Saturday, 29 September 2007

What A Difference A Dollar Makes

The (now) four volunteers and the first 10 gorgeous children we are currently teaching and soon to be living with!!

WINDOWS AND DOORS! We have waited a LONG time for these. The set nearest is what will be our bedroom!

Mona and Jay painting the inside of one of the two classrooms!

New Roof!! On the Kitchen and Dinning Building! !

Jay Says: Firstly, if anyone has seen the news about major floods in Uganda, don’t worry. That’s only in the far far north. Down here in the South it hasn’t rained for over two weeks – which is bad news! This is meant to be the rainy season and everyone is planting crops in anticipation of the rain… so if it doesn’t rain soon the crops will fail. This is insane. People dying from floods in the north of one (small) country while a lack of rain is causing concern down south! More evidence of Climate Change having the biggest impact on those who contribute the least! Political rant over (you’ve missed them I know).

So, the blog:
Busy busy busy. We weren’t sure it would ever happen but the project has really kicked off over the last couple of weeks. As I mentioned before we were lucky enough to get a large donation from Micro Drainage in UK. Getting money into Uganda however is not as easy as it should be so its taken about four weeks for the money to come through! While we were waiting for this, rather than twiddling our thumbs we’ve been busy planning and using the Dando-Binns organisational brilliance to set targets, plan work schedules and decide how best to use the funds to ensure things would go as fast as possible. And its paid off, our manager has really taken on board everything we’ve said. The money came through last weekend so Saturday (22nd) was spent shopping, shopping, shopping; buying cement, sand, mattresses, plates, books, pencils, paint, ordering blackboards, hiring labours to plaster and put a roof on one of the buildings. Something we have been waiting a very long time for!

With all this work now being done we are hopeful that we and the children will be able to move in within a couple of weeks! We’ve been busy designing school logos, motos and uniform this week as well, all very exciting.

For the last two weeks the initial 10 children who will be living at the orphanage have been coming to the centre for lessons and porridge (maize flour mixed with sugar and hot water - a luxury for these kids) for a couple of hours everyday. The first week was quite hard, as literally all we had was an empty room and a ball. But we managed to make some pretty good educational games and work out the different abilities of the children. This last week has been a lot easier since we’ve bought materials, pens, pencils, textbooks etc. So we’re now going to make sure these guys have far and away the best possible start in life.

As the Children will be moving in soon we have been visiting where they are currently living in order to understand a bit more about their background, health and family situation etc. Just like when we did a similar exercise during our first weeks, this has been a really humbling experience. All of our 10 children live in real abject poverty, with relatives or extended family who can’t afford to look after them, let alone pay school fees. One for example is Jackline who is ten years old and lives with just her 85 year old alcoholic granddad. Her grandfather is sick and soon won’t be around, and as they are refugees from Rwanda they have no other relatives in the country. Francis’ mother has a mental health problem and his father has just been diagnosed with TB. They sold their home to try and find a cure for the mother and now live in a mud hut on rented land. God only knows what will happen to his six younger siblings when his father’s illness soon kills him.

And yet while these families have nothing, we have been given two (live) chickens, 10 eggs and about 10 avocados to say thank-you for looking after the children! We have been assured there is much more of the same to follow! I am therefore now adept at carrying live chickens! We also had the freshest chicken stew you’ll ever have. After watching it be slaughtered, I helped pluck the chicken (which was a bit freaky as it was still warm and legs would occasionally kick!) and 40 mins later it was on your plate! But it definitely makes you appreciate what you eat!

Oh and Charlotte and I are just so so cool. I know this because not only has Mona, a volunteer from Germany, come and joined us but now also has Anna, a volunteer from Sweden. So we now have more European volunteers than we do Ugandan staff (one cook & two caretakers/gardeners/handymen)

Others things worth a quick mention, Karaoke came to the village for one night only – but oh no not like England. Karaoke Uganda style is ‘professionals’ miming along to some songs for two hours! And half the village watching while one of the performers decided to pull the white man out of the crowd to dance and grind on the stage! It’s a good job I can truly dance like an African…!! Oh and the gay debate is currently hitting the newspapers big time… Some of the things we are reading are really quite worrying, but there’s nothing much we can do. And finally, we found a brilliant bakery in our nearest city that sells pasties, samoses , buns and pizza! So that’s our Saturday lunch sorted most weeks! Yum!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

A Few More Random Photos

Jay painting away at the orphanage!
Char and Mona start painting the orphanage

Stuart cooking up a treat

Ssekulima making Chapattis - yum!

