Walking on water

I spent today at the beach. Sky beach on Lake Victoria. This vast inland sea is the second only to Lake Superior in size.

I watched various unusual birds, fishermen, and floating mats of water hyacinth drift by, each with their full complement of bird passengers.

On the horizon, about 20 miles away, I could see with binoculars the land disappear into the water with a cliff, I guess the cliff was about 25 metres high.

As I looked at the cliff, four colourfully dressed people appeared from behind it as high as the cliff!

This is not a land of giants. Most Ugandans are a little smaller than westerners. Not only were these four people 25 metres high but they then set off across the lake carrying what looked like a yellow surfboard and were dressed in beach clothes.

They walked a couple of miles across the lake horizon in five minutes and then disappeared below it.

It was a hot day and heat was making the water shimmer. I guess I was looking at a projected mirage from some very distant beach. A first for me.

I had not been sitting on the lakeside wall for more than ten minutes when a man brought me a chair out of nowhere. He didn’t expect a tip. Ugandans are just so hospitable and friendly.

I say goodbye to all friendly Ugandans tomorrow as I fly west for 10 hours to Sierra Leone. Please join me there by going to:

http://www.rogerinfreetown.WordPress.com

So long, and thanks for following me in Uganda

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Surreal

Whilst we wait for flights out of Uganda the three of us were invited to tea. Not unusual, but this time…..

Tea was traditional English served on the lawn at five o’clock on white tablecloths with delicate crustless sandwiches, scones, jam and fairy cakes and the tea came in bone china cups and saucers served by waiters wearing white gloves and white jackets. What is going on?

This was a special event put on for some mature English ladies just before they fly home and we were invited to join them.

Not just that but the table cloths, crockery and cake forks had been flown in from the UK specially for the occasion.

The only word to describe it is surreal. A couple of days ago we were chewing beans and rice up country. I felt today we had jumped 8000 miles north to the home counties and gone back 100 years in time.

I really wanted to explain to the Ugandan waiters that this is NOT what we usually do in the UK but I suspect I would not have been believed because the whole English contingent looked so at home with their tea, cakes and bone china and it would have been a shame to shatter the illusion.

I am sure in colonial times gone past in Entebbe such events were common. Never now.

Oh well, back to the beans and rice tomorrow.

48 hours to go, then I leave Uganda. I shall miss the surreal tea and cakes on the lawn.

Entebbe by the Lake

Entebbe is a strange place. It is a peninsular jutting out into Lake Victoria, south of Kampala.

It hosts the airport, the president’s home, botanical gardens, a wildlife park, numerous hotels, beaches and any number of bars and cafés.

It also has some very fancy housing next to rusty corrugated iron shacks. It has two major shopping malls next to open air markets selling anything to impoverished people.

It also has the highest number of white people in Uganda (probably because it has a mild damp climate).

I have this irrational feeling when I see them “what are they doing here?” I don’t understand this as I am one of them. I am sure they have every reason to be here, as I have.

Perhaps I resent not being uniquely white among black people.

I looked at Entebbe’s draft development plan for the next 20 years today. It includes a floating football pitch on the Lake. I wonder if extra time will be allowed when the ball leaves the pitch and floats off towards Kenya, driven by the wind.

There seems to no spectator seating. So I guess you watch the match from the shore with binoculars.

I am in my last week in Uganda for this year. I will be sorry to leave – it feels more like home every year. I aim to write again before I leave on Monday.

Thanks for following.

R.

This man may help

Local advice is in short supply here. There is no CAB, social services, advice agencies etc but there is Mzee Makumbi who seems to be multitalented (for a fee).

I am also an Mzee. This is not a qualification, member of a secret society or professional qualification. Its just someone with grey hair. The thinking is that if you have lived long enough to grow grey hair you must be wise.

Few people live long enough to get any grey hair so us mzees are quite unusual.

The final team of volunteers has now gone back to the UK. They were all with grey hair – all mzees – we were a bus load of wisdom (allegedly).

I now have time to do a bit of housekeeping. I have a week left in Uganda before I go west to Sierra Leone. In that week I have reports to write and plans to make.

I also need a haircut. I might visit “Two Missed Calls Salon”. It is next to a pharmacy called ” Milked Drug Shop” I may take a taxi there with local firm ” Travel with Harmony”. The taxi rank is under an advertising hoarding saying “Sleeping Baby is still the Right Choice”

I get endless amusement from Ugandan signs – but I will not respond to Mzee Makumbi’s one !

Thanks for reading.

Signs and wonders

I know I go on a lot about funny signs. This one amused me today. We know what is intended but I can think of at least four other interpretations. Any offers?

The wonders were all around us in the shape of the river Nile’s birds, fish and lizards many of which are brightly coloured and quite unafraid of people. The river flows gently out of Lake Victoria and starts its long journey to Cairo.

If I throw in a leaf, it will arrive in the Mediterranean in about three months time.

We have the next team with us now, the last team of the season. We are in Jinja, on the Nile, for the night, before arriving at Kumi tomorrow. Jinja is the last bit of normality before we head into the bush country.

