Kids and white water rafting!

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

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

I cant believe I've only been here for over a week- it seems like so much longer! We're already settling into life here- its quite different from everywhere else I've been (although Fiji was similar in some respects). Let me bring you up to speed on what we've been doing over the past week or so.

On Thursday I was woken up a couple of times in the night because the guard dogs at the school are let out about midnight and they howl quite a lot (with excitement I think) so I've been using earplugs since then and I've slept really well.

Most mornings we look at a chapter in the Bible (I've come with a Christian organisation, Smile International, in case you didnt know) before breakfast (which is normally a couple of slices of bread and maybe a biscuit or hot drink- and of course our lovely malaria tablets). Then we set out on whatever we're going to do for the day.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we painted the new classroom block in school. They'd built it quite recently I think, so the outside was just grey- and that was the first thing you saw when you came into the school grounds. We sat in the school for 2 hours waiting for Stephen to arrive with the keys to the store cupboard. Its true what they say about the Ugandans having a different time scale- whatever time they say to meet, you generally can expect them to turn up up to 2 hours later and for them not to think anything of it. You learn to take their timings with a pinch of salt and not worry too much about getting anywhere on time!

First we had to sand down the walls, and then we painted to top half cream and the bottom half red. I was stuck with all the high bits that no-one else could reach, so it got quite tiring in the end! At the end of the day we coated ourselves in paraffin to get the paint off, and hoped that we wouldnt come near any flames. It was fine though, we had a bucket when we got home. After our long day on Thursday, Stephen picked us up at 7:30 for a long and bumpy ride to the supermarket to stock up. Fine when we got there, but I was exhasted and so got a bit fed up when we didt get home til 10:30. Shopping is cheap here though- we brought enough for a week or 2 for 8 people- 30 quid!

On Friday morning, Phona, Emily, Liz and I went to the local market to buy all our fruit and veg- cramming in one of the taxis (which is now becoming a regular occurance- kinda reminds me of that joke about how many elephants you can fit in a mini). It was really bustling, dusty and crowded. We brought loads of mangos, pineapple, passion fruit, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots etc etc for about a tenner. We staggered back into the minibus with our heavy bags, and then jumped on a boda boda back up to the house.

Also on Saturday after painting for a bit we took a taxi into the centre of Kampala- something else we end up doing quite often. It doesnt take too long- about half an hour max, and then theres about a 10 minute walk up to the internet cafe from the main taxi park (picture 250 minibuses all crammed into one small space!) Outside the bank there are always a couple of kids hanging around, pleading 'sir sir' but you know if you give one of them anything, 10 others will come asking for money too. Its really hard to know what to do, and to walk by without feeling really guilty.

The main thing we do on Sundays is go to the local church. Its meant to start at 10, so we turn up about 10:30 and its just starting. Its a 20 minute walk, but its quite a big building- really high roof, and made out of corrugated iron. They have really lively singing- everyone dances and claps and sings really loudly- the differences from churches back at home is quite interesting. They sing songs for an hour, and then theres about half an hour of individuals singing or doing whatever they want to do on stage which was better, because I got to sit down! at about 12:45, the kids go out, and the loong sermon begins. It wasnt really that bad, but Stephen really does SHOUT into the microphone- and we were sitting right by the speaker. He could be heard perfectly without it, but I guess he feels the need. It went on til about 2:15- so quite a long service! Everyone came up to greet us after the service, and we went home for lunch.

We went back to the church to watch Oliver Twist in the evening- Stephen played it on his laptop and projected it on a screen- it was the old black and white version and its the first time I've managed to sit through an entire B&W film. It was actually really good! I think it helped that it was on a big screen, and I wasnt expecting to watch any TV or films over here, so it really held my interest.

