Monday, 9 November 2009

Days 15 - 21

Day 15
It is the start of the P7 exams this morning. They have two days of exams and then they receive their results mid-January which will determine whether they have passed primary and can move to secondary. It is a big deal because an awful lot of children get held back each year. The youngest person in P7 is 12 with the oldest being 20. Lydia (Moses's 12 year old daughter) is in P7 so she is up early, knocking on my door at 6:00am saying "Neffy, Neffy, get up! I am leaving soon!". She wants a "success hug" from me which I gladly leave my room to give her, despite the time. She is very excited and she poses proudly with two of her friends for a photo holding their "success cards". Moses is sure she will pass and knowing Lydia, I am sure too. She is a hard worker and has not scrimped on her revision at all, despite coming home from school each day and completing at least a dozen backbreaking chores. Still she buries her head in a book night after night. She's a trooper.

After breakfast, Jess and I go to the school alone because Moses is attending the exams (for another school so as not to have a conflict of interest) along with a number of other teachers. We have over 1,000 students at Kyabirwa and although normally there are 19 teachers, today there are just 6. I wonder if the children will take advantage of this. Jess and I sit in Mr Majeed's social studies lesson first thing and after learning all about how polygamy increases population growth (polygamy is perfectly acceptable here), we help to mark the children's books. This has become a daily occurance for us. Taking a class of over 80 children is very daunting so usually we simply assist the teachers with marking or holding reading groups after school. After break-time, we sit in on Madam Deborah's English class and again help to mark books. She approaches us during the lesson and asks if we would like to take over but - knowing Madam Deborah's tricks of slacking off when volunteers are around - we say that we will instead read aloud the passage they are working on and help with pronunciation. She is happy with this.

We go home for lunch and see that Florence has prepared for us cabbage and greens - one of my fave dishes. Veggies are served rarely here and so my body craves them more than usual. Jess wonders when she will be served the infamous posho and I tell her "Don't worry, your time will come". Thinking about it though, we have not had posho in over a week. Moses knows that I really have a hard time with it. Maybe Jess will be spared after all.

We head back to the school just before 2:00pm and sit in on Mr James's P5 English class. Zzzzzz. Mr James 'checked out' as a teacher a while back I gather. His teaching style is to write out on the blackboard whatever exercise is before him in the books (which are also in front of the children) and then tell the class to copy it into their exercise books and answer the questions. The children talk over him, stare out of the windows, go to sleep at their desks etc. I finally have enough and march up to the front of the class where I ask the students to please show their teacher some respect and invite them to leave the classroom if they don't want to learn today. A hush falls over the students, no one accepts my offer to leave, and we carry on with the class. Mr James thanks me. He is a sweet old man; I wish he had a bigger voice.

After school, Jess and I hold a reading group each. They go very well with the kids asking lots of questions about word meanings. I have fun trying to get the meanings to stick by acting out silly little skits. The kids again ask me if I will come to the school on Saturdays to holding reading groups. We walk home just before 5:00pm and Janet (did I tell you about little Janet and the letters? I think I did) is waiting for us. I introduce her to Jess and she then gives me another letter. This one is very long and detailed, sounding even more desperate than the previous. I really am going to have to talk to Moses. It is no good saying to Janet "I don't have enough money to sponsor you ....". She would not understand. So I smile and say thank you and she accompanies us back to the compound where she sits with us doing her homework. Lydia arrives shortly after we do and she is grinning from ear to ear - she tells us that she thinks her exams today went very well. Lots of cuddles! Moses then arrives about half an hour later looking beat. He has not had such a great day as an 'exam official' but we have some good conversation and he soon relaxes. We talk talk talk through the evening, stopping for our fish & chips and tomatoes, have a beer or two and then a very early night at 9:15pm.

