It has been over two weeks since my last entry – for which my apologies. We had a team of 16 people in the country from the UK who kept us rather busy. When they left I experienced problems with internet access. I have several possible ways of uploading the blogs but they all failed due to localised technical problems. I am beginning to suspect that the growth of Uganda’s internet customer base is outstripping the network’s ability to handle it, even in rural locations.
As I write, my bags are packed and I am heading for home. It gives me time to reflect on the last few weeks here:
– It is still a country I love. The people are welcoming and easy going. Things don’t always get done when they should but nobody seems to mind.
– Poverty is still everywhere. Most people have few possessions but lots of hope, and find joy in little things. We in the West could learn a lot from them.
– People believe that God is with them all the time. “All the times, God is good” is a commonly heard phrase.
– Our local project partners in Kumi still welcome us and seem to appreciate the work we do. Sometimes I wonder what they really think of us – but I know they will never tell me as they are far too polite.
– Ugandans tell us what they think we want to hear. This is inconvenient and leads to misunderstandings. Sometimes I think we never get a straight answer to any question. For example, if you ask the question “Please can I have a fan in my bedroom” the answer will be “Yes, that will be OK.” What they do not want to say is that there is nothing left in the hotel budget for this so they answer along the lines of “It is possible in theory to have a fan in your bedroom”. One has to be specific e.g. “Will you go to the shop in the next 10 minutes and buy me a fan please?” Their answer to this is “I will ask the manager” but they omit to add that he is away/on holiday/unwell etc. for an unknown period. It was not an outright refusal, it gave hope that a fan might arrive and at least the mzungu (white man) thinks something will happen. After seven weeks I still had no fan.
– Our work building school classrooms here is literally a raindrop in a lake. The number of children about and the rise in the birth rate is staggering. People expect a family to have five, six or more children as being normal. Often, no thought is given on how they will be fed or educated. Family planning is in its infancy. Having lots of kids is good to help work on your subsistence farm and will support you in your old age (in a land with few pensions)
– But even if we can help a handful of extra children to read and write it is worth it. It is accepted wisdom here that literacy is lifesaving. The prospects for a non-literate & non-numerate child leaving school at 12 (or not going to school at all) are so poor that he/she will be lucky to reach the age of 20.
– As I leave Uganda again, I ponder on my own good fortune and how it is that I live where I do and have what I have. My luggage (two small suitcases) contains more items than most Ugandans have in their homes. In some rural places, my luggage contents are the equivalent to the total number of possessions that a villager may own during an entire lifetime. But I do not have their sense of joy and peace.
– I am planning to return next year to do similar work. I see it as an opportunity to help others from the UK experience a different lifestyle which, at least, may help them when they get home but, hopefully, may develop within them a similar love for helping out in a small way in developing countries.
To close for this year I am quoting my favourite signs:
On the back of a slow bus laying a dark diesel smokescreen: “Before you hate me, just ask what importance you are to me”
And the winner of the best hotel sign category is:
“Welcome to Meta Meta Hotel Complex” (This was attached to several rusty corrugated iron sheds with walls made from banana leaves)
And best shop sign is “God’s Love Shop” (they sell mattresses)
But the overall winner for this year is the public toilet sign which reads: “Nature Call Centre”
Thanks for reading
And finally, here is a picture of the team at Murchison Falls