On Monday we went to Jagala, a small school for kids where they live there too, meaning 'Jesus cares for all'. Its about a 2 hour drive away, and there were probably about 30 kids there- they were all so happyt to see us. Some of them knelt down or curtsied when they shook our hand, which really wasnt necessary, but I guess they look up to us just because of the colour of our skin. They gave us fruit and a drink before the teacher took us to see their new school buildings. They were unfinished, but nice and big- another team from Ireland had come out last summer to build them. We took the children out to the field to play with them and they loved the parachute we'd brought with us. I noticed one little boy just watching and not joining in, so I started a game of catch with him, which made him smile. It started to rain really heavily though so we ran back to the main building (which was tiny) and sat on the porch for about half an hour before we had to leave. The children were beautiful and so happy despite not really having much, and it was a great day. We drove back via Kampala to pay for our white water rafting on Friday and played cluedo when we got home.

On Tuesday we went to another kids place called the Good Hope Organisation with was based in some of the slums in Kampala. They help the street kids who dont have anywhere else to go, and give conselling to the AIDS victims who have lost their husbands. They dont have a building really to do all this in, just a small office, but they're trying to find somewhere so they can expand what they're doing. We all crowded into this small room while the guy who set the whole thing up introduced us to what they were doing. We heard from another of the helpers, and one woman whose husband died in 2004, leaving her with a child to look after and AIDS. Despite all this she was still thanking God that the organisation was there, and that she was still alive. It made me think of all those people who ask how there can be a God if he allows all the suffering to go on in Africa- the only people who have a problem with that is us- they people who are actually suffering are still praising and thanking God despite all their problems. It makes you think about how much we have to be thankful for as well.

We all stood up to introduce ourselves, and then walked, like 7 pied pipers, down to the nearest field, followed by about 150 kids. The streets were muddy and strewn with rubbish, with the sewage running down the sides of the street, but these kids were just walking around barefoot, with scrappy T-shirts and shorts on. Again, they were very happy to see us.It was a bit hard to use a parachute with so many children, so we started off by singing the hokey cokey with them (they loved running screaming into the middle even if they didnt really get the rest of the song) and then trying to teach them some songs with lots of actions. Eventually we did get the parachute out, and rather than all trying to hold the sides, they all ran into the middle while a couple of people held it up, and just jumped up and down screaming and laughing! They loved it- its such an easy way to bring happiness to their lives (trying not to sound too cliched here). 5 or 6 children attached themselves to me, all trying to hold my hand at the same time, and I didnt really know what to do with them, so I told them to make a circle and we (well, me mainly) sang Ring a Ring a Roses. Then they tried to teach me a song with lots of dancing and jumping up and down- it was exhasting!

It was almost time for us to go, so we tried to put the children into some kind of line and we had a bag of sweets each to give out. It started well, but then the older ones just went straight back to the back of the queue and I couldnt really tell whether they'd had one or not. They ended up crowding round me, pleading for me to give them sweets, so I ran away and shouted for them to get in a line. After 10 minutes of attempts, including managing to get some on them in a circle, I gave up. I started throwing sweets to the ones who had got into a circle like I asked (I couldnt get to them since I was surrounded) but then they started taking them out of the bag I was holding, so I just dropped it and tried to escape! They all jumped on top of each other trying to get to these sweets- and in the process my belly bar fell out- though fortunately one kid returned it to me. Probably should have cleaned it first- but it would have closed up by the time we got home, so I did my best with antibacterial gel and put it back in.

We walked back to their little office, and all the children were talking to me- one kept asking me if I was coming back, and when I told her I'd try, but it really wasnt up to me, she sorrowfully said 'you're not coming back'. I guess they get a lot of mzungus coming to visit just to see what its like, and then going back home. I hope we will be able to go and see them again though sometime in the next 3 months.

