Sunday, 25 October 2009

Catch Up: Day 2 - 6

When I manage to post photos, I will describe what you are seeing in them. That way you should get a real feel about what I'm talking about but for now I can only try my best to paint the picture ....

Day 2
Heavy rain all night. And when I say heavy, I mean I thought we would wake up in the middle of a new ocean. The rain falling on the tin roof kept me awake for most of the night so I was very bleary eyed. Still, when I first opened my eyes, all I could think of was "wow, I'm really here". The rooster outside had woken me so I checked my phone to see the time - just gone 5:30am. Damn that rooster. Tried desperately to get back to sleep but gave up and read my book. At about 6:45am, I heard the rest of the family moving around outside, busying themselves with preparing breakfast and calling out to each other so I decided to get up. Florence brought me a large bowl and a jug for my shower so I made my way to the shower area and had another 'squat wash' before making my way to the latrine. If the shower hadn't woken me up, the less than fresh smell from the latrine did the trick. Forgot to put Tiger Balm under my nose so just tried to breathe through my mouth. Juggling a packet of tissues and hand sanitizer whilst trying to rearrange my skirt and underwear was tricky and I was terrified that I would drop something down the hole. It was only when I went back outside that I realised the obvious - I can leave my hand sanitizer and packet of tissues outside at the washing station and just take in one tissue with me. Duh.

Breakfast was a hard boiled egg, the thick bread again (not so yellow today) and two small bananas. I told Moses this was too much but he just laughed and said "No no, you eat". I watched Moses dip his bread into his 'coffee' so I did the same. It is actually very nice this way.

Because of the rain overnight, the dirt in the compound had become a thick red sludge which stuck to your flip flops, gaining thickness as you walked (or rather slipped) from your room to the patio area where we eat. When I had made it half way across the compound, I literally couldn't go any further as my flip flops were by now so caked in mud that I could hardly lift my foot. Shannah (the other Muzungu) came to my rescue with my wellies.

After getting our bags together (we have to remember to take our tissues, hand sanitizer, spare plasters etc with us wherever we go), we started the walk to school. As has become the norm to me now, we were followed by about 8-10 children. The older ones speak very good English and they love chatting to us.

At the school, Shannah was marking some books so I set about sorting out the volunteer cupboard in the staffroom. It holds arts & crafts supplies, pencils, pens and various teaching aids. There were also quite a few dried up felt pens and glue that was more like cement so I disposed of those useless items. The rest of it was in quite a mess and of course that drove me nuts so I had to take everything out and rearrange it. Job done, Shannah and I went to P6 and I watched her take an English class. All of the children were very eager and hands were flying up all over the place every time Shannah asked a question or requested one of the children to come to front and help her. I was sat at the back observing and the regular teacher was sat next to me at a desk. Towards the end of the lesson, I glanced over at her and saw that she was taking advantage of Shannah's teaching ability and having a nap. Too funny! I managed to snap a photo, hehehe.

During morning break at 11:00am, Shannah and I share 'smokey tea' and samosas with the Headmistress, Robinah. This is a daily ritual which I have come to enjoy very much. The children and teachers have porridge. The teachers have two cups and they pour it from cup to cup until the thickness is to their preference.

At 12:50pm the lunch bell sounds and Shannah and I walk back to the compound from the school. Again we are followed by lots of children. They will not let us carry anything ourselves and insist on holding our bags and bottles of water. Lunch today is rice, cabbage and the biggest, ripest avacados I think I have ever tasted. Yum! Shannah and I eat together while the family eat elsewhere. I am not sure why this is the case.

At 1:45pm, we make our way back to the school and I sit in another of Shannah's English classes. Shannah reads a poem about the Mulu Tree which used to be found locally but has now disappeared as people chopped them all down for furniture. The children delight in first of all reading the poem and then - unprompted - teaching us about the tree. I really enjoyed this lesson. At the end, lots of children come to Shannah with letters which they literally stuff into her hands, one after the other. She explains to me that she has been getting these letters for a while now, sometimes three per day from the same child. We are interrupted by some children asking her to come to their class for a surprise so I forget to ask what the letters say.