Day 16
I am taking Jess into Jinja today. We have breakfast and note that Danny is in a foul mood. He is only 4 but sometimes he is as grumpy as an old man in a nursing home. Today he is refusing to speak to anyone and staring at a wall, rooted firmly in the way of anyone trying to pass from the compound into the main house. It is funny really. I hand him half of my muffin and after some 'words' from Moses, he stomps off in the direction of the road to school. After breakfast, Jess and I wander up to the main road. Passing the school, we see Danny stood in the middle of the playing field, again rooted. He does not attend Kyabirwa Primary yet so we call to him and, upon seeing us, he grins cheekily and begins to follow us. He looks hot so I take his jacket off for him and upon doing so, I find the half muffin stuffed into his pockets "for later". There are now just crumbs where it has been bashed around and I have to laugh. Poor Danny. I promise that if he gets to school quickly and doesn't waste any more time, then I will bring him some sweets back from Jinja. This puts a spring in his step.

It is very hot already today so the walk to the main road takes us over half an hour today. It is fun taking Jess on a taxi van as she has never experienced this before. I am used to them from Barbados so didn't bat an eyelid when I arrived here to find the same transport. But Jess is quite taken aback by how many people they insist on packing into these tiny vans. The road does seem to be more bumpy today however (probably due to the high level of rain we've had lately - it simply eats up the roads) so her first experience is rough to say the least.

In Jinja, we go to the internet cafe where I try to catch up with my emails and Blog but the power does not hold out for long so we give up and try to find baskets for the school instead. After traipsing around almost every shop and stall in the market, we give up on this task also. We end up walking along the far end of Main Street, somewhere I do not usually go. This is where all the Muzungu restaurants and bars are and, if you know me, you know that I don't like to hang around 'tourist' places. But anyway, I show Jess this area and point out a few Muzungu restaurants such as The Source, Ozzie's, and Flavours. We opt for Flavours and are shown to the back of the restaurant where the is a gorgeous 'beer garden'. I swear if it wasn't for the unique scent of Jinja all around us, it would have been easy to imagine we were in the middle of the English countryside. There were large pub tables with umbrellas, grass beneath our feet, a swing under some trees for romantic couples, and a few garden statues. It was a bizarre kind of utopia. On the other side of the wall we could hear the chaos of Jinja traffic and hear the sounds of the market, but inside we could pretend - for as long as it took to sip at our (cold) beer - that we were home.

Afterwards, we bought some sweets for the Owino children (honouring my promise to Danny) and set off to find a boda. After being quoted as much as 7,000 (!!!) for the journey home, we finally find a boda man who is not a complete rip off merchant and opt to go to Bujagali instead. When we arrive, I usher Jess towards the big black gates that hide all the Muzungus in the campsite behind them. I show her the door at the side and we sneak in, smiling and looking confident about being inside whenever someone looks our way. "Yes, of course we are staying here" we are saying with our eyes. We settle down in the bar area which is part of a big porch overlooking the River Nile and we have a Club beer. It is a beautiful afternoon and we just enjoy sitting and chatting. The cool breeze from the river is gorgeous. I could stay here all night. I then take Jess back outside and across the road to In DeNile, another cafe where I go sometimes for some peace and quiet. Moses knows the owners well so they are always very kind to me and do not charge me the 3,000 entry fee past the gates. We order another beer and play a quick game of Monopoly while watching the sun setting over another view of the River Nile. When the darkness threatens to arrive within 15 minutes or so, we pack up our game and head back out to the road to catch a boda. Here, we bump into Moses who insists on paying the 1,000 for our boda home. This is great because if we had been two Muzungus on our own, we would surely pay 1,500 each. Moses is in Bujagali waiting to see the Chief and get a letter giving him permission to travel to Entebbe to collect Jess's passport in her absence. She left it at the airport when she arrived. Poor Moses - tomorrow (if he gets the letter) he will have to make a 7-8 hour round trip on various modes of dodgy African transport.

On arriving back at the compound, Danny runs towards us faster than his legs can carry him and dives into my arms. I say to him "Oooh, this is a nice welcome home. What do you want?". He cocks his head to the side and then whispers cheekily "tweeties". Bless him. Lydia also comes to tell me that her exams went well again and she is very confident that she has passed. I tell her I am very proud of her and sneak her an extra sweetie. The sweeties are then shared among the whole family (2 each) and after dinner of pork, matoke and groundnut sauce, we fall into bed at the respectable time of 9:30pm.

