Young friends

Saturday 5th September

Today is our last “day off”. We are ready to collect the next team from Entebbe airport tonight. They are with us for two weeks – then we have five days to pack up, clear up, put everything away until next year and hold an end-of-project celebration when we invite everyone we have worked with to come along and get together.

This morning I went for a walk out to Lake Victoria. It is about 45 minutes from here along dusty tracks past lots of local village homes. Everyone is very welcoming and children shout out “mazungu” as a welcome all the time. My destination was the “Sky Beach Hotel” which is on the lake shore – it has no beach but there is a lot of sky. I wanted a cold drink and walked into the Reception. The receptionist’s children (about 6 and 8 years old) literally threw themselves at me as a welcome. I felt like a long lost returning uncle. It is like that here – everyone is touchy-feely and very trusting.

I was the only customer at Sky Beach Hotel – this is the view from their café:

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I sat watching the birds along the lake side for over an hour. Egrets, hammercocks, waders of all kinds and many other brightly coloured birds I have no idea what they are. We also have otters along the water’s edge.

On the way back a small voice shouted from behind me “I want to be your friend” I turned to find a little girl chasing after me. She was walking my way and wanted to walk with me. She said she was 12 years old, her name was Shalika and she had been shopping for her mother. I said her English was very good. We chatted for a few minutes and she scampered off. This is Uganda – people are so friendly towards visitors – and with skin my colour, I can only be a visitor.

A motor bike passed me with a handwritten slogan on the back “young investor”- this is the land of small businesses. Uganda has the highest rate of new business start-ups of any country in sub-Sahara – but it also has the highest failure rate – 95% of new businesses fail in the first year. It all comes back to education, or lack of it.

There is a small shop near here called “London Pork Joint” – It seems that attaching “London” to a name gives it a reputation for quality. Having seen what is on offer, I doubt whether many people from London would want to buy their pork. Customers who expect some cooling facilities and an absence of flies would be disappointed. Rural Ugandans do not see this as a problem – they just cook the meat for a very long time and see no need for fridges (92% of the population has no electricity anyway –  although solar power is creeping in).

I may be off air for a few days when the team is in. Thanks for reading.

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