I realise that I haven't updated my blog for ages but it is so difficult to find the time to do it and then there is the problem of the Internet, which is mind numbingly slow! So I will just update what I have been up to over the last month or two (with some weeks missing) and then will endeavour to keep up to date with it!
Week 6: 22nd - 28th Feb
This was the week that Wanyange finally decided that teaching would commence! Everybody else had started teaching at their link schools a while back but Wanyange kept asking us to come in to pick up our timetables and then each time telling us that, in fact- no timetable was ready for us! Lib left very early in the morning on the school bus to teach for 8am on Wednesday morning but I had the chance for a little more sleep as my first lesson was not until 11am. Lib and I literally had to turn up to the classroom on our own with no teacher to introduce us to the girls or tell us how to go about teaching them and we had no syllabus. So I ended up standing in front of 86 Ugandan teenagers with not much of an idea of what to do! However, it wasn't as daunting as I expected- the girls seemed really sweet and eager to learn and I decided that in the first few lessons we should just get to know each other. I got all the girls to write a bit about themselves and also write down a question to ask me and then after I went through every girl which took a fair amount of time! Some of the questions that were asked were rather strange such as which Vaseline and moisturiser I used and they were also keen to find out how many children I had and who my husband was!
That weekend Lib and I made the spur of the moment decision to got to Kampala with Sarah, Laura, Cat, Liz, Benji and Wez. After spending a morning with the kids at ASCO we hoped on a coster to Kampala. Lib commissioned a random passer by to run and et her a Rolex as we were stuck in the back of the coster and just after we thought he had made a run with her money he came back and passes her it through the back window! The journey was long with lots of traffic but I was kept entertained by the group. After a fair walk through busy and stressful Kampala, we arrived at Aponye Hotel, which was central and quite nice for the money we were paying! Lib and I shared a room, freshened up and then got ready to go out. You get far stranger looks in Kampala when you go out in a little dress and I didn't see any where near as may Muzungus as I did in Jinja Main Street! BodaBodas are also slightly more scary in Kampala as the traffic is so much worse but we were taken care of by Benji- don't know how we would have done it without a Ugandan who knew his way round to help us! We had a really good meal at Tuhende Safari Lodge which was only about £5.00 and three courses! After we went to a Club called Iguanas which was really cool and like a wooden shack in the middle of the city - we stayed there until about 2.00am but before we headed to Club Rouge Lib started to feel unwell and so Benji took her and I back to the hotel. I had a really good nights sleep in a bed far far nicer than mine at the guesthouse! The next morning Sarah, Lib and I headed back early and after several failed attempts to get a good breakfast - walked through the streets of Kampla to find the Matatu Stand. One piece of advice I would give others is not to take a wheel along suitcase to Kampla as the streets are so uneven and too crowded and the Matatu stand is covered in mud and by the end you are too! That weekend we went to watch the rugby and went to another local party. Mark Malinga - head of Lordsmeade picked us up on his truck and we all stood up in the back and over the River Nile and on the way to Sombreros after the party we sang all the way - mainly the Grease melody! By Sunday I was ill and bed bound and although I had raved about the Chilli Con carne I was to make I was too ill to make it let alone eat any!
Week 7: 1st - 7th March
After quite an uneventful start to the week, things started to heat up quite a lot! The week began with me feeling really ill to the extent that the thought of food was horrible to me - that was when I knew it was really bad! Unfortunately I missed out on dinner at Fishy's (a lady who runs a medical outreach project and who has 6 Gap year students living with her). Fishy had told Ollie that she wanted us all to meet them, especially the boys to meet the one boy living with her who was outnumbered 5:1! Lib and Ollie came back early and told me that they had played a joke on Fishy and Co. They had given themselves fake names including Miles who named himself Zachariah and put on an American accent the entire evening and managed to fool them all! By Thursday this week I was feeling much better and after having missed teaching on Wednesday I was keen to get into school on Thursday for my two lessons. I helped out at ASCO in the morning teaching Lokiru some basic maths and letting George repeatedly show me with pride the gaping hole where the dentist had removed his rotten tooth and saying "No good". At around 12pm several men arrived and started asking Sarah and Moses questions. At first I didn't think much of it and thought they were just landlords there to talk about the lease of the building. However, it soon became clear that things were getting more heated and the men were actually questioning the running of the project! The children sometimes get a treat of watching a film and were all sat around watching 'Kung Fu Panda' but the men complained that this was all that we did with them and they would not listen when we tried to show them the evidence of the Maths and English that we had taught them.