Day 17
Moses leaves the compound for Entebbe at 7:00am. Winnie and Danny are sick today so they are not going to school. Jess and I head up on our own and busy ourselves with general tidying and sitting in lessons until break-time. I then borrow Johnson's laptop and begin the walk to Bujagali to sit at DeNile Cafe (where I can use their electricity free of charge) and type up the library list. I have no idea how but I get horribly lost today. The road to Bujagali is quite simply an L shape but Moses and I always take a shortcut. I have walked this route many times - with and without Moses - but today some small children are following me and chatting so it distracts me. When they finally realise they have strayed too far from home and turn back, I note that I do not recognise this part of the path. I am getting very good at working out which turn I have to take etc from the crops growing nearby or by the layout of the various family compounds that I pass through. But here, the crops are much larger and there are no compounds around. I am lost for sure. I continue walking as I can hear the sounds of Bujagali in the distance and hope that I eventually find my way back to my path, or even the road. I pass a few women and say "Bujagali?" and they point to where I am stood. Okay, yes, I know that I am in Bujagali ... but I am definitely not where I am supposed to be. I begin to worry as the people here are not speaking English freely with me and they are looking at me like an alien. I am not in familiar territory. Some children run after me with their hands out. I clutch my bag a little tighter. After what seems like half an hour of following overgrown paths, I find a road. I am so pleased! Instinct tells me I should turn left so I do and after another 15 minutes or so, I finally reach the 'main road' of Bujagali. Phew!!! At the cafe, I spend 2 1/2 hours typing the library list and then have to rush back to the school for the reading group at 3:30pm. At 5:00pm, I wish I hadn't bothered. The children today - from P5 - are not very well behaved and are really struggling to read. We do not even have a chance to finish the (basic) book in the hour and a half we are allocated, let alone ask questions about word meanings. I give them a bit of a telling off at the end and say that I remember a lot of the faces from Mr James's English class. This was of course the class that I had to reprimand previously. I once again try to explain the importance of listening in class and paying attention to what the teacher is trying to teach. Or else they stand little chance of passing P5. Looking around me, I can see that this is not news to most of the children as teenagers are staring back at me. Johnson and Robinah overhear me speaking to the children and urge me not to give up and to continue with the reading groups. I say there is no chance of me canceling the groups and that I am just frustrated. They once again tell me how much I am helping etc. Today is does not feel like it.

Defeated and tired, I head home and share out some biscuits I have been 'hiding' in my room. It feels like everyone could do with some cheering up. I grab my iPod and we squeeze out the last of the battery. After a few minutes, Winnie runs into the house and returns with none other than an iPod dock with speakers. Hoorah! We crank up the volume and all enjoy a good dance. Lydia loves Fergie's "Glamourous", Danny loves "Stronger" by Kanye West and David grooves repeatedly to FloRider. Ha! We are having a grand ol' time when Moses arrives home. He looks tired but still manages to shake his booty with us for a few seconds.

Jess and I read with Winnie and John tonight. I have such high hopes for John. He absolutely loves reading and even though he is only in P4, he is already more advanced than most of the children I have read with in P5. I make sure he knows this and he pretends to be shy but I can tell he is bubbling with pride. He immediately asks if we can read another book straightaway. Unfortunately I have to decline and explain I am very tired and must sleep now. Truth is, I am missing my family very much this evening and would give anything to be sitting with my son and reading instead. It is all a bit much and I head to my room for a little cry. I send my son a text and minutes later, my mother calls. She was not aware that I had sent a text but just had an idea to phone at that moment. Must be mother's intuition. I tell her that I have been feeling down, she says all the right things, and I go to bed a lot happier. I am still applying Germolene to my foot. It is almost healed but I am being extra cautious about infection.

Day 18
Happy Bonfire Night!

I can't believe it has only been 18 days - feels like months! I am feeling a bit down again this morning as today is the 5th November and I am 1) missing one of my best friend's birthdays, and 2) missing Bonfire Night. I would give my right arm to be at home, in the cold, snuggled up to my family watching fireworks tonight. I like Bonfire Night every year but this year I am absolutely gutted that I am going to miss it. Funny how things become sooooo important when you are away from your loved ones. I then and there decide that - with or without fireworks - we are celebrating tonight. I inform the kids and Moses over breakfast that we are having a party tonight. Jess joins us and I tell her of my plan. She loves the idea and says she will go halves with me on 'party food'. I explain to Lydia that we need her to make a big banana doll ... and that we are then going to burn it. She is totally confused of course, and I try to explain. She shakes her head, obviously thinking "Crazy Muzungu" but agrees to do it for us.

