This morning, after breakfast, I walk with Moses and Jess to the school and then split from them to head to the main road. I am determined to finish the library list today (need to print two copies) and also finally buy these darned baskets for the teachers. When I arrive in Jinja just under an hour later after a very hot and sweaty taxi van ride, I find a 'shop' with a sign outside saying JAS Secretarial Services. Best bet, no? Well after four attempts to print my document (all of which were coming out lopsided) I began to doubt. But still the man persevered. I was half tempted to say "shall I do it?" but he was so sure he could 'fix it'. Eventually, we ran out of ink. So he asked me to come back in two hours. Fine. I went across the road to the internet cafe I usually use and update my Blog and attempt to upload photos. As you know, this takes aaaaages and does my head in entirely - I think I manage about 3. Before I know it, I have been here for four hours and I rush back to JAS for the printing. Ah, now the power is gone on this particular road. Can I come back ...... in two hours? Aaagghhhh!! Back to Berts, power is still on but internet is down. Hmmmm. I realise it is nearing lunch so I head to Indulge (a Muzungu deli) and have a steak pie thingy with salad. It was great, although I must say that flavour and texture are becoming quite alien to me after eating matoke, posho, rice and beans for so long. I actually start to feel a bit sick half way through my meal because - honestly - the flavours are so overpowering. I can't finish it so I pay and head back to JAS. We have success! The library lists (all 9 pages) are printed, in duplicate, and he has bound them and put on covers just as I asked. They look really smart and I can't wait to show them to the school. At this point I get a text from Moses asking if I'm still in Jinja - I text back to confirm and he says to wait for him at the internet cafe. So off I go again. The power is back on so I attempt more photos - I'm quite successful, uploading a few more. Then I realise that I still haven't got the baskets so, after he checks his emails, Moses comes with me to the market. I am bound and determined not to leave Jinja today without them and, despite the shop that we like best not having our specific size, there is not much difference so we buy the 12 we need. I feel like today has been super successful. It is only two small tasks off my list but - with everything here taking 10 times as long and being a total hassle - it feels like I have climbed a mountain and am on my way back down. Because of the baskets (and some food Moses has bought), we opt for a private driver. It only costs 10,000 which is less than 3 quid for the 20 minute journey so I don't feel bad paying out for this. Vincent's mother sees us and hops in for a free ride.
We arrive back at the compound just before dark and the car moves slowly towards the main house. Winnie is trying to second-guess where the car is going to stop and is dancing frantically in the headlights; the rest of the kids, and Jess, are standing at the entrance to the porch in anticipation. I realise that they might think it is a new Muzungu as they tend to arrive by car. I get out and say "Ha! It's only meeeee!". Winnie falls about laughing, Danny jumps into my arms, and Lydia tells me off explaining that they were worried about me. Apparently I had failed to tell anyone that I was spending all day in Jinja and they were expecting me home for lunch. Jess even thought that maybe I had been in an accident and that is why we had needed a driver. I assure everyone that I still have two arms and two legs and, after a bit more scolding, we settle down on the porch for a beer and some reading. I notice a new face among the older children and Moses expalins that his nephew has run away (family politics - the 2nd wife is treating him very badly) and has requested to live here with the Owino family. Moses - the eternal saint - has of course allowed this. His name is Uboo and he is 15 years old.
Over a beer, Jess tells me that she is "done with P5". After a particularly disasterous reading group, she has decided that they "just can't read". I have to agree - P5 are really behind the rest of the school, even those younger. I lay a lot of the blame at Mr James's door. At this point, Moses tells me that he is assigning me to P4 English as he feels that I have a raport with these particular kids. Sounds great to me! I have been waiting for a class to call 'mine' and our own John is in P4 so I am looking forward to it.
After a wonderful chat with both my baby boy and my mom, I hit the hay, ready for tomorrow!
I wake up with an infected knuckle. I got a terrible blister from doing my own laundry on Sunday and somehow - even though I have been taking special care - it has got dirty and infected. Those of a squeamish nature, do not read on ........... it is filled with pus and I run to Moses to show him. I can't even bend my finger. He grabs it and sqeeeeezes. It hurts like CRAZY but eventually the pus is drained and I must admit it feels a lot better. He tells me to put the 'black paste' on it and cover it with a bandage, which I dutifully do. My foot however is still not healed so I may have to go to - god forbid - Soft Power and seek some Western medicine. I have my own Germolene etc but so far these things are not up the environment of Uganda. It is too dirty here for Germolene to protect you!