In two weeks the team will re-emerge into the world they recognise; some will be changed by their experiences in rural Africa, let’s hope it is a great experience for them.

Tonight is also the last of the WiFi!

Thanks for reading.

Roger, with cicadas, a cat & lots of mossie bites (why are cats immune?)

Good hunting

The hunting expedition was successful. I now have a new heavy duty printer for Kumi Bazaar School. It took two hours to get into Kampala city centre through almost stationary traffic but the shop was kind, gave me a 20% discount and I now have this shiny new printer in a plastic bag inside a big box.

It seems a shame to open the bag. Never again will the machine be free of dust. This red laterite dust gets everywhere and, in the fullness of time, will prove to be the death of the printer. But only after many years, we hope.

Taking this printer into school will be the equivalent of landing the international space station in Buxton High Street. Yes, people have heard of it, seen pictures of it, know what it is for but will have never seen one before and have no clue how to operate it. I will be doing some training I guess.

I still cannot quite get my head round that this is the first time that this school of over 1000 kids can do its own printing, copying and scanning. Teachers will no longer have to write out the same things hundreds of times.

Signs seen on the way today:

“God made me black”- this was hand written on a piece of board next to a roundabout. No clues as to why or who.

“No one like me” on the back of a bus.

Also on a bus “survaviour” this a combination of “saviour” and “survivor”

And finally “protect your marriage – get tested together” this part of the HIV /Aids awareness programme.

Tomorrow, I think, is my first day off in a month. I wonder what I will do?

Roger with cicadas at Banana Village

Yes, we have bananas

So, my amazing team has gone home. I took them back to the airport two days ago and now I wait for the next team to arrive.

This means a week’s stay at Banana Village near the airport. Described as an “eco retreat” it is on the shore of Lake Victoria and despite being in a land of bananas the only ones to be seen in the beautiful garden are on a concrete sculpture.

And in the dining room, of course, but carefully guarded against the wild monkeys outside who will climb in and steal them.

In between writing reports I venture out to do shopping, exchange team money and generally be domestic.

I visited Imperial Mall, a multi million dollar investment where a year after it opened only six of its units have been let and approx 50 remain unoccupied. It felt like a ghost town on many levels.

Seen on a removals van “I take everything” and on an ancient overloaded truck “I have a dream” If I was the vehicle’s owner I know what my dream would be.

I enjoyed the sign “Glorious Construction Borehole Drillers” on a battered office building. It was the opposite of the way a glorious construction might be.

Yes, signs are often old, inaccurate, wrong and funny. I also enjoyed “one thousand reasons to thank my God. Watch Out ! Hygenic” but I cannot guess the meaning of the last three words. Answers please on a postcard etc etc.

Have you seen a roof rack on a motor bike? Here we have a few, usually in transit. And sometimes piled high with fruit.

More nonsense to come.

Roger

Entry and Exit

It has been a busy week. We have a great team of volunteers here from the UK. They have got stuck in, laughed, cried, and built walls and made contacts with local people.

The weather has changed. When I arrived it was pleasant, wet and warm. Now it is hot, dry and uncomfortable. I still have no fan (last year’s readers will remember the saga – it continues)

It is 8 pm. Outside it is 29 degrees and in my room it is 35. Today I stood in the street at midday in bright sunshine and could not find my shadow. It was directly below me because the sun was directly above – me. That’s the problem with the equator – not enough shade.

But it is all fine and we are all well.

Seen over a door at a pharmacy: “Entry and Exit”As there were no other doors, this was unsurprising. But why the sign ?

And a doctors sign read ” Doctors Joint Medical Centre” There are many possible meanings for this, please can I have your suggestions.

Thanks for following.

Roger in a sweat in Kumi

Preparation ends

It has been a long time coming but after two weeks of planning, travelling, many meetings, much drinking of tea etc we are ready to greet the team of volunteers when they arrive in two hour’s time.

I am sitting in a botanical garden in Entebbe watching monkeys and birds in the trees and, inevitably, chickens pecking about on the ground.

It has been a good fortnight – all plans have worked out, we have experienced spectacular thunderstorms and flooding but Ugandans are happy because rain brings life to growing crops.

Yesterday I was pondering on contrasts again: imagine the scene, we are sitting in a traffic queue in roadworks, next to me is a massive Caterpillar road grading machine kicking up piles of dust in a cacophony of noise, beyond it is a workman sweeping gravel with a broom, beyond him a woman in traditional dress walking through the dirt with her baby on her back, beyond her are men hoeing vast fields by hand, and beyond them the tree studded flat green/brown landscape continues for as far as the eye can see – probably about ten miles.

Each part of my view represented a stage in Uganda’s history, but they are all visible simultaneously. That is life here – the old and the new combined.

Enough of this introspection. Today’s entries in the funny things written on vehicles category are “Divine Brother Defensive Driving School” and “May be next time” – the latter was on a bus – presumably always full.

I would be doubtful about buying water from the roadside business advertising itself as “Car Wash – Water for Sale”

Thanks for your support. I am only sorry the internet will still not support my photos.

More soon

Roger at Entebbe