We spend the morning at the school in Mr Majeed's social studies class and, after lunch, Jess and I meet up with Paul (another teacher) and the three of us head to Jinja. The school has decided - after much discussion - that the donated money from myself and my friends would be best spent on musical instruments for the school. There are many local and national competitions and Kyabirwa are never able to enter and get their name 'out there' because they have only got 3 African drums at the school - and they are all broken. I am excited to see where the money is going so Robinah has invited me to meet her in Jinja - accompanied by Paul - to go to the music shop with her. Jess is coming with us because she has to do a few things in Jinja and wants to help shop for party food for tonight.

After a very dirty boda ride into Jinja (we end up with red muddy faces!), we first head to Berts and check our emails (gotta do it while you can here). I manage to get on Facebook Chat for the first time since arriving and briefly talk to my friend Carly before the power and internet conk out. There is a massive storm coming. I am gutted when the power goes as I really wanted to wish my friend at home a happy birthday. I send a text instead but of the 20 or so texts I have sent in the past few weeks, I have only had 2 replies so I'm not convinced they are getting through. Since the internet is a no-go, we wander to the supermarket instead and stock up on crisps, biscuits, cake and bottles of soda. The choice is limited but we do our best. Whilst we are in the supermarket, the storm arrives right over Jinja. It is rain like I have never seen and we have no choice but to run next door to a cafe and sit for a while. The rain gets heavier. Then starts to clear. And the pours again. We sit for more than half an hour, aware that we are already late to meet Robinah at the music store. I tell Paul that maybe we should just make a break for it as the rain does not seem to be easing up. He agrees. Jess heads back to the internet cafe to see if there is any change - I have asked her to print some Guy Fawkes info - and Paul and I run across the road to a boda man. He agrees to take us but warns me that it will be wet. I say to him "Do I look dry?" and he laughs with me. We hop on and drive at top speed (as usual) through the streets for a good 10 minutes in the pouring, bucketing, freezing rain. By the time we arrive, my clothes are literally stuck to me and although I am wearing a long skirt and baggy t-shirt, I feel exposed. Paul snaps a photo of me sitting on the steps to the music shop, absolutely soaked. We are still laughing, but I am actually very cold and uncomfortable.

We wander into the music shop and I am immediately in awe of the beautiful instruments. There are fiddles, xylophones, pan pipes, drums of all shapes and sizes and - my favourite - the thumb piano. The owner tells me that he was given a thumb piano by a teacher when he was small and he practiced daily. His father hated this at first but soon recognised his son's talent and became his biggest fan, putting him through university despite the family being incredibly poor. I ask the man if his father is proud of the fact he now owns this incredible shop but he tells me that his father did not live to see this day. That is so sad! I feel choked up. We spend a while chatting to the owner and he demonstrates each instrument to us, playing beautifully. Robinah eventually arrives (she too has been caught by the rain) and I leave the teachers to speak with the owner in Lusoga. After another half an hour or so, Robinah shows me the instruments they have agreed to buy. We are having at least one of everything, and in the case of the pan pipes and fiddles, we are even having more than one. I am so pleased that the money has gone so far! Paul is as giddy as one of the students and having a play with each instrument, testing its quality. He is impressed and very pleased. Unfortunately, despite this happy occasion, I am still soaking wet and freezing to death so I tell Robinah that I really should head back to Kyabirwa now.

After meeting Jess back at the internet cafe (she managed to print out some info for me after all), we get a taxi van home. All the way home I am shaking and cursing the rain. I have never been so wet or cold for such a long time. The taxi van ride is quite scary - we slide from one side of the muddy road to the other more than once and, despite the conditions, the driver still insists on racing. About 3 miles away from our village, the tarmac ends and the mud begins. I say tarmac - what I mean is tarmac pieces in between massive potholes. At one point, I honestly think we are going to tip right over as we lurch and narrowly avoid a 2 foot trench. The rest of the passengers seem to look equally as uneasy as I feel, which is saying something as usually they are not fazed by the speed or conditions of the road. I almost kiss the ground when we finally reach the turn off to our road and can use our own two legs again.

