A lot has happened in the last two weeks. 16 volunteers arrived at Entebbe on 24th July and since then we have been their leaders, guides, advisors, hosts, managers, etc. for everything. Not that it was a challenge – they were delightful to have and very hard working and useful.
They did all the things we asked them to do, and more. They were generous with their time and their money and several things are happening which we, as leaders, did not think were going to be possible. Such as the replacing of a missing school roof and the construction of some new school toilets.
Sometimes I think I have been in Africa too long. It is only when people come from the UK and point out that the water doesn’t run in the shower, or runs too much, or the toilet doesn’t work, or the fan is broken does it come home to me that my expectations of comfort in Africa are almost nil. It is easier that way, for me. But for those of us who are used to things working properly it can come as a big shock. I try to get things going as much as I can but some things I cannot change.
Complaints by me to the hotel management are always met with a friendly polite assurances that the matter will be dealt with immediately. In reality this means:
– Someone will be asked to phone a plumber/ electrician / builder (as required)
– That person doesn’t know the number and forgets about it.
– When reminded, he/she finds the number but it is engaged, or out of range.
– After various attempts the builder answers and says he is hundreds of kilometres away but will deal with it on his return (or not, as the case may be)
– Time passes and people forget / are too busy / just hope that the annoying Englishman (me) will convince his friends that living without a working toilet / shower / washbasin is the usual thing in Uganda and we just ought to get used to the idea. And mostly we do.
When work was done we took the team to the Murchison Falls National Park and we had some of the closest encounters with wildlife I have experienced in Uganda. These included our bus being checked out by a bull elephant at close range.
He flapped his ears a bit (a warning sign), thought about overturning our bus with a quick flick of his large tusks but decided that we were non- threatening and wandered off). And then a series of crocodiles peering at us from the bank of the Nile culminated in this one:
It was about five metres along and weighed in at over a tonne. Fortunately it was sleepy. Appropriately found on the river Nile, this is the Nile crocodile which is the world’s second most dangerous crocodile, second only to the salt water crocs of Australia. Our volunteers pleaded with the boat driver to back away but he seemed to enjoy getting close. What we did not know until later was he could not back away as the route was barred by a large hippo, also a regular killer. The saying is “hippos kill more people in Africa than wars” is probably untrue but we get the message.
That night I was woken by munching and heavy breathing. It was not Alex our driver with whom I was sharing a room. It was a hippo grazing outside by window. They come out of the water at night and graze regular routes they know. This one’s route was along our back wall, and then along our side wall, and then round the front of our building. Of course, I dashed outside with my camera and got the most amazing close up shot ever of a hippo. No, actually I lay very still in bed until the munching and breathing disappeared into the night.
This morning, being Sunday, we went to church. The same little village one we attended two weeks ago. Attendance was down – about half as many children as last time and only two dogs. The community chicken didn’t even put in an appearance.
With no reports on funny names for two weeks, I am sure you expect me to come up with some good ones; so here goes:
“Number Nine Old lady Good Food Shop”
“Titanic Guest House”
“Ted Green – his academy” – (this was a smartly painted shed by the roadside).
“Rich Rich Property Agents”
“Stormchild Car Wash”
“Taxi Drivers and Blockers’ Office” (No, I have no idea what a blocker is – perhaps someone who puts blocks under the wheels of parked taxis to stop them running away when their handbrakes fail. I wonder why he needs an office?)
“Half Road Closed”
And this week’s most appropriate sign was on a lorry. We went round a corner to find the road almost entirely blocked by a parked lorry. The name of the business on the front of the lorry was “Zero Distance” This was true, so far as the space left for us to drive through. This is marketing in action.
The best philosophical sign on a vehicle which caught my eye was “More money – more problems.” If this is followed by society in general it explains why most people don’t seem to think that have a problem in the world. They have no money so no problems either.
Tomorrow, we leave Entebbe behind us and return to Kumi. It will be good to get back to the peace of the countryside. Keep smiling – I am.