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Claire’s trip week 12

‘Chocolate, coffee and tissues week’

26th November to 2ndth December, 2013

claireI have officially declared this week as: ‘Chocolate, coffee and tissues week’. My group; Chloe, Natalie and Renske have been here for 12 weeks now and things are not going well for some. We very quickly became friends and having been through thick and thin together developing a really strong bond so when one of us is not having a good time it affects us all,  but to know we are there for each other is really comforting. They were brilliant when I was in hospital and stayed with me on the first day and visited every day after that and took good care of when I came out. The age gap between us (about 20 years) did not make a difference which was really good, but as time went on and frustrations set in and bad days arrived I realised I was slowly becoming a sort of Mum figure to the group. They would confide in me and I would listen and provide hugs, chocolate, coffee and tissues in whatever order they were needed first; mostly hugs and tissues followed by chocolate and coffee and when I had my sad week in the middle of October they were there for me, but their remedy was to give me hugs and then go to an all-night party!!!! Which I did and was fed goat curry and chapatti; a new take on things I think but it worked, sort of!!! I have noticed though giving friends who are sad chocolate can make them cry  even more and  I’m not sure whether that is because chocolate is  expensive here and so a great gift or because it is the love and care.  Anyway, it doesn’t matter, it’s just the need for chocolate I think.  Luckily I was sent chocolate for my birthday so I still got my chocolate boost and I didn’t have to cry!!

It can be very difficult being here at times as nothing is explained, people at work take it for granted that you know what you are doing and you just have to get on with it. The only thing you are told is the deadline for things, but what you need to do  and what the process is that you need to follow or the format you need to use is kept very much secret. This can have a very upsetting effect on us poor volunteers as we spend our lives poking about in the dark. However, this has now become too much for some and Natalie has been very unhappy for ages. She has left her placement and has moved out of her house and has left the temporary job she was given at VSO and has decided to return to the UK in January. On Tuesday night she came to stay with me and Laura so hugs, chocolate, coffee and tissues were needed big time. I made her up a bed in the spare room (thank goodness there are 3 bedrooms) and that made her feel much better. She doesn’t want to tell her mum because she doesn’t want to worry her so I tried to stand in. Barbara, who came in the group after me and is my age, was caught, riding a boda without a helmet (silly I know) and was ‘grassed in’ by a VSO employee who has just left so had nothing to lose, and so Barbara had to have a ‘status’ meeting with Pete the Head of VSO. He took 2 days to decide whether to send her back to England or not as this is a ‘hangable’ offense in the eyes of VSO. She has been allowed to stay but only if she is ‘good’ but because of it and all the upset it has caused her she is thinking of going back to Wales anyway. Patrick and Maureen from Barbara’s group have already returned to Ireland and so the numbers are gradually dropping. Will I make the year???? I really do hope so.  Going on Skype and talking to family and friends really helps and so in a funny sort of way does writing these notes as it makes me see the funny side of things. It is lovely here but to survive you just have to go with it!!!!

Last week I mentioned I was learning Lugandan. I can say quite a bit now in a very English accent and mostly they don’t understand what I am saying but I try. However, I want to be able to use it to talk to people and ask for things etc. I attended a workshop last week from Wednesday to Sunday (working the weekend YUK!!) and they were helping me at lunchtime learn new words. However, I made a big mistake because they asked to say the food is delicious. I didn’t know the word for food but I did for eat so said eat is delicious and thought I’d be clever and give a suggestion of my own so I said what I thought was ‘water is delicious’  ‘Amaz Ewarmer’ and everyone put their heads down and started to laugh, a mistake I  thought!! Oh, well! I asked what I had said and it was ‘Poo is delicious’!!! Yes well! The difference is water is Amazi not Amaz. What a difference an ‘i’ can make!