Jay, Emmanual and Mariam looking cool at Charlottes birthday party!

Birthday Blog!

The Birthday Table, complete with Cake, Candles and soda

Char says: As many of you will be aware, I became a little bit older yesterday (14th Sept). My Birthday has been a mix of high and lows. The bad news should come first – on the way to Mbarara, the city we visited for my Birthday, I had my mobile phone stolen from my pocket. So if anyone sent me a Birthday text message, I thank you, but I never read it! I felt a little crappy about the situation but looking on the bright side, my wallet, containing lots of cash and my Visa card was also in my pocket and it was much better to have my phone taken than the wallet. I will be up and running again very soon however with a new number.

We had to feed each other the cake - apparently its tradition - i think it was just so they could laugh at us!

On Thursday evening (13th) we had a little party with my family and some friends to celebrate my big day and this was a really nice event. I bought everyone a soda and we made some chapattis. Mama made some fried cassava – which tastes a little like chips if you use your imagination - and they bought some little cakes and some chapatti with eggs! Mona bought me an excellent birthday present of 23 Cadburys chocolate Eclairs each wrapped up with a 200 shilling coin and a piece of paper with ‘Voucher for one Chapatti’ written on it. You kind of have to live out here to understand, but there has never been a volunteer in the history on UVP who hasn’t loved fresh chapatti! It was all very funny and nice and so I would like to share these photos with you xxx

Mona and Me with her very sweet present!

And afterwards we danced away to some great tunes like...Backstreet Boys

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The Other Uganda and the Football!

Us outside the ground

Inside the ground with our fellow volunteers (sorry to Eliane for the flag in front of your face)

Some of the pre match entertainment to get the crowd going! (like they needed an help)

Inside the ground just before kick off - Very VERY mental - but ace!

Jay Says: So this weekend was spent in Kampala, Ugandan’s capital city. Kampala is pretty hectic! Its quite well developed with lots of tall buildings, big banks, fast food restaurants (there’s even a Nando’s) and a thousand internet cafes. Typically though the traffic is pretty much always gridlock!

Before this weekend we hadn’t seen that much of the city though, just the main area, which has a few impressive shops, but not huge amounts to write home about. A lot of what we’d seen was also quite dirty, busy and congested. However this weekend we saw a different side to the city and to Uganda in general. We stayed with Charlotte UK/Ugandan friend (Angie)’s sister and her husband. They are both bankers and work in Kampala. They live in some of the what we discovered were mass, sprawling, green, clean and attractive suburbs, covering the hills surrounding the city. It’s a completely different world from the village life we have been getting used to, and a different Kampala we hadn’t discovered yet. Angie’s family really spoiled us, taking us out to one of the swanky new nightclubs (where the music consists of cheesy 80’s and local music – the local music is clearly superior!), taking us to eat REALLY good roast pork, feeding us lovely breakfasts of omelettes, our first bowls of cereal for 5 weeks and driving us all around the city (as well as insisting on paying for everything)!

It was good to see a successful and rapidly developing side of Uganda. The lives they lead is just like we do in UK (whether that is such a good thing is questionable). They also showed us other areas of Kampala, including a shopping mall that could be out of any European city, with nice clothes shops, a susi bar and a supermarket with shelf after shelf of chocolate and, just as importantly, the first wine section we have seen in Uganda (a purchase was of course obligatory)! It was quite surreal, after being used to our village where 5 cars pass by every hour.

