Friday 4th September
So, here we are, at Entebbe again, getting ready to receive our next team tomorrow. As part of their off duty experiences, we are planning to take them to the Entebbe Botanical Gardens and so we had to go and have a look at them today, purely for health & safety reasons, of course.
It is a large area of tropical woodland running along the shores of Lake Victoria. It contains many fine old trees and exotic plants and flowers. I know from the guide book that it was started in 1902 but there is absolutely no other information available about it. Some of the trees have their Latin names engraved on plaques but, otherwise, there is no information, no display boards, no leaflets, nothing.
Parts of it have the feeling of being once well tended as private gardens and, I am guessing here, I suspect the gardens may have been the private domain of a colonial governor of some sort. There are tall stands of bamboo, enormous jungle bracket trees and a large tree from which hangs dozens of small brown footballs (which we read from its label is the canon ball tree!).
Masses of colourful birds are about and we saw egrets, kites, kingfishers, Egyptian geese and dozens of others we could not name.
We had lunch in the lakeside café (again purely from the health & safety viewpoint) and watched a storm come towards us across the lake. It is a peaceful spot, even when the rain is pounding on the roof.
I bought a newspaper again today to catch up on Ugandan news. Every paper has several stories of corruption by officials. They are so common they are almost not news. Ugandans seem to expect their officials to be corrupt and mostly laugh it off. All large contracts are put out to tender but sometimes the terms are a bit hard to comply with.
Imagine if you own a lorry and you want to bid for transporting some goods to South Sudan:
You pick up your paper (printed in Kampala) and learn that you need to travel to Juba, in South Sudan (a mere two days drive away) to read the terms of the tender. You then return to Kampala, consult your business partners, work out your bid and then have to deliver the bid, by hand and in person, back in Juba. How long do you have for this? – The deadline closes in five days ……. and Juba was still technically in a civil war zone until last week, when a shaky peace treaty was signed.
And all the time you suspect that some friend of the person letting the contract has the deal already stitched up. So you probably do not bother to bid and, once again, corruption prevails. Short period bids for contracts seem to be very common.
Today we went past “Christ the King Medical Centre.” On the signboard was a picture of a white doctor complete with white coat and stethoscope. He was not pretending to be Jesus but it looked as if he was offering a service second to none. I find it vaguely concerning that a white person should be chosen to model a doctor in the picture; it would also be quite hard to find one here.
Three weeks today I will be waiting for a plane to take me home. It does not seem possible yet!