Welcome to the Pearl of Africa

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Flag of Uganda  ,
Wednesday, January 4, 2006

I woke up way too early this morning- 5:10am since my flight left at 7:30. David asked me if they were very strict in arriving 2 hours before your flight, and since it was so early, I thought it would be OK if we didnt get there til 6. So I didnt have time for the breakfast that David had left out for me which I felt a bit bad about. When we arrived at the airport at 5:55, the first thing I saw was the queue outside the airport just to get in... not the best start to the day. Apparently the Kenyan authorities feel the need to check everyones tickets and go through security before you're even allowed into the airport. It didnt help that people kept pushing in either, and after yesterday's fiasco I was getting a bit adjitated that they might close the flight. When I finally got through security I then had to join the queue to actually check in, and didnt get to the desk until gone 6:30! Fortunately it was all still OK, and I got checked in fine.

I went straight to the gate and after unsucessfully trying to find a travel adaptor to use with my camera (they have normal UK plugs over here- but my camera was from Fiji so doesnt work), I sat in the gate for a while, and they didnt even let us on the plane until 10 minutes before it was meant to depart. So of course we left late, but I didnt think it would really matter as the others were getting in at a similar time to me (or so I thought). I arrived in Entebbe an hour later, and met up with Stephen (the guy who runs the school we're working at), Emily, Becca and Esther who had been waiting for me since 7:30... oops! They didnt mind too much though, so we all clambered into the minibus for the drive up to Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

I didnt realise how long it would take- over an hour, but it gave me my first proper taste of Africa watching the scenery go past in the car. Its very dusty here (as we were told)- the soil is really orange and it gets everywhere. There were people balancing anything and everything on their heads, walking along the main road and others pushing a huge stack of crates or a massive bunch of sugar crane along on their bikes. TWe drove past dusty markets, and eventually arrived in the bustling city of Kampala. I cant believe how people drive here! I was sitting up the front, so I got a great view of how we narrowly missed all the bikes, people and boda bodas(scooter taxis) by inches. What I've seen so far reminds me of Fiji a bit- quite far behind the rest of the world, all the signs and posters a bit dated, old cars and minibuses bumping over the (oh so many) potholes in the street and people jostling to get around.

We stopped off at the bank to get some money out and then drove up to where we would be staying- its about a half hour drive, but you cant really go that fast as the roads arent in great condition. They are at least surfaced though- until you drive off the main road to go up to the school that is- it was a good thing we had a landrover! really bumpy- I hit my head on the roof several times, and you literally get thrown all over the place. Something we we're going to get used to over the next couple of months I'm sure! As we drove up this road (that barely even looked like a path) children started jumping up and down, waving madly at us- they seemed so excited to see us! Thats another thing we've already got used to- the kids here are ecstatic whenever we walk past- they treat us like celebrities- running and waving shouting 'Byee mzungu' (which means white person).

We drove up to the house and met Chris Karen and Liz, who we'd met at the Smile training week, and had been out here for 3 months already, and Phiona, a Ugandan who teaches at the school and lives with us in our house teaching us how to cook and clean etc etc... she's really sweet. Our house itself is great- a large living/dining area (no dining table or chairs though so we sit on the floor) but there are sofas and coffee tables which apparently arrived yesterday! 4 bedrooms (so I'm sharing with Becca and Karen) and 3 bathrooms and a largish kitchen. Tiled floors too which keeps it nice and cool. A fridge as well which is good, when we have electricity. We didnt have electricity at first, but that was installed on Friday, and we kind of have running water- we have a large tank, and a smaller one that is up a tower. We need to keep refilling the smaller one from the large one (that collects rainwater) whenever it runs out because the electric pump hasnt been fitted yet, but at least we have water (albeit rainwater) that comes out of the taps. Apparently it is possible to heat it too, but we havent tried that one yet. We do have to ration it though, so we use buckets rather than the showers that are installed- I'm looking forward to having a hot shower one of these days!

2 of the boys from school came over to see the new Mzungus, and then we went to go and see the school. It is a short 5 minute walk away and very dusty, but its nice. They have 9 classrooms for all the different ages, and the facilities are very basic- a row of desk and chairs, blackboard and maybe a couple of hand drawn posters on the wall. Emma (a guy Chris is giving guitar lessons) started playing and singing a song, so we all joined in, and then met the headmaster Jackson who is very friendly. We went to see Stephen and Agnes' office, which was a bit fancy compared to the rest of the school, but I guess they are the founders. We meandered back to the house and sat around relaxing. TIme here goes very slowly- no-one is in a rush to do anything, so theres a lot of sitting around waiting. It makes a nice change from rushing about from country to country though.

We had a late lunch- 3pm (which now seems quite early). We dont have lunch and dinner here, but rather a big(ish) breakfast, and then linner (as I like to call it) about 5pm. Its quite good because it means you're properly hungry before you eat, but never hungry when you go to bed, so we dont waste any food, and I'm sure its better for us just having 2 meals a day. Food here consists of a combination of rice, potatoes, pasta, matoke (whcih is cooking bananas either mashed or boiled in a tomato sauce), cabbage and G Nut sauce (made out of peanut powder I think). Literally, that is about it. Already getting a bit sick of it- only 3 more months to go! It'll be good when we get the cooker working though, have a bit more variety.

I tried to put up the mozzie net I'd brought with me, but unfortunately it didnt seem to fit over the bed, so we walked down to the nearest village, Nansana and brought a bright pink (it was either pink or green) box mozzie net for the equivalent of 3pounds. Ooh I love a bargain :D All the kids on the way came running to wave madly, grinning from ear to ear shouting mzungu all the way down. They're so happy to see us! The adults stare a bit more though- I think they're just curious, but we all felt a bit conspicious walking around together.

Instead of walking the 15 minute walk back home, we decided to get Boda Bodas... as I said before, they're basically scooters, and we managed to squeeze 2 passangers on behind the driver. They go pretty fast, and I wouldnt want to be on one in the centre of Kampala, but the worst part was going over the bumpy roads- they also fling you about- but I held on tight and was fine. No helmets of course. All the children chased after the boda bodas waving madly (asper usual). At one point we came off the road, and Karens legs hit a tree- but I was sitting properly so I was fine! YOu get a lot of dust in your eyes though. We paid 30p for each scooter, which wasnt too bad.

Our neighbours in a hut opposite us have a couple of kids, who always come a stare and laugh with us whenever we leave the house. I think they're amazed to see more white people hanging around. I attempted some washing (no washing machine of course- just soap powder in a bowl and a lot of scrubbing!) which never really leaves your clothes that clean or soap free. It's going to take a while to get used to life in Africa but I'm getting there! We can only get to the internet once a week, so from now on I'll just write a summary of the week instead of the ever so detailed entries I've been doing so far!
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