Uganda: Heading Out East (Days 163 – 169)

Saturday 19th June – Day 163

Miraculously we managed to be up anmd rid of our guests (Sophie, Caitlin and Shaun) by 10am – our departure time for Mbale, but Boz wasn’t quite packed yet.

At 11am we spoke to Joseph – he wasn’t back fromMbale, he said 12 – he wasn’t back at 12 either, lucky for Boz because he was still washing pants and socks!

We went to Paul’s for lunch; beans with silver fish and posho – I nearly vomited, mnaging only a few mouthfuls but fortunately I had the opportunity to spoon some onto Paul’s plate when he was out the room!

Ultimately he arrived back in the village at midnight – something to do with his free ride having to stop every 10km because of its broken radiator; the greatest underestimate in FAT yet?

Thankfully for us we’d waited until 5pm then decided b***** it and hopped off to Kampala.

It was great to surprise everyone! We did the usual Iguanas and Bubbles thing until 4am.

Sunday 20th June – Day 164

We had the delusional idea that we could all be up and ready by 10am.

However, not having heard nything from Joseph and being unable to get in contact with him or via Paul, we hung out at Backpackers.

Our friend Catherine, a Canadian – so not too bad a person – was having her last day, so we lunched and coffeed at a 1000 Cups and got free refills because it was Sunday!

When we got back in the evening we dropped by Joseph to rearrange our Mbale plans, so that we were leaving 6am on Tuesday, getting back Saturday morning.

Arriving back at the house, I unlocked it to discover the floor a mess, stickers thrown around and the windows unlocked – we’d been burgled again. Ben was unable to find his digital camera or his video camera.

Monday 21st June – Day 165

We confused the kids by going to school – they thought we’d be in Mbale by now!

In Lugazi Boz and I bought wire so that we could wire shut the windows! A clever idea I think.

Having spoken to Keish and the Turners, James wanted to come and visit our project the next day, so Mbale was pushed back to Tuesday midday.

Tuesday 22nd June – Day 166

We dosed around waiting for James to turn up, then gave him a quick tour of the house and project. It was a little like 2 worlds clashing!

His tardiness pushed depature back to 2pm, but them wanted to go and get his police reportto claim back his missing items on insurance. This process took forever!

First he made his report and had to pay 60 000/=. Then they inspected the house (they drove up in their police truck!) and then the 3 of us went back to make statements (we got to ride in the back through the village! It’s like a pick up truck, with seats down the middle where you tend to see police men or security guards riding in the back with guns)

By the time we got our of there. We had lunch at 5pm nd so we pushed the Mbale trip back to 6am on Wednesday.

Mbale

Wednesday 23rd June – Day 167

Amazingly we met Joseph on time and were heading to Mbale at 6.10am!

It was a difficult journey in a matatu as all I really wanted to do was sleep, but there was no way to rest my head.

At 9am we hit Mbale, breakfasted and met with Joseph’s friend Mary, who took us back to a court yard of houses, to which she lived in her own house next door.

It had a lounge, 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a toilet and a (cold) shower! Almost luxury!

After refreshing up we tried to make our way to the first school.

The town of Mbale is surrounded on one side by the giant slopes of Mt Elgon and other mountains. They rise up suddenly out of the ground, in a similar vein to Aires Rock in Australia.

On the way we stopped in this little village, met Mary’s husband, Joseph’s brother Joseph (apparently it’s the family name, so they all have it!)

By now we were in the valleys of the mountains. Moisture hung in the air and there was a constant threat of rain.

We swung by the Water and Sanitation Headquarters for the region and met with the father of one of the borders.

They let us borrow their 4×4 truck to try and climb the now raining mountains.

In the front Boz, Mary and the driver sat, in the back was myself, Ben, and the 2 Joseph’s.

We got so far up this mountain, sometimes at a snails pace, only to get to this thin strip of road with steep drops either side before the driver decided he couldn’t get any higher safely.

The Joseph’s got out to see if we could make it on foot – 40 minutes later they arrived – it was unpassable. The next 40 minutes were spent trying to turn this truck around, but all it did was slide up and down the road.

We thought we’d never get down!

But thankfully we did and we made our way back to the house – having seen no schools that day.

Mary dropped uss off to watch the England game, which we did win narrowly, only for the US to win their game and put us second in the group.

As we went outside the complex, all these kids ran over to this field, earlier on the day which a helicopter had sat.

They were all shouting Museveni, Museveni!

And it was Museveni!

As soon as he was in his truck, all the kids (and us) ran over and waved, he looked right at us! It was the most exciting thing all day!

Thursday 24th June – Day 168

After getting up at 7am, we didn’t get breakfast (meat and potatos) until 9am and left at 10am.