Talking about water: you cannot drink the water here ‘cos it has worms in it etc. and so instead of buying 2 litre bottles of water since I moved into the flat, on October 12th, I decided it would be better buy a large bottle, the size which normally goes on top of a water cooler, approximately 18.7 or 18.9 litres. So off I trot to Tuskys and buy a bottle of water for 30,000 //=. I thought this was dear but the cashier said that when I bought the empty bottle back the next bottle would be 6,000//= because you have to buy the bottle but then they swap it for a recyclable one. There are three companies that do bottled water, Rwenzori, Blue Wave and Rain drop. I bought Blue Wave. So the next week I took the bottle back and took another bottle of Blue Wave to the cashier who said I couldn’t buy that one. I didn’t understand why apart from it was something to do with it being the wrong sort of bottle. They did say I could have Rain drop for 5,000//= though which I agreed to. Big mistake! Now rain drop is what it says. It tastes and smells just like rain drop (rain water). So went back to Tuskys and said that the water was horrid and disgusting and the manager and said it was the same sort of water that was in his office so we went off together to do some water tasting. His water was disgusting too! He told me to take the bottle with the water back. I said it was too heavy so when our friends came over on Sunday to make a highland cow (don’t ask!) we made them drink it. Today (Wednesday)  I went to took the empty bottle back and asked Donald to come with  me  and lo and behold I was allowed to buy Blue Wave water in the same bottle as I  tried to  buy last week but this week it was ok. Was it the fact that Donald was there or have II won the water battle!!!! (I think it was Donald!)

Anyway, like I said on Sunday about 8 people came and drank our disgusting water while making a half- sized highland cow for a Scottish dance evening on November 28th. It is about the size of a piano! And is made out of wire and paper mache but the cow grew and grew like topsy and now it is too big to go through the flat door so the only way for Angus (that’s his name now) to leave the flat is by being lowered by ropes over the balcony to the ground. He needs to be finished before tomorrow (Thursday) and we still need to finish the paper mache, paint him and fasten on the hair extensions so he looks long haired.  He then needs to be transported by pick- up truck to Bubbles O’Leary’s in Kololo. I’m looking forward to travelling in the back of a pick-up with a half-sized highland cow.

On the way to work, on Monday, Donald and I were talking about our weekends and I said I had made a 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 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. So after work he came in and saw the cow. He now understands but I think he thinks I am mad! He’s not quite sure what to expect sometimes!! But then he is not the only one.

Last Saturday I went into Kampala with some friends and Dorothy from VSO as she was going to take us to some fabric shops. The material was absolutely gorgeous and if I had the skill to make something I would have bought some. Barbara brought some as she wants to have a long flowing length tunic and I can’t wait to see it, it will be amazing, but as she is now thinking of going home I don’t think this is going to happen.

However, I did buy two wall hangings at an African Market but so they hung smoothly I  was going to attempt to sew a hem top and bottom on each of them and thread a piece of dowelling through. Now most people know I cannot sew and so my aim was to finish sewing the hems before I return home next year!!! On the way home from market, I went into several shops to ask for dowelling. I tried to explain that I wanted wood that was round and about the size of my index finger. They thought I wanted a disc and gave me an assortment of washers made of rubber and metal.  After a bit I gave up and so on Monday explained my plight to Donald. He said Oh Clayer, Oh Clayer, you give me headache (holding his head in his hands), but he said he understood what I meant and he would sort it for me. So I left him with the wall hangings and at the end of the day he very excitedly said ‘I have done it, I have done it for you. I spend all day in the workshop making flat wood round on a machine watching to make sure it is done properly so they go through hem. Is that what you want?’ I looked and there on the floor of the transit van where the biggest thickest pieces of round wood you ever saw. They are like broom handles. I said ‘they are just perfect, thank you’. Then he said ‘I also help you more I get them to sew the hems for you’. This was really nice but now I have lions with no feet! But at least they are up and look great.

A couple of  Saturdays ago I went to Jinja with Donald and my boss Mathias and his three children, a boy of 12 called Munro and girl of 9 called Elisha and girl of 2, although Mathias thinks she is 4 and a half, and I can’t remember her name, but they were all lovely. Munro was a typical 12year sort of quiet and moody and Elisha was eager to get to know me but was a bit wary so it was after lunch before she started to really talk to me.

I was ‘picked’ as they say at Tuskys at 7.30 and we got to Jinja at about 9.30. We passed a grave for 19 unknown people on the roadside which was sad. I am not sure of the cause of this as when I asked no-one seemed to want to give me an answer.  Anyway, we turned off the main road and headed down a roughish road which then just got worse and worse over the miles. Eventually it was little more than a single width dirt track with small dwellings at the side of the road where people waved at us.