Now faces another problem. Boda men will not go to our house from the main road in the rain, or after a downpour. It is far too muddy and the roads have massive trenches at random intervals. So there is nothing left for us to do but walk. And it is getting dark. And it is still freezing. This is not great. I walk home - barefoot as it's just easier - muttering under my breath and cursing African rain. I am definitely not a happy camper. I try to remind myself that the red mud that is seeping up through my toes and sticking to the bottom or my arch, getting thicker and thicker with each step, is like an expensive mud beauty treatment you would find in a spa, yet I am getting it for free. That's the thing with the mud here; it is not slippery brown mud like we have at home, but red and thick and sticky. Just like clay. And it's a bugger to get off!

We arrive home just as the darkness descends upon us and the children again insist on washing our feet. Afterwards, we have just enough time to put out the bowls of crisps etc before some teachers arrive from the school for our 'party'. I handed out the Guy Fawkes information and we answered questions as best we could, all the while suddenly realising how grotesque this celebration actually is when trying to explain it in a foreign country.

"So this man tried to blow up the King?"
"And then you caught him and he was killed?"
"And every year you celebrate by burning him again and again on a big fire?"
"Well ... umm ... yeah"
"In front of children?"

It is all very strange, sitting around in a dimly lit room, pouring warm soda into plastic cups and inviting people to please go ahead and eat the food. No one wants to go first. In the end, I invited the children to start. They don't need asking twice. Then a funny thing happens. I am not sure if it's because they had not had this type of food before, or whether it was because it was an "English party" and they therefore thought they should, but they started to eat their crisps and biscuits with forks. Jess and I didn't know where to look. We made it obvious that we were eating with our hands, but they still persevered with their forks. Too funny. The iPod was dug out again and we tried to get the kids dancing but I think they were embarrassed as their teachers were there. In the end, we figured we had better set to burning the Guy before people lost interest and began to head home. Lydia has done us proud with our banana leaf Guy Fawkes doll and has even gone to the effort to make him a paper jacket and some real jeans. It seems a crying shame to burn him but the children are desperate to see what this is all about now so they drag us into the garden, carrying parrafin and matches. Florence is on the porch with the teachers and kicks off a chant of "Bye - Bye - Guy! Bye - Bye - Guy!". Everyone is getting into it. The Guy is placed on a few sticks (we can't build a bonfire as that would be a shameful waste of firewood) and some other rubbish we have collected from around the compound and he is set alight. There is a roar from the teachers and the kids and the chants continue, as does plenty of clapping and whooping. It is the most vocal Bonfire Night I have ever been too. Lydia and Winnie even end up dancing around the burning guy and singing something in Lusoga. Everyone is laughing and having a great time.

The Guy burns quickly and the teachers leave even quicker. The rain is threatening to return and no one wants to get stuck at the compound for the night. The teachers ask if they can take away their print-outs. It is nearly 11:00pm by the time we get around to sitting down for dinner but by this time I am feeling a bit poorly so I excuse myself and go to bed, leaving the family and Jess to finish the party. Moses tries to persuade me to stay up for one more beer and when I refuse, I know I am ready for bed. I am sure I have a cold coming on.

Day 19
I am sick. Boooo! Woke up to Moses calling in through my window asking if I am okay but I tell him that I have a cold and I can't face the school today. I know, I know - it's only a cold right? You try having a cold in this heat in Africa. It feels a million times worse. I don't move from bed all day, apart from to sit with Robinah at lunchtime for 10 minutes when she insists on visiting from the school to see if I really do only have a cold or whether it is dreaded Malaria. At lunchtime, Jess tells me that the instruments were brought to the school today and when they arrived, the children saw them being unloaded from the truck and RAN from their classrooms without being excused. Jess said it was so moving that she cried. I am gutted that I didn't see this but Robinah assures me that I will get plenty of chance to see them playing their instruments and get photographs for my friend's back home to see where their money has gone so far. When everyone leaves after lunch, I crawl back to bed.