The surprise is that the children want to sing and perform for Shannah as this is her last day before she goes back to Boston. It was a very sweet gesture and all the kids obviously loved being able to show off their abilities in this way. What a talented bunch of singers! We did not understand what they were saying as they were singing in Lusoga but it was beautiful all the same.

After this, Shannah and I headed in Jinja as she had a few loose ends to tie up. We walked from the school along the red dirt road to the main road, which is another red dirt road, to catch either a taxi (a 'taxi' is actually a van, exactly like a ZR in Barbados but maybe 10 years older and held together by rust). The walk takes about 15 minutes and the sun was still beating down. Sooooo hot.

In Jinja we found an internet cafe (internet cafe = small room with about 12 prehistoric computers and a suspect looking fridge for sodas). I just have time to log onto Facebook and tell everyone I have arrived safely when the internet cuts out. Shannah is still trying to print things so I leave her to it and go to buy some new sandals. I find a lady selling them across the street for 25,000 Ugandan Shillings but I haggle her down to 15,000 which is about 3 quid I think. Shannah and I meet up again and we go to see a tailor to collect a traditional African outfit that she has had made for her. It cost her 30,000 for the fabric and 30,000 for the tailor. Less than 15 quid for a brand new outfit, made to measure. Nice! After haggling a private taxi driver down from 25,000 to 12,000, we drove back to the compound. On the way, our driver decided to play 'chicken' with a taxi. Luckily, they both stopped before a head on collision and then we all just sat there whilst the two drivers stared each other down. We won in the end and the taxi van reversed and drove on the other side of the red dirt track, dodging massive potholes as he did so. For the rest of the journey, Shannah and I discussed jiggers and she told me that she had in fact had two of them during her stay. Aaaggghhh!!! Anyway, after a complete freak out on my part, she told me the way she managed to get them out of her toes and explained the after-care to me. Although I am going to be very very careful from now on, at least I feel well enough informed to deal with the situation if I find one. Back at the compound, I grabbed my head torch (it was now dark) and started to inspect each toe very carefully. Lydia saw me and asked if I wanted some red polish. I told her that I was looking for jiggers and she literally fell about laughing and said "no, not here! only in P5!" (meaning the children in that class). She then yelled to each family member to inform them of my concerns and one by one, they all fell about laughing. Yeah yeah, the Muzungu is paranoid about jiggers, ha ha.

After the family had been entertained by my toe-checking, we all sat down for a special leaving dinner for Shannah of chicken, sausage, noodles and chips. Seriously yummy. We moved from the patio into the family home and ate at the table in their living room, dimly lit by kerosene lantern. Moses then had another special treat as he announced that the children were setting up the generator (run by petrol) and we would watch a DVD. Coolness! About 20 minutes later, the generator burst into life and the tv screen flickered. We anxiously waited for the DVD to start ............. and it did, but it was not what I was expecting. It was in fact many music DVDs, all featuring some kind of social awareness message. There were songs about drinking, marriage, relationship break ups, drugs, promiscuity etc, all set to a funky beat and with some cool looking guy or girl rapping or singing to it. The music videos are made locally and although Shannah and I found them quite amusing (especially in one when, quite randomly as the song was about promiscuity, a picture of a cartoon cow flashed up on screen and stayed there for about 5 seconds), the kids loved them and were all up dancing.

At this point, I was still not sure of the eating routines for volunteers vs family as although it was a special dinner, only Moses ate with us. The rest of the family waited until about 9:30pm, even though they were eating the same meal as we'd had earlier.

The family here always shower before bed. Even though it is pitch black outside and not exactly warm anymore (not when you are drenched in cold rain water from the bucket anyway!), they all head to the shower at about 10:30-11:00pm. Me, I prefer to use my wet wipes and then shower in the morning when the sun is out.

Shannah is leaving at 3:00am so I won't see her again. I said goodbye and wished her a safe journey. I wonder what it will be like without her? Although we have only shared a day and a half, I will miss her company.

