Thursday 14th July
My apologies to my avid readers who have been logging on every ten minutes for the last four days to see what I have written (as if!) to find nothing here.
It has been a busy time. One would have thought that as this year’s programme is largely a re-run of last year’s then it should be quite easy. However, this would involve making the following assumptions:
– That a presidential election had not happened which did not affect the price of anything.
– That key local personnel with whom we work would not have moved on to pastures new.
– That local project partners would not have diverted from plans we had agreed with them last year.
– That rats would not have chosen our storeroom to hold a party lasting for six months.
But, as it happened, all these things happened and we just have to deal with them. They will all be OK but just need a bit of extra time to sort out. We have also had to readjust to the African way of life. Again, all three of us on the staff team have a lot of experience of this but we have found we have to keep calm and remain flexible when it is tempting to get exasperated.
So, when local people are a couple of hours late for a meeting (in one case a whole day late) and it takes four hours to order a meal at a set time, which is still half an hour late, we just say to ourselves “we are flexible, aren’t we?” We also repeat the word ETLIA to ourselves regularly (Everything Takes Longer In Africa)
However, our friends here are as welcoming and friendly as usual. We cannot go anywhere without receiving big hugs (even from some people we have not met before) and the ever-present small children still run up to shake our hands and say hello. It is tempting to think that the reason for all this welcoming is the work and money we bring to help the communities but I think if we said we had stopped doing all of this they would still be just as friendly.
As our friends here get to know us more each time we come, they become more open in explaining the corruption that goes on around them. The worst case we heard of this week is of a respected civil servant who, when he applied for promotion, was told that not only were his academic qualifications all forged but he seemed to have three different identities.
There are constant stories of government funds being subverted for private use but local people explain this with a sense of amusement, rather than outrage. I think they like the idea of organisations like ours spending funds directly on community projects because they know that none of it has gone astray on the way.
We are trying to raise funds to re- roof a school building in Kumi. In April a storm quickly removed 130 sheets of corrugated iron and the termite infested timberwork that supported them. The local education authority (which has no insurance) has replaced the metal work but has no money to buy the timber or pay for it to be installed. We asked the local Director of Education about it and he said that his funding from national government gets less each year (this has a familiar ring to it) and he can do no more about roofing.
The cost of the work is £1,500 but to Ugandans this is a vast sum of money and completely impossible to raise locally. They haven’t actually asked us but……… ! In the meantime a class of 100 children becomes a joint class of 200 children.
We looked at the pile of scrap roof metal work and were told it would certainly have a second life on the roofs of local houses when it has been bashed flat and sold. Nothing here is wasted.
And now it is time for the usual funny signs entries. This year there is a new category – that of the most puzzling sign – and the week’s prize goes to the sign on a tree in a field which reads “Warning – no idollars allowed on the stage” Is this, I asked myself a survivor from a concert keeping fans away from the performers or a newly prohibited rural internet currency.
We also wondered if there was anything else on the menu of the “Duck Mash Mash” café and we were surprised to find that the special needs gate at the airport also admitted UN personnel and flight crew.
More in a day or so. In the meantime here is a picture of some goats about to be dispossessed at Akubui School where, tomorrow, two new classrooms will start to rise.