We didnt really do much on Wednesday, but on Thursday we went to a prayer conference with Stephen and his wife Agnes. Despite leaving at 8, after our long wait at the school and going via the post office to pick up any parcels and letters (they take about 3 weeks to get here- but apparently you dont have to send them registered post if any of you are thinking of writing) we didnt get there til 10:30. We had to register and pay, but they didnt have a day rate since it was an 11 day conference, so we ended up paying 10000USH each (about 3pounds). When we got there they were already half way through a talk, so I didnt really pay much attention, but the workshop we went to afterwards was really good- led by an American. There were quite a lot of white people there considering- I think it was a relatively big thing- lots of Swiss, Germans and French.

We took a break for lunch, and sat by Lake Victoria on a grassy slope eating our CHICKEN chips and CHEESE naan bread (sorry- got a bit exited we dont really have meat or cheese here often). It was really nice there- I think it was part of a posh hotel resort thing. They had some market stalls too- though the prices were about 10 times higher than you'd find in the local craft market in Kampala. We went back for another talk, which I tuned out of a little bit, and then afterwards lots of different countries gave a presentation about whats going on in their country, with their prayer requests too. I managed to understand abput 75% of the French that the man from the Congo spoke so that kept me entertained trying to translate! (Simple things please simple minds). We left before the end and drove home again.

Friday was our white water rafting day- because we dont start teaching until February, this month we're taking the opportunity to do all our touristy things. We had to be at the Sheraton in the centre of Kampala by 7am for our pickup, so we arrived 10 minutes late and still had to wait half an hour. Not surprisingly, everyone else on the tour was white- it was really strange to be surrounded by white people and who spoke English! (The native language is Lugandan here- English is only spoken as a second language). We drove to Jinja, the source of the nile, where apparently some of the best rapids in Africa are located. All 7 of us plus a guy called Rich who we'd met on the bus went into one raft, with our guide Tutu. They were very thorough in the breifing- similar to New Zealand, except this time, they made us jump out the boat and practice getting back in, and then practice flipping the boat over, which made me feel better. We didnt do that in NZ so I was a bit worried about how I was going to get back in.

We had a whole day rafting- starting off on some small grade ones and twos, progressing up to 3 Grade 5 rapids (the best you can get). For those of you who havent ever seen these rapids- they're big. Theres loads and loads of water coming at you from all directions, and what with me sitting in the front, I got a great view or what looked like a massive wave (over 10 foot high) coming straight towards us! We got drenched, but it was nowhere near as cold as in New Zealand. We did all swallow a bit of clean Nile water though, so hopefully we wont get sick over the next couple of days.

The most exciting bit however was when the boat flipped over- in the middle of a grade 5 rapid! First the boat tipped right to the side- I was on the top side, so I watched as the 4 people on the other side got sucked off- and we stayed at that angle for what seemed like ages, just surrounded by pounding water flying at you from all angles. Then before i knew it, or even had a chance to take a breath, I was flung underwater, and thrown about by all the different currents. I just thought- I hope I come up soon, because I could really do with some air right now! Eventually I did surface, and I took a huge gulp of air before being dragged back under again- this happened 2 or 3 times until we were out of the rapids, into the calmer water, and could finally look around us to find the safety kayaks to tow us to safety. Its a good thing we had our lifejackets that make it near impossible to sink and helmets though. SO much fun! I've never been so glad to breathe in all my life!

After our excitement our guide came back down having righted the boat, and we all clambered back in, going down a couple more rapids before stopping at a tiny island for our buffet lunch. More cheese and ham (I've got to make sure I dont get used to this) and of course lots of pineapple. Just as we were drying off we got back in the boat- but we had about an hour of paddling down calm water which was really tiring (since the boat wasnt being pushed along anymore) but we took the opportunity to sit in some of the currents and swim down the Nile! There was one huge grade 6 rapid (which rafts arent allowed to go down) but we watched one of the kayakists go down out, and then we joined in for the last bit that subsided into a grade 5. We didnt flip over again though, which was good because quite a few people really didnt want to. We paddled back to the end, having gone over 25km downstream, and took the bus straight back to Kampala. It was exhasting!
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