We visited Mathias’s parents who were lovely and live on a four acre plantation growing maize, yams, peanuts, which grow under the ground, I had no idea! Coffee, mangoes, jack fruit, pawpaw and of course sugar cane! Each Ugandan is meant to eat 5.7 kgs of sugar a year according to the government, so they have to grow a lot. His parents are building a house which they really need to do as the accommodation is terrible compared to some I have seen. They have two rooms; a bedroom and another square concrete room which is about 2.5 meters square and has 4 dining room chairs in it lined up along the walls, this was the living room. They also sleep in here on the floor. There is no mattress on the bed frame and the bed is covered in corrugated metal sheets.  They explained that the corrugated sheets were more valuable than anything else in the house and as they needed keeping flat and straight the bed was a good place so they sleep on the floor on a banana fibre mat.  The sacrifices they are having to make to build their house are amazing, but it will be lovely when it is finished. The village water pump is a long walk away and as they are quite elderly am not sure how they get water, but they do have a lovely brown cow for milk and chickens for protein!!!!!

We then went to another house near-by and met a lady who started the Mothers Union in Castle Village, she is married to the retired Arch Bishop of Castle village and they have 10 grown up children, They made point of saying several times their  second born had since died. When we arrived I was quite surprised and interested in the ritual that was performed.  We took our shoes off at the door, which is normal, but when we got inside Elisha and the little one got on their knees in front of the lady and she greeted them. She then, in turn, got on her knees to me and came towards me. I felt really embarrassed. It was explained that this is a sign of respect to older people, but to see a lady about my age if not older than me, shuffling towards me on her knees on the floor did not seem quite right somehow. Anyway I held her hands like I had seen her do and then she got up. That was a relief!

She was so excited to have a Muzungu in her house, which had not happened before, that she went to fetch her neighbours who were also in the Mothers Union. We had to wait a long time, about 45 minutes, because they had to get changed into their very best dresses and when they arrived they got on their knees to the lady of the house and Elisha and her sister got on their knees and greeted her neighbours and then they got on their knees and greeted me.  I then greeted them. I thought all the greetings were over but I was wrong because they then sang me the Mothers Union Anthem and some other songs and danced and clapped and cheered. I felt like the Queen on a state visit. I asked if I could some photos and they were delighted, I took loads.

They have 26 Mothers Union members and meet once a month. They are trying to raise money to buy 200 chairs and plates and bowls and cutlery etc so they can lend it out to people for parties and functions at the church and in the village so they can put the money back into the community. They eventually would like to buy 500 so they have enough for weddings. They make brush brooms and tie the ends of the twigs together with bits of rubber from old tyres and they even weave a pattern in the binding, so it looks nice. They are so clever and resourceful. They sell these to the secondary schools so they can clean their compounds. Their lives might be hard but they take such care over the littlest of things so they look nice.  After showing me their brooms and how they make them, all the ladies disappeared and about an hour and half later provided us with a lovely lunch, of bread and freshly made peanut butter and fruit picked from their trees.

I felt sorry for Elisha because she was getting bored, the little one kept herself amused by going into the garden and collecting twigs and leaves and making patterns with them in the corner and then giving them to us to hold. Munro was happy just to sit there, but poor Elisha was bored so I asked her if she wanted to take a photo. She was quite surprised and had obviously not done this before as for the rest of the day I did not see my camera again because if she took one photo, between her and Munro as eventually he thawed out and relaxed a bit, they must have taken 200! I was just pleased I didn’t have a camera which took a film!

I then asked if I could make a small donation to their project and they sang, clapped and cheered again and great celebrations were made. It was lovely and I really enjoyed what they performed for me, but it was way over the top for such a small offering. We then went back to Mathias’s parent house who then gave us another lunch of Matooke and some meat, don’t ask it is better not too!  We then went and looked around the plantation and after the rain had stopped and we had managed to dig the van out of the mud as it had got stuck on the side of the road, we made our way back to Kampala, via a disused copper smelting works, as Uganda has now run out of copper, and through the town of Jinja which looks lovely and we arrived home at about 7.00. It was a really interesting day out.

Lots of love: Claire     xxxxxxxxxx

Claire’s trip week 13

Filed under Upcoming Events by on #

Comments on Claire’s trip week 12

December 8, 2013

Claire @ 12:25 pm #

Dear All
I am sorry if I have not answered any e-mails sent but I have had a tummy bug and sickness for a few days and have got a bit behind. I will answer them over the weekend hopefully. I am sorry if you have taken the time and I have not replied.

Please find attached the notes for this week.

I hope everyone is well.

Lots of love Claire
xxxx