I have another late night visit to the latrines. I am getting used to the whole business now. Balance your pack of tissues (or baby wipes, depending on whether it is a 'short call' or 'long call' as they say here), balance your hand sanitizer, take one tissue (or wet wipe), shake the flap that covers the entrance to the latrine to shoo some of the flies .... then it is a case of squat, wipe, drop, done! I must say, I am quite impressed with my aim already, even though I do get a bit wobbly if I try to swat flies at the same time (which is sometimes necessary).

In bed by 9:45pm with my book ..... shattered.

Day 3
It was another very stormy night last night, this time with thunder so loud I thought the earth had been split clean in two. I woke up in quite a bit of pain as I had developed a blister on my heel the day before (which I thought nothing of) and it seems to have worsened considerably overnight. My heel is very sore and there is a dull ache. I apply some Germolene quickly. Experience tells me that I should leave it open to the air to heal but I try that and - quite disgustingly - I attract flies who zone in straight for my open wound. I am completely grossed out and rush back to my room for a plaster.

After breakfast, I head to the school with Moses and continue to sort through the staffroom. There are many books, in no particular order and in various cupboards. There are even boxes of books stored on top of cupboards out of reach so I ask Moses to get them down for me. I think the school needs a proper library set up as I have asked a few teachers now what system they use to select a book and they have all said there isn't one and they just take the first book they come to. I approach Moses and Robinah with this idea and they are very happy and tell me they would really appreciate that. I'm excited! I also bring up a chat that I'd just had with Emma (male science teacher - you find men over here with women's names quite often!) who told me that they only have one storage basket for each class (P1 - P7). I asked Emma about this because I saw him struggling to put his teaching books into the basket that he shared with all the other teachers of that Class Year. I thought it would be better to have one basket per teacher instead so rather than than having 7 baskets, they will have 19. Emma was very excited about this, as were Robinah and Moses when I mentioned it. Baskets are very cheap (they are only plastic baskets that we in the UK would use for laundry - but smaller) so I will pick them up in Jinja soon.

During morning break, some Muzungus came to the school to announce that they had raised enough money for the school to have a new kitchen built. Obviously this was cause for much celebration and it was great to hear! Unfortunately there was not enough money to provide for sinks to be installed to wash the porridge cups so I took this opportunity to tell Robinah about the money that my friends had donated from home (120 quid - if you're wondering why I'm writing quid all the time it's because there is no pound symbol and I can't be bothered to open Word and copy & paste it). Robinah and Moses were thrilled and explained that this would be more than enough for the sinks, with money left over. I was sooooo happy!!

Home for lunch. Winnie (Moses's 6 year old daughter) carried my bag and water bottle. About a dozen other children followed us but Winnie kept shooing them away. I think she wants me all to herself. Bless her. Lunch today was boiled green banana and ground nut sauce - it was actually really nice! Moses says that Florence will show me how to make it before I leave although the indgredients will not be exactly the same and I will have to use plantain instead of green bananas.

My foot by now was getting worse. It was very swollen - the heel and ankle - and quite red and sore to touch. The ache spread right from my foot to my knee. I was thinking "infection". My instinct told me to take the plaster off and leave it open, but obviously I can't so I apply more Germolene and a fresh plaster and, at this point, hope for the best.

Back to the school after lunch to sort through the bag of donated shoes, clothes and stationery. Some boys from P7 had come to the compound earlier and carried the bag for me to the school. Robinah and Moses set about the task of writing down each individual item into a book. This took quite a long time and I was getting more and more embarassed as they thanked me over and over for each thing. A female teacher came to collect the sanitary towels from me and was so grateful that there were tears in her eyes. She gave me a huge hug and told me that I have very good friends. Moses said that he wished all of my friends could come to Kyabirwa School to see for themselves the difference they had made. It really choked me up. The smaller sized clothes and shoes are going to be donated either to Danny's nursery school (Danny is Moses's 4 year old son and as cute as a button!) or to the babies in the community surrounding our compound. The donations left at the school will be given out later in the week.

