This man may help

Local advice is in short supply here. There is no CAB, social services, advice agencies etc but there is Mzee Makumbi who seems to be multitalented (for a fee).

I am also an Mzee. This is not a qualification, member of a secret society or professional qualification. Its just someone with grey hair. The thinking is that if you have lived long enough to grow grey hair you must be wise.

Few people live long enough to get any grey hair so us mzees are quite unusual.

The final team of volunteers has now gone back to the UK. They were all with grey hair – all mzees – we were a bus load of wisdom (allegedly).

I now have time to do a bit of housekeeping. I have a week left in Uganda before I go west to Sierra Leone. In that week I have reports to write and plans to make.

I also need a haircut. I might visit “Two Missed Calls Salon”. It is next to a pharmacy called ” Milked Drug Shop” I may take a taxi there with local firm ” Travel with Harmony”. The taxi rank is under an advertising hoarding saying “Sleeping Baby is still the Right Choice”

I get endless amusement from Ugandan signs – but I will not respond to Mzee Makumbi’s one !

Thanks for reading.

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Signs and wonders

I know I go on a lot about funny signs. This one amused me today. We know what is intended but I can think of at least four other interpretations. Any offers?

The wonders were all around us in the shape of the river Nile’s birds, fish and lizards many of which are brightly coloured and quite unafraid of people. The river flows gently out of Lake Victoria and starts its long journey to Cairo.

If I throw in a leaf, it will arrive in the Mediterranean in about three months time.

We have the next team with us now, the last team of the season. We are in Jinja, on the Nile, for the night, before arriving at Kumi tomorrow. Jinja is the last bit of normality before we head into the bush country.

In two weeks the team will re-emerge into the world they recognise; some will be changed by their experiences in rural Africa, let’s hope it is a great experience for them.

Tonight is also the last of the WiFi!

Thanks for reading.

Roger, with cicadas, a cat & lots of mossie bites (why are cats immune?)

Good hunting

The hunting expedition was successful. I now have a new heavy duty printer for Kumi Bazaar School. It took two hours to get into Kampala city centre through almost stationary traffic but the shop was kind, gave me a 20% discount and I now have this shiny new printer in a plastic bag inside a big box.

It seems a shame to open the bag. Never again will the machine be free of dust. This red laterite dust gets everywhere and, in the fullness of time, will prove to be the death of the printer. But only after many years, we hope.

Taking this printer into school will be the equivalent of landing the international space station in Buxton High Street. Yes, people have heard of it, seen pictures of it, know what it is for but will have never seen one before and have no clue how to operate it. I will be doing some training I guess.

I still cannot quite get my head round that this is the first time that this school of over 1000 kids can do its own printing, copying and scanning. Teachers will no longer have to write out the same things hundreds of times.

Signs seen on the way today:

“God made me black”- this was hand written on a piece of board next to a roundabout. No clues as to why or who.

“No one like me” on the back of a bus.

Also on a bus “survaviour” this a combination of “saviour” and “survivor”

And finally “protect your marriage – get tested together” this part of the HIV /Aids awareness programme.

Tomorrow, I think, is my first day off in a month. I wonder what I will do?

Roger with cicadas at Banana Village

Yes, we have bananas

So, my amazing team has gone home. I took them back to the airport two days ago and now I wait for the next team to arrive.

This means a week’s stay at Banana Village near the airport. Described as an “eco retreat” it is on the shore of Lake Victoria and despite being in a land of bananas the only ones to be seen in the beautiful garden are on a concrete sculpture.

And in the dining room, of course, but carefully guarded against the wild monkeys outside who will climb in and steal them.

In between writing reports I venture out to do shopping, exchange team money and generally be domestic.

I visited Imperial Mall, a multi million dollar investment where a year after it opened only six of its units have been let and approx 50 remain unoccupied. It felt like a ghost town on many levels.

Seen on a removals van “I take everything” and on an ancient overloaded truck “I have a dream” If I was the vehicle’s owner I know what my dream would be.

I enjoyed the sign “Glorious Construction Borehole Drillers” on a battered office building. It was the opposite of the way a glorious construction might be.

Yes, signs are often old, inaccurate, wrong and funny. I also enjoyed “one thousand reasons to thank my God. Watch Out ! Hygenic” but I cannot guess the meaning of the last three words. Answers please on a postcard etc etc.

Have you seen a roof rack on a motor bike? Here we have a few, usually in transit. And sometimes piled high with fruit.

More nonsense to come.

Roger

Entry and Exit

It has been a busy week. We have a great team of volunteers here from the UK. They have got stuck in, laughed, cried, and built walls and made contacts with local people.

The weather has changed. When I arrived it was pleasant, wet and warm. Now it is hot, dry and uncomfortable. I still have no fan (last year’s readers will remember the saga – it continues)

It is 8 pm. Outside it is 29 degrees and in my room it is 35. Today I stood in the street at midday in bright sunshine and could not find my shadow. It was directly below me because the sun was directly above – me. That’s the problem with the equator – not enough shade.

But it is all fine and we are all well.

Seen over a door at a pharmacy: “Entry and Exit”As there were no other doors, this was unsurprising. But why the sign ?

And a doctors sign read ” Doctors Joint Medical Centre” There are many possible meanings for this, please can I have your suggestions.

Thanks for following.

Roger in a sweat in Kumi

Preparation ends

It has been a long time coming but after two weeks of planning, travelling, many meetings, much drinking of tea etc we are ready to greet the team of volunteers when they arrive in two hour’s time.

I am sitting in a botanical garden in Entebbe watching monkeys and birds in the trees and, inevitably, chickens pecking about on the ground.

It has been a good fortnight – all plans have worked out, we have experienced spectacular thunderstorms and flooding but Ugandans are happy because rain brings life to growing crops.