After breakfast, we walk to the school and I head excitedly for P4. They are having Science so I sit in to watch and make a mental note of the kids in the class. There are 86 today. Yikes. I help Madam Rhona to mark the books at the end of the lesson - we have learned all about leaf structures - and then enjoy 'smokey tea' with Jess, Robinah and Moses.
On my way back across the school yard to P4's classroom, I pass a gap between the first school building and the office. There are 20+ kids (the youngest being around 7/8), some laying down, some standing facing the wall - all crying and whimpering. Then I clock Mr Paul (not the Muzungu from Soft Power, but one of our teachers) beating them. Now, this is not corporal punishment as we knew it in the UK. He is standing over them hitting them as hard as he can across the middle of their back, top of their back, buttocks and legs with a large stick and - sickeningly - smiling. The children are clearly distressed - some gasping for breath in between strikes. I feel sick to the pit of my stomach. I stagger to P4 and collapse in the chair at the front of the classroom. Bit by bit, students arrive and take their seats. I conduct the lesson in a daze, desperate to get away from the school.
Back at the compound at lunchtime, Jess and I learn that the school has run out of money for porridge for the children. We are shocked and ask the obvious question - "Why weren't our donations spent on food? Why instruments and costumes??". Moses explains that the school wanted something "long lasting". We sit in disbelief, too upset to finish our lunch. We both decide that we cannot return to the school this afternoon - Jess saw the beatings as well (from the other side of the school) and we are both quite traumatised and upset. We decide to go to Bujagali and watch the river for a while, clearing our minds.
As we pass the school, on our way, I go in to tell Robinah our concerns over the beatings (which are illegal in Uganda by the way) and also to press the question about how donated money is being spent. She tries to placate me but I am fired up. In the end, she says to me that it was an "oversight". I am FURIOUS. I request that she or Moses email Susannah (the volunteer who paid upfront for the porridge) and make her aware of the situation. Robinah says she will instruct Moses to check on this and will also hold a meeting with the teachers to address the beatings.
In Bujagali, Jess and I sneak into the campsite and use their hot showers - we are getting good at this 'sneaking' malarky but this is the first time we have dared to use the showers. It is soooooo good, especially after a day like today. We both really needed it. I feel clean(ish) for the first time in nearly a month, I swear. Afterwards, we sit with a beer and watch the river. We have a long and interesting chat about social vs economic development and basically 'put the world to rights'. We also see a cute monkey in a tree which lifts our spirits. We head back just before dark, managing to find a nice boda man who does not rip us off.
Back at the compound, Moses is unhappy. We can tell. He explains to us that Robinah's meeting did not go down so well and that some of the teachers still do not understand why they cannot beat the children. He tells me that, although corporal punishment is illegal in Uganda, no one is going to stop it. It is too much - I crack and end up in tears. He keeps telling me that it was "not so long ago" that we had it in our country but I explain that in my lifetime it has not been in effect so that is hardly "not so long ago". Through my tears, we talk and go round in circles. It is very apparent to me that Moses is all for child beating. He also tells me and Jess that the teachers want to speak to us tomorrow in a meeting but we refuse. We do not want to get involved. We have stated our position, the rest is up to Robinah. He also tells me that, regarding the porridge, the children are used to being hungry so it shouldn't be a problem. I am dumbstruck and counter-argue his position by saying that the children are now very used to getting food at lunchtimes and their parents are aware of this too. So maybe these children were not given breakfast, and maybe their families cannot afford dinner - they were not expecting to miss lunch also. So it is fair to assume that the majority of these children will have gone without food at all today. And probably tomorrow too. I again stress my unhappiness at the whole instrument buying saga and he again supports the school's decision by saying it will be great for the future. Jess interrupts by saying "The kids won't have a future if they starve to death". Fair point.
Without being here, meeting the children, living this life day in day out, I cannot fully explain the stresses and hardships. I also cannot fully explain how things get to you. I came here to find out what I am made of - I am not sure that I am made of quite such tough material after all.
I am terribly annoyed and feel my blood boiling but just at that point, four ATV quads pull up and some Muzungus (on a tour) have stopped by for food. We make small talk with the three posh-as-posh-can-be brothers from London. They leave after an hour and I quickly retire to my room, unable to take anymore.
I telephone home and speak to my son at length. He can tell I am uphappy and says "Mum, if you've had enough, just come home". I explain all my misgivings about the project and try to work through my own conflicting emotions. Finally, I mutter out load for the first time ....... "I'm not sure I can support this project anymore".