We have been in Bulenga for 4 days, this is a small village about 45 mins outside Kampala, and where Nicola's project was based last year where she worked as a primary school teacher at Bulenga Modern Primary School. It is quite a good size for a Ugandan village, and is absolutely lovely! Unlike Kampala which is a big dirty city (but not without its charms) Bulenga feels rural in comparison, bumpy mud roads and rough houses made out of local hand made bricks and tin roofs, tropical trees and plants are all over the place, small plantations of matooke trees (similar to plantane) grow beside the buildings and the place has a lush, green feel. There are animals wondering around the roads, it is not uncommon to wals in to a cow strolling along the road!
Here we were staying in the teachers compound, a small little courtyard surrounded by 5 small houses on either side - I use the word 'house' rather leniantly, two small rooms, one with two single beds, whilst the other is for cooking/living. There is a long drop toilet in the corner of the compound, and when I say long drop, I mean long drop! When you drop somthing down you have to wait several seconds to hear the 'thump'! There are always things going on here, many of the teachers have young childern, either their own or adopted, who are always running around playing (Favor, Regan, Steven, Edgar, Jovia, Hope, Innocent, Zaina and another). When we are there the kids hardly left us alone, we were a bit of a novelty, new people willing to give them attention, hence our house turned in to a cresh in the evenings until we chuck them out - we need our sleep too! I met most people here last year when I visited, and amazed they remembered me! They have such big hearts, and welcomed us all, making us really feel at home.
Life here is hard in comparison to the west, water has to be collected from the well in jerry cans, and boiled before drinking over tiny charcoal stoves lit by by dripping a melting plastic bag over the top - Nicola is good at this, she has had a lot of practice! There is electricity but this is sporadic, going off when it chooses to... Clothes are all washed by hand in basins of water and hung to dry outside with the exception of pants which no one is allowed to see and need to be washed/dried in the bedroom. Showers consist of a cold bucket of water behind a wooden door!
On sunday we went to a church one of the teachers (Abbia) goes to - whaT an experience! She is a born again christian, very happy clappy praise Jesus type church in this big wooden shed, most songs were very jolly with lots of dancing etc. I did not like the preacher - very conservative, shouting at us telling us we must repent or be punished for our sins! What she failed to tell us in advance was that it was a deliverance service where the preacher would get rid of the devils inside people - near the end of the service he got people to the front and started shouting/preaching with music and putting his hand on people, several fainted and started fitting, a bit scary in my oppinion - is this really religion??!
We spent monday/tuesday at Nicola's school, about 10 mins walk from the compound. Nicola was completely at home and was loving it - huge grin all over her face!!! All the kids kept coming up screaming "Madam Nico, Madam Nico", they took her in to her old classroom where they had all written messages saying 'I love you' etc. I was loving it as well, the kids love visitors and will run up to you and cling on as if I were a magnet. We were made to feel welcome, I was shocked some of the kids I met last year still remembered me, they kept making me say words in luganda and laughing, I have no idea what they ment, I'm sure they were rude! We spent time in the staffroom where Jane the english teacher got us to mark some exam papers from primary 7, it made me realise just how crap my english actually is!! I'm sure I would have got several questions wrong!
At break we drank this drink called 'porridge' basically hot flour and water, the expression on Pieran's face when drinking this stuff was hilarious - at several poins I thought he would be sick! Lunch was not much better, posho (boiled maize flour until it goes solid served with a simple bean stew (beans in a tomato sauce). Uganda is not known for its food, the staple is a variety of things made from flour (posho, porridge, bread, chipatti etc) often served with some simple food like beans or matooki, it fills a hole but after a while just becomes substance.
On the tuesday afternoon the kids put on a welcome show for us, singing and performing a traditional ugandan dance with outfits, it was amazing, I really felt honered. Nicola gave a short speech saying how pleased she was to be back followed by me and Pieran saying thank you to everyone. After the dancing we got out parachutes and played with the kids, such fun, I loved every second... it was soo good to see the grins on the kids faces :D
--- Lyndsey ---