We came back home just before 4:00pm. On the walk back, a girl called Janet gave me a letter. When I returned home and read it, I realised - with a heavy heart - that it was what I had been dreading. In broken English, and a tone of desperation, she was asking me to please be her friend, to come and meet her sick mother, and to sponsor her. I am sure that this is not the last of such letters I will be given. I had been so happy when I left the school after seeing how well the donations were received, but this brought me back down to earth for sure.

Back at the compound, I had a quick shower (it had been hot work sorting through the donations), cleaned my rotton foot and sat with the children of the family learning Lusoga. Danny started to sing a song and when he saw that I was getting my camera out, the other children joined in and soon it was a full on performance with them trying to outdo each other. I decided to film this instead of take pictures so I now have 3 videos of the gorgeous Owino children singing and dancing and laughing and generally showing you lot back home how they are 50% of the time. I can't wait to be able to upload the vids!

I say they are like this 50% of the time because the other 50% they are hard at work. And I don't mean catching up on their homework like our children back home. Hard work for children here means fetching water from the boar hole up the road, helping to prepare meals (which is a lengthy process in itself), doing laundry (backbreaking scrubbing with bare hands), cleaning the compound (sweeping etc), cleaning the cooking pots, moving the animals (goats, pigs, cows) back and forth to ensure even grazing, working the land with a hoe ... the list goes on but this is what I have seen in only 2 days. They make me feel very lazy! The older children are also in charge of watching what the younger children are doing, scolding them and making sure they have washed their hands before dinner and are showered before bed. Lydia, the eldest, is only 12 - that is a lot of responsibility. And not once have I seen the children complain or answer back which is just amazing to me. When I shower, Winnie fetches my water, puts it in the cubicle for me, and then waits around the corner - peeking - for when I am done and she then takes the bowl and jug back from me. I tell her she doesn't have to but she just looks at me like I'm crazy. Today, one of the calves got away and was running at some speed up the road. John and David (I think they are 8 and 11) took off after it which was just hilarious. In England, I'm sure there would have been obscenities and blind panic but everyone took it in their stride and laughed heartily as they tried to catch it.

This evening I learn that Moses has a kind of shop running from his home. The neighbours come for anything from phone credit to medicine. When I realised that Moses was handing out medicine, I asked him about it. He told me - proudly - that he had originally studied medicine before deciding that teaching was his calling in life. Excitedly, I showed him my manky foot and asked what I should do as I thought it was getting worse. He said he was "very worried" and had been thinking about it all day. He told me that he had somethings he could give me but that it was up to me. I thought about it for a minute - drive for 3 hours to the international hospital in Kampala at great expense and then have to claim on my insurance, or take whatever medicine my host was recommending. I opted for the latter and was given diclophenic for the swelling, something else for the pain, and a black paste to put on my foot for the infection. The black paste had to be applied from my toes half way up my calf. I looked a treat! And yes, I do have photos.

Tonight, the pigs are tethered near the latrines which makes for interesting background noise whilst you are going about your business in the dark.

Day 4
A baby was born in the village last night! I woke up to shouts from the neighbours for Florence and Agnes to come quickly. They spent the whole night there helping with the labour. They must be exhausted this morning but still they manage to prepare breakfast. There are 11 of us to feed at the compound - me and the rest of the family - so it is not a quick job!

Breakfast is the same every day: 'smokey coffee', a hard boiled eggs, two slices of the thick bread, two bananas and some sort of muffin or other baked dough. I told Moses this morning that, although I am not speaking for other volunteers, this is too much for me. He thinks that is funny but said he has taken my request for a smaller breakfast on board.

At school today, I continued to sort through the books. I am writing down each title and the author, counting the number of copies and then stacking them back in the cupboard. When my list is complete, I will spend some time on a computer in Jinja, type the list into Word and alphabetise it. It's a long process, but one worth doing. Reading has always been a big love of mine and to see a school without a properly functioning library seems crazy to me. Especially when it is so obvious to me already that the children here love to read!

I have also been given the task of sorting out the storeroom that is situated within Robinah's office. After a quick look, it seems to me that anything from pencils to sports equipment can be stored in her but, again, in no particular order. Robinah said "please please" could I use my PA skills and organise it for her. Naturally, I'm more than happy to do this.