Yesterday I was pondering on contrasts again: imagine the scene, we are sitting in a traffic queue in roadworks, next to me is a massive Caterpillar road grading machine kicking up piles of dust in a cacophony of noise, beyond it is a workman sweeping gravel with a broom, beyond him a woman in traditional dress walking through the dirt with her baby on her back, beyond her are men hoeing vast fields by hand, and beyond them the tree studded flat green/brown landscape continues for as far as the eye can see – probably about ten miles.

Each part of my view represented a stage in Uganda’s history, but they are all visible simultaneously. That is life here – the old and the new combined.

Enough of this introspection. Today’s entries in the funny things written on vehicles category are “Divine Brother Defensive Driving School” and “May be next time” – the latter was on a bus – presumably always full.

I would be doubtful about buying water from the roadside business advertising itself as “Car Wash – Water for Sale”

Thanks for your support. I am only sorry the internet will still not support my photos.

More soon

Roger at Entebbe

Preparation ends

It has been a long time coming but after two weeks of planning, travelling, many meetings, much drinking of tea etc we are ready to greet the team of volunteers when they arrive in two hour’s time.

I am sitting in a botanical garden in Entebbe watching monkeys and birds in the trees and, inevitably, chickens pecking about on the ground.

It has been a good fortnight – all plans have worked out, we have experienced spectacular thunderstorms and flooding but Ugandans are happy because rain brings life to growing crops.

Yesterday I was pondering on contrasts again: imagine the scene, we are sitting in a traffic queue in roadworks, next to me is a massive Caterpillar road grading machine kicking up piles of dust in a cacophony of noise, beyond it is a workman sweeping gravel with a broom, beyond him a woman in traditional dress walking through the dirt with her baby on her back, beyond her are men hoeing vast fields by hand, and beyond them the tree studded flat green/brown landscape continues for as far as the eye can see – probably about ten miles.

Each part of my view represented a stage in Uganda’s history, but they are all visible simultaneously. That is life here – the old and the new combined.

Enough of this introspection. Today’s entries in the funny things written on vehicles category are “Divine Brother Defensive Driving School” and “May be next time” – the latter was on a bus – presumably always full.

I would be doubtful about buying water from the roadside business advertising itself as “Car Wash – Water for Sale”

Thanks for your support. I am only sorry the internet will still not support my photos.

More soon

Roger at Entebbe

What’s wrong with your window?

Said the man with gun at 5.00 am. He had first hammered on the door to check I was awake to answer.

I do get asked odd questions at times here (my favourite is still “are you from Interpol?” – see below).

Anyway, back in the mists
time both my window handles had been snapped off, probably because they had gone stiff and no WD40 was available. I had fitted some rope to keep the windows secure, to which our armed security man took exception at 5.00 am.

As it happened, I needed an early start as I was off to the airport to collect our new staff member. A 600 mile round trip and two overnight stays.

On one of those stays – in Jinja – we arrived at a hostel in a torrential thunderstorm. The roads were awash in running liquid red soil, our van was affected by strong waves racing across the road. The hostel was flooded and the staff were happily sweeping crimson water from Reception. No one complained.

In the bathroom of my
a sign saying “water is a valuable resource, please use if sparingly”

The trip is always a rich source of new signs. Today I saw:

“Divine miracles restaurant – Special miracles and phone charging”

I am tempted to say its a miracle to find any power to charge your phone, but that would be unfair.

Motorbikes have done well with signs:

“Man spender – man expendable” (this was written on a bike ridden by two men)

“No way through” – this also was on a motor bike. It was a former road works sign attached to the bike presumably to discourage overtaking.

It would have been good to upload pictures of these but that would also need a miracle to make it work at present.

I have opened a new category of blog entries – the maximum number of legs seen on a single motor bike. The current record is 36 – four members of a family with five goats on a frame on the back.

So now there are two white people in Kumi. I feel half as conspicuous as I did. Next Monday there will be five more as our team arrives. I will then be inconspicuous.

Life is good and all is well. Rain is warm and dries quickly. Power comes back and you forget the blackouts. People laugh and smile and you forget their poverty, but so do they.

Thanks for reading – Roger

Blogging and bleating in the dark

Yes, the power is off again. I am the only person staying here and my eating companion tonight in the dining room was a pretty candle.

Obviously my conversation was poor as she self extinguished herself after thirty minutes.

As I ate, with the light of my head torch, I marvelled at my situation. The only white person in a town of 12,000 people sits alone in total blackness eating roast chicken surrounded by screaming cicadas, perfectly at peace.

Last night we had power on the ground and lights in the sky. There was a small bright streetlight near my room which turned out to be the planet Venus. The night skies here are magnificent.

My room is next to an alley which is used by goats, quite why is unclear as there is nothing there to eat, even for a goat. I’m used to goat kids bleating but not at 2 in the morning.

As I woke I realised, to my horror, that the bleating was a baby’s cries. Thoughts of dashing out to help came to mind. No baby should be alone, crying in an alley, at 2 in the morning. Perhaps it had been abandoned? The short hard life of a street child awaits it, ignored by the only person who heard its desperate plea for help.

Whilst I was summoning up courage to get up and actually do something it cried again – from the next room, what a relief. Late arrivals, it seems.

Contrasts continue. After church today (where I was announced as a “dear old friend” – dear friend seems fine, old friend likewise but “dear” and “old” together don’t sound quite so good) I was served tea by a Tribal District Sub Chief – a pleasant middle aged lady who was on today’s tea rota.

My internet speed has now dropped to 1 K. Not Mb, K ! It may take until my next blog to upload this one.

Tomorrow – back to Kampala for two days – the bright lights await (but Venus will be hidden in traffic pollution)

Thanks for reading.

Roger in the dark with cicadas