The best part of staying here however was the chat we had with Martin, the sister’s husband. He’s a successful area manager for a Ugandan bank, not the first person I would of thought would give us inspirational ideas on development, but he was. I think it probably deserves a whole other blog, so watch this space.

As we said in our last blog our main reason for going to Kampala was to go to the Uganda vs Niger African Nations Cup qualifier. We knew it was a big game but we didn’t realise was that Uganda hadn’t qualified for the Nations Cup since 1978, and as if they won by 3 goals they would qualify, so it was the biggest game for nearly 30 years! We went to the game with 4 other volunteers and a Ugandan friend. We got to the stadium a full 4 hours before kick off (we were advised to get there very early in order to get in)! After a quick Rolex (a sandwich of two fresh pancakes, fried egg, onions and tomatoes (all for the costly price of 15p) we headed in to find thousands already in there. The party had already started and as the stadium filled to capacity it only got bigger and better – four hours of singing, cheering and flag waving. Its just a shame that they only have one song! The game itself was great, although the quality of the football definitely left something to be desired. And Ugandans have a tradition of throwing water everywhere after every goals – thankfully the sun was shinning so a bit of water didn’t matter! We won 3-1, so everyone was happy, and whiles we weren’t quite sure how much to celebrate as qualification wasn’t guaranteed – it depending on results elsewhere, everyone else seemed more than happy to party! Walking back from the stadium to town was pretty crazy, but just as it would be anywhere after the biggest game in 30 years!

Anyway a good weekend was had, and we’ve read about some really good coffee shops, Indian restaurants and an Italian delicatessen – all our waiting for us on our next visit!

Oh and also, our friend Mona, another ICYE volunteer (from Germany), who was living a couple of villages away has now moved to come and live with us and work at Kiyumbakimu – that’s really nice as she’s lovely and so one else to help us get things going as fast as possible at the project!

That’s all for now,
Take care, bye xx

Friday, 7 September 2007

You've been Jiggered!

PHOTO: Jiggers being removed by our brothers Stuart and Ssekulima

From Thursday 6th September 2007

Char says: First things first, while we’re both annoyed by the lack of progress at the project we’ve been surprised by the way some people have interpreted the last blog! Its not like we’re hating being in Uganda – that couldn’t be further from the truth – but we called the last blog ‘Third week syndrome’ as this come-down period is natural, and something most overseas volunteers experience in their third week. Things get a bit tough sometimes but we didn’t come here for a holiday. Its not made to be a holiday full of beach parties and bars. We’re only a bit annoyed with our project because we want to achieve more. We are healthy, we have really nice friends and family (both fellow volunteers and Ugandans) and we enjoy the Ugandan lifestyle. So stop worrying about us!

Anyway, so this week’s blog…

It’s a funny old place we are living in with a unique story to tell every week! The biggest event of the week came courtesy of Jiggers. Why did no one tell us about these strange and disgusting little creatures?

On Sunday evening our friend and fellow ICYE volunteer Mona (from Germany) stayed at our house for the night. She is living in a village a few kilometres away from us but has a far more basic standard of living than we have. Having been to Kampala for the weekend, she showed us all of the purchases she had made of rat poison and insect repellent for her bedroom and told us about her visit to the clinic to have jiggers removed from her feet. That evening as we went to bed I commented to Jonathan how brave I thought Mona was and thought to myself how luxurious our home actually is!

The next morning I woke to find my little toe was swollen and stinging. Not wanting to be a hypochondriac, I sheepishly asked Mona to look at my foot in case I had also got one of her little friends! Upon further inspection from my brother Stuart, it was found that my feet were riddled with jiggers! Other brother Ssekulima set about checking Jonathan’s feet, and guess what, he was also jiggered (don’t think this is a correct medical term!). It took an hour of being stabbed in the feet with a needle to remove all of these horrendous little creatures from our poor, soft mzungu feet! Having thoroughly swept and mopped our bedroom floor, (although we’re pretty sure it is not from our nice room but from the school where we have Luganda lessons) I am being very careful to avoid having a repeat of this situation but Ssekulima is insisting on regular foot inspections to be sure. It is strangely amusing though!

