice and pasta with vegetables and stir fry gratefully received. I don’t mind if it is savoury or sweet as in puddings, but there must be more you can do in a saucepan and frying pan. Thank you.

On the way to work the other day I saw a really lovely bird. I sort of recognised it but was not sure of its name so asked Donald. He said he did not know the English name only the Ugandan name but he would do studying and tell me later which he did the day after. He said it was a ‘gin (g is in goat) fall’ and asked if we had them in the UK, I said no but they did seem familiar, and then I realised he was saying guinea fowl. Oh the trials of language!

I said that I been given a bird book for my birthday which was great as now I could look them up. Donald said that the other English person who worked at NCDC was sent a bird book. ’What is with the books for birthdays, always books, always birds, birds, birds. Why the English always sending birds? U! (which is sort of sound that is made when bewildered!). I should be saying U! all the time in that case!

Last Saturday I went to Jinja with my boss Mathias and his three children and Donald. I had a great day and was going to tell you about my adventures but it will these notes too long so will tell you about it next week. Other than to say that the road to Jinja is tarmacked as it is the main road joining Kampala to Kenya and so all traffic goes along this road and there is often ’jam’. The Ugandans are obsessed with ‘jam’ and they constantly say we have to go early ‘cos of ‘jam’ and look there is ‘jam everywhere’, ‘we will be late ’cos of jam’. I have never been late because of jam before, it’s quite exciting because I like jam, it’s nicer than marmalade!

Yesterday, when I got in the van to go home Donald asked if I had had this fruit before. I thought it was a lemon but it turned out to a yellow orange. Apparently there are four types of orange, an orange coloured orange, a yellow orange, a green orange and a small orange with no pips, I assume like a Satsuma? It was quite bitter but refreshing. Donald says he is going ‘to make sure you eat all the fruit and vegetables here before you go back ‘cos they are healthy and good. This why Ugandans are healthy and strong.’ I wonder what I’ll get today, if anything!

All over Kampala, and probably all over Uganda there are women, and sometimes men but not often, who sweep the sides of the roads with a broom that looks like a witches broomstick. I thought how boring and dusty it must be and what a waste of time but I now love these workers, they keep people safe.  The dirt and grit collects at the sides of the road and they sweep it either into the drainage ditch where they sweep it up using a piece of cardboard and their broom and put it back on the side of the road, presumably so they can sweep it up again tomorrow, or they sweep it up and put it in a sack. I’m not sure what happens to this next. When you are on a boda and have to travel so close to the edge of the road then if it was gritty and slidy there would be so many more accidents. Thank you sweeping people!

(Today is Friday and the road I spoke about earlier on Tuesday is now a proper road used regularly so even the grass which was between the tyres lines has now gone, and so another road has been made.)

Over the last few weeks I have been watching a church be built. It was half way through when I first saw it, but it is amazing. It is called St. Andrews, in a place called Bukoto and is I think an Anglican church. Anyway, the church is round and is three storeys high, but on the top storey there are 6 points like the points on a Bishops hat. They are curved and sort of semi-circular so not flat as it follows the shape of the circle. One of these points is over the entrance facing the road and at the bottom of this shape where it joins the circle are three arches one larger one in the middle and two smaller ones, one each side. It is going to be a big church when it is finished, but I can’t at the moment see how the roof will fit unless it will be a dome or pointed.

The scaffolding and ladders they use are made of tree trunks and the rungs are smaller branches secured by rubber from old tyres or sisal. They are not straight or have the same length legs most of the time and look really rickety but they shin up them really fast. They smooth concrete with a piece of rough board but the end result is brilliant. They are so skilled. I’ll let you how the work progresses.

I have much better at riding bodas now you will glad to hear, if fact I have got a bit lazy. When you are sitting on a boda there is a bar behind you which you can hang onto and up until very recently I have been gripping this bar like grim death, but I found myself the other day resting my thumbs on top of the bar with the rest of my fingers round the bar. This is a silly idea I realised to my cost because when they go over a bump or down a hole, of which there are many every few feet it seems, you get jolted and your thumbs take the pressure and feel as if they are going to break off – and as you know if that happens they never grow again! So I must stop doing this and hold on properly.