I sat in on P1 today - the youngest children at the school and the class which Winnie is in. Because they hold children back if they fail the year, the age of the children in each class can vary massively. In P1, there are small 5 year olds sat side by side with children nearer the age of 8. This is the same in each Class Year. In P7, there are 12 year olds alongside 18 year olds. Winnie was so happy to have me in her class and made sure everyone knew that I was staying at her house. One of the things I have noticed here is that the children and women kneel before elders as a sign of respect. And today, Winnie did this to me when I entered her classroom. I nearly fell over with shock. It does not feel at all comfortable to have a child do this but I do understand that it is their culture so at the same time I was moved by it.

Some more Muzungus came to the school today, just to have a look around. I didn't warm to this bunch as they arrived noisily, with the women wearing very short shorts and strappy tops and just stomped around like the place was a zoo and then left. No wonder us Muzungus get a bad name over here sometimes. I was watching this from the window in the staffroom and one of the teachers, Madame Deborah, joined me and said "You are not like them, you are like an African woman" and she gestured to my clothing, my covered hair ... and then my heart. Awwww!

I came home at lunchtime and had red beans and rice. I was singing the Spearhead song of the same name in my head throughout the meal, hehehe. And just like the song, "I could eat a bowl twice" .... it was really yummy. Moses is marking some mock exam papers for P7. They have their final exams on the 2nd November and the new school year starts in January. P7 will go onto Senior School then so these exams are very important. Moses hopes that 3/4 of the class will go on and not be held back again. I had a chat with some of the children about what they want to do when they leave school. Winnie wants to be a laywer, Janet wants to be an English teacher, and Issac doesn't know but he likes Maths and Science. Maybe a doctor then, like his Uncle Moses? He shrugged and walked away. Issac is very shy around me (and Shannah said he was the same with her) but I hope to break him before I leave.

Off topic but I have written it in my diary at this point so I will add it: My bottom is very sore from sitting on the hard benches at the compound and at the school. Must remember to fold my blanket and use that as a cushion in the evenings when I am sitting at the patio with the family.

Today is the hottest day so far. I have no idea of the temperature as obviously we have no weather channel or morning news programme to watch but I can tell that it is hotter than yesterday. And there is no breeze which makes it quite unbearable. I feel like my skin is going to cook and peel right off. Winnie and Danny (who only attend school in the mornings) have changed out of their uniforms and have put on some of the donated clothes that I offered to the family. Danny made a beeline for a tshirt that says "My dad is Mr Strong" and he is wandering around the compound, all proud like a peacock. Winnie asks me to take a photo of her wearing her new shoes and then Danny gets in on the action too. I can't change my clothes despite the fact I am drenched in sweat as I don't have enough changes with me. So I dump some water on my head and double up on the Factor 50.

Moses and I spend some time talking about Ugandan life and get onto the topics of marriages and deaths.

Death - Moses says that the bodies are kept within the community. There are no gravesites in churchyards, rather the body is buried right in the family compound. At this point, he directs my gaze towards a mound of rocks near the kitchen and tells me that it is his father's grave. Next to that, his sister. Next to that, his grandmother. And so on. I ask what will happen when there is no more room. He shrugs and says "That is a problem".

Marriage - Moses asks me why there are so many divorces in the USA and England and I can't really answer him. He tells me that divorce is very rare here in Africa. A marriage will take place when a man pays a dowery to the women's family. This will be an agreed amount of animals. Moses paid a dowery of 9 goats and 7 cows for Florence. Once these animals have been accepted, the woman moves to her husband's compound. They are now officially married. Some people have ceremonies and have photographs but usually just the local community come and share food with the new couple. Moses "got" Florence because he needed someone to look after his mother when he went away to college. She was from his tribe and he had people spying on her for a few months and reporting back to him as to whether she was a good woman and a hard worker before he approached her father. He said he does love her though and it was not just for convenience. Interestingly, it is only a woman who can divorce a man. To do this, all that is required is for her to say "I am sick of you, I am leaving" and then she must leave the compound and return to her family. Then they are divorced. Simple! I wonder how many couples in England could consider themselves divorced many times over if that was the case for us!?? If a woman leaves however, the husband can ask for his dowery to be repaid to him and he also gets to keep the children. No question. That is just the way it is done. I asked him if there was a problem with people stealing goats and cows to pay for or re-pay a dowery. He says this does happen but if the person is caught, they are beaten to death. He didn't bat an eyelid when saying this. Yikes.