At 6:00pm, I wake up again and Moses offers me a shower - a hot shower! He tells me that because I am ill, Florence is boiling some water for me. When it is ready, I could cry. I have not felt hot water over my skin for nearly 3 weeks and this is pure bliss. As sick as I feel, I make the effort to wash my hair - never a great experience with cold water but definitely something to take advantage of now I have hot water. I feel energised after my shower, although because I have had my head upside down for the hair washing, I now can't breathe through my nose at all, ha! I don't want to waste my precious 'long call' tissues for blowing my nose so I sit around sniffing in my room until my sinuses have cleared a bit. Lovely.

The rest of the night is a bit of a 'moan' for me. Some friends of Moses arrived - 'Mr Paul' and his new wife and I can honestly say I have never met two more self-important English people in my life. I won't go into detail on here (but I will after some wine back home no doubt!) but they were quite vile, lording it over the Owino family, patronising Moses openly (although Moses probably didn't pick up on this) and using up all of the fuel from the generator to power their laptop and then make us sit through no less than 300 of their tedious wedding photos. Ugh. When they left and invited us to their party the following evening, my teeth were set on edge but I smiled and said it had been "lovely" to meet them.

I was glad when they left (obviously) and I gave myself another early night as I am still not feeling even 80% really.

Day 20
Oh today was hard. There is a charity based here called SoftPower. I had looked into them before I chose to be an independent volunteer and sure enough, they are one of the organisations that insist you pay them a ton of money before arriving and then make you find your own accommodation and food when you get here. So what is the money going on then? I can safely say after being here for nearly 3 weeks that it is not being poured back into the community of Kyabirwa. I have heard so many stories since I got here - and I don't think I have met one Muzungu from SoftPower that I have liked yet (Mr Paul is a Trustee at SoftPower). And yet today, we got to spend all the live long day with them.

Today is SoftPower's 10th anniversary and they have invited some kids from Kyabirwa Primary School to play a song on the stage. Kyabirwa was the first school - 10 years ago - that they regenerated. Sorry, did I say regenorated? I mean 'painted the outside of'. But hey, their massive sign on the main road states clearly that they REGENORATED Kyabirwa Primary School so I just thought I should quote them accurately. The day was long, the speeches were pompous ... our kids were great. I applauded and whooped as loud as I could and shook every one of their hands when they came off the stage. They did us proud. However, Jess and I could bear no more speeches once our kids had performed so we made our excuses to leave the 'celebrations' and head to Bujagali where we could sit in peace, look at the river, watch the sun slowly go down, and enjoy a cold beer. We sneak into the campsite and do just this. Bliss.

Then the heavens opened and it rained heavier than it has before. I know I say this in almost every Blog post but it's true. It is the beginning of the rainy season here and when it rains, it floods. And each time I see rain, I swear it is heavier and lasts longer than the previous day. So we sit with our beers wondering what on earth to do. We are due to return to this area later this evening for the party but, at this rate, it looks as though we can't get home in between. Hmmm. After another beer, and more rain, we decide we'll have to stick it out here. I text Moses and ask him to please bring us some wellies and maybe a couple of warm tops when he comes to the party as we are stuck. He texts back and said he had guessed as much and that he will see us later.

At 7:00pm, the party nearby at the Black Lantern kicks off and, once Moses arrives, we make our way over. It is amusing to me that I am arriving at a party with no make up, damp clothing and wellies in a plastic bag. Love it! We have a good time - despite it being hosted by SoftPower, meaning we have to endure more self-indulgent and inaccurate speeches - and Jess and I take advantage of the imported red wine on offer. When we hear SoftPower mention that they once spent 900,000 Ugandan Shillings on alcohol for a private party (bear in mind that this was said in front of some community members, including Moses) and then referring to the Trustee members as "The Pope and God", we drink faster.

Still, there is a Muzungu buffet (which Moses takes full advantage of, even filling a plastic bag with crackers to take home for the kids) and there is a fab band with a beautiful man singing. Jess and I agree that this certainly makes for very enjoyable viewing. When he whips off his hat and sunglasses to reveal a mass of well-kept locks and a cheeky smile, I tell Moses to keep me on a tight leash, ha ha!

