Thursday 24th September
And all too soon we come to my last report from Uganda !
We have had an interesting week. We visited all our major project partners, took final photos, said our final goodbyes – and then they visited us and said their final goodbyes. This is because we invited them to a presentation evening – we have working with 10 different organisations and many of their personnel had not met their counterparts before. So it enabled them to meet each other and see what else we have been doing.
Showing a digital slide/video show is always a challenge in Uganda. This is because it needs electricity. As it happened there was no shortage of it last night – from the sky – the voltage was a bit high though and lightening blew power lines and transformers and even the 13 amp fuses in my bedroom. The rain was so heavy we could not hear each other and, for a while, 25 people sat in a room in silence listening to the storm. In the end it calmed down, the hotel started a generator and the show carried on.
Then we had the clearing and packing up to do. Fortunately, we are able to leave our main supplies in Kumi so we do not have to carry everything home. Guitars, printers, tools, paint, trowels and scrapers are all listed and put away for next year.
Today we drove, for the last time, the road from Kumi to Entebbe. Seven hours and two hundred miles again. I am starting to memorise the major landmarks in order now, Mount Elgon range, the Kyoga swamp, the rice fields, sugar cane plantations, tea fields, the Nile crossing, Mbira Forest and then the endless suburbs and industrial estates of Kampala. It felt like saying goodbye to old friends for we have done this trip ten times.
Kampala is always a rich source of amusing signs. Today we found “Glasses – free fitting and delivery” “Poison Care Pharmacy” ”Elderly Cattle Rearing Project” “Executive coffins” and what must be the only Chinese cut-out police officer in Uganda “Photocop Ying”
But to finish I must tell you about “Paradise View Restaurant.” Two days ago, whilst traveling in the Kumi area with one of our project partners, he said he would take us to the best restaurant in Ngora, a small town near Kumi. “It is good” he said “it is where all the government officials eat.” Even after three months in Uganda “the best restaurant in town” conjures up an image of, say, a smartish appearance, clean tables, helpful staff, a good menu and, with a name like that, you expect a good view.
The restaurant was a dilapidated shack down a weedy track; the kitchen made of corrugated iron, the dining room was some more iron on four poles, the floor contained large holes to fall into, the table wonky and the chairs cheap bendy plastic. And no view at all except a similar house next door.
However, the food was amazing. (No menu – you just ask “what have you got today?” and the usual reply is “goat, chicken, rice, fish and veg) but it was so well cooked and flavoured with sauces. After a while we came to realise that the view of paradise was the view of the food on our plates.
In a way, this epitomises Uganda. No effort is made to dress anything up. It is all honest and functional. If you have a good name for food up a back street, you don’t need to pretty up your establishment. If you want a good meal, that is what you get – without any trimmings.
Uganda and Ugandans are very straightforward. They have very little money and see no point in wasting it on a tin of paint or a bag of cement. You don’t need running water if there is a bucket. You don’t need electric light if there is a candle. But they will be honourable, friendly and straightforward in their dealings with you.
They will be content with their view of paradise, even if it is only on the plate in front of them. They may not eat as well for weeks.
Many thanks for following this blog and your comments. I have enjoyed writing it as it puts things in perspective for me and, I hope, has given you an idea of what inspiring and amusing place Uganda is.
Banana Village, Entebbe, 8.30 pm, whilst the cicadas are tuning-up outside