We squidged into the regular taxi (5 plus a driver) and made another attempt at getting to the mountain school, despite Joseph II’s apprehension, Mary insisted we got.

This time we literally crawled up the mountain, you could feel the ground scraping against the floor of the car.

But success and we arrived at the school!

It turned out it was actually Mary’s village!

We walked the last bit up to the school.

It was beautifully mountainous, only a few hundred metres from the top of the mountain you could see back in Mbale. Out in the distance was more mountains, partially hidden from the ever approaching rain.

As we entered the tiny building, the children sang for us. The head made a talk, informing us on all their problems and how any funding we could supply would be most helpful… We tried to explain who we were, and what are charity provided – they didn’t understand or what to hear.

A quick soda at Mary’s a mother (there was a kitten!) we were heading back down.

We didn’t hit the next school until about 3pm!

Again the children sang for us, but many had gone for lunch by now – some even thinking we weren’t coming! This one needed more teachers, classrooms and latrines.

The next school was a mixed Primary and Secondary school. By now it was about 5pm, many students had gone home and many parents were in their place.

Again more begging for funding, and once again we tried to explain what our charity did.

Now that we were finished for the day, we headed to a little town on the very edge of the Kenya/Uganda border for dinner.

We travelled to Joseph’s village next, meeting his father and some family. We even got to see the site for his house – the bricks are done, but he doesn’t have all the wood and roofing material yet.

From there we went to a from which you could see the Kenyan countryside about 1km away and spent the night.

Friday 25th June – Day 169

This school we visited first in the morning. It had a very large classroom, with several blackboards.

There weren’t many pupils as they’d been chased away by school fees.

The main problem seemed to be that students were leaving for a UPE (Universal Primary Education) schools where they didn’t have to pay (we thought that must be a good thing for them, free education and so left a bit confused.)

Next we visted a reverend and his projects to support OVCs (Orphaned and Vulnerable Children). His children sang for us, they present me with a goat, we named it Shaun, as I am Mumbwa and so came from the Mbale region.

The secondary school was massive, with many classrooms and the buildings were painted – it didn’t need our help, but has some great signs from the Straight Talk club, such as:

“Virginity is Health”and”Flowers are lovely”

But the children were off site having sport.

Next was a primary school that was in more need than the secondary, currently relying on voluntary teachers, but the classrooms weren’t too bad.

He took us around the workshop to teach street boys carpentry and the shop were girls learn dress making and then a kindergarten.

Next school of the day was the biggest I’ve seen.

Hundreds of pupils, maybe 60+ in each class and each year had 2 classes – mammoth!

But besides the size, the situation did not seem too dire – new latrines were needed after the old ones collapsed on some boys.

The next was the most exciting we’d been to and was just on thje edge of Joseph’s village.

It had Baby through to P7 and got all the kids out, under this beautiful old tree with all its roots above the ground, to sing for us, 2 kids even performed poetry plus we got 2 sodas each!

Back to Joseph’s villge we met again his father, Jospeh II wife and kids and got some really nice photos.

The village is all situated on this one ‘road’ which if you continue along, you get to fieldy bits with the occasional mud hut buildings. All the houses seem pretty far about and are hard to spot in the wild environment.

But we still had 2 more schools to visit.

By now most of the kids had gone from the school, but there were many parents! Once again they didn’t really understand the concept of project trust… They also wanted funds to not only help the school, but to build a new church as well… But we did get some nice views of the Kenay/Uganda border again.

The last school was not even accessible by car and we had to walk!

It had some really nice buildings, a church that looked like it was going to fall down and some crappy classrooms for the younger kids.

After the presentation one of the parents said to Ben that they didn’t need teachers, but any other kind of help would be great!

That evening we headed back to Joseph’s village and got to see the young lads practice their dancing for their circumcision ceremony, including their full out fit.

Beads across their chest, grass skirts and bells in hand with tassles! It was ridiculously noisey, with them blowing whistles, men drumming and women screaming along!

Dinner we had with Joseph’s family – half the living room is filled with Joseph’s rafters for his new house!

Then a late night drive back to the house we’d stayed at with Mary on the first day.

Thoughts…

My favourite visit was the first, perhaps because we weren’t used to the begging nature yet, or perhaps because of the beautiful mountain scenery I don’t know, but it would a tricky project to access, and is isolated if there’a storm.

In some places we were the first white people to visit there, but the people were on the whole friendly, though perhaps a little expectant. It was a little uncomfortable how they associate white people with handouts.

The worst part of the trip though was having to fit 4 people in the back, us 3 lads, plus a Joseph. Uganda is a hot place, even hotter if the electric windows don’t work…

By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.