After lunch, Moses and I head to Bujagali with Winnie. Moses has some things to do and I personally need a break from my work at the school. It is about a 20 minute walk in the boiling hot sun to Bujagali. When we arrive, I buy mango smoothies for myself and Winnie and we sit in a cafe overlooking the falls. Moses goes to use a computer that belongs to a friend. Winnie and I have fun reading the menus and writing the words that she knows. Outside we meet a lady who runs a shop (well, a hut with clothes in it) called Fatima. She says to me the same thing as Madame Deborah - that I am not like other Muzungus and she is pleased with the way I am dressed. She tells me that foreign women who wear shorts etc when visiting Uganda are called "bitch women" when their backs are turned. At this point, I am very glad that I only brought conservative clothing with me.

When Moses has completed his business, it is dark. We can't walk back home now as it is a long way and Winnie is tired. So Moses opts for a boda boda. Now, I have never in my life ridden a motorcycle, let alone one that has been modified with an extra large seat and bumps along dirt roads in Africa at like 70 miles an hour. But it's either that or stay in Bujagali on my own until sunrise. So, like a brave Muzungu Woman With The African Heart, I jump on. Winnie is in front of the driver, practically sitting on the handlebars. Moses is behind the driver, and I am behind Moses. Remember, this is a motorcycle!! Off we go, bumping through the dark, the wind whipping my skirt threatening my modesty despite the length, plants and thorns hit our arms and legs as we go, faster faster faster .... I am hanging on for dear life with my eyes shut. Miraculously we arrive home in one piece and Winnie hops off, unfazed. Me, I'm practically jelly. Anyway, that is over and done with and I'm sure next time will be much less frightening. I'm sticking to using bodas in the daytime however.

Dinner tonight is pasta and pork cubes. Winnie and I read a book called Mouse Tales, and then John and I read Gulu-Gulu Goes to School. I spend the evening chatting with Moses. What an intelligent man. And such a big heart. I am in awe of him and his family. Beautiful people in the truest sense.

My foot is still swollen but the pain and redness has gone. Whatever that black paste was, it seems to have done the job!

Day 5
Another long hot day at the school. Today we handed out the donated clothes and shoes to the children in P1. I took photos and the children all looked so proud in their new wears. Very cute! I have now nearly finished finding and listing all the books. It has been hard work, and at times frustrating, but I know the end result will be rewarding.

I had a tough experience at the school today which really affected me. When you arrive at the school from the compound, you walk up the side of the classrooms and, passing each one, you can see in through the barred windows. On passing the first classroom this morning, I heard a child screeching and then whimpering. When I got to the second set of windows the look into the front of the classroom, I saw the teacher beating the child with a cane. Now, I know that this also went on in the UK - even in our generation briefly, and even still today at some boarding schools so I am told - but seeing it and hearing this poor child's pain really hurt me. I went to the staffroom and was numb for a while. I got myself together to get on with my work but it stayed with me all morning.

On the way home at lunchtime, I was given three letters by separate children (all under the age of about 8), and a second letter from Janet this time sounding more desperate, all pleading with me to come with them to their homes, that their parents are sick or are dead, and that they want me to help them and be their friend. It got to me. I cracked. Back at the compound I locked myself away in my room and had a good hearty cry. I was missing my family, wishing I had my friends to talk to, and could not get the child's cries out of my head, or Janet's sad face. I had to ask myself "Is my character strong enough for this?" and the answer I gave myself was "This is what you are trying to find out, isn't it?". So I shook it off, spritzed water on my face and joined the family at the table for lunch.

