Friday, 23 October 2009

Hello from Uganda!

Hello everyone! I made it to Uganda. Woohoo! It has been such a roller coaster so far and I'm afraid this Blog post will come nowhere near to doing justice to my experiences but I have to be quick for the following reasons: 1) the internet is bound to cut out in about 10 mins like it usually does; 2) internet here is painfully slow to use, 3) I have snuck into a campsite to use their internet.- rebel Neffy - and 4) I have to get home before dark as I forgot my headtorch!

So quickly then -

First of all let me say I am never, never, flying with British Airways again. Useless, unhelpful and don't know what they're doing half the time quite frankly. Was given a totally unnecessary run-around at the airport trying to pay for my bags etc, and then had the flight from hell (as I expected with BA - I've never had good service from them). Ugh. Hate them, hate them.

Arrived in Entebbe, Uganda at about 7:15am on Monday morning. I had been up all night on the plane and was losing energy fast but as I stepped out onto the tarmac, I knew an amazing adventure had begun. After standing in line for 40 minutes to get a visa, I came through to the other side and immediately saw Moses with a big smile on his face holding a sign saying "Kyabirwa Primary School Welcomes You". Yay! We walked out to the taxi and were on our way. I wanted to stay awake for the three hour drive and there was so much to take that I managed it quite easily. My first real "you're in Uganda now" experience was when we drove through Kampala - I have never smelt anything like it. The stench of rotting rubbish and toilets was quite overwhelming, especially in the heat. I honestly can't explain it but it is the first time in my life when I honestly wished I didn't have a nose. Passing through, someone yelled "Muzungu!!" which means "white person" and Moses chuckled and said to me "Welcome to Uganda". I had already known that I would be called Muzungu so I was expecting it - felt quite a home now that I had received the official 'call out', haha. The noise was also quite a shock - it was a constant stream of beeping horns, whistles, squeaking bicycles and people shouting. It was pure chaos but everyone seemed to somehow know how not to hit another car/get run over. It was 9:25am the next time I looked at my watch and I was HOT. I asked Moses if we could stop for some water and we found somewhere that also exchanged money. I took in my American dollars and ended up with 2,000,000,000 (yes, 2 million) Ugandan Shillings. I am officially a millionaire - well I was until I paid for my accommodation with Moses anyway. Felt totally weird to be handed so much money.

We continued on our way and at about 10:45am Moses decided he needed to feed me. I wasn't hungry really, and I was still fighting to stay awake, but we stopped at a roadside where there were about 6 women selling bananas. They all rushed to the car with their baskets, showing us identical bananas and thrusting their arms through the car windows. I'm not sure how Moses managed to choose the bananas he wanted because, to my untrained Muzungu eye, they were all the same ... but he did and the lady went away happy while the others looked less pleased. Further down the road, we stopped again and this time men approached the car with chicken legs on sticks and what looked like more bananas. Again, these were thrust through the car windows into our faces. What they were trying to do was tempt us I'm sure, but they only succeeded in making me feel ill with the waft of chicken mixed with sweaty hands and the stench from the rubbish at the side of the road. Then, to my horror, Moses paid for a few and handed me one. What to do? What to do? I hated to be impolite and offend him so after tentatively asking him if it was okay to eat, I took a bite. I cannot say I enjoyed my salty stick-chicken as the whole time I was eating it I was thinking "Oh man, I am gonna get soooo sick". Moses then handed me the 'banana' but I guess it was plantain as it was grilled. It was nice. Unfortunately, when I had finished, Moses handed me another. And another. And another. I really thought he would never stop! Thankfully, he fell asleep in the front seat and forgot about me and my belly for a while.

Eventually we arrived at the compound. It was beautiful - I had seen photographs of it but nothing could have prepared me for what it was really like. Florence (Moses's wife) came rushing to the car to greet us and she knelt down on the ground in front of Moses and the taxi driver. My room consists of a single bed with mozzie net, a side table, a mirror (!!), a wooden chair, and a bookcase. I also have some hangers on the wall where I can hang my clothes but I have actually used the bookcase. I was jetlagged when I unpacked and now they have just somehow ended up staying there. After taking my things to my room, we moved to the patio outside the main house where - oh my goodness - Florence served us with more food! This time it was two slices of thick bread (kind of yellow) and a hard boiled egg. We also had 'coffee' BUT this is not coffee like you or I know it - it is a smoky milk (because all the cooking is done in a smoke filled hut outside) and then you sprinkle machine filter coffee in the top. I am not sure who taught them how to do this but the end result is not coffee - it is smoky milk but bits of ground coffee floating in it which then get stuck in your teeth, haha.