Yesterday we partook in a weekly ritual which we are developing as a small change from the normal routine. Our closest ‘town’ Kiwangala, is a ten minute and 30p buda buda (a moped taxis) away from home. We have found a nice little bar there where we can buy ice cold bottles of Bell (Ugandan larger) for about 55p per bottle. Right outside the bar is a street food vendor who makes delicious chips. He puts the chips in a plastic bag and adds tomato slices, cabbage and salt and mixes them together. This tasty little treat costs less than 20p and makes a welcomed change to matoke or rice – and for the negative readers, we actually eat very well at home but it is nice to get western food once in a while. Altogether, it is a thoroughly nice evening out!

Elsewhere, we are going to Kampala (the capital city for those who are not in the know) tomorrow and staying at a my lovely UK/Ugandan friend Angela’s sister’s house for two nights. On Saturday we are going to watch the Cranes- Uganda’s national football team – in a match against Niger. The stadium holds 45,000 people and is just a few KMs outside of the city centre. In spite of the 4pm kick-off, the gates open at 9am and we have been advised to get there as early as possible! We are going with three other volunteers and some Ugandan friends and so they should hopefully help us to get there in time! There has been a lot of press coverage in the newspapers and on the radio as the game is a qualifier for next year’s African Nations Cup and Uganda have to win to qualify! Its all building up to what should hopefully be a really good match!

That’s all for now. Hope all in the UK are well. Oh and parents, please stop worrying about us, we’re both fine, fed, watered and not working too hard and no longer doing so much manual labour!

P.S. Ric – as we now have a laptop yes please do send us the new Rilo Kiley CD – that’d be grand! Oh and if there are any other major amazing new CDs coming out that people think we need we’d very much like to receive a copy if your sending us a letter or anything! There isn’t a great variety of music in Uganda (although we still get ‘Umbrella’ by Rhianna on the radio!! As if we were missing it!)

LEGENDS: Sseguya (the other (very very hard) worker at the project) and Samwell (a local teacher who is giving us Luganda lessons!)

Hakim and Rwegaba - two of the kids who live just next to the orphanage. They're great and so cute. Hakim is nicknamed Mzungu (white person0 because his skin is so pale!

Saturday, 1 September 2007

3rd Week Syndrome

Jay Says: Ok so we’ve now been down at our project for a couple of weeks – and its been a mixture of highs and lows to be honest. As we were warned would happen before we left the initial excitement and novelty of Uganda has now warn off and the reality of life here is kicking in.

As Charlotte explained last time the orphanage is far less built than we imagined – and there is no-one living there at the moment (ourselves included). We currently have 10 children who are registered and waiting to move in – but we will have space for at least another 30 children to come during the day – for lessons and food etc. Therefore our first week of work was spent visiting all the families in the surrounding area with the other worker at the orphanage - Sseguya and a teacher at the local school – Samwelll - who was our translator (and is now giving us lessons in the local language everyday). We interviewed around 35 families to identify those most in need of the orphanage’s help. This was something we feel very lucky to have done – it must be something very few westerners experience – going into the homes of some of the poorest families to meet with them face to face and discuss and see their living condition first hand. While the poverty was shocking – we met one lady, Jane, (in her 60s) who was looking after her 7 children but also caring for another 7 children who were either orphans or whose parents had left. So many families were living off such small amounts of money and every single family (bar one) laughed when we asked if their children wore shoes to school! This humour, happiness and human spirit is the greatest thing about Uganda. Many people are really struggling but you would never know, they don’t complain or get depressed they just enjoy what they have and get on with life a lesson for us all.

We are currently writing up the report on this exercise and hopefully will shortly go back to some of the families with good news – but only to such a small minority! However since then our work has been much harder and less inspiring. As Charlotte mentioned a lack of money is holding building works up and so the last two weeks have been really tough. Everyday we have been doing manual labour. Digging the land, shoveling, hoeing and slashing (basically cutting the grass with a blunt metal cane – the most mundane job ever!). While neither of us are scared of a bit of hard work but the problem has been we haven’t felt like we have achieved anything – as all the work has just been cosmetic, and none of it towards finishing the buildings! Added to this neither of us are used to manual labour everyday in the African sun (not to be sexist but this really isn’t a lady’s work!) we have therefore been quite tired and disheartened. Also my baby soft beautiful hands are now completely covered in blisters!