For a while now I have been worried about my glasses as although I can generally see without them I can’t read as my arms are long enough! The reason for this is because my crash helmet is too big and every jolt sends my helmet crashing down onto my glasses, putting additional pressure on them. I used to move the helmet by using my shoulder but now I am brave enough to use a hand! So I  haven’t been wearing my sun glasses for a bit as they are the same as my everyday glasses and I thought I could have the lenses transferred from one pair to  another. Just in case I needed to do this I have been looking out for an optician, there are loads of them they say ’glasses sold here’. I thought it  was strange because there are so many and no one wears glasses, and then realised when  I  was reading some suggestions students had made on how to improve their school when a few of them said ‘I would put glasses in the frames’. I then realised that glasses meant windows! Silly me! I have now found an optician and it is called an ‘eye care centre’ so all is well! I think I have also solved the problem of my crash helmet being too big. The other day I was on a boda and was very lost and Anya, a VSO friend was trying to help me by phoning with the directions. So I let go and rummaged around in my bag and  answered my phone which I jammed inside my helmet so I could hear what she said. So now my helmet doesn’t move and bang on my glasses and if I could only teach my right ear to answer my phone the whole problem would be solved!

Life here never ceases to amaze and astound me, but everyone is good natured and we laugh about things which is good.

I hope everyone is well and I think about you all often; and as always I send lots of love and thank you for your love, prayers and continuing support.



PS. On my travels the other day I passed a fire station called the ‘House of fire fighting equipments’.  I thought that was nice.

Claire’s trip week 11

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I have learned that there is definitely a hierarchy of life here, at the bottom are chickens

31st November to 9th November, 2013.

claireI have just completed ninth week in Uganda, how time flies when you are enjoying yourself! In some ways it seems as if I have been here forever, but in other ways it seems as if I have only been here a few days.  I think I was and am quite naïve as when I was planning to come I thought people are people and that we are all much of a muchness. In some ways this is true, we are all people we all laugh when we are happy and cry when we are sad and bleed when we are hurt, but in other ways we are just poles apart which I think leads to the frustrations on both sides.

As you know through my previous notes there have been times of frustration but also times of joy and every day I learn something new or need to use my imagination and ingenuity to solve problems. We had a violent storm the other day with rain the same as experienced on the Ark! The sky went dark the wind howled, the rain pelted down in sheets and thunder and lightning racked the sky, fingers of light seeming to search for something to reach out and hit! A power cut was the result of this mayhem. Laura and I were both at home and suddenly she started rushing about closing windows and said that last time she was ‘too late’ and there was a flood in every room. I started to rush about too (it’s amazing how many windows you have when they are all open and they all need closing) only to find Laura running out of the kitchen shouting ‘moth, large moth!’ I then went into the kitchen and saw the most enormous moth that you ever did see in the sink. I knew I had to just pick it up or else I would be in the hall with Laura, so I scooped it up gently in both hands and reached over the sink, quite difficult when you are not very tall, until it could feel the air on it’s lovely furry glistening wings when I hoped it would get the impulse to fly. However, I was concerned it was going to get battered to bits but it flew through the bars and onto the balcony outside. It was quite a business shutting the windows because firstly you have to undo the mosquito grids and then reach through the fixed security bars to the latches which prop the windows open. Anyway we achieved it together, and made a cup of tea, what else! and sat on the other balcony leading off the living room which has a roof and then sat and watched the storm. It was great but scary and it made you feel really quite small and insignificant.

After the storm had died down, but before the power came back on, Laura went out and as the sun again appeared I decided to open the windows. I now had a new challenge on my hands… Laura as you know is taller than me (re: the first and second mosquito net hanging episodes) and I couldn’t reach the bolts at the top of the mosquito grids. I tried jumping which was no good so I looked around for a long stick in order to pull the bolt thing that sticks out, down to release it. (I need to get a stick because I seem to spend my life looking for one and never finding it because I don’t have one!) I then tried doing it with the computers external  mouse cable which worked great until I  thought I might damage it and so looked for something else; that was when I  hit on the idea of using my hair brush. I now know why there is a hole at the end of the handle, it is for undoing and doing up bolts on mosquito grids. Success was achieved, air entered the flat, sunshine poured in and I could breathe again.  Another problem solved!

I seem to be putting on weight which is what I can ill afford to do and I have wondering why.  I thought that it was because I don’t do any exercise. I did bring my gym/running things, but I didn’t bring my trainers although I could buy a cheap pair, but I fall over anyway even when I don’t run; but then it occurred to me that the meals here, if you eat out as often as I do 2 or 3 times a week with friends, as we meet in cafes or restaurants, and they don’t like it if you eat your own food, are mainly carbohydrate. On Friday night the VSO people met at an Ethiopian restaurant called Fasika and on the menu it said ‘All our meals are served with rice, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes and chips’. Lots of carbs here I think! I so wish I had shared a meal with Alison, so did she! Anya said she had a meal the other day with nine carbohydrates on the same plate: rice, boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, chips, matooke, posho (a ground nut paste like peanut butter but purple!!!!) bread, Injera (‘J cloth’ as mentioned previously) and cassava. This is part of the culture and many people only eat one meal a day, not surprising! You are not very hungry again for ages afterwards. I

I  have just had my first sugar cane… It’s very fibrous and chewy, a bit sweet and sort of watery when you bite into it. It’s ok but I wouldn’t want a plateful! You suck the life out of it them spit out the dry fibres, nice! It looks a bit like packaging material when it’s dried from being spat out, it must be good for something, but what? I know could I weave it into a long stick because the fibres are very strong! Very useful!