At some time after midnight, we begin the loooooong walk home. Thank goodness Moses doesn't drink because otherwise I'm not sure how we would have made it. We have one head torch between the three of us, Jess and I are a little tipsy at this point, and the mud is thick. We are slipping and sliding all over the place and Moses is darting from me to Jess, from Jess to me, trying to make sure we don't fall, or coming to our rescue when our legs end up splayed in different directions and we are frantically grabbing at young Maize crops which snap at our touch. Our walk home is a comedy of errors and Moses is almost crying with laughter - real uncontrollable laughter - by the time we reach the compound. I fall into bed comfortably tipsy, welcoming a nice deep sleep.

Day 21
It's Sunday and we have a quiet today. I attempt to tackle my laundry all by myself this week instead of relying on Florence. She helps me set up my bowls and water and promises not to laugh. Lydia does too ... but she doesn't keep her promise. I struggle, I sweat, I scrub, I swear, I rinse, I wring, I re-wash, I get blisters on my fingers. Over an hour later, I am finished. I do not think that my clothes are as clean as they should be but they no longer smell bad. I have to admit defeat with two t-shirts though which I hand over to Florence saying "I think these are stained". She takes great pleasure in bringing them to me 10 minutes later, holding them up for my inspection and saying "Is it clean?". Yes, I say, blushing. I will never make a good African wife.

After a leisurely lunch, Jess and I ask the kids if they want to go to Bujagali with us for smoothies. David and Charlie decide to stay at home but Lydia, John, Winnie, Issac and Danny jump at the chance. Everyone has a shower - I can hear the kids chattering away excitedly as they wash - and change into clean clothes before we head off at around 3:30pm. On the way, the kids all proudly tell their friends that we pass that they are off to Bujagali to have a smoothie. We arrive at In DeNile cafe and Lydia tells me that none of them have been here for a drink before, only Winnie when she came with me. We order the smoothies which go down a treat, and play dominoes for over an hour. There is a small swing outside where some local children play and Danny and Winnie call to them, obviously showing off that they are in the cafe. I take advantage of the kids being occupied to run next door to the book exchange as I have now finished The Lovely Bones, and have also nearly finished the book my mom lent me. The book exchange is a great idea and my new book even has a stamp inside "George's Book Exchange, Jinja, Uganda" which I think is a lovely free souvenier.

When the sun begins to set, we make our way to where the boda men sit touting for business. Issac disappears to get his hair cut and when we are finally ready to make a move, there is only one boda man left. We ask how much to just take Jess and Danny home (he is getting tired) but the man quotes us 5,000. The kids laugh - but he is not joking. This trip usually costs 1,000. We decide to talk. I put Danny on my back and we set off. By the time we reach home, it is dark, we are tired and hot, and Danny is quite poorly. He has a terrible cough and falls straight asleep when I put him down on the sofa in the main house. Poor thing. After Moses has caught up with all the kids, he tells Jess and I that they all had such a great time and are buzzing with excitement. He thanks us for giving his children this experience. We say it was "nothing" ... and we really mean it. It was such a small gesture, but Moses and the children are, as ever, so so grateful.

I am soooo tired this evening and I am soooo homesick. Everyone calls me Neffy here which is lovely and comforting, but it's not the same. I wish - not for the first or last time - that I could transport myself home tonight, snuggle in front of the TV with my mom and son - and then come back to the Owino family in the morning for more adventures. Oh to live in an ideal world ...

Thanks for reading! Will also attempt to upload photos today so stay tuned .....


  1. Your bonfire night antics have me in stitches, you suddenly realise what a random custom it is in the eyes of others!! Hope your foot is healing well and you are feeling more perkier, you were bound to feel estranged and homesick at some point, but you will be fine, make every day there count darling, so proud of you and love your updates thanks for being so determined to keep us posted despite obvious problems, hugs Gem xxxx

  2. Enjoying this SO much....and looking forward to seeing more of your pics, which i know will be stunning (as they always are!!) Sara xx

  3. I echo the sentiments of your friend, Gem- you do not realise how random some of our customs are until you see them through strangers eyes! lol! Loving your updates despite how hard it is for you to get them across to our supposedly more "civilised" isle. You are soo brave and am sure that everyone who knows yuou personally must be sooo proud of you for what you are doing. It is a shame that more Muzungu cannot follow your example over there and show some humility!

  4. Love you and love the updates. Keep smiling babe xx