After eating, Moses asked if I was tired or if I would like to see Kyabirwa school (prounounced cha-beer-wa with a rolled R). I figured I would stick two fingers up at jetlag and push on. So off we went. It is less than a 10 minute walk to the school up a red dirt road with lush vegetation on either side. Everyone who passed us said "Jambo" (hello) and "Oliotwa" (how are you? pronounced 'oli-o-tia'). You then reply "Bulunji" (I'm fine) and then you ask the person if they are 'fine' too. I picked this up very quickly. At the school, I was introduced to Robinah the headmistress and met class P6. There are 7 primary classes at the school in total.

After a very brief tour of the school (I was lagging), we went back to the house for lunch. I had been dreading 'posho' but actually it was very nice. So we had our posho (best described as tasteless stodge) and red beans, and even some fresh mango juice. I met the other volunteer, Shanna (from Boston), but she leaves on Wednesday. I took advantage of meeting another Muzungu to ask where the latrines were and how best to go about using them. She showed me round to the back of the compound where there was a mud hut divided into two parts - one side for the family, one side for volunteers. Our side has a flap at the front to protect our 'modesty'. Inside, there is literally a hole - just as I thought - but very clean. I have taken some pictures in case you are wondering. Shanna says not to use the latrine at night because there are bats which fly up out of the hole. Yikes! I will be given a bucket by the family to use I am told.

My next experience was to use the 'shower'. This consists of an area behind the main house with four cubicles - two with doors, two without. The first one without a door is where you brush your teeth. So I was given a large red bowl and a blue jug and shown how to fasten the tin door shut using a nail at the top. I balanced my toiletries on top of the cubicle wall and then - in a most unladylike fashion - I squat down and began to pull the water over me with cupped hands. Then I stood up to soap myself, and then back to a squat to rinse. I was laughing at myself, yes. Finally I washed my hair which was just like washing it in a sink really but, again, squatting.

I felt so much more awake after I had my shower so I then decided to hand out some gifts I had brought to the family. They were all very thankful and I got lots of cuddles which made me feel at home. The Owino children are Danny (4), Winnie (6), David, John and Lydia. I can't remember whether Lydia is 12 or 14 but most children here look much younger than they actually are so imagine a 10 year old. Danny who is 4 looks at least a year younger. The kids are all gorgeous and soooo lovely. I miss my boy so much after getting cuddles from them - I wish he was here to experience this.

So next, the children helped me unpack my bags as I had left my door open, foolishly, and turned around to see them all in my room rooting through my knickers, ha!. They soon discovered some of the chalk I had brought for the school so we went outside to the step that surrounds the volunteer accommodation and started drawing. They loved to try and copy anything which I drew so we drew some elephants and pigs and snails - that is about the extent of my art capabilities. I then had a quick but useful Lusoga lesson (the local dialect) from a local boy- Jacob - who had dropped by, no doubt to see the Muzungu. There are also two other boys who live at the compound and they are Charlie (a teenage relative of Moses) and Issac (the son of Moses's sister, Agnes, who also lives here at the compound).

The most surreal part of my first day was being served a fish & chip supper. The chips are really only boiled potato fried for 'not quite long enough' in some oil. But they looked like chips and didn't taste bad at all so I gobbled them down gladly.

I finally fell into bed at 8:30pm and after checking in with my mom & boy back home, fell fast asleep.

Now, it is going to get dark in about 30 minutes and I really need to find a 'boda boda' (motorcycle taxi) to take me back to the house. I'm sorry I have only got to tell you about Day 1 (when nothing actually happened) but I will try and get back on the internet on Monday, if not Sunday. Sorry also for the lack of photos but that is impossible where I am at the moment. I will try next week in Jinja.

I have SO MUCH to tell all of you - the deathly slow internet and lack of local facilities is so frustrating!!! I promise to spend a day in Jinja next week updating you in full AND posting pics :)

Love from Neffy the Muzungu! xxx


  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your first installment, can't wait for the next! It already sounds like an incredible experience. xx

  2. So pleased you are there safe (just about from your BA experiences) x

  3. I'm glad you like the compound. After the hideousness you see along parts of the route from EBB that whole area around Kyabirwa and Bujagali is unexpectedly so incredibly beautiful. Funny, I never noticed the smells any time I've been out there. I wonder what the difference is?! I have to say that I never eat street food. Even the rolex they all sell by the road. It may be cooked but they make those chapatis with their bare hands and handle all the stuff that goes in them and god knows where their hands have been - cetainly not under a tap! And then the manky newspaper they roll them in! Do let us know if you survive one!

    Who was the other muzungu at the school?

    Off to India on Monday! Ann

  4. Loved your first update honey! Louisa xx

  5. Brilliant post! Reading this reminded me of *exactly* how I felt when I first landed in Uganda.

    I love your style of writing and I look forward to reading your other posts.

    Take care,

    PS - Posho is delicious! Especially with a sprinkling of chilli powder and lemon juice : )