While I’m being negative I feel like listing all the other things that are hard at the moment (exaggerated because we are tired). Being an outsider! The novelty of being stared at, laughed at and shouted at just for being white has defiantly worn off. Living with the family has been great -the children are brilliant, a couple of them in particular are really fun and have looked after us - but sticking to someone else’s timetable is hard – especially when we often don’t eat until 10:30 at night (and then have to get up at 7 for hard labouring).

But that’s more than enough negativity for one blog! After our last blog about the lack of money we emailed a company that helped us out before (and has offered to help us out again) – Micro Drainage – Within hours of the email being sent a phone call was made and a very large donation was offered to get the orphanage off the ground! So THANK-YOU THANK-YOU THANK-YOU.
Once this money clears it will really allow things to get moving – buying the windows, doors and roofs that are needed so we – and more importantly the children – can move in!

Tomorrow should see the instillation of solar panels onto the orphanage roof (Note from Char: Hope all at the SBP are reading this!) This will be really exciting and the first signs of real progress being made! Today we have also been helping to build a classroom. Again while this is hard work, it is actually good progress so we feel good!

I’ve been going on a bit now so I’ll finish soon! But just to say as we’ve been having a hard time of it we’ve made sure our weekends have been good! The first weekend down here we went up to the nearest city to meet up with the other volunteers in the area – one of them had a hotel room so we all took it in turns to use a real loo and have our first real shower – followed by our first western food!

This weekend saw all the ICYE volunteers meet up to go to the Ssese Islands for a relaxing break and more western food and real toilets. It was really good but did take us 8 hours to travel about 70 miles (not to mention the dodgiest ferry ever!).

Anyway that’s enough for now. We both know that as the money comes through and things with the project progress we’ll be much happier and the textbook third week dip will go! So onwards and upwards – at least we haven’t got Malaria (unlike one of our volunteers who is living in the same village as us) – Mum & Dad don’t worry – he was being stupid and wasn’t sleeping with a net etc etc – we’ll be fine.

Lots of love to all xxx

p.s. since first writing this the solar power has now been installed and we have just found a shop in our nearest city (45mins away) that sells mars bars!!!! Yay!! We have also learnt the phrase ‘Hello my name is Jonathan, please call me Jonathan not mzungu’ which is working a treat – half of the village is converted. Just the other half to work on! Feeling much happier!


Here are some photos of our time so far. Enjoy. xxx
Molly and Justine - two of our teachers at our arrival camp Playing netball with the local children at our arrival camp
(apparently Jay is very good at netball - a girls sport but hey!)
What to do when it rains? Read or write in the journal
The last night at our arrival camp - a party in a feild - the whole village heard it and came and joined in!
On the way to our project we passed the equator!

Our new home: Our village where we live
When it rains in africa it really rains! Jay with Ssekulima (one of our host 'brothers')

Jay playing wityh Enoka - another of our host brothers
We went to a Ugandan Wedding! So Char got her white legs out!

The children around us are so poor but so hapy and beautiful!

Char, Jay and Sseguya after working hard - check out the banadage on Jay's hand - big softy! Sseguya is the other worker at the orphange - that man is a machine, he can dig all day without stopping! He's a legend though.
Our first cabbage crop!
Eating fresh Popo after a hard days work - check out the beard on Jay! He loves it but char made him shave!

The Sesse Islands. Arr.. relaxing weekend with the other volunteers with beaches real toilets and showers!

Taking a boat trip on Lake Victoria - you can just make out a big eagle on the tree on the left - they were everywhere on the Sesse Islands

The Sunset over Lake Victoria on the Sesse Islands - not bad eh?

Jay's mini me - Enoka dressing up as the coolest Mzungu in town!