Moses, Sarah and Lib went to the police station (Moses particularly was dragged there) and I was told to go to the field and play with the boys. We were all swinging off the goal posts and having fun when Jen got a phone call off Lib desperately asking her to go and get Godfrey for help. Jen and I rushed to Godfrey's office but were told that he was in Embago following a Landslide there. I got a text from lib saying that she needed her laptop and Jen rushed off to St. James' in search of some help. Things became more dramatic as it started pouring it down with rain and the Boda driver was refusing to drive me back into Jinja with Lib's laptop. I arrived at the police station looking like a drowned rat and Santos told me to follow him in but the men stated asking me about Passports and trying to get me into the questioning room but luckily Joseph told me to get out whilst I could. I returned to the guesthouse to tell everybody what had happened, slightly comforted by Lib's text saying that she would soon be out. However, Lib then called saying that she needed an important Ugandan in the community to help her and so I tried to get in contact with Mark Malinga - head of Lordsmeade. I then got a phone call off Laura saying that we needed 2million Shillings (£670) in order to get Lib out! Everybody quickly offered some of the money and Joe and I, both with 1million stashed in our bags headed into town to meet Laura and Co.. The situation was rather confusing as some people told us we needed the money and some told us definitely not to give into the bribe -I felt a little confused and didn't know who to trust! Eventually at about 8pm and after 8 hours in prison Lib and Sarah came out. Sarah stormed over, fuming, but Lib was with Mark crying and obviously very upset. We decided that it was high time that we got Lib home and after a brief meeting with Mark, we all went to 2Friends. We all felt very relieved that a member of the group was not spending the night in a Ugandan Prison Cell.Afterwards I played darts in a team with Miles and then Rachel and learnt that I am certainly no darts player!
On Friday we decided that a relaxing day was needed after the trauma and so we all met at Rereflections. The setting of the restaurant is absolutely idyllic and right on the bank, surrounded by the peaceful River Nile. Moses told us all about the night's antics as he did not get out of prison as Sarah and Liberty did! I was relieved to see that he was ok and not too traumatised as you do hear some horrible stories out here! He was very tired and hungry as sleeping is not advisable in the cells and all food is seen as 'communal'. However, his stories about how (due to his rag hair style) he was given the role of musical entertainer for the evening were comical! He also told us that most of his inmates were from the North and so respected his work with the street children as they themselves had children who they could not care for.
At the weekend Liberty, Moses, Sarah and I went to view a new property for ASCO as we had now officially been booted out of Gabula road after complaints form the neighbours. A new property was always the long-term plan anyway as Gabula road was basically two small, dark rooms and not very appropriate. However, money for rent on a better property was an issue, as well as finding a landlord and neighbours who wouldn't mind the fact that 20 street kids would reside there! We looked round the property which was extremely nice (probably too nice in hindsight) and met with Andrew - the Landlord who was wearing an Irish Rugby shirt and told me he had visited Ireland and liked the Irish a lot! He seemed pretty keen for us to move in and we were all very excited especially as he seemed like a really good guy and was keen to hear about our Project and work with the Street Children. We then went to visit another Project nearby which housed Street Children to see what ASCO could potentially become. This was run by a Ugandan lady called Sarah and the boys were all really well behaved and polite. Whilst outside, Moses asked me if I wanted to be put down as one of the founding members in the ASCO constitution. I was a bit shocked at first and said he should probably discuss it with Sarah but said I would love to.
We all went to Flavours to discuss the finer details of the lease and it was decided that Lib and someone else would travel to Kampala on Tuesday to meet Andrew at his office to draw up the contract and to show Andrew ASCO's constitution. After the meeting we went to Dam's water with the kids to watch the Rugby and on Sunday Lib and I went to Sarah's house to sort all the paper work before Monday and met her Puppy who she had named 'Empire' after the Ugandan Spirit!
Week 8: 8th - 14th March
Andrew had called Liberty to tell her that Tuesday was a better day for their meeting and so we took the opportunity to have a meeting at Kiara Kids International - the school where Moses works- to have a meeting about ASCO. That morning, Lib and I had gone to visit Godfrey who said he would be happy to help us with anything to do with ASCO. We also discussed what International Women's day meant and Godfrey and his friend told us that they didn't agree with it because they thought it segregated women and made them seem inferior to men. It was really interesting to hear their opinion on the matter and they were very keen to hear what people thought about women's rights in England. We had our meeting about ASCO and Moses had cooked us some really delicious pasta and I had my first taste of yams which i didn't like at all. There was so much to discuss about ASCO and it seemed like all that was planned for ASCO - the house, a matron, sponsors, money would never ever be achieved! We talked through a lot of issues and made quite a lot of progress which was good! We came back to the guesthouse with Sarah and Moses and sat round the table to finish off the constitution and Project Plan so that everything was ready and the contract could be signed with Andrew in the morning. The evening was a very sad one for me. I got a phone call from my Dad telling me that Grandad had suddenly died of a heart attack. I was absolutely distraught and inconsolable for hours until I finally decided to get up and carry on. Everyone in the guesthouse was so great especially Ollie and Lib who bought wine chocolate and candles and sat and chatted to me outside. On Tuesday morning Ollie and I went for lunch at Source Cafe and saw some of the kids on the street asking for the project so we bought them some water and chapatti and told them we were doing all we could. When I returned to the guesthouse I sat out on the porch and Ashley came up to me and gave me a little beaded bracelet and a note saying how sorry she was about my granddad which was really sweet. For the rest of the week I just tried to carry on as normal and I spent quite a lot of time at school teaching to keep me distracted. On Friday evening Lib and i were invited to Sarah's house in Enjro for dinner. The food was amazing as Ivan used to be a chef at Two Friends and we had pork, salad, chapatti and some kind of toasted sandwiches. The evening was rather hilarious as all had rather a lot to drink which ended up in the Ugandan men performing their self written songs for us and Sarah, Lib, Laura, Liz and I etc singing Fresh Prince of Bel Air to them under the leadership of Cat!