Greetings once again from Kampala,
Yesterday we had a very relaxed day in Entebbe – sitting by a pool just off the beach at Lake Victoria, swimming and sunbathing. Some of us were relatively careful with sun-cream (I finished with a sunburnt right knee cap where I had presumably skimped on the cream) but our Ami finished up looking like a strawberry bushbaby. She had fallen asleep on the sun lounger with her sunglasses on and ended up with bright white around her eyes and bright pink everywhere else. She will have the tan she has yearned for, but at a painful price. She was trying to get her face to move last night without it cracking and was walking like John Wayne. She hasn’t got up yet this morning (it’s 7.30 as I write) so I don’t know what the pain quotient is at…
It turns out that there was no walking at all at the island where the chimpanzee sanctuary was, so we all could have gone and there wouldn’t have been a problem for Naomi, but it is just one more example of the Watoto liaison person not having done his homework properly – but we have learnt to live with his laid-back style and just accept that that is his way of doing things. Africa has a saying “in Africa, no hurry” but it also seems to be “in Africa, no flexibility or organization!”. We were promised a further trip to the Watoto baby hospital but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen either. Never mind.
To put things into perspective, I was chatting yesterday to a young medical intern who is staying at the same guest house as us and working at a hospital just up the road. We heard early on that you can only go to hospital if you can pay for it – and the sort of tests that they do in our hospitals will only get done if you can pay for each one – so you may need four diagnostic tests to work out what is wrong with you, but may only be able to afford one, so it is pot luck whether you choose the right one. We have also seen adverts on lampposts from people offering organs for sale, for their own medical needs or just to acquire cash eg. “Student 25 years old offering kidney for sale, contact…”. The intern, Evelyn, was telling me that she had seen her first case of a severely malnourished child yesterday, brought in by a woman who was obviously fairly well–fed and healthy. Evelyn had got rather cross at this, wondering how a woman could feed herself but let her child starve, but then learnt that the child’s mother had died of AIDS a fortnight before, the child had been taken in by this other woman, who alongside raising her own children had spent the last two weeks raising the money to bring this extra child in to the hospital.
It seems AIDS has so devastated some communities that single-roomed houses sometimes become home not just to a woman caring for her own children, but up to three or four others too. The fathers of these children move on to another place (to infect other women with the HIV virus), and it is the women who are left behind with an inevitable death sentence from AIDS but also in the short time they have left the job of trying to look after not only their own kids but other people’s too – all with HIV passed down to them. A lot of advertising money goes into promoting safe sex and family planning but whether or not any progress is being made is debatable. Every large village seems to have a hut which advertises itself as an AIDS clinic, but it looks usually just like another house that has been commandeered when its occupant has died. I don’t know quite what help is given – but it has brought the long-term problems of Uganda into focus – and it makes all the more special the long-term programme that Watoto is about and seems to be delivering so well.
We will get a chance today to finish off our hands-on Watoto work. We are going out to the village where we built the classroom for a dedication service, and to have photos taken with us and the plaque we have brought out telling the world we built it! Then we are off to another Watoto village for lunch with children in their own homes. Hopefully we will get to see the children sponsored by a family at Church on whose behalf we have brought out little presents.
It is Naomi now, I’ve been waiting since this morning to put a bit on the blog but once again we had power cuts and the electricity has been off almost all day – breakfast in the dark was an experience as we all forgot that many things, like the toaster, need electricity to work! So it was bread and jam for me…
Today is our last full day here in Uganda and we have been quite busy! This morning we set off back to Suubi Village for the dedication of the classroom we built. We took the plaque we had made with us and we had a little service there. The Pastor wasn’t there (organization fails again!) so we had random prayers from the building foreman and Jona on our behalf. They also decided we would both sing a song to each other, for which we were once again very unprepared. We ended up singing something resembling ‘Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow’ but I don’t think the word ‘shambles’ quite describes it. We weren’t the only ones unprepared though since the Ugandans sang us 2 songs which were almost identical! Embarrassingly, Colin videoed the whole thing as well.
After Suubi we set off for Bbira Village where we were going to meet some of the church members’ sponsor children and have lunch with some of the families there. When we arrived it was chucking it down with rain but we did manage to meet all the children we had brought presents for, which was lovely. Thanks to another mess-up, no families were expecting us for lunch so we had to go all the way back to Suubi for lunch there! We split into groups of about 3 or 4 people and went to 7 individual houses for lunch. Dad, Ami and I went to one house which was an all boys house. We were welcomed by loads of the boys running out of the door and trying to hug us all and hold our hands which was really nice, then we met the Mother of the house. She was really lovely and welcoming, calling me and Ami her ‘daughters’ and saying we were ‘all so welcome’. There was also a trainee mother there who was shadowing the house mother before she becomes one herself in Gulu. There were 8 boys living in the house, but we only met 6 of them because the other two were in training for the choir. They ranged from about 3 to 10 years old and were all really excited and happy! The house had one main room which acted as a lounge / dining room. There was a small kitchen round the corner which was simple but it had everything they needed in it. They cook on a fire still and don’t use gas but they seem to get by easily! There’s also a little bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. The Mother made us a traditional Ugandan meal which was similar to the one we had at the guesthouse a few nights ago. We had ‘matooke’ which is like mashed banana, boiled rice, fried plantains (sweet, red banana), salted peanut ‘ground nut’ soup (weird purple colour and is more a sauce than a soup), beef stew (cooked in banana leaves), vegetables and chapattis. It was quite nice and helped by the fact we had tried most of it before! However, the mother kept saying she needed to fatten us up and kept putting more on our plates, in particular the plantains which Ami wasn’t a fan of and had to keep passing to me and Dad! We had watermelon and pineapple for ‘dessert’ as well which was lovely.
We had a lovely time there, got some nice photos with the family and were walked back to the bus by some of the kids. From there we came back to the guesthouse but the bus was buzzing with excitement which was really nice for all of us!
Update on Ami’s sunburn – in her words ‘Ami is a big red spot and about to die and shall be carried home in a coffin’ but in truth she is afflicted with pinkness and has seeping blisters on her forehead and very sore thighs. Don’t forget the cracking tan (burn) lines! The planes home should be an experience!
Tomorrow we might be going back to the Bulrushes, then going to the craft market for some last minute shopping! Then comes the thrilling jobs of changing our money back and getting our valuables out of the safe at KPC. We aren’t likely to be writing another blog until we have left Uganda so if not it is goodbye from here! We’ve had an experience, that’s for sure, but we are looking forward to going home now, I think.
Love to you all,
Naomi (and the others!)