I have learned that there is definitely a hierarchy of life here.

At the bottom are chickens. I would hate to be chicken here. About 20 are kept in small metal wire cage, with no floor so they have to stand on the rungs, in the searing heat, with some water and seed granted, but not enough. The cages are in a stack perhaps about 5 high and so if you are a chicken in the bottom cage you can imagine what it would be like.

Next come goats.  A piece of rope is tied, I  think quite tightly, around a  leg, normally a back leg but a front one will do, and then the other end is tethered to a post or piece of wood or something that is not going to move and then left there all day again in the heat. They have food of course but no water!

Then come cows. It doesn’t matter if they have horns or not (referred to as horny cows or not horny cows!). They have a rope around their neck which is quite loose and either tied to a post or let loose to wander. They then trail the rope around with them all day and when someone wants to catch them they, the person not the cow, just stands on the rope!

Next come walking people. Life here is cheap and you literally take your life in your hands when crossing the road and so the best thing to do is follow a local and cross when they do. Safety in numbers I guess.

People are split into groups too: at the bottom are women, what a surprise, unless they are at home then they are totally in charge; followed by children and men equally, until the girls reach puberty and  then they slide down the scale to the bottom. Don’t even get me going on this!!!!

Well, next come bodas which I wish wasn’t so near the bottom of the human list as I use them all the time. They are extremely skilled weaving in and out of traffic and finding the shortest point from A to B but they are exposed when it comes to danger. About three times a week when I go to Muyenga or somewhere over that way, on the way home the bodas always drive through the slum as it is the shortest route. (They never go through the slum on the way there only on the way back in the dark!). I learned the other day that boda drivers are often attacked and killed with iron bars in the slum at night so the people can steal the bags of their passengers. I am now a bit worried and am considering not doing this anymore and paying extra just so they stay on the roads. I have only seen one really bad boda accident where a car had gone over a boda bike and its driver. I was sharing a boda with Manjit, a doctor, who obviously stopped to see if he could help, but the man was unfortunately already dead, but the inside of someones head is not pretty! An experience I could have done without. The pictures in my head are still with me! However, they are generally very safe. I was astonished with the response to Manjit’s questions ‘Where is his helmet?’ ‘At home on the table’ ‘Why wasn’t he wearing it?’ ‘Cos he’s a boda man’ ‘He might not have died if he was wearing his helmet’ ‘They expect it’

Next in the hierarchy are matatus, which are licensed to carry up to 14 passengers, yeah right! 140 more like!!!!  Whose conductors just yell their destination at the people in the street, in case they want to go there, while he driver hoots all the time. Silence, so they say, is golden!

Then come small cars, followed by 4×4’s and then small trucks, bigger trucks and lorrys. (I am thinking of buying a big truck or lorry!)

I have never been one to want to ‘do’ graffiti, but I have found a real need for it over here. On many of the walls it says either politely ‘Please do not urinate here. Fine 50,000//=’ (about £12.50) or less politely ‘Don’t urinate here. Fine 50,000//=’. Even men in stripy suits (but no umbrella and bowler hat!) do it. Honestly I’m sure there is no need. Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to! The short cut I take to reach my lift to work is becoming a bit revolting and I was going to explain my journey but now it is not so nice so will forego writing about this now. What with chickens, goats, dogs, children and men and then all the rubbish that is dumped, its beginning not to be so pleasant and I might need to buy some pegs, because there are long stretches where you really don’t want to breathe!

Generous, the lady I work with, said to me the other day that when she was told she was going to have to work with an English person she was really worried as she had heard that they weren’t friendly. Anyway she said that she thinks I am African and have just been born the wrong colour!   I’ll take this as a compliment!

Another custom I found out about is that if you are invited in for breakfast after church, which happens often, then it is expected that you eat all you are given, even if it is enough to feed an army; or they think that you do not like their food. I can do this ok if it is peanut butter sandwiches, although I’m not keen but plain boiled spaghetti or cabbage and cassava is really difficult. Also bananas by the hand and g nuts by the bowlful! Still II don’t want to offend. There is just one small problem that if you do eat it all up they give you more because they think you are still hungry. Not sure yet how to solve this one.

Anyway, we are all learning a lot about and from, each other and there are frustrations and joys on both sides. I still have a lot to learn and I don’t think I have offended anyone yet, or at least I hope not.

I’ll write some more notes again next week so until then have fun and love as always



Claire’s trip week 10

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