I must say, I have never been so filthy in my life. At lunch, I realised that despite washing my hands repeatedly, my fingernails are red from the dirt. It just gets everywhere. Even in your knickers!! I wash daily, thoroughly, but I always feel smelly. I have resorted to using the talc my mother wisely sent me off with. Perfume would be a no-no here as it is too hot and would make me feel sick but the White Musk talc is a god send. However, I do need to brave the task of laundry soon. It looks like very hard work!

This afternoon I went to Bujagali on my own. Moses called for a boda to come and collect me from the compound but the driver wanted to charge me higher when he saw I was a Muzungu. Moses argued with the man, loudly, and told me to get off the boda. Further argument ensued before Moses and the man came to an agreement. Moses explained to me that I was a member of the family and the driver should treat me as such. So the regular price of 1,000 was what I should pay. It was a tense ride to Bujagali. Once there, I snuch into a campsite to take advantage of their free internet but I was eventually caught by the Australians that run it and told off. Bah! I got the same boda man to give me a ride back, again refusing to pay anything more than 1,000 (about 30p).

This evening, I had tickle fights with the children which was fun. They are so playful and always climbing all over me, fighting for my attention. I taught them all "This Little Piggy" on their toes and they loved it. We played this for about an hour non-stop. The children ate with me this evening which was nice as I normally have my evening meal alone. I am not sure why this is, still. I have asked Moses but he just laughs it off. I gave the children half of my food this evening so that it would not feel like I was eating alone. Since it is Friday night, I treated myself to a Nile beer. Moses keeps a stock of them at his house and sells them to volunteers for 2,000 each. About 60p for a beer, hell yeah! Every evening I read to Winnie, and then John reads to me. It is a lovely way to end the evening.

My eyes are getting used to the dark now. When I first arrived at the compound and the sun went down, I honestly thought batteries for my head torch were of the highest importance. But now, I remember where certain holes are between my room and the family patio and I can distinguish between shadows - whether it is a shadow from the structure of the house, or whether it is in fact a mound of earth or some other raised area. Go me!

My foot is now well on the way to healing. Now that it is not weeping and attracting flies (sorry!!), I can leave the plaster off tomorrow. I think that will do it the world of good. Although the swelling has gone down, the wound is still not closing up and that's what we need to work on now. Germolene has become my best friend.

Day 6
The SheWee does not work. Let's just say that, after a 3.30am messy attempt, it is now in the bin. Nuff said.

I woke up to be greeted by Danny in another new set of clothes from the donations. Moses came to me and said "Can you see how you and your friends have changed my children's lives?". Heart ... melt. Danny is busy dancing - the battery operated radio is being played this morning and there is upbeat calypso style music flooding the compound. What a great way to start Saturday!

Today we are going to see Moses's mother who lives on the other side of the river past Jinja. Danny has decided that he is coming with us and has changed again into his best clothes for the visit. He is very excited and this rubs off on me. Moses says he has not taken volunteers to his family home before so I feel honoured. I can't wait.

Visit to Grandmother to be continued ........


  1. Wow, steph am so loving reading this, keep it going.
    Winnie sounds so lovely, I can so imagine what she is like.

    If anyone gives u anymore letters, please give me their address, i would so love to help, and send some bits over.

    Take care

    Lots of love

    carla xx

  2. Also! As some vols have left it in a mess in the store room (and thank you very much for sorting that out) would you mind putting a notice saying to keep it clean and tidy and not to leave glue to dry up and ditto glue sticks? You know the sort of thing! Thanks a lot!

  3. Steph, what an experience. You should be so proud, you are helping to change people's lives for the better. I am loving reading the blog :)

    Sending so much love from Kate, David and Zachy xx

  4. Wonderful! I feel like I am right there with you. Wish I was!

    Stay strong honey. You are there to help everyone and to make a difference to the lives of lots of children, you can't take personal responsibility for individuals. You're doing valuable work for the school as a whole. Madame Deborah is right - you do have a good heart! (And I'm glad to hear you're finally covering up a bit missy! About time.)

    Sending you lots of love! Louisa xxxxxxx

  5. Loving loving loving this - am totally hooked!! Can't wait to see your pics.